The American Closet Is Bigger Than We Thought
Over the weekend, the New York Times ran a fascinating—and disheartening—story on the state of closeted gay men in America. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, an economist and opinion page contributor, began his research hoping to more accurately measure the number of gay men in the country using sources like Facebook and Match.com, and his estimate—that “at least 5 percent of American men … are predominantly attracted to men”—fits comfortably within the range of 2-to-10 percent that we’re familiar with. But the rest of that paragraph is somewhat surprising (and certainly disappointing):
… and millions of gay men still live, to some degree, in the closet. Gay men are half as likely as straight men to acknowledge their sexuality on social networks. More than one quarter of gay men hide their sexuality from anonymous surveys. The evidence also suggests that a large number of gay men are married to women.
“I'm a Writer Who Hustled, Not a Hustler Who Wrote”: An Interview With John Rechy
In November, Grove Press published a 50th-anniversary edition of John Rechy’s City of Night, a landmark novel about a young hustler who travels the country plying his trade. In beautiful, lyrical language Rechy describes the era’s gay bars and pickup zones as well as the personalities who moved through them.
June Thomas recently spoke by telephone with 82-year-old Rechy about his writing career and the world’s endless fascination with hustling.
A U.N. Video Shames the 76 Countries That Criminalize Same-Sex Relationships
Dec. 10 is Human Rights Day, and this year, to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations has made a video chronicling the history of LGBTQ rights at the U.N.
In many ways, it’s the kind of kumbaya creation that makes the United Nations so easy to mock. Accompanied by an instrumental version of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Same Love,” the video celebrates milestones like “the first adopted U.N. resolution on the issue,” the first U.N. report, and “the first formal intergovernmental debate at the U.N. Human Rights Council.” But about 50 seconds in, the video shows a map of the 76 countries where same-sex relationships are criminalized, and suddenly those debates and resolutions don’t seem so silly. Videos won’t change the world, but the United Nations deserves praise for reminding its members that homophobic and transphobic violence are clear violations of the human-rights declaration they are pledged to support.
The Six Types of Heterosexuals
While the types of activity vary widely among heterosexuals, the community can be separated into six separate groups: the blatant, the secret lifer, the desperate, the adjusted, the bisexual, and the situational.
Monogamy Doesn’t Make Unprotected Anal Sex Safe
In his recent Slate article "Is Unprotected Anal Sex Ever OK?," Mark Joseph Stern argued that unprotected anal sex should be seen as a "perquisite" for monogamous couples. The article was a response to a CDC report noting a rise in rates of unprotected anal sex among men who have sex with men, a report that has led many public-health experts and activists to adopt a harmful tone of finger wagging that completely undercuts what is a central message in health activism: We all have a right to a full life that includes smart, fun, and safe sex. That messaging is harmful—but no more so than Stern’s idea that unprotected anal sex should be a reward for those who invest in a monogamous relationship.
There is no special event or destination that, once reached, allows uninterrupted condomless anal sex. Monogamy is not Camelot. Aside from completely eliding the healthy decisions of those who are polyamorous or nonmonogamous, looking to monogamy as a magical sheath against HIV flies in the face of sound science. One 2009 study of gay men in major U.S. cities showed that as many as 68 percent of new HIV infections come from a person's primary (though not necessarily monogamous) sexual partner. The results of this study show two important, complementary realities: They problematize the idea of a monolithic "monogamy" and they illuminate a glaring blind spot in HIV-prevention agendas—the exclusion of couples as a targeted population in need of prevention outreach.
How Queer Is American Horror Story? “The Sacred Taking” Edition.
For the duration of American Horror Story: Coven, June Thomas and J. Bryan Lowder will gather each week in Outward to call the corners and charm the most recent episode of its queer meaning, whether brazenly obvious or bubbling just below the cauldron’s surface. Don’t be afraid to add your own cackles in the comments.
June: Bryan, it's so nice to return to New Orleans after the Thanksgiving break (when, thank Hecate, we were spared Fiona's raisin and styrofoam stuffing). American Horror Story: Coven is back, with bonus resurrections. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if they killed all the viewers next week, then sent Misty on a nationwide tour to bring us back from our dirt naps.
How Junk Science and Anti-Lesbian Prejudice Got Four Women Sent to Prison for More Than a Decade
This Sunday, in central Texas, four women and their families sat down to a big lunch together. It would have been a wholly unremarkable scene, but for one thing: Three of the women were only recently released from prison for a crime they say they didn’t commit.
Elizabeth Ramirez, 39, Cassandra Rivera, 38, Kristie Mayhugh, 40, and Anna Vasquez, 38, are the San Antonio Four. In 1994, the women, all lesbians, were accused of aggravated sexual assault on a child; by 1998, they’d been convicted of the crime and were starting their prison sentences—15 years for Rivera, Mayhugh, and Vasquez; 37 1/2 years for Ramirez, because she’d been the “ringleader.” But on Nov. 18, 2013, Ramirez, Mayhugh, and Rivera were released on bail after the testimony of an expert medical witness used to convict them was found to be faulty and a judge recommended that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals vacate their conviction. Vasquez, who had been out on parole for a year already, will no longer have to meet strict parole requirements.
Finally, justice prevails in a case that, one can only hope, is a relic of a weird, panicked time in recent American history, when the word gay or lesbian was too often conflated with pedophile.
What Happened to Dan Choi After DADT?
"Who is Dan Choi without 'don’t ask, don’t tell'?"
That's the question Gabriel Arana, an editor and reporter at The American Prospect, tries to answer in his bracing new long-form piece on the fate of the discharged solider who was the face of the DADT repeal movement. From Choi's first national appearance—on the Rachel Maddow Show—in March 2009 until the official repeal in December 2010, he could be seen regularly on TV and in magazine profiles, discussing his experience as a closeted gay solider and his decision to become an activist. With his Iraq credentials and his wholesome religious background, Choi was a natural spokesman for the movement.
But as Arana discovers, Choi had trouble finding a new script once his cause was accomplished. Increasingly isolated from family and old friends in the years since the repeal, Choi began to exhibit less savory character traits, like substance abuse and melodramatic narcissism, culminating in a total nervous breakdown during a rather routine civil disobidence case in March of 2013. Arana reflects:
Dan’s self-narrative is under constant revision, which is a way of saying I’m never sure whether to believe him, if the version of events he’s presented is the final. When we first met, he told me he pursued the case because if the First Amendment doesn’t apply at the foot of the White House, it doesn’t apply anywhere. Another time, he told me that he wanted to lose so the proceedings could make it into case law; once a suit is appealed, it is woven into the legal record, becoming part of the constellation of rulings that guides lawyers and judges. Dan wanted to be among the stars.
For a fine exploration of what can happen after a social justice figure's star dims, take a few minutes to read Arana's piece.
Twitter Revives HIV History, for a Day
On Monday, a sizable smattering of Twitter users reacted with shock over a reposted transcript of a 1982 Reagan administration press conference at which Press Secretary Larry Speakes made a series of lighthearted jokes about AIDS. (Sample quote: “I don’t have it. Do you?”) Perhaps most chilling, on six occasions, the transcript indicates “(Laughter).” At this point, of course, AIDS—then known as GRID, for gay-related immunodeficiency—had recently emerged as a new epidemic primarily ravaging gay men. Among the LGBTQ community, the Speakes moment is infamous, a single harrowing symbol for the administration’s cruelly callous dismissal of the epidemic. So why does a simple transcript of the event still shock and startle millennials—31 years after the fact?
There are a number of reasons behind mainstream culture’s depressing ignorance of AIDS history, but it mostly boils down to this: Many of the men and women who would remember it best are dead. The loss of more than 630,000 U.S. citizens to HIV/AIDS since the onset of the crisis has left a generational gap that no amount of movies, plays, or commemorative days can fill. An entire generation of gay artists, athletes, and activists died in the course of fighting the disease. But perhaps the most glaring sign of this gap is the lack of education regarding LGBTQ history in the United States. Many young people outside of California go through their entire primary education without hearing as much as a whisper about gay rights or gay history in the classroom. It’s all too logical that millennials, gay or straight, would be unfamiliar with a 31-year old White House press conference transcript. Many might be surprised to learn, too, that gays and lesbians were persecuted during the Holocaust, or that a pre-HRC gay rights movement fought alongside the American civil-rights movement throughout the ’60s and ’70s. After all, it took more than four decades for a sitting U.S. president to mention the 1969 Stonewall riots in a major speech.
Carol Anshaw Paints Vita Sackville-West
Out novelist Carol Anshaw has written some of the best lesbian fiction of the last 25 years, including her 1992 debut Aquamarine and 2012's Carry the One, but her newest work is more visual. The Chicago-based writer has an art show at Rockford University in Rockford, Ill., called “Carol Anshaw: Walking Through Leaves,” which shows off her paintings of another queer writer: Vita Sackville-West.
"Of course I came to Vita by way of Virginia Woolf," Anshaw says of her muse, who is most famous for her relationship with Woolf, despite their both being married to men. "Their affair was complicated. Each had something the other wanted. Virginia longed for physical intimacy with a woman. Vita, who was a pedestrian writer, wanted to be a great writer, and to be in the presence of a great writer." Woolf’s Orlando was inspired by their romance, and Sackville-West's work, though never as celebrated as her lover's, was surely influenced by Woolf.