Gender & Sexuality

Apparently, You Can't be Gay and Work for Romney

(WEBN-TV/Flickr)
Two weeks ago, the Romney campaign hired Richard Grenell—a long-time Republican and former staffer for the Bush White House—to act as a spokesperson on foreign policy and national security. Grenell received tough criticism from Democrats for a series of sexist tweets, but that wasn’t enough to spark reticience from the Romney team. What was, however, were attacks from religious conservatives on Grenell’s sexuality. Conservative activists hammered Romney for hiring an openly gay spokesperson, and questioned Grenell’s commitment to the conservative cause. “Suppose Barack Obama comes out — as Grenell wishes he would — in favor of same-sex marriage in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention,“ wrote Matthew J. Franck at the National Review , ”How fast and how publicly will Richard Grenell decamp from Romney to Obama?" This afternoon, Grenell announced his resignation from the Romney campaign, citing the relentless attacks on his sexuality: I have decided to resign from...

Hey, Kids, Let's Invite Dan Savage To Our Conference!

Stop me if you've heard this one. Dan Savage walks into a high school journalists' conference, and talks like... well, like Dan Savage. He uses a word that is technically an obscenity —"bullshit"—but is, in today's crude culture, considered so mild that its use wouldn't even get a movie rated PG-13. He happens to use it referring to some of what you can find in the Bible—you know, not eating shellfish, not mixing cotton and linen in the same garment, stoning to death any woman who's not a virgin when she marries, banning gay male sex while okaying slavery. Some students walk out to show their disapproval, a perfectly acceptable free speech action. And for some reason, this becomes a nationwide scandal . Seriously? People, the man is a sex columnist . He's famous for redefining the word " Santorum " into an entirely new kind of obscenity after the good Senator ranted about "man on man, man on dog" sex. What did the high school journalists think he was going to be like in person? Sure,...

This Should Be Good News for Texas Planned Parenthood (But Isn't)

(Flickr/WeNews)
A judge today ruled that the state of Texas cannot exclude Planned Parenthood from its Women's Health Program, which offers basic reproductive health care for poor women. It's seemingly good news for the organization; last session, conservative lawmakers barred Planned Parenthood from the federal program because of its ties to abortion. (For the record, in Texas the program only serves women who aren't pregnant and public dollars do not fund abortion services.) Because of the decision, the state has lost federal support for the program , a big loss since the feds paid 90 percent of the program costs. Since then, Governor Rick Perry has promised to find funding for the program—a challenge given the state's serious budget troubles—and officials have outlined a plan for a state-run version . But even if there's money, without Planned Parenthood clinics, there's simply a capacity shortage. So Planned Parenthood might actually get its way, and become part of the program, the state could...

Still Ain't Satisfied: The Limits of Equality

The LGBT-rights movement should fight for economic and social justice—not simply de jure civil rights.

(Flickr/Jason Pier)
A n acquaintance baited me with a question at a dinner party not long ago. “So, is the movement over?” she asked loudly. I was surprised by her contemptuous tone. But because I didn’t want to embarrass my hostesses, I demurred: “Gosh, what do you mean over? Not in my mind.” “You know, now that we have won marriage,” she said. “It’s over, done, right?” We were dining in Massachusetts, so she was marginally correct about marriage. The question was being asked by a lesbian who had impeccable civil-rights credentials; while not an active participant in the LGBT movement, she had long been an ally. She had grown skeptical of the movement’s commitment to anything but a narrow version of equal rights. It was a revealing moment. Several months later, I found myself listening, and protesting politely, as a major gay power broker told me that when his state legalized marriage equality, that state’s gay-rights agenda would be done. In places where marriage equality has already been achieved and...

Do Gay People Count?

No one knows how many LGBT Americans there are. You've surely heard the one in ten estimate, derived from Alfred Kinsey's groundbreaking studies; he claimed, based on research from a study of male prisoners, that one in ten men were " exclusively homosexual " for about three years of their lives. That's hardly generalizable to the idea that one in ten of us land somewhere to the right of center on the Kinsey Scale . More recent studies and estimates suggest that the number is somewhere between 1 and 3 percent of the population. But no one knows. And that matters for all kinds of things. If you don't count a group, that group doesn't count. Gay bashings didn't get taken seriously until the Bureau of Justice Statistics started keeping track of how many there were. The LGBT voting bloc gets taken more seriously now that sexual orientation is one of the questions asked in exit polling . (About 3 percent of voters self-identify as LGBT in those polls.) Researchers want more information...

Payback Time

Here's how it works: Little red riding hood gets abused at home. Then she meets the man of her dreams. (Sometimes this happens after she runs away to escape the abuse, since wolves hang out in bus stations, scanning for prey. Or maybe it happens outside her middle school for delinquent girls. Opportunities are many.) Wolf showers girl with attention, love, sexual passion—all the things she's been starved for all her life. Then, after a few weeks, he asks her to prove her love by going out on the street or meeting men solicited on backpage.com , where code words are used to signal that she's well under 18, so they can pay for their apartment, or food, or whatever it might be. Within another few weeks, her body is being sold eight to twelve hours a day. Her captivity is enforced by violence, isolation, coercion, branding, and constant supervision. After awhile, she's convinced that she's worthless, that no one else will ever love her, that police will arrest her and civilians would...

The Afterlife of Gabriel Arana's Ex-Gay Life

Like thousands of you, I was absolutely gobsmacked by my editor Gabriel Arana's piece, " My So-Called Ex-Gay Life ." If it hadn't run into here first, I would have linked to it. Of course, there was the heartbreaking and finally uplifting personal story that took us through the social history of antigay "therapy." But what astonished me was the courage he had to actually report out the story, calling and talking to the key players who made "reparative therapy" intellectually respectable enough that caring parents like the Arana's would search it out and sign up their son, truly believing that they were doing the right thing. I know you've read it, so I won't belabor all that here. What I will post: Dr. Robert Spitzer's full-on public renunciation of his 2001 study. As you've read already, Gabriel Arana's reportorial call triggered Spitzer's decision to openly repudiate that work. He's now written an apology, which he's sent to the editor of Archives of Sexual Behavior that has been...

The Queer List, Part 1: Del Martin and Phyllis Lyons

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, Pool)
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, Pool) Del Martin, 87, center left, and Phyllis Lyon, 84, center right, are married by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom , center, in a special ceremony at City Hall in San Francisco, Monday, June 16, 2008. Also pictured are the couple's witnesses, Roberta Achtenberg, left, and Donna Hitchens. Lyon and Martin became the first officially married same sex couple after California's Supreme Court declared gay marriage legal. Once upon a time, we all knew their names. They shaped our world and our attitudes to ourselves. We had their books on our bookshelves, since there were very few books on the subject. Or we read about their travails in our subterranean newspapers— Gay Community News, The Washington Blade —which we received in the mail, in brown manila envelopes so that we weren't outed unintentionally to our neighbors. (Yes, seriously.) For the most part, the rest of the world ignored us. And so these figures who loomed so large in our lives were invisible...

What Kind of Girl Are You?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has just issued a groundbreaking ruling, one so profound that it will transform many lives in years to come. Before I tell you what it is, I’m going to ask you to dive into two thought experiments and read just a bit of employment history. First, the thought experiments. Imagine that, for years, you’ve been been doing an outstanding job at whatever it is you do: driving a forklift, or teaching biology, or engineering bridges, or putting out fires . Your job is a refuge: Here’s a place you can excel, no matter the tumult you’ve had inside. You enjoy your colleagues; you like the respect and satisfaction you get from doing things well. Meanwhile, in your private life, you have come to the realization that only one thing would make your life worth living is adjusting your body to the sex you feel yourself to be, inside, rather than the sex you were born with and that everyone else sees. You begin the long process of transitioning from...

Exporting the Anti-Gay Movement

How sexual minorities in Africa became collateral damage in the U.S. culture wars

(Brian Stauffer)
I n October 2010, a banner headline ran on the front page of the Ugandan newspaper Rolling Stone : “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak.” Subheadings warned of these people’s dark designs: “We Shall Recruit 1,000,000 Kids by 2012,” and “Parents Now Face Heartbreaks as Homos Raid Schools.” One of the two men pictured on the front page was David Kato, an outspoken leader of Uganda’s small human-rights movement. Inside the newspaper, his name and home address, along with those of other LGBT Ugandans, were printed. The article called for the “homos” to be hanged. Three months later, after numerous threats, Kato was bludgeoned to death in his Kampala home. Police said the motive was robbery, but human-rights advocates did not believe the official story. At Kato’s funeral, an Anglican priest condemned homosexuality. Kato’s death was international news, making him the highest-profile victim of the anti-gay hysteria that has enveloped much of sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade...

The Madwoman in the Attic

Awhile back, I wasted an evening watching the 2011 film version of Jane Eyre , something that every former lit major should avoid. I loved the novel for its depiction of the vivid, rich inner life of a proud introvert who is passionately engaged in her life despite the fact that she knows it to be outwardly pathetic. The movie, unable to reproduce the character's inner liveliness, reduced the story to a melodramatic and utterly unlikely romance between a poor orphan and an arrogant nobleman. I had wasted marital chits on a movie that I hated as much as my wife knew she would. (Sports movies, here we come. Sigh.) Watching the movie sent me back to Jean Rhys’s astonishing Wide Sargasso Sea , which I remembered as an imagining of Bertha Rochester’s backstory, asking how, exactly, did the madwoman in the attic get there to begin with? I’ve lately been stripping my bookshelves, getting rid of novels I know I won’t read again, like Rhys’s earlier sharply drawn portraits of women I have no...

Six States, Six Fates for Pro-Life Bills

(Flickr/SMN)
As states around the country consider legislation to limit access to abortion and reproductive rights, the outlook isn't bright for women's health advocates. Here's the latest from five states: Through a tied-vote, the Iowa Senate defeated a measure that would stop public dollars from funding abortions in rape and incest cases. Iowa currently allows tax dollars to fund abortion procedures for low income women if there's a danger to the life of the mother or if the pregnancy came through rape or incest. The House already approved the bill earlier in the week. In Tennessee, the state House has approved a measure that creates criminal penalties for harming embryos. The state can already prosecute someone for harming a fetus, but those laws don't include the first eight weeks of pregnancy. Of course that may be because, in the first eight weeks, many don't know they're pregnant yet and many embryos die from a variety of natural causes. The bill passed 80-18 Thursday in the House and now...

Republicans Keeping Anti-Gay Views in the Closet

(Flickr/Willamor Media)
As polls in favor of marriage equality trend upward, politicians are pushed into an awkward corner. The Prospect 's Paul Waldman explained earlier this morning how the incentives just aren't there yet for Democrats to go out on a limb and support same-sex marriage; favoring civil unions probably captures enough of the vote. But at the same time, Republicans have to struggle with the divide between their base, which wants constitutional amendments barring any legal recognition for LGBT couples, and the wider public, whose views soften each passing month. As I noted earlier this week, it's already created a divide between Romney and some of his high-dollar donors. Now it looks like an issue state-level Republicans will have to grapple with as well. North Carolinians will vote next month on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. The Charlotte Observer reports that one major candidate has done his best to duck the issue: He’d rather talk about something else – say, the...

Why More Democrats Aren't Coming Out for Marriage Equality

One of the few pro-marriage-equality Senate candidates. (Flickr/Edward Kimmel)
American public opinion on same-sex marriage has been steadily moving in the direction of support for marriage equality for some time, and recently some polls have shown a majority of the public in favor ( see here for example). Politicians, however, have lagged the public on this issue, none more visibly than Barack Obama, who is famously "evolving" on the issue. One presumes that evolution will reach its higher stage some time after he gets re-elected, but you'd think that candidates running for lower offices might be a little more willing to come out in favor of marriage equality, particularly since it's so obvious that such a position will only become more popular over time. But as Jonathan Bernstein tells us , that doesn't seem to be happening, at least when it comes to Democratic Senate candidates. "The web sites of the 10 Democratic candidates running as challengers or for open seats show that very few of these candidates are eager to jump on this particular bandwagon. Only two...

Relax, Ladies! The Texas GOP Has Your Back

(Flickr/ Planned Parenthood Federation of America)
Texas health officials are telling low-income women not to worry. The Women's Health Program, the Medicaid program serving 130,000 women, will still be there for them. Of course, how it will be paid for and whether enough clinics will be left providing services are still subjects up for debate. The Republican-dominated Texas Legislature cut funding for the program—which offers poor women basic reproductive health services like birth control and cancer screenings—by two-thirds last year. The cuts came out of fear that the health-care providers were too linked with the so-called abortion industry. Just to be safe, conservative lawmakers barred Planned Parenthood from participating in the program. Of course, since the beginning of the program, no public dollars could go to abortions, and women could only participate if they were not pregnant. The results were swift. The budget cuts resulted in clinic closings around the state , and the decision to exclude Planned Parenthood violated...

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