Howl of the KweerWolf

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Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

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

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Micro-revising gays out of the Holocaust

In Massachusetts perhaps the most viruently anti-gay group is the Article 8 Alliance. Amid such eye-catching headlines as "The homosexual movement takes off the gloves, shows its true brutal nature" and "The modern mass psychology technique used by the homosexual movement to turn America on its head" is the real aim of the group: to overturn same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.

Boston is a long way from Kansas City. Not just in distance, but in attitude. While 70 percent of Missourians voted to ban same-sex marriage in August 2004, in Massachusetts can be married, under a court ruling that still has fun-D'uh-MENTAL-ists' collective panties in a bunch. And at the crotch of those wadded panties in Massachusetts is the Article 8 Alliance.

Normally I pay scant attention to the bigots in A8A. They are, after all, over 1,000 miles away and around here we have our own reich-wing nutjobs to contend with. But an announcement I saw posted on a message board the other day caught my attention. It was headlined "Holocaust survivor to speak at banquet for Article 8 Alliance." The announcement went on to say that the speaker, Stephan Ross, a native of Poland and resident of Newton, is a survivor of ten Nazi concentration camps including Auschwitz. He is also the founder of the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston and would be speaking on "The Resistance in Massachusetts: Lessons from a Holocaust Survivor."

According to the announcement: "He will reflect on the depths of evil that can be reached once society lets down its guard." (Hmmmm ... so does that mean he'll chastise the A8A folks for their evil ways in using many of the same tactics against lesbians and gays that the Nazis employed against the Jews? Apparently not. The announcement goes on the state Ross's true aim.) "He will inspire us to not turn away, but to face our challenges here in Massachusetts."

What the fuck?

Six million European Jews lost their lives in the Nazi death camps. They were by far the largest group to suffer at the hands of Hitler's followers. Of that there can be no denying. But they weren't the only group the Nazis chose to persecute. Communists, trade unionists, the physically and mentally challenged, Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholic priests, Poles, and Gypsies all faced the wrath of Nazi Germany's killing machine and it's terrible efficiency.

So did gays ... though their stories remained largely unknown for years. Martin Sherman's play Bent and books such as Heinz Heger's The Men of the Pink Triangle: The True Life-and-Death Story of Homosexuals in the Nazi Death Camps helped to bring the experiences of gay men trapped in the Nazis' web of persecution and death to light.

As a witness to the Nazi death machine, Ross must have seen prisoners with pink triangles on their striped uniforms. He must have heard stories about what the various patches sewn on the uniforms meant. He must have seen the hatred even the other prisoners had for those locked up for infractions of Germany's notoriously anti-gay Paragraph 175 ... and known that the pink triangles were the lowest of the low in the camp hierarchy.

So what's he doing joining forces with radical anti-gay fun-D'uh-MENTAL-ists to oppose the right of a class of people to form families and have their relationships recognized?

It didn't take long to track down information on Ross. He's parlayed his past as a Holocaust survivor to support various right-wing causes, including an appearance before the U.S. Congress in 1999 to speak in favor of legislation to protect the flag from desecration. Even his son, Mike, played up his father's past as a concentration camp survivor in a 2000 run for a Boston city council post.

But it was one particular article that caught my attention and provided the missing link between a witness to the horrors that unbridled bigotry can produce and the appearance before group that expouses its own form of unbridled bigotry.

On the pages of Mass Voice, a publication that prides itself on being "a conservative voice," was this headline:

Holocaust Survivor: Molested by Homosexual Guards

It’s commonly accepted that Hitler targeted homosexuals for extermination — just as he did the Jews.

"Not so," says Stephan Ross, the Newton resident who is the founder of the Holocaust Museum in Boston.

And he should know. Ross was there. He lived, and almost died, in Nazi prison camps from the age of 9 to 14.

And while the abuse of the Nazis took many forms, he says he was sexually molested more than once by homosexual Nazi prison guards. He knew it was also going on with other prisoners, "although I didn’t go looking for it."

According to Ross, 1 out of 5 Nazi prison guards were homosexual. They delighted in molesting and raping young Jewish boys, he claims. According to the article:

Ross’ sexual abuse came at the hands of a guard who intercepted him as he was going from the barracks one early morning to get water.

"We lived 1,800 to a barracks and 10 to a section," he says. We just laid on boards, and didn’t cover ourselves with anything. We smelled horribly and lice were sucking the blood out of us.

"But they woke us in the mornings at about 4 a.m., and we would run to try to get a little water. A guard caught me one morning and made me ‘do his dick.’ I threw up. I couldn’t handle it. To this day I’m very angry about it.

Very angry about it, indeed! Rape and sexual abuse - even after more than half a century - can leave a victim feeling angry. Perhaps even angry enough to work against the rights of people one associates with past experiences ... even though the group he's working against now have absolutely no connection with those under whom he suffered in the past.

But what is particularly telling about Ross's view is this from the end of the article:

Ross says he has nothing against homosexuals in general. "I’m trying to build a foundation for tolerance for all people," he says. "I’m not really interested in aligning myself [against homosexuals].

"But I don’t consider their agenda to be normal, and I’m not pleased with this. I just look at them and think there has to be some kind of connection with how they were brought up.

"I really don’t want to study or learn about it, I just don’t want to have anything to do with it."

What a shame Ross has allowed his anger to close his mind. I truly regret his horrific experiences at the hands of the Nazis, but perhaps if he bothered to study the Holocaust he lived through he'd have a deeper understanding of the events in which he'd played a part.

For instance he might understand that his molestation at the hands of prison guards had nothing to do with homosexuality and everything to do with humiliating a subjugated population. Rape and sexual abuse have long been a tool of warfare when oppressors want to keep the oppressed in line. Such actions have nothing to do with sexual gratification, but are expressions of power. And as such they are acts all members of humanity must speak out against.

All groups persecuted by the Nazis suffered. There is no hierarchy of victimhood. That's why it's particularly disheartening for Ross to maintain in the article, "All they [those accused of being homosexual] had to do to get out [of the camp] was to sign a paper to say that they had been rehabilitated and wouldn’t do it [engage in homosexual activity] anymore," he says. "They were allowed to go back to their families. "They were not targeted to die. Not like we were." Such statements fly in the face of Holocaust scholars and gay survivors who have stepped forward to tell their stories. True, some homosexuals were released. In the early years of the Nazi regime, some were released to go home and inform on their friends so that the Nazi could arrest even more homosexuals. Toward the end of World War II others were released, but only after they faced the choice of remaining in the camps or being castrated and sent to the Russian front.

True, the Jewish victims of the Holocaust numbered in the millions while the estimated number of gays to die in the camps is between 15,000 and 50,000. That doesn't mean the Nazis were somehow soft on homosexuals. Instead it is a reflection of the Nazi view of homosexuality. They saw it as a disease that endangered the German "master race" and took whatever action they could to eliminate it from Germany. Meanwhile, in the countries they occupied homosexuality was less of an issue. If these other nations were "contaminated" by homosexuality it would only make the German goal of conquering these other countries easier.

And finally, understanding history means more than simply living through it. No one dismisses Ross's experiences as a concentration camp survivor. But his voice is one in millions who witnessed the horrors of Nazi Germany. History is a collective voice - not just one single voice who witnessed events from a small corner of the sickening mural that was Nazi Germany. Ross's voice is one element. So are the voices of other survivors. And the voices of the Nazis who ran the camps. And the Germans citizens who witnessed the coming and going of the trains and the smoke pouring from the chimneys. And the soliders who liberated the camps. And the meticulous records kept by the Nazis detailing the camps' efficiency in providing a "final solution."

It's sad that Ross doesn't want to study or learn about the Nazi persecution of homosexuals. His willful ignorance on the subjects puts him on the same league as the Holocaust deniers and revisionists who claim the "real" number of Jews killed by the Nazis is far smaller, but that somehow the Allies who liberated the camps conspired with the Jews to fake photographs and documents.

Ross was a victim of the Nazis. Of that there is no denying. But in his anger he has come to identify with the same type of people who were his oppressors ... and by doing so he will forever remain a victim.


Saturday, September 24, 2005

'Fundie panic'

"Sure I knocked him down, beat him senseless, stabbed him 37 times and then went home and got my gun and shoot him a few more times, your honor. But there were extenuating circumstances. He propositioned me and, being a God-fearin', heterosexual who was once touched inappropriately in my tender youth by one of those types, I just had to defend myself against his unnatural sexual advances!"

That, in a nutshell, is the "gay panic" defense. It's been used as a sort of get-out-of-jail-free card for gay bashers who get so carried away with their bashing that it results the death of the bashee.

Probably the most famous panic defense was used in the trial of the two worthless, white-trash scumbags who tied Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard to a fence just outside of Laramie, pistol-whipped him, and left him to die on the high, cold prairie. The two defendants claimed Shepard had propositioned them ... so to protect their vulnerable masculinity, they just had to rough him up and leave him to die bleeding and lashed to a fence on a cold October night. The judge in that case slapped that defense down. Hard! "The defense is, in effect, either a temporary insanity defense or a diminished capacity defense, such as irresistible impulse, which are not allowed in Wyoming, because they do not fit within the statutory insanity defense construct," Judge Barton Voigt told defense attorneys.

More recently the trial of the young men accused of murdering transgender teen Gwen Araujo in California resulted in a reject of a "trans panic" defense in convicting two of the scumbags accused of beating Araujo to death. (The jury was unable to reach a verdict in the case of a third person charged in her death.)

Araujo was born a boy named Edward but grew up to believe her true identity was female. She met the defendants, all 25, in late summer 2002 and they became friends. Two of them had sexual encounters with Araujo on separate occasions and grew suspicious of her gender after comparing notes, according to a fourth member of the group who was allowed to plead guilty to manslaughter in exchange for testifying.

The defense tried to frame the case in terms of blaming the victim for evoking her murderers' rage by deceiving them of her true gender. That argument was flatly rejected, according to The San Francisco Chronicle:

The jury that convicted two men of second-degree murder in the killing of Newark transgender teenager Gwen Araujo flatly rejected defense arguments that it was a case of manslaughter, a San Francisco lawyer who served on the panel said Tuesday.

An average person would not have resorted to murder upon discovering that Araujo, 17, was biologically male, Max Stern, 38, of Piedmont, said in an interview with The Chronicle.

"The community standard is not and cannot be that killing is something a reasonable person would have done that night," Stern said.

Stern, a civil litigator, said the eight-man, four-woman jury concluded that Jose Merel and Michael Magidson, both 25, had murdered Araujo in October 2002, rejecting defense arguments that at most they were guilty of manslaughter committed in the heat of passion caused by Araujo's sexual deception. Both men had sex with Araujo before the night she was killed.

So it looks like the "gay panic" defense is on its way out, right? Don't count on it. In some cases, it still works. Take, for example, this recent case out of California, reported by the Associated Press:

A Fresno man who pleaded guilty to stabbing another man to death was suffering from "gay panic," his lawyers argued before a judge, who gave the defendant the minimum sentence - four years in jail.

Estanislao Martinez admitted stabbing Joel Robles 20 times after finding out the victim, who he had brought home, was not a woman, but a cross-dressing man.

On Wednesday, a Fresno County Superior Court judge handed down the sentence, which gay and lesbian activists said was too light, and didn't fit the crime.

"If I just stole money from you, I'd serve more time than this person did for stabbing someone 20 times," said Charlotte Jenks, executive director of the Central California Pride Network.

Martinez pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter for killing Robles last August. After stabbing the victim, he jumped out of an apartment window, and was found wandering naked along Highway 41, according to court testimony.

Martinez's attorneys argued in Fresno County Superior Court their client panicked and became enraged when he found out Robles was a transvestite.

Legal experts said using the "gay panic" defense helped reduce the sentence in this case.

"I think it is because most people, when they're going to have a relationship with someone, expect it to be the opposite sex. I think when you find out it's not, all kinds of things run through your mind," said defense expert Ernest Kinney.

So the lesson is simple: If you want to murder a gay man or a lesbian or a transgender, you can roll the dice with a "panic" defense by throwing yourself on the mercy of the court and claiming you were so enraged by an affront to your masculinity that you just had to kill the offender as a matter of personal justice. It might work. Or it might not.

Still, the courts have a long way to go in understanding the utter absurdity of a gay panic defense.

Perhaps a straight female friend of mine summed it up best: "Gay panic? Oh, please! Where's my panic defense? Can I claim 'obnoxious drunk panic' if some guy I don't like hits on me at a bar and I blow his pathetic ass away?"

That got me thinking. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, so I'm proposing a "fundie panic" defense for LGBTs who have grown tired of the continual bashings from the religious reich.

Next time you're confronted by a homophobe quoting scripture, don't turn the other cheek. Blow the s.o.b. away and then claim that the ongoing spiritual abuse of LGBT persons at the hands of the alleged "Christians" who justify their own prejudices by cherry-picking a handful of Bible verses pushed you over the edge.

Sure, it's a crap-shoot whether it will work or not in court. But as long as the homophobes of the world can claim "gay panic" as justification of killing us, we should be able to use "fundie panic" as a defense when we strike back at them.


Follow up: Some good news out of Tennessee

Remember Zach, the Tennessee teenager sent to one of those "ex-gay" camps after coming out to his parents? Well, it seems the Christian-run concentration camp ... oops! I mean "ex-gay facility," is in danger of being shut down by the state of Tennessee.

Here are the details from The Washington Blade:

On Sept. 12, the state of Tennessee announced that its Department of Mental Health & Developmental Disabilities had determined that Love in Action is operating two “unlicensed mental health supportive living facilities.”

“The [state] went in and visited and found that they were providing room, board and personal care for mentally ill people,” said Rachel Lassiter, deputy press secretary for Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D). “The clients were determined to be mentally ill because some of them had been treated by psychiatrists and were on medication.”

It appears that Love in Action has taken on responsibility for the care of these people, Lassiter said, and unlawful operation of a personal support service is a class B misdemeanor in Tennessee.

Lassiter said the department sent a certified letter to Love in Action executive director John Smid, advising him that he must stop operating the homes or apply for a license within seven days. Smid did not respond to the letter, and a second letter was issued informing him that if he does not stop operating the homes or apply for a license by Sept. 15, the department would recommend that a cease and desist order be issued.

The latest news on the facility from the Associated Press reports that the state has given Love in Action International a week to either apply for a license or change its operation.

It's long past time that these facilities be investigated. They have preyed upon the self-loathing of a handful of gays and lesbians and the homophobia of parents with gay or lesbian children for too long. They have led to or worsened depression in their clients for too long. They have caused irreparable harm to vulnerable people for far too long.

More states should follow Tennessee's lead and launch investigations into these facilities ... and prosecute those that operate them to the fullest extent of the law when violations are found.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Putting words in Starbucks' mouth ... or cup, at least

Several weeks ago the ultra right-wing Concerned Women of America organization was shocked and offended to find a quote by gay author (and therefore a promoter of the homo-seck-shul agenda) Armistead Maupin printed on coffee cups at that Wal-Mart of cafeine pushers, Starbucks.

Throwing a collective hissy fit, the CWA began a campaign on it's web site under the hyperbolic and hysteric headline Starbucks Funds and Promotes Homosexual Activism. So what exactly was it that has the Concerned Biddies frothing more than a hyperactive capucino machine? According to the CWA, Starbucks "crossed the line for yet another customer when it placed a quote promoting homosexual activity on the back side of her coffee cup."

Oh gracious me! Pray tell Starbucks didn't print "Ten helpful hints for enjoying anal intercourse" on their cups!

Actually, the quote that has the biddies so concerned is this one (sheild your eyes, oh ye readers of delicate sensibilities!):

"My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long. I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don't make that mistake yourself. Life's too damn short."

Wow! That's some scary stuff! The poor CWAer her originally found that quote on her cup is no doubt still recovering from the vapors!

Now just when that tempest in a styrofoam cup has died down, enter Baptist-run Baylor University in Texas. Seems the campus Starbucks there has pulled all the cups with Maupin's shocking quote on them, according to the Associated Press.

Ah, well. It is Texas. And it involves Baptists. So what can you expect?

Perhaps if Starbucks is going to continue its program of putting conversation-starting quotes on their coffee cups, I can offer a few more suggestions. Heaven knows they won't make the Baptists and the CWAers happy, but watching them go into fits of apolexy reading them will certainly give me plenty to converse about.

Here you go, Starbucks. Here's my suggestions for future quotes you may wish to use:

Lesbian and gay people are a permanent part of the American workforce, who currently have no protection from the arbitrary abuse of their rights on the job. For too long, our nation has tolerated the insidious form of discrimination against this group of Americans, who have worked as hard as any group, paid their taxes like everyone else, and yet have been denied equal protection under the law.
- Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King Jr.

Heterosexuality is not normal, it's just common.
- Dorothy Parker, author and humorist

The Bible contains six admonishments to homosexuals and three hundred sixty two admonishments to heterosexuals. That doesn't mean that God doesn't love heterosexuals. It's just that they need more supervision.
- Lynne Lavner, comedian

You know ... whenever some yahoo talks at me about how he hates the fact that Gays took a Perfectly Good Word and ruined it, I reply that what I hate is the way some people took a Perfectly Good Word like 'Family' and turned it into a code word for intolerance.
- Bruce Garrett, artist and software engineer

You don't have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight.
- Barry Goldwater, conservative Senator and one-time presidential candidate

Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands?
- Ernest Gaines, African-American author

You could move.
- Abigail Van Buren, "Dear Abby," in response to a reader who complained that a gay couple was moving in across the street and wanted to know what he could do to improve the quality of the neighborhood

Wouldn't it be great if you could only get AIDS from giving money to television preachers?
- Elayne Boosler, comedian

If Michelangelo had been straight, the Sistine Chapel would have been wallpapered.
- Robin Tyler, first openly gay comic in the U.S.

Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself.
- Harvey Fierstein, playwright and actor

I think extreme heterosexuality is a perversion.
- Margaret Mead, anthropologist

The fact is that more people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than any other reason. That, that my friends, is true perversion.
- Harvey Milk, slain San Francisco City Supervisor at a 1978 Gay
Pride Rally

It is better to be hated for what one is than loved for what one is not.
- Andre Gide, French novelist

The only unnatural sex act is one which you cannot perform.
- Dr. Alfred Kinsey, pioneering sex researcher

Americans have a very low tolerance for differentness, whether it’s racial, ethnic or sexual. Despite our rhetoric about individualism, we are a desperately conforming people.
- Martin Duberman, gay historian

I wish that homosexuals were born with a little horn in the middle of their forehead so we couldn’t hide so easily. At least if you can’t hide, you have to stand up and fight.
- Harvey Fierstein, playwright and actor

Are homosexuals social outcasts? My God! Christopher Isherwood, Howard Brown, Merle Miller, Sidney Abbott, John Maynard Keynes. Are these people social outcasts? Some of the most moral men I know are homosexuals.
- Dr. Evelyn Hooker, psychologists and author of pioneering studies of homosexuality in the 1950s

The Air Force pinned a medal on me for killing a man and discharged me for making love to one.
- Former Air Force sergeant Leonard Matlovich

I have never come across anyone in whom the moral sense was dominant who was not heartless, cruel, vindictive, log-stupid, and entirely lacking in the smallest sense of humanity.
- Oscar Wilde, British playwright

Morality is simply the attitude we adopt toward people whom we personally dislike.
- Oscar Wilde, British playwright

I’ve never outraged Nature. I’ve always listened to her advice and followed it wherever it went.
- Joe Orton, British playwright


Friday, September 16, 2005

A modest proposal for 'converting' conservatives to the Democratic Party

It was one of those theoretical discussions. More of a brainstorming session, actually. The subject was one that's been discussed in Democratic and progressive circles ever since the last presidential election: How do we win the votes of conservative voters?

The answers ran the gamut from the practical ("Promise 'em to lower their taxes") to the fanciful ("Tell 'em that from now on to simplify vote counting Democrats and Republicans will vote on different days - Democrats on Tuesday and Republicans on Wednesday") to the profane ("Piss on the conservatives! They seem to like it").

Most of the rest of the answers were pretty predictable. Keeping hammering the deficit. Point out what a colossal boondogle the Medicaid prescription drug plan is. Use short, simple statements filled with strong words that appeal to the emotions.

Being out around a group of straight progressives, I could tell that they would be uncomfortable bring up the "G" word in front of me. So when it came my turn to make a suggestion, I did it for them.

"Use the gay issue as a wedge," I suggested. For a few seconds it was as thought the dropping of jaws had sucked all the sound out of the room.

"Wha ... wha ... what do you mean?" I was asked.

"I mean point out to them the link between voting Republican and raising gay kids."

For examples you don't have to look much further than Dick Cheney. The vice president's lesbian daughter was certainly discussed following the presidential debates.

Or how about anti-abortion nutcase Randall Terry? Gay son (though in the interest of fairness I should point out that Jamiel is only Terry's adopted son and not his biologically - but then some rightwingers believe if you raise kids in a strong moral environment they will automatically turn out straight).

Newt Gingrich, the sugardaddy of modern conservatism? No gay or lesbian kid that I know of, but he does have that lesbian sister, Candace. Come to think of it, she may only be a half-sister. Newtie did grow up in the South were family trees either lack branches or have so many branches grafted on that it's impossible to keep track of one's relations without an annotated flow chart.

Let's not forget perennial presidential candidate (and perennial loser) Alan Keyes who threw his lesbian daughter, Maya Marcel-Keyes, out of the house. How's that for Republican family values?

Then there's conservative gadfly Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the ultra right-wing Eagle Forum, who's son came out. Mommie dearest's organization was among the group calling for even stronger planks against homo-seck-shuls at the 2004 Republican convention.

Speaking of eagles, let's not forget former Attorney General John ("Let the Eagle Soar") Ashcroft and the fine job he did raising the two out of three of his children who are apparently - at least for now - heterosexual. Rumor has it that when oldest children John ("Jay") Jr. started coming out to some of his former classmates, John Sr. stepped in and issued an ultimatum involving disinheritance. There's also speculation that Papa John stepped down from the Bush Administration once he got wind that at least one national gay publication was pursuing a story on the gay son of Ayatollah Ashcroft, head of America's TaliBornAgains.

Six major Republican and conservative leaders right off the top of my head. If I wasn't so lazy, I'd do a google search to find even more. Or speculate about how many Republicans have their offspring safely locked away pending a visit by a "straight eye for a queer guy" traveling fun-D'uh-MENTAL-ist makeover team.

The right has been using shaky math and psuedo-science for years and it's worked. They have convinced the sheep in their flock that the typical gay man has more sex in a year than a whole red light district of Bangkok sex-workers has in a decade and that lesbians are emotional unstable predators.

Now it's time we turn the tables on them and let the world know that it's neither nature nor nurture that produces gays and lesbians. It's voting Republican.


Friday, September 02, 2005

Sometimes the blue-noses have a point

In their never-ending search to find things to be offended by, fundies, social conservatives and other "family values" types are zeroing in on gay publications. They aren't going after The Advocate, Genre or Out - at least not yet - but they are tuning up their outrage on smaller, local gay publications ... they kind charitably referred to as "bar rags" that carry local LGBT news, opinions, and (gasp!) naughty advertisements!

According to a story on "Ours is a community of high standards and values," said Bruce Cameron, a 33-year resident of Upper Arlington. "The materials are lewd, salacious, lascivious - and a bunch of other big words of legal significance - but in normal parlance, disgusting, obscene and pornographic."

It would be easy to poke fun at the blue-noses and their attempts to censor gay publications. After all, I staunchly support the First Amendment and firmly believe that information of all sorts exists in a marketplace of ideas from which people can freely choose.

But, damn! Do the gay publications have to make it so easy for the fundies?

Closing the jaded eye with which I've read LGBT publications since I first came across a copy of Kansas City's now-defunct Alternate News back in college and looking at the bar rags through "virgin" eyes, I can see why the fundies get bent out of shape. Bar ads feature photos or artwork of very scantily clad guys (and it usually is guys ... lesbian bar ads are generally sedate by comparison). Ads for phone sex hotlines promise that for $3.95 a minute you'll be connected with guys just as hot as the bare-chested, sculpted-pecs ones shown in the ad. And then there are the classifieds. Oy vey! I can understand why parents don't want their kids picking up a copy of a bar rag by mistake. Few parents are prepared to answer questions like: "Mommy, does 'water sports' mean all these guys like to water ski?" or "Daddy, what does 'BD/SM' spell?"

It used to be that bar rags were only available in the bars or a few gay-owned or gay-friendly businesses. It's doubtful most social conservatives would admit to being in places like those, so gay publications and social conservatives existing in two separate worlds.

Then in the '90s bar rags began popping up in more public places such as libraries that valued providing information for a diverse clientele. The two separate worlds were set on a collision course.

Back in the early days of gay publications, few advertisers would venture into such a niche market. Bar rags depended on bars, phone sex lines, ads for (ahem) "escorts," and the usual assortment of personal ads to operate. It was a dog-eat-dog world out there, as I saw first-hand when I dated a guy years ago who worked for one such publication. Bar rags were seldom more than the price of a quarter-page ad away from bankruptcy even in the best of times.

Flash forward to today and gay publications are reaping the benefits of the "gay market" being fertile ground for advertisers. A quick glance at the latest issue of The Advocate reveals ads from Range Rover and Volvo, Chase Manhattan, pharmaceutical companies extolling their drugs for persons with HIV/AIDS, cruise ship lines, car rental companies, and upscale clothing lines.

The same thing is happening in smaller gay publications throughout the country. The publications here in Kansas City feature ads for car dealerships, real estate companies, and a whole host of businesses that wouldn't have even considered advertising in a gay publication a decade ago. But along with those newcomers are the old standbys. Those long-time advertisers haven't changed their images. A leather bar still uses models in very tight leather jockstraps to catch readers' eyes. A country bar still uses models in tight (and bulging) jeans that leave little to the imagination - often even making it apparent whether or not the model is circumsized. Then there are still the phone sex ads with promises like "get off now!"

Let's face it. I'm jaded. I can skim over those ads without once being tempted to call a phone sex line or buy a leather fetish ensemble. To the casual (and conservative) reader, these ads only serve to reinforce the stereotype that "those gays are obsessed with sex!"

Do I think gay publications should be pulled from public places because they might offend someone? Definitely not. Do I believe gay publications have a responsibility to police themselves if they expect to stay in public places? You bet!