Howl of the KweerWolf

My Photo
Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

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

Sunday, September 10, 2006

McGreevey's gay probation

In writing about preparations for the rollout of former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey's soon-to-be-published book, The Confession, the Associated Press made reference to McGreevey as "openly gay."

That's a phrase that's kicked around a lot in the media. Presumably it's the opposite of "closetedly gay," but then by definition anytime the media writes about a closeted gay or lesbian they become openly gay or lesbian. It would seem to be a lot more straight forward for the media to just refer to a person as gay or lesbian, but then no one ever accused the media of having consistent standards when it comes to tip-toeing around the topic of sexual orientation when it comes to celebrities and public officials. (But that's a whole other story.)

For those who may not remember, James McGreevey made a blip on the nation's radar screen in August of 2004 when he resigned as governor of New Jersey and, with his soon-to-be-ex-wife at his side, announced that he was a "gay American." (Note to any future McGreevey's: If you're going to get caught doing something you shouldn't, try not to get caught in August when Congress is in recess and the national media is scrambling to find something ... anything! ... to make into a story.)

Did I say McGreevey "resigned"? Perhaps a more accurate description was that he was forced to resign when it became public that not only was he a gay American, but he had tried to appoint his male lover to a cushy state job as a homeland security advisor. That plan fell apart when it was discovered that his boyfriend could not get the necessary security clear because he was an Israeli-born citizen.


Faced with the prospect of being outed for putting his boyfriend on the state payroll, McGreevey called a hastily-convened press conference to announce that he was resigning as governor and, oh yes, that he was a gay American. By calling the press conference McGreevey managed to out himself on his own terms rather than watch himself get outted by the media.

Out of the national spotlight for the past three years, McGreevey used the time to write his book (no doubt with a hefty advance from the publisher to soothe his bruised ego). He's also had time to find a new boyfriend, this time an Australian financial adviser named Mark O'Donnell.

On Sept. 19 McGreevey will unveil his book (and supposedly his boyfriend) on Oprah. That will be followed by more appearances and more news coverage and more accolades as an openly gay man.

Now wait just a second! Sorry Mr. Ex-Governor, but you haven't earned the title of openly gay man yet. You're still in the closeted-gay-man-who-got-caught-cheating-on-his-wife-and-trying-to-put-your-boyfriend-on-the-state-payroll category. Don't think that a tearful press conference and a self-serving memoir will earn you anything more than probationary status in the pantheon of openly gay men.

In some ways the James McGreevey of today reminds me of the Barney Frank of 30 years ago.

Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank is one of the most respected members of the U.S. gay community today. But it wasn't always so.

Frank began his political career as a deeply closeted gay man. That all changed in 1987 when he met Steven Gobie through an ad for a male escort in The Washington Blade. Gobie knew a good thing when he saw it and attached himself to Frank like an ugly barnacle on the hull of a gleaming cruise ship and began operating an escort service out of Frank's Washington apartment.

It wasn't long before Frank's closeted life began to unravel in a rapidly building media storm. Faced with the knowledge he was about to be outed in a big way, Frank beat the ouers to the punch and came out. Just like McGreevey would do nearly three decades earlier. While Frank weathered stormy seas for a while - he became only the seventh congressman to be reprimanded in 1990 in part because he had used his influence to fix traffic tickets for Gobie - Frank persevered.

Frank continues to persevere today. He fought back against gay-baiting Republicans by threatening to out closeted members of Congress. He spoke out on issues involving the LGBT community. He earned the title of openly gay man not because he was forced out of the closet, but by virtue of the fact that, once he was out, he worked for the LGBT community. While I haven't agreed with every stand Barney Frank has taken, I certainly respect the man for being out there for the rest of us.

McGreevey, on the other hand, is only now beginning his journey. A tearful press conference and a tell-all book do not an openly gay man make.

Right now McGreevey might more accurately described as a "formerly closeted gay man." That means he's on probation with the gay community. If he continues to stand with us and to use his position to speak out on our issues, then he'll earn his wings as an openly gay man.


Saturday, September 09, 2006

American madrasahs

Before the 9/11 attacks, few Americans outside of specialists in education or international affairs had heard the word madrasah. The word comes from the Arabic word for "school," but in the post=9/11 world the word acquired a new and sinister meaning.

In oil-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia - where most of the 9/11 hijackers came from, incidentally - donations from wealthy sheikh funded the establishment of Islamic schools around the country. It was the way the wealthy gave back to the poor in a country with no tax-supported education system. In a Muslin version of noblesse oblige, wealthy (and often progressive) Saudis established the schools and then turned their attention to other matters, believing their duties as a benevolent ruling class had been fulfilled.

What they didn't stick around to witness was that the teachers given charge of young Muslims education were an increasingly radical group. Along with lessons in the Quran and the Islamic version of the three R's, young Saudis were being indoctrinated in a virulent version of radical Islam with a decidedly anti-Western slant. While the wealthy ruling class in Saudi Arabia moved toward modernizing their country, a generation of young men were being trained to reject all things modern and Western.

That indoctrination culminated on Sept. 11, 2002, in the wreckage and death of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.

OK. The history lesson is over. Time to turn our attention to another place and time: America last week.

According to an Associated Press report, Christian evangelicals are being urged to pull their children out of public schools and enroll them in private religious schools. "Homeschoolers avoid harmful school environments where God is mocked, where destructive peer influence is the norm, where drugs, alcohol, promiscuity and homosexuality are promoted," says the California-based Considering Homeschooling Ministry.

In her outstanding book Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, Michelle Goldberg examines the growing influence of radical Christians and their attacks on homosexuality, sex education, the separation of church and state, and education. She provides a quote from Michael Harris, president of the religiously conservative Patrick Henry College, as saying: "If we're going to stop judicial tyranny, I think we need to have a comprehensive plan. ... A comprehensive way of approaching the problem is, we've got to train the next generation."

According to Goldberg's book:

Farris refers to these parents [attending a Christian Home Educators of Colorado conference] and their peers nationwide as the Moses generation, because they have successfully led their children out of the bondage of godless public schools. But permanent exile from the American mainstream was never the goal. As Farris wrote in the book Generation Joshua [named for Moses' military commander who led the Israelites in seizing the holy land], the homeschooling movement "will succeed when our children, the Joshua Generation, engage wholeheartedly in the battle to take back the land."

He admits it's a large task. "The is the land of MTV, Internet porn, abortion, homosexuality, greed, and accomplished selfishness," he observed. Giants stalk America, "giants that live in the fields of law, government, journalism, and history. And we are going to look in depth at the elite colleges and universities of our nation. The enemies of freedom and truth dominate these institutions and thereby dominate our nation."

What Farris wants is a cultural revolution. He's trying to train a generation of leaders, unscathed by secularism, who will gain political power in order to subsume everything - entertainment, law, government, and education - to Christianity, or their version of it.

The generation of Christian homeschooling advocates before people like Farris were far more radical in tone. They spoke of using religious schools to "raise an army for Jesus" who would turn America into a "Christian nation" by force if necessary. That approach scared away more people than it enticed, so today's homeschool advocates have taken a kinder, gentler approach while playing on the fears of public education bringing about the downfall of America and, more importantly for them, the demise of Christianity.

Evangelical Christians bristle when liberals (or even moderates) describe them as America's Taliban. Yet they seem compelled to follow the same path staked out by radical Islam when it comes to indoctrinating future generations in their vision for overthrowing democracy in this country and replacing it with a theocracy.

Sadly, through it's faith-based initiative programs and support of a voucher system that would allow tax dollars to flow into private schools, the Bush Administration is courting voters, but selling out America to the same sort of radicalism that led unerringly down the path to 9/11.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Ongoing Saga of Trials of My Online Gay Life Part 3: "The nekkid and the nude"

Over nearly five decades on earth I’ve seen my share of nude men. In paintings. In statuary. In drawings. In photographs. In the pages of magazines. Even in person. And in online profiles.

That’s a lot of penises, butts, torsos and every other conceivable body part and I think I’m well passed the possibility of being shocked by any of them. Truly, I don’t even think I’ve been mildly surprised by a depiction of nudity since Jimmy Carter was president (and, besides, that was when I inadvertently opened a copy of Larry Flint’s Hustler magazine and saw sights no self-respecting gay man should gaze upon).

I used to worry that my inability to be shocked – or even react to nudity with more than an indifferent shrug – meant I was jaded. Now I think it’s more a matter of being bored.

The average American man, no matter how sexually liberated he claims to be in his online profile, makes a naked body an object of ennui instead of an igniter of lust and desire.

I made this discovery while perusing a gay personals site that includes lots of European men. Now those men know how to pose for the camera! Perhaps its their proximity to museums that feature the best of classical art and sculpture. Or maybe they just aren’t as hung up about nudity as American men.

Take your average American gay male, remove his clothes and ask him to pose for a nude photo and here’s what you get: A guy standing their stiffly (and not in a good way) with a deer-in-the-headlights look that says, Oh shit! I’m naked and I don’t know what to do with my hands!

It’s true. Take 100 Americans from all walks of life and tell them you want to take their photo. Unless you tell them specifically how you want them to stand, they will invariably do one of three things:

1) Shove their hands in their pockets

2) Stand with their arms stiffly at their sides

3) Turn their hands into makeshift fig leaves and cover their “naughty parts” even if they are fully clothed

Don’t believe me? Try it sometime. Unless you cheat and take photographs at a nudist resort or at a porn star convention, I’d bet 90 percent of the subjects will automatically do one of the above once the camera is pointed in their direction.

European guys, on the other hand, seem to have a knack for finding just the right light and arranging themselves in just the right composition. You could probably show up unannounced at an Italian gay guy’s house early in the morning and you’d find him artfully sprawled on his bed, the sheets disheveled in a way that draws the eye to the natural lines of the body, and the early morning sun casting a delicate interplay of sun and shade through the slats of the window blinds and falling across his naked body in sharp lines that contrast with the suppleness of his sleeping form.

(Whew! I need to stop now for a cigarette!)

The majority of American guys will just stand there. Usually against a blank wall. They’ll wait for their photo to be snapped with a mixture of worry and shame on their faces. Then when the photo is snapped (inevitably with a harsh flash), their skin ends up looking at least four shades more washed out than it actually is.

What are these guys thinking when they post the finished product in an online profile? Yeah, sure, my skin looks as pale as if I just go out of prison, but at least my dick shows and that’s the main thing. I just hope this picture will get me laid.

When it comes to nudity, most American gay men (and, in fact, most American man) are darn near schizophrenic. On the one hand those long-dormant Puritan genes kick in with a hearty “SINNER! It’s an affront to Gawd Almighty to show yourself NEKKID!” Maybe it’s precisely because we still carry a whopping load of guilt about our bodies that we turn in the other direction and cruise the Internet or pop in a DVD looking to wash away our guilt in an overload of porn. In a backlash against those Puritan ancestors, we watch images where everything but the genitalia is superfluous and the camera seldom gets above crotch level. About the only time a porn actor’s face is important is when it’s attached to the mouth that is in turn attached to the engorged and throbbing naughty part of his co-star.

Because Americans in general are so schizophrenic about sex and nudity most of us are never quite comfortable standing naked in front of a camera. Our discomfort comes through loud and clear in the end product which we post obediently on our profiles because they look just like the photos other guys have posted.

Somewhere deep inside we wonder if perhaps the Puritans weren’t right about how we should feel shame about our bodies. After all, if God had meant for us to pose nude, He would have surely provided us with pouches like the kangaroos so we’d have a place to put our hands.


Even after NBA career, Charles Barkley is still scoring turnovers

As I've made mention before, my knowledge of sports is infinitesimal. But enough has seeped in over the years that I do know that Charles Barkley was a professional basketball player.

Now I've got another reason to remember the former NBA MVP. (I feel so butch when I toss around sports acronyms like that!) In an interview that airs this Sunday on the Fox network's SportsNet's "Chris Meyers Interview," Barkley is likely to make Republican sports fan shudder and drop their jaws like a fumbled pass. In that interview, he'll announce that: 1) he's no longer a Republican; 2) he's considering a run for the governorship of his home state of Alabama; and 3) he supports the idea of gay marriage.

While it's long been difficult to understand how any African-American (other than modern-day Step-N-Fetchits like Supreme Court Justice and porn connoisseur Clarence Thomas or Secretary of State Condaleeze Rice) could vote Republican, the GOP has been only too happy to use Barkley as a poster-jock to entice blacks to forego their own interests and vote for the party of big business, big oil and big drug companies.

I doubt they will be doing that any more. According to an Associated Press account of the interview:

Barkley was a Republican until recently, saying he switched parties when the Republicans “lost their minds.” He said he is troubled by some of the actions of people in the United States in the name of religion.

“Religious people in general are so discriminatory against other people, and that really disturbs me,” he said. “My idea of religion is we all love and respect. We all sin, but we still have common decency and respect for other people. So right now I’m struggling with my idea of what religion is.”

Ouch! Don't look for Barkley to be invited to the White House any time soon. And it's probably a safe bet he won't be invited on the religiously insane Pat Robertson's "700 Club" either.

For gays and lesbians, even more astounding than Barkley political epiphany is his views on gay marriage. He supports the idea. In the interview he says, “I think if they want to get married, God bless them. Gay marriage is probably 1 percent of the population, so it’s not like it’s going to be an epidemic. Hey, trust me, I’m never going to kiss you and say, ‘Chris, you’re sexy.”’

Score one for our side.

When Republican operatives try to stir up African-American congregations on the "evils of homo-seck-shul marriage" and hand out cash from the so-called Faith Based Initiative as barely concealed bribes, it's refreshing to see major black role model stand up to the GOP.