Coming to Terms With P.D. James’ Homophobia
What’s a self-respecting lesbian to do when one of her idols turns out to have feet of clay? I had managed to forget that Baroness Phyllis Dorothy James of Holland Park, life peer in the U.K. House of Lords, who died Thursday, had consistently opposed LGBTQ equality measures. (She also signed a now notorious letter from urging a No vote in the recent Scottish referendum on independence, but that’s a whole other problem I was working through.) More specifically, she had voted against marriage equality and the repeal of the Thatcher-era Section 28, which tried to ban the “promotion” of homosexuality. And it’s not as if her books avoided queer characters; everyone’s there in the early books, from the mincing, arty queen to the brooding closeted lesbian to the tortured closet case.
And yet …
How Great Is The Imitation Game?
Alan Turing, the British mathematician, cryptologist, and early computer scientist, is widely known only by his namesake assessment for artificial intelligence, the “Turing Test.” But in addition to being a brilliant scientist and a World War II hero for cracking the German “Enigma” code, Turing was also a homosexual man, a fact that would ultimately lead to his arrest and forced chemical castration at the hands of his government—and his subsequent suicide. The Imitation Game, which opens in theaters on Nov. 28, represents the first major motion picture to offer an account of his life, and it focuses as much on his sexuality as on his professional accomplishments. In the following chat, Outward’s editors discuss their reactions to the film. (Note: This conversation contains spoilers.)
J. Bryan Lowder: My dearest June, am I wrong in recalling that as the final title cards flashed at the end of The Imitation Game—the new Alan Turing biopic out from director Morten Tyldum that should win all the prizes—you shared my sudden affliction of wetness around the eyes? I shouldn't be coy: This was a damn good movie—not perfect, but very effective as both a spritely (somewhat fictionalized) wartime genre adventure and a deeply moving recuperation of one of the greatest gays who ever lived. I am sending everyone to it this holiday season. Surely you're doing the same.
June Thomas: Bryan! I'm as secretive about the width of my sentimental streak as those brave Bletchley Parkers were about their role in defeating both fascism and communism. But while I might be a bit coy about how many tissues I got through, I have no problem saying that I liked the film very much. There was just a tiny bit of clunkiness in the dialogue, which I'm sure we'll get to later, but like you, I'll be encouraging everyone I know to see it in these prime movie-going days of winter.
’Tis the Season for Family, If You’ve Got One
This is the time of year when we’re encouraged to think about surrounding ourselves with the love and support of our family. The trouble is, as many queer people can tell you (and many more would prefer not to discuss), when you’re one of the interesting people, family can be hard to come by—even, or especially, at Thanksgiving.
Ironically, it seems the more open your definitions of love and identity, the less likely you are to enjoy the acceptance and support of those who share your genetic line. Some are lucky. But with so many LGBTQ folks reporting rejection and disownment from their so-called families, and with others finding only an uncomfortably chilly tolerance.
The Trouble With the HRC’s “All God’s Children” Southern Strategy
As a Southerner-in-exile, I’ve been watching the Human Rights Campaign’s “All God’s Children” program over the past few weeks with some interest. For those who missed the initial announcement, AGC is a manifestation of the HRC’s new focus on the Southern states under “Project One America,” an $8.5 million initiative designed to bring the LGBT progress we’ve seen in more liberal parts of the country to conservative states like Alabama, Arkansas, and, in this case, Mississippi. The specific focus of AGC, according to the campaign fact sheet, is “to strengthen the foundation of public support for LGBT Mississippians, aid in the passage of pro-equality legislation, and bolster efforts to win marriage equality for Mississippi’s LGBT couples.” All great things, right?
But what’s not great is the pandering approach the HRC has articulated in the series of TV spots, billboards, and other modes of outreach it has visited upon the state. If the title didn’t tip you off, the campaign is couched largely in religious terms, with brief diversions into cloying patriotism. The HRC says that its research has shown that faith-based messages are the only way to make headway in Dixie, and so their message amounts to this cop-out of an argument: “We are all God’s children. It is only for God to judge, not us. We need to treat everyone with respect.”
I’m Grateful to Be Gay—Otherwise I Might Have Been a Horrible Person
I was initially enthusiastic about the idea of writing a piece explaining why I’m grateful to be gay, because it offered me the opportunity to write about my favorite subject. (Myself.) Soon, however, I grew anxious, because, upon further reflection, I realized I wasn’t sure that I was grateful to be gay.
That is not, of course, the same thing as saying I wish I were straight. Far from it. I’m perfectly content with my orientation and have milked it for a fair amount of journalistic fodder, which is really the most that anyone could hope to get out of anything in life. But I’m also not a gay triumphalist; I’m not convinced that gay people are inherently superior to straight people. And although I may think that I am superior to all straight people, that belief emerges from my own narcissism, not a coherent philosophy on the inferiority of the huddled masses of heterosexuals among us.
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?