E.J. Graff

Frank Kameny Blazes Through the Skies

As some of you know, Frank Kameny was the real thing, one of the great trailblazers in the American gay-rights movement. In the 1950s, he worked as an astronomer for U.S. Army map service—until they discovered he was gay, and fired him. He spent his life fighting back, and by the time he died last October, he had been vindicated. He was in the room when President Barack Obama signed the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." He had a Washington, D.C. street named after him. How do you top that? You name an asteroid after him, that's how: When astronomer Gary Billings read Kameny’s obituary, he consulted with others in the astronomy world. They decided to submit a citation to the Paris-based International Astronomical Union and the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., seeking to designate Minor Planet 40463 as Frankkameny. ... After Billings read Kameny’s obituary, he wrote to Kinne. “Hey, I have a few asteroids I discovered that I haven’t named yet,” he said. “What do you say we name...

Vive la France!

Flickr/gpaumier
Yes, folks, it's another Tigger day. Last week, while I was talking about how straight people changed marriage so that same-sex couples now belong in it, the new French government announced that it will gender-neutralize the entrance requirements for marriage early next year, which will also grant same-sex couples full adoption rights. That would mean that twelve nations marry same-sex pairs, plus some states and provinces scattered hither and yon. In historical order, that would include The Netherlands (2001), Belgium (2003), Spain (2005), Canada (2003, in some provinces; 2005, nationally), South Africa (2006), Norway (2009), Sweden (2009), Portugal (2010), Iceland (2010), Argentina (2010), and Denmark (2012). After France, I'm looking at Australia, where the debate is in full swing; the majority of Australians ( 62 percent ) say they favor marriage equality; the relevant Senate committee has recommended that Parliament pass an equal-marriage law; and a highly active national...

Don't Blink

I've talked in the past about how unconscious bias works—and how it's an aspect of some very healthy parts of our brains and bodies. For very good reasons, we all navigate by intuition, habit, and practiced behaviors every single day. Malcolm Gladwell and Jonah Lehrer have written about these neurological facts beautifully and well. Every parent knows how time-consuming it is to have to articulate and teach habits we don't even realize we navigate by. Walk on the right and pass on the left. The fork goes here and the knife and spoon go there. It's not polite to say that in public. You can't take that until you pay. Turn your head this way to breathe while you're swimming. That truck means that person delivers the mail. Don't talk back to the people in airport security. If our brains had to sort consciously through every action, behavior, and category (the way parents have to explain things all day) before we could act, we'd be paralyzed. If we didn't practice thinking in categories—...

What's the "Chief Purpose" of Marriage?

Flickr/inottawa
Last week, I laid out some of my ideas about what is and is not radical about same-sex marriage, boiling down a few of the chief concepts I've argued in public over the past 15 or so years. Maggie Gallagher, chief nemesis of the marriage-equality movement, referred to one of those three posts at The Corner, National Review 's group blog. In response, I noted that we agree , in small part, that allowing same-sex pairs to marry continues to nudge the meaning of the institution in the direction of separating sex and diapers. Maggie responded, paraphrasing me incorrectly (which, all right, isn't misquoting exactly, but which still puts words in my mouth that I would never say, imply, or think) this way: E. J. says we agree that gay marriage in some nontrivial way disconnects marriage, sex, and diapers. It reduces the connection between marriage and its erstwhile chief public purpose: regulating responsible procreation. No, Maggie, that's not what I said. I said that same-sex couples are...

The DOJ Takes Aim at DOMA

Late on Tuesday, when just about everyone had already left for their Fourth of July celebrations, the Department of Justice announced that it was asking the Supreme Court to take two DOMA lawsuits, promptly. The first was no surprise: You know that the First Circuit already, very cautiously, declared in the Massachusetts cases ( Gill v. OPM ) that DOMA’s Section 3 was unconstitutional. That’s the section that says that, for federal purposes, marriage is between one man and one woman—and therefore that the United States will refuse to recognize any state’s decision to marry same-sex pairs. It’s because of DOMA Section 3 that I’m married in Massachusetts but not in the United States. If that were overruled, the federal government would have to treat me as married, for purposes such as taxes, social security, inheritance, and so on. I wouldn’t have to file as single hither but as married yon. You recall the backstory here, right? Last year, Obama’s Justice Department declared that it...

And the Rockets' Red Glare ...

The Fourth of July makes me absurdly happy. One of my earliest memories is of holding my parents’ hands as we walked to the football stadium at the University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana, for the Fourth of July fireworks. I recall reaching upward for their hands and making them swing me repeatedly, as toddlers do. While we “walked,” they told me that for my third birthday—which comes in July, the very best month in which to be born—I was getting a baby brother or sister. I was beyond thrilled. This was at the tail end of the baby boom, and every other kid in that graduate student housing complex had a little brother or sister; of course I wanted one too. My parents must also have told me that the fireworks were for my birthday, because I love the July fireworks beyond words. Every year, they make mine the biggest and best birthday party in the world (and no, I am not going to tell you which day in July is my birthday). Every year since I was three, it feels as if the entire world is...

Anderson Cooper Is WHAT?

Flickr/dbking
Did anyone even notice, yesterday, that Anderson Cooper came out as gay? One person I know said, "You mean he wasn't out?' She wasn't kidding; she really thought he was as out as Ellen , who was indeed a trailblazer back in the day, and took a lot of hits for it—making it possible for Cooper's news to be just another item in everyone's Twitter feed. As June Thomas wrote , "The news was met with a whole lot of 'duh!' and a little bit of bitterness . It’s not like Cooper’s sexuality was a big secret—just last week I referred to him as ' openly closeted .'" (Andrew Sullivan, whose email to Cooper purportedly spurred the announcement, got this comment as a response.) So here's something even more groundbreaking, which I missed until now. Last month, the UConn men's hockey team posted a video announcement , as a team, saying that they welcome anyone who can play, gay or nay. As ESPN reported : ... the players pledge to support "any teammate, gay or straight, that can help us win games."...

If the Tibetan Can't Go to the Homeland...

As some of you know, there is far more to the Tibetan diaspora than the Dalai Lama. More than 200,000 refugees are living, sometimes stateless, in other countries. Tenzin Dorjee, whom I've mentioned here before, is the director of Students for a Free Tibet and one of the next generation of Tibetan leaders in exile. Last week, he wrote at The Huffington Post about an incredibly moving art project, conceived after activist and artist Tenzing Rigdol's father died in exile longing to see his homeland one more time: Rigdol was deeply affected by his father's untimely death, and devastated by his own helplessness in fulfilling his father's final wish. He could not stop agonizing over the idea that hundreds of other Tibetan exiles were going through the same denial of dignity, passing their final years in foreign lands.... Rigdol ... smuggled 20,000 kilograms of native Tibetan soil into India and laid it on a platform six feet high, creating an installation unprecedented in art history. For...

Maggie Gallagher and I Agree to Agree

So my three-part series last week on whether or not marriage equality is radical (in brief: who cares ?; yes ; and no ) drew the attention of Maggie Gallagher, longtime opponent of same-sex marriage. It was kinda fun to be called "always interesting and honest." I've known for a long time that she and I agree about the symbolism of allowing two people of one sex into marriage—it's why we were paired several times in debate. As she says, quoting me whole : Graff also acknowledges that Blankenhorn’s (and mine!) core concern is not irrational. Gay marriage furthers the disconnection of marriage from procreation; it helps in an ongoing way to sever the link between sex and diapers. I just think the change is a good idea, while she thinks it's a bad one. I have long wondered, though, why she's fighting this particular rearguard action. Our 1.5 percent of the population is hardly a very important symbol. Why doesn't she focus on the real source of this disconnection—same-sex couples are...

What’s So Radical about Same-Sex Marriage?

(Flickr / City of West Hollywood)
Two days ago I wrote about David Blankenhorn, longtime “traditional” marriage proponent who reluctantly announced he will no longer oppose same-sex couples’ freedom to marry. I examined his reasoning, because I believe it’s important to understand the logic of those with whom we disagree. And I took issue with Richard Kim’s response at The Nation , which I took to represent the radical/progressive wing of the LGBT movement, which has long groaned at the focus on marriage equality. I got some heated critiques about that post. So yesterday I dug up my longtime agreement with Blankenhorn that allowing same-sex couples into the institution transforms its meaning, furthering the institution’s philosphical and legal shift toward symbolizing gender equality and the separation of sex and babies. My goal yesterday: explain how progressive this shift actually is. But today I’m going to take issue with myself—hey, I’m just talented that way—and argue that there’s a way that Kim, Lisa Duggan,...

Same-Sex Marriage Is a Radical Feminist Idea

Does anyone remember yesterday, before our minds were blown away by watching (on Twitter) Roberts vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act and Kennedy join with the three billygoats to declare the whole thing unconstitutional? I’m having trouble remembering, too. But my notes here say that yesterday I wrote about David Blankenhorn’s decision to support same-sex marriage, and I critiqued (via something Richard Kim wrote at The Nation ) the more progressive faction of the LGBT movement for their long-ago hopes of rerouting the marriage equality movement into a more general attempt to overhaul marriage and family law. That post yesterday took some hits, in ways that suggested I hadn’t accurately conveyed my beliefs. In particular, Chris Geidner wrote, in a series of tweets that I’ll condense here: Whoa: @ejgraff takes on @RichardKimNYC (& many others) in an almost stridently conservative piece: ampro.me/Qk8iNv. The piece, in several places, was dismissive of what was a far more even...

Not Everyone Can Be a Radical

(Flickr/Dave Schumaker)
While Anne-Marie Slaughter was blowing away the work-life crowd last week, David Blankenhorn, in The New York Times , dropped a similar thought bomb on the LGBT world, coming out in favor —kinda sorta—of legal recognition for same-sex couples. David Blankenhorn, founder of the socially conservative Institute for American Values ? I was too flabbergasted to even feel happy. What’s next? The sun rises in the west, and the mountains go dancing across the ocean? Blankenhorn has been crusading against our marriages for two decades on the same grounds as Maggie Gallagher (whose head must be spinning): Because allowing two people of one sex to marry further decouples marriage from procreation. This gets mocked, but it's worth understanding, even if you disagree. Blankenhorn and Gallagher want everyone to think that sex=marriage=babies. Don’t have sex if you’re not married, or if you do, get married if pregnancy ensues; don’t have babies if you’re not married; and stay married for the babies...

Back To School

Should summer vacation be a carefree time when children run around freely in the streets or fields? Does Anne-Marie Slaughter in fact have it all ? Was The Atlantic just trying to get us all talking ? What did Anne-Marie Slaughter get right ? And what about that byline gender gap ? In her Bloggingheads.tv show, Sarah Posner presses me to articulate some of the social history that got us into this extremely complex work-life conflict. Tune in if you want to know what my actual face and voice are like. Bonus: the most astoundingly loud thunderclap I've ever heard.

The Atlantic Has A Sense of Humor

So The Atlantic is clearly getting the message that while Anne-Marie Slaughter's article about was an extremely important addition to the contemporary work-life discussion, everyone hates, hates, hates the title, the picture, and the general way they framed it. (Here's their own round-up of responses , which pretty fairly represents the responses that I've seen, including my own.) And they have a sense of humor about it, posting this picture today, above the caption, "Asking the question that’s on everybody’s mind." Meanwhile, Karen Kornbluh—who's done absolutely essential research and writing on the work-life issues—and who is now an Ambassador in Obama's administration—tweeted at me the link to her past Atlantic article on what's needed. I hope that Slaughter and Sandberg read this stat, before their high-level pow-wow on how to change the workforce to make it friendly for human beings. She leaves out the need for humane policies for all stages of life, allowing working Americans to...

Who Loves You, Baby?

That Anne-Marie Slaughter article sure kicked up a lot of discussion, didn’t it? I heard about it in advance and knew it would be big, but I had no idea how big. Below, a little roundup of some relevant discussion—and a reason to have hope that your work may not always crush the rest of your life. First, a personal report. Atlantic editor Scott Stossel tweeted in reply to the title of my piece here yesterday, "Why Does The Atlantic Hate Women?" His answer: We don't. He and I had a brief, if intellectually sophisticated (cough, cough) Twitter exchange. I reproduce it below, stripped of some of the twitty formatting, and with some serial tweets merged: Stossel: We don't! RT @theprospect: Why does @theatlantic hate women? http://ampro.me/LIBRcz New @ejgraff post EJG: Then why not run articles that accurately reflect women's lives? Stossel: But you concede in your piece that Slaughter hits agonizingly close to the bone. And she's for policies that you support. EJG: Slaughter's piece is...

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