Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

Oct. 14 2014 3:11 PM

Conservative Cardinals Push Back Against Church’s Reported Softening on Gays

As I reported yesterday, a conference of bishops is currently underway at the Vatican, the subject of which is the contemporary family. Monday saw the release of an interim report called “relatio” that, among other things, suggested that the Church was considering revising its approach to homosexuals in a way that might recognize their “gifts and qualities” and offer a means of welcoming them more affirmatively into the Catholic community. Many media outlets, including Outward, presented these statements as a sign of a potential shift in tone, if not fundamental doctrine—but if the response of a number of conservative clergy today is any indication, even that is an overstatement.

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Oct. 13 2014 1:39 PM

Vatican Softens Stance on Gays

In a move that has been called “an earthquake” in the Roman Catholic Church’s approach to homosexuals, the Vatican released a document on Monday that urged clergy and parishioners to treat gay Catholics—especially those in committed relationships—with more respect than had been previously condoned. The statement, called “Relatio,” was the result of a week-long conference on the contemporary family organized by Pope Francis. The 200 bishops who participated called on the church to recognize the “gifts and qualities” that homosexuals can contribute and suggested that it is possible for the Catholics to make a “fraternal space” for gays without necessarily compromising on basic doctrine, which continues to view homosexual sex acts as sin and to deny the validity of same-sex marriage.

“[A]re we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a further space in our communities?” the document asked. “Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home.” According to Reuters, the statement will continue to be discussed over another week of meetings, and a final, possibly changed version, will be produced in the end.  

Oct. 13 2014 10:14 AM

What’s Happening to LGBTQ Rights in Macedonia?

For the third time since it came to power in 2006, Macedonia’s ruling faction is trying to amend the nation’s constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage. Amendment 33 would also prohibit civil unions or any other registered form of life partnership for same-sex couples.

Should the efforts of the ominously named Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization—Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity, known by the less imposing initialism VMRO, be successful, Macedonia would join Serbia and Montenegro as constituents of the former Yugoslavia that have exclusivist constitutional restrictions.


Oct. 10 2014 6:09 PM

Supreme Court Allows Gay Marriages to Continue in Idaho

On Friday afternoon, the Supreme Court lifted an earlier stay halting gay marriages in Idaho. Justice Anthony Kennedy had issued the stay after the 9th Circuit struck down that state’s gay marriage ban on Tuesday. The court’s reversal of the order means that gay marriages can proceed in Idaho immediately.

It’s not altogether clear why the court decided to lift the stay, but the move certainly suggests that the justices are eager to avoid the gay marriage question for as long as possible. Technically, the court’s refusal to grant a stay doesn’t reflect a judgment call on the merits of the law in question. But in reality, the decision hints that the justices are content to let the 9th Circuit’s ruling stand, since the inevitable flood of marriages will be difficult to halt or invalidate. Thus far this term, the court has refused to hear a single gay marriage case. If Friday’s order is any indication, the justices will continue to sit on their hands for the foreseeable future.

One particularly notable feature about the terse order is that it wasn’t issued by Kennedy alone; every single justice agreed to let gay marriages proceed in Idaho. That doesn’t mean that the Windsor dissenters have come around to the constitutional argument for gay marriage. Rather, it indicates that all the justices, even the conservatives, are happy to let the lower courts sort this mess out on their own. So far, that strategy has brought a fair amount of chaos. But it’s also brought marriage equality to at least nine (and theoretically 13) new states in a single week. Even if the means of the court’s strategy are questionable, then, the end results are pretty hard to quibble with. 

Oct. 10 2014 5:41 PM

The Making of a Sexy TV Lesbian

Survivor’s Remorse, which launched on Starz last Saturday, and has already been renewed for a second season, tells the story of Cam Calloway, a professional basketball player whose huge new contract has made him one of the game’s superstars, as he learns to adjust to his elevated status with the help of his tight-knit family. It’s a funny, cheeky, and sometimes spookily prescient show—the second episode deals with the fallout when Cam’s mom tells a red-carpet interviewer that she used to discipline her son with a switch—which also happens to have a fantastic gay character: Cam’s sister, Mary Charles, known as M-Chuck and played by Erica Ash, is a key member of his entourage and a very out and proud lesbian.

I spoke with showrunner Mike O’Malley—yes, Burt Hummel on Glee—about how he came up with the M-Chuck character, whether he considers her a womanizer, and LeBron James’ involvement with the show.

Oct. 10 2014 4:06 PM

For ICANN, Hotels Are a Community, Gays Are Not

This week, the long-delayed decision from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers on the future of the new .gay generic top level domain (gTLD) was published, and the news was very bad for the LGBTQ community. ICANN is the entity that controls the key bits of the Internet, in particular the domain name system. It is currently in the long drawn-out process of creating hundreds of new gTLDs, including .lawyer, .ibm and .hiv to join stalwarts such as .com and .org.

I’ve written about this process a few times in Slate, often about the application for the .gay domain name (here and here), which has been subject to a fight between three commercial applicants and a fourth, dotgay LLC, which was applying under the “community priority evaluation” process set up by ICANN to protect certain domain names that served the interests of a particular community. In a document dated Oct. 6 but made public on Thursday, that application was rejected following a review by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the business contracted by ICANN to carry out this task.

Oct. 10 2014 2:58 PM

The Fine Art of Distraction: Foraging in the Junkyard of Culture With Ryan Landry

For almost 30 years, Ryan Landry and his theater troupe, the Gold Dust Orphans, have been entertaining audiences in Boston and Provincetown, Massachusetts, with his ramshackle remix plays that take their inspiration from sources as varied as Greek tragedy and mid-century melodrama. His most recent work, Snow White and the Seven Bottoms, is currently running in New York City, and it’s a wild ride: Prince Charming falls in love with the foppish magic mirror, the dwarves (here rendered as drag-performing puppets) enlist Snow White in helping them seduce husbands, and the most fearsome creature in the Evil Queen’s menagerie is the perfectly named Kardashidragon. Landry’s writing moves with a Robin Williams-like velocity from high literature to low camp, and my conversation with him zig-zagged delightfully in a similar fashion. Here’s a brief (and considerably cleaned-up) look at the impressive frenetic mind behind the fever-dream plays.

Oct. 10 2014 9:49 AM

Why My Hat Says "BOY" on It

You may have seen these hats around: baseball caps, most commonly black, with "BOY" printed or embroidered on the front panel. I've seen a version that also has "GIRL" printed on the underside of the visor. On the websites that sell them, the hats are most commonly seen on men. Interestingly, though, in the real world, you will chiefly find them perched atop the craniums of women, including (or, I think, especially) queer women.

How awesome is it that our society's progression in the handling of gender identity and expression, and the new freedoms to experiment therewith, have evolved to the point that people are actually beginning to play around with the very labels of gender identity ... as a fashion statement?

Oct. 9 2014 6:26 PM

South Park Takes on Trans Issues … and It's Great

When we found out South Park was doing an entire episode about gender identity this season, a few of my trans friends were worried we were about to become the joke of the week. After all, the show has mishandled the issue in the past. Most famously, gay man Mr. Garrison, the kids' teacher, went through a two-year stint as a trans woman only to de-transition back to malehood, and that entire storyline was played for laughs based on disrespectful stereotypes.

However, I was cautiously optimistic this time: Matt and Trey, South Park creators, have come a long way in their maturity over the 17 seasons the show has aired, and that growth really shows in last night's episode “Cissy” (Season 18, episode 3). Trans was most definitely the focus of both plots, but throughout the entire episode, I never once felt that the jokes were at my expense. There were certainly moments that made me uncomfortable, but only because of emotional resonance with my own life experience.

The only actual transphobic charaters, and there were remarkably few, are presented in a negative light in scenes where the audience is encouraged to sympathize with the suffering those people cause us, rather than laugh along with the bully as we're mocked. Cissexists and transphobes are the butts of the episode’s jokes, as well they should be. When it comes to trans in mainstream media, it seems the tables have finally begun to turn.

Oct. 9 2014 3:04 PM

Estonia Stands up to Russia, Recognizes Same-Sex Partners

On Thursday, the Estonian parliament approved the Cohabitation Act, which “recognizes civil unions regardless of gender” and allows same-sex couples “to adopt the children of either partner but does not expressly grant them the right to adopt other children.” Twenty-three of the 101 lawmakers were absent or abstained, but Estonian President Toomas Ilves later announced on Twitter that he had signed the bill. The Cohabitation Act, now known as the Civil Partnership Law, will go into effect in 2016.

Estonia is the first country of the former Soviet Union to recognize same-sex partners—though, as Ilves also noted on Twitter, the label of “first former Soviet republic” downplays the fact that Estonia has been independent for almost 25 years. The law is remarkable not because of the country’s past, but because of the reality of its political present: Neighboring Russia has been using anti-LGBTQ propaganda to stir up anti-Western, anti-EU sentiment in Eastern Europe. In some cases, that worked to turn people against the West. In others, it has worked to turn people against LGBTQ rights: Georgia, for example, passed an EU-friendly anti-discrimination law in May, but only after the government made the law less enforceable and offered to change the constitution to state that marriage is between a man and a woman.