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.
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.
An 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 to the rest of you. Who ever heard of Sharon Kowalski, except lesbians and some politically aware gay men? Or read the depressingly tragic Well of Loneliness (mentally comparing with its contemporary, the much more playful Orlando) if it weren't a mandatory part of your cultural history?
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.
In 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.
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.)
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.
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 fmarriage equality for some time, and recently some polls have shown a majority or 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 — Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and Chris Murphy in Connecticut — trumpet their support for marriage equality and for repealing the Defense Of Marriage Act." This might seems surprising, but if we subject it to a cold-hearted Downsian risk-reward calculation, it actually makes plenty of sense.
(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.