Monthly Archives: September 2010

Gay Rights Movement: Mattachine Society

This post continues a new series on The Closet Professor about the history of the early gay rights movement. Most if not all of you have heard of the Stonewall Riots, and though most people credit Stonewall with the beginning of gay rights, there were precursors to the movement. This series is based on a paper I once wrote about the gay rights movement but has been updated to some extent. I hope you enjoy it and find it informative.

image Most historians agree that the movement towards gay rights, at least, nominally began with the founding of the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles in 1950 as the first gay rights organization in history. Harry Hay founded the organization and gave it its name after the medieval group of court jesters who satirized the government and royalty by wearing masks to keep themselves anonymous. Mattachine went through two different phases in its development. Early leadership based the leadership of the organization on the cell structure of the Communist Party with a secret hierarchical structure and a very centralized leadership. The seven founding members of the Mattachine Society remained anonymous as the mysterious “fifth order” who ran the organization through their leadership. The organization had three primary goals: to unify homosexuals as a group and with the dominant heterosexual culture, to educate both homosexuals and heterosexuals on the subject of homosexuality, and to enter the realm of political action.[1]

Due to the insistence of the first Mattachine Society that homosexuals adapt to the homophobic society of the Cold War by adopting the social and cultural mores of heterosexuals, the organization began to lose influence and membership. imageBy 1957, the organizations national headquarters moved from its base in Los Angeles to San Francisco where it remained until the national organization disbanded in 1961. With the end of the national organization and its insistence on conservative politics, the local chapters began to become more radical in their quest for gay liberation.[2] The Communist Party structure and tactics of the Mattachine Society ultimately hurt the organization more that it would help it. imageWith the Red Scare during the Cold War, the politics of the movement had a difficult time getting any recognition. Besides its communist association, this early homophile organization was never that large of a political organization. The fear of being publicly discovered as a homosexual was worse than having freedoms during the 1950s, when coming out meant that you were considered mentally ill, a social deviant, often classified as a criminal, and were barred from holding civil service jobs.

In his examination of the radicalization of the gay liberation movement, historian Justin David Suran shifts the focus from the radicalization of local homophile organizations to the gay participation in the antiwar movement. Local homophile organizations were still working for homosexuals to be “normalized” by assimilating into imagethe heterosexual cultures, most by allowing gay men and women to serve discretely in the U.S. Armed Forces. With the ability to be deferred from the draft by being labeled homosexual, many young gay men saw the opportunity to stay out of the Vietnam War. As the war continued into the early seventies, the deferment for homosexuality would have to be proved by a doctor or an arrest report in order to receive the deferment because of the prevalence of heterosexual men posing as homosexuals to stay out of the military.[3]

[1]Martin Meeker, “Behind the Mask of Respectability: Reconsidering the Mattachine Society and Male Homophile Practice, 1950s and 1960s,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 10, no. 1 (2001): 83.

[2]Ibid., 79.

[3]Justin David Suran, “Coming Out Against the War: Antimilitarism and the Politicization of Homosexuality in the Era of Vietnam,” American Quarterly 53, no. 3 (2001): 458-463.

Next: The Anti-War Movement

Gay Rights Movement: Introduction

This post begins a new series on The Closet Professor about the history of the early gay rights movement.  Most if not all of you have heard of the Stonewall Riots, and though most people credit Stonewall with the beginning of gay rights, there were precursors to the movement.  This series is based on a paper I once wrote about the gay rights movement but has been updated to some extent.  I hope you enjoy it and find it informative.
The summer of 1969 showed the best and worst of America. In June, President Nixon announced Vietnamization as a way to get America out of image the Vietnam War, which reminds me a lot of our present policy of Iraqization of the now (supposedly) ended war in Iraq. Man stood on the moon for the first time on July 16 with the Apollo 11 landing. In August, Woodstock demonstrated to the world the epitome of the flower children’s culture and the height of the counter culture movement. While such events were celebrated in American culture, the summer of 1969 was also marked by a series of tragedies. Judy Garland died from an overdose of drugs. The Manson Family murdered actress Sharon Tate, her unborn child, and four others in Bel Air, California, in what has image become known as Helter Skelter. Mary Jo Kopechne died in a drunk driving accident with Ted Kennedy in Chapppaquiddick, Massachusetts. And 248 people perished in Mississippi when Hurricane Camille crashed into the Gulf Coast. The Civil Rights Movement was also going through a change. With the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis in 1968, the end had come to the classic period of the Civil Rights Movement. The movement was becoming more radical and began to splinter off into more groups of people, including women and the gay and lesbian community.
With the Stonewall Riots, the modern gay and lesbian rights movement had its beginnings in Greenwich Village, New York, during the summer of 1969. image The Stonewall Riots marked a change in the direction of the gay liberation movement that had been brewing since the end of World War II with the founding of the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles with chapters in New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Gays and lesbians worked with the Civil Rights Movement, participated in the anti-war movement, and kept their sexuality in the background. But the “Friends of Dorothy” and “Daughters of Bilitis” were determined to no longer stay in the background and have homosexuality criminalized as it had been in the past. On the night of June 27, 1969, the gays and lesbians in the Stonewall Inn fought back after a police raid, and the modern gay liberation movement was born and would continue to grow as gay pride marches marked the subsequent anniversaries of the Stonewall Riots each year in New York during the month of June.
Although most historians of the gay liberation movement place the climax of image the beginning of the modern movement on the Stonewall Riots, some west coast historians give the metropolitan centers of the movement as Los Angeles and San Francisco in the fifties with the founding of the Mattachine Society, the earliest homophile activist organization, and the antiwar movement in San Francisco during the sixties. Martin Meeker of the University of Southern California presented a re-evaluation of the Mattachine Society in his article “Behind the Mask of Respectability: Reconsidering the Mattachine Society and Male Homophile Practice 1950s and 1960s,” and Justin David Suran of the University of California, Berkeley examines the effects of the Vietnam War on the gay liberation movement in “Coming Out Against the War: Antimilitarism and the Politicization of Homosexuality in the Era of Vietnam.”
Next: The Mattacine Society
Announcement:  I have decided that I will try something new with The Closet Professor.  Most college classes either meet on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays or on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Therefore, I have decided that The Closet Professor, which has a very loyal but also relatively small following, will begin posting only on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  These posts take more time to put together than the posts on my other blog, so I have chosen to give you quality not quantity.  I love this blog, and it is the blog I love to do: teach.  I hope that you will continue to read and comment as the posts slow down just a bit.  Occasionally, I will randomly post things for other days as the mood strikes but for now, I plan to follow the new schedule.
Thanks for reading.

The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity is a maxim, an ethical code, or a morality, that essentially states any of the following (see examples below):

  1. One should treat others according to how one would like others to treat one’s self (positive, passive form)
  2. Treat others as you would like to be treated (positive, active form)
  3. One should not treat others in ways one would not like to be treated (prohibitive, passive form)
  4. Do not treat others in ways you would not like to be treated (prohibitive, active form. Also called the Silver Rule)

The Golden Rule has a long history, and a great number of prominent religious figures and philosophers have restated its reciprocal, bilateral nature in various ways (not limited to the above forms).
The Golden Rule is arguably the most essential basis for the modern concept of human rights, in which each individual has a right to just treatment, and a responsibility to ensure justice for others. A key element of the Golden Rule is that a person attempting to live by this rule treats all people with consideration, not just members of his or her in-group. The Golden Rule has its roots in a wide range of world cultures, and is a standard which different cultures use to resolve conflicts.
The Golden Rule, as a concept, has a history that long predates the term “Golden Rule” (or “Golden law,” as it was called from the 1670s). The ethic of reciprocity was present in certain forms in the philosophies of ancient Babylon, Egypt, India, Greece, Judea, and China. The “Golden Rule” however usually refers to the saying of Jesus of Nazareth: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” (Matthew 7:12, see also Luke 6:31) The common English phrasing is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. A similar form appeared in a Catholic catechism around 1567 (certainly in the reprint of 1583).
The ethic of reciprocity has been a part of culture and religious laws from what seems to be the beginning of time. It is present in the first law code: The Code of Hammurabi. Here are some examples of the ethic of reciprocity in various religions, societies, and philosophies:

Ancient Egypt

An early example of the Golden Rule that reflects the Ancient Egyptian concept of Maat appears in the story of The Eloquent Peasant which is dated to the Middle Kingdom (c. 2040–1650 BCE): “Now this is the command: Do to the doer to cause that he do.” An example from a Late Period (c. 1080 – 332 BCE) papyrus: “That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another.”

Ancient Greek philosophy

The Golden Rule in its prohibitive form was a common principle in ancient Greek philosophy. Examples of the general concept include:

  • “What you do not want to happen to you, do not do it yourself either. ” – Sextus the Pythagorean The oldest extant reference to Sextus is by Origin in the third century of the common era.[15]
  • “Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others.” – Isocrates
  • “It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly (agreeing ‘neither to harm nor be harmed’), and it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life.” – Epicurus
  • “One should never do wrong in return, nor mistreat any man, no matter how one has been mistreated by him.” – Plato’s Socrates (Crito, 49c) (c. 469 BC–399 BCE)


Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.

One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter.
—Dhammapada 10. Violence


Zi Gong asked, saying, “Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?” The Master said, “Is not RECIPROCITY such a word?
—Confucius, Analects XV.24 (tr. Chinese Text Project)

Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.
—Confucius, Analects XV.24 (tr. David Hinton)


One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Other behavior is due to selfish desires.
—Brihaspati, Mahabharata (Anusasana Parva, Section CXIII, Verse 8)

For those who set their hearts on me
And worship me with unfailing devotion and faith,
The way of love leads sure and swift to me.
Those who seek the transcendental Reality,
Unmanifested, without name or form,
Beyond the reach of feeling and of thought,
With their senses subdued and mind serene
And striving for the good of all beings,
They too will verily come unto me.
—[Bhagavad-Gita, Chapter XII.]


Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you.
—Muhammad, The Farewell Sermon

Jeffrey Wattles holds that the golden rule appears in the following statements attributed to Muhammad:

“Woe to those . . . who, when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure, but when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due”
—Qur’an (Surah 83, “The Unjust,” vv. 1–4)

The Qur’an commends:

“those who show their affection to such as came to them for refuge and entertain no desire in their hearts for things given to the (latter), but give them preference over themselves”
—Qur’an (Surah 59, “Exile,” vv. 9)

In Jainism, the golden rule is firmly embedded in its entire philosophy and can be seen in its clearest form in the doctrines of Ahimsa and Karma
Following quotation from the Acaranga Sutra sums up the philosophy of Jainism:

Nothing which breathes, which exists, which lives, or which has essence or potential of life, should be destroyed or ruled over, or subjugated, or harmed, or denied of its essence or potential.
In support of this Truth, I ask you a question – “Is sorrow or pain desirable to you ?” If you say “yes it is”, it would be a lie. If you say, “No, It is not” you will be expressing the truth. Just as sorrow or pain is not desirable to you, so it is to all which breathe, exist, live or have any essence of life. To you and all, it is undesirable, and painful, and repugnant.

The concept of the Golden Rule originates most famously in a Torah verse (Hebrew: “ואהבת לרעיך כמוך”):

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
—Leviticus 19:18[45], the “Great Commandment”


The sage has no interest of his own, but takes the interests of the people as his own. He is kind to the kind; he is also kind to the unkind: for Virtue is kind. He is faithful to the faithful; he is also faithful to the unfaithful: for Virtue is faithful.
—Tao Teh Ching, Chapter 49

Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.
—T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien

The Golden Rule is how I live my life. It is an ancient law and religious belief. If all people would understand that this is the central tenement of major morals of the world, we would live in a world of peace, wisdom, and true virtue. I try to live my life as an example of this principle, sometimes I fail, but I work daily in order not to. So treat your fellow human as you would like to be treated. If we all did this, there would be no Manhunt ads stating “No fats, No Fems.” Accept your fellow man, whoever they may be. The central tenement of the Chinese philosophy of Legalism is that all mankind is evil and through strict laws, the government can rid people of that inherent evil. I actually believe the opposite: All of mankind is good, they just need to be given the chance to show that goodness. If one day, the world realizes this concept, there will be no homophobia, there will be no racism, there will be no sexism, there will be no war, there will be no discrimination or hate of any kind.
Over on my blog Cocks, Asses, and More there is a companion post to this one. It is also about the Golden Rule but describes it in a more personal way.
Thanks for reading.

The First Amendment and Book Burning

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)

The above poem was featured on my friend crothdiver’s blog Anything Male, the other day in a post he wrote about the recent controversy surrounding a pastor in Florida who was planning on burning the Qur’an. The whole subject has had my riled up for days and has had me thinking of American’s First Amendment rights, censorship rights, and the ignorance of book burning. So I thought I would address these three ideas from my own perspective.

First of all, who was Martin Niemöller? German theologian and war hero as a submarine commander in World War I, he became a minister in 1924. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, he was originally a supporter of the Nazi party, but later he protested their interference in church affairs and helped combat discrimination against Christians of Jewish background. As founder of the anti-Nazi Confessing Church, he worked to oppose Adolf Hitler. Arrested in 1937, he was interned until 1945. After the war he helped rebuild the Evangelical Church. Increasingly disillusioned with prospects for demilitarization, he became a controversial pacifist; for his efforts to extend friendship ties to Soviet-bloc countries, he received the Lenin Peace Prize (1967) and West Germany’s Grand Cross of Merit (1971).

The First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


I agree with the President on this issue. Mr. Jones may have the right to speak out against Islam and may technically have the right to burn books. However, by burning the Qur’an, Mr. Jones has incited riots and hatred toward Americans around the world, when we are currently at war with religious extremists, he is attempting to burn their word of God. The Qur’an is literally the word of Allah, as spoken through his messenger, the Archangel Gabriel, and memorized and recited by the prophet Muhammad. Quite honestly, I can see 100 percent why this would upset even the most peaceful Muslims in the world. This act also puts our soldiers overseas at an even greater risk. In Afghanistan, we are dealing with people who need only the slightest provocation to seek retribution. The act of burning the Qur’an is more than just the slightest provocation. The Taliban used the natural disaster of the floods in Pakistan to attack innocent people, they have no morals. These are not true believers, if they were, they would honor Allah, not desecrate his name. Why fuel the fires of average Muslims with the burning of their holy book. By even the threat, Mr. Jones has aided Al Qaeda and the Taliban in their methods of recruitment. He has put the national security of America and the security of American citizens and soldiers abroad at risk. It has been a long standing tradition and backed by laws in America that using the excuse of freedom of speech is not legal if you are inciting danger. Just as you are not able to yell fire in a crowded building when there is not a fire, you also cannot incite world wide riots for your own publicity seeking exploits as Mr. Jones has done.

Book Burning

image First, let me say that I am a total and complete bibliophile. I love and cherish books. Some of my most prized possessions are books. I find the written and printed word to be sacred. To burn a book is one of the most destructive and horrific events that can one can do to an inanimate object.

Book burning, biblioclasm or libricide is the practice of destroying, often ceremoniously, books or other written material and media. In modern times, other forms of media, such as phonograph records, video tapes, and CDs have also been ceremoniously burned, torched, or shredded. The practice, usually carried out in public, is generally motivated by moral, religious, or political objections to the material.

Some particular cases of book burning are long and traumatically remembered – because the books destroyed were irreplaceable and their loss constituted a severe damage to cultural heritage, and/or because this instance of book burning has become emblematic of a harsh and oppressive regime. Such were the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, the obliteration of the Library of Baghdad, the burning of books and burying of scholars under China’s Qin Dynasty, the destruction of Mayan codices by Spanish conquistadors and priests, and some seem more for publicity for a cause such as Nazi book burnings, the burning of Beatles records after a remark by John Lennon concerning Jesus Christ, and the destruction of the Sarajevo National Library.

image There have been many religious leaders in history who have burned books that they found offensive. In 1497, followers of the Italian priest Girolamo Savonarola collected and publicly burned pornography, lewd pictures, pagan books, gaming tables, cosmetics, copies of Boccaccio’s Decameron, and all the works of Ovid which could be found in Florence. Savonarola’s dictatorship in Florence also led to the persecution of homosexuals, as did nearly every other existence of extreme dictatorships and book burnings. That is why I find the poem at the beginning of this post to be so poignant.

In my opinion, whether it is an off-the-wall extremist minister in Florida, a crazy monk in medieval Florence, or a ruthless anti-Semitic leader in 1930s and 1940s Germany, it is a very dangerous first step to the destruction of all that America holds sacred. Book burning is symbolic and pure censorship and only leads to extremism.

Gay Anthems: Perfect for Coming Out

First up is the gay classic, the theme for gay clubs around the world:  “I Will Survive.”  I am posting two versions of this song.  Primarily, because my all-time favorite band in Cake, who did a wonderful version of “I Will Survive.”  In fact it is played at the end of the gay movie Mambo Italiano.  After the Cake version, is the classic Gloria Gaynor version.


Here is another one of my favorite singers, and a request by our friend fan of casey, John Barrowman.  In the first video he sings “I Am What I Am” from La Cage Aux Folles and in the second as the lovely Captain Jack from Torchwood – anything really does go, when the background music to the clip is John singing the Cole Porter classic, “Anything Goes.”


And of course, if I am going to do a post that is a soundtrack for coming out, how can I leave this song out?


image John Barrowman‘s memoir and autobiography, Anything Goes, was published in 2008 by Michael O’Mara Books. His sister, English professor and journalist Carole Barrowman, helped write the book using her brother’s dictations. In 2009, Barrowman published I Am What I Am, his second memoir detailing his recent television work and musings on fame. In the book, Barrowman reveals that when he was just beginning his acting career, management sent a gay producer to talk to him. The producer told Barrowman that he should try to pretend to be heterosexual in order to be successful. Barrowman was offended by the incident, and it made him more aware of the importance of his role as a gay public figure: “One of my explicit missions as an entertainer is to work to create a world where no one will ever make a statement like this producer did to me to anyone who’s gay.” To this end, Barrowman is active in his community supporting the issues that matter to him most. He worked with Stonewall, a gay rights organization in the UK, on the “Education for All” campaign against homophobia in the schools. In April 2008, the group placed posters on 600 billboards that read, “Some people are gay. Get over it!” Barrowman contributed his support to the project asking people to join him and “Help exterminate homophobia. Be bold. Be brave. Be a buddy, not a bully.” In the same month, Barrowman spoke at the Oxford Union about his career, the entertainment industry, and gay rights issues. The event was filmed for the BBC program The Making Of Me, in an episode exploring the science of homosexuality.

image Cole Porter wrote hit Broadway musicals and many 20th-century pop standards, including the songs “You’re The Top,” “Night and Day” and “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love).” Porter was one of the greats of an era that included Iriving Berlin and Richard Rodgers. But Porter was no poor New York immigrant who lived the rags-to-riches dream — he was the son of prosperous midwesterners, a star pupil at Yale and a privileged expatriate who lived the gay life in Europe while writing hit Broadway musicals. His first popular success came in 1929, with Fifty Million Frenchman. Between the 1930s and 1950s he became one of Broadway’s biggest stars, writing music and lyrics for Anything Goes (1934), Kiss Me Kate (1948) and Can Can (1953), among others. His most famous songs include “I Get A Kick Out of You,” “Too Darn Hot,” “Begin the Beguine,” and “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.” Since his death his songs have become part of the canon of American pop music, and stories of his private life — his long “marriage of convenience” to wealthy divorcée Linda Lee Thomas and his well-known homosexual leanings — have contributed to a continued interest in his career.

If you have any other suggestions for great coming out themes or great gay anthems, let me know.



This post really doesn’t have anything to do with GLBT culture, but I saw this picture and it reminded me about the whole Mayan Calendar thing.  There are a lot of people out there who do not understand the belief of the Mayans that the world would end in 2012, so I thought I would explain it from my perspective.

In order to correctly orient oneself to the cycles of time, one must be able to calculate these cycles with great accuracy. To this end, the Olmecs, and later they Mayans, developed a number of calendrical systems. At the center was the tzolkin, or sacred calendar, which consisted of 260 days; this calendar worked on two cycles, a cycle of 13 numbered days and a cycle of 20 named days. These two cycles would repeat themselves every 260 days. In addition, they had the tun, or ceremonial calendar, which was 360 days long plus five concluding, unlucky days. Another calendar was the katun, which was a cycle of 20 tuns. They also used a Venus calendar (584 days), a half-year lunar calendar, and cycles of the sky gods.

In combination, these calendars made the Mesoamericans the most accurate reckoners of time before the modern period reaching an accuracy of being one day off every 6000 years (which is far more accurate than our calendar).  All the days of these calendars in their incredible complexity served as astronomical almanacs that rigidly controlled behavior and religious ceremony.  The Olmec and Mayan Long Count calendar runs for 5125 solar years at which time these societies predicted the world could end in fire. The current cycle began in 3114 bce and is scheduled to end on December 21, 2012.

This is one of my favorite topics in history.  I just find it fascinating.  To explain this a little better than just giving a description of the calendars, they Toltecs and Mayans believed that when the cycles ended that the time was ripe for the destruction of the world.  It did not necessarily mean that the world would end, but just that it could.

So don’t vote for Sarah Palin, Hell won’t freeze over, and the world will continue, LOL.

Why Homosexuality Should Be Banned

The other day, I came across a blog, that I don’t think I had ever read before.  The name of the blog is “Just a Jeep Guy.”  I look at a lot of blogs, but mostly if I like what I see, I just add it to my Google Reader. The problem is, I have way too many blogs that I subscribe to the RSS feed.  So on most of them, I check out the first few posts.  When I came across “Just a Jeep Guy,” I became totally addicted.  I saw this video posted and thought it was too good not to share with you guys.  Some of you may have seen it before.

The Music of Josh Duffy

One of my music guilty pleasures and something that always gets my blood flowing, my body rocking, and puts me in a great mood is the music of Josh Duffy.  Club music and electronica is usually something that I have to be in the mood for, but Josh’s music is just fun to listen to.
image Singer-Songwriter JOSH DUFFY is a Pop/Dance artist from New Orleans. His debut solo album ARTIFICIAL (released 2007) garnered him national exposure on Satellite radio.
Voted as the 1 GLBT artist for three consecutive months on, Josh is one of the few indie artists to have had multiple Top-20 hits on Sirius OutQ’s countdown – pretty impressive for a freshman effort!
Josh’s appearances at several major Pride festivals across the country have helped establish a devoted fan base that is limitless to age and sexual orientation. Josh has been very fortunate to receive rave reviews in news publications, with several calling him an artist to watch in 2010.
So what’s next for Josh? The long awaited music video for “I Will Love You” is set to premiere on Logo’s New Now Next. He is recording material for his next album planned for a Winter 2010 release. Also, after his lead feature in the Louisiana Lottery “Wild 10s” commercial, he picked up featured roles in the films National Lampoon’s Dirty Movie and the Dylan Dog comic Dead Of Night!
Read more:

Josh Duffy knew his shiny, happy brand of pop wasn’t going to be an easy sell in Houston. Rock, country and hip-hop rule the local scene.
image “Everywhere you go, there is a certain demand for a particular style of music,” Duffy, 23, says. “Yes, Houston has less of a pop-dance scene, but … that’s actually helped get my name out there.”
He also decided to push his debut disc, Artificial, where it would best be appreciated. Duffy took to performing late-night sets at clubs and at outdoor pride festivals throughout Texas and his home state of Louisiana. (He moved to Houston in 2004 after majoring in music performance at Louisiana State University.)
There was also aggressive promotion on satellite radio, which resulted in three top 20 hits on the Sirius charts. Duffy says he “screamed and jumped” when buoyant single Call Back topped the OutQ Hot 20 list over the summer.
“That song really means a lot to me. That was a big, big thing,” he says. “Now, if I could get my hands on a Grammy.”
image A lofty goal, but Duffy isn’t being cocky. In person, he’s sincere and enthusiastic — qualities that also make Artificial a winning collection. It’s frothy but not forgettable, grounded by solid arrangements and easy, relatable lyrics.
The disc was produced by Alan Lett, a local whiz known for his work with duo Jason & deMarco (who collaborate with Duffy on the uplifting tune What If).
“My initial goals were to just record all these ideas and tunes that were in my head,” Duffy says.
“I really just wanted everyone to know that I had something to say lyrically — and something to sing.”
The cheeky title track is one example. It makes a pointed, rock-fueled statement on the endless obsession with plastic surgery.
“Pearl-white smile, collagen lips,” Duffy sings. “Bleach-blonde, clear-blue contact lens.”
image He also sparkles during slower moments, particularly the gentle Ever Be and Pretend, which ride an airy, Euro-flavored groove.
Duffy is about to begin shooting a video for Truth, the next single from Artificial. He’s angling for — and has a good shot at — national play on Logo Channel’s “Click List” countdown.
And he’s already working with Lett on a new record, due for release next year under Duffy’s own J America Music banner. He promises an even “younger and fresher” pop sound, likely inspired by a spate of recent influences: Unwritten singer Natasha Bedingfield, piano pixie Regina Spektor and electro-pop singer Darren Hayes (ex-Savage Garden vocalist).
It’s a promising pop path that Duffy traces back to his teenage days as a wannabe superstar.
“When I was 15, my friend Jessica and I would get together and sing, write and record our vocals to a karaoke machine,” he says. “We were so proud of our songs that we would play them for our friends and family.
“I think at that moment, not only did I know that music was my passion, I knew that it was something I could make a career out of.”

Coming Out: At Work


I have been trying to find the time to write this post for a few weeks now, but since today is Labor Day, I thought it would be the perfect time to post this.

image This is not a story about coming out where I currently work, but about a place that I worked at a few years ago.  Coming out at my present place of employment is not really an option.  This, however, is a more pleasant experience.  I think this situation was so surprising because of my work environment.  My bosses were lying, cheating, scumbags who should be in jail for falsification of data.  They forced us to work 80-90 hours a week, but only paid us straight salary for 40 hours.  Supposedly, we were supposed to get comp time for our over hours, but they refused to give it.  In fact, for the most part, they refused to give us our vacation time period.  I have had miserable jobs, but this was by far the worse.  I won’t say anything more about the job except that it was at a lab and we tested some pretty gross and toxic stuff.

However, when I first went to work there, all of the people who worked their were religious right conservatives.  They all voted the straight Republican Party ticket. One guy had even been sent home from work for wearing a John Kerry for President t-shirt. In light of this, I kept my sexuality secret.  One other person who worked their knew and that is only because I had known her long before I went to work at this place.  She had actually helped me get the job, because she knew I was in desperate need at the time.

image There were two high school kids who also worked there, doing some of the grunt work, not that most everything there wasn’t grunt work, but some of the work was more so than most.  At some point, without my knowledge, they had begun to speculate whether or not I was gay.  Finally, one day one of the walked up to me and asked me pointblank, “Are you gay?”  To which I replied, “Yes, I am.”  Then he went back to his work.  From that point on, I knew it was pretty common knowledge.  I didn’t make a big deal about it, but I didn’t actively try to hide it either.  As it turned out, everyone was fine with it.  They liked me for who I was and didn’t care one way or another whether or not I was gay.  A few months later, I found out that the owner of the lab had called the kid into his office after he found out about him asking if I was gay and nearly fired him.  He basically told the kid that it was none of their fucking business if I was gay or not, and that him asking me was very rude and that he should fire him over it.  I always brushed it off as a joke and a learning lesson for the kid.  The two guys never took it as a joke and learned a lesson from it.  The longer I worked there, the more positive the experience of me being gay was.  Honestly, no one cared one way or the other.

imageIn fact, for me personally, it turned out to be a positive.   I got a promotion because they saw that I was capable and competent and gave me a supervisory position that they had only allowed women to have before.  I personally liked it better than working with the samples that were tested.  Also, the collection of the samples, which was really nasty business, they never once asked me to do, but all of the other men would have to go at least occasionally to collect samples.  Now, if you are reading this you are probably thinking that they were discriminating against me.  They gave me a woman’s job, but at other labs the same position was often held by men.  However, they people who ran this lab did not see paperwork as manly work.  Basically, I was sensitive enough to do this type of work.  For me, this was a plus because I was doing work I was better qualified for.  Secondly, they felt that I was too sensitive to go out into the field and collect samples.  This again did not bother me at all, since I didn’t want to go out into the field and sludge through sewage pits and go out into swamps, etc.

They may have felt that I wasn’t manly enough for some tasks, but they provided a safe and friendly environment for my sexuality.  It may not have been a safe and friendly environment physically, OSHA could have a field day with this place, but they made me feel accepted.  And though I may not like the owners personally, I am thankful for an enlightened workplace, especially from a bunch of conservative, right-wing nuts.

The History of Southern Decadence

image Since it was founded in 1781, New Orleans has marched to the beat of its own drum.  For two centuries, those in control of the Louisiana state government have tried in vain to impose their prejudices on a city that is French, Spanish, Creole, African, Catholic, pagan and very gay (in both senses of the word).  If nothing else, New Orleans knows how to throw a party, from the world-famous Mardi Gras to other, more specialized celebrations.
One of these celebrations began quite inauspiciously in August of 1972, by a group of friends living in a ramshackle cottage house at 2110 Barracks Street in the Treme section of New Orleans, just outside of the French Quarter. image It was in desperate need of repair, and the rent was $100 per month.  At any given time the residents numbered anywhere from six to ten, and it was still sometimes difficult to come up with the rent.
The large bathroom became a natural gathering place in the house.  It had no shower, only a clawfoot tub, but it also had a sofa.  With from six to ten residents, and one bathtub, everyone became close friends.  While one soaked in the tub, another would recline on the couch and read A Streetcar Named Desire aloud. The Tennessee Williams play inspired the residents to fondly name the house “Belle Reve” in honor of Blanche DuBois’ Mississippi plantation.
image And so it was, on a sultry August afternoon in 1972, that this band of friends decided to plan an amusement.  According to author James T. Spears, writing in Rebels, Rubyfruit and Rhinestones: Queering Space in the Stonewall South, this “motley crew of outcasts” began Southern Decadence as a going away party for a friend named Michael Evers, and to shut up a new “Belle Reve” tenant (from New York) who kept complaining about the New Orleans heat.  As a riff on the “Belle Reve” theme, the group named the event a “Southern Decadence Party: Come As Your Favorite Southern Decadent,” requiring all participants to dress in costume as their favorite “decadent Southern” character.    According to Spears, “The party began late that Sunday afternoon, with the expectation that the next day (Labor Day) would allow for recovery. Forty or fifty people drank, smoked, and carried on near the big fig tree … even though Maureen (the New Yorker) still complained about the heat.”
The following year the group decided to throw another Southern Decadence Party.  image They met at Matassa’s bar in the French Quarter to show off their costumes, then they walked back to “Belle Reve.”  This first “parade” included only about 15 people impersonating such “decadent Southern” icons as Belle Watling, Mary Ann Mobley, Tallulah Bankhead, Helen Keller, and New Orleans’ own Ruthie the Duck Lady.  This impromptu parade through the French Quarter and along Esplanade Avenue laid the groundwork for future events, and  the group decided to repeat the party again the following year.
In 1974, the Southern Decadence visionaries named Frederick Wright as the first Grand Marshal, hoping to provide at least a modicum of order.  For the next six years, the format of the celebration changed little.  The founding group continued to appoint each year’s Grand Marshal by consensus.  Some were gay, some were not. But all were members of the founding group.
image By 1981, most of the original organizers had moved on with their lives.  Many felt that the event had become so big that it was no longer the intimate party they had started nine years earlier.  Of the original group, only Grand Marshal V Robert King was actively participating.  He, along with some of his friends that hung out at the Golden Lantern bar, thought it was worth continuing and they took over the festivities.  It was at this point that Southern Decadence became primarily a gay event.  Other protocol changes made in 1981 included moving the starting point of the annual parade from Matassa’s to the Golden Lantern bar, and allowing Grand Marshals to personally name their own successors.  Both of these traditions continue today. And in 1987, the Grand Marshal began to make a proclamation of the official theme, color and song.
image Because the 2005 celebration was cancelled due to Hurricane Katrina, Southern Decadence 2005 Grand Marshals Lisa Beaumann and Regina Adams reigned for both 2005 and 2006, making the very first time in Southern Decadence history that grand marshals
ruled for two years.  And keeping with the unpredictability of Decadence, the Grand Marshals from 2008 reigned once again in 2009.
The rest, as they say, is history.  What began as a little costume party is now a world-famous gay celebration.  In the 39th year, it has mushroomed from a small gathering of friends to a Labor Day weekend tradition, attracting over 100,000 participants, predominantly gay and lesbian, and generating almost $100 million in tourist revenue.  This annual economic impact ranks it among the city’s top five most significant tourist events.  The mayor has even welcomed the event with an Official Proclamation.
Southern Decadence Grand Marshals XXXIII Lisa Beaumann and Regina AdamsDescribed by one reporter as “a happening of haberdashery fit for an LSD Alice in Wonderland,” Southern Decadence 2010 will be as outrageous as ever and live up to its reputation as New Orleans’ largest gay street fair.  It all begins in earnest six weeks before Labor Day.  However, the real party starts on the Wednesday before Labor Day, and the events are non-stop. It picks up steam daily as it nears Sunday’s big street parade, which rivals New Orleans’ gay Mardi Gras in scope, with the party lasting well into the day on Monday.
image If you’ve never been to Southern Decadence, and sadly I haven’t, here are some tips to know before you go. What follows are some thoughts gathered from locals that will help you get the most out of your experience.
Pass by the NO/AIDS Task Force’s information tables located on the St. Ann Street sidewalk in front of Hit Parade Gift and Clothing, at the corner of Bourbon and St. Ann Streets.  You’ll find lots of community information and details of the weekend’s events.  The literature racks inside of Hit Parade are another great source for all of the Southern Decadence information that you will need.
During Southern Decadence, some streets of the French Quarter do not allow parking – look for, and heed, no parking signs. Plan on doing a lot of walking. Comfortable shoes are a must. Always walk where it is well lit and there are a lot of people. New Orleans is a city of neighborhoods. imageLike all large cities, the Big Easy does have some trouble spots. Always walk with others, never alone if possible. Don’t wander about the city. In New Orleans the neighborhoods can change, literally, when you cross a street. Always carry a map. If you’re drinking, don’t go stumbling about the French Quarter. Locals know that the people who encounter trouble are usually the ones who have been drinking.
And a bit of urban common sense is in order. When you walk the streets, don’t bring your wallet. Take the cash you need and possibly a credit card, along with some sort of identification, and put them in a pocket that no one can slip their hand into. Don’t wear expensive jewelry. Basically, don’t take anything with you that you would have a hard time replacing if it were lost.
If your car is impounded, it will cost you over $100 plus whatever else the city decides to tack on. Your car can be retrieved from the City Auto Pound, located in a dangerous area of the city, 400 N. Claiborne Ave., (504.565.7236). This will spoil a good time. Cabs are not difficult to get during Southern Decadence. If you are going to take a cab, try UNITED CABS: 504.522.9771 or 504.524.9606. Write these numbers down and put them in your wallet. This cab company can be trusted. United Cabs has a sound reputation with the New Orleans gay community.
imagePeople are allowed to drink on the streets in New Orleans —  that large 24-oz Southern Decadence cup that you’ll see people walking with and drinking from likely contains several shots of alcohol!  However, if your drink isn’t already in a plastic cup, please ask for one before leaving your favorite watering hole. Glass and cans are not allowed on the streets for safety reasons.
Most bars in New Orleans are open twenty-four hours a day. Pace yourself. Most important, it’s easy to get caught up in all the excitement and forget to eat. If you want to make it through the weekend, solid food is a necessity. Of course, New Orleans is world famous for its food and indulging is part of a complete New Orleans experience.
Clean bathrooms can be difficult to find during Southern Decadence. Most businesses close their facilities to everyone but paying customers. If your hotel is far from the action, take care of the more important business before you hit the streets. If you need to, plan on buying lunch or dinner and using the restaurant’s bathroom before you pay the check!
image The French Quarter is an historic neighborhood. Please respect it. No matter how “bad” you have to go, do not urinate in the streets or on door steps or through iron gates. This is a good way to end up in central lock-up, and people who are arrested sit in jail until the courts re-open after Labor Day. It will cost you about $200. And it’s not polite. Listen to your body. Get in line before you really have to go. By the time you’re crossing your legs, you might be at the front of the line.
During Southern Decadence weekend, you’re guaranteed to get an eyeful of great costumes and fabulous bodies. Officially, public nudity is not allowed and there are obscenity laws on the books. Better judgment should be the rule of the day.
Southern Decadence is a BIG non-stop party. People drink and are having a good time. It’s easy to forget that there is a real world out there. Free condoms are available from the NO/AIDS Task Force station located near the Bourbon Pub / Parade. Don’t allow the party to overwhelm your better judgment. We want you to come again. Have fun and play safe!