Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

July 28 2014 6:00 PM

The Latest Proof That Opposing Gay Rights Is Bad Politics

When should the gay rights movement declare political victory? Some think success will come when gay marriage is legal nationwide; others are holding out for an LGBT omnibus equality bill. But my sense is that the true political triumph will arrive when conservatives can no longer scare up votes and dollars by running against gay people. Once there’s no political capital to be gained from opposing gay rights, no politician will oppose gay rights.

When will that moment come? Sooner than you might expect. On Saturday, the Huffington Post ran a fun story pondering why Republicans went totally silent on President Barack Obama’s executive LGBT nondiscrimination order. One GOP congressman claimed he hadn’t heard about the order. When pressed, Speaker of the House John Boehner simply sighed, “The president signs a lot of executive orders.” Republican Sen. Rob Portman, a supporter of the Senate’s flawed, failed bill, gently chided Obama for leaving out Portman’s preferred (and widely maligned) religious exemptions. But not a single member of Congress took the bait and slammed Obama on the merits of the order.


Video Advertisement

July 28 2014 2:35 PM

Fourth Circuit Calls Virginia’s Gay Marriage Ban “Segregation,” Strikes It Down

On Monday, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Virginia’s gay marriage ban is unconstitutional, the latest victory for marriage equality in a unbroken string of triumphs since the Supreme Court overturned DOMA in 2013. The opinion included no stay; until the Supreme Court steps in, then, gay couples in Virginia may get married starting now.

The judges of the 2–1 majority labeled the state’s ban “segregation” and held that, because it targeted a disfavored minority and implicated a fundamental right, it should be subject to strict scrutiny. It’s clear that, to the majority, laws like Virginia’s represent little more than bald bigotry:

[I]nertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws. Civil marriage is one of the cornerstones of our way of life. It allows individuals to celebrate and publicly declare their intentions to form lifelong partnerships, which provide unparalleled intimacy, companionship, emotional support, and security. The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual’s life. Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance.

Although the court struck down only Virginia’s marriage ban, the 4th Circuit also has jurisdiction over Maryland, West Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. The latter three states still ban gay marriage—but today’s ruling throws those laws in serious jeopardy.

The majority opinion, written by Judge Henry Franklin Floyd and joined by Judge Roger Gregory, is most notable for its systematic dismantling of Virginia’s painfully prejudiced, laughably lousy arguments against gay marriage. The state centered its arguments around the idea that because gay couples cannot have biological children together, they simply don’t deserve to get married. When asked why infertile straight couples can still marry, the state responded that these couples set a “positive example for couples who can have unintended children, encouraging them to marry.” Here’s Floyd on this puzzling theory:

We see no reason why committed same-sex couples cannot serve as similar role models. … Allowing infertile opposite-sex couples to marry does nothing to further the government’s goal of channeling procreative conduct into marriage. Thus, excluding same-sex couples from marriage due to their inability to have unintended children makes little sense.

Floyd also had some fun with Virginia’s other major argument—the claim that gay marriage somehow increases out-of-wedlock births among straight people, a societal ill since children do better with married parents. The idea that gay marriage spurs out-of-wedlock births, the court rightly notes, is pure nonsense, bigoted magical thinking barely concealed as legalistic casuistry. But the second half of the state’s formulation is quite true: Children do tend to do better with married parents. Thus, Virginia’s marriage ban actually harms children, denying them the right to have legally wedded parents.

In his bitter dissent, Judge Paul Niemeyer edges toward what we might call full Scalia, repeatedly demeaning the value of gay people’s relationships and families. Gay marriage bans, Niemeyer writes, are necessary to secure “stable family units” and to “giv[e] children an identity.” Without gay marriage bans, the “political order resulting from [these] stable family units” will be shattered, and states may be forced to recognize “polygamous or incestuous relationships.”

This last quote directly cites Scalia—in dissent. That’s what so odd about Niemeyer’s decision: As an appellate judge, he’s bound by the Supreme Court’s precedent. That precedent insists that a gay marriage ban “demeans the [gay] couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects,” violating “basic due process and equal protection principles.” But Niemeyer seems to be living in a world where Scalia’s dissents became law and the state retains unfettered power to disparage gay people’s lives. Luckily for us, Scalia’s dissents were just dissents—as is Niemeyer’s opinion. Welcome to the fold, Virginia.

July 28 2014 1:10 PM

Why Cosmo’s “28 Mind-Blowing Lesbian Sex Positions” Blows My Mind

Lesbians and gay men are used to “translating” material written for straight people so that it applies to us. Horoscopes that predict the reader will soon meet a dreamy person “of the opposite sex” or official forms that appear to define a family as mom, dad, and 2.5 kids are converted with a minimum of effort. But some things defy mental recoding—sex advice is one of them.

July 25 2014 4:57 PM

OSU’s Marching Band Is a Homophobic, Sexist Mess


The Ohio State University Marching Band is pretty high-profile as marching bands go. In recent months their catchy halftime show drill patterns—imitating everything from Michael Jackson dance moves to classic video games—have drawn attention from social media and the press, including Slate’s own Brow Beat. If that weren't enough, they were even featured in one of Apple’s stylish iPad commercials earlier this year.



As a veteran and fan of the marching arts, I was thrilled to see the OSUMB generating some wider interest in the genre—which is why it broke my heart to read news that the band’s director, Jonathan Waters, was fired this week as a first disciplinary blow against what appears to be a deeply ingrained, creepily sexualized culture of misogyny and homophobia among staff and student musicians alike. 


July 25 2014 4:06 PM

The New Gay Agenda, According to Michele Bachmann: Legalize Pedophilia

I generally apply the Fox News principle to Michele Bachmann: Her outbursts of bigoted argle-bargle are so absurdly hateful that they serve as their own best satire. But this week, Bachmann came up with an anti-gay conspiracy theory that, I regret to say, might actually need debunking. On the conservative talk show Faith and Liberty, Bachmann insisted that, once the gay community succeeded in legalizing polygamy, it would set its sights on legalizing pedophilia:

[The gay community] want[s] to abolish age of consent laws. Which means children…we would do away with statutory rape laws so that adults would be able to freely prey on little children sexually. That’s the deviance that we’re seeing embraced in our culture today.

Where did Bachmann get this idea from? Her own feverish, paranoid imagination, of course. The canard that gay people—mostly gay men—are all salacious child predators was once commonly held in America, but today it’s been relegated to the darker corners of the anti-gay right. We shouldn’t be surprised that Bachmann still clings to this vicious myth; this is, after all, the woman who called the Lion King gay propaganda.

In fact, we may have reached a point in the gay rights struggle when, rather than castigating people like Bachmann, we should thank them for admitting what their Christian conservative brethren are too cowardly to say out loud. Surely there’s still a sizable (if shrinking) contingent of Americans who think gays are pedophiles who should be stoned to death. At this stage, they might as well come out of their own closet and show the country what unalloyed homophobia really looks like. In an era when conservatives can soft-peddle their anti-gay animus as respect for “traditional marriage,” it’s refreshing to see someone come out and admit that they’re just plain disgusted by gays. For the first, and probably last, time in her life, Michele Bachmann may have just done the gay rights movement a favor.

July 25 2014 11:07 AM

Jeopardy! Gets Shady: Is Gay Culture Over?

Outward contributor Rafi D’Angelo brought my attention to a recent instance of cultural crossover earlier this week, when Jeopardy! featured “shade” as the answer to an $800 clue. “One term for talking trash about someone is ‘throwing’ this,” the July 21 clue read, helpfully adding, “like a big elm tree might do.”

While the demographic provenance and “ownership” of shade has been debated fiercely in recent weeks, it is safe to say that the term—which, compressing a fair amount of nuance, refers to the art of communicating a friend or opponent’s inferiority or deficiency through affect, body language, or clever insults (see: reading)—is one of the pillars of a certain school of gay sociality. Indeed, if I had to come up with a few “gay core concepts” off-the-cuff, shade would definitely join camprealnessartificemale femininity, and melodrama on that list. So given the deeply mainstream reputation of Jeopardy, the general in-group reaction of “well, that’s the end of that” is understandable. But should we be so quick to deem this clue a portent of the end times for queer cultural uniqueness?

July 25 2014 9:05 AM

Why I’m Still a Butch Lesbian

I first began wearing men's clothing a few years ago, because I thought that looking like a lesbian might help me get girls. Once I'd started, I realized almost immediately that I was feeling far more comfortable and confident and that I liked the way I looked in the mirror for the first time in my life. Other people who knew me said I looked more natural, more like my clothing fit my personality. It felt a bit like I'd been wearing an uncomfortable, ill-fitting costume all my life. As I adjusted to this new information, it was hard not to notice that many of the people who shared my preference for the men's section and my subtly masculine mannerisms had gone a step further and stopped identifying as women entirely. At times, it almost seemed as if, by not throwing my lot in with these pronoun creators and binary-rejecters, I might be just a little bit behind the times—a little square, uncool, perhaps even cis-sexist. Facebook has more than 50 possible gender indentifiers. So why have I, a female-bodied person who wears men's clothing, decided to stick with the increasingly old-fashioned “butch lesbian woman”?

In part, it's because the language of gender identity has always been a bit bewildering to me—I've felt hungry, happy, gassy, and anxious, but never male or female. Even so, it has been tempting to interpret my experience in ways that separated it from that of other women. This is especially true because cis-gendered women have a distinct tendency to define themselves in ways that don't include me. I hear women throw out things like, “As women, we all know how important it is to feel pretty,” or “We, as women, are naturally more tender and nurturing,” statements that never seem to include women like me. Not only do I dislike feeling pretty and prefer arguing to nurturing, I don't even particularly like eating chocolate. Popular culture, and women themselves, often imply that I lack many of the most essential qualities of womanhood.

July 24 2014 3:20 PM

Stephen Webb Doubles Down on the Inferiority of Gay 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.

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.