Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

Sept. 25 2015 2:17 PM

Who’s Real and Who’s Invented in Stonewall?

As many critics have pointed out, Roland Emmerich sabotaged his new movie, Stonewall, by placing Danny, a fictional masculine, white savior, at its center. Many of the situations Danny is put in are clichéd and ridiculous, as is much the dialogue assigned to him. The best way to experience the movie is to imagine it without Danny, Garfield Minus Garfield-style. Absent his gee-shucks galumphing, however, the film is a relatively accurate representation of the events of June 28, 1969. The film’s cast of characters includes a mixture of real participants in the Stonewall riots and some composite inventions. Read on to learn who was real, who was invented, and who the composite characters’ lives were borrowed from.

Frank Kameny
The film presents Franklin Kameny (Arthur Holden) as a  suit-and-tie-wearing political square who was a member of the early gay rights group the Mattachine Society—a group presented as uptight and Appolonian, in contrast to the more spontaneous, Dionysian queer kids who hung out around Christopher Street. Kameny did coin the motto “Gay Is Good,” which is shown on a banner when he makes a speech in the movie—and he was indeed very uptight about the way gay people presented themselves. In his book Stonewall, Martin Duberman reports that Kameny believed conservatively attired gay protesters would be more likely “to get bystanders to hear the message rather than be prematurely turned off by appearances.”

The movie misrepresents Kameny’s views in one key respect, however. When Danny tells Kameny that he is interested in studying astronomy and becoming a civil servant, as the older man had done, Kameny tells him, “You’re going to have to find something else,” because gays can’t get government jobs. While it was true that homosexuals were then prohibited from federal employment (and many other lines of work); and that Kameny, who had a Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard, had been fired from the Army Map Service because he was gay; he would never have told a young man to abandon his career goals because he was gay. Kameny was tireless in fighting the ban—repeatedly challenging the Civil Service Commission until it formally renounced its no-homosexuals policy in 1975.

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Sept. 25 2015 11:59 AM

What the Pope Was Really Doing With Those Lines on Same-Sex Marriage and Abortion

After reading some of the coverage of Pope Francis’ Thursday speech to Congress, a person could be forgiven for thinking that the pope was an American politician, dog whistling to his conservative base about his opposition to same-sex marriage. The headline on my Outward colleague Mark Joseph Stern’s post read, “Pope Expresses ‘Concern for the Family’ Before Congress in Allusion to Same-Sex Marriage.” (The Advocate went with something similar.). While the pope was indeed almost certainly alluding to same-sex marriage when he said: “I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family,” taking the line out of context misses the larger point the pope was making in that section of the speech. In this case, missing that point risks missing a key theme of the speech itself.

Sept. 25 2015 11:07 AM

Ask a Homo: Coping With Familial Rejection

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 lesbian wants to know if it’s appropriate to invite friends who were rejected by their own families to hang out with her cool mom.

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:

Sept. 24 2015 3:22 PM

The Stakes of Stonewall

The historical moment we call “Stonewall”—a series of grass-roots protests with complex motivations and diverse participants that took place in and around a divey Manhattan fag bar during the summer of 1969—has always been something of a Rorschach test: We see in it what we need to see.

Even my use of the word protest betrays a personal bias; other equally valid words—riotrebelliondisturbanceuprisingvandalism—each cast a different hue on the events of those nights. And there are other subjective choices to be made. I have long chosen, for example, to invest in the interpretation of Stonewall that attributes a significant part of the don’t fuck with us energy of the first night to Judy Garland’s public spectacle of a funeral, which had occurred earlier that day on the Upper East Side. Why? Because I want to believe in a gay politics that springs from gay culture, from the don’t fuck with me divas and weaponized camp sensibility that were so important to those I claim as my ancestors. I don’t particularly care if that view is “accurate.” (My self-conception as a gay man depends on it.) Others may see Stonewall as an unsurprising extension of the other ’60s revolutions or as an unsettling betrayal of the homophile integrationist impulse. The point is that we all, whether we intend to or not, decide for ourselves what a thing like Stonewallmeans—that’s just the nature of encountering history.

Of course, the meanings we impose on history are usually considered in private or discussed among friends. It’s only when some foolhardy soul attempts to represent his view of history in art that we bring our meanings to the public square—and there we often find that they do not necessarily get along. So it goes with Stonewall, Roland Emmerich’s feature-length attempt at recounting the story, which, in a bit of poetic symmetry, is currently being trashed about as fiercely as its namesake bar was in real life.

Sept. 24 2015 12:54 PM

Justice Scalia Attempts to Undermine the Legitimacy of SCOTUS’s Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

To celebrate Constitution Day, Rhodes College recently invited Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to discuss—and, presumably, praise—the United States’ charter of liberties. Instead of waxing poetic on the Constitution, however, Scalia seized the moment to pillory the court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which brought marriage equality to every state. Scalia criticized the ruling as “the furthest imaginable extension of the Supreme Court doing whatever it wants,” and said the question of same-sex marriage “has nothing to do with the law.” The Obergefell majority, Scalia claimed, rewrote the Constitution instead of interpreting it and operated as “policy-makers” instead of judges.

“Saying that the Constitution requires” same-sex marriage, Scalia opined, “which is contrary to the religious beliefs of many of our citizens—I don’t know how you can get more extreme than that.”

Sept. 24 2015 11:26 AM

Pope Expresses “Concern for the Family” Before Congress in Allusion to Same-Sex Marriage

Toward the end of Pope Francis’ speech to Congress, the pontiff mentions his desire that “the family should be a recurrent theme” through his visit to the United States. He then makes what is almost certainly an allusion to same-sex marriage, stating:

I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.

This oblique criticism may disappoint Pope Francis’ liberal supporters—but it's entirely in keeping with his views on gay rights. The pope briefly encouraged LGBTQ advocates in 2013 when he responded to a question about gay priests by asking, “Who am I to judge?” But if the pope’s discourse on gay people seems progressive, his actual views remain aligned with Catholic orthodoxy. Francis doesn’t really support civil unions or same-sex adoption, and he definitely opposes same-sex marriage, which he allegedly called “anthropological regression.” His description of gay people may be humble and inclusive, but his true views are staunchly conservative. Much of Francis’ speech may have made congressional Republicans uncomfortable. But his “concern for the family” should make them feel right at home.

Sept. 23 2015 12:36 PM

Trans People Face a Huge Risk of Sexual Assault—but Conservatives Paint Them as Predators

Buried among the data from the Association of American Universities’ new study on campus sexual assault was an especially distressing detail: Trans and genderqueer students face a stunningly high risk of sexual assault and harassment. Here are the lowlights:

39.1 percent of trans, genderqueer, noncomforming, and questioning (“TGQN”) seniors were subject to nonconsensual sexual contact.

29.5 percent of TGQN seniors experienced unwanted sexual contact as a result of physical force or incapacitation.

75.2 percent of TGQN undergraduates have been sexually harassed.

22.8 percent of TGQN undergrads experienced intimate partner violence.

12.1 percent of TGQN undergrads are victims of stalking.

The list goes on, but the trend is clear: TGQN students are at a higher risk of assault and harassment than any other group.

Sept. 23 2015 10:56 AM

“My Big Hope Is That This Will Help Catholic Families to Be Better at Loving LGBT People”

The World Meeting of Families is a pretty big deal. Established by Pope John Paul II, the Vatican-sanctioned conference provides a forum for Catholics to discuss questions pertaining to families worldwide. Some of the most divisive social issues—abortion, birth control, marriage, and sexuality—fall under that umbrella. And for a really big finish, the pope shows up at the end. This year, the meeting will be held in Philadelphia, and for the first time in the conference’s 21-year history, it will feature a presentation by an openly gay man.

That the openly gay man is 40-year-old Ron Belgau, a celibate “Side B” gay Christian, makes this milestone a complicated one for the larger LGBTQ community. There’s a lot that’s frustrating about Belgau’s beliefs regarding sexuality and religion as viewed from a mainstream, liberal perspective—particularly his belief that sex is only appropriate within a heterosexual marriage, in accordance with his church’s doctrine. There are many Catholics who favor a doctrinal change on this issue, and they and their organizations have been excluded from this week’s celebrations.

Still, the World Meeting of Families could have made a far worse choice for someone to talk about homosexuality. Until the rise to prominence of Belgau and his Spiritual Friendship blog, the Catholic organization that addressed homosexuality in keeping with the teachings of the church was Courage, which promotes orientation change and discourages gay Catholics from even identifying as gay, lest they define themselves by their sin.  Instead, they recommend that such people refer to themselves as “same-sex attracted,” so as to more completely distance themselves from the larger LGBTQ community. Belgau does not do this. He considers himself a gay man and, at least to a certain point, he advocates for empathy and understanding to be shown to all gay men and lesbians, not just the celibate ones.


Sept. 22 2015 1:45 PM

Happy Birthday, Nomi Malone! How Showgirls Went From Tragic to Classic.

On Sept. 22, 1995, Showgirls dropped in theaters to howls of disdain from critics and audiences alike. But then a strange thing happened: MGM began to engineer a turnaround for the movie with midnight screenings in downtown Manhattan flanked by drag queens (and just regular old queens). These folks, in turn, began to see the movie for the delirious, campy, astoundingly vulgar spectacle it really is.

Now, twenty years later, the movie has become gospel for a certain type of viewer. This video traces that evolution, and nods to star Elizabeth Berkley, who remains one player who’s never quite gotten her due amid the movie’s late-night rehabilitation.

Sept. 22 2015 1:00 PM

Boy Trouble

In the age of marriage equality and Caitlyn Jenner, it can be easy to imagine that coming out—whether to oneself or to one’s community—is no longer a big deal. But as Justin Sayre, a proudly gay writer and performer, explores in his new novel Husky, the processes of self-discovery and social negotiation that must precede any “I am X” statement is still incredibly complicated—especially for kids on the edge of adolescence. Husky tells the story of Davis, an opera-loving, big-boned boy who, faced with prospect of starting high school, must grapple with how he does—and does not—fit in with the world around him. In this excerpt, Davis joins his best girlfriend Sophie for a hangout, only to find their usual rapport disturbed by unexpected guests.  

Excerpted from Husky by Justin Sayre, out now from Grosset & Dunlap.

When I get up the stairs to Sophie’s room, I can hear laughter already, and it’s not just Sophie’s. There are a few voices. And some of them are boys’. It’s not just the words that make me stop, it’s the sounds around the words. The sounds of something sort of hidden, something that I shouldn’t know. And it makes me feel bad. Really bad. So bad, I think about going home, just turning really slowly on my tiptoes and sneaking down the stairs and out the front door. But I wait. And wait. I don’t even breathe because I don’t want them to hear me.