Gender & Sexuality

Gay Marriage Moving Forward Around the Country

It's been a good week for gay-rights advocates. Washington state gained the crucial 25th vote needed to pass same-sex marriage . The news prompted headlines around the country, but it was hardly the only place where such legislation moved forward. In Maryland, Governor Martin O'Malley is once again pushing a gay marriage bill. Last year's bill stalled, but this time around, lawmakers are making broader exemptions for religious institutions. O'Malley and other advocates are also trying to drum up public support for the bill, which if passed will likely be put to a public vote this fall. Current polling shows Maryland closely divided on the issue , but no one is tiptoeing around it. Today, O'Malley's wife went so far as to call the bill's opponents "cowards." Maine advocates announced Thursday that they had more than double the signatures necessary to put get gay marriage on the ballot. While there was little surprise that the coalition had gathered the signatures, some speculated that...

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The Oscars recognize women in non-traditional roles, but leave actors of color behind.

AP Photo/Chris Pizzello
With all the election-season ugliness, the announcement of the nominations for the 84th Oscars provide a welcome relief—at least until they remind us that Hollywood is largely in the business of telling the stories of straight white men. This year, we have some bad news and some good news when it comes to the acting categories for the Oscars. The good news is that, unlike in years past, the nominating committee didn’t have to scrounge to find ten great performances from actresses—a process that in the past often resulted in the embarrassing problem of having unknown names in the actress categories that leave viewers asking, “Who? In what?” Women are beginning to be recognized for playing more well-rounded characters with their own identity, such as heads of government or hacker-warriors, instead of the role of “Mom” or “Girlfriend.” Melissa McCarthy’s nomination for “Bridesmaids” even suggests that women might be sloughing off the requirement that they be conventionally attractive to...

Friday Miscellany

It's Friday! Time for a little bit of this, a little bit of that: Barney Frank is engaged! How sweet is that? Chris Geidner at MetroWeekly put up this : The two have been together since the spring of 2007, according to Frank's office. [Jim] Ready, who is 42 years old, lives in Ogunquit, Maine, where, per Frank's office, he has a small business doing custom awnings, carpentry, painting, welding and other general handyman services. He also is a photographer. And yet, ironically enough, the retiring U.S. Congressman's marriage won't be recognized by federal law. If (god forbid) Frank should predecease Ready any time soon, his widower will have no rights to collect the spousal benefit of his husband's federal pension. In fact, as Geidner writes: One of the plaintiffs in the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders's ongoing lawsuit challenging Section 3 of DOMA, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management , actually is the same-sex widow of a former member of Congress. Although they married...

Cynthia Nixon, Gay and Proud

AP Photo/Robert Mecea
I'm one of fourteen Americans who has never watched an entire episode of "Sex and the City." The high heels and extreme grooming, the squealing girl talk, the pursuit of men—booooring. Give me a rerun of The Wire any day. So I had to be brought up to cultural speed when Cynthia Nixon, who played the show's sexy lawyer Miranda, made a little splash in The New York Times Magazine this past weekend by saying that, for her, being gay is a choice. Of course, the preferred LGBT movement line is that we were all "born this way"—and so her comments sent the Maoist portions of the LGBT thought police into an angry buzzing fury. Here's the relevant article, which is long because it is extremely thoughtful: I gave a speech recently, an empowerment speech to a gay audience, and it included the line ‘I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.’ And they tried to get me to change it, because they said it implies that homosexuality can be a choice. And for me, it is a choice. I...

The Difference Between Viagra and The Pill

Starting in August, women will no longer have to pay more than men for the prescriptions (the Pill, Viagra, Cialis) that enable them to have active sex lives. That was the big news this past Friday, when Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius declared that almost* all employers must now pay for contraception in their health plans under the Affordable Health Care Act's requirement that insurers cover all preventive services. No co-pays. No deductibles. Whether or not women should pay for having sex—whether financially or through pregnancy—has been, shall we say, a hot topic for centuries. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the U.S. birth rate dropped dramatically because of new technologies (rubber condoms, that invention of Goodyear). Teddy Roosevelt decried contraception as "race suicide." Margaret Sanger went to jail for keeping women from withering and dying from gestating and delivering one after another bundle of joy. Late-19th- and early-20th...

Absolutely Comfortable

A Washington state senator's change of heart on same-sex marriage offers a lesson in humanism.

Yesterday evening, Washington state Senator Margaret Haugen came out in support of the state's proposed gay-marriage law, giving the Senate the key 25th vote to ensure passage; the measure already has enough support in the house, and the governor has agreed to sign it. Haugen released a statement that's been making the rounds on the Internet to explain her position, which you can read in full here : To some degree, this is generational. Years ago I took exception to my parents' beliefs on certain social issues, and today my children take exception to some of mine. Times change, even if it makes us uncomfortable. I think we should all be uncomfortable sometimes. None of us knows everything, and it's important to have our beliefs questioned. Only one being in this world is omniscient, and it's not me. ... For me personally, I have always believed in traditional marriage between a man and a woman. That is what I believe, to this day. ... But this issue isn't about just what I believe. It...

Colbert Does "It Gets Better"

Nerve is featuring Stephen Colbert's " It Gets Better " video. They're amazed that he can be straightforward and without irony. I'm more impressed with the friend he mentions, who turned around to a bully who was calling him queer and said ... well, watch it . Stephen Colbert's "It Gets Better" Video Colbert shares a personal story of bullying. Log in or register to post comments It reminded me of a woman I knew who, when being gay-baited by some kids on a Cambridge street back in Ye Old Bad Days, turned around and said, "That's Mr. Dyke to you." How cool is that?

Sex, Preaching, and Abortion

AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
You know the colloquial definition of "chutzpah" as well as I do: the man who murders his parents and then throws himself at the mercy of the court because he's an orphan. As you know by now, our good buddy Newt is steadily exercising more chutzpah than our homicidal orphan. Do you remember that, way back while he was trying to impeach President Bill Clinton for, um, perjury, Newt Gingrich had to resign as speaker because he was cheating on Marianne? And now he is shocked that the liberal media would bring all that up, despite his career as a moral scold . ("Liberal media" is one word, just like "gays in the military" once was.) He prayed it all away, OK? 'Nuff said! Ah, just another entertaining moment in the sideshow we call the primaries. But while you were snorting out your coffee over Newt's antics, the Guttmacher Institute announced that the drop in the world's abortion rate has stalled. (Guttmacher is generally respected as the most accurate and nonpartisan source of...

Pee in Safety!

As I've written here before, bathrooms are the ground zero of the transgender social movement. Talk to a transman or transwoman—or to many "gender nonconforming" folks ( i.e. , women who are very butch and men who are very fey)—and you'll hear about the fury, hostility, threats, and assaults that can result from using either bathroom. Go into the women's, and you can get yelled at for not being a real woman. Go into the men's, ditto. To avoid risking the hostility and the threat of attack, many end up "holding it" for long periods of time, day after day, resulting in kidney and bladder infections. Wouldn't you want to be able to go potty without being threatened, assaulted, or raped for looking a little different from every other guy or gal? When you really, really have to pee, you don't necessarily want to have to do Trans Education 101: You just want to use a toilet. Well, here comes another reason to love Planned Parenthood: Its Ithaca, New York, chapter has created a "pee in peace...

Friday Miscellany

Good lord, the week goes by fast, and I don't get to comment on 10 percent of what's interesting out there. So here are a few items not to be missed: Jerry Sandusky . Sara Ganim, the amazing young reporter who tracked down and revealed the sordid story at Penn State, reports on the back story behind the investigation and indictment. It's a fascinating article, with between-the-lines suggestions that either someone held the police back or that they were amazingly clueless in investigating the former Penn State coach's serial child molestation, abuse, and assault. She also gives hints to how one victim's mother took the lead in showing police who else might have been molested—by going through Sandusky's creepily titled book Touched. The mother said that the boys had to be subpoenaed before they would testify. The whole piece is worth a read, but here is the opening: The investigation of Jerry Sandusky took three years. And it took Sandusky himself—through the pages of his autobiography...

What Do We See?

They’re starting to run together in my mind. Jerry Sandusky. Silvio Berlusconi. Herman Cain. U.N. peacekeepers. Arnold Schwarzenegger. USA Swimming coaches. Roman Catholic priests. Here’s the shared story line: A powerful man—or a man in a powerful hierarchy—preys sexually on those in weaker positions. Folks around him have seen him swooping down on vulnerable or naïve young women. Or half-noticed that he always travels with troubled boys who share his hotel room. But because he doesn’t look like a monster, because he’s brilliant at his job, because if he’s doing anything wrong it would embarrass the group, their minds back away from the insight. That’s just Jack being Jack, they think. He’s basically a good guy; he couldn’t really be hurting those kids. What are you gonna do? Institutions and families are powerful things; we need them to survive. It’s frightening to rock the boat—especially if you want to keep your job or care deeply about the football program. No one likes the...

It All Falls Apart

In the beautiful A Separation, even the family is no refuge from society.

Berthold Stadler/dapd
W ho are you to judge? Another’s life, the beliefs and attachments, rational and otherwise, that make up another’s choices—how can anyone evaluate such things? Yet the arguing Iranian couple in A Separation demand judgment. They face the camera in the opening scene, a comely woman with dyed-red hair under her veil, and her bearded, exasperated husband. Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moadi) are presenting their case for divorce to an unseen magistrate and in turn, to us. She seeks a better life for their daughter abroad; he refuses to leave behind his home and his elderly father, who is stricken with Alzheimer’s disease. The judge denies them a divorce, declaring, “My finding is that your problem is a small problem.” They are stuck with each other and with us. These are the seemingly low stakes of Asghar Farhadi’s latest, which has the unlikely distinction of being an Iranian film with Oscar buzz. (Iran hasn’t had a nomination since Majid Majidi’s Children of Heaven was up for...

Women, War, & Peace

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
I'm not a gender essentialist. I don't believe that women are from Venus and men are from Mars. I suspect strongly, in fact, that women and men are the same species and might even be able to reproduce. At the same time, it's true that women and men—on average, in general—tend to behave differently. You can't predict any individual woman's or man's behavior based on sex; as we've discussed here before, some boys want to be princesses, and some girls are hard-core jocks with a fabulous swagger. Yet at the same time, the international policy community knows that, on average, women tend to invest in their families while men spend their money on themselves. And that if women are involved in peacemaking and national rebuilding, that peace is more stable than if it were all organized by men. Last month, Hillary Clinton gave an extraordinary speech that got little attention, buried as it was during the holidays. In it, she discussed: ... the growing body of evidence that shows how women...

Do Women Ask for More?

About a month ago, I urged women to do our part to help close the gender wage gap by learning to negotiate for more money, noting that it's a well-established fact that women don't ask for as much as men. I made the point that that's not the only, or even the primary, reason for the wage gap—but why should we help keep our income down? Commenters made some other important points, including the fact that women do get punished for being assertive, far more than men do. That's also been well established, which only means that women have to work harder to find the appropriate strategies for us. In the wages-and-salary game, you can't win if you don't play. Nevertheless, I raised my eyebrows when, at The Washington Post , Nancy Carter and Christine Silva of Catalyst wrote : Our recent Catalyst report, The Myth of the Ideal Worker , reveals that women do ask for raises and promotions. They just don’t get as much in return.... Our findings run counter to media coverage of the so-called...

Yes, It's "Rape" Rape

Last week I heard two pieces of good news about rape—one local, one national. The local news: While Boston's serious crime reports dropped by 8 percent overall, rape reports spiked by 12 percent, according to police; the rise was especially dramatic in some lower-income sections of the city. So why is that good news? Well, no one believes more rapes occurred—primarily because there was no increase in reported rapes by strangers, which are most likely to be reported but only make up an estimated 20 percent of all rapes. Nope, the good news was that Boston women decided to report it when acquaintances, boyfriends, dates, friends, and family members forced them to have sex. Public-health and criminal-justice statistics folks know that's happening; according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's recently released sexual violence survey , nearly one in five women is raped in her lifetime, and more than one million women are raped each year. Far fewer are reported to police...

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