Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

Jan. 29 2015 10:57 AM

Rep. Patricia Todd: “I Guess I Have Better ‘Family Values’ Than My Opponents Do”

Soon after a federal judge struck down Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban last Friday, Rep. Patricia Todd—the state’s first openly gay legislator—took to Facebook to criticize her conservative colleagues’ reaction to the ruling. Specifically, Todd expressed her disgust with anti-gay legislators who promote “family values” while they themselves conduct extramarital affairs, and suggested she would reveal the names of these cheating legislators if they continued to gay-bash. Todd quickly became a celebrity among marriage equality advocates and the center of a media frenzy. When I spoke to her on Wednesday, she had already given 30 interviews that day.

What inspired you to write the initial Facebook post?

Friday when we got the decision from the federal judge, I was ecstatic and none of us were prepared. As the news rolled out, a couple people may some disparaging comments about gay folks and gay families. That’s what inspired me to write the post. In hindsight, I should’ve worded it differently. My intent was to put them on notice: If you’re gonna get up there on the moral high horse and talk about family values, as if gay families don’t have any values, I’m gonna challenge you. The rumor mill of Montgomery is pretty strong about who’s having an affair with whom. This happens with every state capital. If I hear from multiple people about the same person having an affair, something must be there.

But in hindsight, I don’t want to out people like that in the public. First of all, they could sue me for libel. Second, think about the impact it would have on families. I’m sure that’s not how they want to hear about it. I guess that means I have better family values than my opponents do. [Laughs]

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Jan. 28 2015 7:49 PM

What’s Wrong (and Right) in Jonathan Chait’s Anti-P.C. Screed

Whether you think it’s chock-full of truth or hopelessly naïve, Jonathan Chait’s essay on the reemergence of “political correctness” in this week’s New York magazine has clearly struck a chord among the Internet’s progressive journalists and commentators. In the piece, Chait nails a long list of lefty phenomena—speech policing, microaggressions, college trigger warnings, hashtag activism, mansplaining, and safe space rhetoric, to name a few—to the Internet's door in protest of recent grievances supposedly commited against traditional Enlightenment liberalism. Chait's villain: a censorious school of radical critique emanting from an illiberal cabal. His conclusion: “Politics in a democracy is still based on getting people to agree with you, not making them afraid to disagree.”

Eminently reasonable statement, right? But when you start picking apart the writing that comes before it—writing that's dense with rhetorical choreography, questionable conflations, and tenuous juxtapositions—Chait's measured facade starts to crack, and what's behind it is actually kind of fascinating. Many progressive critics have written off the piece as the whining of an out-of-touch white guy, and that's certainly a fair response. But it's also undeniable that Chait has described a real thing in our cultural moment (the more honest responders have admitted that much) and, at least to my mind, some of what he observes about it is correct. Rather than snarking or condemning Chait out-of-hand, I think we ought to take a closer look at the underlying logic of his complaint—the good and the bad—to see what we can learn, not only about the purported dangers of P.C. culture, but also about the perhaps equally troubling assumptions of those who fear it. 

Jan. 28 2015 1:24 PM

Ask a Homo: Why Are Gays So Critical of HRC, GLAAD, and Other Advocacy Groups?

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 a viewer wonders why some gays express criticism and even disdain for the Human Rights Campaign and other big LGBTQ advocacy organizations.

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.


Want to hang out with Outward? If you’ll be in or near New York City on Feb. 3, join June Thomas, J. Bryan Lowder, and Mark Joseph Stern—and special guest Lea DeLaria of Orange Is the New Black fame!for a queer kiki at the first ever Outward LIVE show, hosted by City Winery. Details and tickets can be found here.

Jan. 28 2015 12:52 PM

Was Friends Really Homophobic?

Earlier this month, Ruth Graham argued in Slate that the NBC comedy Friends—which recently arrived on Netflix—treated LGBTQ issues with startling insensitivity. But was the show’s treatment of gay issues really “awful,” as Graham asserts? Or was Friends’ conscious inclusion of gay and lesbian characters actually progressive for its time? In a discussion on Monday, Outward writer (and Friends agnostic) Mark Joseph Stern debated the issue with Blogging Heads host (and ardent Friends fan) Aryeh Cohen-Wade. Watch their conversation below.  

Want to hang out with Outward? If you’ll be in or near New York City on Feb. 3, join June Thomas, J. Bryan Lowder, and Mark Joseph Stern—and special guest Lea DeLaria of Orange Is the New Black fame!for a queer kiki at the first ever Outward LIVE show, hosted by City Winery. Details and tickets can be found here.

Jan. 27 2015 1:18 PM

Ireland Is Having a Gay Moment

“Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

This is the proposal Ireland’s voters will be considering in a May referendum on same-sex marriage. Recent weeks have seen an increasingly positive light being shone on LGBTQ life in the Catholic nation. Last week, Health Minister Leo Varadkar, one of Ireland’s most prominent politicians, came out, making him the country’s first openly gay Cabinet minister. And only days before him, Gaelic football legend Valerie Mulcahy did the same, becoming the first big-name female Gaelic Athletic Association player to come out publicly. Varadkar and Mulcahy hope to build support for Ireland’s LGBTQ citizens ahead of the vote.

If the referendum passes, marriage equality would be a historic step for Ireland, which until very recently was one of Europe’s most socially illiberal countries. It wasn’t until 2011 that same-sex couples could enter into civil partnerships or until 1993 that homosexual relations were decriminalized. This was largely because Roman Catholic leaders, who wield an arguably outsized influence over policies and practices in Ireland, have been vocal in their opposition to LGBTQ rights. However, in recent years a series of scandals have eroded public trust in the church, reducing the scale of one of the most significant obstacles in Ireland’s ongoing quest for equality.


Jan. 27 2015 9:30 AM

A Few Words With Kevin Daniels, the Actor Behind One of TV’s Best Gay Characters

Sirens, which returns to USA for its second season Tuesday at 10 p.m., is a buddy comedy set in the world of EMTs. Hank, his best friend Johnny (Michael Mosley), and Brian the rookie (Kevin Bigley) drive around Chicago providing urgent relief to the sick—and since the U.S. version of the show comes from the creative team of Denis Leary and Bob Fisher (Wedding CrashersWe’re the Millers), some of the afflicted are really sick.

Sirens also features one of the most interesting gay characters on television: There’s nothing generically gay about Hank, played by Kevin Daniels. As he tells a woman looking for a gay best friend early in the new season, “I’m not that type of gay. … I do not go dancing. I do not go shopping. I do not watchDance Moms and make bitchy comments.” 

Jan. 27 2015 7:30 AM

The Barely Remembered Gay Victims of the Nazi Concentration Camps

When the world gathers at Auschwitz and other places across Europe and the United States on Tuesday to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Dayand the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the camp, there will be a void. On June 24, 2012, Gad Beck, the man believed to be the last gay survivor of the Holocaust, died six days before his 89th birthday. He was the last living witness to and representative of a period of unparalleled persecution and suffering that cost the lives of thousands of gay men and destroyed thousands more.

It is estimated that between 5,000 and 15,000 gay men were detained in concentration camps under the Nazi regime, persecuted under Paragraph 175 of the German Criminal Code, which proscribed sexual acts between men. (In total, between 1933 and 1945, around 100,000 men were arrested under Paragraph 175, half of whom were sentenced.) While the Gestapo directive expanding incarceration beyond regular prisons was issued on April 4, 1938, gay men were among the first victims of the Holocaust to be rounded up and interned in concentration camps starting in 1933.

Jan. 26 2015 3:30 PM

Saks Relents, Reverses Its Claim That It Can Legally Discriminate Against Trans Employees

On Monday, Saks announced that it would withdraw its claim to have a legal right to discriminate against trans employees. The company had asserted this right in a recent motion to dismiss a discrimination case brought by a former employee. This employee, a trans woman named Leyth O. Jamal, claimed she faced discrimination and harassment at Saks due to her trans status. In response, Saks declared that it didn’t matter whether the allegations were true, because trans employees aren’t protected from workplace discrimination under federal law.

Saks’ willingness to reconsider its hardline claim against trans people is encouraging, although the company did not immediately see the error of its ways. Still, Saks’ conduct has been so disturbing throughout the case that LGBTQ customers may want to think twice before shopping at the store. In Saks’ legal filings, the company repeatedly referred to Jamal—a self-identified woman—as he. When quoting Jamal’s own filings, Saks added a “[sic]” after every reference to heras female, as if to assert that her identification as a woman was factually incorrect. Admittedly, it was Saks’ attorneys, not its CEO, who drafted these briefs. But even after they were made public, Saks refused to apologize for this nasty misgendering. (In fact, the company has yet to apologize for it.)

Jan. 26 2015 2:46 PM

The Unapologetic Gender Trouble of Flame Monroe

If Marcus Parker gets his reality show—and based on the sizzle reel he and his wife posted on Facebook last week, I expect TLC is already on the phone—you can expect a rash of tortured articles not seen since the My Husband’s Not Gay mini-boom of early 2015. Parker, perhaps better known by his drag persona Flame Monroe, is a bisexual, self-identified transgender person who has had surgical interventions to create breasts and other feminine characteristics but who currently lives as a man when he’s at home with his three children and lesbian wife. He’s also a conservative Christian who doesn’t support full marriage equality.

Jan. 26 2015 1:19 PM

No Justice, Liberal or Conservative, Should Be Recused From the Gay Marriage Cases

Shortly after the Supreme Court announced that it would hear a case that could legalize marriage equality across the country, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association—a certified hate group—made an announcement. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan must recuse themselves from the upcoming case, Fischer claimed, because they have both performed same-sex marriage ceremonies. These recusals would strip the liberal bloc of two key votes, likely guaranteeing a 4-to-3 vote against marriage equality.

The recusal game is a dangerous one to play, and liberals soon struck back with a pointed rejoinder. During this year’s anti-abortion “March for Life” rally Robert P. George and Ryan T. Anderson met with Justice Clarence Thomas, and Thomas complimented Anderson on his “Choose Life” tie. In case you’ve forgotten, George and Anderson are co-authors of the kinkiest, freakiest anti-gay marriage treatise ever penned. George is also the co-founder of the viciously homophobic National Organization for Marriage, while Anderson currently serves as a Heritage Foundation staffer. By palling around with these activists, liberals argued, Thomas has conceded his impartiality in the gay marriage cases and should recuse himself.