Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

July 24 2014 3:20 PM

Stephen Webb Thinks Gays Aren’t Capable of Love

On Monday, First Thing’s inimitable Stephen H. Webb wrote a spellbinding article explaining that because anuses aren’t vaginas, gay marriage isn’t a civil right. I dutifully responded, noting that Webb’s view of marriage is far too primitivist to capture the complexities of the civil institution. Now, Webb has struck back, doubling down on his claim that a marriage without penile-vaginal intercourse is no marriage at all.

I encourage you to read Webb’s piece in full, because it’s an excellent illustration of the bizarre, antediluvian view of love and marriage that, I believe, finds few takers in this century. As you might recall, Webb insisted in his first piece that gay marriage could only be true marriage if “the anus is the same as the vagina,” and if anal sex is “just as fecund, just as spiritually uplifting” as vaginal penetration. In my response, I asserted that those who seek marriage aren’t just “a pair of smitten genitals with bodies attached,” but rather are full human beings who hope “to create an enduring, lifelong bond of love.” Here’s Webb’s retort on the topic:


So everything does come around to the differences between vaginal intercourse and anal penetration. … I am aware that for some people, maybe even many people, male and female, receiving anal penetration can be pleasurable. … [But] [i]f the anus is the new vagina, can it really hold all the mysteries of intimacy and all the intimations of unity that intercourse has provided for marriage from the very beginning of that institution?

How you answer this question depends entirely on what you consider to be “the mysteries of intimacy” and “the imitations of unity.” If you believe that intimacy is a mutual love and support deepened by shared sexual pleasure, then, sure, “the anus” can provide that. (You’d probably cringe at reducing such a complex emotional connection to a mere body part, though—I certainly do.) But if you believe that real unity can only be formed when a penis enters a vagina, you’re on Webb’s wavelength.

The problem here is that there’s only one reason to believe that penile-vaginal intercourse is the sole genuine form of unity: orthodox Catholic dogma. I’ve written about the fundamentally religious basis of coitus fetishism before, and there’s no need to rehash all that here. What’s interesting to note, however, is that Webb attempts to ground his own intercourse fixation in science:

From the perspective of biological evolution alone—without any reference to religion—it is evident that the male and female bodies are directed to treat that act as foundational for a lifetime of exclusive commitment and sharing. It is not enough to just enjoy each other’s company or to decide to be together in order to avoid the pitfalls of loneliness.

In fact, Webb has this exactly backward. Humans did not evolve to be strictly monogamous. (At best, evolutionarily speaking, we’re monogam-ish.) Rather, monogamy is a largely modern phenomenon, something we must actively choose when we wish to share our intimacy with only one person. Marriage is an expression of that choice. Thus, while sex certainly deepens the martial bond, it does not hold the mystical, almost supernatural powers Webb ascribes to it.

Why is this important? Because if Webb’s theory is correct, it’s not just gay marriage that’s invalid—it’s gay love. According to Webb, thanks to the lack of penile-vaginal intercourse, gay couples can never really share anything except friendship:

Marriage is not just a very close kind of friendship, although that seems to be how many gay couples experience it. Marriage is a spiritual unity founded on (and given expression in) a singular act of physical unity. … But [i]f anal penetration can elevate gay friendship into a relationship that turns two people into one, then I stand corrected.  

It’s tempting to be insulted by Webb’s assertion that the love gay couples share is really just a “graphically misshapen” form of friendship. But don’t take the bait. Very few Americans share Webb’s antiquated, coitus-obsessed views of love and marriage, and more abandon them every year. If you think true marriage only springs from penile-vaginal penetration, then by all means, shout Webb’s theory from the rooftops. But if you believe that marriage is a lifelong commitment deepened—but not defined—by sex, then feel free to shrug off this dogma as the nonsense that it is.

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July 24 2014 1:47 PM

Getting Into Drag: The Many Meanings of Being a Queen

When RuPaul’s Drag Race sparked controversy around words like “tranny” and “shemale” in gay—and especially drag—circles back in March, the conversation was largely about who’s authorized to use those expressions, which can be seen as slurs. But another question emerged from the furor that was less predictable, if equally contentious: What, exactly, is a drag queen? Is she a full-fledged resident of the “trans spectrum” or a man who wears a dress for tips? From Facebook posts tosplashy feature stories, queens have been arguing that they are more than divas, dolls, or clowns. But what does that “more” really mean?

As a working queen still trying to figure all this out myself, I wanted to explore the issue further. So last weekend I tossed a notepad in my sequined purse and set off to ask a gaggle of New York City gurls what they wanted the world to know about drag as an identity.

July 23 2014 4:12 PM

And They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love

It was 1997. I was 16, right up front, and one of more than 1,000 delegates to the United Methodist Church’s East Ohio Youth Annual Conference. This was like the pee-wee league for regional annual conferences where bishops preside over clergy and adult delegates, who together govern and conduct the business of the regional church. We followed Robert’s Rules of Order, passed motions, and offered amendments in preparation for the varsity conferencing we might do as adults. Methodism—as a Protestant denomination founded by guys who were into, well, method—is big on bureaucracy.

Packed into a sweaty hall in Lakeside, Ohio, we raised our hands aloft as we sang “Our God Is an Awesome God.” It felt good, alternating between praise-music jam session and calls to vote on the doctrinal nuts and bolts of our church. We were devout and democratic. After a motion passed supporting measures to limit Satanic and pornographic material on the Internet—and another condemning censorship—it was proposed that we express our official disagreement with a single sentence in The Book of Discipline, the church’s official rulebook: “We do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.”

The floor opened for debate.

It was LeviticusSodom and Gomorrah. It was teenagers with unkempt facial hair sputtering damnation. It was hate dressed in Scripture, and it rolled on and on as I sat stiffly in my chair. Something chilled within me. If this sea of believers condemning gays were Christians, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be one of them.

July 23 2014 12:28 PM

Ask a Homo: Bitchy Queens

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. This week, we address a classic straight-on-gay misconception: Gay men are just so bitchy! While it's true that some queens are straight-up rancid, there's also a venerable tradition of artful insulting that's been an important part of gay sociality for decades. In this edition of AAH, J. Bryan Lowder reads the shady phenomenon for filth.  

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.

July 22 2014 5:24 PM

The Pixilated Beauty of Gaymer Pride

Here at Outward, we focus most of our energy on monitoring the analog world for progress on LGBTQ equality. But every so often, an encouraging sign emerges from cyberspace to remind us that advances are happening there, too. The massively multiplayer online (MMO) game Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn recently offered such an insight, in the form of a virtual pride parade of players organized in response to the announcement that game developer Square Enix would allow same-sex marriages in the role-playing universe.

July 22 2014 3:22 PM

The Disgraceful New Trailer for the Alan Turing Biopic

Based on the new trailer for The Imitation Game, the Alan Turing biopic due this fall, it would be easy to conclude that Turing was a wily code-breaking genius whose chief struggle was against his own ego. Riffing on the roguish, Sherlock-y charms of the movie’s star, Benedict Cumberbatch, the trailer frames the movie as a wartime epic and romance between Turing and his contemporary, Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley). For viewers in-the-know about Turing's sexuality, there are some coy allusions to what’s really going on (“What if I don’t fancy her in that way?”). But it's not long before we're back to tender scenes of the photogenic couple in duress.

July 22 2014 2:22 PM

Catholic Writer Espouses a Penetrating Argument Against Gay Marriage

First Things is one of my absolute favorite magazines, largely because its writers make such an admirable effort to come up with fresh, fun ways to justify their religious-based prejudices. Remember when they took over 4,000 words to say that gay people don’t exist at all? If that didn’t convince you, try this bit o’ logic: Because anuses aren’t vaginas, gay marriage is not a civil right.

That’s the thrust of a new piece out by Stephen H. Webb, best known for his work on “Mormons obsessed with Christ” and intelligent design. Webb’s article begins with an attempt to illustrate why the gay rights movement is distinct from the black civil rights movement. “Gay marriage advocates,” Webb argues, “have convinced millions of Americans that gay marriage is just the same as straight marriage.” But “[i]f the argument of sameness works for gay rights, could it have worked for Civil Rights?”

July 22 2014 11:05 AM

Tony Dungy Brings Some Late-Breaking Homophobia to Michael Sam

On Sunday, the Tampa Tribune quoted former NFL coach Tony Dungy saying that he wouldn’t have drafted the openly gay Michael Sam. Dungy added that his stance wasn’t “because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it.”

Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams despite similar comments earlier in the year from NFL executives and coaches, mostly anonymous, who believed the rookie would “chemically imbalance” the locker room. For his part, Dungy believes Sam is a pro-caliber player, but wouldn’t want him on his team because of the inevitable controversy. This isn’t just unreasonable, it’s blatantly homophobic—a perfect example of the anti-gay animus that many LGBTQ people fear from their employers. It’s the reason why President Obama felt compelled to issue an executive order prohibiting anti-LGBT workplace discrimination.Dungy believes Sam is a pro-caliber player worthy of drafting, but wouldn’t hire him because of the inevitable controversy surrounding his decision to play as an openly gay man. This isn’t just unreasonable, it’s blatantly homophobic—a perfect example of the anti-gay animus that many LGBTQ people fear from their employers. It’s the reason why President Obama felt compelled to issue an executive order prohibiting anti-LGBT workplace discrimination.

July 22 2014 8:42 AM

Yet Another Study Proves It: Truvada Is Incredibly Effective

The results of a massive, years-long, worldwide study on HIV-preventing drugs (PrEP) are in, and the news is unsurprisingly great: PrEP is highly effective, extremely safe, and unlikely to lead to a drop in condom usage.

The new study, called iPrEx OLE, reinforces two important—and frequently challenged—facts about PrEP. First, not a single participant in the study who took PrEP 4-7 times a week contracted HIV. (The drug is meant to be taken once daily.) Taking PrEP only 2-3 times a week still resulted in a 90 percent reduced risk of HIV acquisition. Taken together, these figures suggest that PrEP truly does reach near-perfect levels of effectiveness when taken as prescribed.

July 21 2014 3:42 PM

The Trouble With “Lady Parts” 


Last week, Lizz Winstead, a writer, comedian, and activist, launched Lady Parts Justice, an organization with a mission to educate the public about the ongoing assault on reproductive rights in America. The group's cause is both noble and needed in the wake of the Supreme Court's 5–4 decision affirming Hobby Lobby’s right to decline covering certain forms of contraception in employee health insurance plans, which came at a time when an increasing number of states are limiting abortion access and the far right continues its misinformation campaigns.



Despite my support for all of the issues Lady Parts Justice stands for, I have one big problem with Winstead’s new project: Its name.



I understand that Winstead and her colleagues are using the term “Lady Parts” as a playful euphemism for much more clinical-sounding terms like “uterus,” “vagina,” and so on. The problem with this name—and with use of terms like “lady parts” or “lady bits” more generally to refer to reproductive organs that have been typically associated with women—is that it reinforces biological essentialism, tying gender to genitals.