E.J. Graff

My "Friend" Is Travelling with Me

Following up on Hillary Clinton's announcement last week that foreign aid would be tied in part to nations' LGBT rights records, the Christian Science Monitor took a look at the state of those rights across Africa, reporting that almost all 54 countries criminalize homosexuality. (Notable holdouts are South Africa and Rwanda, which have had their own brushes with legal hatred, even if they're not necessarily welcoming on the ground.) Homos, check out the map before you travel— "or should I say, before you ask for just one double bed for you and your "friend."

Fearless in Uganda

Ever wondered what it would feel like to be hunted and hated for your sexuality? Read Mac McClelland's indispensable report in Mother Jones on being out and gay in Uganda. It's a brilliant portrait, simultaneously intimate, terrifying, and inspirational. Mac makes it impossible to see these men and women as foreign "others" facing the unimaginable; she makes it easy, rather, to relate to each one. For instance, reading this made me feel like I'd hung out with these women or their American incarnations: She wants me to hide her identity, not because she's afraid of arrest or vigilantism but because we spend much of our time talking about how she has two girlfriends and one of them doesn't know that. We retire to the little cement patio in the back while, inside, a meeting commences among a pack of lesbians who look about as much like a pack of lesbians as a pack of lesbians can, polo shirts and baseball caps and shoulders squared. In fact, I think I've dated one of these gals. Even...

Occupy Our Ovaries

Here's a prediction: The Plan B backlash is going to reverberate for quite a while. The ladies are furious that, once again, the administration has backed the bus right over their ovaries, overruling scientific research in the name of patronizing paternalism. If boys and men can pick up condoms as easily as a bag of Skittles, why can't girls and women also bypass a potentially conscience-ridden pharmacist and buy an easy-to-use pill to prevent pregnancy after—after — having sex? Come on, people, it's already happened; if she's too young to have sex, surely she's also too young to have a baby and raise a child. As for wanting parental oversight, well, if the 11-year-old is potentially pregnant by her father or stepfather or uncle, wouldn't it be terrific for her to be able to skip that little nicety? There have been some brilliantly scathing pieces written about the decision. Katha Pollitt announces that the Department of Health and Human Services has decided to treat all women like...

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.” Frank said that during the years he withheld disclosing his sexual orientation, both as a congressman and a member of the Massachusetts State Legislature, he promised himself that he would never hold back on his strong political support for LGBT rights in an effort to conceal his status as a gay person. “I remember my thought process was, well I can’t be honest about being gay. I wouldn’t win. But it would be...

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. Michelle Goldberg explains the science and writes that the decision was "nakedly political." Linda Hirshman compared the putatively progressive call to link foreign aid to a country's efforts on LGBT rights, on one day, with the decision to overrule "the unanimous recommendation of the experts at the Food and Drug Administration to let young teenage girls buy the morning-after pill Plan B, like the condoms boys use, directly off drugstore and supermarket shelves without a prescription": "It is a violation of human rights when life-saving care is withheld from people because they...

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 , The first hearing, at 2:30 p.m. PST, will regard the appeal of Judge Ware’s decision to release the Prop 8 recordings taken during the initial trial. The second hearing, at 3:30 p.m. PST, regards the appeal of Judge Ware’s ruling to deny the proponents’ motion to dismiss Judge Walker’s decision because he did not disclose that he is in a long-term relationship with a man (shorter: Prop 8 backers said Judge Walker is gay so he is biased so his decision should be dismissed, Judge Ware denied their motion, Prop 8 backers appealed to the 9th Circuit). This is not a hearing about our favorite issue of standing . That will come in yet more hearings...

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: Students urinated on him, pretended to rape him during class and when they found him alone kicked him so many times in the stomach that he required surgery. Although they knew of the abuse, school officials said at one point that Nabozny should expect it if he’s gay. Nabozny attempted suicide several times, dropped out of school and ultimately ran away.... a jury found the school...

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? If you watch the video, the principal has all the right reactions, saying he wished the teacher had used the song as "a teachable moment," building on their anti-bullying policy and support for diversity in sexual orientation, explaining what "gay" used to mean, and reinforcing the idea that "gay" is not a bad word. What do you think: Will this incident join Fox News' "war on Christmas" seasonal parade, in which the homos are joining in with the secular elites to ruin the holiday?

Astrophysics Goes Down the Rabbit Hole

Over at The New York Times , Dennis Overbye reports : Astronomers are reporting that they have taken the measure of the biggest, baddest black holes yet found in the universe, abyssal yawns 10 times the size of our solar system into which billions of Suns have vanished like a guilty thought. Such holes, they say, might be the gravitational cornerstones of galaxies and clues to the fates of violent quasars, the almost supernaturally powerful explosions in the hearts of young galaxies that dominated the early years of the universe. My understanding of astrophysics can fit in a neutrino. But black holes are just so weird and cool, like something out of those science-fantasy books I read voraciously in sixth grade. Really: a space where gravity is so strong that light can't escape? A hole in the universe that could swallow our solar system without a burp? It's cooler than anything J.J. Abrams could invent. Meanwhile, other scientists have confirmed that some neutrinos can travel faster...

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. For instance, while adults can choose to live in parts of the country that are more or less welcoming, children have no choice in the microcultures we call "family" and "school." Some of those are welcoming; some, not so much. Belatedly, I came across this YouTube video , posted in August, by a boy who said he had been bullied since first grade ("fag! homo!"), had been cutting himself, was terrified to enter...

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. If I remember correctly (and if I'm wrong, please let me know!), the first was folksinger Janis Ian's marriage to Patricia Snyder, whom I assumed was the same person Ian had, in her Advocate columns, been entertainingly referring to as "Mr. Lesbian." After that came Tony Kushner and Mark Harris's wedding. After that I stopped keeping such close track, but, and somewhere along the line, got married myself. (Thank you for asking, but no, we did not send a notice to the Times.) This past...

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. Here's the idea: Adultery is a private, consensual behavior. While it may violate a person's marriage, that's none of our business as citizens. Sexual harassment , on the other hand, is a public matter precisely because a) it is not consensual, and b) it is employment discrimination against women (or sometimes men), that makes it difficult for a person to earn a living. Violating another person's body and discriminating against them in the workplace is, in this view, completely relevant to governing, because it is an abuse of power that indicates someone may well abuse other power, and doesn't deserve to wield it. (Cf: Senator Bob Packwood : after...

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. It's a well-established fact that women are far less likely than men to negotiate for more money. Women Don't Ask was the title of an excellent book exploring the topic. Yes, that's partly because women are more likely to be socialized that we'll be punished for being aggressive in a way that men aren't. But we can still find ways to do it that are effective and natural. There are some great books on the subject. Go to your library or bookstore and find the one that works for you. This isn't the only reason for the yawning gender wage gap . There's sexual harassment (Herman Cain!), occupational segregation, bias against mothers, and other contributors. But this one matters. Teach yourself,...

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.

The Barney Frank Greatest Hits Reel

You knew it was coming. Some fabulous news organization would assign someone to come up with the Barney Frank YouTube highlights. Here it is at HuffPo. And here HuffPo's Ryan Grim fondly recalls being chewed out by the honorable member of Congress from Massachusetts, adding a few others' such memories: Politico's Glenn Thrush describes walking the same route to an answer. "Interviewing Barney Frank a 4-step process: 1. Ask question 2. Get told question is stupid/phony/immoral 3. Say 'yeah, yeah' 4. Get quote," he tweeted. Meanwhile, I've been having a debate with myself. I know Barney Frank's picture will soon be in the dictionary. But will it illustrate the word "irascible" or the word "curmudgeon"? Discuss.

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