I remember it well. May 9, 2013. The Minnesota legislature passed a bill legalizing gay marriage in my state. I recall the sense of euphoria, the feeling that something had been achieved that for so long I didn't think was possible. Just six months previously we had faced a state ballot measure that would have amended our constitution to prohibit marriage equality. For much of the campaign we thought we would lose. No state had ever defeated such a ballot proposal. But we eked out a win, with 52.6% of the vote. In retrospect it wasn't really all that impressive a win. Gay marriage wasn't legal, and defeating the ballot proposal would not have legalized it. But passing it would have dashed our hopes for years. Yet only a bare majority of my fellow citizens valued my rights and my dignity enough to turn down the proposal. Polls had consistently shown support for marriage languishing in the upper 30s to mid 40s.
We celebrated the defeat of the ballot initiative, but it was more a sigh of relief than a truly happy time. Marriage still seemed a distant dream. But sometimes social progress moves from a gradual trickle to an increasing flow to a cascade.
Everyone knows that gay journalists are all safely ensconced on the left side of the political spectrum. Well, except for a couple of anomalies like Milo Yiannopolous, that is. We take it for granted that anyone who has lived a gay life, and has been immersed in the issues of the gay experience in order to write about them, must have adopted a leftist worldview. Conservatives have been our enemies, after all, historically opposing gay equality and even gay acceptance. When we read the work of gay journalists in outlets like the “Advocate,” “Out,” “HuffPost,” etc., we know what we are going to get.
And then along came Chadwick Moore. Moore gained attention and a good deal of notoriety in 2016 when he wrote a profile piece on Yiannopolous for “Out” magazine.
John McCain has an aggressive form of brain cancer, and will likely die in the next year. It's the same type of cancer that killed Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden's son Beau. About a week ago Biden was a guest on "The View," which now has McCain's daughter Meghan as one of its panelists. While talking about her father's battle with cancer she began to cry. Biden rose from his seat, took a seat next to Meghan, clasped her hand, and consoled her, urging her to hold on to hope.
It was a touching moment, revealing that differences of politics and philosophy need not obscure common humanity and vulnerability. Life transcends those ultimately insignificant differences. I'm sure you know that McCain is a conservative and Biden is a liberal, and the two butted heads on policy many times when they served in the Senate together.
The first story about the Biden/McCain story that popped up on Google News was from Fox News....
I've complained before on this site about how one-dimensional gay media is. To read gay sites and gay magazines you would think that there is only one way for "good" gays to think, and that the community overwhelmingly subscribes to that worldview. I've whimsically referred to gay people owning and constantly referencing the "Little Black Book Of Proper Gay Thought." Yes, people know there are gay conservatives out there, and that a few even support Donald Trump. Gay media occasionally mentions them, but it's taken for granted that they are odd-duck anomalies, easy to dismiss or make the butt of jokes or derision. Gay media implies that, apart from curiosities of that type, we're essentially a rather one-dimensional community when it comes to issues.
I think they are wrong about that.
On July 28 I posted an article talking about the likelihood that Cyrus Goodman, a character on Disney's popular "Andi Mack" series, would become the network's first gay kid. It happened in the first episode of the second season (Friday, October 27). I was a bit surprised that it happened so fast; I had thought it likely that Cyrus' realization that he was seriously interested in classmate Jonah Beck would evolve gradually over three or four episodes. But Cyrus confessed his feelings to his friend Buffy midway through the episode. It was understated but perfect. And it sets up what I think will likely be the best, most understanding portrayal of what it means to grow up gay in today's world.
The LGBTQ community reacted with unified outrage last week when President Trump announced that transgender people will no longer be allowed to serve in the U.S. military. In keeping with how all recent presidents have announced major policy changes, he informed the world of the new ban through a series of tweets. After all, as he recently told a crowd, he “can be more presidential than any president that’s ever held this office,” with the exception of Lincoln. How could anyone argue with that?!
While totally expected, of course, the outrage was great to see, and seemed somehow more potent and genuine than much of what has seemed to have become pro forma “resistance.”
Professional sports is one of the few remaining arenas where someone’s coming out is still noteworthy. It amazes me how many gay people haven’t realized it yet, but people coming out is no longer a big deal in much of the straight world. Entertainment people are coming out all the time, and very little notice is taken. Do you remember the headlines when George Takei and Lance Bass came out? If they came out today there would be brief mentions in the media, and then people would go back to their viral videos and political posturing.
But coming out in professional sports, especially football, is still a big deal.
I’m damn tired of beginning articles with the disclaimer that I’m a lifelong progressive, that I strongly supported both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and that I think Donald Trump is woefully unprepared and unsuited for the presidency. But I’m equally damn tired of being dumbfounded by the anti-intellectual irrationality and counterproductive writings and actions of my left-wing compatriots.
The latest example of what the right calls the “lunatic left,” a description that I’m chagrined to say is not altogether unfounded, comes from the overheated pen of Michelangelo Signorile.
Is Tom Cruise gay? How about John Travolta or Jake Gyllenhaal? Was Abraham Lincoln as gay as Larry Kramer assumes? How about Napoleon? William Shakespeare?
We’ve been asking these questions for a long time, and continue to do so. There is one big problem with these inquiries and these debates, however. They assume that sexuality is a binary condition. If Tom Cruise is just pretending to be straight then the rumors are true and he’s gay.
I first recognized the “new millennial gay experience” as a significant development in gay life about six or seven years ago. To understand fully what that is you can go to our “About Us” page. But in brief it means a gay life where our sexual identity is just one part of our identity; it doesn’t define us, as it did for most gay people up to this point. Further, societal and cultural developments make it possible for many if not most of us to live lives where our sexuality doesn’t limit or impede our journey to the life we want. No longer will a sense of victimhood be hanging over us, constantly clouding our sense of ourselves and our future.
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!
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.
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.
Every once in awhile something happens that changes society forever. The 9-11 attacks represent one such example. The Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage is another. The avalanche of sexual harassment claims following the Harvey Weinstein accusations is the most recent example. American society is significantly different today than it was just two months ago.
This change primarily affects the relationship between men and women, but in the wake of the accusations against Kevin Spacey and George Takei it has impacted the gay world as well.
The fourteen year old girl sat facing me, on the other side of a small, portable fire pit that added some heat to an uncharacteristically cool fall evening. Her father, a good friend I hadn’t seen for awhile, sat next to me. We were catching up on our lives since we had last seen each other, and I asked Emily how her summer had gone. She said she had broken up with her boyfriend Jack, and something about the way she said it made me feel there was a significant story there. Shawn confirmed that when he rather nervously said that we didn’t want to talk about that.
A short while later Shawn went into the house to take a phone call, and what followed was a remarkable conversation between Emily and me. She had known for some time that I am gay, and she clearly felt safe discussing sensitive subjects with me. I asked about Jack, and the story that spilled out was heart-breaking. Jack is transgender, and has recently begun hormone therapy. That fact seemed remarkably unimportant to Emily. She just loved him as a person, and felt about him the way her classmates felt about their boyfriends.
When I was a kid we were the gay community. The world was much simpler then. It was overwhelmingly made up of straight people - the ones who had families and lived the “normal” life. Then there was a tiny band of gay people - outcasts, rebels, libertines, sinners, freedom fighters - who existed in the shadows but were increasingly making their presence known. “Bisexuals” were gay people not yet able to acknowledge their true identity. Lesbians were gay, and therefore easily absorbed by men into the “gay” classification. Trans people were so rare and invisible that they weren’t considered. The world was binary - straight people and gay people.
As the years have passed we have come to see that little in life is binary or simple. And so it is with our alternative community and how we see ourselves. The gay community became the LGB community in the mid-80s as we finally realized bisexuals were real, and decided that gay men and women deserved separate recognition. In the 90s we acknowledged our trans brothers and sisters and became LGBT. In 1996 “LGBTQ” gained currency, with the “Q” representing both “questioning” and “queer” as a catch-all designation.
Gay people in movies or on TV are no longer either unusual or controversial. Gay kids, on the other hand….
One of the last places you’d expect to see an unequivocally gay middle school kid would be the Disney Channel. Historically squeaky clean, aware that it’s viewership demographic includes very young kids, it has produced a multitude of kid-centric sitcoms that try to be ethnically diverse but rarely go anywhere remotely controversial. Young kids mature at different rates, and parents want to retain control over how and when they learn about the more mature aspects of the human experience.
But here comes “Andi Mack,” a new show that premiered in April,,,,
How’s that for a provocative title? If this were a mainstream site with actual readership that title would imply clickbait, a shameless attempt to entice readers to check out the story. Alas, I’m so far off the media map that the term “clickbait” has no meaning. This is a serious piece, and those four groups share an important trait that tells us a lot about human nature. The most basic question one can ask is this: what is the meaning of life? Feeding into that question is the concept of identity. Who am I? What purpose do I serve?
Some people dealing with those questions turn to religion or spirituality of some type. Others adopt family and social relationships as the defining purpose of their lives. Some become consumed with career. Some focus on their membership in an identity group - gay, black, feminist, etc. - that provides purpose and camaraderie. Life circumstances force some into an almost one dimensional struggle to simply survive.
And then there are those who adopt a cause and become crusaders - warriors for a noble struggle against an identifiable and demonized enemy.
Not all gay people liked Queer As Folk, the seminal Showtime series that ran from 2000 to 2005, but I loved every minute of it. There were a couple of vital dynamics that spanned the five season existence of the show. The most obvious was that sex is good, sex is fun, and more sex is better than less.
A second dynamic was the idea of gay people remaining unique, a distinct and separate community in virtual opposition to mainstream straight society. Us vs. them, as Brian Kinney certainly thought of it. Liberty Avenue was a gay neighborhood, and most characters had no significant straight people in their lives.
The church is full, the guests waiting expectantly for the wedding party. The music starts, played by the New Directions band, and the crowd turns around, looking down the aisle. There is Finn Hudson, handsome in a suit. He straightens his tie, dances down the aisle, and sings: "It's a beautiful night, we're looking for something dumb to do." He twirls, goes to a knee, and points down the aisle with both hands. "Hey baby, I think I wanna marry you." There is Rachel Berry. She dances toward Finn, singing her own verse. When she reaches him he picks her up, twirling twice as he carries her to the front.
"Silence Of the Lambs" director Jonathan Demme died recently, which generated multiple stories about his most famous movie. It was known for winning five Academy Awards, including all five of the major categories. It was known for its riveting performances by Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster. And it was known for generating a huge backlash from the LGBT community. GLAAD issued a strong denunciation. Gay people, led by Queer Nation and ACT-UP, protested and picketed for a year leading up to Oscar night. Larry Kramer called the film "one of the most virulently and insidiously homophobic films ever made."
Wait, what??? Sexual preference??? What am I thinking? I can’t use that term. It indicates that sexuality is a choice, as opposed to an innate, unchangeable orientation.
Over the years we’ve come to agree that “sexual preference” is a term used by the ignorant or the willfully homophobic. However, as the march of cultural evolution continues, making gay people ever more mainstream and accepted, and as my own outlooks mature, I have come to believe that we should abandon our antipathy to that phrase.
Do you read gay media? If you're reading this obscure little site of mine then I'm guessing you do. Have you noticed the prime characteristic of all of these sites (apart from mine!)? The stories are overwhelmingly negative, focusing on all the dark and oppressive aspects of the queer experience. Stories about the crazy things obscure rightwingers say; repetitive pieces about how evil Trump is and how awful and hateful his America has become; stories exemplifying the worldview that no discriminatory experience is too insignificant to not have its own story and headline.
Check out a few of these sites now for yourself. You know what they are. Scan the headlines. I'll wait.
One of the scariest aspects of being gay for many people is the need and/or desire to come out to one’s family. That is true at any age, but especially so for young people not yet well established on their own. Even in today’s relatively enlightened world the fear of rejection from the people who dominated one’s life for so long, the people who should be the ultimate and safest refuge, can be intense. And the younger a person is, the more dangerous can be the practical results of rejection.
I was palpably reminded of that fear while watching “When We Rise,” the excellent ABC miniseries that was, unfortunately, seen by far too few people. Activist icon Cleve Jones, who wrote the memoir on which the miniseries was based, came out to his psychologist father when he turned 18. Jones’ father did not take the revelation well.
I’ve considered myself a progressive all my life. That is based on the philosophy and the political and social viewpoints that have animated my understanding of the world around me. I think for myself, so I’m not simply parroting the demands of the “Little Black Book Of Proper Progressive Thought.” In a few ways I diverge from the little black book, but overall my outlook has clearly been progressive.
Recently, however, I’ve begun to wonder whether I’m still allowed to call myself a progressive. So many of the self-described progressives out there seem to define the term not by positions on issues but by the REACTIONS they have to people they don’t agree with, and by the methodologies by which they want to engage their “enemies.” Further, the progressive community continues to shrink the universe of what it sees as acceptable behavior and expression, becoming increasingly sensitive to what it interprets as affronts and offenses of all kinds.
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.