When Gay Rights Groups Were Still Part of the Left
Earlier this month, Leslie Feinberg, a well-known transgender advocate and author of Stone Butch Blues, died at the age of 65. Her last words, “Remember me as a revolutionary communist,” contain the echo of a time that seems long past, when the only people who ascribed any importance at all to LGBTQ issues, apart from queers themselves, were far-left radicals, and when the oppression LGBTQ people and other minorities faced was firmly linked to class struggle and the exploitation of working people by the rich.
As a sociology major at a liberal university in the late '90s, I learned to look for the exploitation of workers and the growing influence of corporate interests throughout America's cultural, political, and economic systems. I was taught that the clothing I wore was sewn by sweatshop workers, the food I ate was harvested by migrant laborers, and the decline of unions and the rise of free trade agreements would lead to increasing inequality and the destruction of the American dream. Then I got out into the real world and learned that nobody really cared much about any of it. What people on the left and right did care about was whether the law ought to allow lesbians and gay men to marry. While there have been other issues queer people advocated for, marriage equality was the one that captured imaginations and won or lost elections. The struggle of lesbians and gays for marriage equality was, by then, already far removed from the struggles of other segments of society. But it was not always so.
Robbie Rogers, Coming Out and Changing Soccer
By February 2013, Robbie Rogers’ career as a professional soccer player had reached its low point. His stints at Leeds United and lower-league Stevenage in England had been blighted by injury, and because he played so infrequently, he was failing to make an impression on the game. At the age of 25, Rogers had also reached a point in his life where he finally felt comfortable coming out to his parents, siblings, and close friends—if not to his teammates.
His professional and personal lives were like two horses pulling in opposite directions. Something had to give. “All I could focus on now was coming out and getting as far away from soccer as possible.” Having released himself from his contract with Leeds, Rogers announced his retirement in a terse note on his website headlined “The Next Chapter…” In doing so, he shook up professional soccer entirely:
For the past 25 years I have been afraid, afraid to show whom I really was because of fear. Fear that judgment and rejection would hold me back from my dreams and aspirations. … I always thought I could hide this secret. Football was my escape, my purpose, my identity. Football hid my secret, gave me more joy than I could have ever imagined. … Now is my time to step away. It’s time to discover myself away from football.
But he didn’t stay away from soccer. Three months later, in May 2013, Rogers signed a contract with the LA Galaxy of Major League Soccer, becoming the first openly gay man to play in one of North America’s top five men’s professional sports. His new memoir, Coming Out to Play, chronicles this journey from childhood through college sports and his professional career—retiring, coming out, playing once more.
“I’m Not Gay No More” Andrew Caldwell Cashes In on Ex-Gay Fame
In a recent post, I made a great deal of hay out of Andrew Caldwell, the star of that “I’m Not Gay No More” ex-gay church video that went viral a few weeks ago. I think my analysis of the troubling reasons why many of us found the clip so funny still stands, but in light of recent news, it seems worth acknowledging that Caldwell is not the innocent victim that many originally took him to be.
According to a post at Slate’s sister site The Root, Caldwell has created a comical musical remix album of his testimony at the Church of God in Christ convention and is hawking it on iTunes for $2.97. COGIC, as you might imagine, is none too pleased. The Root’s Yesha Callahan has more:
According to TMZ, the Church of God in Christ is threatening to sue Caldwell because it said the audio from the church service belongs to it. The church wants Caldwell to stop selling the song, even though Caldwell says he holds a copyright to it. In addition to having an issue with the music, the church feels that Caldwell is making a mockery of it.
It may take some time for the copyright issues to be sorted out, but this development has already rendered one thing abundantly clear: Caldwell’s relationship to his sexuality and the “curing” of it is complicated. Whether he’s a sort of con man, as some have suggested, or just trying to get in on—and make some cash off of—the joke is uncertain. Either way, this situation is definitely darker than it initially appeared.
Stone Butch Blues Isn’t Just for Queers
Leslie Feinberg died Nov. 15. Almost all of the obits mentioned Feinberg’s politics as well as her writing.* “Author and transgender activist Leslie Feinberg is dead at 65,” announced LA Weekly. “Pioneer Trans Activist Leslie Feinberg Has Passed Away at 65,” said Jezebel. These announcements imply that her career as an activist was more important than her work as a writer.
In some ways, this is just as it should be. Feinberg was so devout a radical that Minnie Bruce Pratt, her partner of 22 years, reported that her last words were “Remember me as a revolutionary communist.” That’s some hard-core self-styling, deserving of history’s notice. Besides being a revolutionary Communist, Feinberg was also committed to “anti-racist white, working-class, secular Jewish, transgender, lesbian, [and] female” identifications. By all means, let’s remember Feinberg the human being that way.
Ask a Homo: A Queen on Queens, Part 2!
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. The week, we return for part two of our kiki with Miz Cracker about all things drag. Topics include: the cost of foundation, the fear of attack, and the curious division between the queen and king communities. If this segment piques your interest, be sure to check out (and tip!) a hard-working drag queen near you; all of Cracker's ongoing shows in New York City can be found at her website.
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 email@example.com, and please put “ASK A HOMO” in the subject line. Note that questions may be edited.
Other Questioins Asked of Homos:
If a guy has sex with a guy, is he gay?
What’s the deal with drag queens?
Why do some lesbians dress like guys?
Do gay men have more fun than straight men?
Is it OK to ask if someone is gay?
Are gayborhoods dying out?
Why do lesbians make out in public?
Why do some gays not believe in bisexuality?
Should allies signal their support of LGBTQ people to strangers?
Why do so many gay people love Joan Rivers?
What does queer mean?
How should I greet a closeted co-worker's partner?
Why do gay men like musical theater?
Is it OK for straight women to talk about their “girl crushes”?
What was the best time in history to be gay?
Do lesbian couples always reflect a butch-femme dynamic?
Why is bitchiness encouraged among gay men?
What do lesbians think of LUGs—lesbians until graduation?
Foxcatcher’s Gay Subtext “Rough Trade” to the Movies
To understand the discomfort that many gay viewers are undoubtedly feeling in screenings of Foxcatcher—the dreary bit of Oscar bait just out from director Bennett Miller—you need to understand a few things about gay archetypes and how they have historically functioned. This is important, because I cannot think of another recent movie that so clearly relies on homo-anxious, dog-whistle shorthand for both its characterization and plot, and yet, save for Armond White’s scathing piece in OUT, the film’s largely positive reviews have avoided real examination of the issue.
To be fair, some critics have wondered aloud about the film’s “hints” at homoeroticism, but they have ultimately shied away from going further. They would likely suggest that Foxcatcher is “about” other issues: addiction, mental illness, the mentor-mentee relationship, the excesses of the 1 percent, and possibly some hazy Deep Truths about American culture. Those elements are probably in there somewhere, but it’s the gay subtext—in this case, the age-old story of a wealthy, effete fairy going after rough trade—that feels most central, most necessary for the movie to make whatever narrative sense it does.
What Does Intersex Mean?
Earlier this week, Taylor Lianne Chandler—a woman who claims to be Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps’ girlfriend—made headlines for coming out as intersex. This prompted hundreds of obnoxious headlines and social media posts ridiculing not only Chandler and Phelps but intersex individuals generally. There is clearly a lot of confusion about what makes a person intersex. Let’s clear things up.
An intersex individual is simply someone born with sex characteristics that do not allow them to be defined as distinctly male or female. It is a totally natural, not infrequently encountered medical condition. Studies have estimated that as many as 1 in 100 children will be born with bodies that “differ from standard male or female.” It is estimated that 1 or 2 in every 1,000 intersex individuals will undergo surgery to modify genital appearance.
The National Organization for Marriage Has Collapsed Into Debt
On Wednesday, the viciously anti-gay National Organization for Marriage finally released its 2013 tax filings—two days late, in direct violation of federal law. The results are nothing short of brutal. NOM raised $5.1 million last year—a 50 percent drop-off from its 2012 earnings. Two donors accounted for more than half of that money. And the group’s “Education Fund,” which churns out anti-gay propaganda and homophobic calumny, raised less than $1.7 million, a 70 percent decline from 2012. NOM closed out the year more than $2.5 million in debt.
How did this collapse occur so quickly? I have three theories. The first is that casual donors grew weary of NOM’s execrably hateful campaigns and craven refusal to face public censure. In 2013, the group’s anti-gay rhetoric sounded barbaric and, at a fundamental level, simply impolite. Even if you didn’t like gay people, you probably didn’t want to associate with such a rabid crowd.
Drag Shows, Weddings, and Pole Dancing: Inside the L.A. Jail’s Gay Wing
On Tuesday, L.A. Weekly released an astonishing story and accompanying video about a place that’s so miraculous its existence feels like a mirage: the gay wing of the L.A. men’s central jail. Before I spoil any of the fun, you should go ahead and watch the profoundly humane, often hilarious video.
How does this little sanctuary exist? As L.A. Weekly explains, the wing was set up as a result of a 1985 ACLU lawsuit aimed at shielding gay inmates from the bias-motivated violence they experience at startlingly high rates among the general population. But over nearly three decades, the wing has blossomed into a community—or “family,” as many inmates describe it—of mutual support and love. (A number of inmates start relationships in the wing, and some stage weddings.) Prison clothes are re-sewn into gowns, skirts, chic underwear, and hot pants. Correctional officers take a laissez-faire attitude toward harmless rule-bending.
The International Olympic Committee Comes Out Against Anti-Gay Discrimination
A few hours ago, I saw some news that literally made me jump for joy: At long last the International Olympic Committee will change the wording of the Olympic Charter to include protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
This development was part of 40 recommendations published today ahead of next month’s IOC meeting in Monaco, where IOC President Thomas Bach’s “Agenda 2020” process will conclude with significant changes to the bidding process for and organization of the Olympic Games.