In 1990, 75 percent of Americans believed homosexual sex was immoral, and gay marriage was illegal in literally every jurisdiction in the world. Not quite 25 years later, a majority of Americans support gay marriage, and among young people support is as high as 70 percent. That is a breathtaking transformation; if you’d told LGBT organizations and advocates a quarter century ago that they were on the verge of a public relations coup of this magnitude, almost none of them would have believed it. Even now, it’s hard to credit. How on earth did it happen?
Leigh Moscowitz’s new book, The Battle Over Marriage: Gay Rights Activism Through the Media doesn’t set out to answer that question, but it does hint at one possibility: that the public relations revolution was achieved, in part, through the tremendous savviness and hard work of gay rights activists.
In the 1990s and early 2000s antipathy to LGBT people in the media was intense, and appeared in ways both overt and subtle. Even when the topic was gay marriage or gays in the military, gay life was exoticized: Images accompanying LGBT news items often showed “seedy gay bars or seminaked parade revelers,” in the words of an Advocate article Moscowitz quotes. News networks often framed debates in terms of God vs. gays, with gay activists on one side and anti-homosexual religious leaders, with all the respectability that religion lends, on the other.
Read more. [Image: Joshua Roberts/Reuters]
A new law in Germany creates a third sex category on birth records. It could seem like an obvious solution to some problems of intersex: If some babies are born with bodies that are neither clearly male nor female, then it seems there should be some category beside “male” or “female.”
News reports from Der Spiegel, the Wall Street Journal and ABC News have characterized the new German legislation as providing an “option,” suggesting that the sex identification of infants will simply be a matter of parental choice.
In the past, by contrast, parents have generally relied on physicians to “fix” intersex children through the use of surgical and hormonal sex “normalizations.” (For example, this has sometimes included surgical sex reassignment for baby boys born with very small penises.) With the new category introduced by German law, the ambiguity presented by infants with atypical sex anatomies can be managed simply with a new label.
Read more. [Image: Katelyn Kenderdine/Flickr]
Two months into their relationship, Chris’s boyfriend José pushed him to the ground in a fit of anger and ripped the clothes off his body. “We had gone out dancing, and when we got home, I was changing in front of him,” said Chris, 34.
"I had on my favorite pair of underwear; it was the pair I had worn the first time we went out. He saw the underwear, and just flew into a rage, saying, ‘How dare you wear those! Those are for me!’"
José threw him on the floor of their bedroom closet, and smashed the only light bulb in the room, leaving them in darkness. He loomed above Chris on the floor as he tore the underwear away. That was the first time things had ever turned violent between the two.
"I was in such a state of shock," Chris recounted seven years later, his fingers tapping at a wine glass stem and his brown eyes drifting. "I thought, ‘Oh, he’s just jealous; it’s the drinking,’ and I let it go. There was a lot of drinking in this relationship. No drugs, but lots of drinking."
The second time was worse. “He was angry at something—I can’t remember what—and I was laughing,” said Chris. José again became incensed, strode into the kitchen and grabbed a butcher knife. “He pulled me by my hair, had me on my knees and had the butcher knife at my neck.”
Chris says he didn’t react. At the time, his sister was pregnant, and he wanted to live to see his niece. “I talked him down, told him to give me the knife. I put my hand on his, and we put the knife back in place together,” said Chris, demonstrating by holding his two hands together.
That night, José locked their bedroom door for fear that Chris would escape and tell someone. The next morning, he told Chris, “You know I didn’t mean it, right?”
"That was his way of apologizing to me," Chris scoffed. The relationship lasted nine months, but continued to affect Chris for years after it ended.
In the last decade, American TV shows and movies have begun to showcase more LGBT characters than ever before. Bisexual viewers, though, may still find representations of their life experiences onscreen rare. Even as complex homosexual television characters multiply, giving viewers The LA Complex’s Tariq, United States of Tara’s Marshall Gregson, and Dexter’s Isaak Sirko, bisexual characters remain more elusive. GLAAD’s annual “Where We Are on TV” report reveals that in the 2013-2014 TV season, there are just 24 bisexual recurring or regular characters on all of primetime TV, and 18 of them are women. Look closer, and it becomes clear that even in that small group, portrayals of bisexuality tend to be unrealistic.
The fact that television lacks bisexual characters, especially bisexual men, is well documented: As Josh Eidelson pointed out in The Daily Kos in 2011, it wasn’t easy then to find a bisexual male television character at all. And in early 2012, a Bitch magazine piece by Carrie Nelson highlighted the fact that even when they exist, portrayals of bisexuality are often deeply flawed. (Glee ignored the perspective of high-school glee-club star Blaine Anderson, she wrote, in favor of a plot that saw him get tossed back and forth between his gay and straight love interests.) And most recently, Slate’s June Thomas covered the increase in bisexual women on television, mentioning that in shows like House of Lies—where “being bisexual is mostly about being hot and uninhibited”—many bisexual women are still portrayed as performers, and their audience is considered straight men.
It has been over five years since I logged onto Facebook and publicly announced my sexual orientation. “I can no longer stay silent, friends,” I wrote. “I am gay and have been for a lifetime. I recognize that this may be a shock to some of you but I would be remiss to only share half of me.” Coming out was both liberating and constricting, for me. It was beautiful although the consequences were occasionally ugly. I am glad I came out. But what about those people who aren’t?
In October 1988, National Coming Out Day (NCOD) was founded to celebrate individuals who publicly identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender. This October 11 will again be a day cheering authenticity and bravery. And it’s an event I have mixed feelings about.
On the one hand, it takes courage to publicly identify as LGBT. Who wouldn’t commend individuals who openly share their internal selves with the external world knowing they can receive backlash? But while I, too, applaud the authenticity inherent in the act of coming out, the experience is not for everyone. The danger in over-emphasizing coming out is that the act, at least in the short term, benefits the group sometimes more than the individual.
Read more. [Image: Jonathan Erst/Reuters]
In an edition of the Venice Film Festival notable for the prevalence of works grappling with global and societal woes (unemployment, terrorism, pollution, war) perhaps no film has blended the personal and the political as strikingly as Abdellah Taia’s L’Armée du salut (Salvation Army).
A promising directorial debut presented in the independent “Critics’ Week” category on Wednesday, the movie is adapted from Taia’s autobiographical novel about growing up gay in Morocco.
Today, the 40-year-old Taia is the only openly homosexual Moroccan writer-filmmaker. He is based in Paris, where he moved in 2000 to pursue a graduate degree in 18th century French literature.
Salvation Army observes the adolescent protagonist’s sexual awakening, as he meets with men in shadowy alleys and empty lots, careful not to be discovered in a country where homosexuality is a crime punishable by prison time.
Read more. [Image: AP/Domenico Stinellis]
On the eve of Martin Luther King Day in January 2008, Senator Barack Obama took the lectern at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King had served as a pastor nearly half a century earlier.
As one might expect, Obama echoed the words of the civil-rights icon who had helped pave the way for his own career.
“‘Unity is the great need of the hour,’ is what King said,’” noted Obama, who was in the middle of a primary showdown with Senator Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. But instead of serving up a plate full of feel-good gospel to the faithful before him, he challenged the audience later in his speech.
“If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King’s vision of a beloved community,” Obama said. “We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity.”
Read more. [Image: Jason Reed/Reuters]
I didn’t know I was skinny-fat until my Russian boyfriend told me so. Actually, I didn’t even know that was a thing until he told me so.
I did, however, suspect something was wrong with my body the first night I stayed over his house.
I went to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, and ran into his roommate, Julio. I don’t remember what he said, but I remember where he looked. He seemed to direct his entire conversation—and disgust—at my exposed midsection.
Also known as my love handles.
Julio (gay) and my boyfriend both possess the envious V-shape: broad shoulders narrowing down to a waist that hasn’t smelled a carb in years. Their arms are huge, their chests are cut, their abs are visibly defined.
Read more. [Image: phlubdr/Flickr]
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