Gender & Sexuality

Barney Gets Frank

Over at the Washington Blade, longtime gay community reporter Lou Chibarro Jr. offers up the gay exit interview with Barney Frank. Here's why we love Mr. Curmudgeon:

Frank said he became the first member of Congress to voluntarily disclose he was gay in 1987, six years after taking office in 1981, after he determined staying in the closet was too constraining on his personal life.

“I got there and I thought, OK, well I can be privately out but publicly closeted,” he said. “But it didn’t work. I found it very hard to have a satisfying, healthy emotional and physical life.”

All in the Family: Teens, Sex, & Politics

Yesterday's Plan B shocker, in which the Obama administration sold out women's health for what appear to be clearly political reasons, has jaws dropping all over the country. James Fallows wrote that now it's the administration's turn to be anti-science by overruling a mass of testimony that allowing Plan B to be sold over the counter wouldn't harm teen health and would help improve women's lives in general.

In Today's DOMA News...

You may have noticed that litigating Prop. 8* has become a full employment project for lawyers (Not that there's anything wrong with that ...). They're back at it today: The Ninth Circuit is hearing two appeals from the folks who originally put Prop. 8 on the California popular ballot. According to the Courage Campaign's Prop. 8 Trial Tracker,

B Is for Betrayal

At a time when women's reproductive rights are under attack on many fronts, the last thing we need is for the Obama administration to join in.

Less than a day after President Barack Obama’s soaring speech on restoring the American middle class, progressives who felt that the administration was finally heading in the right direction stumbled back to reality Wednesday with a baffling decision from Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Sebelius overruled the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) on its recommendation to make the contraceptive Plan B—a morning-after pill that reduces the risk of pregnancy after unprotected sex—available over the counter alongside contraceptives like condoms. Even girls younger than 16 would have had access to Plan B under the FDA's recommendation.

Obama Administration Restricts Plan B Access

The Food and Drug Administration was on the verge of approving the emergency contraceptive known as "Plan B One Step." Access to emergency contraceptives is important to the reproductive freedom of women, and having to obtain a prescription or get past a pharmacist with reactionary moral beliefs can be a substantial burden on women.

Starving Homophobia

Is it right to deny foreign aid to countries that discriminate against gays and lesbians?

AP Photo

Yesterday the Obama administration brought LGBT rights to the top of its foreign-policy agenda, announcing it would tie the receipt of foreign aid to a country’s treatment of gay and lesbian citizens. “Gay rights are human rights,” Hillary Clinton said in a rousing speech to the United Nations in Geneva. “It is violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave.” As one would expect, the GOP quickly jumped on the opportunity.

You Big Bully

Over the past five years we've seen a surge of concern—as evidenced by legislation in 46 states—about bullying. That's heartening. There's no question that serious bullying hurts children and adults alike, especially Lord of the Flies-type bullying that goes beyond the usual teen drama and can destroy a child.

Some bullying, especially what happened to many now-adult gay men when they were young (cf: the masculinity patrol), includes severe physical harm. In the 1990s, Lambda Legal won a landmark lawsuit on behalf of Jamie Nabozny, whose experience in a Wisconsin school included four years of this:

Department of Overreaction: Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

Longtime gay community reporter Rex Wockner passes along this story of a Wisconsin teacher who has taken the "gay" out of Deck the Halls. You can't really blame her, what with "gay" being a common grade school slur, and all:

The music teacher at Cherry Knoll removed the word "gay" from the song Deck the Halls because the children kept giggling. Instead students were taught to sing "don we now our bright apparel".

That's not so gay, now, is it?

Die, Faggots

I have a tendency to hurrah, regularly, about how vastly American attitudes toward lesbians and gay men have improved. (Attitudes toward transgendered folks are much further behind, as I will discuss here soon, as that column of the movement started later and includes fewer people.)

But whenever I write about how amazing it is that I never worry that someone will call me a f***ing dyke on the street, or that The New York Times not only uses "gay" instead of "homosexual" but actually profiles same-sex couples in the wedding section, I am reminded that it's not this way everywhere.

Siri, Sexism, and Silicon Valley

Siri might not be sexist, but that doesn't let Apple—or the tech world—off the hook.

At this point, I think it’s fair to say that there is nothing intentional in the fact that Siri, Apple’s AI assistant for the iPhone 4S, has a hard time providing information for abortion clinics, birth control, and other reproductive health services. As both Amanda Marcotte and Jill Filipovic have pointed out, Apple relies on external databases for Siri, which often offer faulty or inconclusive information for reproductive health services.

The (New York) Times, They are A-Changin'

Last Sunday, I got silly-happy when I came across the Vows column in the Times' Style section. (For those who don't know, every week NYT highlights one couple's wedding with a little feature story and pictures, among the wedding listings.) Usually I simply scan that section briefly, checking up on how many same-sex couples appear, almost by habit. Since the NYT started allowing same-sex announcements in its wedding section in September 2002, a few prominent couples have crashed that Vows feature.

Ain't Misbehavin'

Ginger White's apparently painful confession of having had a 13-year on-again, off-again affair with Herman Cain seems to have dealt the final blow to his tottering political campaign. I've heard conversations, since, in which political insiders are annoyed about that—believing that adultery should never be what brings a public person down.

Ask for More

Gentlemen, I would like to ask you to leave the room for a moment. Move along, now. Yes, you too, over there in the corner, I see you!

Okay. Ladies: Do you have trouble asking for more money when you're offered wages, salaries, speakers' fees, or any other financial negotiations?

Read. This. Now.

So You Think You Have Problems?

Even if your parents didn't like who you dated, they didn't send him to Siberia. And while they may haunt you in various ways after their deaths, that haunting can never weigh on you as much as Stalin's overhanging ghost. Do read this sad obituary of someone who, because of her father, could never find a place in life:

“Wherever I go,” she said, “here, or Switzerland, or India, or wherever. Australia. Some island. I will always be a political prisoner of my father’s name.” 

 Yes, the sins of the fathers are indeed visited upon the children, often in very peculiar ways.

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