Monthly Archives: July 2011

What Is Really to Blame?

My post on Bigotry has faced a number of criticisms in the comments section.  One of those criticisms, which I want to address first, is that my post made it sound as if there was an organized selective breeding program of slaves going on during the Antebellum South.  As Russ Manley of the blog “Blue Truck, Red State” wrote, “It’s important, though, not to give people the impression there was any organized program going on – all depended on the individual whims of slave owners, and antebellum accounts are full of complaints about the “lazy darkies” who had to be watched and prodded every minute to get their work done.”  I certainly didn’t mean it to sound that way, and one of the reasons that I love to have you guys comment is so that I can clear up misunderstandings in my posts.  I do that with my students as a way to get discussion going in the classroom.  As long as civility reigns, I very much appreciate comments and criticisms.


Furthermore, there was also much debate about religion being the main cause of homophobia and bigotry.  I admit, that it is part of the equation, but not the only reason.  When we choose one reason for homophobia then we are missing the larger picture.  Homophobia, or the hatred of same-sex intercourse, has been around much longer than Christianity of Judaism.  More than likely, it has been part of societies since the beginning of man.  Therefore, there are many parts to this equation.


In another criticism, Lonnie left the the following comment on my post about “Bigotry“:

I think John D’Emilio and Sherry Wolf give a much better account of the origins of gay oppression:
http://platypus1917.home.comcast.net/~platypus1917/demilio_captialismgayid.pdf

http://www.isreview.org/issues/37/gay_oppression.shtml

Since it was suggested, I read the two articles.  I found Wolf’s article to be particularly hard to stomach, but I read it anyway.  Both of these authors present a Marxist historiographical approach to the question of the origins of gay oppression.  In its most basic form, the Marxist historical tradition blames all of the problems of the world on capitalism and class struggles.  However, I have always found it deeply flawed.  For one, if you look at the sources used by Marxist historians, you will quickly find that more of those sources are from other Marxist historians.  They so narrow down their sources, until they ignore the larger historical picture, even though they claim to be looking at the larger historical picture.  In my opinion, this effectively removes their objectivity which is at the heart of true history.  They ignore those sources that contradict their point of view.  You cannot be an effective historian and dismiss the sources you do not agree with, you must take them into account.  History has many schools of historiography (the study of the history and methodology of the discipline of history), and Marxist interpretation is only one of them.


Before I continue, I want to say this, John D’Emilio is one of the greatest LGBT historians.  His books Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940-1970 and Intimate Matters:A History of Sexuality in America are two of the seminal books on LGBT American History.  The article suggested above by D’Emilio, and I do hope that each of you will go check these links out for yourself and not just take my opinion, was written while he was still a graduate student, which does not diminish his writing in the least, but his tone has changed since those early days in the 1980s when it was written.  Still, the two books above are well worth reading if you want a greater understanding of LGBT history in America.

Now that I have stated why I disagree strongly with Marxist interpretations, I want to address some of the semi-valid points in their arguments.  First of all, homosexual identity as it is seen today was nearly non-existent before the twentieth century; however, that does not mean that just because we did not have the word for it, that it did not exist.  I think it most certainly did, though it was quite rare and was not always practiced in the same way, it still existed.  The love between persons of the same sex existed before the advent of capitalism, which did not emerge until the end of mercantilism in the late 19th century.  D’Emilio and Wolf try to state the difference between homosexual behavior and homosexual identity.  Do you really think that no one before 1900 realized that they had an attraction to someone of the same sex and that they were not attracted to someone of the opposite sex?  Do you think that we become homosexual because family structure has broken down?  The answer to these questions is no.  The history of Florence, Italy during the Renaissance shows that homosexuality/sodomy was not illegal during that time period.  Some men married because they felt the need to procreate, but other did not.  They had homosexual relationships.  Also, the Inquisition records of the Catholic Church in Brazil during the 17th-19th centuries has numerous documented cases of homosexual persecution.  This was not a phenomenon of capitalism. Brazil only had a brief history of capitalism in the early twentieth century that was quashed by Getúlio Vargas and his corporatism from 1930-1954 and then largely under the control of the military until 1985. Likewise, Spain who continually persecuted homosexuals under Francisco Franco from c. 1936 to 1975, was not a capitalist country but was a hybrid of corporatism, fascism, and dictatorship.  Even in the late 19th century in America, there was talk of so-called “Boston Marriages,” a term is said to have been in use in New England in the decades spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries to describe two women living together, independent of financial support from a man.  The term was believed to be first coined by Henry James in The Bostonians.  Since 2000, many mentions of “Boston marriage” cite as examples the same few literary figures, in particular the Maine local color novelist Sarah Orne Jewett and Annie Adams Fields her late life companion, the widow of the editor of The Atlantic Monthly. There is often an assumption that in the era when the term was in use, it denoted a lesbian relationship. However, there is no documentary proof that any particular “Boston marriage” included sexual relations, but there has been a great deal of speculation, some of which comes from what we know or the private life of Willa Cather.


Furthermore, these authors argue that same-sex segregation during World War II brought about modern day homosexuality.  First of all, World War II is not the first time that large numbers of men and women have been separated from their families. This has happened in all major modern wars.  In Europe, this had happened in the First World War, and to a lesser extent in America.  So I don’t think that you can pinpoint WWII as the starting point.  It had all happened before.  Wolf does not address that millions of men in Europe served in World War I, and that millions of women left their homes and family to either work in the military or in factories during World War I.  Because it is convenient for her argument, she dismisses the history of Europe when it is inconvenient, and then turns around and uses it when it is convenient and the same history in America in turn is inconvenient.  In addition, both authors cite WWII as the beginning of homosexual persecution in the military and that it has continued largely uninterrupted until the modern day.  The problem is that it was largely ignored during Vietnam, when men identified as homosexual to not be drafted, most of those men truly were homosexual, however, they were forced to serve in the military anyway.  The ban on homosexuals was largely ignored by the draft board and military during the Vietnam War.  Likewise, today, when America is fighting two wars, and there is an increasing need for soldiers in the war against Terrorism, they have repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  It is not a coincidence in my opinion.


I have three more points that I want to make.  Both authors claim that sexual liberation, that is sex for enjoyment not for procreation, is capitalist invention/byproduct.  I cannot buy that explanation.  First of all, communism and socialism pushed for the ideas of free love, long before the flower children of the 1960s.  The sexual revolution was made much more visible because of birth control, but people have been having sex for reasons other than procreation since man first had an erection.  We are the only species who we know for sure have sex for enjoyment.  It is not a modern phenomenon.


I also want to point out that Wolf argues that the family has not always existed in human history.  If she would look at the anthropological studies, archeological studies, and historical studies of mankind, she would realize that it has always existed.  From the earliest humans, the family structure has been the governing structure.  The idea of the family or clan is the first political structure in any society.  As the family grows larger, the head of the family becomes the head of the clan.  From there, stronger clans take over weaker clans and form chiefdoms, which eventually grow into kingdoms and empires.  The family structure has always been the basis of human society.  Even as gay men and women today, we are not abandoning the family, we want families of our own.  We want marriage, and we want children (at least I do, and so do many others.)


The last point that I want to make is that urbanization has led to gay communities more so than capitalism. Urbanization has more to do with the industrial revolution than it does the rise of capitalism.  As fewer people were needed to work a farm, due in large part of the end of slavery and the mechanization of the farm, that excess labor moved to the cities to find work.  Most did not abandon the families, and a large family often lived together in a household trying to make a living wage.  However, the urbanization of America began before capitalism, and thus I feel that it is not the cause of the breakdown of the family, nor is it the cause of class warfare.  Class warfare has existed long before capitalism, and therefore, capitalism cannot be the blame for all the evil of the world.


Wolf is not totally wrong in all that she writes. In fact she (surprising to me) got this part of history correct:

In Paris and Berlin, medical and legal experts in the 1870s examined a new kind of “degenerate” to determine whether or not these people should be held responsible for their actions. The word “homosexuality”was first coined by a Hungarian physician named Karl Maria Benkert in 1869.  Homosexuality evolved in scientific circles from a “sin against nature” to a mental illness. The first popular study of homosexuality, Sexual Inversion by Havelock Ellis in 1897, put forward the idea that homosexuality was a congenital illness not to be punished, but treated. Nineteenth-century sexologists developed ideas about homosexuality as a form of mental insanity. One famous theory held that gayness was the result of “urning”–the female mind was trapped in a male body (or vice versa). Another theory widely disseminated referred to homosexuals as a third sex.

I do want to make one final point before I end this post.  Both D’Emilio and Wolf argue that there is not basis for being “born gay.”  This is a recent argument that I have actually come across several times in the last few weeks from LGBT activists and scholars.  Most of the recent attention to arguments against a biological component to homosexuality is because of the Lady Gaga song, “Born This Way,” to which some in the LGBT community are now starting to argue against.  This is a topic for a future post, so I won’t go into much detail right now. I merely wanted to mention this as part of the discussion.

I may have rambled a bit in this post, but I wanted to talk a bit about historical interpretation.  I hope that you will read those two articles cited above and give me your take on them. I do not believe that either author presented a convincing argument for the beginnings of gay oppression.  In fact, from my reading of the articles, it seems to me that both vaguely lay the blame on capitalism, but do a poor job of giving evidence to this claim. Do you think that I am completely off base or are they completely off base or are all of us a somewhat right and somewhat wrong?  I want to know what you think.  I personally think that the origins of gay oppression is a many faceted problem and cannot be explained in a simple historical method.  We have to look at all parts of the picture and not ignore those parts that we find inconvenient.


Blah

Last night, I had a bit of a sinus headache, so I took some NyQuil to help me sleep and to take care of the headache and sinus problems.  It worked, but I slept nearly all day.  Now I have the Blahs,  I don’t feel like putting together a post, so this is all there will be today.  I had a post in mind, but I will do that one for tomorrow.


Song by Allen Ginsberg

Song 

The weight of the world
is love.
Under the burden
of solitude,
under the burden
of dissatisfaction

the weight,
the weight we carry
is love.

Who can deny?
In dreams
it touches
the body,
in thought
constructs
a miracle,
in imagination
anguishes
till born
in human–
looks out of the heart
burning with purity–
for the burden of life
is love,

but we carry the weight
wearily,
and so must rest
in the arms of love
at last,
must rest in the arms
of love.

No rest
without love,
no sleep
without dreams
of love–
be mad or chill
obsessed with angels
or machines,
the final wish
is love
–cannot be bitter,
cannot deny,
cannot withhold
if denied:

the weight is too heavy

–must give
for no return
as thought
is given
in solitude
in all the excellence
of its excess.

The warm bodies
shine together
in the darkness,
the hand moves
to the center
of the flesh,
the skin trembles
in happiness
and the soul comes
joyful to the eye–

yes, yes,
that’s what
I wanted,
I always wanted,
I always wanted,
to return
to the body
where I was born.

Allen Ginsberg


For more on Allen Ginsberg, click “More” below.

Allen Ginsberg, the visionary poet and founding father of the Beat generation inspired the American counterculture of the second half of the 20th century with groundbreaking poems such as “Howl” and “Kaddish.” Among the avant-garde he was considered a spiritual and sexually liberated ambassador for tolerance and enlightenment. With an energetic and loving personality, Ginsberg used poetry for both personal expression and in his fight for a more interesting and open society.
Allen Ginsberg was born in Newark, New Jersey on June 3, 1926. As a boy he was a close witness to his mother’s mental illness, as she lived both in and out of institutions. His father, Louis Ginsberg was a well-known traditional poet. After graduating from high school, Ginsberg attended Columbia University, where he planned to study law. There he became friends with Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs. Together the three would change the face of American writing forever.

With an interest in the street life of the city, Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs found inspiration in jazz music and the culture that surrounded it. They encouraged a break from traditional values, supporting drug-use as a means of enlightenment. To many, their shabby dress and “hip” language seemed irresponsible, but in their actions could be found the seeds of a revolution that was meant to cast off the shackles of the calm and boring social life of the post-war era. While a nation tried desperately to keep from rocking the boat, Allen Ginsberg and the Beats saw the need for a more vibrant and daring society.
One of the primary first works of the Beats was Ginsberg’s long poem “Howl.” In an age plagued by intolerance, “Howl” (1956) was both a desperate plea for humanity and a song of liberation from that intolerant society. Ginsberg’s use of a gritty vernacular and an improvisational rhythmical style created a poetry which seemed haphazard and amateur to many of the traditional poets of the time. In “Howl” and his other poems, however, one could hear a true voice of the time, unencumbered by what the Beats saw as outdated forms and meaningless grammatical rules.
For its frank embrace of such taboo topics as homosexuality and drug use, “Howl” drew a great deal of criticism. Published by City Lights, the San Francisco based publisher of many of the Beats, the book was the subject of an obscenity trial. Eventually acquitted of the charges, City Lights came out with Ginsberg’s second book in 1961. “Kaddish, And Other Poems,” often considered Ginsberg’s greatest work, dealt again with a deep despair and addressed Ginsberg’s closeness with his mother while she was hospitalized and fighting insanity. The raw nature of the subject matter and Ginsberg’s desperate emotions found a perfect home in his poem “Kaddish.” Of “Kaddish,” Ginsberg wrote “I saw my self my own mother and my very nation trapped desolate…and receiving decades of life while chanting Kaddish the names of Death in many mind-worlds the self seeking key to life found at last our self.”
Throughout the 1960s, Ginsberg experimented with a number of different drugs, believing that under the influence he could create a new kind of poetry. Using LSD, peyote, marijuana and other drugs he attempted to expand his consciousness and wrote a number of books under the influence including the “Yage Letters” with William Burroughs. For much of the youth of the day, Ginsberg’s embrace of illegal drugs and unrestrained sexuality made him a central figure in the rebelling movements of the time. More than any other American poet of the 20th century, Ginsberg used his popularity for social change. Coining the phrase “flower power,” Ginsberg encouraged protesters of the 1960s to embrace a non-violent rebellion. By the 1970s, his fame had grown enormously, and though he cast aside drug use for an interest in Buddhism and yogic practices, he remained important to newly-formed youth movements.
By the 1980s, Ginsberg was the most famous living American poet. As a writer he continued to publish challenging and personal verse and as a celebrity he maintained an international presence as a spokesperson for peace and tolerance—working often as a teacher and lecturer . In the last decade of his life, Ginsberg wrote and performed at the prolific rate of his youth. He had sold millions of books and had often expanded into other genres. Among the collaborators of his final years were members of the bands Sonic Youth and U2. He died on April 5, 1997 at the age of seventy. At the time of his death, “Howl” had been reprinted more than fifty times, and the words of William Carlos Williams’ introduction still rang true—”This poet sees through and all around the horrors he partakes of in the very intimate details of his poem. He avoids nothing but experiences it to the hilt. He contains it. Claims it as his own—and, we believe, laughs at it and has the time and affrontery to love a fellow of his choice and record that love in a well-made poem.”


My Inner Geek

First of all, I am an unapologetic GEEK, and I admit it.  If you’ve read my blog for a while, then you already know that I am a huge fan of “The Big Bang Theory.”  My inner geekiness goes far beyond “The Big Bang Theory” because I am a total Sci-Fi nerd.  I admit it.  It may not be very sexy to most people, but I am going to tell you why it is to me.  I really do love science fiction.  Had I gone to the right grad school and had the right advisor, I might have written my dissertation on the Representation of the Cold War in Science Fiction.  (Star Trek Example: Federation=The United States [with England as the Vulcans], Klingons=Soviet Union, Romulans=Chinese, etc.) It still might make a great book and research project one day if no one beats me to it.  It is not an idea original to me.

I love most things sci-fi: Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate, and even Starship Troopers.  I love Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica, and Buck Rogers.  I’m not a big comic book person, though I admit I do love the movies and TV shows that come from them, such as The Fantastic Four, X-Men, Batman, Wonder Woman, Daredevil, The Flash, Flash Gordon (and Flesh Gordon may come into this category, at least as a spoof).  I also have a long standing crush on Superman: Superman (Christopher Reeves), Lois and Clark (Dean Cain), Smallville (Tom Welling), Superman Returns (Brandon Routh), etc.  I also loved The 4400, great show.

So lets go through a few of the examples and let me explain why I find science fiction appealing (and even sexy). Let’s begin with the Star Trek franchise. The Star Trek captains have all been sex symbols.  Kirk was always the sexy womanizer,.Picard the reserved cultured captain. Sisko was also a bit of a womanizer, though in a reserved damaged sort of way (his wife had been killed in the Borg attack, and he later married a female freighter captain).   Captain Janeway was always a very butch female captain, bordering on lesbianesque.  Of course, you then have Captain Archer who returned to the more womanizing sex symbol type like Kirk.  Now with the new series of movies, we have the absolutely gorgeous Chris Pine as Captain Kirk, and he is surrounded by the best looking of all of the Star Trek casts.  In addition the original Sulu, played by George Takei, is an openly gay man, giving gay Star Trek fans someone to look to.  Of course, Star Trek has had a number of hot male stars:  Wesley Crusher (TNG), Dr. Julian Bashir (DS9), Tom Paris (VOY).  Dr. Bashir was made out to be the first real sex symbol in the new incarnations of Star Trek after the original series.  Enterprise ramped up the sexiness with Trip, who was often seen in his “star trek/space age” underwear.  Enterprise was actually expected to have a gay character, rumored to be the weapons officer Malcolm Reed, but it never materialized with the low ratings the show received.

Stargate has also had it fair number of sexy men.  Daniel Jackson was smart, cultured, and always on a moral crusade would have made the most likely gay man in the series, but since it began with him being married, that was unlikely to materialize.  In my opinion, he was always very sexy.  Stargate: Atlantis has Col. Sheppard who could just make me weak in the knees, but it was the short-lived Stargate: Universe that really ramped up the sex factor.  Matthew Scott, played by Brian J. Smith, who has been known for playing several gay-themed characters in the movies Hate Crimes and The War Boys, both of which are highly recommended.  Also, and just because he played the dorky and somewhat awkward character of Eli, I always found him attractive.  The character also had a mother who suffered from HIV contracted when she was a nurse and was attacked by a drug addict.

A few other science fiction movies and shows got my blood pumping, such as Starship Troopers  Who could forget Casper van Dien in the shower scenes showing off his lovely behind or the whipping scene, which I found oddly erotic?  Then in the new incarnation of Battlestar Galactica, you have the ever lovely Jamie Bamber, who has a particular towel scene that is amazing to watch. 

Most recently, we have several sci-fi/horror shows that give us just what we want with sexy guys.  True Blood has a host of sexy men, some of whom are gay, and MTV’s Teen Wolf has a host of sexy young guys, including the beautifully (and possibly gay) Colton Haynes (Warning: this link is NSFW).

And finally, a science fiction show has an openly gay character.  Warehouse 13 on the SyFy Channel has a new character Agent Steve Jinx, played by Aaron Ashmore, who admitted on last night’s episode that he is gay.  Ashmore also has played at least on other gay character when he played Marc Hall in Prom Queen: The Marc Hall Story. I wonder if they will give him a boyfriend.  All of the other major characters on the show have been given love interests through the course of the show, so I certainly hope that Jinx will be given one as well.


The Aftermath of the Repeal of DADT

Gay couples denied military spouse benefits

By Julie Watson – The Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — Gay service members from Army soldiers to Air Force officers are planning to celebrate the official end of the military’s 17-year policy that forced them to hide their sexual orientation with another official act — marriage.
A 27-year-old Air Force officer from Ohio said he can’t wait to wed his partner of two years and slip on a ring that he won’t have to take off or lie about when he goes to work each day once “don’t ask, don’t tell” is repealed. He plans to wed his boyfriend, a federal employee, in Washington D.C. where same-sex marriages are legal.
He asked not to be identified, following the advice of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a national organization representing gay troops, including the Air Force officer, that has cautioned those on active duty from coming out until the ban is off the books.

“I owe it to him and myself,” the officer said of getting married. “I don’t want to do it in the dark. I think that taints what it’s supposed to be about — which is us, our families, and our government.”

But in the eyes of the military the marriage will not be recognized and the couple will still be denied most of the benefits the Defense Department gives to heterosexual couples to ease the costs of medical care, travel, housing and other living expenses.
The Pentagon says the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act — which defines marriage for federal program purposes as a legal union between a man and woman — prohibits the Defense Department from extending those benefits to gay couples, even if they are married legally in certain states.
That means housing allowances and off-base living space for gay service members with partners could be decided as if they were living alone. Base transfers would not take into account their spouses. If two gay service members are married to each other they may be transferred to two different states or regions of the world. For heterosexual couples, the military tries to avoid that from happening.
Gay activists and even some commanders say the discrepancy will create a two-tier system in an institution built on uniformity.
“It’s not going to work,” said Army Reserve Capt. R. Clarke Cooper, who heads up the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights group that sued the Justice Department to stop the enforcement of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. “Taking care of our soldiers is necessary to ensure morale and unit cohesion. This creates a glaring stratification in the disbursement of support services and benefits.”
Cooper said he also plans to marry his boyfriend, a former Navy officer, in a post-repeal era.
The Obama administration has said it believes the ban could be fully lifted within weeks. A federal appeals court ruling July 6 ordered the government to immediately cease its enforcement. After the Department of Justice filed an emergency motion asking the court to reconsider its order, the court on Friday reinstated the law but with a caveat that prevents the government from investigating or penalizing anyone who is openly gay.
The Justice Department in its motion argued ending the ban abruptly now would pre-empt the “orderly process” for rolling back the policy as outlined in the law passed and signed by the president in December.
The military’s staunchly traditional, tight-knit society, meanwhile, has been quickly adapting to the social revolution: Many gay officers say they have already come out to their commanders and fellow troops, and now discuss their weekend plans without a worry.
The Air Force officer says he has dropped the code words “Red Solo Cups” — the red plastic cups used at parties — that he slipped into conversations for years to tell his partner he loved him when troops were within earshot. He now feels comfortable saying “I love you” on the phone, no longer fearful he will be interrogated by peers.
One male soldier, who also asked not to be identified, said after Congress approved repealing the law, he listed his boyfriend on his Army forms as his emergency contact and primary beneficiary of his military life insurance in case he dies in Afghanistan.
He said when he was transferred to South Korea, he and his partner had to pay for his partner’s move.
“But we were able to stay together,” the soldier wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press from Afghanistan. “During the move, I realized I needed to make sure my partner in life was taken care of if something, the worst, ever happened to me, especially knowing I was about to deploy.”
The soldier said when he added his boyfriend’s name to the paperwork as a primary beneficiary and identified him as a friend, the non-commissioned officer in charge shut his office door and told him: “Unlike the inherent benefits to being married in the Army, such as housing and sustenance allowances, our life insurance and will don’t discriminate.”
Same-sex partners can be listed as the person to be notified in case a service member is killed, injured, or missing, but current regulations prevent anyone other than immediate family — not same-sex spouses — from learning the details of the death. Same-sex spouses also will not be eligible for travel allowances to attend repatriation ceremonies if their military spouses are killed in action.
Gay spouses also will be denied military ID cards. That means they will not be allowed on bases unless they are accompanied by a service member and they cannot shop at commissaries or exchanges that have reduced prices for groceries and clothing, nor can they be treated at military medical facilities. They also will be excluded from base programs providing recreation and other such kinds of support.
Military officials say some hardship cases may be handled on an individual basis. Activists warn such an approach will create an administrative nightmare and leave the military vulnerable to accusations of making inconsistent decisions that favor some and not others.
Military families enjoy assistance from the Defense Department to compensate for the hardship of having a mother or father or both deployed to war zones and moved frequently.
“It strains a relationship when you’re gone for over a year,” said Navy medical corpsman Andrew James, 27, who lived two years apart from his same-sex partner, who could not afford to move with him when he was transferred from San Diego to Washington. “But straight couples have support so their spouses are able to be taken care of, with financial issues, and also they are able to talk to the chain of command, whereas gays can’t. They don’t have any support at all financially or emotionally, and that is really devastating.”
He said he was lucky that his relationship survived and now that he is in the Reserves, they are together again in San Diego.
The benefits issue came up repeatedly during training sessions to prepare troops for the policy change.
“There are inconsistencies,” Maj. Daryl Desimone told a class of Marines at Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego, after being asked about benefits for gay military personnel. “Anyone who looks at it logically will see there are some things that need to be worked out in the future.”
The military’s policy denying benefits to same-sex couples could change if legal challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act prove successful. The Obama administration has said it will not defend DOMA in court.
Earlier this month, the Justice Department filed a legal brief in federal court in San Francisco in support of a lesbian federal employee’s lawsuit claiming the government wrongly denied health coverage to her same-sex spouse. The brief said the lawsuit should not be dismissed because DOMA violates the constitution’s guarantee of equal protection and was motivated by hostility toward gays and lesbians.

Taking a Break

Taking a bit of a break today, so get your cup of coffee and join me.  Truth be told, I sort of came up blank with an idea for a post today, so I just thought I would add this hot picture from Marlen Boro (NSFW).

If you want to know more about Marlen Boro or the model above, click “read more” below.

So here is a little about the photographer.

Marlen Boro was born during the magical seventies and in a magical land called North Dakota.  He remained in this land throughout his youth, enjoying a wholesome, idyllic childhood shaped by conservative Lutheranism, regular family meals with his parents and brothers, and hefty doses of Disney musicals.  When he was 10, his father gave him his own camera.  He enthusiastically embraced photography, a practice that complemented a more general enchantment with the arts.
Upon graduating from high school, Marlen left North Dakota for rural Ohio, where he spent four glorious years studying political philosophy at Kenyon College.  During his time at this liberal bastion for the liberal arts, he enjoyed a brief flirtation with communism, but abandoned it when he realized that he really didn’t like to share.
Marlen eventually settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota after a stint in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he earned his J.D.  After a number of years practicing corporate law at prestigious firms, he began to question some of the priorities he had absorbed in law school.  At the same time, he began to experience a resurgence of his love for art and photography.  As his collection of cameras and equipment grew, his commitment to the stressful lifestyle of a full-time corporate attorney waned.  Today, though he still practices law (primarily as an advisor to other photographers), photography is his main focus.
Marlen’s photography reflects his lifelong quirky sense of humor and impossible-to-squelch delight in the world.  He is masterful at bringing out not only sultry shadows and the astonishing beauty of the male body, but also genuine smiles, infectious smirks, spontaneous grins, and other moments of unguarded authenticity.  He encourages his clients to be simultaneously sexual and playful.  Unapologetic about being gay, Marlen encourages his clients, whether gay or straight, to find joy in themselves and their sexuality.  Marlen’s imaginative, playful approach to photography sometimes manifests itself in coats of glitter, in stretched pairs of ladies’ underwear, or dime-store bunny ears.
In short, Marlen combines top-notch photography skills with a lighthearted, playful attitude, and the result is an interwoven web of whimsy, confidence and eroticism.

In the photo at the first of the post, Boro states the he had been able to convince the model, Shawn, to stop shaving his chest.  Here he is with his chest shaved:

Which do you prefer?  I like both, but the one at the top of the post makes him look older and more mature.

If you’ve read this whole thing, then you know that I was having a hard time coming up with a topic today.  It’s not my usual post, but I hope you enjoyed it anyway.


Moment of Zen: Beauty

This picture is almost too beautiful for words.  The color is blue and seemingly cold, but yet there is a certain warmth in the beauty of it.


How Ignorant Can Americans Be?

Rep. Michele and Dr. Marcus Bachmann

I love my country, but sometimes, I have to wonder just how ignorant many of my fellow citizens can be.  I thought this when George W. Bush was elected for a second time.  I thought this after the last midterm election, in which my state replaced all Democrats in state offices with Republicans and replaced my Democratic Congressman with a woman whose only platform was that she would personally would remove Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House (not that she alone would have the power to do so, but voters in my district apparently did not understand this).  And now, according to various new sources, the front runner of the 2012 Republican Presidential Nomination is Michele Bachmann.  Really America?
True to her recent form, Rep. Michele Bachmann kicked off her presidential campaign with a highly-publicized gaffe: She said the wrong John Wayne was from her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa. The iconic cowboy actor was not from Waterloo, but notorious serial killer John Wayne Gacy did live there–likely not who the presidential hopeful wants to be compared with.
Her gaffes, however, aren’t confined to misidentifying the state where the Battle of Lexington and Concord occurred, or misidentifying John Quincy Adams as a Founding Father.  Those are just two examples.  She claimed that the Founding Fathers “worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.”  All of the Founding Fathers of this country had been long since dead when slavery was finally abolished.  One of her most recent controversies is her signing of the Marriage Vow, along with the ultra-homophobic Sen. Rick Santorum.   Part of that incredible document states:

Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.

Fact-checking website Politifact.com has rated 23 of Bachmann’s statements since 2009 and found only one true, six half or barely true, and 16 false or “pants on fire.” 
But her popularity in Iowa and some national polls continues to grow, suggesting her base may not mind her historical misspeaking so much—at least not so far. And her admission on CNN Tuesday helped. “People can make mistakes, and I wish I could be perfect every time I say something, but I can’t,” Bachmann said. “One thing people know about me is that I’m a substantive, serious person.”  I tend not to consider someone as substantive when they make statements that an average fifth grader could dispute and correct.  Serious, she may be, but it is seriously ignorant.
Not only is she ignorant about basic knowledge of American civics and history, but she is also married to what I can best describe as a certifiable nutcase.  Bachmann’s husband, Marcus, turns out to not just think gays are “barbarians” who need to be disciplined and educated, but a clinical psychologist who runs two Christian-based therapy clinics in Minnesota that do a steady trade in homosexual conversion therapies. Marcus Bachmann’s clinics, which received more than $160,000 in tax dollars, try to set gays on the straight and narrow by getting them to see that God intends us all to be hetero. According to one former patient, who as an openly gay high-school student was forced to attend therapy sessions by his conservative-Christian stepfather, a therapist at Bachmann’s clinic tried to turn him straight by getting him to pray, read relevant (anti-sodomy) Biblical verses, and even tried to get him to date an “ex-lesbian.”
Since Bachmann declared her presidential candidacy, Dr. Marcus Bachmann—her gay-barbarian discipline-advocating therapist-husband—has been drawing heightened attention on his own. Some people, including famous-type ones, think maybe Bachmann’s a gay barbarian as well.  Notable Bachmann sexuality commentators include:
  • Cher, who used her Twitter the other day to riff on Bachmann (as the gay news website Towleroad noticed).
  • Pundit Andrew Sullivan, who called Bachmann a “ssuper-sserial hunter of gays” and then compared him to Waiting for Guffman character Corky St. Clair.
  • The Daily Show co-creator and satirist Lizz Winstead, who tweeted that Bachmann is “the white Al Reynolds.”
  • James Urbaniak of The Venture Brothers, who Tumbled: “It’s pretty much a given that the most vociferously homophobic men are usually repressing something. But, oh Mary, Michele Bachmann’s husband Marcus takes the ever-loving cake. He’s a cure-the-gay therapist out of a John Waters movie. I haven’t seen flames this high since the last California wildfire…”
  • Kids in the Hall comic and television actor Dave Foley, who asked via Twitter: “How can Michele Bachman be opposed to gay marriage when she is married to gay man.” Foley made a few other tweets about Bachmann, using “#MarcusBachmanIsSoGay“; the hashtag got a bit of traction.
  • Keith Olbermann referred to Bachmann as a “bizarre-sounding man who’s calling gays ‘barbarians'” and wonders how you can “hide” him without putting him in some sort of closet.

Also, someone has created a @DrMarcusBachman Twitter feed. And at least one blogger believes Bachmann would make a “fine First Lady of the United States.” Remember this post.

People started questioning Bachmann’s sexuality well before his wife announced her presidential campaign. Back in September 2010, for example, Truth Wins Out—a nonprofit whose mission is to fight “anti-gay religious extremism”—posted on its website a YouTube of Bachmann with the comment, “Comment not necessary.” That vid got people talking, but not at the level we’re now seeing. Will his sexuality become a bigger issue as Mrs. B’s campaign churns along? We’ll see.
Why are so many Americans so politically ignorant?  Why can’t they see past her Tea Party rhetoric and realize that she is filled with pure ignorance?  One of the things that I teach my government students is how to research political candidates.  I have them download a voter’s guide and research each and every candidate on the ballot.  I have them do news searches of the candidates, so that they can see what the media is saying about a candidate, and I have them find the candidates websites, so that they can look at what the candidate says about his or her own political platform.  I, personally, do this for every election.  I want to be informed about the person I vote for.  I may most of the time end up voting for the Democratic Party candidates, but not all Democrats are progressive, especially in the South.  I, however, have never voted straight ticket without regard to the candidates.  I want to know what my candidate stands for, what he/she will do when in office, and how much I can trust what that candidate says.  They are politicians, so most of what they are saying is not true, but I at least want someone who will stand up for what is right, not what is politically convenient.  Americans need to wake up, quit listening to political spin doctors, and learn the truth about candidates.
 For further reading on the topic of Michele and Marcus Bachmann, click “read more” below.


Suggested and Further Reading:
  1. All Kinds of People Weighing in on Marcus ‘Mr. Michele’ Bachmann’s Sexuality” http://gawker.com/5817774/all-kinds-of-people-weighing-in-on-marcus-mr-michele-bachmanns-sexuality
  2. Michele Bachmann’s First Dude” http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/06/16/michele-bachmann-s-first-dude-husband-marcus-bachmann.html
  3. Bachmann’s Gaffes and Lies Mean She’s Unfit for White House” http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/leslie-marshall/2011/06/29/bachmanns-gaffes-and-lies-mean-shes-unfit-for-white-house
  4. “For Michele Bachmann, a pattern of getting facts wrong” http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0311/51179.html

Happy Bastille Day!

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prise_de_la_bastilleOn this date in 1789, citizens of Paris rioted; they took over the Bastille prison, released the seven prisoners inside, and destroyed the fortress. Bastille Day (known in France as La Fête Nationale) has been celebrated on the event’s anniversary ever since, with feasting, parades and fireworks. It was the second of two pivotal events that started the French Revolution. The first one had taken place three weeks earlier, on June 20, 1789, when all but one of the 577 members of France’s Third Estate of the Estates-General — locked out of their meeting hall by Louis XVI’s soldiers — convened on a nearby tennis court. There they signed a declaration renaming their body the National Assembly and vowing to continue to meet until a constitution was written. This declaration became known as the Tennis Court Oath.

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Claude Monet, Rue Montorgueil, Paris, Festival of 30 June 1878

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Brief History of GLBT Rights Around the World


Throughout history and across cultures, the regulation of sexuality reflects broader cultural norms.
Most of the history of sexuality is unrecorded. Even recorded norms do not always shed full light on actual practices, as it is sometimes the case that historical accounts are written by foreigners with cryptic political agendas.
Throughout Hindu and Vedic texts there are many descriptions of saints, demigods, and even the Supreme Lord transcending gender norms and manifesting multiple combinations of sex and gender. There are several instances in ancient Indian epic poetry of same sex depictions and unions by gods and goddesses. There are several stories of depicting love between same sexes especially among kings and queens.  Kamasutra, the ancient Indiann treatise on love talks about feelings for same sexes. Transsexuals are also venerated e.g. Lord Vishnu as Mohini and Lord Shiva as Ardhanarishwara (which means half woman).

In the earlier centuries of ancient Rome (particularly during the Roman Republic) and prior to its Christianization, the Lex Scantinia forbade homosexual acts. In later centuries during the Empire, men of status were free to have sexual intercourse, heterosexual or homosexual, with anyone of a lower social status, provided that they remained dominant during such interaction. During the reign of Caligula, prostitution was legalized and taxed, and homosexual prostitution was seen openly in conjunction with heterosexual prostitution. The Warren Cup (above left) is a rare example of a Roman artifact that depicts homosexuality that was not destroyed by Christian authorities, although it was suppressed. A fresco from the public baths of the once buried city of Pompeii depicts a homosexual and bisexual sex act involving two adult men and one adult woman. The Etruscan civilization left behind the Tomb of the Diver, which depicts homosexual men in the afterlife.

In feudal Japan, homosexuality was recognized, between equals (bi-do), in terms of pederasty (wakashudo), and in terms of prostitution. The Samurai period was one in which homosexuality was seen as particularly positive. In Japan, the younger partner in a pederastic relationship was expected to make the first move; the opposite was true in ancient Greece. Homosexuality was later briefly criminalized due to Westernization.
The berdache two-spirit class in some Native American tribes are examples of ways in which some cultures integrated homosexuals into their society by viewing them, not with the homosexual and heterosexual dichotomy of most of the modern world, but as twin beings, possessing aspects of both sexes.
The ancient Law of Moses (the Torah) forbids men lying with men (intercourse) in Leviticus 18 and gives a story of attempted homosexual rape in Genesis in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities being soon destroyed after that. The death penalty was prescribed.
Similar prohibitions are found across Indo-European cultures in Lex Scantinia in Ancient Rome and nith in protohistoric Germanic culture, or the Middle Assyrian Law Codes dating 1075 BC.
Laws prohibiting homosexuality were also passed in communist China. (The People’s Republic of China neither adopted an Abrahamic religion nor was colonized, except for Hong Kong and Macau which were colonized with Victorian era social mores and maintain separate legal system from the rest of the PRC.) Homosexuality was not decriminalized there until 1997. Prior to 1997, homosexual in mainland China was found guilty included in a general definition under the vague vocabulary of hooliganism, there are no specifically anti-homosexual laws.
In modern times eight countries have no official heterosexist discrimination. They are Argentina, Belgium, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, South Africa, and Spain. This full non-discrimination includes the rights of marriage and adoption. Two additional countries have marriage rights for same-sex couples, namely Portugal and Canada, but in Portugal this right does not include same-sex adoption, and in Canada it varies by jurisdiction (it is legal everywhere except in Nunavut and Yukon). The Canadian Blood Services’ policy indefinitely defers any man who has sex with another man, even once, since 1977. LGBT people in the US face different laws for certain medical procedures than other groups. For example, gay men have been prohibited from giving blood since 1983, and George W. Bush’s FDA guidelines barred them from being sperm donors as of 2005, even though all donated sperm is screened for sexually-transmitted diseases.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_by_country_or_territory


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