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Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Doing my part to irritate Republicans, fundamentalists, bigots and other lower life forms.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

"This sponge is making me gay!"

The war in Iraq. The inauguration of the Commander-in-Chimp ... oops! I mean "Chief." The re-vamping of Social Security. The Iraqi elections. And what issue has some folks so worked up this week? A cartoon character who lives in a pineapple under the sea and just may be ... gasp! ... "promoting the homosexual agenda."

Yep, that's right. SpongeBob Squarepants has been "outed" by a couple of religious extremists groups for a video in which he encourages tolerance. ... Oh! Say it ain't so, SpongeBob!

What is it about gay people that gets fundaMENTALists so hot and bothered, their breath ragged and their palms all sweaty?

The cynic in me wants to believe that once Communism (or "godless Comm'nism" in the parlance of TV preachers) ceased to be a viable enemy, the fundies had to come up with a new bogeyman. They could take to the airwaves and send out letters warning that without all those checks coming in from fearful pensioners, "homo-sec-shuls" would run rough-shod over the country in a matter of weeks and poor little Johnnie would be enrolling in Intro to Sodomy along with his entire third grade class. Oh, the horror of it all!

Pensioners and others easily fleeced responded and televangelists learned a basic lesson in economics: Thar's gold in them thar queers!

But maybe there's something a little more ... well, sinister ... to the way the right-wingers trot out the dreaded "homosexual agenda" at the drop of a sponge.

Several years ago the American Psychiatric Association published a study on homophobia, the fear and revulsion some people feel toward GLBT folks. After identifying a group of strongly homophobic men, they invited them into the laboratory to view pictures and photographs. Once there the researchers attached devices to the men's (ahem) "organ of regeneration" that would measure any responses those good ol' boys had while lookin' at nekkid pictures.

Strange as it may sound, those devices registered arousal on a majority of the men identified as homophobes when pictures of naked men popped up on the screen. Well, strange to the rest of the world. We gay men have known for years that the kind of guy who makes himself feel superior by referring to other men as "faggots" or "rump rangers" or worse were really just itching for an opportunity to play Hide the Sausage.

I was reminded of the APA again yesterday while I was watching ABC Nightly News about the whole SpongeBob controversy. Decrying SpongeBob's insidious request for tolerance was Stephen Bennett of the rather uncreatively named Stephen Bennett Ministries (

Read further down in the small print under the photo of the entire Bennett family (Hint: Stephen's the one with the really poofy hair) and you'll find this gem:

"Stephen Bennett struggled with homosexuality until he was 28 years old. Alcoholic, bulimic and a drug addict, his destructive life style nearly killed him. Over 11 years actively as a promiscuous homosexual with countless male partners, many of Stephen's friends are now dead from AIDS. Finally, one day while happily involved in a long term, committed relationship with a man he was in love with, Stephen was confronted by a Christian knocking at his door with a Bible in her hand. He would never be the same again."

So apparently Stevie is cut from the same cloth as John Paulk, the former poster boy of the ex-gay movement who appeared on the cover of Newsweek with his wife and kids and ended up getting caught sneaking into a Washington, D.C., gay bar a few months later (

With leaders like this, it's no wonder the religious reich is so OBSESSED with what two men do with their genitals. It's like setting a pack of cigarettes down in front of a non-smoker. They don't reach for one. They don't start to lick their lips with anticipation. They don't react at all. Set the same pack in front of someone who's quitting smoking and see how long it is before they start to fidget in their seats, their eyes straying back to the forbidden object again and again.

For a good portion of the religious reich's leaders, I'm sure the decision to question SpongeBob's sexual identity (Hey! Here's a clue: Sponges are asexual, you morons!) and accuse him of promoting tolerance for homosexuals must have gone something like this:

"Hmmmm. What's this? ... Oh, it's just a sponge that's a cartoon character. ... Sponges have holes. Things go in holes. Wait! That's like SEX! That's DIRTY! ... But that's OK because sponges wipe up dirt. That's a girl's job. But wait ... he talks like a boy. He must be gay! What's it like to be gay? Why am I thinking about being gay? ...

Oh my God! Save me! This sponge is making me GAY."