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.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

AOL: Another Online Lesbian (Mary Cheney gets a new job)

News item:

"DULLES, Va. -- America Online Inc. has hired Mary Cheney, the daughter of the vice president, to a newly created position."

Awwwww ... isn't that nice? Mary has a job now. As an unemployed gay man, it gives me great hope that at least some more-or-less out LGBT folks are finding gainful employment.

Poor Mary! It's been a rough couple of years for her. First she was "outed" by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry during the debates. The outing prompted Lynn Cheney, Mary's mommy, to denounce Kerry as a "bad, bad man" in the press (though she was silent earlier when perennially losing Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes referred to Mary as a "sinner" and "selfish hedonist" during the Republican convention). Of course it wasn't actually Kerry who outed Mary but his running mate, John Edwards, during the vice presidential debate. And, truth be told, Edwards didn't really out her since Mary had previously been employed by the notoriously anti-labor Coors Brewing Company as head of Coors' highly visible gay and lesbian outreach program.

Apparently all that notoriety made Mary virtually unemployable and she was forced to take a position running campaign office operations for her Daddy. It's nice to know Mary comes from such a supportive family who will create a job for her once she gets outed. Besides, the $1 million she made off the advance for writing about her experiences as an out lesbian and a Republican for Threshold, a new subdivision of Simon & Schuster devoted to conservative books that is being run by Republican strategist Mary Matalin, should help her get over the trauma of her outing.

Now Mary's back in the spotlight with her new position at AOL where she will "assist in managing the advertising, e-commerce and search engines considered AOL's core functions," according to news accounts.

Who knows. Maybe Mary can help reverse AOL's fortunes. While AOL was announcing the addition of Mary, it was also laying off 700 U.S. employees and dealing with a loss of 2.7 million subscribers in the past year.

For once I was ahead of the curve. I gave up AOL several years ago, but it didn't have anything to do with lousy dial-up service, frequently getting "booted" off line by glitches in the system, slow downloads, and other problems. My disenchantment with AOL came when AOL founder and his wife made a substantial donation to the homophobic Coral Ridge Ministries.

Hey, maybe Mary can do something about AOL's affiliation with Coral Ridge and other right-wing homophobic groups! Maybe Mary can make AOL "gay-friendly."

If AOL puts Mary in charge of LGBT outreach like she was at Coors, maybe we can look forward to some changes like these:

1. That annoying "You've got mail!" will be replaced by the voice of Rosie O'Donnell saying, "You've got FEMALE!"

2. During lengthy downloads, AOL users can opt for listening to music by Melissa Ethridge and the Indigo Girls while twiddling their thumbs and cursing the sloooooooow downloads.

3. Profile photos will be rejected unless the subject is wearing a flannel shirt or softball uniform.

4. Really butch lesbians will monitor and mediate all chatroom disputes.

5. At least two lesbians will be assigned to every gay male chatroom and will be instructing to begin discussing the finer points of girl-on-girl sex if the guys get too raunchy.

6. The "News of the Day" feature will be replaced by sports news featuring Women's Pro Golf standings and frequent updates on the AOL women's softball team's results.

7. AOL online polls will feature probing questions such as "Who's hotter? Melissa Ethridge or k.d. lang?" and "Which describes your feelings about Anne Heche? 1. Hate her 2. Really hate her 3. Really, REALLY hate her 4. I speed up to run over Anne Heche?"

So congratulations on your new job, Mary. We're expecting great things from you! (Well, not really. Actually we're just hoping you don't screw us over too much.)


Saturday, October 29, 2005

Sports and being gay: When worlds collide

Brace yourselves for a shocking confession: I know next to nothing about sports. Furthermore, I care next to nothing about sports. The total time my television has been tuned to a sporting event is roughly the equivalent of the time George W. Bush spends reading The Washington Post on any given day. In my lifetime, I have attended exactly three professional baseball games (each time having been coerced into attending by friends), no football games, no soccer games, no hockey games, no basketball games, and no any other type of sporting event you can mention. Are you starting to get the picture that sports plays absolutely no part in my life?

That's not to say that a good sports story doesn't occasionally catch my interest. By "good sports story" I mean a story about the issues around sports, not the endless statistics of win-loss records, ERAs, total yardage gained, number of rebounds, or any of the other grist for the trivia mill. Give me a story about an issue like steroid use among athletes, Pete Rose's gambling, the "bad boy" behavior of some professional athletes, or shady recruiting techniques and my interest is piqued.

This week my interest was piqued in a big way by the announcement that Sheryl Swoopes, of the Houston Comets came out as a lesbian. Since I have never heard of Sheryl Swoopes, the Comets or the WNBA, I'll let an except from a story on fill in the details:

Sheryl Swoopes is the most decorated, biggest-name athlete in American team sports history to come out of the closet. Period. And that's not over-stating it. Along with Martina, she is, overnight, one of our two biggest name in sports.

To say the Michael Jordan of women's basketball just declared that she's a lesbian is no stretch. Swoopes won four consecutive league championships with the Houston Comets. She won her third league MVP award - more than anyone else - this past season. She is in the top five on the all-time WNBA playoffs lists for points, assists, steals and rebounds. She has won three Olympic gold medals. She was the college player of the year. ...

While it may not be surprising that a lesbian plays in the WNBA, what is surprising is that one of the game's most recognizable personalities, and it's best player, has decided to share her homosexuality with the rest of the world. THAT is shocking.

Alright! Chalk one up for our team! A leading player has decided to come out.

But while we celebrate one sports star coming out, it begs the question, so where are all the gay male sports stars?

Sure, there are sports figures like former football player David Kopay and former baseball player Billy Bean. They came out - but they waited until their careers were over before penning their stories. Even among male figure skaters (where the percentage of gay males is way above the standard "10 percent" model), most wait to come out until their competitive days are over and they are on the "Champions on Ice" circuitit.

The reality is that for gay men in competitive sports, coming out is far more difficult than it is for their lesbian counterparts.

Some might argue that women's sports draws a smaller share of fans than men's sports (and a larger percentage of lesbian fans), so a lesbian sports figure coming out is not as surprising as a male sports star announcing he's gay. While that may be true, it's certainly far from the whole story.

To get the whole picture you have to take into account the skewed view of gender and sex role stereotypes we as a culture have had pounded into us ever since we're wrapped in blue baby blankets if we have a penis or pink blankets if we don't.

Boys are supposed to be rambunctious, aggressive and competitive. Girls are meant to be quiet, submissive and adverse to rough play. But when we get to grade school, we discovered that sometimes those rules just don't apply. A girl who is adept at climbing trees and throwing a ball and wrestling a competitor to the ground is called a tomboy. As such she's welcomed - somewhat reluctantly, sometimes - into the fraterity of "one of the guys." A boy who'd rather spend his recess reading a book, helping the teacher clean the chalkboard or playing quietly by himself is called a sissy. As such he is shunned by the boys for being "just like a girl."

Not all tomboys grow up to be lesbians, but men - at least the predominantly straight men who make up the bulk of sports viewers - find it easy to relate to tough female sports stars. They play aggressively in a competitive sports and they are "just one of the guys" for the average straight male. Once such a star comes out there's the extra titillation factor for straight guys obsessed with lesbians. (Why do you think so many "straight" porno movies have an obligatory girl-on-girl scene?)

The former "sissies" who become male sports players are faced with two choices: they can focus their talents on individual sports like figure skating, diving, etc., where they don't have to worry about fitting in with teammates, or they can bury themselves deep in the closet and compete in team sports like football, basketball or baseball where the bad-ass macho male is the top of the pecking order.

Sadly, the overwhelming majority find it easier to go with the flow and play along with the glorified extension of high school gym class version of professional male sports. While that the quickest solution, it's not the healthiest. Parsing out portions of your life to determine which can be publicly viewed seldom is.

Over my life I've dated a couple of guys who could reasonably be considered "sports figures." (Don't get excited. I won't be outing anyone here.)

The first was a college football player while I was in college, though using the term "dating" to describe the relationship is stretching the definition. We were in several of the same classes and he was aware I was gay. At first I thought his overtures of friendship were an attempt to show me he had a sensitive, accepting side and wasn't just a typical "jock." His after-practice visits evolved into complaints of soreness which evolved into massages which evolved into foreplay. Eventually the "would you mind massaging my back" ruse was eliminated all together and his visits became a wordless game of sex driven by desperate need followed by stammers and long pauses as he got dressed to leave. After a year of this I was ready for a change. He visits quit feeling like those of a boyfriend; boyfriends, afterall, weren't repulsed by the idea of kissing another man (though, oddly, he never raised a complaint about having my penis in his mouth).

After that first year I lost track of him, seeing him only a few times on campus from a distance. I don't think he went any further with his football, but I did see him mentioned in a classnote in our alumni magazine several years after graduation. The announcement concerned the birth of his first child to he and his wife. I've often wondered if he's still married - living out the life script he was supposed to live out.

The other "jock" in my life was a former professional soccer player with whom I lived for a few excruciating months that seemed like years. He had no problem kissing another man (or doing anything else with another man). Especially after a couple of beers - or a few dozen. What he did have a problem with was in justifying his life as a macho sports figure with his life as someone who went home to a same-sex partner. To overcome that chasm, he filled it with alcohol, and gambling, and sometimes cocaine. He was "out" as long as he was around other gay people, but with his family and his work he resolutely maintained a strict barrier. That barrier made sense to him. After all, it had served him well while playing sports. It didn't occur to him that it was killing him now though.

I wonder if either of my "jocks" are happy. Chances are they never think about it. They are too busy surviving and trying to remember which mask they are wearing.

As long as the culture of machismo reigns in men's sports, the likelihood of a male sports celebrity at the top of his game coming out will remain small. It will happen some day. And whether it happens a second time will depend on how ready the fans and his teammates are to accept him as "just one of the guys."

(For a list of "out" sports figures, check out this link to a list compiled by


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What's the matter with Kansas legislators?

I hate to pick on Kansas, my neighbor just a block and a half to the west. After all, Kansas has already has plenty to atone for with state board of education members who want to do away with teaching evolution in schools and the vile Fred Phelps and his clan of inbred cretins roaming the countryside with their "God Hates Fags" signs. But sometimes Kansas (or, more accurately, "Kansans") do or say something so stupid it brings an issue so clearly into focus that it can't help but being held up as a shining example of what NOT to do or say.

Case in point: Last week the Kansas Supreme Court unanimously decided that the state could not punish illegal sex more harshly if it involves homosexual acts rather than heterosexual conduct. The justices also struck down language in the law that led to a sentence of more than 17 years in prison for Matthew R. Limon.

Limon, who was 18 at the time, was convicted of having oral sex with a 14-year-old boy. Granted, the act was illegal. No question about that. But, had Limon engaged in oral sex with a 14-year-old girl, his sentence would be a maximum of 15 months. In light of the Lawrence v. Texas U.S. Supreme Court decision, the Kansas high court had little choice but to overturn the lower court.

Legal precedent aside, the right-wingers in Kansas - of whom there are legion - went wild. Accusing the State Supreme Court of "legislating from the bench," the right-wingnuts renewed their calls for a state constitutional amendment giving the state Senate the right to approve Supreme Court nominees. "Legislating from the bench" (Kansas's version of the "activist judges" charge Republicans toss around) first came up when the Kansas Supreme Court ordered the legislature to increase funding on public education. After posturing and grumbling, the legislature finally complied. Now, with the court siding with one of those (gasp!) homo-seck-shuls, the right-wingers could wrap themselves in both the flag and the Bible against the bitter winds of common sense blowing across the prairie.

There are plenty of just-plain-dumb statements made by Kansas lawmakers and reported in press accounts about the story.

For instance there this from House Judiciary Chairman Mike O'Neal, a Hutchinson Repugnantcan: "All we ask is, tell us what the rules are, and we'll play by those rules. The court here seems to be changing those rules on a case-by-case basis." (D'uh! Apparently Mr. O'Neal is at least two years behind in reading up on U.S. Supreme Court cases.)

Or even this one from Rep. Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican: "You have the court substituting its moral judgment for the moral judgment of the people, as expressed through the legislative body."

Kinzer also offered this gem of a statement: "The Legislature has to make moral distinctions between groups of people based on their conduct. That's what lawmaking is all about."

But if I was awarding a prize for the absolute dumbest thing a Kansas legislator said about the Kansas Supreme Court's decision in the Limon case it would go to Sen. Phil Journey, a Republican attorney from Haysville. Journey defended different treatment of illegal gay and straight sex, saying "a homosexual relationship will damage a victim more because of how society views such conduct."

So let's get this straight, so to speak: Society (and by that I assume Journey means "them God-fearin' normal Amurkins" he knows from his Rotary Club, Baptist Church and KKK rallies) disdains homos, so when a homo does something illegal he should be punished more harshly because society takes a dim view of homos.

Ah, such twisted, tortured, circuitous logic! So if suddenly when the sun comes up tomorrow society decides that Rotarians are intrinsically disordered or that Baptists are evil predators, then I suppose it would be alright to sentence them to jail for 13.6 times as long as a Methodist member of the Optimist Club who committed the same crime.

What the reactionary social conservatives fail to realize is that they cannot maintain the status quo. If society takes a dim view of "such conduct," then the problem lies in society's perceptions ... and those are what needs to change.

It reminds me of something psychotherapist Ernest van den Haag said as the American Psychiatric Association was considering removing homosexuality from its list of illnesses during the 1970s: "I am reminded of a colleague who reiterated 'All my homosexual patients are quite sick' - to which I finally replied 'So are all my heterosexual patients.'"

It's a shame there aren't legislators who think like van den Haag in Kansas. If there were, maybe they'd understand that when it comes to antiquated societal attitudes toward homosexuality are the real problem searching for a cure.


I (heart) "ex-gays"

I love "ex-gays"! I really, really do! All that smarmy faux sincerity they exude is just icing on the cake for the main attraction: They provide a never-ending source of amusement.

Take, for example, Stephen Bennett, the founder of the Stephen Bennett Ministries and possessor of poofy hair of the sort no truly straight guy has worn since America celebrated the bicentennial. Not content with traveling around the country "sharing his music, message and Christ-centered, life changing story of complete freedom from homosexuality" (according to his web site), Stevie and his doting wife, Irene, have announced they would begin broadcasting their own radio show on Oct. 31. (That's right ... Little Stevie has chosen the highest of the Gay High Holy Days, Halloween, to launch his radio program! Tres ironique!)

According to Stevie's web site:

SBM’s brand new, daily half-an-hour radio broadcast Straight Talk Radio debuts worldwide on October 31, 2005! Listen 7 days a week (STR’s Weekend Edition streams ON-LINE only.) Check your local Christian radio stations for programming guides, as radio stations will be added periodically. Currently, Straight Talk Radio will be debuting in 8 states nationwide! And for those of you who don’t have Straight Talk Radio on your station yet, you can listen in EVERYDAY – ON DEMAND, right from your own computer! Simply log on DAILY to!

Do you want to have Straight Talk Radio air on your local Christian Radio Station? You can help SBM proclaim the truth about one of the most important and controversial topics of our day: homosexuality. Why not prayerfully consider SPONSORING the weekly program on your Christian Radio Station? Your sponsorship is 100% TAX DEDUCTIBLE and could help reach MILLIONS worldwide, and THOUSANDS in your immediate area! Call SBM today at 1-800-XXX-XXX (You don't think I'm gonna give then THAT much publicity, do you?) and ask for Amanda Sova for further information on how to sponsor Straight Talk Radio on your Christian Radio Station today!

Check out the site for their show and you find a banner headline reading "Blonde, bold and brash... It’s Christian Radio with an edge." I'm assuming the "blonde" refers to Irene since Stevie is definitely a brunette (though a touch of highlights in that poofy hair and he might "pass" as a blonde in much the same way he passes as straight now).

Underneath the logo and their photos (positioned at opposite ends of the logo, rather then showing the loving couple together in the same shot) is this gem: "She’s the woman that stole his heart. He’s the former homosexual man. Now married and on a mission… they’re out to set the record straight."

Frankly, that sounds like the tagline for a really bad sitcom. Sort of an anti-Will and Grace that might show up on UPN for a week or two before being relegated to that dark place where failed sitcoms end up.

Another ironic touch on the web site is Stevie's liberal use of the inverted pink triangles that were used in Nazi concentration camps to signify homosexuals (and later taken as a symbol of the gay rights movement). All down the left-hand side of the site are pink triangles meant as "bullet points" for the various links. Hmmmm. Stevie certainly does appear to like those pink triangles for some reason!

But there's one final irony that even Stevie and Irene could appreciate. If you mistakenly type the ubiquitous "dot com" instead of the "dot org" at the end of Stevie's radio show site you end up at a very different radio program ... Air America Minnesota which bills itself as a place "where left is right and right is wrong." It will be interesting to see how many of Stevie's dozen or so listeners will turn in to the wrong site and, instead of hearing Stevie and Irene rail against the "homo-seck-shul lifestyle," end up getting enlightened by the likes of Al Franken, Randi Rhodes, and the rest of the Air America team.

Hey, way to go, Stevie! Keep up the good work! I know I can always depend on you for a good laugh and a heaping serving of irony - intentional or not!


Friday, October 21, 2005

Second thoughts on Cleo Manago and the Million More March

I intended to write something about last weekend's Million More March in Washington, D.C., and the last-minute barring of African-American gay activist Keith Boykin from the stage. I was hoping to write a blistering attack on controversial homophobic Washington minister Willie Wilson, the executive director of the event, who apparently decided to renege on an agreement to allow Boykin to speak. I even researched march organizer Louis Farrakhan's past homophobic comments in the hope of smearing him as well. And I had plenty of comments about the inclusion of Cleo Manago of Black Men's Xchange (BMX) who refuses to use the word "gay" in favor of describing himself as "same-gender loving" as a speaker at the march.

Manago would have made an easy target for criticism. Here was a man so uncomfortable with the word "gay" that he euphemistically couched his sexual orientation as "same-gender loving." Here was truly someone who could be the posterchild for internalized homophobia.

Or so I thought.

I'm glad now that I didn't take the easy route and dismiss Manago with sarcastic comments. He's got things to say that - as uncomfortable as they are - the LGBT establishment needs to hear.

First, there's his aversion to the word "gay." For Manago it's not a matter of internalized homophobia to reject the term. It's a matter of expressing pride in his African-American heritage. Manago believes that "gay" is a term that denotes the white, mostly male leadership of the LGBT community. For him, accepting the word "gay" means accepting membership in a class that seldom considers the issues faced by people of color.

"I, too, am often called a black nationalist, particularly by the white gay community because I don't identify with their way of framing us in this world," Manago said in his speech at the Million Man March, according to The Washington Blade.

He's not alone in his opinion. Take, for example, the following from a recent Associated Press story:

About 4 million gay or lesbian adults live in the United States, according to the Gay and Lesbian Atlas, compiled by the Urban Institute. In Los Angeles, the group found that Hispanics lead 32 percent of all same-sex households. In the South, black gays head more than a quarter of gay households in South Carolina and Mississippi.

If minorities are just as prevalent as whites, then why do their faces number so few at national gay-rights events?

In 2000, the Human Rights Campaign surveyed leaders in several communities of color across the country. "Their perceptions of us were rich, white male elitist organization with low investment in issues facing the multicultural community," said Donna Payne, the senior diversity organizer with the HRC, the nation's largest gay-rights advocacy organization.

It's good to see that organizations are beginning to acknowledge that LGBT blacks, Hispanics and other minorities have their own issues aside from from just being gay. It's also good that these organizations are actively working to recruit more minority representations.

But we must be able to view minorities as more than just window dressing to prove we aren't white elitists. We have to start asking them what it important to them and incorporating their issues into our agenda.

Issues of race are volatile within the LGBT community. As members of a minority group ourselves, we tend to think that other members of the same group will have the same issues. We think in terms of what it means to be LGBT, but seldom take the next step to think about what it means to be gay and black or lesbian and Latina or any other minority group that overlaps LGBT.

From my own experience in my political club, I know that I'm proud that we have African Americans, Hispanics and other minority members. It gives us bragging rights to being inclusive. But the past few days of reading up on Manago made me realize something else, too: when I interact with LGBT people of other races, I do so from a color-blind perspective. I don't see them as black or Latino or anything else except LGBT.

I'd like to think I do that because I am establishing common ground. Hey, I can say, we are all connected by our queerness. But in truth it's more because I'm uncomfortable talking about issues of race because I don't always know how to address the subject. In being eager not to offend, I create an even bigger offense: the failure to see someone as a complete person.

Despite his faults, Manago is right about something - the LGBT leadership hasn't done an adequate job addressing racial issues. We talk about marriage but not the poverty that undermines stable relationships. We talk about equal employment opportunities, but not the lack of jobs. We talk about affirming our rights, but we leave the issue of affirming the rights of other minorities up to those minorities' own groups. We talk about how we need to educate gay men about AIDS, but not how to address the issue of AIDS among other groups. We talk about the need for temporary housing for LGBT victims of domestic violence, but not the need for affordable housing in our cities.

And then we wonder why people like Manago view the LGBT movement with suspicion and distrust?

As a group that has been denied a place at the table, we cannot deny others a place at the table we have made. Without building coalitions with other minority groups, LGBT organizations risk alienating groups that should be natural allies. And allies are not something we can afford to squander.


Monday, October 17, 2005

Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story

Back in the day when I was a young reporter for a small daily newspaper in a small city on the far outskirts of Kansas City, I always resented it when the big boys came to town. "The big boys," in this case were the Kansas City media who'd meander into town once or twice a year. I suspect this migration was at their editors' orders - being sent to the hinterlands either as punishment or to boost ratings or readship in that wasteland the Kansas City media referred to as "north of the river."

If it was a TV reporter who came, even the most crowded city council chamber would part like the Red Sea as the camera person entered the room, followed by the inevitably news-bunny with hair lacquered enough to withstand gale-force winds. Or, if the reporter was a man, with a jutting square jaw that seemed to enter the room a good 30 seconds before the rest of him. They'd shoot some footage of the unfolding meeting, then would depart to shoot a "stand-up" with the reporter looking earnestly into the camera (and usually taking about half the crowd with them to stare transfixed at a live image that they'd see repeated on the 10 o'clock news).

Newspaper reporters from the big city were more annoying still. They'd make it a habit to sit just behind me at a meeting and interupt my note-taking with questions like "Who is that?" ... "How do you spell that name?" ... "Who's here that I can talk to and get the story in a nutshell?" I've fantasized many times about telling them something like "You really should talk to Councilman Jones about that, but make sure he's taken his medication first or you might end up interviewing one of his other personalities." In the end, I'd relent and point out the best sources for them to talk to in the interest of them getting the story right (though there were times when a sotto voce version of "You want me to write your story for you, too, you lazy asshole?" escaped through gritted teeth).

The reporter would then scamper back to Kansas City and bang out 300 words or edit a 20-second spot for the news broadcast. But the resulting story would never quite sound right, even if it was completely factual. The stories always sound exactly like what they were: a product of someone who'd never been there before and probably wouldn't be back again unless he or she pissed off the editor again.

What was missing from the stories were a sense of context. "Context" is one of those ephemeral qualities that I'd be hard-pressed to define. The closest I can come is comparing it to having a feeling for the community and understanding it on a very basic, viseral level. That's not to say I was a better reporter than those sent up from Kansas City, but I like to think that I was better prepared to connect the dots on important stories without skipping over any of the dots that could give the story its proper context.

Even now I feel a proprietary sense about my own "neighborhood" and when I see the national media trying to cover local stories I get that same sinking feeling I used to get when I found a strange reporter on my turf.

Take, for example, a story that ran today on Page One Q. Across the top of the web page ran a stacked headline in bold red letters about notriously homophobic "minister" Fred Phelps making threats against an appearance by Judy Shepard, mother of slain gay Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard. Click on the link and it takes you to a story headlined: Westboro Baptist Church poster protesting Judy Shepard mentions explosive devices

Say what? Phelps has gone from being a buffoonish pain in the ass to a bona fide terrorist?

Above a reproduction of one of Phelps' ubiquitous faxes reads the following:

Westboro Baptist Church, the rabidly homophobic group run by Fred Phelps has targeted a speech by Judy Shepard, mother of the late Matthew Shepard, as it's next target of protests. The speech, at Montana's Carroll College, is scheduled for this Tuesday evening.

A flyer distributed by the church (below), the church claims that Judy Shepard is "avaricious," speaking out against hate crimes in an effort to accumulate wealth. The same flyer, posted on the Westboro Baptist Church website, connects the event to "Improvised Explosive Devices, leaving some to wonder if the Church intends to use such devices at the speech. (Emphasis added.)

Beneath that is a copy of Phelps' fax and it does, indeed, mention IEDs. Here's exactly what it says: "Thank God for IEDs! God Himself Has Become America's Terrorist, Killing Americans In Strange Lands!" Then it flows into Phelps' usual spiel ... Judy Shepard, mother of fag ... blah, blah, blah ... picket Carroll College, sodomoite whorehouse ... yada, yada, yada.

After the fax, Page One Q asserts the following: "Because of threats made by the church, the Montana Human rights network has been denied the right to have an educational table outside of the event."

OK ... to be fair I have to note that some other media reported Phelps' group had made a threat before it was splashed across Page One Q. Here's what the Helena (Mont.) Independent-Record had to say in its story:

Nancy Lee, spokesperson for Carroll, said that’s the point of the conference — to promote tolerance for everyone, regardless of their race, sex, religion or sexual orientation. But what concerns her about allowing the Human Rights Network to set up a table on campus is a threat by a radical anti-homosexual organization to picket the event. A flier sent out by the group also makes references to the use of “Improvised Explosive Devices.”

Oh my heavens! Run for the hills! Fred Phelps is threatening ... to ... PICKET! He's never done THAT before! Whatever shall we do?

Oops! Sorry about that last paragraph. I forgot to turn on my sarcasm filter. So back to the business at hand. Here's what we have: one fax from Phelps in which he makes Judy Shepard and Carrol College the objects of scorn plus a newspaper story that mentions Phelps is threatening to picket the event with a half-dozen or so rag-tag family members from his "church." Combine those two bits of information and take out the extraneous stuff and you're left with "Fred Phelps is threatening ... Judy Shepard!" It makes for great copy, if you like to play faster and looser with the facts than Weekly World News dreaming up another "I'm Carrying an Alien Bat-Boy's Child!" story.

What about the reference to IEDs? I can almost hear the scoffers among you ask.

Well, since you asked, here's the "context" for Phelps' sudden obsession with Improvised Explosive Devices. Way back in the late '80s and early '90s Phelps and his clan jumped on the anti-gay bandwagon. Seems the Phelps family compound in Topeka is just across the street from Gage Park where gay men have been known to engage in illicit sexual activities. Guardian of public morality that he is, Fred began a one-family quest to rid Gage Park of sodomites. Not content to stop there, he found he could get attention by picketing funerals of gay men who had died of AIDS. Apparently we weren't dying fast enough to keep Fred and his clan busy, so he started picketing anything remotely gay. Staging "The Laramie Project"? Fred would be there. Concerts by Melissa Ethridge? Count on Fred to show up to let people know that fags AND dykes burn in hell.

Soon Fred begin to see subtle fag influence everywhere ... kind of like an alcoholic in the drunk tank sees cockroaches crawling all over his skin. "Tolerance" and "diversity" became words Phelps zeroed in on like a hawk preparing to swoop down on a field mouse 300 feet below. He picketed the funeral of Fred Rogers of "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood" fame because that other Fred dared to speak of tolerance. And just as soon as it seemed Phelps was running out of rocks to turn over in the search of that ever-ellusive homosexual agenda, along came 9/11. Islamic terrorists didn't topple the World Trade Center and fly into the Pentagon, in Phelps' way of thinking. No, that was God destroying America for tolerating all those fags. Suddenly Phelps' on-line empire expanded from the original to And all those American soldiers in Iraq killed by IEDs? That was really God's handiwork as punishment for a "filthy fag nation." Suddenly instead of wasting time picketing fag funerals and the funerals of those who dared mention "tolerance," Phelps found a new target to picket: the funerals of soliders killed in Iraq.

Earlier this summer IEDs became a standard refrain in Phelps' regular faxes and fliers. I think he just sort of likes to say IEDs. He's even gone back to 1995 when a couple of college students set off a small explosive outside his house and claimed that he was a victim of an IED. So now just about every fax that whisks its way out of the Phelps compound thanks God for IEDs - the true smiting implement of God's vengeful wrath.

So that's the context that got missed in the Page One Q story. Phelps hasn't suddenly decided to turn terrorist and blow up Judy Shepard with an IED. That's not Fred's style. He'd rather provoke someone into attacking him so his can scream "victim" and "persecution" and then file a lawsuit against his oppressor. (Things like that happen a lot when just about every member of the family is a law school graduate ... as in the case of the Phelpses.)

Although it's fun to imagine the headlines if one day Phelps would mix up some Kool-Aid and pull a Jim Jones with his motely band of followers, that's not likely to happen. Neither is he likely to change from obnoxious asswipe into Rambo Phelps, God's chosen avenger against fags and their moms. Fred's way too fond of publicity and realizes that if he's dead or in jail, he can't keep rolling out those faxes and picketing funerals.

You know, defending the likes of Phelps against accusations and insinuations made on a gay news web site gives me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. It's sort of like using the First Amendment to argue in favor of such literary works as Helga - She-Bitch of the S.S. or Daddy's Little Butt-Boy. When it comes right down to it, there are so many, many, many reasons to despise someone like Phelps that we really don't need to manufacture any more reasons.


Saturday, October 15, 2005

'Ex-gay' ministry plays the victim card

Late last month it appeared the odious Tennessee "ex-gay" ministry Love In Action was on the verge of being forced to either get a license to continue its brand of (ahem) "therapy" or close its doors. Now, however, it appears that Love In Action has pulled a third option out of a hat: play the victim card and claim it's the object of an anti-Christian bias.

You may remember Love In Action made the news this summer when Zack Stark, a 16-year-old Tennessee youth, was sent there against his will by his parents after he came out to them. Zack's blog about his fears of being sent to Love In Action soon went zooming around the internet and drew plenty of attention to the plight of the young man.

According to Nate Kellum, LIA's attorney who was quote in an Associated Press story, LIA claims that its free speech and religious expression rights are being violated by Tennessee's licensing requirements.

Love In Action is not designed or intended to provide mental health care, but rather to minister from a Christian perspective, Kellum said.

Licensure is prohibitively expensive, the group claims in its brief, and, "it is repugnant to LIA's mission and purpose to have its ministry regulated by the state."

Kellum said Tennessee's investigations were "prejudicially motivated" and a result of political pressure on the state from groups such as the Queer Action Coalition and Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays.

So let's get this straight (so to speak). LIA bills itself as a center offering reparative and conversion therapy to gays (both of which havthoroughlyorougly repudiated by the American Psychiatric Association) ... but when the state of Tennessee begins to question whether it should have a license to provide mental health services, LIA's claim of offering "therapy" sudden changes to "Oh no! You must have misunderstood. We are a ministry."

And to complain that the investigation into LIA is "prejudicially motivated" because LGBT-friendly groups raised the issue makes as much sense as claiming that consumer groups are "anti-profit" when they call corporations to task over safety issues in the automotive industry.

For groups like LIA to hide behind their status as religious organization is disingenuous at best. Government has a duty to assure that all its citizens are protected from harm. That's why the pharmaceutical industry is regulated to make sure that new drugs are safe before being put on the market. That's why food products are subject to inspection before they get put on store shelves.

But religious organizations claim they get a "pass" when it comes to looking at the efficacy of "therapeutic" services they offer. It's ironic how fun-D'uh-Mental-ists howl about separation of church and state when it stands in their way of a goal they want. But when they fear the government taking a look into their operations, they wave a big banner and loudly proclaim "You can't touch us! We're a RELIGIOUS institution!"

Obviously, there are types of "ministries" that cross the line of the Free Exercise of Religion Clause. The state has an interest in prohibiting human sacrifices, as one extreme example. Likewise, the state should be concerned when people are "treated" by methods that the scientific and medical establishment have determined to be not only ineffective, but harmful. Make no mistake about it - the therapies offered by LIA and its ilk are harmful and leave in their wake depressed, profoundly unhappy clients who are at much increased risk of suicide.

I truly wish the government would call these "ex-gay" ministries to task. Call them in and make them prove their extremely inflated claims of success. Make them produce evidence that their "graduates" are leading happy, fulfilled lives now. Have them justify themselves as a legitimate form of treatment.

No doubt the fundies would shout "persecution!" from the highest rooftops and play the victim card. But the duty of the government to keep citizens from harm trumps the right of religious groups to be given carte blanche to dispense treatment proven to be harmful with impunity.


Friday, October 14, 2005

Hate crimes and 'taint' crimes

Just a couple of months ago I posted a piece here called Summer of Hate about the rise in anti-LGBT hate crimes that occurred across the nation over the summer. Now it appears the list of hate crimes I included in that piece was one crime too long.

A Lakeland, Fla., man - already in jail accused of stealing construction materials from his work site - has confessed to stealing items from the home he shared with his partner, spray painting "die fags" on his house, setting it on fire and then claiming his was the victim of a hate crime, according to an article titled Officials say Polk fire story a lie in the Orlando Sentinel.

According to the article:

Christopher Michael Robertson, 23, confessed to setting fire to his and [his partner's] house in Kings Manor Mobile Home Park on July 25, the Lakeland Fire Department said Wednesday.

He told an investigator he took items he had reported stolen from the home and placed them in storage, fire investigators said. Some of those goods were sold, while others remain in his possession.

Robertson, who already was in the Polk County Jail on unrelated charges, faces felony counts of arson, burning to defraud an insurer and making a false insurance claim. He also faces one misdemeanor count of filing a false report to law enforcement.

It was easy to believe Robertson's story. Florida, after all, is going through its own upheaval over gay issues. Not only does the state face a likely "marriage" amendment vote, but Hillsborough County drew national attention earlier this year for not only refusing to proclaim Gay Pride Month in June, but passing an ordinance outlawing events that would "promote" homosexuality. From such boiling cauldrons of bigotry do hate crimes flow.

False hate crime reports do happen. They happen for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they are done to elicit sympathy. One such incident in the Northwest several years ago occurred because the "victims" believed if they could generate sympathy, voters would be more likely to vote against an anti-LGBT ballot measure.

Sometime they happen because the "victim" wants to draw attention to himself, as was the case with one local incident in which the victim claimed to have been attacked by two men who carved the word "fag" in his chest. It didn't take police long to determine the "victim" had carved the word himself - actually "scratched" would be a better word since the word was very superficial. Besides, given that the word was carved upside down, it was obvious to police that it was carved by someone looking down at his chest instead of by an attacker in front of the "victim." Because the local news media had already carried the initial report, they naturally followed it up with a report saying the hate crime incident hadn't happened.

Then you have some human piece of excrement like Robertson who sees not only a way to profit from making a false report, but enjoys a moment in the spotlight as well.

As much as I'd like to line up people like Fred Phelps, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and other world-class homophobes and bitch-slap them until my hands go numb and bleed, I'd put idiots like Robertson at the head of the line.

In falsely claiming to be the victim of a hate crime, they make the entire LGBT community the victim of a "taint" crime - a crime one person commits, but nevertheless taints an entire group of people.

Every report of a hate crime should be investigated thoroughly. But thanks to actions like Robertson's, the religious reich has fresh ammunition to use to oppose hate crimes laws. Just as Repugnantcans will cut welfare benefits to 100 mothers to keep one "cheat" from getting undeserved benefits, the religious right will parade miscreants like Robertson out every time a legitimate hate crime is reported. "See?" they'll say. "They don't need no hate crime protections 'cause when they get 'em they jes' make up lies about 'em."

If there's any justice in the world, Robertson will still be in jail by the time gay marriage becomes the law of the land.


Monday, October 10, 2005

In honor of National Coming Out Day

I used to think that so many gay men seem to have such protacted adolescences because they didn't have kids. Nothing brings the realization that I'm getting older quicker than to running into straight friends I haven't seen for a while and asking how little Johnnie or Susie is doing. The kids who were taking ballet lessons or involved in little league the last time I saw them are now driving and making plans for college. Whoa! Suddenly I'm confronted with the reality that I'm no longer a carefree 20-something or a career-building 30-something. Nothing brings on a sudden panic about getting older more than realizing that the kid I used to read Dr. Suess stories to in funny voices is now the young person writing his or her own term papers.

Now it's not just the children of straight friends who can make me feel old, but all the young lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and questioning kids as well.

Take for instance the current issue of Time magazine with it's cover story on The Battle Over Gay Youth. Time, always a belated measure of the cultural zeitgeist, has determined that LGBT and Q youth are coming out at much earlier ages today:

Kids are disclosing their homosexuality with unprecedented regularity--and they are doing so much younger. The average gay person now comes out just before or after graduating high school, according to The New Gay Teenager, a book Harvard University Press published this summer. The book quotes a Penn State study of 350 young people from 59 gay groups that found that the mean age at which lesbians first have sexual contact with other girls is 16; it's just 14 for gay boys. In 1997 there were approximately 100 gay-straight alliances (GSAs)--clubs for gay and gay-friendly kids--on U.S. high school campuses. Today there are at least 3,000 GSAs--nearly 1 in 10 high schools has one--according to the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN, say "glisten"), which registers and advises GSAs. In the 2004-05 academic year, GSAs were established at U.S. schools at the rate of three per day. ...

Children who become aware of their homosexual attractions no longer need endure the baleful combination of loneliness and longing that characterized the childhoods of so many gay adults. Gay kids can now watch fictional and real teens who are out on shows like Desperate Housewives, the dating show Next on MTV and Degrassi (a high school drama on the N network whose wild popularity among adolescents is assured by the fact that few adults watch it). Publishers like Arthur A. Levine Books (of Harry Potter fame) and the children's division at Simon & Schuster have released something like a dozen novels about gay adolescents in the past two years. New, achingly earnest books like Rainbow Road (Simon & Schuster), in which three gay teens take a road trip, are coming this month. Gay kids can subscribe to the 10-month-old glossy YGA Magazine (YGA stands for "young gay America") and meet thousands of other little gays via young gay america com or Gay boys can chat, vote for the Lord of the Rings character they would most like to date--Legolas is leading--learn how to have safe oral sex and ogle pictures of young men in their underwear on the ruttish Not that you have to search so far into the Web: when University of Pittsburgh freshman Aaron Arnold, 18, decided to reveal his homosexuality at 15, he just Googled "coming out," which led to myriad advice pages.

Thirty years ago I had just entered college. For the first time in my life I was relatively free to explore my sexuality. (It's not that I couldn't do some preliminary exploring before then, but those first rudimentary explorations in the basement men's room of the Henry County Courthouse some 30 miles from home weren't exactly that I was looking for.)

I envy today's gay youth. It's amazing how far we have come in three decades. Today most kids can go to the library and check out any number of books on gay topics, from books on coming out to novels about gay teens like themselves. Thirty years ago I found exactly two books that dealt with gay issues. The first was Gordin Merrick's The Lord Won't Mind, the first in a series of novels to follow the relationship of preppy lovers Charlie and Peter. At the time I relished reading and re-reading the book. Having picked up a copy of it last year at a thrift store, I'm amazed that I ever managed to read the purple prose in this gay version of a romance novel without hurling it to the floor. I guess my critical eye for literature was a later development.

Then there was Dr. David Ruben's Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask. It had an entire chapter on homosexuality it in and I read it many times looking for clues about myself. Looking back on it, I'm surprised I grew up at all after finding out that, as a gay man, my life was doomed to an endless parade of men as I searched for "the perfect penis." (That's Ruben's phrase, not mine.) If I wanted to find a partner, Rubens informed me I'd better start hanging out in dingy men's rooms and if I couldn't find a partner, I could always shove cucumbers, shot glasses and the occasional light blub up my ass as a substitute. Oh, and one more thing ... Rubens assured me that if I ever found that perfect penis, it would never last since homosexuals were incapable to forming lasting relationships.

Growing up in a small town, I already felt like I was the only person like me. Now, thanks to Rubens, I discovered my own version of a "good news/bad news" joke: The good news is that I'm not alone ... the bad news is that all those others are more fucked up than I am.

Once I got to college, I found books with more positive messages. Don Clark's Loving Someone Gay, Carl Tripp's The Homosexual Matrix, The Joy of Gay Sex, a collection of essays called Lavendar Culture, and Johnathon Ned Katz's Gay American History formed the basis of my "library" that was shared among my friends.

It was also the last book in that list that my mother found in my room over summer vacation. If such an incident happened to a young gay man today, I'd imagine it would lead to one of those coming out experiences and the mother's reaction would be tempered by the amount of information out there on sexual orientation. Thirty years ago there was no chance to come out. I can still remember my mother's exact words to me: "If you are (there was a pause here that I always took to mean she didn't even want to say the word "gay") I never want to know about it. (Another pause.) And your father wouldn't either, because it would kill him." In that moment was erected a barrier that was never breached. Even long after I had graduated college and began my career, there was a wall there that remained unbroken. My mother may have suspected from that moment that I was gay, but she died without ever having to hear the words "I am gay" from my mouth. That was a burden of silence she place on both of us - on my lips and on her ears - and it's something I still stuggle with forgiving her for.

So it's easy for me to look at today gay teens and think they have it made. If they want information, they can go to the Internet or the library. They have "Will and Grace" and a host of other shows with gay characters. (My generation had only wisps and hints of "gayness" from celebrities such as Paul Lynde perched in his center square on "Hollywood Squares.") They have rock stars and sports heros and public figures who can serve as role models. They have gay/straight alliance clubs in their schools where they can meet supportive straight friends who aren't threatened by the idea that knowing someone who's "that way" might rub off on them. The world has changed. There is so much information out there that when a teen chooses to come out today, his family has already been exposed to so much information about sexual orientation that parents' "learning curve" is significantly less steep than generations before.

The only thing I don't envy about today's LGBT and Q youth is the open hatred that's aimed their way from the pulpits and halls of power. In my day, that hatred was aimed at the Russians and those "godless commies" or at hippies or bra-burning women's libbers. Being gay meant living beneath the radar.

Nowdays, with LGBTs of all ages coming out, we are firmly on the radar screen and are regularly denounced along with abortion, the ACLU, and liberals in general. Even the Time magazine piece has drawn sharp criticism such as that from the ultra right-wing group Concerned Women of America. In a press release sent out within hours of Time hitting the newsstands, CWA denounced the article as part of a "massive campaign to promote homosexuality to kids."

I'm not sure how my generation would have stood up under that kind of continous barrage from preachers and politicians that is released against LGBTs today. For sure there would probably be a lot less of us as our numbers were thinned by unofficially "sactioned" gay bashings and death by our own hands. My left wrist still bears the scar of a razor blade's bite when I wasn't sure whether death would hurt less than living. Today that scar is my reminder to choose life, even if it means spending it fighting for acknowledgment and respect.

Yes, today's teens have freedom and face opponents I could never have imagined 30 years ago. But by choosing to live openly, they also have something my generation didn't have: allies and supporters who will stand with them against bigotry and prejudice.

For that I envy them.

Happy coming out day!


Sunday, October 09, 2005

White House man-whore goes begging

Oh this is too rich to pass up!

Jeff Gannon (nee James Gurkett), the "journalist" covering the White House for the right-wing Talon News web site who was unmasked earlier this year as a $200-an-hour prostitute for a male escort service, needs some quick cash.

On Gannon's web site - which lauds him as "a voice of the new media" and claims he was "so feared by the Left that they had to take me down" - there's a link for contributions above the promise that "your support will help me continue the fight." Click on the link and you get the following:

As you might expect, recent developments have left me without an income, but I am determined not to allow that to keep me from speaking out.

Your kind messages of prayer and encouragement have sustained me since this all began, and I am hoping you will consider a donation to keep my voice from going silent.

This is an excellent opportunity to fight back against the well-funded attack machine of the Left.

Poor Jeffie! At this rate we might expect to see him in a bright blue Wal-Mart vest asking customers if they'd like a shopping cart by this time next week! Fortunately, he gives visitors to his blog the opportunity to make contributions via his PayPal account.

No doubt after his unmasking Jeffie couldn't work for Talon News anymore even though it had been a perfect fit for him: a faux journalist working for a faux news agency. And as for his other profession ... well, he reminds me of the joke about the gay hustler with leprosy who did well until his business fell off.

But I have a hunch Jeffie's plea for contributions is about more than not having an income. Gannon is hoping to rake in whatever cash he can wrest from the gullible before his name surfaces in indictments over the "outing" of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Consider the following from

The New York Times reported Friday that in addition to possible charges directly involving the revelation of Valerie Wilson's identity and related perjury or conspiracy charges, Fitzgerald is exploring other possible crimes. Specifically, according to the Times, the special counsel is seeking to determine whether anyone transmitted classified material or information to persons who were not cleared to receive it -- which could be a felony under the 1917 Espionage Act.

One such classified item might be the still-classified State Department document, written by an official of State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, concerning the CIA's decision to send former ambassador Joseph Wilson to look into allegations that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from Niger. Someone leaked that INR document -- which inaccurately indicated that Wilson's assignment was the result of lobbying within CIA by his wife, Valerie -- to right-wing media outlets, notably including Gannon's former employers at Talon News. On Oct. 28, 2003, Gannon posted an interview with Joseph Wilson on the Talon Web site, in which he posed the following question: "An internal government memo prepared by U.S. intelligence personnel details a meeting in early 2002 where your wife, a member of the agency for clandestine service working on Iraqi weapons issues, suggested that you could be sent to investigate the reports. Do you dispute that?"

Gannon later hinted, rather coyly, that he had learned about the INR memo from an article in the Wall Street Journal. He also told reporters last February that FBI agents working for Fitzgerald had questioned him about where he got the memo. At the very least, that can be interpreted as confirming today's Times report about the direction of the case.

Now add to that the "timeline" for the outing of Plame:

Date Gannon-Wilson interview was published: October 28, 2003 ("Talon News" article reprinted at Mens News Daily)

Date of Wall Street Journal article (first mainstream media mention of memo): October 17, 2003

Date of Gannon-Wilson interview stated by Jeff Gannon himself, in his 6/30/05 column: September 2003

Hmmmm. So Gannon interviewed Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a month before the story broke in the Wall Street Journal? Methinks Jeffie has some explaining to do!

Loss of income, my ass! Jeffie wants to start his own defense fund, knowing that when the excrement begins to hit the rotating cooling device he won't be able to count on his buddies in the White House to cover his $200-an-hour ass.

It will be interesting to see if Jeff falls on his sword as the indictments begin to fall ... or whether he'll start singing like a canary to save himself from jail and a whole bunch of "clients" who won't be forking over $200 for his services.

Note to the Bush Administration, courtesy of Shakespeare: He's mad who trusts a horse's health, the tenderness of wolves, a boy's love or a whore's oath.


Saturday, October 08, 2005

Iran's anti-gay crackdown: Canada rides to the rescue

Several months ago while in a gay online chatroom I received a private message from someone who identified himself as a gay man from Iran. We talked for a while and he told me about his life in that Islamic state.

He told me how, when he wanted to talk to other gay men around the world, he would have to take his laptop computer (a possession that marked him as a member of Iran's upper class) to a cafe and sit with his back against the wall so no one could see what he was typing, even if it was unlikely other customers spoke English. He talked about the difficulty of meeting other gay men in Iran and how you never knew if the handsome man you were considering inviting home with you would be someone who would denounce you to Muslim authorities. He talked of acquaintances who had "disappeared" for weeks on end, only to return one day battered and bruised from brutal "interrogations." And we spoke about his desire to one day come to the West - to England or France or the U.S. - where he could live his life openly, out of the reach of Muslim laws and police who enforced the laws like ruthless gangs.

I told him about gay life in America. Even with the setbacks and the opposition from the religious reich, he thought America sounded like a paradise. To be able to gather in a club with other gay men without fearing a raid followed by imprisonment is only a dream to him. To be able to kiss a man he loves in public without the act being followed by a rain of sharp stones from outraged countrymen was almost beyond his comprehension.

We talked several times in the chatroom. For me it was a window into an alien culture, but a culture in which Western ideas of gay identity and culture was beginning to take hold. Our conversations were an intellectual exercise for me. But for him they were a lifeline of hope that somewhere out there people like him lived freely and openly ... although I didn't understand that at the time.

Gradually I began to distance myself from my Iranian acquaintance. It began when I would become irked at his way of demanding my full attention. He'd become impatient if I was talking to another friend in the chatroom and failed to answer his messages in a manner as timely as he'd like. I attributed his irritation with his upper-class status and rebelled against his demands for immediate attention by making him wait even longer for a reply. Finally, after one particularly tense exchange, I took the ultimate step in distancing myself from him and put him on "ignore" so his messages would no longer come through. The only thing worse than a pushy foreigner is a pushy foreigner who thinks his class and money will impress me, I told myself.

I haven't seen him back in the chatroom since then. Lately, though, I have been thinking about my Iranian chat friend. Earlier this summer came reports out of Iran that two teenagers were hanged for being gay. In his blog DIRELAND, activist Doug Ireland published an interview with a gay torture victim who survived a brutal beating.

While those stories generated a ripple through America's LBGT population and produced sympathetic "oh, that's just terrible!" clucking, it wasn't long before our attention was back to focusing on Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoing the California gay marriage bill and Connecticut getting ready for civil unions and Catholic Church preparing to search their seminaries for (gasp!) homosexuals. Activism and outrage, like charity, it seems, begin at home for American LGBTs.

Even The New Republic, in it's current issue, raised an eyebrow over American gays wearing blinders when it came to their Isalmic brethran. In an article titled How America's gay rights establishment is failing Iranian gays it writes:

When it comes to the oppression of gays and lesbians in Muslim countries, gay activism hasn't died; it never really existed. Gay activists have used two types of excuses to justify their failure to aggressively mobilize for the rights of gay Muslims--moral and strategic. The moral argument is that Americans are in no position to criticize Iranians on human rights--that it would be wrong to campaign too loudly against Iranian abuses when the United States has so many problems of its own. Then, there are two strategic rationales: that it is better to work behind the scenes to bring about change in Iran; and that gay rights groups should conserve their resources for domestic battles.

The strategic rationales are not especially compelling, but it is the moral argument that is particularly troubling, because it suggests that some gay and lesbian leaders feel more allegiance to the relativism of the contemporary left than they do to the universality of their own cause. Activists are more than willing to condemn the homophobic leaders of the Christian right for campaigning against gay marriage; but they are wary of condemning Islamist regimes that execute citizens for being gay. Something has gone terribly awry.

My first reaction to the article was outrage. Not outrage at the Iranian government for its actions, but at The New Republic for suggesting that my activism is tainted by Ameri-centric prejudice. Sure, I condemn the religious right in this country for its bigotry ... not because I despise America's version of the Taliban more than the Islamic version, but because it's in my country. And you bet I'm loathe to lecture another country about human rights when the abuse of Muslim prisoners at the hands of American captors in places like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo make American protests more than a bit disingenuous.

Now, riding to the rescue like a Mountie, comes Canada. Canada's Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew announced that his country will introduce a resolution at the UN condemning Iran's record on human rights. According to DIRELAND:

Canada's decision to introduce this new UN resolution condemning Iran's deplorable human rights records gives the global gay community the perfect opportunity to capture world attention for the unfolding, lethal anti-gay pogrom in Iran. It's about time that U.S. gay groups -- who have done almost nothing to protest the widespread, snowballing "moral crusade" of newly-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government against gay people -- finally end their silence and mobilize in support of Canada's UN resolution by specifically denouncing the enormous gay tragedy taking place in Iran today. If you're a member of or contributor to HRC, the NGLTF, or IGLRC, now is the time to let the leaders of these groups know that you expect a full-throated, activist campaign by them to protest and mobilize against the campaign of arrests, Internet entrapment, beatings, torture and hangings on trumped-up charges of gays, lesbians, and the transgendered by the Ahmadinejad regime. And that campaign must include expressing outrage at the regime's continued execution of minors, as well as of its treatment of women. ...

Misogyny and homophobia are the twin evils of religious primitivism, and the struggle against both is inextricably linked. All the more reason for gay groups here in the U.S. and in the West in general to link arms with the women's movement to jointly mobilize against Iran's sexual apartheid. And Canada has just provided the perfect opportunity to do so.

I wholeheartedly agree and I encourage others to take up the challenge of pushing our national organizations to speak out and endorse Canada's U.N. resolution.

It's easy to speak out when abuses happen in our own backyard to people who share our culture, our values, and our way of seeing the world. But we must be willing to look beyond the blinders of our borders and be willing to extend our hands to others as well.


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Engaging in a little huffin', puffin', hyperventilatin' hyperbole

There's nothing wrong with a little hyperbole. Mark Twain was a master of the craft in many of his short stories. In Twain's dry, droll wit, hyperbole was an exceedingly sharp rapier of wit thrust at the puffed-up personages of the Gilded Age. But when hyperbole ceases to be a literary device and enters the world of politics, its sharpness is instantly dulled and it becomes closer to a crude cudgel than a sharp-edged sword.

Case in point - On the web site Page One Q is this headline (in screaming capital letters) about Harriet Miers, Bush's nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor: "MIERS AGAINST LEGAL GAY SEX."

Whoa! Lord only knows what she'd think of the ILLEGAL kind!

Click on the link and it takes you to a commentary by veteran political journalist Doug Ireland's DIRELAND blog site. The headline on the piece (also in all caps, but with a little more detail) reads: "MIERS AGAINST MAKING GAY SEX LEGAL, AND AGAINST LEGAL ABORTION, IN 1989."

According to Ireland's comentary:

Says the AP, "Miers opposed repeal of the Texas sodomy statute -- a law overturned in 2003 by the court on which she will sit if confirmed -- in a survey she filled out for a gay rights group during her successful 1989 campaign." The survey was conducted by the Lesbian/Gay Coalition of Dallas -- to whom Miers said she didn't want and wouldn't seek their endorsement.

This revelation means that Miers was against the single most significant Supreme Court decision affecting gay people ever to come from the Court. And it also makes a vote for Miers' confirmation by any Democratic Senator utterly inexcusable.

Now wait a second. No doubt the 2003 Supreme Court decision that overturned the Texas sodomy law was "the single most significant Supreme Court decision affecting gay people ever to come from the Court," but how can it be said that Miers was against a Supreme Court decision that was still 14 years in the future? Besides, at the time Miers was quoting the established law of the land under Bowers v. Hardwick in which the Supreme Court had upheld sodomy laws a few years previously.

OK, so Miers lacks a crystal ball to foretell the overturning of the Bowers decision. I'll grant Ireland that point.

It does, however, bother me that in racing to paint Miers as a raging homophobe who would use her seat on the high court to make sure any kind of sex between members of the same sex is prohibited, he leaves out a few items from the Associated Press story.

Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers went on record favoring equal civil rights for gays when she ran for Dallas city council, and she said the city had a responsibility to pay for AIDS education and patient services.

But Miers opposed repeal of the Texas sodomy statute -- a law later overturned by the court on which she will sit if confirmed -- in a survey she filled out for a gay-rights group during her successful 1989 campaign. ...

Miers answered "Yes" to the survey question, "Do you believe that gay men and lesbians should have the same civil rights as non-gay men and women?"

She was noncommittal on several other questions, saying, for example, that she would be willing to discuss the need for a law prohibiting discrimination in housing or public accommodations against people who had AIDS or were HIV-positive.

Asked whether qualified candidates should be denied city employment because they are gay or lesbian, she said, "I believe that employers should be able to pick the best qualified person for any position to be filled considering all relevant factors."

She answered "No" without elaboration when asked whether she believed, both as a citizen and a legislator, that criminalization of the private sexual behavior of consenting adult lesbians and gays should be taken out of the Texas criminal code.

She said Dallas had a responsibility in AIDS education and treatment and that she favored more money being spent in that area "assuming need and resources. I do consider the AIDS illness as a serious total community problem." She underlined "total."

If answers to a 1989 candidate questionnaire are what we are using to base our judgments on Miers, then she is far from being a wild-eyed Fred-Phelps-in-a-skirt that Ireland seems to want to portray. It's as one of the founders of the Lesbian/Gay Coalition of Dallas commented: "She didn't seem like a right-wing nut or anything like that."

I can think of a lot of things about Miers that make me nervous. There are her ties to the Bush family that may or may not include helping to cover up allegations that Dubya hadn't fulfilled his National Guard duties. There are charges that she was involved in corruption and scandal while involved with the Texas Lottery. Then there's the charge that she's completely lacking in judicial experience. And of course there's the whole issue of her tabla rasa record on any of the hot-button issues of the day.

Doug Ireland is a very capable journalist. I've enjoyed reading many of his articles such as his recent pieces on Iran's attempt to purge homosexuals.

But to engage in an attack purely on the basis of one or two lines out of a wire service story and then twisting the facts to fit an agenda does not strike me as responsible journalism.

By all means, investigate Miers. Ask her tough questions. Interview former coworkers and associates. Talk to her neighbors. Dig as deep into her background as you can.

But if the best you can do is breathlessly report that she failed to see the Supreme Court overturning sodomy laws 14 years in advance, then you really don't have much to report.

And save the hyperbole for Mark Twain. He was much better at it than you or I.