Friday, October 29, 2010

Stuff Progressives Do: Use Very Edgy Rhetorical Devices (That Marginalize the Marginalized)

[TW: Suicide, body shaming]

So, many of you probably know that it's not my favorite when members of one oppressed group minimize the experiences of oppression that other groups face. I am no longer surprised by the phenomenon of, say, white LGBTs being racist, black heterosexuals being homophobic, or atheists being Islamophobes, but to me it is always particularly disappointing.

As members of groups that are in some way marginalized, shouldn't we know better?

That's why I was disappointed to see Rob Tisinai at gay blog Box Turtle Bulletin (BTB) minimize the experiences of fat people for purposes of making an edgy, shocking rhetorical device for gay rights. This isn't a post about whether Tisinai is a bad person or had evil intentions. Indeed, I appreciate much of his work, as well as the work of the other BTB contributors. As bloggers, we all make mistakes (except for me, j/k!) and many of these are a result of our own privileges and zeal for a particular cause.

In short, in order to make the point that Linda Harvey says "terrible things" about gay kids that lead to feelings of shame, Tisinai wrote a post called "Michelle Obama Bullies Overweight Kids To Death" and listed some bulletpoints of "terrible things" the First Lady has "said" about overweight kids.

The "catch" though is that as Rob claims, just kidding "the First Lady doesn’t say of the overweight all the terrible things [Ms. Harvey says] of gays." And thus, the First Lady doesn't actually shame fat kids, unlike Ms. Harvey, who does shame gay kids.


Except that the First Lady's "anti-obesity" campaign does actually shame fat kids (and adults). As Shakesville's Melissa McEwan has written:

"'Obesity' simply defines fat people in a way that most other physical differences (rightly or wrongly) called disease don't.

I am a fat person; being fat is a defining part of who I am because fat-hatred is something with which I contend on a regular basis—and my reaction to it determines how I am perceived by the world.

That's not something over which I, or any fat person, has any control.

And as long as we are externally defined by our fatness, 'anti-obesity' is, quite literally, an attack on a part of us, on us.

'Anti-obesity' will remain functionally indistinguishable from 'anti-obese person.'"

So, she writes, perhaps a better campaign would look more like an "anti high-fructose corn syrup" campaign or an "anti feeding families shitty food is cheaper than feeding families healthy food" campaign. (See also, this). I, and several other commenters at BTB, left comments indicating something along the lines of how Tisinai's post seemed to minimize the experiences of fat people with respect to body shaming and how the post wrongly suggested that the First Lady's "anti-obesity campaign" doesn't shame fat people.

Tisinai edited his original post at BTB and, unfortunately, all of the comments have gone missing (he later added the critical comments in the comment section of his revised post). Unfortunately, this is how Tisinai chose to characterize our constructive criticism, prior to letting readers read the criticism for themselves:

This is revised version of an earlier post, which some people found offensive. I try not to worry about offending people (I hate this increasingly popular notion that to offend someone is to do them harm), but in this case the rhetorical device seemed to overshadow the point itself.

Other (presumably gay) commenters chimed in that the original post was "really cool," that "some people just don't get satire," that "this hyper-political correctness correctness is stifling far too much creativity," and that the original post was "in no way offensive."

Ah yes, the trusty old the critics are just too stupid, uncool, politically correct, unfunny, unfamiliar with literary devices, and over-sensitive to understand the great myssssssstery of the genre known as satire bit, a fun response that always elides the fact that a substantive criticism was made in addition to the one about people's feeeewings. When I said that Tisinai seemed to be suggesting that his critics were "just being over-sensitive, hyper-politically correct ninnies," Tisinai evidenced an unfamiliarity with the rhetorical device known as hyperbole and responded "That’s so far away from what I said that I’m not even sure we can communicate."

He then went on to clarify that he did, in fact, intend to be dismissive and that he wasn't worried "too much about offending people."

Like I said.

Discussions of the rudeness-erasing-rhetorical-device known as I Hate Hyper-Political Correctness aside, the substantive criticism rendered was that a rhetorical device that implies that fat kids aren't regularly shamed by society and public figures is ineffective and inaccurate because fat kids actually are regulary shamed by society and public figures. Thus, to use such a rhetorical device further marginalizes fat kids and minimizes their experiences with harassment and shaming.

So, on that note. I am led to wonder how these same Expert Satirists feel about Mike Adams' recent edgy, shocking rhetorical device over at Townhall:

"Officials on college campuses across the nation are alarmed at a wave of recent suicides involving Christians who have been harassed by homosexual activists. The main stream media isn’t covering the story so, as usual, I have taken it upon myself to do their jobs for them. None of the following eight cases have been covered by any of the three major news networks."

Except, just kidding! Ahahahahahahahaha:

"These eight cases are all true except for one thing: The Christians who were bullied by gays and gay activists are all still alive. Not a single one has committed suicide. That is because they have centered their lives around Jesus Christ, rather than their sexual identity. And no amount of bullying can change my mind about that."

See how edgy, cool, and fun it is to Make A Shocking Point on the backs of marginalized individuals?


Thursday, October 28, 2010

There, I Fixed It

Stop me if you've heard this one:

"I recently asked my friend's little girl what she wanted to be when she grows up. She said she wanted to be President some day.

Both of her parents, liberal Democrats, were standing there, so I asked her, 'If you were President what would be the first thing you would do?'

She replied, 'I'd give food and houses to all the homeless people.'

Her parents beamed.

'Wow...what a worthy goal.' I told her, 'But you don't have to wait until you're President to do that. You can come over to my house and mow the lawn, pull weeds, and sweep my yard, and I'll pay you $50. Then I'll take you over to the grocery store where the homeless guy hangs out, and you can give him the $50 to use toward food and a new house.'

She thought that over for a few seconds, then she looked me straight in the eye and asked, 'Why doesn't the homeless guy come over and do the work, and you can just pay him the $50?'

I said, 'Welcome to the Republican Party.'

Her parents still aren't speaking to me."

It's the type of "joke" a person receives in chain-letter type emails from people who bombard their friends, relatives, co-workers, and acquaintances with messages that include clip art of eagles, pixelated American flags, and that fake Andy-Rooney-Just-Telling-It-Like-It-Is transcript of bigotry.

I have no idea where it originated, but I most recently saw it here, where a radio host generically attributed it to "a listener."

I thought it would be fun to make some changes:

I recently asked my friend's little girl what she wanted to be when she grows up. She said she wanted to be President some day.

Both of her parents, liberal Democrats, were standing there so instead of laughing, I humored her, asking, 'If you were President what would be the first thing you would do?'

She replied, 'I'd give food and houses to all the homeless people.'

Her parents beamed.

'Wow...what a worthy goal.' I told her, 'But you don't have to wait until you're President to do that. You can come over to my house and mow the lawn, pull weeds, and sweep my yard, and I'll pay you $50. Unless you're an illegal, then it's $5. Sure, I paid my nephew $70 last week to do all that, but he's not a yard worker, he's a Landscape Cultivation Specialist."

The little girl said she would do it but informed me that neither she nor her parents had a lawnmower or other gardening supplies. I told her, "For $200, you can buy your own."

She, being 10, said she didn't have $200 and so I said, "For $40 a week, you can rent mine. I'll just take it out of your paycheck. The tools have been in the family for years, though, so don't go breaking them."

The girl reluctantly agreed, and wondered how she was going to pay for her school supplies, school clothes, and meals with $10. So, I told her "After you're done with the yard work, you can clean my house, scrub my bathroom, and do my laundry for an additional $35." After telling me that she doesn't own any cleaning supplies, I said, "You can use mine, but it's going to cost you. $25 per week, to be exact."
She thought that over for a few seconds, then she looked me straight in the eye and asked, 'Why doesn't the homeless guy come over and help me out with all this work, and you can pay him $50 too?'

"Hire a homeless person?" I said. "No way. He probably has a criminal record, is a drug addict, and is crazy."

"So, you'll hire me to do your shit work instead?" she asked.

"Yep," I said, "Welcome to capitalism. And watch your language, young lady."

Her parents still aren't speaking to me.

Anyway, an economist could have probably pulled that off better than me. But this stupid joke has been pissing me off for years, so I had to give it a try.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Straight Guy: Gays Not Owed Apology

Writing in the Huffington Post, Earl Ofari Hutchinson has explained to us that Valerie Jarrett, Senior Adviser in the Obama Administration, does not owe the gay community an apology for refering to the "lifestyle choice" of a gay teen who committed suicide.

He begins:

"Geneticists, scientists and behaviorists have waged passionate debate over whether sexual preference is a choice or genetically endowed. The hard truth--at least so far-- is that it's both."

Ah yes. Homosexuality is both a Choice and Not A Choice. He continues:

"Researchers with no religious or ideological ax to grind agree that there are several genes that interact with non genetic factors, including psychological and social influences, to determine sexual orientation. In other words, some men and women chose same sexual preference [sic?] solely because this is their preference whether there's a genetic predisposition or not."

In other words, some men and women choose same-sex sexual attraction because some men and women choose same-sex sexual attraction. Apparently, circularity is the new gay.

In all seriousness, a more accurate way for Hutchinson to have paraphrased the relevant research would be to note that genetic, hormonal, and/or environmental influences work together to determine whether a person is attracted to members of the same sex, the other sex, both, or neither and then a person chooses whether to act according to that innate orientation. I like to think of my homosexuality as being sort of like how people who are born left-handed "choose" to write, throw, and eat with their left hands, despite the fact that most of society is set up for right-handers.

Instead, Hutchinson uses his logically-iffy framing of homosexuality's etiology to argue that "[t]o pillory Jarrett for this characterization goes way off the deep end." Now yes, many in the LGBT community do have a strong knee-jerk reaction to the phrase "lifestyle choice." Unfortunately, nowhere within his article does Hutchinson explore the etiology of that reaction. So intent is he on explaining how the LGBT community has Gone Too Far and is not owed an apology, as if that's for him to decide, he utterly ignores gay people's lived experience of how those two notorious words, "lifestyle choice," are what the vast majority of professional LGBT-rights opponents use to pillory the LGBT community.

Because homosexuality is a "choice," they tell us, we should instead choose heterosexuality, the better option. Because homosexuality is a "choice," they say, it's okay to discriminate against us in housing, employment, parental status, the military, and marriage. Because homosexuality is a "choice," they say, it is nothing like race. Because homosexuality is a "choice," the entire LGBT rights movement is a joke.

And so, only by overlooking how the phrase "lifestyle choice" is so often used as a weapon against LGBT people, Hutchinson is able to claim, with no evidence, that the LGBT community is actually only criticizing Jarrett because we are just pissed off at Obama and the black community for not sufficiently supporting LGBT rights. Jarret, you see, is black and a part of the Obama Administration, which apparently means that if she uses an unfortunate word choice to describe gay people, the LGBT community's anger is really about Obama and race.

He writes:

"Jarrett was not dumped on the hot seat solely for her use of the words 'lifestyle choice' to describe Aaberg. She was there in part because of whom she is and what she represents. The whom and the what is the White House. And some gay groups have been ticked at President Obama for a while because of his less than full throttle push to dump DADT, and his still deep ambivalence about gay marriage. This is just as much a pity as plopping Jarrett on the hot set for her words....

The one other stumbling block that the gay rights activists that pound Obama must come to grips with and that is that a majority of blacks still bristle at the notion that the fight to legalize gay marriage is in any way comparable to the fight for black rights."

Perhaps. Many in the white-dominated LGBT community are indeed bitter and angry about Obama's failure to be a fierce and courageous leader for LGBT rights and about the fact that many blacks do not support LGBT rights. I know that many LGBT people find this lack of support hypocritical. I know that some LGBT people say reprehensible things about the black community because of that. I know that the face of the mainstream LGBT movement is white, gay, and male as are many of the movement's voices that get the most recognition, attention, and airtime. I'm looking at you Dan Savage.

Despite all of this, is there not room for members of the LGBT community to be legitimately angered by how the prominent Jarrett's framing of homosexuxality as a "lifestyle choice" might fuel the anti-gay movement? By framing criticism of Jarrett as being about race and Obama, Hutchinson gives Jarrett a pass on uttering a phrase that contributes to the marginalization of the LGBT community and to the sentiment that the LGBT movement is not as authentic as the black civil rights movement.

Anti-gay bigot Ken Hutcherson (not to be confused with Hutchinson) sums this sentiment up pretty well:

"You tell me what I went through as an African-American, when they talk about discrimination, compared to what gays go through with discrimination - it's the difference between night and day, not even close. I even get upset when people say, 'Well, you got to understand what they go through.' Not when they've chosen to do what they do. They can stop choosing what to do what they do, and they can hide it anytime they want. They can hide their homosexuality. Could I take a 'don't ask don't tell' policy as an African-American? I could try even to pretend I was Puerto Rican, but I'm still going to get blasted for my skin color."

Instead of acknowledging the context of the "lifestyle choice" phrase, or conceding that black heterosexuals can be anti-gay bigots for reasons other than the white-dominated LGBT community's failure to make them less bigoted toward LGBT people, Hutchinson's HuffPo article summarily concludes that Jarrett owes the gay community no apology.

Well I have news for Hutchinson. Unless he's ready to take up a new "lifestyle choice" of his own, that isn't for him to say. When a person is hurt, a good first step for someone who isn't so afflicted is usually to try to understand why the person is hurt, not to start telling them how they're not really hurt. It's also not for Hutchinson to say that:

"Obama is by far the best friend that gays could have in the White House."

I was actually thinking that I'd prefer Rachel Maddow, but now that I think about it, a straight dude probably knows who's best for us gays.

Anyway, I voted for President Obama in part because he pandered to the LGBT community. Although I knew before he was elected that he claimed to not support marriage equality (before he did support it, that is), he did promise to work to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

After he was elected, Obama immediately took the wind out of many of our sails by choosing Rick Warren to speak at his inauguration in a symbolic gesture of goodwill to a faith community that does incredible harm to LGBT people. Although he later admirably signed a federal hate crimes expansion into law to include sexual orientation and gender identity, we are still waiting for him to fulfill his promises on the DADT, DOMA, and ENDA fronts.

Most recently, his Department of Justice has appealed a ruling that banned enforcement of DADT and two cases that ruled DOMA unconstitutional. Further, he has failed to use his presidential "bully pulpit" as he promised, to urge states to treat same-sex families equally, despite numerous chances to do so.

I would ask Hutchinson to forgive me for being let down, but let me guess. Obama owes me no apology for not supporting my full equality.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Not Helping Religion's Image

Now this is always a fun reversal. In response to an article at Family Scholars Blog that noted how young people are increasingly not identifying with organized religion in large part because of being repulsed by homophobia within religion, commenter RK opines:

"...[I]f true, [this analysis] could be seen as bolstering the argument that the gay movement, or perhaps more specifically the SSM [same-sex marriage] movement, is effectively destroying or at least dangerously weakening the nation’s religious infrastructure, a claim which many SSM advocates are trying desperately to assure the public is not true."

Here, note that from the perspective of those opposed to equality, it is gay people and our demand for equality via civil, legal marriage that is tearing apart our "nation's religious infrastructure," rather than, say, religion's intolerance, homobigotry, and obsessive fixation on homosexuality that is tearing apart that infrastructure.

And, well, about that. Notice the subtext. Look at what apparently constitutes our "nation's religious infrastructure."

Hint: It's not Jesus. Not God, either. (It's certainly not Allah or G-d because we all know what America's One True Religion is). It's also not compassion, love, or tolerance. Not the Golden Rule. Not vows of poverty. Or celibacy, equality, peace, or heck, even just being kind to one another.


If the SSM movement is, as RK claims, what is imagined to be the destroyer of our "nation's religious infrastructure," then it must logically hold true that opposition to same-sex marriage is the very foundation of that religious infrastructure. And, if that foundation is taken away, religion will crumble into a heap of meaninglessness, causing Christians to solidify their extreme anti-gay bitterness.

As RK concernedly purports:

"While I imagine you would prefer to interpret this as a call to conservative religious groups to modify their stands on gay issues, it is as likely, if not more likely, that it will only reinforce those stands."

What a sad state of religion if this is indeed accurate.

Here I would argue that as it becomes more evident that so many American religious folks define themselves spiritually almost entirely by their Courageous Stands against the homosexual agenda, RK's prophecy will become a self-fulfilling one, which will, in turn, only repulse more people from such a "religion." Then, in an unfortunate cascade, perhaps RK would say that other religious people would only become more entrenched in their homobigotry and opposition to SSM.

It's a succession of stubbornness.

Religion is at its worst when the devout cling to dogma in order to justify bigotry and domination rather than to transcend these human failings.

It is said that Jesus told Peter "upon this rock I will build my church." If Christianity is worth salvaging at all, that foundational phrase must must mean something other than "upon the backs of your LGBT sisters and brothers, people who claim me as their savior should build my church."

It's good that at least some Christians aren't losing sight of that. Perhaps they've caught on that moving closer to god sometimes means leaving religion behind.

Monday, October 25, 2010

That Glee Photo Shoot

So, there is this. View the slideshow (warning: might not be safe for some workplaces).

I love Glee. I sometimes am annoyed by it, but generally, I appreciate its ode to geekiness. I also do sometimes like looking at photos of attractive women (and men), if the photos are tastefully done and don't seem like they're completely exploiting the person. And subtlety is good. Subtext, to me, is often sexier than in-your-face displays of sexual availability.

Those disclaimers aside, I could now go on about how these photos at once infantilize adult women by portraying female actresses as sexy schoolgirls while also inappropriately sexualizing these characters, who are supposed to be under the age of 18.

I could also talk about how annoyingly predictable it is that, of all of Glee's diverse cast members, it is the two women who most conform to conventional Hollywood beauty standards who have been granted the empowerful privilege of being sexified for a men's mag. For, despite Glee's idealistic and uplifting message that It's What's On the Inside That Counts, the show's resident Fat Black Girl With A Soulful Voice is noticeably absent from the shoot.

And then there's the fact that it's titled Glee Gone Wild! a not-so-subtle allusion to that paragon of klassy art that made Joe Francis a pimp wealthy man. Yeah, I could talk about how that's not my favorite.

We could also explore how the photos are clearly intended for the heterosexual male gaze (or, say, the gaze of a sexually abusive photographer who talks about how his "boner" compels him to want to "dominate" girls) and his sexual fantasies.

And I will talk about that for a minute, actually.

GQ is a men's magazine, so while some lesbians and bisexual women might be titillated by such images, they should not be so naive as to think it is they who are the intended recipients of these images. Finn, the football player, is perhaps the one dude on the show who Average Joes most identify with. In GQ's slideshow, he is almost fully clothed in regular streetwear throughout and often adorned with the Ultimate Straight Male Fantasy of not one, but two, hot chicks who might first make out with each other and then subsequently have sex with him.

As for the women depicted, the images predominately feature the two actors wearing the sexy-lady Halloween costume known as Sexually Available Schoolgirl, thus letting gay men know that this photo shoot about characters in a musical TV show is not intended for them, either.

Which brings me to the self-indulgent, possibly shallow, item I really want to talk about.

See, well, Glee used to be our thing.

The geeks, the losers, the queers, the disabled, the atheists, the dudely jock who likes to sing and dance, the pregnant girl, the teen diva, and the male Asian actor who is supposed to be geeky-cool but who never gets a speaking part in Glee solo. The popularity of Glee has been Revenge of the Nerds all the way and for that reason it has been pretty, dare I say, special to a lot of marginalized people and teenagers in all its campy dorkwad glory.

But now, the GQ photo shoot has subverted geekiness to give heterosexual men yet another thing in this world that can be, erm, special to them. And what's supposed to special about Quinn and Rachel in these photos is not their voices, their struggles, their dorkiness, their self-centeredness, their insecurities, or their dreams, but rather, the never-been-done-before message that it's women! Who are hot! And young! And thin! Who men want to fuck!

GQ, on behalf of its straight male readership, flaunts Rachel and Quinn in these photos like Sue Sylvester boastingly displays her ginormous cheerleading trophies as yet another reminder to the geeks that "not everyone can be champions" because some people are meant to dominate and others to be dominated. The photos are the equivalent of a major studio finally producing a Xena movie, writing in that long-awaited for Xena/Gabby actual make-out scene, and then having the two main characters end up married. To men, that is. Because what heterosexual men would like to see happen to two female characters is, let's face it, always what is most important when it comes to TV and film and to hell with any other major fan base.

Glee should know better.

Trying to be popular by catering to the "I only watch shows with multiple major female characters if they're hot" crowd might make a couple of dorks cool for a while, but it's also why the rest us can't have nice things.

Friday, October 22, 2010

I'm Sorry But Today's Blog Post Is In Another Castle

Happy belated 25th Anniversary, Super Mario Bros!

I just needed a little break from Serious Things today. Talk about whatever you want in the comments, especially 80s videos games, movies, and toys.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

And Another Great Marriage Campaign

[TW: Rape]

Via shakesville.

Coinciding nicely with today's earlier post, from the fauxgressive side of the aisle, sex advice columnist Dan Savage offers up a female sexual assault survivor a big serving of rape culture and male sexual entitlement. Long story short, a woman is in an open relationship with her husband. Someone sexually assaulted her. She subsequently finds sex with her husband to be triggering, but she does continue to have sex with another partner whom she feels safe with. Dan's advice:

"Just because you've been victimized doesn't mean you operate in an alternative moral universe where you're not obligated to take other people's feelings into consideration- particularly the feelings of people you profess to love and happen to be married to. Your first priority in the wake of your assault had to be your own physical and emotional safety, of course, but your behavior toward your husband is both cruel and selfish....

You're being a total shit. Do you love your husband? Is your marriage a priority? Then start acting like it: Cut the boyfriend off—for the indefinite future—and get your ass onto a counselor's couch. If you're not willing to do those things, PTSD, then stop emotionally assaulting your husband and put both your marriage and him out of their misery."

What. about. the. husband. and his sexual needs?!?!?! Dear gawd, can we ever think of anything else? It is not emotional assault for a man to demand sex from his sexually assaulted wife, it is emotional assault for her to force him to go without sex!

In all seriousness, I do get that there would be jealousy issues on the part of the husband. Yet, rather than acknowledging that it's a valid reaction for a survivor to feel triggered with some men and safe with others, the article's tone comes off as Dan being Fed Up with survivors having lingering effects of sexual assault because, damn it, sexual partners are entitled to sex even if their partners are unwilling or, god forbid, still traumatized. Dan voices aloud, in his Super Sassy Way, that selfish sentiment some people have that it's somehow more difficult to endure living with someone who has been sexually assaulted then it is to have actually been sexually assaulted but Thank God Dan Is Brave Enough To Tell It Like It Is about whiny victims.

He should be ashamed.

Note to Dan: When you find yourself giving almost the same bit of advice to a woman as this guy, you might want to re-think your advice-giving paradigms.

Another Stellar PR Campaign for Heterosexual Marriage

[TW: Rape]

Ho-ly shit. The things people still say out loud.

Take self-described "marriage, relationship, and sexual coach" John Wilder, opining upon how "Feminists Are the Ruin Of Marriages, and Your Sex Life":

"It is appalling what feminists and feminist counselors tell couples about sex. They say that women should only have sex when they feel like it and disregard their husband’s feelings. The feminists would say that a woman should not allow herself to be a 'sexual slave' to her husband. There are even some feminists claiming that any married sex amounts to rape. This is not conducive to resolving sexual conflicts in a marriage relationship.

Feminists and feminist marriage counselors tell women and men that women should only have sex when they feel like it and to disregard men’s needs. This message has become common in mainstream marriage counseling. In all sincerity, is this not the ultimate in self centeredness? Is not love defined as putting the needs of your partner above your own."

First off, when saying that some people say things, it's usually good to provide a quotation of people actually saying those things. John, you'll notice, doesn't feel the need to do that. Indeed, my experiences on the inter-tubes have led me to arrive at a maxim whereby the frequency with which a critic of feminism claims that "the feminists" say such-and-such is inversely proportional to the number of feminist blogs, books, and articles said critic has actually read in his (or her, but usually his) life. It's as though the vast majority of anti-feminists and men's rights types get their feminist info by googling "radical feminist quotes" and seeing what pops up on

With that in mind, let's see what our dear critic of feminism says about how "the feminists" have ruined (heterosexual) marriage. The implication in John's post, above, is that women's ability to decline sex with their husbands is a bad thing. According to John, it is a woman's wifely duty to have sex with her husband even if she doesn't feel like it, because that is what is fair to men and what preserves marriage. Call me a feminist, but I think there is a term for when a man "has sex with" a woman who does not want to have sex with him at that moment.

Not that that's what John here would call it rape or say that he's in favor of that. Over at the forum where I first encountered the fellow, I noted that he seemed to be advocating for spousal rape, and so John clarified his position:

"You are guilty of selective publishing. You will note in [my] blog I noted that I don’t support forcing any woman being forced [sic] to have sex against her will but complained about feminists teaching that is [sic] perfectly acceptable to force men to do without sex aginast [sic] his [sic] will on a regular basis. Where is the equality in that?"

Ah yes, the trusty old "You totally misrepresented me, what I really said was [insert what Fannie just said I said]" bit.

On the one hand, John doesn't support forcing women to "have sex" against their will. But on the other, he thinks it is harmful to marriage and unfair sex inequality against men for women to not have sex with men when they don't want to have sex with men. Here, John sees three competing interests: Women's right not to have men rape them, men's "right" to "have sex with" women who don't want to "have sex with" them, and the preservation of the heterosexual marriage.

Because John calls the "feminist" idea of women being able to withhold sex from men both "appalling" and something that "ruins" marriage, it is evident from his own words how he weighs these three competing interests. Both men's entitlement to sex and the preservation of marriage take precedence over a woman's unwillingness to have sex. Female consent becomes moot.

So let's talk about force.

John claims that he doesn't "support forcing any woman being forced [sic] to have sex [sic, that would be rape] against her will." Yet, it is abundantly clear that he does support using the authority and legitmacy of his "marriage coach" status (whatever authority and legitimacy comes from such a thing) to make women feel guilty, discriminatory, and like shitty wives for not "having sex" with their husbands when they do not feel like having sex with their husbands. By framing this refusal as a grave injustice against men, indeed as an instance of sex inequality and female domination, when wives do not let their husbands fuck them when they do not want to be fucked, he uses his moral and mental authority as an alleged neutral relationship arbiter- a so-called couples' professional- to compel women to have sex when they do not want to have sex.

The loathsomeness of forcing women to have sex is warped to mean how loathsome it is for a woman to force a man not to have sex! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how an anti-feminist envisions sex equality and the ideal heterosexual marriage.

Now, at this very moment, I can see the straight ladies in the audience giving same-sex marriage a second look. As a Homosexualist Recruiter, I will be happy to sign you up for the toaster oven that comes with the "So you think you might be gay?" pamphlet. Yet I also realize some of you are legitimately into the heterosexual lifestyle. And so, let's consider that many feminist definitions of sexual consent are something akin to "the enthusiastic verbal consent of another adult who is able to give it." That definition isn't perfect or universal, but doesn't it make for an infinitely better PR campaign for sexual relationships than "unethusiastically letting one partner 'have sex' with another even though one doesn't want to have sex because the preservation of marriage entitles us to sexual access to our partners"?

Here it's apt to note that my definition of feminism has evolved somewhat over the years to mean something akin to "removing women from the sex class by eradicating male entitlement to sexual access to women [and girls and boys] and discouraging male violence, which is often sexualized, against women." If I could fine-tune that and add some bits about gender stereotyping, I'd have a pretty golden definition of what feminism means to me.

Indeed, one of the reasons I'm not a huge fan of most dictionary definitions of feminism is that it's usually defined as something like "belief in the legal, political, and social equality of men and women." In reality, that definition often operates to center men as the human standard to which women must emulate. And, of course, anti-feminists and men's rights types inevitably dust off their dictionaries, look up feminism, and then pervert what equality means to use it against women's interests.

And so, we return to John Wilder who further elaborates on his opinion that women should fuck their husbands even if they don't feel like it because that is what is "equal" to both sexes:

"If feminists truly wanted equality, that would include equality for men as well. Equality after all means that both men and women are equal and should receive equal treatment. Do men get equal treatment? Well the feminists claim that women should only have sex when they feel like it. If men and women were truly equal in a relationship, men would have the opportunity to have sex with their wives on one night, and the women would have the opportunity to not have sex on the next night."

John, it bears mentioning, opposes same-sex marriage. Which totally accords with the equal hierarchical vision of violent, male-centric traditional marriage that so many "marriage defenders" are actually defending.

Equality in the sacred hetero marriage doesn't mean that each marital partner gets the equal right to refuse sex, it means that men get the more equal right to demand sex from their wives. Or, men and women being "equal," both partners get the equal right to demand sex from their partners. Although literally "equal," neither is a particularly dignified application of the equality principle.

Nonetheless, after looking up "feminism," the anti-feminist/MRA invariably flips a few pages in his handy-dandy dick-tionary, stumbles upon the word "misandry," and believes himself to have discovered the most apt word to describe women's horror at (a) male entitlement to rape and (b) the perversion of equality to promote male dominance.

Take, John Wilder, for instance:
"I have been navigating these blogs and I am sick to death of women making excuses and DEMANDING thei [sic] right to refuse their husbands sex. When I point out valid reasons why women should take care of their husband’s sexual needs, women come out of the wood work to call me a pervert, a misogynist and worse. All too often when a man critiques a woman she becomes vicious in her verbal attack in retaliation rather than dealing with the critique. Misandry (reverse sexism by women against men) is every bit as bad as misogony [sic]."

Ah yes, capital letters. They always indicate that a person is SO SERIOUS. And, the old "it is worse to call someone a bigot than it is to actually be one" canard. But since John has complained that "all too often" women just call him names instead of dealing with the substance of his posts, I dedicate this entire blog post to John.

Meanwhile, ladies, you can dedicate your sexual assault stories to John. Just drop him a line at his "professional" yahoo email address, where he wants you to "unload" your secrets.

In other news, BP is now offering oil showers to seagulls impacted by the oil spill.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In Which Humorless Feminazism Yet Again Becomes a Self-fulfilling Prophecy

Looks like there's more trouble in that feminist paradise that is social conservatism.

Apparently, "The Fox and Rice Show," which consists of commentators at the conservative site Human Events have jokingly conceived of a "Babes of the DNC Calendar," in which they mock the looks of various liberal women.

Their reason for this immature attack? Because liberals do it too:

"Certain conservative women are under attack. Why is that, you ask? This election season, FRX wants you to remember that it’s not simply the fact that women like Nikki Haley, Christine O’Donnell, and Sarah Palin have defeated and made a fool of moderate Republicans, Democrats, and the liberal kook media. It's not simply the fact that they are accomplished campaigners. Oh, no; in many cases, these women are despised JUST because they are HOT. And let’s face it: liberal women tend to be a bunch of hideous chuds.

Now, FRX doesn’t have many least, not people who would say so aloud. But who would YOU rather communicate with: Monica Crowley, Andrea Tantaros, and Amanda Carpenter (three beautiful and accomplished conservative women), or Rachel Maddow (who looks like a carny that should be running the ‘Dime Pitch’ or ‘Duck Pond’ game at the traveling fair)? It's time to ask: who ARE the real beauties of the left? And, just in time for the election and this holiday season, you can click the player discover liberal women acting liberally!"

The silence of all of our self-proclaimed loud and proud conservative "red-state" feminist sisters, in the face of these attacks, is deafening. One day maybe the feminist ladies on the conservative side of the aisle will step away from the "conservative women tend to be total babes [unlike liberal women/feminists]" head-patting and actually do something about male attempts to keep women firmly fixated in the sex class.

Oh wait, everybody just calm down. "The Fox and Rice Show" is just joking:

"The Fox and Rice Experience is for entertainment purposes only, even though it's not all that amusing. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely intentional. If offended, seek treatment for Humorless Liberal Syndrome. Side effects of HLS may include headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal vision and in some cases, death. To avoid long term injuries, seek immediate medical help if you experience Liberalism lasting longer than 4 hours. Ask your doctor if FRX is right for you."

Humorless Liberal/Feminism Syndrome. It's like a self-fulfilling prophecy, no? Let's be assholes to liberals and feminist women and then call them humorless when they don't think our aggression is funny. It's fool-proof!

So, it's not this asinine thing called "The Fox and Rice Show" that sucks for being mean, sexist, immature, and not at all funny. It's you who suck for not finding them funny.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Oh Well, I Guess Civil Unions Will Do

Articles like these where"marriage defenders" brag about how totally amazing marriage is for "couples" always chap my ass because, naturally, they don't mention the fact that there are many same-sex couples who would sure like to get married and take advantage of all of these grand benefits.

The existence of LGBT people and our lack of access to marriage is rendered completely invisible as Mona Charen tells us that getting married will solve America's financial ills, "stupid." For instance, some snippets from the article:

"marriage is one of the surest ways to escape poverty"

"cohabitation doesn't begin to confer the benefits that marriage does"

"Married men earn between 10 and 40 percent more than their single counterparts with similar educational and job histories."

"A study of 7,608 household heads between 1984 and 1989 found that those who married saw income increases of 50 to 100 percent, and net wealth increases of 400 to 600 percent."

"Married people were also less likely to suffer from depression and other forms of mental anguish....Remaining unmarried or getting divorced seems to result, on average, in a deterioration in mental well-being"

Wow, marriage sure sounds fantastic!

I can't wait to- oh, she actually is only talking about man-woman marriage? And so the soft bigotry of heterocentrism continues.

Also, look again at the statistic about how married men earn so much "more than their single counterparts with similar educational and job histories." Notice how rather than questioning whether unsavory discrimination against singletons (and gays and women) is occurring, this possible discrimination in favor of married men is touted as a benefit of marriage.

The financial (and possibly unearned) privilege associated with being a man in a heterosexual marriage goes completely unchallenged. Rather than confronting male dominance and privilege, look how the heterocentrist narrative colludes with it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Weighing In On the Phelps Case

So, the Phelps clan recently brought their traveling circus of bigotry to the Supreme Court to defend their right to hold anti-gay protests at funerals.


I've seen a lot of people throughout the liberal and progressive blogosphere quote Voltaire:

“I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”


Well, I'm going to be honest. I don't agree with Phelps. I do support his right to say what he says. But I can't say I'd "defend to the death" his right to say it.

I mean, let's not go overboard.

Friday, October 15, 2010

OkCupid's Sexuality Analysis

While some online dating companies throw shitfits about not wanting to provide their services to gay and lesbian users, some do not. OkCupid, which falls into the latter category, has somewhat humorously analyzed 3.2 million profiles in order to make comparisons about its gay and straight users.

I'm not sure what the intent of OkCupid was with this article, but it appears to be well-intentioned toward gays and lesbians. That being said, the title of the article ("Data-Backed Shocker! Gay People Are Basically the Same As Everyone Else") is troubling as it centers "everyone else" (meaning heterosexuals) as the default and implies that if gays weren't like everyone else, discrimination would be okay.

Further, it's certainly not a legit scientific study. We would at least need some evidence that OkCupid users are representative of the general population of gays and straight. We also don't know how many profiles within each category were analyzed. We'd also probably some methodology and stuff too, from what I remember from psych experiments class in undergrad.

Nonetheless, and to state the obvious, the findings at least tell us something about some gays and straights who use OkCupid.


"Gay people are not sexually interested in straights...

We combed through over 4 million match searches, and found virtually no evidence of it:
Match Search Returns
only 0.6% of gay men have ever searched for straight matches.
only 0.1% of lesbians have ever searched for straight matches.
only 0.13% of straight people's profile visitors are gay."

But, perhaps more importantly, how many gay and lesbian people's profile visitors are "straight"?

Interestingly enough, out of a quarter of a million "straight" users who were asked whether they ever had a sexual encounter with someone of the same sex, 23% said yes. 11% said they had not, but that they would like to. Half of all straight women said that they either have had sex with a woman before, or that they would like to. Straight men weren't so open to the idea of getting in on with another man as 82% said they had never had sex with a man and never would.

The comparison also found that the median number of sex partners for lesbians, gay men, straight women, and straight men was the same: 6.

Personality-wise, some findings that interested me were that straight men reported being more "horny" and "kinky" than gay men while straight women reported being more "into sports" than lesbians. Lesbians also apparently like "Save By the Bell." So much for some stereotypes.

It would have been interesting to see how lesbians compared to straight men, personality-wise, and how gay men compared to straight women. Unfortunately, lesbians and gay men were only compared to one another, while straight women and men were only compared to each other.

In news of the sexual orientation binary, no word on where bisexuals fit into all this.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Privilege to Walk Away

An interesting thing went on at Alas, a Blog, recently.

Namely, a discussion was had about when and whether it is appropriate to refer to those who oppose same-sex marriage as bigots. The title of the post, "In Defense of the B-word," suggested that perhaps equality opponents see the word bigot as akin to the n-word. A despicable label that polite, civil folks don't use on others anymore much less say aloud.

Fearing that history will judge them as it has judged opponents of racial progress in the 60s, same-sex marriage opponents who are not overtly gay-hating take great offense to being called bigots. For instance, one equality-opponent commenter at Alas threatened to storm out of the room if anyone engaged in "bigot" name-calling. More prominently, big discussions have been had in major newspapers about whether or not folks like David Blankenhorn, who don't rise to Phelpsian levels of God-Hates-Fags animus, are bigots for opposing marriage equality.

Being called a bigot is a big deal. Apparently, a much bigger deal than when a person advocates for legal inequality. As Blankenhorn recounted after Perry v. Schwarzenegger, he had to endure the indignity of his children seeing him "called a bigot in the pages of The New York Times" and he subsequently secured the endorsement of colleagues who attested in a 12-page open letter to, among other things, his non-bigotedness.

Generally, I try to avoid calling people bigots unless their commentary overtly states that LGBT people are abnormal, pathological,or inferior to heterosexuals. I might privately think a person is a bigot, but those who oppose equality are at least correct in noting that calling someone a bigot is a quick way to shut down dialogue. Furthermore, the bigot charge, while it can be apt, is a distraction. I'm not all that interested in keeping a national conversation about LGBT rights centered around what's in the cockles of a heterosexual equality opponent's heart instead of around the needs of LGBT families. And this power to control the conversation is what I want to get at today.

The argument that calling equality opponents bigots "shuts down a conversation" actually means that, because inequality and power imbalance are the status quo, equality opponents have the privilege to first get offended at such "name-calling" no matter how apt it is and to then threaten to end a conversation about our rights if we continue to so disrespect their civil sensibilities. Because those who oppose equality are the barrier to my actual equality, such folks can both perpetuate my inequality and demand that I be sufficiently pleasant about requesting my equality from them. If I am not sufficiently pleasant, equality opponents can walk away from a conversation and suffer the pain of being called a "bigot" while I must continue suffering the harm of not having equal rights.

Calling one a bigot, to them, is a more serious transgression than their denial of my equal rights.

I, on the other hand, am grossly offended by the fact that people devote substantial amount of time, energy, and money to oppose my actual legal equality. Yet, because inequality is the status quo, I lack the privilege of "walking away" from a conversation about said inequality. I don't have the privilege of demanding that people treat me nicely or else I will storm out of the room, because, for me, walking away means that I continue to exist in a state of inequality. Unlike equality opponents, I don't have the privilege of clutching my pearls and having people respect the fact that I am deeply offended.

Many racial minorities are already aware of how they aren't allowed to show anger in response to racial injustice, racism, and prejudice because being angry doesn't "win anyone over to your side" and "maybe you should watch your tone." And as much as I loathe these tone arguments, I'm not advocating aggression or namecalling toward equality opponents.

Rather, I'm noting that there's a pretty huge power differential between equality opponents and equality advocates. Equality opponents who don't understand the bigot charge or who center that tone argument in conversations about LGBT rights seem to have a serious misunderstanding about how their anti-gay advocacy fosters anger, resentment, and consequent labeling. They seem to have forgotten that they are not called bigots For No Reason At All.

They have the privilege of advocating against the equality of their fellow humans and having the label used to describe their advoacy be considered more rude, more uncivil, and more "conversation-stopping" than such advocacy.

Sometimes, trying to get into the Super Special Marriage Club feels a lot like this:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Still Doing It Wrong

[TW: Suicide]

In more news of the How Not To Write a Gay Suicide Article, we have this gem from Gregg Easterbrook, entitled "Gay Suicides and Media Hype."

So, basically, right away you get an inkling of where this one's going.

First, Easterbrook notes that the recent suicide of gay youth Tyler Clementi "brings tears to the eyes," which of course erases anything offensive he might say later.

Easing his way in, he writes:

"Yet does his awful death mean there’s a 'trend' of suicides by young gays and lesbians."

Although he frames it as a question, he left off the quotation mark, effectively answering himself in the negative. He continues:

"The exact figure is disputed, but a good estimate is that three to four percent of the human family is homosexual. Based on the suicide rate for those 15 to 24, we’d expect somewhere around 150 gay or lesbian young people to kill themselves in a year. That’s terrible – but also shows a few instances of gay suicide do not constitute a trend. This ABC News report laments 'five suicides by gay teenagers in the last three weeks,' implying a sudden new development. Other things being equal, statistics would suggest nine suicides by gay young adults in a three-week period."

Now, a lot is going on here, the first of which is the implication that 5 suicides by gay youths in 3 weeks is actually under the American Gay Youth Suicide Quota, let alone representative of some larger "trend," so no bigs. Secondly, assuming that these statistics are accurate, how can it be ascertained as to whether a youth who was secretly gay completed suicide because of his or her sexual orientation? Yes, we have had several recent high-profile instances of kids who were bullied because of their real or apparent homosexuality, but it is not unreasonable to imagine that some kids who don't fit the gay stereotypes might have also completed suicide because of their sexualities.

Further, the increased suicidability of LGBT youth is not, actually, "a sudden new development." Although some mainstream media articles have portrayed it as such, much of the "hype" in articles about these cases actually highlights the statistical fact that LGBT youth are more likely than heterosexual youth to complete, or attempt, suicide.

Easterbrook continues, playing devil's advocate:

"Are homosexuals as a group at greater risk of suicide than others of similar backgrounds? This study found that gay young people who are rejected by their families are much more likely than their age group as a whole to attempt to kill themselves. But do heterosexual youth who are rejected by their families also have elevated suicide-attempt rates? Being rejected by your family would be traumatic regardless of the reason."

Yes, being rejected by your family is traumatic and would be even to heterosexuals, but I can play devil's advocate too. LGBT youth don't hold a monopoly on familial rejection, but how often are heterosexual youth rejected by their families compared to the LGBT youth?

Easterbrook's next great idea to minimize LGBT youth suicidality? If you want to see a trend, he'll show you a trend:

"The flip side of this coin is that another kind of suicide — military suicides — are rising at a rate that does show a clear trend.
"The Houston Chronicle reported on Monday, 'Last year suicides made up nearly 25 percent of the deaths of Texans younger than 35 who served in the military. That percentage is more than twice the rate of suicide in the comparable civilian population.'”

Okay, a conversation about military suicides is completely valid. But is an article about the suicides of gay youths that "brings tears to the eyes" really the time and place for that particular conversation?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday Random Roundup

1. Writing in Religion Dispatches, Baptist minister and PhD student Cody J. Sanders takes Christians to task for letting anti-LGBT voices dominate LGBT-affirming voices:

"The most insidious forms [of anti-gay bullying], however, are not those from groups like Westboro Baptist Church. Most people quickly dismiss this fanaticism as the red-faced ranting of a fringe religious leader and his small band of followers.

More difficult to address are the myriad ways in which everyday churches that do a lot of good in the world also perpetuate theologies that undergird and legitimate instrumental violence. The simplistic, black and white lines that are drawn between conceptions of good and evil make it all-too-easy to apply these dualisms to groups of people. When theologies leave no room for ambiguity, mystery and uncertainty, it becomes very easy to identify an 'us' (good, heterosexual) versus a 'them' (evil, gay).

...[N]o institutions have done more to create and perpetuate the public disapproval of gay and lesbian people than churches."

Christianity's role in fostering sexual prejudice is only one of my many issues with Christianity. Nonetheless, I appreciate Sanders' acknowledgment that Christians contribute much suffering to LGBT lives and the challenge to equality-minded Christians to counter the damaging, hateful rhetoric of their more exclusionary peers.

2. This one was brought to us by John. From a Lifesite article about divorce:

"'No-fault divorce, explained Dr. Baskerville, codifies 'unilateral and involuntary divorce"'and thereby permits the spouse breaking up the marriage and the divorce court to "force the innocent spouse to shoulder the burden of the consequences.'

'The innocent spouse generally loses his children, his home and property, and his freedom for literally 'no fault' of his own and for any failure to cooperate with the divorce.'"

While it's slightly commendable that Dr. Baskerville acknowledges that no-fault divorce is a "greater threat" to marriage than same-sex marriage, notice how he assumes that the man is the "innocent" spouse and proceeds to frame him as a victim who had no agency at all in the decision to get married and accept the legal consequences of that decision.

Under this male-centric view, watch how he also frames child support. It is not a means of supporting the children that a man helped bring into the world, but rather it is:

'“mostly extorted from fathers that have been evicted, again through ‘no fault’ of their own.

'It is a subsidy on divorce and single-parent homes,' he explained. 'If you pay people to divorce, they will do it more. That is precisely what child support does.'”

We already know that a socially conservative, gender essentialist take on traditional hetero marriage makes marriage all about men and their alleged sexually aggressive and promiscuous tendencies, now we also learn that divorce and supporting children is also entirely about men and their "freedoms." Specifically, women should not be allowed to divorce men without their consent because men might lose some of their stuff (stuff, being their children, women, and property).

That's going to make a great PR campaign for traditional marriage!

3. Susan Reverby, a women's studies professor at Wellesley College, discovered records indicating the the US government intentionally infected hundreds of people in Guatemala witih syphilis and gonorhhea in the 1940s without their knowledge or consent. The US is now apologizing for these actions.

4. Well, this made me even more of a vegetarian. I try not to be preachy and self-righteous about not eating meat, but I do wish more people- especially those who are financially privileged enough to be so mindful- put more thought into where their food comes from, the cruelty to living beings that is often involved, and what their food actually is.

Monday, October 11, 2010

It Gets Better

[Cross-posted at Our Big Gayborhood]

The following narrative was inspired by Dan Savage's It Gets Better Project, which he formed in response to recent suicides committed by youths who were bullied for being, or perceived as being, gay. LGBTQ youth, especially those who are rejected by their families, are much more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.

I grew up in a small town and I have known family rejection. I also know that it does get better. This is my experience.

[TW: Sexual Assualt; Homophobia]

I am in first grade and am walking down the hall with my best friend. I reach out to take her hand.

She pulls her hand away in horror, saying, "What are you, queer?"

Last year, in kindergarten, this was okay. Today, I learned that there are new rules. I have also learned that whatever queer is, I Am Definitely Not That.

Dear Diary,

Today was the first day of 3rd grade. Cute Redheaded Girl is in my class this year. If I was a boy, I would ask her to be my girlfriend.

It is the early 1990s. I am 13 and watching he news with my mom and my aunt. A clip comes on about Homosexuality In America. I become engrossed in this clip as I simultaneously try to squish myself into the couch so I'm less visible.

My mother turns to my aunt and says, "If my kids turn out gay, I'd kill myself."

They both look at me.

I pretend to be engrossed in the program.

Perhaps noting a look of terror in my face, my aunt adds, "But we'd still love you anyway."

My mom remains silent.

I am 14 and am going through some major awkward teen years. I have no interest in makeup, bras, or girly clothes. I'm getting a snack before basketball practice when I overhear two girls snickering.

"Is that a dude?" one of them says, about me.

"I don't know what it is," says the other.

Life sucks.

I am a sophomore in high school. I don't think much about whether I'm gay or not, but a few boys in my class think a whole lot about whether other students might be gay.

There are three of us who are selected as potential queerbaits and, throughout the course of the year, the Bullies institute a rotating interrogation schedule.

"Do you like boys or girls?" one of them asks me.

"Are you a fag?" another asks Dorky Sensitive Guy who, I recently found out, is not gay, actually.

"Admit it," they demand of us.

During the Spring of that year, a few of the Bullies corner one of the possible male queerbaits in boys' locker room and rape him with a shampoo bottle. The Bullies remain in school and on their various sports teams. Other students, out of fear or meanness, snicker at what happened to the queerbait.

I guess they showed him.

They showed all of us. I definitely wasn't a queerbait

I am 15 and on my Very First Date With A Boy.

I'm growing into a new body. Not necessarily mine, but a young woman's, nonetheless. People are somewhat nicer to me now that I appear to fit in the right gender box.

The Boy is a year older than me and he picks me up in his truck that is blaring Metallica. I'm not quite sure what I'm doing here or why I said yes. The guy, who I had previously never even had a conversation with, looked up my phone number in the phone book, called me, and asked me out. I guess I gave him props for that.

He's cute, tall, and, apparently, sings in a band. I feel neutral toward the Boy himself. Like, could we just drop this whole charade and play video games together like two normal people?

Instead, we go to his house and awkwardly chug some Red Dog beer before meeting his friends at the movies. We arrive at the theater and meet his friend Drummer and a girl with long brown hair who bears a striking resemblance to Alanis Morissette.

I shift out of neutral. Hello.

We take our seats in the theater. The Boy is on one side of me and Alanis Girl is on the other, preserving that rule that makes all straight guys sit as far apart from one another as possible. Which, when I thought about how it placed me next to Alanis Girl, actually turned out to be counterproductive if the whole point was to maintain optimal heterosexualization of teens.

Halfway through the movie, my date musters up the courage to grab my hand. The moment his sweaty palm touched mine, I knew it.

Alanis looked at my hand holding the Boy's and quickly looked back to the screen.

"No," I wanted to assure her. "Don't get the wrong idea. This isn't who I really am." And also, want to make out?

I am gay. I am definitely gay.

No big whoop.

I am at my dad's house the day after my Very First Date With A Boy. My dad is in the kitchen blabbing to me about some computer doohickey thingamabob that he just got.

My dad's voice mutes and my vision becomes spotty. I'm breathing, but I feel like I'm not actually taking in air. I lean back against the kitchen stove.

Minutes later, I open my eyes and see that my dad is cradling my head in his hands and his mouth is moving. I am lying on the floor and everything seems to have a white tint to it. My head hurts and I close my eyes. I don't understand why my dad is trying to wake me up.

"Fannie," he said, shaking my head. "You fainted."

I sit up and realize that I have a major case of the clammy sweats.

"You knocked your head on the stove," my dad said. "We better take you to the ER."

At the ER, the doctor asks me if I am on drugs or am pregnant. I briefly wonder if either of those shenanigans would please my parents more than the truth.

When I was 15, on My Very First Date With A Boy, I casually admitted to myself that I was gay. The next day, I had my Very First Panic Attack.

I am 16 and thinking that I don't care that much that I'm gay. It's more like the suckiest part about it is that other people care so much that I'm gay.

If I came out, I would lose all my friends and my mom would basically kill herself. Being gay seems to negate all of the good stuff about a person. It is what seems define a person as evil, sick, and wrong.

I would like to have a girlfriend, like how my friends get to have boyfriends. But, apparently, Everybody In The World thinks a girl liking a girl is the most disgusting thing ever. Surely, I am destined for a life without sex, love, and relationships. Which is also a sucky thing about being gay.

I wonder if things will ever get better. I frequently think about suicide. While I never go so far as to gather actual suicide supplies, I do think about the various ways I could kill myself. I also weigh the pros and cons of doing so.

Pros: Not being gay anymore.

Cons: Hurting my family, not being able to play sports, being dead is sort of final, not getting a chance to make out with Alanis Girl.

I'm watching TV after school. Flipping through the channels, I see a show with two girls playing basketball together. I keep watching because they are cute and sporty and there's this homoerotic element I'm picking up on.

When the two girls finish their game, they share an awkward sexually-charged moment full of heavy breathing and averted glances.

I hear the rattle of keys at the backdoor signalling that somebody just got home. My mom walks through the door. In a panic, I switch the channel to something less gay, like Full House. (Which, Full House, kinda gay now that I think about it.)

Anyway, as my mom goes about her after-work routine around the house, I surreptitiously flip between Uncle Joey and Stephanie Tanner's G-rated banter and this other show. I learn that this movie is called More Than Friends: The Coming Out of Heidi Leiter and, even though I think it's pretty cool, it is apparently part of HBO's "Lifestories: Families in Crisis" series because having a gay child is basically just like having a child who does drugs and kills people.

At 16, I want to go to there. I'm also starting to pick up on the fact that the "crisis" isn't so much that these girls are gay, but that other people are mean to them because they are gay.


I am 17 and sitting in the back of the bus with my teammates. We had lost a game and our coach, Dyke, was punishing us by not letting us talk on the way home. We didn't know if she was a lesbian, she just looked like how we all thought lesbians looked.

My friends and I began quietly talking and snickering on the bus. My Best Friend Who Later Turned Out To Be Gay Too had accidentally done the splits when she dove for a ball. We crack up each time we remember it.

"I said no talking," my coach yelled, ruining our fun.

We all shut up.

"Whatever, Dyke," I said, under my breath.

I think she hears me, but she turns around and sits down. What is she going to do, tell the principal that I called her what she was?

As I look out the window, my heart begins racing and I feel short of breath. On my walk home, alone, I begin crying. When I walk through the door of my house, my mom and her boyfriend are making dinner. They ask me what is wrong.

"Nothing," I said. I walk toward my bedroom.

My mom's boyfriend follows me.

"Did your coach....touch you, or something?" he asked. "Gay people do that, you know."

I am 17, bored on summer break, and being nosy in my mom's bedroom while she's at work.

Scanning her bookshelves, I see a book called Our Bodies, Our Selves that is from, like, the '70s. Amidst the chapters on pregnancy, sex, and women's health, is an entire chapter devoted to lesbians. For the first time, I see photos and read stories of Real Lesbians Who Actually Admit To Being Lesbians. They talk about what it's like to be gay and to have relationships and sex with other women. It basically becomes my hobby that summer to read that chapter over and over again.

I go back to my mom's bookshelf and, this time, find a book called My Secret Garden, by Nancy Friday. I open it up and see that it is a book of women telling their sexual fantasies. It includes an entire section on women who fantasize about having sex with other women.

I put that book away (after reading a large chunk of it of course) and come across a book that appears to be a Victorian novel. At first, I think, "Boring." But when I flip through it, I see that it is actually some sort of porn-without-a-plot book consisting of various old-timey characters having sex with each other, including several chapters where women get it on with other women.

At 16, I think it's ironic (a little too ironic) that my mom's kind of a homophobe who reads lesbian erotica.

I am 18 and am living in my small hometown during the summer between my first and second years of college. I have a serious crush on my best friend. After many months of angsty sexual tension, we kiss each other one August evening.

She becomes my first girlfriend.

Bonus of having a secret girlfriend: Unlike a boyfriend, she can sleep over with you at your parents' house.

Minus of having a secret girlfriend: Having to hide this totally awesome new thing about your life.

I am 21 and about to graduate from college in a somewhat large city. I have a girlfriend, a bisexual roommate, a lesbian sister (who knew?!), and a small gaggle of lesbian, gay, straight, and bisexual friends. I hang out in lesbian bars, an "alternative" coffeeshop, independent bookstores, and at lesbian sports leagues. I am contemplating going to law school so I can do civil rights for the ACLU or Lambda Legal.

As I become part of a new community and learn that I'm not alone, I gradually care less about what people opposed to homosexuality think about me. Instead of letting homobigots define me by my "sickness," I start naming their hatred and intolerance for what it is.

I am not out to my family, but life is great.


I am now in my 30s. Even though the ACLU/Lambda bit didn't pan out, I'm working succcessfully as a lawyer.

With the privilege of being financially independent and able to remove myself from or avoid homophobic situations, I see being gay as only a small part of who I am as a person. For, it is sexual prejudice that first marks us, then stigamatizes us, and finally seeks to humiliate and eradicate us.

My mom still refers to my sexual identity as my "chosen lifestyle," but she does assure me that she loves me anyway, she accepts my partner as a legitimate part of my life, and she now thinks it's bullshit that gay kids are bullied so often.

In hindsight, I see now that bloody feet, of both myself and other people before me, have worn smooth the path through which I have arrived at this point in my life. Unfortunately, it is still a path that nearly every LGBT kid has to trample themselves, as most of us are not born into families that are overjoyed to have LGBT children.

Americans, especially conservatives, talk a lot about preserving and defending the family, but I found that leaving my biological family was necessary for my own sanity and self-preservation. Biological intact families, that oh-so-celebrated "nuclear family," is oftentimes a source of great pain and rejection for many of us. So, over the years, I found true acceptance and love in the communities that I joined as an adult, both online and in the real world. Family becomes what we make it, not what we happen to be born into. Real family, we learn, is less about sharing DNA and more about sharing values.

I'd like to say that all of the people who were mean to me in high school and homobigots throughout my life are now losers, but really, only some of them are. Some of the bullies are actually cool now, having matured and learned that the world has bigger fish to fry than gay people. Others are still assholes, and maybe they're the ones running stupid homophobic blogs, but the best part of being an adult is being able to walk away from people like that when you need to.

My life isn't perfect now, but it's pretty damn good. It does get better. You are stronger, more beautiful, more right, than you might think.

Friday, October 8, 2010

College Journalist: Flamboyant Adult Gays to Blame for Suicides

[TW: Sexual prejudice, Suicide]

So, this article in The Crimson White, by junior political science major Michael Patrick, starts off well enough. First he refers to the "recent string of suicides in homosexual teenagers" and informatively recounts some of the media response. Then, he aptly spreads blame:

"I agree that FOX News personalities and right-wing politicians spewing anti-gay rhetoric have blood on their hands..."

Unfortunately, he continues:

"...but the blame does not stop there."

Oh, surely he's not going to-

"Older gay men and women are also in many ways responsible for the anti-gay atmosphere that has led teens to kill themselves over their own sexuality.

The gay culture has been aggressively pushing a counter-heteronormative agenda that demonizes anything that would typically be considered heterosexual. Many homosexuals take on a flamboyant lifestyle filled with drug use and promiscuous sex, and the media helps perpetuate the idea that this is the normal lifestyle of all gay men and women."

Yep, he did. Sweet.

First note how he accuses "gay culture" of "demoniz[ing]" heterosexual culture, when in reality it is the dominant heterosexual culture which demonizes "gay culture" by branding it pathological, abnormal, and dangerous.

While it is of course ridiculous for Patrick to blame the "counter-heteronormative" lifestyles of "older gay men and women" for creating an atmosphere of anti-gay harassment, rather than the harassers of those who partake in said lifestyle, articles like these are helpful in illustrating a gaping pitfall of the "we're just like you" equality mantra. Namely, that if you aren't the right type of gay person, Normal People don't think you deserve equal rights, human dignity, or the right not to get your ass kicked. The onus for preventing homophobic violence and bullying rests not with those who engage in violence, but on gay adults who act like such flamers. The onus for granting fellow citizens equal rights doesn't rest with the Normal Majority, but rather, with gay people who must prove that they are normal enough, possessing of enough human dignity, to deserve equal rights.

Awesome, thanks for the tips, Patrick.

In this article, we have Patrick who, because he agrees that anti-gay personalities shoulder some of the responsibility for the suicides of gay youths, likely sees himself as a big ally to the LGBT equality cause. I mean, did you see him call out FoxNews like that? Sure. Out of one side of his mouth he's castigating anti-gay bigots, yet out of the other side he's castigating feminine gay men and engaging in some pretty reprehensible victim blaming:

"It is not okay for Fox News to spread hate through what is supposed to be a 'fair and balanced' media outlet....But on the same note, it is not okay to subscribe yourself to a ridiculous lifestyle and blame it on the fact that you are gay."

He then ends, ominously stating:

"Gays in America need to make a culture adjustment; otherwise the next time a homosexual teen commits suicide, they might be holding the rope."

As examples of this "ridiculous lifestyle" that adult gays engage in, he cites prominent gays like Perez Hilton, Adam Lambert, and Glee character Kurt Hummel as personalities who are so "different" from heterosexuals that it's understandable why people would reject them. And not only that, these gay men are actually more dangerous than the likes of homobigot Pat Robertson because flamboyant queens show gay youth that "a person cannot be gay and normal" and this, too, causes gay kids to kill themselves.

But here's the thing. Wait, Grilled Cheesus, why is the virginal gleeky Kurt Hummel grouped in with promiscuous, drug-abusing older gays?! Did I miss a key storyline? Has Patrick even watched Glee? Notice how slippery the definition of "normal" has become here. First, Patrick told us it was the promiscuous drug-abusing gays who were the bad suicide-causing ones, then it also became the flamboyant ones, and now the group of Deviant Degenerate Gays also includes gay teenagers who sing in glee clubs- you know, the very sorts of kids who tend to commit suicide in greater numbers than their peers.

Secondly, not every single media representation of LGBT people is a flamboyant gay man, which throws a wrench in Patrick's argument that gay kids commit suicide because the only model of adult gay behavior is "ridiculous" flamboyance. I mean, this is the era of Rachel Maddow, Ellen, Portia, Neil Patrick Harris, Esera Tualo, and Anna Paquin (swoon). That Patrick seems to think every visible gay adult is a flamboyant gay man only evidences his ignorance and his male-centricity. Homosexual = man, and a feminine one at that, natch. The truth is, LGBT youth have many visible role models (well, maybe not so much the T's, unfortunately), many of whom do demonstrate that some of us can be Just Like Heteros.

Third, and most importantly, some gay and bisexual men in the real world actually are like Perez Hilton, Adam Lambert, and Kurt Hummel. So tell me this. How might telling these men to act more "normal" and stop being so "ridiculous" contribute to their suicidal behavior and the suicidal behavior of youth who see a bit of themselves in these men?

Patrick's article is perhaps well-intentioned. However, it comes off as ignorant, condescending, n00b advice, as though it's some Great Big New Idea to tell gay people to tone the homo stuff down a notch if they ever want people to accept them. Articles like this, no matter how much a person loves gay people and abhors the likes of Fred Phelps, are actually a part of the fucking problem. It's the equivalent of somebody who just discovers there are tensions in the Middle East walking into an discussion about Israel and Palestine by offering the oh-so-helpful advice of "Hey, can't we all just get along?" as though it's just that simple and people just needed an Objective Outsider to explain what's up.

While I understand that the "we're just like you" argument is necessary under a legal regime that is premised on treating likes alike and unalikes unalike, equality rhetoric which is premised on the notion that gay people are Just Like Straight People is flawed because it continues to center the heterosexual gender-role-conforming life experience as the default, normal way of living and being and stigmatizes everyone else as "ridiculous," to put it mildly.

Those LGBT people who are Just Like heterosexuals are seen as deserving of equal rights while those who are not so much like heterosexuals are seen as deserving of ridicule, marginalization, and shame. Gays like Kurt Hummel who are too faggy (read, feminine) are grouped with drug-abusing, hyper-promiscuous, and other "inappropriately" different gays as a form of both sexuality and gender policing. Gays who perform "normal" are rewarded with Honorary Hetero Status, which can be revoked at any time if the homosexual tendencies become too loud which, let's face it, they almost always are at some point in a queer person's life especially if we're talking about anything other than the weather.

Equality? Maybe. Liberation, not so much.

And for the record, Patrick, it wasn't gays who "declared war" on society. It was society that declared war on us. (See, for instance, your article).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Dangers of Gender Essentialism: Crappy PR Campaigns for Marriage and Men

[TW: Discussion of male rape fantasies]

Tying into last week's conversation about that undercurrent of essentialist fear lying within many conservative arguments against same-sex marriage, is this post on the alleged "dangers of [gender] neutrality" at the Family Scholars Blog (FSB). (FSB is a project of the Institute for American Values, which opposes same-sex marriage).

It begins:

"Gender neutrality and the notion that women and men are essentially the same is harmful to boys and girls and may degrade our health and well-being in real terms."

The author then begins discussing Dr. Leonard Sax's book Why Gender Matters, and the alleged "basic differences" between male and female sexuality. In short, because the hormone underlying female sex drive is oxytocin, while the hormone underlying male sex drive is testosterone:

"For men apparently, sexual satisfaction is like a physical urge, often times tied to aggression. 'Highly intelligent men are no less likely to fantasize about raping a woman than are men of below-average intelligence. The most common sexual fantasy in sex magazines is rape and/or bondage of a young woman."

To begin my discussion, I want to explicitly note that the purpose of my post isn't to dispute these allegations. Instead, I'm going to assume that these statements about hormonal differences in sex drive between males and females are true, as the author of the FSB post does, and consider a question she poses to us.

If it is true that male and female sexuality is so vastly different, with the male sex drive being hormonally based in aggression, she asks:

"Should we really bother with men who use our bodies for sexual urges and leave us feeling disconnected and ashamed? Especially when we can just use sperm donors and experience a comparable level of satisfaction by breast-feeding our newborns?"

(Okay, I'm also going to ignore the suggestion that women can derive the same sort of satisfaction from breast-feeding a baby as they can from having sex.)

The author goes on to argue that the solution isn't to reject men, but to stop teaching women that they can have "aggressive" and "promiscuous" sexualities like how men do. That women are apparently socially conditioned to reject cuddly, oxytocin-bonded womanly sex in favor of promiscuous, unattached male sex, the author calls a "danger" of "gender neutrality."

The author's error here is that she calls a female appropriation of male sexuality an adoption of a "gender neutral" sexuality instead of the more apt adoption of "male sexuality." After all, male is not the neutral, un-gendered default. The "danger" the author refers to isn't a danger of gender neutrality but, rather, the conflation of male standards as universal standards.

My second issue with the author's solution is that, well, what happens once women start acting more like how women are "inherently" supposed to act sexually? Specifically, how will changing women's behavior change male sexual aggression? Do men have to do anything? Do they still get to watch rape porn then, because that's just how the boys are?

The author's second solution isn't really a solution, but rather, a lament:

"We are breeding a generation of women who want family without husbands. And because of our gender neutrality stance we say that father’s contributions don’t matter for kids, just a parent or two that love them. And these women express great pleasure in raising a family and experiencing the intimacy of motherhood.

Meanwhile where are the men? They’re not getting the chance to participate in the families they’ve created…"

An entire "generation" of women want families without husbands? Really? This claim, notice, is just as unsupported as the previous claim that most the "most common" portrayed male sexual fantasy involves the rape/bondage of women.

Yet, even if that fact were true, nowhere in this argument does the author discuss what exactly men bring to the parenting table other than sexually aggressive urges and rape fantasies, effectively begging a very important question. Why should men get the "chance to participate in the families they've created?" Wouldn't forcing sexually aggressive and promiscuous men into a monogamous institution they are supposedly inherently unsuited for be dangerous to both women and children?

Here's her answer:

"And as Sax explained hetero-sexual male happiness and longevity are intimately tied with having a girlfriend or wife."


But what about female happiness and longevity?

I jest. But only somewhat.

For, what I often find troubling about such conservative arguments in support of the so-called and much-touted Traditional Intact Biological Family is that men are first framed as sexually aggressive wildebeasts and then it is put forth that it is women's sacrificial duty to live with these men, to tame them, and to expose themselves and children to men all because, natch, that's what is key to male happiness and is most fair to men.

Heterosexual marriage becomes an institution specifically centered around male violence, male urges, male happiness, and trying to tame sexually aggressive men.

It's basically the shittiest advertisement for heterosexual marriage and the worst PR campaign for men ever. Which is why I always find it ironic that it's feminists who are constantly accused of vilifying men and traditional marriage.

To end, although I accepted Sax's essentialist propositions as true for purposes of this post, I do want to clarify that I find it extremely troubling (as do others) when folks make sweeping generalizations about men and women from data that actually demonstrates that there is more variability among men and women than between them.

There are always exceptions to the rule that "men are inherently x" and "women are inherently y." As a feminist, my position is not a gender neutral "men and women are exactly the same," but rather that men and women are similar on most psychological variables (which is supported by research). It is unfortunate that studies showing that, say, 53% of women like writing better than math and 52% of men like math better than writing always seem to get interpreted as "Women as an entire group like writing, while men are the opposite and, as a group, like math better."

The observable psychological overlap between men and women means that strict gender policing that this sort of gender essentialism supports harms men and women by denying the variation that exists in the real world. It sets men and women up as opposites and as very different "species" from one another which ultimately only serve ideologies of gender dominance.

Gender neutrality isn't the "danger." The danger is in insisting that there's only one right way to be a woman (or a man), that being a woman (or a man) is the better way to be, and that these are just facts of nature.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Note to NOM: Current Marriage "Defense" Strategy Failing

In the 2004 election, social conservatives used the equality of LGB Americans as a political football to get the conservative vote out by putting same-sex marriage bans on the ballot in 11 states. All of these bans passed.

Then, in 2005, the Louisiana Supreme Court re-instated the state's same-sex marriage ban. In 2006, an Eigth Circuit judge held that Nebraska's law limiting marriage to one man and one woman was not a violation of the US Constitution. In 2008, California voters took away the right for same-sex couples to marry. In 2009, Maine voters succesfully vetoed pro-same-sex marriage legislation.

Well, so much for the argument that legal same-sex marriage causes heteros to stop getting marriage. To the contrary, data suggests that same-sex marriage bans result in a decline in heterosexual marriage rates:

"Data reported by the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington-based research organization that comes up with global demographic stats, show that the number of American young adults, aged 25-34, have dropped a dramatic 10 percentage points between 2000 and 2009 from 55.1% to 44.9%, citing the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. Among the total population, aged 18 or older, marriage dropped from 57% in 2000 to 52% in 2009."

I am using correlation to imply causation here somewhat tongue in cheek.

But on a more serious note, if getting straight people marrying is of the utmost importance, I do think social conservatives need a new strategy that doesn't revolve around restricting the rights of LGB people, who constitute at most maybe 10% of the population.

Might I suggest an agenda that involves activity and responsibility on the part of heterosexuals?

(H/T shakesville)