Gender & Sexuality

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...

Rape Is Rape

The Department of Justice updates its sexual-violence reporting requirements to include men and those unable to consent to sex because of intoxication.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that the FBI is changing the definition of rape used by local enforcement to tabulate national sexual-violence statistics. The outdated definition that has been governing national rape statistics since 1929, “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will,” has been updated to "penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” According to Susan D. Carbon, director of the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women, the previous definition “excluded an untold number of victims.” For the first time, men will be included in national rape statistics, as well as those raped while unable to give consent due to intoxication or other mental and physical incapacity. “Rape is rape is rape,” said Carbon in a conference call this morning. “It’s rape if you’re a man; it’s rape if it was with...

While You Were Out

Yes, more has been happening in the world than the Iowa caucuses. (Am I the only one bored out of my mind by horse-race coverage? Do we really have ten months to go? ) Some other recent news includes: Spain's same-sex-marriage law makes politicians proud : Newly departed Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero says that the ruling he’s most proud of from his nearly eight years in office is the passage of full marriage rights for his gay and lesbian countrymen. The Mexican state of Quintana Roo joined Mexico City, where more than 1,000 same-sex couples have married, and will marry same-sex couples. Thanks, capitalism! Cancun and other resort areas on the Mexican Caribbean will have a new attraction for gay and lesbian couples from the United States, Canada and Europe, allowing them to legalize their unions thanks to a quirk in the local civil code. ... “This market niche ... is very attractive for European, Canadian and American (homosexual) couples,” said the spokesperson...

Catholic Bishops versus Tolerance

While you were away from your computer over the holiday break, Catholic bishops escalated the latest tactic in what we once called "the culture wars": accusing pro-diversity and gay-equality forces of religious intolerance. Here's how it works. A government—state or federal—implements a nondiscrimination law and requires all of its contractors to abide by it. But some of those contractors are religious groups—say, Catholic Charities—and refuse to abide by a nondiscrimination policy that would require them to consider same-sex couples as prospective parents for foster care or adoption. Laurie Goodstein of The New York Times notes : For the nation’s Catholic bishops, the Illinois requirement is a prime example of what they see as an escalating campaign by the government to trample on their religious freedom while expanding the rights of gay people. The idea that religious Americans are the victims of government-backed persecution is now a frequent theme not just for Catholic bishops,...

Friday Miscellany, Year-End 2011

Herewith a few things to think about before you disappear into 2012: Sweeties. On Wednesday, the Virginian-Pilot ran what I thought was an adorable story about a Navy first. Apparently, when ships come in, someone gets the honor of disembarking for the first official welcome-home kiss with their beloved. It's been three months since the dock landing ship left home for Central America, and all of the usual fanfare is waiting to greet its crew: crowds of cheering families, toddlers dressed in sailor suits, and the lucky, excited woman who's been chosen to take part in a time-honored Navy tradition - the first homecoming kiss. The twist: this was the first time that the Chosen Kisser had a same-sex partner. The two young women involved, who are engaged, are just cute as buttons. The story made me smile. Channeling my great-aunts, when I watched the video, I wanted to pat their pretty heads and wish them a long, happy, healthy life together. But apparently I'm an outlier...

Time for Plan B on Plan B?

New research proves progressives were right to be upset by restrictions on emergency contraceptives.

"Modest" restrictions on reproductive freedom don't ever work the way their centrist supporters intend. They always end up hurting women least capable of shouldering the burden. Two new studies underscore this point. First, Amanda Marcotte points out research in the Journal of the American Medical Association showing that the Plan B restrictions supported by the Obama administration—against the advice of its medical professionals—will have effects more far-reaching than keeping the emergency contraceptive out of the hands of 11- and 12-year-olds . The JAMA study shows that this decision not only requires 15- and 16-year-old young women to get a prescription to obtain Plan B; it makes it harder for adult women to obtain Plan B as well. In theory, putting Plan B behind the counter allows access, but also incentivizes consultation with a pharmacist about proper use. But in practice, not making Plan B available over the counter because of regulations put in place without understanding the...

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