Monthly Archives: October 2010

LOL: Clock Tease

Monday Night Football

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I will readily admit it, my biggest fault is that I love gossip.  I especially love gossip about someone that I don’t like.  I know that it is wrong, but I think that is why I love history so much.  History in reality is just the gossip that survived the test of time.  Two of the best pieces of gossip I have heard in the last week have been about athletes.  One is the Duke Fuck List, which I might do a post on for Wednesday (it sort of depends on my mood).  However, the gossip I want to discuss to day is about the NFL and particularly, Brett Farve—the slimy, drug, alcohol, and sex addicted, son-of-a-bitch who won’t seem to fucking retire.  Yeah, I don’t particularly like him, in fact I much prefer the football pics above.  Those of you who know much about me personally may be a little surprised at this, but all the people I know who have had encounters with this man have nothing good to say about him.
Now it seems that he was harassing a female sidelines reporter for the Jets named Jenn Sterger.  For those who don’t know (or forget, I for one didn’t really know or care before this) who Jenn Sterger is: she is formerly buxom Florida State Cowgirl who gained internet notoriety for being a buxom Florida State fan who parlayed that popularity into a full-time career. She did Maxim shoots. Playboy shoots. She wrote a “Confessions of a Cowgirl” column for Sports Illustrated. Then, in 2008, Ms. Sterger joined the Jets as an in-house sideline reporter. It was during that fateful time that her and Mr. Favre’s paths began to cross. Sort of.

Last winter, close to the Super Bowl, Ms. Sterger and Deadspin were discussing a possible collaboration on the proposed “Deadspin Swimsuit Project,” which turned into a conversation about the whole “athlete dong photo” phenomenon. She claimed that she’s been on the receiving end of several of those types of cell phone interactions by drunk men, some of whom were professional athletes. They later had a phone conversation about who some of the more well-known dong-shot senders were. favre01 One person, she claimed, who was very into cell phone-donging her was none other than Brett Favre. Now, at one point in his career, this news wouldn’t be too surprising. Favre’s time in Green Bay is littered with stories about his boozing and carousing. But gray-haired Favre? Oh yeah, she said. Sterger said that Favre first began to call her early in the season and leave strange, friendly messages on her voicemail. She played me one of these voicemails over the phone. It was Brett turning on the Mississippi simpleton charm on his way to practice giving Jenn a friendly good ol’ boy hello to a pretty lady. It was odd, but nothing incriminating. Then the phone calls from Brett started to turn weird.
Sterger claimed she spurned Favre’s advances because he was married, but also because she was working for the Jets at the time she didn’t think it was the best idea to start a torrid affair with the team’s highest profile player. Plus, if she went forward with how aggressive he was and how skeeved out she was to some of her superiors, she suspected she might lose her job. The interactions were flirty and strange but she didn’t think there wasn’t anything that made her too uncomfortable. But then, one night, Sterger received a picture on her phone which was so shocking that she just tossed it across the room. It was his dick. favre02 Brett Favre’s dick. And it happened multiple times. In fact, Sterger claims that, in one of the photos Favre allegedly sent her, he’s masturbating — while wearing a pair of Crocs. In another photo, Favre is holding his penis while wearing the wristwatch he wore during his first teary-eyed retirement press conference.
There is more to the story as covered by Deadspin, but I think you get the just of the details.  If you would like to see the Deadspin video which has the voicemails and texts, click here (penis photos at 2:08 mark but I also put them above).  If you don’t want to watch the evidence, here is a breakdown of the reasons I believe it is Farve, besides the fact that he is a slimy sonofabitch. Yes, there’s a possibility that the person communicating with Sterger was not actually Brett Favre, but rather someone trying very hard to appear to be him. But let’s look at the evidence: For an individual to put forth the effort to 1.) acquire a cellphone with a Mississippi area code where Farve lives; 2.) take some voice lessons because not only does it sound like Farve, but the person has an authentic South Mississippi accent (a true southern knows his variations in southern accents); and 3.) implicate Jets handlers and perhaps other people, all within a very short period of time and for no discernible reason other than to mess with Sterger, well, that’s some very aggressive role-playing. Sterger believed it to be him. Others believed it to be him. We’ve seen far too many supposedly family-oriented and upstanding professional athletes whose off-field behavior contradicts their well-manicured public persona. If Sterger is right, Brett Favre really is like a kid out there.  He also has a rather smallish dick (technically averaged size, but considering all the stories I had heard about him flashing it around Mississippi while he was in college, you’d think it would be big enough to brag about).
If you don’t know who the hell I have been talking about in this post, here is Brett Farve:

Moments of Zen: Reading



BOOK  (1)

BOOK  (2)



October Is GLBT History Month: Week 2

David Huebner
Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa
b. May 7, 1960
“I can imagine no higher honor and privilege than to serve my country.”
image David Huebner is the United States ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa. He is the third openly gay ambassador in United States history.
A native of Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, Huebner graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University, where he studied at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He earned a J.D. from Yale Law School. While at Yale, he served as a special assistant to the Hon. Koji Kakizawa, the former Japanese foreign minister.
Licensed to practice in three United States jurisdictions as well as England and Wales, Huebner was chairman of Coudert Brothers, an international law firm. He was later hired as a partner in the Shanghai office of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, where he led the firm’s Chinese operations and its International Disputes practice. He has taught courses on intellectual property and international arbitration at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law.
President Obama nominated Huebner as an ambassador on October 8, 2009. With his partner by his side, Huebner was sworn in by Vice President Biden, who told the newly confirmed Huebner, “You’ve lived the American dream. I can think of nobody better to represent our nation to the people of New Zealand and Samoa than you.”
Huebner has a long record of public service. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger selected him to chair California’s Law Review Commission. Huebner served as president of the Los Angeles Quality & Productivity Commission. He was a founding board member and chief counsel for GLAAD. 
When not on diplomatic assignment, Huebner and his partner of more than 20 years, psychiatrist Duane McWaine, live in Los Angeles.
Kevin Jennings
b. May 8, 1963
“We know that students learn best in a school where they feel truly safe. I am here to make that happen for more kids.”
image A monumental leader and crusader, Kevin Jennings has dedicated his career to ensuring safe schools for all students. In 1990, he founded the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the nation’s first organization combating discrimination against GLBT students. Jennings currently serves as the assistant deputy secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools at the U.S. Department of Education.
The youngest of five children, Jennings experienced a childhood deeply rooted in conservative ideology. Poor and in a continual state of transition, his family moved so often that Jennings attended 11 schools in four states. While he displayed impressive academic aptitude, he suffered daily from mental and physical abuse by classmates. “School was a place I both loved and hated,” recalls Jennings. “I loved it because I loved learning. I hated it because I was targeted at a pretty young age for bullying and harassment.”
In 1985, Jennings earned a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude from Harvard University, becoming the first member of his family to graduate from college. Later, he earned master’s degrees from both Columbia University and New York University.
Following his graduation from Harvard, Jennings pursued a career in education. In 1988, while he was a history teacher at a Massachusetts high school, Jennings spearheaded the country’s first Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), a coalition of students fighting against harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Two years later, Jennings expanded the movement to encompass parents, teachers and community members, creating GLSEN.  Beginning as a grassroots volunteers group, GLSEN has developed into a national organization with more than 40 chapters and over 4,500 schools nationwide.
As co-chair of the Education Committee of the Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, Jennings challenged the Massachusetts State Board of Education to adopt new policies protecting GLBT students. In 1993, his efforts led to the country’s first state law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in public schools.
Named by Newsweek one of the top 100 people likely to make a difference in the 21st century, Jennings has authored six books and received a Lambda Literary Award for “Telling Tales Out of School.” He co-wrote and produced the documentary “Out of the Past,” which won the 1998 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary.
“The process of change is like a relay race,” says Jennings. “My job is to ensure that we’re further ahead in the race and, like a good relay team member, ready to pass that baton to the next person with a lead toward the end goal of a safe school for every child.”
Mara Keisling
Transgender Activist     
b. September 29, 1959
“What’s important is that transgender people are respected as members of the community—that they are safe from discrimination and violence and disrespect.”
image Mara Keisling is a leading transgender activist. She is the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, the largest transgender rights organization.
One of seven siblings, Keisling grew up as Mark in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. His father was the governor’s chief of staff. Mark was a reticent boy. “During junior high, I was shy to the point where I feared giving a book report in front of the class,” Keisling says.
Keisling became more extroverted after joining the school’s Model U.N. Club, where he found his calling in the political arena. He graduated from Penn State, and pursued post-graduate work in American Government at Harvard University.
In the 1990’s, after Keisling told friends and family he’d felt like a woman since childhood, he began his transition to Mara. Keisling soon turned to activism after seeing the discrimination transgender people face. Keisling co-chaired the Pennsylvania Gender Rights Coalition and served on the steering committee of the Statewide Pennsylvania Rights Coalition.
In 2003, recognizing the need for a cohesive voice in Washington for transgender people, Mara Keisling founded the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), a social justice organization dedicated to advancing equality through advocacy, collaboration and empowerment.
Keisling and NCTE were among the leaders of UnitedENDA, a coalition of more than 400 GLBT organizations lobbying for a trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Keisling has over 25 years of professional experience in social marketing and opinion research. In 2005, Harvard University named Keisling Outstanding LGBT Person of the Year.
Kiyoshi Kuromiya
Author/AIDS Activist
b. May 9, 1943
d. May 10, 2000
“I really believe that activism is therapeutic.”
image Kiyoshi Kuromiya was a Gay Pioneer and an early HIV/AIDS expert.
Kuromiya was born in a Japanese internment camp in rural Wyoming during World War II. He became active in the civil rights and antiwar movements as a student at the University of Pennsylvania.
Kuromiya participated with Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings and other Gay Pioneers in the first organized gay and lesbian civil rights demonstrations. These “Annual Reminders,” held at Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell each Fourth of July from 1965 to 1969, laid the groundwork for the Stonewall Riots and the GLBT civil rights movement.
In 1970, Kuromiya served as an openly gay delegate to the Black Panthers convention, where the organization endorsed the GLBT liberation struggle. He assisted Buckminster Fuller in writing “Critical Path” (1981), an influential book about technology and its potential to improve the world.
Diagnosed with AIDS in 1989, Kuromiya became a self-taught expert on the disease, operating under the mantra “information is power.” He founded the Critical Path Project, which provided resources to people living with HIV and AIDS, including a newsletter, a library and a 24-hour phone line. Around the same time, Kuromiya helped found ACT UP Philadelphia, a pioneering organization that helped bring AIDS to the national consciousness. He worked with many AIDS organizations, including We the People Living with AIDS/HIV.
In addition to his service-oriented work and street-level advocacy, Kuromiya was involved in impact litigation, including a successful challenge to the Communications Decency Act, which criminalized the circulation of “patently offensive” sexual material. He was the lead plaintiff in a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of patients seeking permission to use medical marijuana.
Kuromiya was a nationally ranked Scrabble player. He died at 57 from AIDS-related complications.
Sharon J. Lubinski
U.S. Marshal
b. July 11, 1952
“Hopefully my coming out will dispel any myths that you can’t be gay and in uniform.”
image In 2010, Sharon J. Lubinski became the nation’s first openly gay United States Marshal. She is the first female to hold this post in Minnesota.
A native of Green Bay, Wisconsin, Lubinski received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1974 and a master’s degree from Hamline University in 1992.  She has served 32 years in law enforcement, including 12 years of command experience as precinct commander of downtown Minneapolis and deputy chief of patrol. From 2006 to 2010, Lubinski managed the Minneapolis Police Department’s daily operations as assistant chief of police. 
In 2009, Senator Amy Klobuchar recommended Lubinski to the post of United States Marshal for the District of Minnesota stating, “Her mix of experience managing a large, urban police department and working in a rural sheriff’s office makes her uniquely qualified to serve in this role.” United States Marshals are responsible for running the enforcement arm of the federal courts. They protect court officers, apprehend fugitives, transport federal prisoners and protect federal witnesses.   
After nominating Lubinski, President Obama stated, “She has dedicated her career to the noble cause of protecting her fellow Americans. She has displayed exceptional courage in the pursuit of justice, and I am honored to nominate her today to continue her selfless work as a U.S. Marshal for the District of Minnesota.”
Lubinski is a member of the community faculty at the Metropolitan State University School of Criminal Justice and is a doctoral candidate in Public Administration at Hamline University.
Jane Lynch
b. July 14, 1960
“As for being out in Hollywood—I never thought about it. I never hid who I was.”
image Jane Lynch is an award-winning theater, film and television actress. In 2010, she shared a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Comedy Ensemble for the hit television series “Glee.” She also received a Golden Globe nomination and won an Emmy for her role on the show.
Lynch grew up in Dolton, Illinois, outside Chicago. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Theater from Illinois State University and a Master of Fine Arts in Theater from Cornell.
Lynch began her career on stage with the Second City comedy troupe, followed by a stint playing Carol Brady in the touring company of “The Real Live Brady Bunch.” In 1998, Lynch wrote and starred in “Oh Sister, My Sister.” Six years later, Lynch’s play helped launch the Lesbians in Theater program at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.
After playing bit parts and acting in commercials, Lynch caught the attention of film director Christopher Guest, who spotted her in a Frosted Flakes commercial and cast her in “Best in Show.” Lynch’s turn as a lesbian dog handler in the movie was her breakout role. She has appeared in more than 50 films, including “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Julie and Julia,” “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” “Talladega Nights” and “The Fugitive.”
On television, Lynch guest starred on dozens of series, including “Judging Amy,” “The West Wing,” “Arrested Development” and “Boston Legal.” She played recurring characters on “The L Word,” “Party Down,” “Two and a Half Men” and “Criminal Minds.”
As Sue Sylvester, the “Glee” cheerleading coach described as “pure evil,” Lynch is receiving rave reviews. Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Lynch alone makes ‘Glee’ worth watching.”
In 2005, Jane Lynch was named one of the “10 Amazing Gay Women in Showbiz” by the Professional Organization of Women in Entertainment Reaching Up (POWER UP). In 2010, Outfest, the Los Angeles gay and lesbian film festival, honored Lynch with the 14th annual Achievement Award for her contributions to LGBT film and media.
In 2010, Lynch married her long-term partner, Dr. Lara Embry, in a Massachusetts ceremony.
Patsy Lynch
b. July 21, 1953
“If we don’t know our history we’re going to become forgotten.”
image Patsy Lynch is a trailblazing photographer whose work documenting several decades of the GLBT civil rights struggle has provided visibility to the movement and inspired activists worldwide.
A native of Washington, D.C., Lynch received her Bachelor of Arts from Elon University, where she started the college newspaper. She earned two master’s degrees from Gallaudet University.
Working for both The Advocate and the UPI news agency in the 1970’s and 1980’s, Lynch was the first openly gay journalist with a White House credential. She was a founding member of the Washington, D.C., chapter of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.
Through her lens, Lynch chronicled numerous milestones in the GLBT civil rights struggle. She was one of four official photographers at the 1979 Lesbian and Gay March on Washington. She captured lasting images of the AIDS activism movement, including a 1987 protest at the White House and a 1988 die-in organized by ACT UP in Washington.
Lynch served as the photographer for the “Community Pioneers” exhibit of Washington residents who contributed to the struggle for equality. “We need to let people know that we are here, and we’re not going away,” Lynch said.
In 1990, the National Gay Press Association named Lynch Photographer of the Year. In 2006, she received a Distinguished Service Award from the Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance. The following year, she received the Community Pioneer award from the Rainbow History Project. Recently, Lynch has worked on assignment for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), where she documented Hurricane Katrina and the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
A resident of the Washington area, Lynch is also a skilled sports photographer, landscape photographer and portrait artist.

Hyacinth: Lover of the God Apollo

Hyacinth-Death-Jean Broc2 Hyacinth, the young son of the King of Sparta, beautiful like the very gods of Mount Olympus, was beloved of Apollo, shooter of arrows. The god often came down to the shores of the Eurotas River, leaving his shrine in Delphi unattended, to spend time with his young friend and delight in boyish pleasures. Tired of his music and his long bow, Apollo found relief in rustic pastimes. He would take Hyacinth hunting through the woods and glades on the mountain sides, or they would practice gymnastics, a skill which Hyacinth then taught to his friends, and for which later the Spartans would become renowned. The simple life awoke Apollo’s appetites, and made the curly-haired boy seem more charming than ever. Apollo gave him all his love, forgetting he was a mere mortal.
6a00e54f0a235a88340133f4d6193c970b-800wi Once, in the heat of a summer afternoon, the lovers stripped naked, sleeked themselves with olive oil, and tried their hand at discus throw, each vying to outdo the other. The bronze discus flew higher and higher. Finally, the powerful god gathered all his strength, and spun and wheeled and let fly the shiny disk which rose swift as a bird, cutting the clouds in two. Then, glittering like a star, it began to tumble down.
Hyacinth ran to meet it. He was hurrying to take his turn, to prove to Apollo that he, though young, was no less able than the god at this sport. The discus landed, but having fallen from such a great height it bounced and violently struck Hyacinth in the head. He let out a groan and crumpled to the ground. The blood spurted thickly from his wound, coloring crimson the black hair of the handsome youth.
antiquitys Horrified, Apollo raced over. He bent over his friend, raised him up, rested the boy’s head on his knees, trying desperately to staunch the blood flowing from the wound. But it was all in vain. Hyacinth grew paler and paler. His eyes, always so clear, lost their gleam and his head rolled to one side, just like a flower of the field wilting under the pitiless rays of the noonday sun. Heartbroken, Apollo cried out: “Death has taken you in his claws, beloved friend! Woe, for by my own hand you have died. And yet its crime was meeting yours at play. Was that a crime? Or was my love to blame – the guilt that follows love that loves too much? Oh, if only I could pay for my deed by joining you in your journey to the cheerless realms of the dead. Oh, why am I cursed to live forever? Why can’t I follow you?”
PITS-082310-005Apollo held his dying friend close to his breast, and his tears fell in a stream onto the boy’s bloody hair. Hyacinth died, and his soul flew to the kingdom of Hades. The god bent close to the dead boy’s ear, and softly whispered: “In my heart you will live forever, beautiful Hyacinth. May your memory live always among men as well.” And lo, at a word from Apollo, a fragrant red flower rose from Hyacinth’s blood. We call it hyacinth, and on its petals you can still read the letters “Ay,” the sigh of pain that rose from Apollo’s breast.
And the memory of Hyacinth lived on among the gentlemen of Sparta, who gave honors to their son, and celebrated him for three days in mid-summer at the Hyakinthaea festival. The first day they would mourn his death, and the last two they would celebrate his resurrection.

image The Death of Hyacinth by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo in 1752 – Oil on Canvas. It is in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Madrid.

National Coming Out Day

National Coming Out Day is an international event which gives gay, lesbian and bisexual people the opportunity to “come out” to others about their sexuality. image It also provides a means of increasing the visibility of gay people. In the United States, the day is facilitated by the Human Rights Campaign’s National Coming Out Project (NCOP).

The first National Coming Out Day was held on October 11, 1988. This date was chosen for the annual event in commemoration of the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. It also marks the anniversary of the first visit of the AIDS Memorial Quilt to Washington, D. C.

Many communities and college campuses sponsor activities such as dances, film festivals, workshops, literature booths, and rallies on National Coming Out Day. recently posted a list of the “50 Brave Blog Posts About Coming Out.”  My friend Bobby’s (My Big Fat Greek Gay Blog) coming out story made the list.  Here is an excerpt from the introduction of the post:

One of the most important, impactful moments of a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, asexual, pansexual or queer individual’s life is finally breaking free from the socially-constructed closet and accepting that particular facet. The decision to come out comes fraught with a maelstrom of psychological, social, filial, emotional, mental and physical stresses – and due to the GLBTQ community’s status as marginalize minorities, they also have to fear discrimination, intolerance and (saddest of all) violence. Not to mention criminalization, occasionally punishable by death, in some nations. Because of this, it takes an impressive amount of personal integrity and strength to slough off society’s heteronormative expectations and be true to one’s own self. These incredibly brave blog posts represent a broad spectrum – though most of them sport positive and hopeful tones – of people coming forth to proudly accept their sexuality and asking loved ones for their support.

50 Brave Blog Posts About Coming Out

Click on the link above to visit the site and find all the links to these 50 blog posts.

As some of you know, I have talked some about my coming out experiences on this blog.  If you want to read these posts, please click Coming Out.  The last two posts in this category are not my personal stories, but the rest of them are.  Here are links to the individual posts:

National Coming Out Day is merely a day of encouragement.  I would not suggest to anyone that they come out before they are ready.  Always know that there is support out there and come out when you are ready.

Sometimes that decision is not made by us, but for us.  I hope that none of you face the problems of being outed.  I hope it comes naturally when you are most comfortable with it.  Best of luck to all of you, whether you are fully in the closet, partially in the closet, or completely out of the closet.  Coming out is never a one time thing and it is a continuing process.

Moment of Zen: Simple Beauty


October Is GLBT History Month

How It Works
GLBT History Month celebrates the achievements of 31 gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender Icons.
Beginning October 1, 2010, a new GLBT Icon is featured each day with a video, bio, bibliography, downloadable images and other resources on the Equality Forum Website.  Each Thursday of this month, I will feature the 7 GLBT Icons featured that week.

Visit the Equality Forum Web site.

Celebrate the 5th Anniversary: 155 Icons!
1. Eric Alva
image Eric Alva, 37, a native of San Antonio, was sworn into the U.S. Marine Corps when he was 19 years old after attending community college. He graduated from Southwest High School in 1989.
Alva served in the Marine Corps for 13 years, and was a member of the 3rd Battalion of the 7th Marines. At the age of 22, he was deployed to Somalia for Operation Restore Hope. Over the years he was stationed from California to Japan. He was deployed to the Middle East in January of 2003.
On March, 21, 2003, the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom; Marine Staff Sgt. Alva was traveling in Iraq in a convoy to Basra with his battalion – where he was in charge of 11 Marines – when he stepped on a landmine, breaking his right arm and damaging his leg so badly that it needed to be amputated. Alva was awarded a Purple Heart and received a medical discharge from the military.
Alva, the first American wounded in the war in Iraq, has been on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and various TV news shows and has appeared in People magazine and major newspapers.
Alva, is an avid scuba diver and likes to ski as well. Alva graduated from college in May of 2008, with a Bachelor of Social Work degree. Currently, he is studying for a master’s degree in social work in San Antonio, where he lives with his partner, Darrell, to continue, he says, to work for social justice.
2. George Washington Carver
image Carver was born a slave in Diamond Grove, Missouri. Nevertheless, he managed to acquire some elementary education and went on to study at the Iowa State Agricultural College from which he graduated in 1892. He taught at Iowa until 1896, when he returned to the South to become director of the department of agricultural research at the Tuskegee Institute, Alabama. There he stayed despite lucrative offers to work for such magnates as Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.
His main achievement was to introduce new crops into the agricultural system of the South, in particular arguing for large-scale plantings of peanuts and sweet potatoes. He saw that such new crops were vital if only to replenish the soil, which had become impoverished by the regular growth of cotton and tobacco.
But he did much more than introduce new crops for he tried to show that they could be used to develop many new products. He showed that peanuts contained several different kinds of oil. So successful was he in this that by the 1930s the South was producing 60 million dollars worth of oil a year. Peanut butter was another of his innovations. In all he is reported to have developed over 300 new products from peanuts and over 100 from sweet potatoes.
Little information has survived about Carver’s romantic life, but he has come to be an icon of the gay community. Such a fact is testified to by his inclusion in the encyclopedia glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture and books such as Out in All Directions: The Almanac of Gay and Lesbian America. Carver never married or expressed interest in dating women, and rumors circulated about his sexuality at Tuskegee Institute while he was an employee. In particular, his enjoyment of giving “therapeutic” peanut oil massages to and engaging in horseplay with handsome men was seen as unusual. Late in his career, Carver established a life and research partnership with another male scientist—Austin W. Curtis, Jr.. The two men kept details of their lives discreet, and as such historians know little about how these men understood their relationship. Nonetheless, the fact that Carver willed his assets to this man (consisting of royalties from an authorized biography by Rackham Holt) testifies to the importance of each other in their lives. After the death of his research partner in 1943, Curtis was fired from Tuskegee Institute. He left Alabama and resettled in Detroit, where he used the knowledge of peanuts he had gained from Carver to manufacture and sell peanut-based personal care products.
On his grave was written, He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.
3. George Eastman
image Born in Waterville, New York, Eastman moved with his family to Rochester. His father died when George was 7. Eastman dropped out of school at age 14, and took a job with an insurance company to support his mother and two sisters, one of whom was severely disabled.
Eastman began working in banking, but it was his passion for photography that made him a household name. His ingenuity and marketing savvy transformed photography from a pricey hobby to an affordable, popular pastime.
In the business world, Eastman was a leader. His company was among the first to offer its employees retirement and insurance benefits, as well as profit sharing.
Eastman is nearly as famous for his philanthropy. In addition to contributing millions to the University of Rochester, M.I.T. and the Tuskegee Institute, he established and supported the Eastman School of Music, one of the nation’s preeminent music institutions.
Despite his achievements in the world of photography, few pictures of Eastman exist. He was a shy, unassuming man who steered clear of publicity.
In 1946, Eastman’s home became the George Eastman International Museum, housing the world’s leading collections of photography and film.
In the final years of his life, Eastman suffered from severe pain caused by a degenerative disorder of the spine. At age 77, depressed over his inability to lead an active life, Eastman killed himself with a gunshot to the heart. His suicide note read, “To my friends. My work is done, why wait?”
While George Eastman’s sexuality is still often debated, his contributions to the world of photography, his philanthropy and his generous spirit have all undoubtedly earned him a special place in history.
While some maintain Eastman was simply a life-long bachelor and others argue that his epic private correspondence, amounting to over 700 letters, reveal his same-sex feelings, Eastman, regardless, remains a remarkable character worthy of study.
4. Sharon Farmer
image Sharon Farmer was a White House photographer during both terms of the Clinton presidency.  She was the first woman and African American to direct the office charged with chronicling nearly every second – from the mundane to the monumental – of the nation’s highest office.
Born in Washington, D.C. in 1951, Farmer was interested in photography from a young age.  She discovered the power of the medium looking at pictures in her family’s encyclopedia.   Farmer attended Ohio State University, intending to study bassoon.  She quickly switched her major to photography and honed her skills on the staff of the yearbook.
The Associated Press hired Farmer for a photojournalism internship during her senior year.  After graduation, she returned to her hometown of Washington, D.C., where she was a freelancer and photographer for album covers.
In 1993, she was hired as a White House photographer, a fast-paced job in which she used approximately 3,000 rolls of film per year and traveled the globe on a moment’s notice.  In 1999, she was promoted to Director of White House Photography.
During her stint at the White House, Farmer captured many prominent events, including the handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the swearing in of Nelson Mandela as the president of South Africa.  
Farmer also chronicled many campaigns, from local to national races.  In 2004, she served as the head photographer for Senator John Kerry’s presidential campaign.
In addition to being featured in individual shows and group exhibitions nationwide, Farmer has lectured for National Geographic and the Smithsonian Institution and taught at American University.  She resides in Washington, D.C. 
5. Leslie Feinberg
image Leslie Feinberg is a leading transgender activist, speaker and writer. Feinberg is a national leader in the Workers World Party and a managing editor of Workers World newspaper.
Feinberg was born in Kansas City, Missouri, into a working-class family. In the 1960’s, she came of age in the gay bars of Buffalo, New York.
Now a surgically female-to-male transgender, Feinberg is an outspoken opponent of traditional Western concepts about how a “real man” or “real woman” should look and act. Feinberg supports the use of gender-neutral pronouns such as “ze” instead of he or she, and “hir” instead of him or her.
Feinberg is well-known for forging a strong bond between the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, and other oppressed minorities. “Everyone who is under the gun of reaction and economic violence is a potential ally,” Feinberg says.
“Stone Butch Blues” (1993), Feinberg’s widely acclaimed first book, is a semi-autobiographical novel about a lesbian questioning her gender identity. It received an American Literary Association Award for Gay and Lesbian Literature and the Lambda Small Press Literary Award.
“Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Ru Paul” (1996), Feinberg’s first nonfiction work, examines the structures of societies that welcome or are threatened by gender variance. The book was selected as one of The Publishing Triangle’s “100 Best Lesbian and Gay Nonfiction Books.”
“Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue” (1998), another nonfiction work, documents Feinberg’s near-death experience after being denied medical treatment for a heart problem. The doctor, after discovering his patient was transgender, turned hir away.
“Drag King Dreams” (2006), Feinberg’s second novel, picks up where “Stone Butch Blues” left off, chronicling the issues of transgender life today.
In 2008, after Feinberg became disabled from a degenerative disease, the author began telling hir stories through photography. Feinberg was named one of the “15 Most Influential” in the battle for gay and lesbian rights by Curve Magazine. The celebrated author has delivered speeches at colleges, universities, conferences and Pride festivals across the country.
Feinberg is married to poet and activist Minnie Bruce Pratt. 
6. Tom Ford
image Tom Ford is a prominent creative entrepreneur whose accomplishments—first in the fashion world and later in the film industry—have earned him worldwide acclaim.
Born in Austin, Texas, Ford grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico. At 17, he moved to New York to study art history at New York University, but was smitten with fashion and design. He graduated with a degree in architecture from what is now Parsons The New School for Design.
His first foray into fashion was in Paris, where he interned for Chloe. He worked for American designer Cathy Hardwick next, before moving on to Perry Ellis.
Ford moved to Milan in 1990, where he served as Gucci’s head women’s designer. Two years later, he was named design director. In 1994, he became creative director of Gucci’s Italian label. Ford is credited with turning around the historic fashion house in his short time at the company. In 2000, he was granted new responsibilities at sister label Yves Saint Laurent, where he served as the creative director for YSL Rive Gauche and YSL Beaute.
In 2005, Ford left Gucci and formed his own fashion brand, TOM FORD. Two years later, his flagship store opened in New York. By the summer of 2010, TOM FORD had opened 20 more stores worldwide. In addition to his remarkable financial success, Ford has won many prestigious awards, including five from the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Ford’s lifetime ambition, however, was to make a film. He says, “I guess I’m just one of these people who when I decide I’m going to do something, I just do it.” In 2009, he wrote, produced, financed and directed “A Single Man,” an adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 novel. The movie centers on a gay man’s mourning over his partner’s tragic death. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival and was nominated for numerous awards, including a Best Actor Academy Award nomination for Colin Firth.
Ford lives with his partner of more than 20 years, journalist Richard Buckley, in their London, Santa Fe and Los Angeles homes.
7. E. Lynn Harris
image E. Lynn Harris is one of the nation’s most popular authors. Considered a literary pioneer, Harris introduced millions of readers to characters rarely seen in literature—black gay men who are affluent, complex and sometimes troubled. With 10 consecutive New York Times best sellers, he remains one of the most successful African-American novelists.
Harris was born Everette Lynn Jeter in Flint, Michigan, to unmarried parents. At age 3, Everette moved with his mother to Little Rock, Arkansas. Everette’s surname was changed to Harris after his mother married Ben Harris. When Everette was 13, his mother divorced his stepfather, who had abused the boy for years.
Harris attended the University of Arkansas. In 1977, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. Harris was the school’s first black cheerleader.
After graduation, Harris worked as a sales executive for IBM, eventually settling in Atlanta. He remained in the closet for many years, which led to depression, heavy drinking and a suicide attempt in 1990. Writing helped him find the will to live.
His first novel, “Invisible Life” (1991), was self-published and quickly rose to the top of the Blackboard Bestseller List of African-American titles. Harris sold the books door-to-door from the trunk of his car to local beauty salons and bookstores. After the success of his first book, Doubleday signed Harris and became his long-term publishing company.
” ‘Invisible Life’ had to be the first book out of me,” Harris said. “It helped me deal with my own sexuality.”
Harris wrote more than a dozen novels and paved the way for the next generation of African-American novelists. His books are accessible to the masses and appeal to a diverse audience. Harris always made time for his fans, whom he said changed his life. He would answer up to 200 e-mails from readers every day.
Harris received numerous awards. His honors include three Blackboard Novel of the Year Awards, the James Baldwin Award for Literacy Excellence and three nominations for NAACP Image Awards.
Harris died from heart disease. “People loved him,” said Tina McElroy Ansa, a fellow author and friend. “A spirit of joy followed him through his life.”

And as a bonus, here is a lovely add for Tom Ford from his Spring/Summer collection in 2008:
Sorry about the naked women, but the cock at the top of the picture is quite lovely.

Sorry, but I haven’t had time to do a Friday post this week, so I decided to use my CAM post from yesterday.  Please forgive me guys.

Equal Rights Amendment


Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

In all likelihood, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is dead and will never be ratified to become the 28th Amendment.  However, I think there should be a Federal Amendment that would extend the ERA to include barring discrimination because of sexual orientation or identity.


Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. All laws infringing on the rights of individuals because of sex, sexual identity, or sexual orientation shall become null and void immediately upon passage of this amendment.

I think it should also be proposed that a possible Section 4 might be added that would define sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

Section 4.  Definitions of sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Section 4.1. Sex shall be defined as a man or a woman. 

Section 4.2. Gender identity shall be defined as the gender, male or female, with which a person identifies with not their biological secondary sexual characteristics.  The gender identities one may identify as include male, female, both, somewhere in between (“third gender”), or neither.

Section 4.3. Sexual orientation describes a pattern of emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to men, women, both genders, neither gender, or another gender. Sexual orientation is enduring and also refers to a person’s sense of “personal and social identity based on those attractions, behaviors expressing them, and membership in a community of others who share them.” This definition would also recognize that one’s sexual orientation is not a choice.

Though some might believe this fourth section is too strict or defined.  However, whenever the debate over gay marriage is brought up, the ideas of polygamy, bigamy, and bestiality are always raised in the debate by crackpots.  I think these definitions would clear up any debate about the meaning of the terms.  It would also not allow for a great deal of interpretation of the meaning of the amendment by the Supreme Court or the state ratifying legislatures.

If this amendment were to be proposed and ratified, the debates over GLBT rights would effectively be ended.  Gay marriage would be forced to be recognized.  Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would no longer be able to exist.  School bullying would be against federal laws.  Teachers could not be fired because of their sexual orientation.  We would have definitive protection once and for all.  I realize this is a dream, but I think it is a great idea.  What do you think?  Should we all push to have this amendment proposed, passed by Congress, and ratified by the states?

Here is the history behind the original Equal Rights Amendment:

Suffragist Parade

The History Behind the Equal Rights Amendment


by Roberta W. Francis,
Chair, ERA Task Force
National Council of Women’s Organizations


As supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment between 1972 and 1982 lobbied, marched, rallied, petitioned, picketed, went on hunger strikes, and committed acts of civil disobedience, it is probable that many of them were not aware of their place in the long historical continuum of women’s struggle for constitutional equality in the United States. From the very beginning, the inequality of men and women under the Constitution has been an issue for advocacy.

image In 1776, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband John, “In the new code of laws, remember the ladies and do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands.”1 John Adams replied, “I cannot but laugh. Depend upon it, we know better than to repeal our masculine systems.”2

The new Constitution’s promised rights were fully enjoyed only by certain white males. Women were treated according to social tradition and English common law and were denied most legal rights. In general they could not vote, own property, keep their own wages, or even have custody of their children.

19th-Century Women’s Rights Struggles

The first visible public demand for equality came in 1848, at the first Woman’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY. image Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, who had met as abolitionists working against slavery, convened a two-day meeting of 300 women and men to call for justice for women in a society where they were systematically barred from the rights and privileges of citizens. A Declaration of Sentiments and eleven other resolutions were adopted with ease, but the proposal for woman suffrage was passed only after impassioned speeches by Stanton and former slave Frederick Douglass, who called the vote the right by which all others could be secured. However, the country was far from ready to take the issue of women’s rights seriously, and the call for justice was the object of much ridicule.

image After the Civil War, Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Sojourner Truth fought in vain to have women included in new constitutional amendments giving rights to former slaves. The 14th Amendment defined citizens as “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” and guaranteed equal protection of the laws – but in referring to the electorate, it introduced the word “male” into the Constitution for the first time. The 15th Amendment declared that “the right of citizens . . . to vote shall not be denied or abridged . . . on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” – but women of all races were still denied the ballot.

To Susan B. Anthony, the rejection of women’s claim to the vote was unacceptable. In 1872, she went to the polls in Rochester, NY, and cast a ballot in the presidential election, citing her citizenship under the 14th Amendment. She was arrested, tried, convicted, and fined $100, which she refused to pay. In 1875, the Supreme Court in Minor v. Happersett said that while women may be citizens, all citizens were not necessarily voters, and states were not required to allow women to vote.

Until the end of their long lives, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony campaigned for a constitutional amendment affirming that women had the right to vote, but they died in the first decade of the 20th century without ever casting a legal ballot.

Victory for Woman Suffrage

image The new century saw a profound change in the lives of women, as they joined the workforce in increasing numbers, led the movement for progressive social reform, and finally generated enough mass power to win the vote. Carrie Chapman Catt and the National American Woman Suffrage Association were a mainstream lobbying force of millions at every level of government. Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party were a small, radical group that not only lobbied but conducted marches, political boycotts, picketing of the White House, and civil disobedience. As a result, they were attacked, arrested, imprisoned, and force-fed. But the country’s conscience was stirred, and support for woman suffrage grew.

The 19th Amendment affirming women’s right to vote steamrolled out of Congress in 1919, getting more than half the ratifications it needed in the first year. Then it ran into stiff opposition from states’-rights advocates, the liquor lobby, business interests against higher wages for women, and a number of women themselves, who believed claims that the amendment would threaten the family and require more of them than they felt their sex was capable of.

image As the amendment approached the necessary ratification by three-quarters of the states, the threat of rescission surfaced. Finally the battle narrowed down to a six-week seesaw struggle in Tennessee. The fate of the 19th Amendment was decided by a single vote, that of 24-year-old legislator Harry Burn, who switched from “no” to “yes” in response to a letter from his mother saying, “Hurrah, and vote for suffrage!” The Secretary of State in Washington, DC issued the 19th Amendment’s proclamation immediately, before breakfast on August 26, 1920, in order to head off any final obstructionism.3

Thus mainstream and militant suffragists together finally won the first, and still the only, specific written guarantee of women’s equal rights in the Constitution – the 19th Amendment, which declared, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” It had been 72 years from Seneca Falls to victory, and ironically, the most controversial resolution had been written into law first. But many laws and practices in the workplace and in society still perpetuated men’s status as privileged and women’s status as second-class citizens.

The Equal Rights Amendment

 imageFreedom from legal sex discrimination, Alice Paul believed, required an Equal Rights Amendment that affirmed the equal application of the Constitution to all citizens. In 1923, in Seneca Falls for the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the 1848 Woman’s Rights Convention, she introduced the “Lucretia Mott Amendment,” which read: “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.” The amendment was introduced in every session of Congress until it passed in reworded form in 1972.

 Although the National Woman’s Party and professional women such as Amelia Earhart supported the amendment, reformers who had worked for protective labor laws that treated women differently from men were afraid that the ERA would wipe out the progress they had made.

In the early 1940s, the Republican Party and then the Democratic Party added support of the Equal Rights Amendment to their platforms. Alice Paul rewrote the ERA in 1943 to what is now called the “Alice Paul Amendment,” reflecting the 15th and the 19th Amendments: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” But the labor movement was still committed to protective workplace laws, and social conservatives considered equal rights for women a threat to the existing power structure.

imageIn the 1960s, over a century after the fight to end slavery fostered the first wave of the women’s rights movement, the civil rights battles of the time provided an impetus for the second wave. Women organized to demand their birthright as citizens and persons, and the Equal Rights Amendment rather than the right to vote became the central symbol of the struggle.

Finally, organized labor and an increasingly large number of mainstream groups joined the call for the ERA, and politicians reacted to the power of organized women’s voices in a way they had not done since the battle for the vote.

The Equal Rights Amendment passed the U.S. Senate and then the House of Representatives, and on March 22, 1972, the proposed 27th Amendment to the Constitution was sent to the states for ratification. But as it had done for every amendment since the 18th (Prohibition), with the exception of the 19th Amendment, Congress placed a seven-year deadline on the ratification process. This time limit was placed not in the words of the ERA itself, but in the proposing clause.

imageLike the 19th Amendment before it, the ERA barreled out of Congress, getting 22 of the necessary 38 state ratifications in the first year. But the pace slowed as opposition began to organize – only eight ratifications in 1973, three in 1974, one in 1975, and none in 1976.

Arguments by ERA opponents such as Phyllis Schlafly, right-wing leader of the Eagle Forum/STOP ERA, played on the same fears that had generated female opposition to woman suffrage. Anti-ERA organizers claimed that the ERA would deny woman’s right to be supported by her husband, privacy rights would be overturned, women would be sent into combat, and abortion rights and homosexual marriages would be upheld. Opponents surfaced from other traditional sectors as well. States’-rights advocates said the ERA was a federal power grab, and business interests such as the insurance industry opposed a measure they believed would cost them money. Opposition to the ERA was also organized by fundamentalist religious groups.

imagePro-ERA advocacy was led by the National Organization for Women (NOW) and ERAmerica, a coalition of nearly 80 other mainstream organizations. However, in 1977, Indiana became the 35th and so far the last state to ratify the ERA. That year also marked the death of Alice Paul, who, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony before her, never saw the Constitution amended to include the equality of rights she had worked for all her life.

Hopes for victory continued to dim as other states postponed consideration or defeated ratification bills. Illinois changed its rules to require a three-fifths majority to ratify an amendment, thereby ensuring that their repeated simple majority votes in favor of the ERA did not count. Other states proposed or passed rescission bills, despite legal precedent that states do not have the power to retract a ratification.

imageAs the 1979 deadline approached, some pro-ERA groups, like the League of Women Voters, wanted to retain the eleventh-hour pressure as a political strategy. But many ERA advocates appealed to Congress for an indefinite extension of the time limit, and in July 1978, NOW coordinated a successful march of 100,000 supporters in Washington, DC. Bowing to public pressure, Congress granted an extension until June 30, 1982.

 The political tide continued to turn more conservative. In 1980 the Republican Party removed ERA support from its platform, and Ronald Reagan was elected president. Although pro-ERA activities increased with massive lobbying, petitioning, countdown rallies, walkathons, fundraisers, and even the radical suffragist tactics of hunger strikes, White House picketing, and civil disobedience, ERA did not succeed in getting three more state ratifications before the deadline. The country was still unwilling to guarantee women constitutional rights equal to those of men.image

The Equal Rights Amendment was reintroduced in Congress on July 14, 1982 and has been before every session of Congress since that time. In the 110th Congress (2007-2008), it has been introduced as S.J.Res. 10 (lead sponsor: Sen. Edward Kennedy, MA) and H.J.Res. 40 (lead sponsor: Rep. Carolyn Maloney, NY). These bills impose no deadline on the ERA ratification process.  Success in putting the ERA into the Constitution via this process would require passage by a two-thirds in each house of Congress and ratification by 38 states.

An alternative strategy for ERA ratification has arisen from the “Madison Amendment,” concerning changes in Congressional pay, which was passed by Congress in 1789 and finally ratified in 1992 as the 27th Amendment to the Constitution. The acceptance of an amendment after a 203-year ratification period has led some ERA supporters to propose that Congress has the power to maintain the legal viability of the ERA’s existing 35 state ratifications. The legal analysis for this strategy is outlined in “The Equal Rights Amendment: Why the ERA Remains Legally Viable and Properly Before the States,” an article by Allison Held, Sheryl Herndon, and Danielle Stager in the Spring 1997 issue of William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law. 

Under this rationale, it is likely that Congress could choose to legislatively adjust or repeal the existing time limit constraint on the ERA, determine whether or not state ratifications after the expiration of a time limit in a proposing clause are valid, and promulgate the ERA after the 38th state ratifies.

image The Congressional Research Service analyzed this legal argument in 19964 and concluded that acceptance of the Madison Amendment does have implications for the premise that approval of the ERA by three more states could allow Congress to declare ratification accomplished. As of 2007, ratification bills testing this three-state strategy have been introduced in one or more legislative sessions in eight states (Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Virginia), and supporters are seeking to move such bills in all 15 of the unratified states.5

In her remarks as she introduced the Equal Rights Amendment in Seneca Falls in 1923, Alice Paul sounded a call that has great poignancy and significance over 80 years later: “If we keep on this way they will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the 1848 Convention without being much further advanced in equal rights than we are. . . . If we had not concentrated on the Federal Amendment we should be working today for suffrage. . . . We shall not be safe until the principle of equal rights is written into the framework of our government.”


1 Letter, March 31, 1776 (in Alice S. Rossi, The Feminist Papers: From Adams to de Beauvoir, New York: Columbia University Press, 1973).

2 Letter, April 14, 1776 (ibid.)

3 Carol Lynn Yellin, “Countdown in Tennessee, 1920,” American Heritage (December 1978).

4 David C. Huckabee, “Equal Rights Amendment: Ratification Issues,” Memorandum, March 18, 1996 (Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, Washington, DC).

5Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.

Routine Secular Circumcision: The CASE of the USA

75_circumcision-safety-has-its-price The United States is unique among Western countries in its practice of routine circumcision. From 1.2 to 1.8 million little Americans are circumcised annually, representing from 60% to 90% of newborn boys. The routine, almost compulsory character of this mass circumcision raises multiple questions concerning public health and medical practice. Having originated in particular historical circumstances, this procedure has for decades been the subject of studies aimed at making precise measurements of actual medical benefits, calculating cost/benefit ratios, and attempting to understand the sociocultural implications and ethical issues.
The history of circumcision in the United States can be divided into three periods:

1870-1949: Circumcision as punishment

image Routine circumcision was introduced to the United States in stages beginning in the 1870s for one basic purpose: to deprive the male of a prepuce considered essential for masturbation, a practice thought to be the cause of multiple physical and mental pathologies. From Europe, where masturbation was seen as an indication for circumcision, the fear of masturbation spread to North America, where emphasis was placed on its psychological effects.
image Routine circumcision made its initial appearance in the United States on February 9, 1870. Lewis Sayre, first professor of orthopedic surgery in the United States, president of the American Medical Association and founder of J.A.M.A., noticed that a 5-year-old boy with multiple tendon contracture of unknown etiology suffered from very painful phimosis and priapism, which Sayre attributed to excessive masturbation. Believing that masturbation could create a “source of irritation” responsible for tendon pathology, Sayre recommended circumcision. According to Sayre, circumcision caused the tendon contracture to disappear within a few weeks, allowing the boy to resume walking.
Sayre’s position at a university gave his first publication an important audience. Sayre led his audience to believe that a simple intervention could cure myriad puzzling diseases thought to be incurable. He encouraged doctors to examine the prepuce every time they encountered unfamiliar pathology. He added a great number of illnesses to the list of indications for circumcision, to the point where many of Sayre’s disciples quite naturally proposed changing over from therapeutic circumcision to preventive circumcision. So great, they said, were the benefits and so innocuous was the operation. Circumcision became progressively established as a simple health precaution, a kind of surgical vaccination.
image A few years later, Remondino enumerated the disorders caused by masturbation (alcoholism, epilepsy, asthma, enuresis, kidney disease, gout, prolapse of the rectum, hernia, cancer, syphilis…), reinforcing the prophylactic benefits of circumcision and contributing greatly to making the procedure acceptable in the eyes of the public. Remondino suggested that insurance companies should treat the foreskin as a special risk factor for men, a suggestion that could only provide additional impetus for circumcision. Some doctors applied themselves to perfecting and simplifying circumcision techniques: in 1910 Kistler invented a device that allowed adults to perform self-circumcision.
Moses_oil_vs_penis2 In a climate so favorable to preventive circumcision, few publications condemned circumcision as a barbaric practice or advised doctors to stop doing mutilations which lacked a scientific basis.
In fact the practice of circumcision grew, especially as the field of general anesthesia progressed rapidly and the rise in the number of surgeons and hospitals (a 20-fold increase in the last third of the 19th century) motivated surgeons to seek new opportunities for profit. Thus after the First World War neonatal circumcision became almost routine, to the point that in 1929, an editorial in J.A.M.A. called for the circumcision of all newborns, with or without the consent of parents.

The period of evaluation

image Right into the 1940s, the usefulness of circumcision was taken for granted in the medical birthing culture. Parental approval was almost never requested and the proportion of little Americans circumcised was about 90%–that is, nearly all of them–a situation which explains the first assessment studies.
It was Gairdner’s work that first brought the value of routine infant circumcision into doubt. Drawing up the inventory of indications, which had changed little since the days of Sayre, Gairdner noted that in the West, circumcision was routine only in English-speaking nations and that circumcision was more common in boys from the upper classes.
In 1969, Bolande compared circumcision to tonsillectomy, describing both as ritualistic surgeries having no sound scientific basis. He demanded credible scientific evidence showing that circumcision was useful. In the absence of such evidence, he considered circumcision contrary to the most basic principles of medical ethics, principles also highlighted by Price.
image The potential benefits of routine infant circumcision were evaluated in practice guidelines published on several occasions by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The indications assessed by these bodies were prevention of phimosis, facilitation of hygiene, prevention of penile cancer, prevention of cervical cancer (at times considered more frequent in partners of non-circumcised males), and prevention of sexually transmitted infections. Studies showed that:
•    usually phimosis in the newborn is physiologically normal and is not an indication for newborn circumcision;
•    circumcision could facilitate glans hygiene in conditions of social disadvantage;
•    penile cancer can be prevented as effectively by proper hygiene as by circumcision, a procedure whose   protective biological mechanism is moreover poorly understood;
•    absence of circumcision is not by itself a determining factor in the occurrence of cervical cancer.
With regard to the prevention of urinary tract infections in children, the purely retrospective nature of the studies and the limiting of subjects to children treated in hospital did not warrant recommending routine circumcision for this indication.
The question of preventing sexually transmitted infections (STI) was also the subject of numerous studies, notably because of the implications for AIDS prevention. A study of 300 heterosexual men by Donovan, Bassett and Bodsworth found that circumcision offered no protection against genital herpes, genital warts or non-gonococcal urethritis. Elsewhere, studies conducted in Africa seemed to indicate that heterosexually transmitted HIV was more common in men who had not been circumcised.
imageIn point of fact, most authors note the multiple methodological flaws in the largely retrospective studies, especially the assumption that circumcision is risk-free. The studies depend heavily on the socio-economic status of parents, suggesting that the sexual behavior of circumcised and non-circumcised men may not be the same. This hypothesis was confirmed by Laumann. Due to the bias inherent in these studies, the results in most cases are difficult or impossible to interpret.
These evaluative studies concluded that there was no absolute indication for routine infant circumcision, bringing into question the justification for a practice affecting nearly all male newborns. Moreover practice guidelines emphasized the need to give parents clear information on the risks of circumcision and non-circumcision, to substitute good hygiene for routine circumcision, and to avoid considering newborn circumcision as a defining element in the overall quality of health.
Notwithstanding these recommendations, the practice of routine circumcision scarcely changed and the frequency of circumcision in the USA today remains the highest in the industrialized world. More than 80% of boys are circumcised at birth [46] while–for reasons that are not well understood–routine circumcision in economically comparable Anglophone societies (Great Britain, English-speaking Canada, Australia) is either quite uncommon or virtually nonexistent. Against the backdrop of a medical consensus that seems to carry little weight, recent articles underscore the importance of social factors in US circumcision practices and provide some insight into the persistence of this practice.

Circumcision in the USA: A social marker

image Circumcised men are more likely to be white and socio-economically advantaged. Among blacks, circumcision is half as common. The study conducted by Laumann on a representative sample of about 1500 Americans aged 18 to 59 found that the circumcision rate is higher among whites than among blacks or Hispanics, a finding that was confirmed by Wilkes and Blum. Of the reasons given by parents to justify a request for circumcision, most are social in character, the parents effectively not wanting their sons to have a physical difference that would set them apart from most Americans and hinder their social integration. Moreover the decision to circumcise or not circumcise a newborn is strongly correlated with the circumcision status of the father, illustrating the attraction of circumcision as a physical mark of social identity.
The circumcision decision also depends to a significant extent on the social status of the mother. The circumcision rate was 2.5 times higher in boys whose mother had a university education. Finally, in contrast to the situation in Europe, circumcision in the United States is not generally correlated with the practice of a religion. Thus circumcision reflects social rather than religious differences. The request for circumcision on the part of parents seems to reflect a desire for membership in an elite, and parents belonging to less favored classes are not as strongly committed to circumcision.
image Besides behaviors linked to the social profiles of parents, the role of circumcising physicians should not be overlooked. Circumcisions are less frequent in public hospitals where physicians are on salary.
Finally, it should be noted that different studies seem to show that masturbation, whose role in introducing routine circumcision to the USA has been previously mentioned, actually appears to be more common in individuals who have been circumcised.
The history of ritual circumcision shows the complexity and intricacy of the meanings attached to this practice. It also illustrates the social importance accorded to circumcision by all the societies that practice it. Finally, it offers physicians abundant raw material for reflection on the history of ideas in medicine and the cultural meanings of certain medical practices; it draws attention to the difficulties inherent in, and the necessity for, proper evaluation of medical practices that have become routine.