The culture warriors have decided: Disney’s Frozen is queer. Elsa hiding her ice-powers could be read as a metaphor for the closet, the Oscar-winning “Let it Go” plays like a coming-out anthem, and a character in the film evokes the question of whether homosexuality is a choice by inquiring of Elsa’s powers, “born with it or cursed?” Some liberals have praised the film for its subtext; some conservatives have denounced it.
But the most remarkable thing about queer readings of the film may be how unremarkable they really are. Through both its corporate practices and the content of its films, Disney for decades has implemented the so-called “gay agenda”—which is to say, helping make the world a more accepting place.
To start in the most obvious place: As a business, Disney has long held a progressive attitude toward LGBT people. Gay pride events have been hosted at Disney World since 1991, and the company started offered its gay employees health insurance benefits for their partners since 1995, a decision that wasn’t entirely popular back then.
One of the most poignant examples of the company’s tolerant atmosphere is the case of lyricist Howard Ashman, who was openly gay and died of AIDS in 1991. Not only did Ashman write songs for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, he was also closely involved in those films’ productions, casting actors and holding story meetings with animators. At the end of Beauty and the Beast, Disney acknowledged his contributions with this tribute: “To our friend Howard Ashman who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful.”
But Ashman’s story also offers an example of how the substance of Disney’s films reflect an interest in LGBT peoples’ struggles.
Read more. [Image: Disney]
Years before starting her own church with her wife, Lanna Holder tried to quit being gay for God. She represents an unusual side of the Protestantism that’s sweeping the world’s largest Catholic country.
Read more. [Image: Paulo Whitaker/Reuters]
A confident grown woman gets an unexpected email from her childhood bully.
Read more. [Image: Nicole Dicou/Reuters]
The Winter Games are serving as a barometer for the international politics of LGBT rights.
Read more. [Image: Reuters/Thomas Peter]
The cover of Against Me!’s sixth studio album—the first since frontwoman Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender after spending most of her life as Tom Gabel—features a stark illustration of a human breast. It’s not erotic, and it’s not particularly feminine, but it is brutally clinical: a colorless slab of flesh detached from whatever body it came from, presented like a textbook diagram. When you break everything down into pieces, it seems to suggest, we’re all just the same bunch of cells, all doomed to the same fate.
The lean, mean, vicious punk machine that is Transgender Dysphoria Blues, out today, spends much of its 29-minute run time ruminating on a similarly grim idea: that death is an inevitability, and one that, when you’re perpetually at odds with yourself and the world around you, seems like a sensible escape from suffering.
While television has, in recent years, offered a growing cast of gay characters on shows from Modern Family to Orange is the New Black to The New Normal, (cancelled last May), few series focus solely on the nuances and complexity of contemporary gay relationships. This is about to change, however, with the premiere of HBO’s Looking, (Sunday at 10:30pm), a half-hour drama exploring the lives of three gay men in San Francisco.
The three friends—Patrick, a 29-year-old video-game developer (Jonathan Groff); Agustin, a 31-year-old artist (Frankie J. Alvarez); and Dom, a 39-year-old waiter (Murray Bartlett)—are based on the characters in Michael Lannan’s short film Larimer. Lannan, the creator of the show, also serves as its co-executive producer along with Andrew Haigh, who directed the 2011 indie film Weekend. I spoke with Lannan and Haigh from their office in L.A.
Read more. [Image: HBO]
Former Houston Oilers players says the 1993 roster was okay with two suspected gay teammates, but their comments aren’t as supportive as they’ve been made to seem.
Read more. [Image: AP/Lynn Sladky]
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.