A funny thing happened at “LGBTQ Nation” last week. The long time gay site wanted to have its readers vote for a “Person Of the Year,” analogous to what “Time Magazine” has done for decades. The editorial team selected ten nominees, and then opened the voting to the public. In addition to expected nominees like the Pulse shooting victims, Ellen Degeneres, the transgender community, etc., were three surprising names: Vice-President elect Mike Pence, North Carolina governor Pat McCrory (father of the notorious “Bathroom Bill”;), and Milo Yiannopoulos, bane of liberals and activists everywhere.
And the winner is….Milo!
This is the most difficult piece I’ve ever written. In fact, a significant part of me doesn’t want to write it at all. I put it off for three weeks so I could think through again and again my feelings, and ponder thoughtfully the complexities that increase the more I think. I’ve now been sitting here in a coffeeshop for two hours, reading news story after news story on my laptop, all the while telling myself it’s time to start writing.
This piece is difficult because I have to say some unpopular things that my compatriots in the left wing and queer communities do not want to hear. Part of me wants to rail and flail about the election, like so many are doing. Part of me is stunned that we elected to the most important position in the world someone I feel is unqualified, someone who cynically stoked the fires of intolerance, someone who demonstrated significant psychological flaws. Part of me doesn’t want to rock the boat of fear and rage steaming across our cultural ocean.
Gay people have historically had the self-perception of being society’s outsiders. It’s not hard to understand why. Until the 1970s gay people were considered by all psychological organizations to be mentally ill. In only one state in the U.S. was sodomy legal prior to the 1970s, and it remained illegal in fourteen states until the Supreme Court’s “Lawrence v Texas” ruling in 2003. Until recent years few people came out at work, and many feared coming out to family and even friends. The “average person” didn’t know gay people, and thought of them as scary deviants or doomed sinners.
But times have dramatically changed.
When I received my latest issue of “Out” magazine I was delighted to see a profile of gay alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopolous. I was delighted not because I agree with him or admire him - as a lifelong progressive I am adamantly opposed to most of what he espouses - but because Milo has become increasingly prominent in the cultural discourse, and because his gayness seems so out of place in the historically homophobic far right wing. As a flamboyantly outrageous anomaly he is interesting. I’ve seen him mostly in headlines and superficial stories that skim the surface, as too much of modern “journalism” does. In left wing and LGBT circles he is routinely reduced to a caricature. Caricatures aren’t very useful to someone who wants to understand the world. A profile in “Out” seemed like a terrific idea.
I was impressed by the piece.
Real O'Neals star Noah Galvin made a big splash this summer with an interview that trashed Colton Haynes and his coming out. Noah quickly apologized, and then the premiere episode of the new season implied an additional apology. But was it genuine or the result of pressure from the network and others?
People see what they want to see, and believe what they want to believe. Psychologists have been telling us that for a long time. The phenomenon is even more pronounced for people with strong political, philosophical or religious viewpoints. I see it with gay advocates almost as much as I see it for strongly religious people.
A case in point is “Advocate” editor Matthew Breen’s “Editor’s Letter” in the August/September issue, which is the issue primarily devoted to the Orlando tragedy.
Rachel Dolezal is a white woman who for years pretended to be black and became a prominent civil rights activist. Could the gay community have its own self-professed members who aren't really gay? It doesn't seem likely, but....
Watching the “Wizard Of Oz” was a tradition in our house throughout my childhood. But it was many years before I realized there were any gay connections with the movie. Even then, the only connection of which I was aware was the “friend of Dorothy” sobriquet. I always assumed that phrase originated simply because Judy Garland had become a gay icon.
“Seasoned” gays will likely scoff at my lack of knowledge, but it turns out that the movie has gay resonances beyond what I had realized.
This piece will piss off a lot of people. (Dan Savage will certainly be removing me from his Christmas card list.) However, it begins in a comfortable and reassuring way.
I’ve been a progressive since I discovered politics when I was fifteen years old. Even before I realized I was gay I identified with the poor, the hurting, and the marginalized, and I wanted to use the tool of politics to make the world a better place for those people.
In this piece I talk about the concept of microaggressions, about which too many of us go way overboard. Here's why the subject makes us look shallow, and exposes our lack of understanding of how life works.
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The slur was yelled at my friend Sean as he drove his roadster through town one hot summer day.
A second slur later the same day, unusual for our generally accepting city. When he told me about it later he was not bothered at all.
I've been a political junkie since I was 14 years old. Every four years I watch most of both the Democratic and Republican conventions. And I enjoy myself! And so last week I spent far too much time with Donald Trump. But, despite my distaste for Trump and my disagreement with most Republican thinking, when it was over I felt palpably reminded of the incredible progress the gay community has made over the past twenty years or so. This week I'm watching the Democrats, and that reminder is being reinforced. I think most gay people are glossing over the reality here.
The essential reality of politics and psychology in today’s America can be summed up in one short sentence: people believe what they want to believe. Those of us who call ourselves progressive tend to believe that sentence, but only about those on the right side of the political spectrum. Global warming is a classic case. But we are prone to it as well. In fact, as the 21st century evolves I am beginning to think we are almost equally guilty.
The internet makes the situation worse. In theory it exposes people to new and alternate ideas, but as used by many in 2016 it serves instead to allow people to restrict their exposure primarily to others who reinforce their beliefs. Challenging views have become stressful, and we can just ignore them. It’s pleasant in our little echo chambers, and it feels good to be told we’re right about the big issues of the day. We can get on comment sections, tell each other how right and wise we are, and lambaste people with alternate opinions as idiots.
This phenomenon has been evident in the various reactions to the Orlando tragedy.
I’m STILL thinking about the Milo Yiannopoulos profile in “Out”. This is my third piece on the subject. My first article defended the profile (though certainly not the subject), and I was almost alone in my defense. Most of the attacks, via Twitter and digital media, struck me as vacuous and poorly thought out, a sort of mindlessly reflexive reaction born of an expectation that any queer media story about an “enemy” would have to be confrontational. The “Think Progress” open letter seemed particularly pointless, and never made a persuasive argument.
I have encountered a couple of thoughtful pieces that made me think, one of which was published by “thepridela.com” in Los Angeles and written by Karen Ocamb, a genuine journalist with a long history.
For some reason my mind keeps returning to the profile of Milo Yiannopoulos that Chadwick Moore wrote for “Out” magazine. As anyone reading this knows, the profile generated a virtual firestorm of almost universal criticism from the queer community. Perhaps part of my fixation is the near unanimity with which my community expressed itself in opposition to how I thought about the situation. As a gay person I’m in a small minority in society, and now on this issue I’m in a small minority within that minority.
I read the profile yet again, and read my critique of the firestorm yet again. I still think I’m right, and have logic (and journalism) on my side. That’s not to say that I would have written the same profile Moore did.
Several people have suggested that I watch the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” and I’ve put it near the top of my watch list. I had no idea there was any possible gay connection until recently, when I read a story that 12-year old actor Noah Schnapp had made an Instagram post addressing the social media debate about his character’s sexual orientation.
Noah plays Will Byers on the show, an outsider who is the subject of bullying, including homophobic taunts. His friends are also derided as freaks, perverts, weirdos, queers, etc. Many observers, both journalists and “regular” folks on social media, equated the outsider perception with the “otherness” that LGBT people have traditionally felt. And they equated the bullying and name-calling with the oppression and marginalization that defined the youth of so many gay people.
I was reading through the most recent edition of “Out” when I came upon something interesting, and, the more I thought about it, mind-blowing. There was a one page trend/style piece titled “The Return Of Grunge.” I assume most readers know this, but grunge was originally a new genre of popular music that originated in the mid-1980s and became wildly popular in the early 1990s. Nirvana, led by Kurt Cobain, was the leading grunge band, but Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden were among many other bands that worked in and expanded the genre.
But grunge was much more than music. It was also a lifestyle or worldview.
Readers of this site probably have some difficulty figuring out the difference between the pieces that end up in the Commentary or Blog sections. That's because so far I haven't used the Blog section as I want to and should. In theory the Blog is for ramblings and stray thoughts, while Commentary is for more "big picture" pieces that deal - hopefully in a better written way! - with issues for which I've done thought and research. What I often find, though, is that I start a piece as a blog post, but then get caught up in it. Before long I've done research, tweaked the writing, and ended up with much more than I anticipated writing. I'm trying once again to start using the blog more appropriately. (Ha!, part of my brain is saying; let's see how THAT goes!)
I"ve been reading more than my usual share of the gay media recently, and I noticed something distressing to me. It's all alike.
Dreams sometimes reveal a lot about a person’s inner being, and occasionally the reveal is a surprise.
I recall a dream I had a few years ago about a friend who is straight. I was attracted to him, but never had thoughts about turning him my way. Lusting after straight guys is a great way to make yourself disappointed and unhappy, so I never do it. When I’m attracted to a straight guy I recognize it, put it in the “Unattainable” box in my brain, and then put the box in a corner, under some old blankets.
In my dream I was at a party with my friend. At one point during the evening he started to flirt with a male acquaintance, and they kissed. I then woke up, feeling distressed and jealous.
I like Tim Gunn. He has always come across to me as a guy who is totally confident in his sexuality, and who would be a fun guy to hang out with. He has a good sense of humor, doesn’t take himself too seriously, and is classy without being uptight.
He is also a walking stereotype. He has a quintessential gay voice, he has gay mannerisms, and his entire being just exudes a gay sensibility. Some would call him a big ol’ queen. All of which I love about him!
You are probably aware of the Nextdoor social networking service, which allows people within a neighborhood or nearby neighborhoods to communicate via public posts that are only visible to people in the area. I find it exceedingly useful in allowing me to keep up with crimes, lost dogs, FREE STUFF!, and any issues of interest within the neighborhood.
Recently a member posted a story of a traffic encounter she witnessed in front of her home between two drivers. She described one as “male presenting,” and I wondered if it was someone she knew to be trans or in some sort of non-binary gender situation. Then later in the story she described the other driver as “female presenting.” It became obvious that as a good progressive she was defaulting to what she considers a new paradigm for gender descriptions.
Don't follow the crowd. Think different. Or, put another way, think for yourself.
I watched the movie "Steve Jobs" last night. The last set of scenes was built around the 1998 launch of the iMac. As Jobs talked with other characters on stage the viewer could see snippets of the iconic "Think Different" ad campaign, which featured images of innovators such as Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Gandhi, Thomas Edison, and Muhammad Ali. The point of the campaign related to innovation, to coming up with new ideas and new ways to approach technology or the world itself. However, I choose to "think different" about the slogan, and interpret it in terms of how we all think about and react to the world and the society around us.
When I was a junior in high school representatives of the U.S. Army came to our school. I don't recall all the details, but they offered rewards of some kind to the boys for taking a written test. (Women were still excluded from active service at that time.) I'm guessing it may have related in some way to recruitment efforts. I was a committed pacifist, opposed viscerally to all things military, and so I was one of three boys in the class to decline the opportunity. My brave decision made me feel really good about myself, and it certainly revealed how superior I was to my classmates.
In the first two presidential elections in which I could vote I was proud to cast my ballot for principled third party candidates since the Democratic candidates weren't sufficiently progressive. I also voted for a Socialist candidate for governor. Again, I felt really good about myself. I could see beyond the short-sighted vision of "average" voters.