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, June 22, 2006

Cleaning out the blog box

Back several months ago when I was unemployed and had the time to attend to this blog more frequently, I started keeping a file of ideas for blog topics. When nothing in the day's news caught my attention as particularly blog-worthy, I'd raid my file for ideas. Some of those ideas made it into this particular portion of cyberspace and others have collected dust. It's not that they weren't good ideas to blog about ... I just couldn't think of ways to turn a two-sentence idea into a full-length blog (and as readers know, my blogs do tend to run to the full-length variety).

So with no further ado, here's my attempt to clean out some of my files by collecting some "mini-blogs" into a full-length one.

Debating a dying prejudice

The Rt. Rev. John Spong, former Episcopal bishop of Newark, N.J., was part of the "religious left" even before there was a religious right. He's written books on a number of theological issues, including LGBT topics, in such books as Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture, Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile, and Living in Sin?: A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality. With titles like those - and the ideas contained in them - it's little wonder that Spong is the type of Christian who drives folks like Falwell, Roberts and Dobson into fits of near-apoplexy.

Earlier this year Spong was on the lecture curcuit in Oregon and something he said in an interview with The Oregonian caught my attention. When a reporter asked him why he belived the battle for gay rights has already been won, he replied:

No prejudice is ever debated that isn't already dying. The reason we debate a prejudice is because it isn't holding anymore. We saw black people as being less than human. But we began to see them as human beings. It took a while to work that out. We used to define women as dependent, weak, emotionally hysterical, incapable of bearing responsibilities. Women began to challenge that in the 20th century. The same thing is happening with gay people.

To those of us int he middle of fighting for our rights, that's a very comforting idea and I've thought about it often when I feel frustrated that the extremists in the religious reich are gaining ground in their attempt to keep LGBT people oppressed.

"No prejudice is ever debated that isn't already dying." It's a shame I was born without the Martha Stewart gene or else I've have that sentiment cross-stitched in rainbow thread and hanging on my wall.

Gay evolution

Are there any other two words that send fundies into fits more than "gay" and "evolution"? (Well, maybe abortion and ACLU ... but that's beside the point.) Now put gay and evolution together and watch the far-right heads spin!

A transgender biologist at Stanford University has written a book on the evolutionary role of same-sex behavior in the animal world. Joan Roughgarden's Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender and Sexuality in Nature and People is one of those books that earns a spot on my as-soon-as-I-get-time reading list. Her theories were featured in a recent issue of Seed magazine. Among them was this:

Japanese macaques, an old world primate, illustrate this principle perfectly. Macaque society revolves around females, who form intricate dominance hierarchies within a given group. Males are transient. To help maintain the necessary social networks, female macaques engage in rampant lesbianism. These friendly copulations, which can last up to four days, form the bedrock of macaque society, preventing unnecessary violence and aggression. Females that sleep together will even defend each other from the unwanted advances of male macaques. In fact, behavioral scientist Paul Vasey has found that females will choose to mate with another female, as opposed to a horny male, 92.5% of the time. While this lesbianism probably decreases reproductive success for macaques in the short term, in the long run it is clearly beneficial for the species, since it fosters social stability. "Same-sex sexuality is just another way of maintaining physical intimacy," Roughgarden says. "It's like grooming, except we have lots of pleasure neurons in our genitals. When animals exhibit homosexual behavior, they are just using their genitals for a socially significant purpose."

Besides sounding like an interesting (if challenging) read, the book has already given my a new pick-up line I'm dying to use: "Hey there ... why don't you come over to my place so we can use our genitals for a socially significant purpose?"

Faith-based health insurance?

Right-wing Republicans in several states are trying to give insurance companies permission to deny coverage for people with "morally objectionable" conditions. It doesn't take much to see how adversely that could affect people with AIDS, women seeking birth control, transexuals in need of hormone treatments, or even LGBT folks seeking any sort of medical treatment.

Between those efforts and the controversies over pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for conditions they don't approve of, it apparent some doctors, pharmacists and insurance companies don't want us as patients.

They claim they are objecting to certain patients, treatments and medications on religious grounds. If that's the case there are a whole lot of folks these health care professionals won't be serving.

"I'm sorry, Rev. Falwell, but we can't fill your prescription for blood pressure medicine. You've been gaining weight and, well, you know gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins."

"Gee, Sen. Helms. All those years you spent smoking while representing Big Tobacco's interests in Congress have left you with lung cancer. I'd like to help, but the Bible says the body is a temple and you've been treating your's like a smokestack."

"You've developed chirrosis of the liver from all your years guzzling booze at cocktail parties back in Texas, Mr. President. God says drunkeness is a sin so you're not eligible for a liver transplant, sir."

"I'm afraid your eyesight is deteriorating, Rev. Dobson, but there's nothing I can do to help you since it's obvious you must have been a chronic masturbator in your youth. God has chosen to strike you blind."

I feel witty ... oh so witty

Researchers from the University of East London published a paper last winter on the dry-sounding topic of how male aggression patterns vary with sexual orientation. Don't fall asleep yet. I can sum up their findings in just three words: Gays are witty.

According to the study, "Homosexual males are often reported to be less physically aggressive than heterosexual males. Previous aggression studies have not, however, compared all forms of direct aggression, indirect aggression, and empathy among these populations. These results suggest that homosexual men are not less aggressive than heterosexuals per se, they simply express their aggression in different ways."

Boiled down to its essentials, straight men use their fists when they get pissed off while gay men use their mouths. Not that way, though. They use their mouths to utter put-downs, devastating bon mots, withering reparte and rapier-sharp wit.

Well, d'uh!

No wonder we get the stereotype of being witty. As a minority within a dominate and often hostile culture, we've developed a non-physical form of confrontation as an adaptation.

Besides, delivering a wickedly satirical verbal jab at some room-temperature-IQ redneck who's gettin' ready to stomp our faggot asses gives us time to get away while Bubba stands there tryin' to figure out what the hell we just said and whether or not it's an insult to mention the appalling lack of branches adorning his family tree.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Have you seen this guy lurking around?

Take a good look at the guy in the photo. Have you seen him lurking around Kansas City where he now calls home? Ever seen him driving through Penn Valley Park and slowing down to cast an appraising eye at the hustlers plying their trade there? Or furtively darting in and out of booths at that last bastion of the closeted, shamed and self-loathing, Erotic City? Or perhaps bumped into him in some suburban mall's men's room?

If so we want to hear from you.

Just who is this guy and why would he be hanging out in such lurid places? He's "Rev." Andrew Comisky, director of the "ex-gay" program Desert Stream Ministries. Today I found out, courtesy of an op-ed he wrote for The Kansas City Star, that he and I both live in Kansas City.

So naturally I'm curious about my neighbor who claims to be a former homo-seck-shul and want to make sure he's appropriately welcomed to town by Kansas City's gay community.

So if you bump into Andy is some gay venue, drop me a note to about it so I can share it with everyone else and we all can give Andy a big ol' "howdy" when we see him out and about.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

One lap dance away from heterosexuality

Maybe it's time I stopped picking on the "ex-gay" movement. The way some factions of the homo-no-mo' crowd are picking on each other, I think I'll sit back and let them do my work for me.

Case in point: The American Fascist ... Oops! I mean "Family" Association web site carries an article titled "Experts Split Over 'Bizarre' Sexual Orientation Therapy Techniques." (For a group like AFA to call an "ex-gay" therapy bizarre is what originally piqued my interest. Usually AFA reserves adjectives like "bizarre" for descriptions of abortionists, feminists, lesbians (which is sort of a synonym for "feminist" in the AFA lexicon), homo-seck-shuls, people with memberships in the ACLU and the every popular "radical homosexual agenda.)

In this particular case, "bizarre" was the word used to describe the reparative therapy techniques of Richard Cohen, president of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) and author of Coming Out Straight, a book purporting to outline Cohen's ideas for turning even the swishiest queen straight. For an idea of the esteem Cohen's ideas are held in, check out the link and read some of the reader reviews. Or you could just save time and read the headlines such as "How long will this stupidity continue?," "Worthless--except as a propoganda piece" and "WARNING! This book will be harmful to your health!"

Apparently more than just "radical homo-seck-shuls" are giving Cohen and his theories the thumbs down. He's also drawing criticism from some of his fellow practitioners of "ex-gay" snake oil salesmanship. According to the AFA article:

Christian psychotherapist Richard Cohen, board president of the ex-homosexual education and outreach organization known as Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), is addressing criticism leveled against certain therapy techniques he uses on clients with homosexual desires.

Cohen, a former homosexual and the author of the book Coming Out Straight (Oakhill Press, 2005), insists that no one is born with homosexual desires. He claims his reparative therapy group, the International Healing Foundation (IHF), has helped many men and women with unwanted homosexual desires achieve their goal of changing their sexual orientation and becoming heterosexual.

It is not a choice to have homosexual desires, the IHF director contends, but it is a choice to act upon those desires. He says those unwanted homosexual feelings are the result of temperament, familial influence, and environmental or social conditioning, all of which can be addressed through specific therapeutic principles and practices.

Cohen's methods have raised some questions, however; and he has lately taken sharp criticism over a May 23 appearance on Cable News Network (CNN), in which he demonstrated a technique that involves cuddling a male client in his lap. ...

Cohen, who refers to himself as a reorientation therapist, explained the "holding therapy" exercise as a means of using "healthy touch" on clients, who very often were "touch deprived" as children. He says this technique is one of the most effective ways to help men and women leave homosexuality.

Ummmmm ... yeah, I can see where being forced to sit on Cohen's lap would make me denounce my sinful ways. Especially if Cohen began the session with, "Come here and sit on my lap and we can talk about whatever pops up. (Giggle!) Yeah, that's right ... now sort of rock back and forth a bit ... mmmmmm ... yes! ... Now bounce up and down. ... Faster! ... Oh yes ... yes ... yes! Sweeeeeeet Jay-zuz!!!"

I shudder to think of the scene. Apparently so does a former colleague of Cohen's who is openly critical of him in the AFA piece.

Psychologist Dr. Warren Throckmorton, director of college counseling at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, maintains a blog on sexual identity change therapy and related information for interested individuals. He is not a reparative therapist, but he claims Cohen's techniques as demonstrated on CNN are bizarre and are not based on solid research.

Since viewing the "Paula Zahn Now" segment, Throckmorton has notified PFOX that, although he supports its mission and its belief that people are not born homosexual, he will not represent the group as long as Cohen remains its board president.

"Richard means well and has a good heart," Throckmorton acknowledges. "I think he is interested in helping people achieve the change that he himself has achieved. However, I also am concerned that the techniques and the portrayal of them left the wrong impression in the minds of many people in the public."

The impression the psychologist and Grove City College official is concerned about leaving with the public, he explains, is the false notion that all change-oriented therapists engage in the kind of techniques employed by Cohen. Not all reparative therapists use such techniques as Cohen's, the former PFOX spokesman says, nor is their use widespread or mainstream in change therapy circles.

I can see why Throckmorton is concerned. Nothing would scare off potential clients quicker than a request of sit on a therapist's lap. Even with only a couple of college psychology courses and a year's subscription to Psychology Today that has long since lapsed, I think I am qualified to tell the difference between bona fide therapy and something that's a mutant offspring of a sexual harrassment lawsuit waiting to happen and the start of a bad 1970s porn movie.

It's too be expected that real psychologists are aghast at Cohen's techniques. In fact, in January 2005 Cohen was permanently expelled from the American Counciling Association for ethical violations "which included inappropriate behavior such as fostering dependent counseling relationships, not promoting the welfare of clients, engaging in actions that sought to meet his personal needs at the expense of clients, exploiting the trust and dependency of clients, unethically soliciting testimonials from clients and promoting products to clients in a manner that is deceptive," according to author and activist Wayne Besen who writes frequently on the "ex-gay" movement.

What's astonishing is that people in the reparative therapy community like Throckmorton are working hard to distance themselves from Cohen and his "bouncy-bouncy" therapy. That's kind of like being kicked out of the asylum because the other inmates took a vote and declared the new guy to be crazy.

It's almost enough to make you feel sorry for Cohen. Almost. But then you realize that he's out of the street looking for the gulible to convince they are one private lap dance away from heterosexuality.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Confusing winning a battle with winning a war

The Defense of Marriage Act has gone down in defeat, just as predicted. We can all breathe a sigh of relief that - at least for now - the Repugnantcans and their henchmen on the far right extreme of the religious reich won't be writing discrimination into the Constitution this year as a first step in turning America from a democracy into a theocracy.

We won that battle, so we can celebrate at our gay pride parades and hoist a few toasts at our favorite watering holes.

Then most of us will probably forget about making our voices heard on LGBT issues until the next time the fun-D'uh-Mental-ists and their GOP masters need a boogieman to scare voters to the polls.

For much of the gay community, we approach gay activism the same way the fundies approach defining us. Just as being gay means more than indulging in one of those sex acts the religious bigots denounce as "abominations" (but yet have such an obsessive interest in), being a gay activist means more than just speaking out when the radical right takes steps to deny our rights.

Joe Strupp, a straight man who is a senior editor for Editor & Publisher magazine, understands that fact. On the day that debate began in the Senate on the so-called Married Protection Amendment, Strupp wrote a column titled "Editorials should come out ... for gay marriage." In it he wrote:

It is bad enough that newspapers have not taken a harder stance in favor of gay rights in the past. But to allow this short-sighted misuse of the Constitution to move ahead without condemnation would be the ultimate irresponsibility.

Forty and fifty years ago, some of what kept the fight for black civil rights going came from newspapers. Either through the strong, tireless coverage on the news pages, or the brave, stubborn stand on some editorial pages, the plight of blacks seeking justice was a clear, necessary story that many papers would not let go.

Today's fight for gay rights has some similar elements, but it has not reached the level of demand for full justice that the civil rights movement before it did. I remain puzzled that gays and lesbians are not taking their battle for true equality to the streets in huge numbers. That could be part of the reason that the newspapers have not taken up their cause as a priority.

He's right. Not just about newspapers shying away from taking a stand on gay issues, but on the reluctance of LGBT folks taking to the streets to demand our rights.

The LGBT community has become a victim of its own success, albeit limited success. We have become nonchalant and complacent ... able to be stirred only when something like the marriage amendment comes along. And in all likelihood, even that didn't move many of us because it was predicted the amendment was almost certain to fail.

I include myself in that number as well. My sole contribution to the debate was to post a link on my Democratic club's web site to the Human Rights Campaign's online petition that allows supporters to contact their Senators and voice opposition to the amendment. Oh, sure, I could defend my lack of effort by pointing out that my Senators are both Republicans. Missouri's Jim Talent is a tool of the religious right and Kit Bond is a party-line asswipe who will vote as his party tells him, so my letter was unlikely to make a difference.

But I should have written - and so should many others - just to let our elected officials know that they had gay and lesbian constituents who were willing to make our voices heard.

After nearly six years of the Bush administration, the most rabidly anti-gay administration in U.S. history, we have been cowed into silence. We think our voice makes no difference to politicians who pander to the religious bigots. We content ourselves with tidbits and forget about demanding a place at the table.

Joe Strupp gets it exactly right: to advance our cause, we must be willing to take our struggle to the streets.

That doesn't just mean waving a banner at the gay pride parade. It means living as activists every day.

Nor does it mean letting our straight allies do the work for us.

Take, for example, a recent local incident in which a man was fired from a position as choir director for a Catholic church because he was also the music director for the Heartland Men's Choir, a gay singing group. Of the letters to the editor about the incident printed in the local newspaper, the vast majority of supporters identified themselves as straight.

Where was the LGBT outrage?

Or for another example, last summer two lesbians were assaulted with a baseball bat simply for walking down the street and holding hands. This happened only a few blocks from my home and the perpetrators were never found. The local Anti-Violence Project held a community forum on the incident and only a handful of people attended.

Where was the LGBT outrage?

We cannot now allow ourselves to become too complacent. Unfortunately, the complancency comes from confusing winning a battle with winning a war.

Just because we work in a company that recognizes domestic partners doesn't mean we quit pushing for equality for all LGBT people. Just because we've never been gay bashed doesn't mean it's safe for all LGBT people to walk the streets. Just because we attend a church that welcomes LGBT folks doesn't mean we don't speak out against churches that wrap their bigotry in scripture and try to force their beliefs on everyone.

Back during the early, dark days of the AIDS epidemic, the gay community was stunned into silence as we watched friends sicken and die and feared we ourselves might become the solemnly reported statistics of those infected and those dead. Faced with our own premature mortality, we were silent as the Reagan administration refused to even utter the word "AIDS" until thousands were already dead and the preachers and pundits proclaimed AIDS was evidence of God's wrath.

It took a straight ally in the form of Bette Midler to articulate exactly what the gay community needed to hear. "For Christ's sake, open your mouths! Don't you people get tired of being stepped on?" said the Divine Miss M.

Just as we needed to hear those words from Bette back then, so, too, now we need to here Joe Strupp saying, "I remain puzzled that gays and lesbians are not taking their battle for true equality to the streets in huge numbers."

But beyond hearing those words we need to act on them, too.