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]
Last year, Harvard Business School accepted its first transgender student. She is, in fact, the first openly trans person to be admitted to any top management program in the country.
The implicit message to the business world that comes with a school like Harvard’s acceptance isn’t one Del (who prefers to go by her first name) expected to hear in her lifetime. Society’s tolerance for homosexuality may be on the rise, but so far transgender individuals have been largely left out of this growing openness to queer identities. One of the greatest challenges trans people face comes with employment. Employers are often reluctant to take on the perceived risk of hiring a visibly trans person, fearing that they will lose customers or make other staff uncomfortable. Thus, despite having consistently greater levels of education than the general population, one in six trans people subsists on a total household income of under $10,000 a year, a dire financial situation compounded by their needs for hormone replacement therapy.
Read more. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]
“Before I came out and was still on a path of planning to marry a man,” says Victoria, “I was pretty radical and said I’ll never change my name.” But when Victoria Cunningham married Lita Grossman, in Washington D.C. in 2006, three years before same-sex marriage was legally recognized in the District, she was forced to reconsider. Finally, both wound up changing to a third surname.
Personal and professional considerations aside, for women entering heterosexual marriages, the last name decision often comes down to ideology. But for newlywed same-sex couples navigating their way through the thorny question of family nomenclature, there’s no tradition in place to buck or to follow. With the overturn of DOMA and an expanding geography of states legalizing same-sex marriage (nine plus the District of Columbia), it remains to be seen what naming trends will emerge as same sex-couples decide whether or not to use shared names to formally identify as units, and why.
Read more. [Image: Artur Bainozarov/Reuters]
MOSCOW — Some show youths being forced to drink urine, or having it poured over their heads. Others show young men being taunted with phallic sex toys, threatened with axes, and forced to carry wooden crucifixes.
These are just a few of the images contained in a series of shocking videos filmed by a nationalist gang in Kamensk-Uralsky, an industrial town of 175,000 inhabitants in Russia’s Sverdlovsk Oblast near the Ural Mountains.
Some were shot after the group contacted their victims online and lured them into what they believed would be romantic liaisons with other young men — in at least some cases with minors. Other victims were known homosexuals who were forcibly picked up off the street.
The stated goal of the videos was to “cure” these young men of their homosexuality.
Too many people whose marriages are not up for debate have been griping that President Obama’s announcement was too little, too late. He’s endorsing federalism, argued Adam Serwer in Mother Jones. He’s championing state’s rights, complained left-of-center blogger Digby: “This is the essence of retrograde, reactionary politics and there’s a long history of these ‘sovereign’ states exercising their ‘rights’ to deny minorities their freedom.” Even House Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn was upset with the president’s approach. “I depart from the president on the state-by-state approach. If you consider this to be a civil right, and I do, I don’t think civil rights ought to be left up to a state-by-state approach,” he said Monday.
Such critics of Obama are wrong. They are wrong about what the administration has done and said, wrong on the politics of gay marriage, and — most important — they are wrong on the law.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
The first chart shows the rate of gay-marriage tweets per minute yesterday, which peaked at more than 7,000, just four minutes after the president’s own tweet.
The second shows the quantity of tweets referencing gay marriage since Obama’s inauguration. As you can see, yesterday the volume spiked, topping out around 1.6 million tweets, breaking the previous record from the night New York legalized gay marriage (which was, it should be noted, late at night on a Friday).
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