E.J. Graff

E.J. Graff writes on social-justice and human-rights issues, particularly discrimination and violence against women and children; marriage and family policy; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender lives. She is a resident scholar at the Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center and the author of What Is Marriage For? The Strange Social History of Our Most Intimate Institution (Beacon Press, 1999, 2004).

Recent Articles

Why I Love Thanksgiving

(Flickr/Due Chiacchiere)
Flickr/Due Chiacchiere A s I do every morning, I just rode my bike around the gorgeous city reservoir a block from my house, with my little Toto-like terrier running joyously alongside me—honestly, you should see how he bounds through the grass. I wave at the regular walkers and dogwalkers, even if we don’t know each others’ names. Today, Thanksgiving, Fresh Pond was overrun by visitors, out to burn off some calories and enjoy the brilliant blue New England day before they sit down with families of blood or of choice to eat, argue, joke, pray, or whatever their particular configuration might consider appropriate for the day. Since this is Cambridge, the colors were mostly but not only white, from deep WASP to darker brown: prep school blonds; ruddy Irish; argumentative Israelis; Pakistanis or Indians; Chinese; a very sweet and quiet Tibetan refugee couple who run a local restaurant and whose tiny Tibetan terrier swaggers like he owns the world; an extremely tall and fit couple...

Kevin Clash, Take Two

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
So there’s a second lawsuit against Kevin Clash , formerly the voice of Elmo, alleging that he had sex with an underage teenager. As a result, Clash has resigned from Sesame Street, according to the New York Post , which explains: Clash’s sudden downfall came hours after published reports emerged that a man in his mid-30s filed a lawsuit against Clash, accusing the beloved puppeteer of having underaged sex with him when he was just 15. The federal civil complaint, filed in New York by Cecil Singleton, alleged that Clash—now 52—picked him up in 1993 on a gay phone chat line. Singleton said he was 15 at the time, while Clash was 32. "[Clash] trolled gay telephone chat line rooms to meet and have sex with underage boys,” Singleton claimed in his explosive lawsuit. "[Clash] groomed [the accuser] to gain his trust by, among other things, taking him to nice dinners and giving him money." Now the first accuser wants to “recant his recantation,” again levying his allegation that the sex...

Dying for a Pro-Life Cause

(Rex Features via AP Images)
So now we know they really mean it: They’d rather see a woman die than have an abortion. You may have heard this story. Thirty-one-year-old Savita Halappanavar, who was visiting Ireland from India, was 17 weeks pregnant when she went to University Hospital Galway with back pain. They found out that she was miscarrying. According to the Irish Times , after spending a day in severe pain, Halappanavar started begging to have delivery induced, since there was no way the fetus could survive. She was refused, because the fetus still had a heartbeat. Here’s how the Irish Times reports on what happened next: Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar (34), an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, says she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated. He says that, having been told she was miscarrying, and after one day in severe pain, Ms Halappanavar asked for a medical termination. This was refused, he says, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they...

Goodbye to Barney Frank

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
For The Advocate , I conducted an exit interview with Barney Frank, the first voluntarily out LGBT member of Congress. I needn't tell Prospect readers that Frank has had an incredibly distinguished career as a legislator on behalf of the downtrodden, progressive attack dog, gay advocate, and master of the withering soundbite. Before I went, I told my wife that my goal was to be told a particular question was "stupid" fewer than three times. In fact, I didn't hear that once. Do we need any more evidence that imminent retirement has mellowed the man? Frank said a couple of things that I found immensely moving, and which I'll excerpt here. I asked him why, when he spoke with Jason Zengerle of New York Magazine , he listed progress on LGBT issues as the first of the accomplishments he was proud of—before financial reform. Here's what he said when I asked him why: [Financial reform] may be important to more people—but it’s not as important as your own personal dignity and rights. We went...

Hell No, Elmo!

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Earlier this week, I said that I just don’t care about General David Petraeus’s affair. I’ve since heard political writers explaining that the affair itself may be immaterial; what matters was that Petraeus was compromising intelligence, granting line-crossing levels of access to someone unknown to the CIA. That may be so. But no matter how giddily silly the whole thing has become—what with the threatened good friend and the shirtless anti-Obama FBI agent (why are men “shirtless” and not “topless”?)—I don’t care about the affair itself: consensual adults, and all that. But the Elmo puppeteer story does bother me. In case you missed it, Kevin Clash is a six-foot-tall African-American man, now 52, who does the voice of the Sesame Street icon. Earlier this week, word came out that a young man, now 23, accused Clash of getting involved with him when the accuser was 16 years old—under the age of consent. Sesame Street put Clash on a leave of absence while it investigated. The accuser has...

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