Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

Jan. 19 2015 2:00 PM

Chuck Lorre Explains Two and a Half Men’s Gay Marriage Storyline

Last summer, when Chuck Lorre announced there would be a same-sex marriage on the final season of his long-running CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men, a predictable uproar followed. The problem was that the union involved two heterosexual men—original co-star Jon Cryer and Charlie Sheen’s replacement, Ashton Kutcher—undergoing what Lorre openly called a “scam” marriage in order to adopt a child, a process the show suggested was next to impossible for a straight, single man, even a billionaire like Kutcher’s character, Walden.

Although the show has generally taken the low road in its 12 years on the air, Lorre made an effort to avoid offense with this storyline—by Two and a Half Menstandards at least. As when the show introduced a lesbian character in 2013 and when it explored a transsexual storyline that same year, the writers for the most part avoided the kind of cheap humor that permeates the rest of the show. When Walden proposed to Cryer’s Alan back in November, he told him he had “nine of the 10 things” he wanted in a wife. However, the 10th ingredient was off the table: “We will actually be a same-sex married couple, and like most married couples, we will not have sex,” Walden told Alan.

“Sensitive for Two and a Half Men” doesn’t quite equal sensitive, of course. Many viewers felt the storyline desexualized gay love and trivialized the struggle for marriage equality—and having lesbian character Jenny voice those precise objections didn’t remove the sting. So, last week, when I had a chance to talk to Chuck Lorre during an event at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, I asked him how the creative team had decided to explore this theme.

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Jan. 19 2015 9:00 AM

For Some LGBTQ People, Indignities Don’t Stop After Death

Earlier this month, Pastor Ray Chavez of Lakewood, Colorado’s New Hope Ministries was performing a funeral service for Vanessa Collier when he abruptly stopped. All photographs of Collier with her wife, Christina—with whom she shared two children—must be immediately removed, Chavez insisted, along with any other indications of her sexual orientation. If the photographs remained, Chavez declared he would be forced to cancel Collier’s funeral.

Outraged, Collier’s friends and family promptly took the photographs—along with Collier’s open casket—to a funeral home across the street, where the service continued. Chavez has yet to refund the cost of the service, or to apologize for his unexpected cancellation. The deceased’s loved ones describeChavez’ move as “humiliating” and “devastating.”

Humiliating and devastating, yes—but not particularly surprising.

Jan. 16 2015 3:51 PM

In Praise of Isaac Mizrahi’s Camp Genius

If you fancy yourself an aficionado of camp—the aesthetic sensibility associated with gay people, not the place with tents and s’mores—like I do, you should be watching gay designer Isaac Mizrahi’s show on QVC. Called, naturally, Isaac Mizrahi LIVE!, the show features Mizrahi and co-host Shawn Killinger hawking various garments, shoes, and accessories while models process awkwardly around the pair as if taking part in some sort of garish stripmall cakewalk. Killinger plays the perfect gal-pal counterpart to Mizrahi’s delightfully overzealous queen, both of them gushing absurdly (and clearly cynically) over items that are more chintzy than the oft-repeated adjective chic. Palpably middlebrow callers are occasionally tolerated, and discussions of “infinity scarves” and other objets d’kitsch often devolve into the peculiar syntactic fantasia (remember “a treat is happening”?) for which QVC is famous. Suffice it to say, I have passed many an evening with only a bottle of wine and this program for entertainment.

For those that haven’t yet made an acquaintance with the campy joys ofIML!, a new bit of viral content offers an appropriately outré entrée.

Jan. 16 2015 3:33 PM

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Gay Marriage Cases

On Friday afternoon, the Supreme Court agreed to review the 6th Circuit’s decision upholding gay marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky. The decision will bring the question of marriage equality before the court for the first time since 2013’s United States v. Windsor, when five justices voted to strike down a federal gay marriage ban as a violation of the Constitution’s equal protection and due process guarantees. This time around, the court will consider whether state-level bans against gay marriage, as well as state laws forbidding the recognition of gay marriages performed in other states, violate the 14th Amendment.

Most court-watchers—myself included—expect the five justices of the Windsor majority to reverse the 6th Circuit’s decision and declare that all state-level gay marriage bans qualify as unconstitutional discrimination. In doing so, the court would validate the decisions of the four circuit courts and several dozen lower courts that read Windsor as a clear command of constitutional equality. The Windsor majority, after all, held that the federal gay marriage ban “degrade[s]” and “demean[s]” same-sex couples; there is no logical reason why state gay marriage bans should “degrade” gay people any less.

Still, a handful of federal judges have caustically criticized the idea that the same-sex marriage debate is effectively settled, pointedly noting that the Supreme Court has yet to declare all gay marriage bans unconstitutional. Today’s decision means the justices will soon have a chance to do just that, likely settling the legal aspect of the marriage equality debate once and for all. Expect the case to be heard in April, with an opinion arriving at the end of June—and the argle-bargle accusations commencing shortly thereafter. 

Want to hang out with Outward? If you’ll be in or near New York City on Feb. 3, join June Thomas, J. Bryan Lowder, and Mark Joseph Stern—and special guest Lea DeLaria of Orange Is the New Black fame!for a queer kiki at the first ever Outward LIVE show, hosted by City Winery. Details and tickets can be found here.

Jan. 15 2015 4:57 PM

InTouch’s Transphobic Story on Bruce Jenner Causes Outrage

Rumors have been swirling for some time that Bruce Jenner, the former Olympian and Kardashian stepfather, may be preparing to come out as transgender. Of course, rumors are just that, and if Jenner is indeed trans, he should be allowed to make that information known (or not) on his own terms. And more important, in an ideal world, we would all meet such news not with sniggering or a snide “told you so,” but with support and acceptance.

Clearly, we do not yet live in that ideal world. This week’s issue of InTouch Weekly, a gossipy, grocery aisle mainstay, has gone full transphobic with a cruel cover story on Jenner titled, “My Life as a Woman.” The headline is accompanied, naturally, by a garish, photoshopped image of Jenner with lipstick and rouge. (According to BuzzFeed, the image is actually a superimposition of Jenner with British actress Stephanie Beacham.) The story suggests that Jenner is planning to come out on the cover of the Advocate in 2015, a claim that the venerable LGBTQ magazine has strongly denied.

Indeed, though many trans advocates and allies have come down hard on the atrocious cover, the Advocate’s response tactic of including the voices of many trans people has been the most powerful—noted trans writer and activist Kate Bornstein was livid: “ ‘Damn it,’ Bornstein wrote in all-caps. ‘Bruce Jenner is being bullied, and publicly shamed for no other reason than being trans. I'm so sorry for B.J.’”

Of course, you’d be a fool to expect much sensitivity from a trashy magazine like InTouch, but this cover is in some ways more upsetting in the context of a period in which there have been more positive representations of trans people in the media than ever before. Compared to something like Laverne Cox’s triumphant Time cover of 2014, the Jenner bullying feels not only offensive, but also played-out, a relic of a time when trans people’s lives were widely considered a punch line. To say the cover is, ironically, out-of-touch is an understatement.  

Want to hang out with Outward? If you’ll be in or near New York City on Feb. 3, join June Thomas, J. Bryan Lowder, and Mark Joseph Stern—and special guest Lea DeLaria of Orange Is the New Black fame!for a queer kiki at the first ever Outward LIVE show, hosted by City Winery. Details and tickets can be found here.

Jan. 14 2015 4:52 PM

Gay Dads Kordale and Kaleb Featured in a Gorgeous Nikon Ad

Remember Kordale and Kaleb, the web-famous gay couple from Atlanta, Georgia? They came to the Internet’s attention early last year when an Instagram picture of their morning routine with their three children went viral, bringing a rush of attention, both positive and negative. While many commenters offered support for the family, others trotted out the usual homophobic opinions, namely that gay men should not be allowed to raise kids. At the time, Kordale and Kaleb defended the legitimacy of their family in the strongest terms (some troubling talk about sleeping in separate bedrooms so that they would appear as friends to their children notwithstanding), and went on with their lives.

Now, Kordale, Kaleb, and their kids are back in a beautiful ad campaign for Nikon, titled “I Am Generation Image,” in which six people “with something to say” were provided with high-end cameras to record their experiences.

In a video made for the campaign, the voiceover begins with a powerful statement: “We just want people to know that, hey, we’re normal. And you can’t judge people on their normal. You really can’t.” And recalling the controversy over the last year’s image: “The comments were a trip. It didn’t make me feel any way, because I know they don’t know what we go through, I know they don’t know our children, I know they don’t know our lifestyle, they don’t know how we live.”

Quite right; but based on the glimpse that the couple has offered in this video, it looks like they and their children are living pretty well.

Jan. 14 2015 2:19 PM

Saks Continues to Assert a Legal Right to Discriminate Against Trans Employees

On Tuesday, the chief executive of Saks Fifth Avenue’s parent company effectively doubled down on Saks’ claim that it has a legal right to discriminate against, harass, and fire trans employees simply for being trans. At the same time, the chief executive asserted that “it’s preposterous to think that in any way Saks Fifth Avenue is anything but a strong advocate for LGBT rights.” The company will thus continue to fight trans discrimination lawsuits by claiming that trans employees have no legal protection against workplace harassment.

Jan. 14 2015 11:53 AM

Ask a Homo: Lookin' Good, Bro!

Welcome back to Ask a Homo, a judgment-free zone where the gays of Outward answer questions about LGBTQ politics, culture, etiquette, language, and other queer conundrums. In this ripped-from-the-headlines (of like 3 months ago) episode, we consider catcalling among gay men: Do they do it? Do they like it? What does it all mean?! 

If there are questions you’ve been dying to ask a member of the real rainbow coalition, this is your chance. Send your queries—for publication—to slateoutward@gmail.com, and please put “ASK A HOMO” in the subject line. Note that questions may be edited.

Jan. 13 2015 3:15 PM

Gay-Friendly Judges in Texas and South Carolina May Soon Lose Their Salaries

Ever since the Supreme Court ordered the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages, red state legislators have struggled to come up with creative new ways to legally demean gay people. This year, Texas and South Carolina appear poised to up the ante: Rather than pass state laws stripping gay people of their rights, legislators in both states will consider barring state judges from ruling in favor of gay marriage. Any judge who violates the law by siding with gay plaintiffs would lose her salary, her pension, and her benefits—including health insurance.

There is, however, a slight problem with these laws: They are wildly, blatantly, uncontestably unconstitutional.

Jan. 13 2015 1:38 PM

What’s So Offensive About My Husband’s Not Gay?

You couldn’t stroll onto gay Internet last week without stumbling over a jeremiad against My Husband’s Not Gay, a typically absurd TLC reality special that follows four straight-married Mormon men who distinguish their admitted “same-sex attraction (SSA)” from what they view as a sinful “gay lifestyle.” In addition to a slew of disapproving op-eds, high-profile LGBTQ advocacy groups like GLAAD denounced the show and a petition calling for its cancelation garnered many thousands of signatures—and this, all before anyone (but a handful of critics) had actually seen the program, which prevailed in airing on Sunday night.

Given that, at least as of the time of writing, the one-hour special has not yet undone a half-century of LGBTQ activism, I feel safe speaking my own truth: I’m glad the hysterical, censorious activism failed. For one thing, because the show produced intelligent, productive writing on the intersection of faith and sexuality and the status of the “ex-gay movement,” like the pieces from Outward contributor Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart, the Atlantic’s Emma Green, and Think Progress’ Zack Ford. But more important, the rush to shut down the show has provided us on the pro-LGBTQ left an opportunity to reflect on what appears to be a startling inability to deal with difference, as well as a worrisome impulse to attribute false consciousness to those who do not live in ways that seem appropriate to us.