Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

Aug. 21 2015 4:28 PM

U.S. Embassy–Sponsored Film Festival in Moscow to Feature Gay-Themed Film

In September, the U.S. Embassy in Russia will sponsor the Amfest film festival in Moscow and St. Petersburg, spotlighting American independent cinema. On Friday, the Hollywood Reporter noticed an interesting addition to Amfest’s lineup: I Am Michael, a gay-themed film about a gay rights activist man who tries to become straight.

Amfest’s decision to include the movie is quite notable, since screening it in Russia is almost certainly illegal. Under the country’s “homosexual propaganda” law, it is a crime to expose minors to any positive depiction of gay life. Because I Am Michael contains such a depiction, it’s probably criminal to show it in public. Enforcement of the law has been inconsistent when it comes to Western movies—the very gay Pride has been screened without issue—but Amfest’s willingness to show the film is still a bold move.

Presuming the embassy signed off on all this, the inclusion of I Am Michael is pretty clearly a political move. The Obama administration has vehemently opposed Russia’s law, and the president himself has spoken out against anti-gay measures in other countries. A screening of a tepidly reviewed gay Western movie isn’t as much of a statement as was, say, including openly gay athletes in the Sochi Olympics delegation. But it’s a sly, heartening way to support equality in a country that is increasingly brutal toward its gay citizens.

Video Advertisement

Aug. 21 2015 1:40 PM

One-Third of Americans Under 30 Say They’re Not Totally Heterosexual

Hot on the heels of a YouGov survey that found nearly one-half of British 18-to-24-year-olds identifying as something other than totally heterosexual, the same organization has polled 1,000 Americans and found that while 78 percent say they are completely straight, only 66 percent of those under the age of 30 see themselves that way.

Of course, the increasing openness to sexual identification beyond the extremes suggests that the population that identifies as gay is shrinking. Asked to plot themselves on the seven-point Kinsey scale, where 0 is completely straight and 6 is totally gay, 5 percent of the men and 3 percent of the women declared themselves a Kinsey 6. Among the under 30s, just 2 percent saw themselves as entirely homosexual.

In a survey that was mostly focused on attitudes, the most interesting answers came in a question about experience. When asked if they had ever had a sexual experience with a member of the same sex, 12 percent of the heterosexuals said that they had. And, apparently, television, where female bisexuals outnumber the men, is a reliable guide to life: 15 percent of male and 20 percent of female respondents reported that they had had a same-sex sexual encounter.

Aug. 21 2015 11:30 AM

Illinois Bans Anti-Gay Conversion “Therapy” for Minors, Linking It to Consumer Fraud 

On Thursday, Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill barring licensed therapists from attempting to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Illinois is the fifth American jurisdiction to ban the thoroughly discreditedgrotesquely harmful practice, after California, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. Every court to consider these laws has held that they do not run afoul of the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has twice refused to review such rulings.

Illinois’ new measure is especially interesting in light of a New Jersey jury’s recent decision that ex-gay conversion therapy constitutes consumer fraud and unconscionable business practice. The Illinois bill builds on this idea. In addition to barring conversion therapy itself, the law forbids licensed therapists from claiming that homosexuality is “a mental disease, disorder, or illness” in advertisements. Any therapist who violates this provision will run afoul of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, opening himself up to state sanctions and private civil suits.

Aug. 21 2015 9:00 AM

Vicious Snipes Its Way Down the Aisle

The second season of Vicious, the delightful British sitcom starring Derek Jacobi and Ian McKellen as an elderly gay couple, comes to PBS at a fortuitous time for American viewers. Showrunner Gary Janetti clearly had commitment on his mind when crafting these six episodes, and with the opportunity to legally marry now finally open to same-sex couples across the United States, the anxieties and questions Stuart and Freddie face as they plan their own wedding over the course of the season feel suddenly more pressing. Of course, this being Vicious, don’t expect an earnest homily on the transcendent power of marriage. Instead, prepare for more of what Janetti and his talented cast delivered in Season 1—a smart, wry, and distinctively gay look at coupled life that dismisses pieties while managing to remain fundamentally warm.

wrote at length last season on how Freddie and Stuart’s bitchy mode of relating, far from being a mere exercise in “bitter queen” stereotyping, actually offers a profound treatise on how gay men—and others, if they’re smart—can strengthen their relationships by tempering love with a camp sensibility. This season underlines that point, even as it turns its attention to a broader consideration of how people make and honor commitments to one another.

Aug. 20 2015 12:10 PM

Some Gay Couples Are Being Denied Social Security Benefits, and Nobody’s Quite Sure Why

Are you a voter or legislator who supported a law stripping gays and lesbians of their ability to wed? Were you disappointed when the Supreme Court held that marriage is a fundamental right that states cannot deny to same-sex couples? Rejoice! Some gay couples, and a number of gay widows and widowers, are still being denied Social Security benefits nearly three months after the legality of their same-sex unions were affirmed by the Supreme Court. The oddest part? Nobody’s quite sure why.

In the days of DOMA, the rules governing same-sex couples’ Social Security benefits were simple: They didn’t get any. DOMA barred the federal government from recognizing even state-sanctioned same-sex marriages. Thus, until June 26, 2013, same-sex couples had no reason to apply for benefits. The government had effectively hung a big sign outside the Social Security Administration declaring that gay couples need not apply.

Aug. 19 2015 11:30 AM

Mormons Should Embrace Gay Boy Scout Leaders

When I became an Eagle Scout four years ago, nobody knew I was gay—I was still in the process of accepting it myself. If I had told anyone, I would not have been given the award, despite a decade of involvement with scouting, countless hours with dozens of volunteers installing a garden at my elementary school, and more than a hundred nights camping in the California wilderness.

Becoming an Eagle Scout was one of my proudest achievements as a teenager. My parents were thrilled as I was presented with the award in the Mormon chapel where my dad, the bishop of our local congregation and a former scoutmaster, had received his. As I thanked my peers and leaders for their support, I spoke from the same pulpit where a few years earlier, a letter had been read announcing the church’s decision to intervene in the battle over Proposition 8, which amended California’s constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. The ensuing fight entangled California, the church, and the Boy Scouts of America in an intense cultural debate that has continued to play out in my own life and around the country.

Aug. 19 2015 8:30 AM

Ask a Homo: Butt Slaps in the Shower

Welcome back to Ask a Homo, a judgment-free zone where the queers of Outward answer questions about LGBTQ politics, culture, etiquette, language, and other conundrums. Today, a baseball enthusiast wonders if a teammate who keeps slapping him on the butt is gay.

If there are questions you’ve been dying to ask a member of the real rainbow coalition, thisis 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.


Aug. 18 2015 2:17 PM

“It Would Be Sacrificing Our Dignity to Go Anywhere Else,” Say Victims of Anti-Gay Clerk

David Moore and David Ermold didn’t plan to cause a national controversy when they asked for a marriage license at Kentucky’s Rowan County courthouse in July. But after posting footage of county clerk Kim Davis refusing to grant them a marriage license on account of their orientation, the couple became heroes of the gay rights movement—and targets of the anti-gay “religious liberty” crowd. Davis has since lost a lawsuit brought by the ACLU on behalf of other gay couples against whom she discriminated. But she is continuing to fight for a right to refuse service to gay Kentuckians. I spoke with Moore and Ermold on Tuesday about their experience at the courthouse, their legal battle, and where they’ll go from here.

Why did you wait for the Supreme Court to declare marriage a fundamental right before obtaining a license?

Moore: We talked about getting married for quite a long time. We’d been together for so long, we already assumed in our own mind that we are married. This is about securing our right. We work at two different universities. We want to start considering our health plan, our future—the personal rights that we’ve now been granted.

Aug. 18 2015 11:18 AM

Australia Doesn’t Have Gay Marriage. Mexico Does. Here’s Why.

“I think it’s probably better if you don’t hold hands. You know how your father gets.”

That’s what my mum told me last year when I arrived in Australia for Christmas with my boyfriend for the first time. My mum’s statement felt like a slap in the face: After spending so many years struggling with myself, I was finally happy and totally in love.

My mum, who is Australian, was alluding to the more conservative background of my dad, who is Mexican. Like him, I was born and raised in Mexico, and like him, I experienced the conservative Catholic values and machismo that are the national norm there. It was for this reason that I ‘d also had concerns when coming out to him. But the truth is, he couldn’t have been more accepting, of both me and Joseph. When we left, my dad said, “Well done. He’s a great man.”

In recent months, I’ve found myself reflecting on these events more and more. And last week, the contradiction came to a head: A few months after legalizing same-sex marriage, Mexico’s Supreme Court legalized gay adoption. Just one day earlier, Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott had banned members of his party from voting in favor of a new marriage equality bill, effectively killing it.  

Aug. 18 2015 9:00 AM

Can “All-Gender” Underwear Really Be Comfortable for All Genders?

Are you ever frustrated that the underwear that actually fits your body's shape isn’t gendered the way you would want it to be? Panties too feminine for your taste? Boxers or briefs too masculine? If you're not into society's stereotypes for how you should dress your body, the limited underwear market is enough to make some of us want to go naked in protest. But since going commando isn't sustainable over the long term, which to compromise: style or fit?

Forget about that. Play Out underwear operates on the principle that you deserve a choice of stylish non-gendered print to stretch across your buns, in a cut that fits your body, whatever its parts may be. The first run of undies are being sold in Small, Medium and Large, but Play Out says larger sizes are high on their to-do list.