Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

April 17 2015 5:18 PM

A Gay-Friendly Guide to Joining and Fastening

First it was pizza; now it’s cars. In the wake of the fracas over Indiana’s “religious liberty” law and similar proposals in states around the country, the latest proud American business owner to declare he no longer desires the money of LGBTQ and most other decent-minded people is Brian Klawiter, the entrepreneur behind Dieseltec, an auto-body shop in Grandville, Michigan. In a cri de coeur posted to the company Facebook page on Tuesday, Klawiter wrote that the rights of conservative Americans are being “squashed” and that, in response, he would welcome gun enthusiasts to his establishment and “would not hesitate to refuse service to an openly gay person or persons. Homosexuality is wrong, period. If you want to argue this fact with me then I will put your vehicle together with all bolts and no nuts and you can see how that works.”

Klawiter’s statement has, predictably, garnered Dieseltec a tsunami of negative attention, from one-star Yelp reviews to reporting on the fact that he does not hold a city business license to, most amusingly, a wonderfully shady offer of assistance from a Grand Rapids bankruptcy lawyer. (It’s worth noting that Klawiter has reported threats of violence against his property and family, actions which LGBTQ advocacy groups like the HRC are actively discouraging, and rightly so.) A number of critics picked up on his earthy bolts-and-nuts metaphor, interpreting it to suggest that Klawiter would purposefully misassemble a gay customer’s car in order to make his point. He quickly clarified this (admittedly ungenerous) reading in a sic-filled update on Thursday:

I never threatened to intentionally put someones vehicle together wrong, use you sense, (although it may not have been the best way to elaborate) You need a bolt and a nut to hold something together, two bolts can not, and two nuts can not, you must have one of each, a male and a female. Get it now?

While we here at Outward will probably not be seeking Dieseltec’s services anytime soon, we appreciate Klawiter’s invitation to use our sense. That feels like an opening for dialogue, and so, in the interest of productive engagement, we’d like to suggest to the gentleman and others like him that there are in fact more ways of holding two things together than the nuts and bolts obsessively dreamt of in their philosophy. Indeed, given that even the lesbian among us admits to being unschooled in the building arts, we turned to Google to check Klawiter’s claim—and we were delighted to find a range of joining options beyond that venerable but limited model.

Video Advertisement

April 17 2015 11:44 AM

States Can’t Get Elite Attorneys to Defend Their Gay Marriage Bans? Good!

On April 28, the eyes of the nation will turn again to the Supreme Court when it hears oral argument on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans. Many of us will look forward to the court determining once and for all that the Constitution cannot permit states to refuse to marry same-sex couples.

Of course, there are others who, instead of celebrating the country being on the precipice of marriage equality, are lamenting the change in public attitudes that have made the anti-equality position unpopular. Justice Antonin Scalia has long held this position, decrying the “elite” “lawyer class” beholden to the “homosexual agenda” that has forced its “insulting” views about equality on the “more plebian attitudes” of the rest of the country.

April 16 2015 4:11 PM

Should Gays Bottom for Hillary?

Ryan, a 23-year-old San Franciscan who’s using his first name only, created a ruckus on gay social media earlier this week when he launched his “I’d Bottom for Hillary” campaign, a T-shirt and hashtag initiative that aims to support Hillary Clinton’s recently confirmed bid for the presidency. (Bottoming, on the off-chance that you’re unfamiliar, is the general term in gay culture for being the receptive partner in penetrative sex.) In interviews, Ryan has characterized his #BottomForHillary movement as “just a fun way for people to show support for a presidential candidate”—which, fair enough—but many gays aren’t laughing. A Huffington Post commenter decried the phrase, writing, “we do not need this type of exposure, as it does not help our LGBT community at all,” and Zach Stafford has penned a screed against the thing in the Guardian, declaring that it relies on a logic of “bottom-shaming,” the essentially misogynistic notion that bottoming is more effeminate—and therefore a lesser act—than topping.

Stafford’s point is well-taken (I definitely share his dislike for the way bottom-shaming often creeps into gay men’s discourse), but I wonder if it’s totally fair. After all, the actual phrase “I’d Bottom for Hillary,” once you think about it, is kind of ambiguous in meaning. There are a number of ways you could read it, and if we’re going to debate whether Ryan’s anal-focused political activism is “good for the gays,” we ought to give it a fair hearing. To that end, I’ve attempted a very intimate reading of his four-word sentence, a patient exercise in which we’ll carefully expand it to unpack all the hidden implications.

April 16 2015 3:47 PM

This Gorgeous, Touching Ad May Help Bring Marriage Equality to Ireland

Ireland’s national referendum on marriage equality is nearly a month away, and polls suggest a supermajority of Irish citizens believes same-sex couples should have a right to marry. The referendum’s organizers, then, don’t really have to convince their fellow citizens that gay people deserve basic rights; they simply have to make sure the enlightened ones show up to vote. In a gorgeous new video titled “Bring Your Family With You,” Irish LGBT advocacy group BeLonG To has found a sweet and surprisingly touching way to nag people into voting:

I must note that BeLonG To’s ad, while beautiful, is not the best LGBT advocacy commercial ever made. That honor will likely forever belong to Australia’s “It’s Time,” which can reduce even the most stoic among us to a sniveling, lachrymose mess. If you don’t believe me now, you will in two minutes. 

April 16 2015 8:30 AM

Life Inside the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp for Women

Nestled alongside an idyllic lake, the Ravensbrück concentration camp, 50 miles north of Berlin, was constructed in 1939 specifically to house women.By the end of the war, 130,000 women from 20 European countries had been led through its entrance, often unaware of the danger inside.

Most of the camp’s inhabitants weren’t Jewish; rather, they were considered inferior because they were prostitutes, lesbians, political resisters, “work-shy” or “asocial.” Roma (Gypsies) and Jehovah’s Witnesses—the latter had only to renounce their faith to be freed—were also imprisoned there. All were considered “useless mouths” by the Nazis, worthy of brutal treatment. More than 30,000—some estimate as many as 90,000—women perished there from starvation, disease, gassings, hanging, torture, or execution by shooting.

“They had what I would call dead eyes,” said Sylvia Salvesen, a Norwegian survivor of Ravensbrück, recalling her first impression of the bald, skeletal prisoners she saw when she arrived at the camp in 1943. Author Sarah Helm chronicles Salvesen’s story, and those of many others, in a new book,Ravensbrück: Life and Death in Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women. Helm’s exhaustive research includes interviews with numerous survivors. The youngest were in their mid-80s; many have since passed away.

April 15 2015 11:55 AM

Ask a Homo: What’s With Lesbians and Gays Getting Back Together With Their Exes?

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 edition, a reader wonders why so many queer people pine for their exes.

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.

Other Questions Asked of Homos:

April 14 2015 5:23 PM

Asexuality and Intersex Conditions Are Television’s New Frontier

A few weeks ago, after an evening feasting on the delights stored on my TiVo, it struck me that every show I’d watched—BenchedJane the Virgin,GleeThe Mindy Project, and Marry Me—had featured at least one queer character. My attitude to TV representation of the LGBTQ nation is and always will be “more please.” Nevertheless, I started to wonder if gay and lesbian characters were becoming a little too familiar, perhaps even a teensy bit boring.

Luckily, in the last year or so, the range of sexual and gender identities being represented on television has expanded in new and interesting ways: The USA comedy Sirens has an asexual character, and at the beginning of Season 2, MTV’s Faking It revealed that one of the core characters is intersex. When I asked those shows’ creators why they had chosen to explore these identities, both mentioned wanting to do something new and different.


April 14 2015 10:00 AM

Women Earn Less Than Men, but Lesbians Earn More Than Straight Women. Why?

April 14 is this year’s Equal Pay Day, chosen because it marks the point in 2015 when women’s earnings finally reach parity with what men earned in 2014. Women’s pay is, on average, significantly lower than men’s for many reasons, including choice of degree or career, hours worked, and discrimination by sexist employers—but not all women are affected equally. Lesbians, while still earning significantly less than straight men, actually outperform their straight female counterparts. The breakdown is as follows: On average, for every dollar earned by a man in a heterosexual couple, a woman in a heterosexual couple earns 63 cents, while a woman in a same-sex couple earns 79 cents (same-sex coupled men earn 98 cents), according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, which was based on findings in a 2013 report by The Williams Institute’s Gary J. Gates. This is true despite evidence that lesbians, along with gay men, experience more discrimination in the workplace than heterosexuals do; they also have less job satisfaction. While the exact combinations of factors that lead to a wage premium for U.S. lesbians aren’t thoroughly understood, potential explanations can tell us a lot about the ways in which sexism, cultural influences, and individual choices combine to give us the unequal workplace landscape we see today.

How can lesbians still come out ahead, even in an environment that continues to discriminate against both women and gays? Let’s credit our old friend “a variety of factors.” Since lesbians are free from the expectation that women’s careers should take a backseat to those of their male partners’, they can prioritize their jobs  without compromising their ability to find a mate. After they’re coupled, there’s no built-in assumption about whose career ought to come first when both partners are women—and either way a woman’s career is prioritized. Even today, lesbians are less likely to interrupt their careers to have children or to experience an unplanned pregnancy, which could affect their career goals and the level they rise to in the workplace. Lesbian women may also feel less constrained by the dominant culture’s expectations about the way women are supposed to be, freeing them to consider better-paying, male-dominated fields at higher rates than other women do.

April 14 2015 8:30 AM

A Conservative Florida Republican Explains Why He Shot Down an Anti-Gay Adoption Bill  

Last Wednesday, gay rights activists throughout Florida held their breaths and waited for catastrophe. It never came. The state Senate was debating amendments to a new adoption bill that would, among other things, provide incentives for Floridians to adopt special needs children and formally repeal the state’s ban on adoptions by same-sex couples. Sen. Kelli Stargel, displeased with the bill’s pro-equality provisions, proposed an alarming “conscience clause” amendment that would permit even state-funded adoption agencies to turn away couples on account of their religious or moral convictions. The LGBTQ community expected the amendment to pass—until Republican Sen. Don Gaetz stood up to protest the measure, declaring:

I don't think it would be right for this Senate to take the position that we believe—as some believed in 1977—that there was something wrong with a child having a chance at a loving home even if the people in that loving home didn't have the traditional family values that we have. It wasn't too many years ago that interracial adoptions were illegal and frowned on and immoral. … We don't need to turn the social clock in this state back to 1977 [when the gay adoption ban was passed].

Gaetz then called Florida’s anti-gay adoption law a “sleeping, comatose dead dog” and an “archaic, dusty, dead law.” The amendment, seemingly fast-tracked for success, was then overwhelmingly rejected on a voice vote. I spoke to Gaetz on Monday about his stand for equality.

April 13 2015 6:03 PM

Cucumber and Banana Get Queer Life Right

Though the most I could ever muster for Looking, HBO’s recently canceled show about a handful of uninteresting gay guys in San Francisco, was a grudging tolerance, I will agree with its mourners on one point: Patrick and company’s departure leaves television lacking a committed gay show, and, worse, may discourage executives from finding a replacement. Lucky for us, however, the Brits might have already created the rebound we need in Cucumber and its companion show Banana, which sashay across the pond to Logo on Monday following RuPaul’s Drag Race. Having seen the first two episodes of each, I feel confident to say that, taken together, the series are as insightful about modern gay life (albeit in Manchester, England) as Looking tried to be, but with an important difference—they also happen to be consistently surprising and entertaining.

This rare combination of smarts and sparkle has long been a hallmark of creator Russell T. Davies’ work—which includes the original U.K. Queer as Folk and his wildly popular reboot of the Doctor Whofranchise—and they imbue this new interrelated programming venture with the makings of excellence. Indeed, if the remainder of the shows bear out the promise of their opening, we could be looking at the first truly great queer shows of the “equality era.”