Published in: July-August 2006 issue.


Egged  Controversy came to the annual White House Easter Egg Roll when a contingent of same-sex parents decided to participate in this year’s event—and announced their intentions to the media. Sure, it was a “political” tactic of sorts, a public demonstration that even the “family values” crowd couldn’t object to, could they?—a bevy of loving parents showing up with their cute, well-adjusted kids? But of course they could! Soon the usual evangelical groups were snarling, and the bloviators on Fox News were turning a kids’ lawn party into a national news story. But then a bright spot: the First Lady, who presides over the event, declared that she would welcome all kinds of families, including those with same-sex parents. So, the gay families made a point of being the first in line for tickets, with one waiting 24 hours, the day broke a little drizzly, 11 AM rolled around, and… something happened that only Karl Rove, the “boy genius” himself, could have dreamed up: the White House suddenly announced that there would be a change in the gate used for entry, so all the people who thought they were first in line would now be last. Brilliant! A simple bureaucratic maneuver, call it a security measure, hardly worth the attention of the press—and the chance to stick it to some gay and lesbian families just for the hell of it, just to demonstrate that no appeasement to the religious Right is too small or small-minded to engineer.

Larding It On  Then there’s Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher, who issued an executive order repealing anti-discrimination protections for GLBT state employees—and did so on the very day that he, Governor Fletcher, had proclaimed as “Diversity Day.” In itself, the order was notably retrograde and unprecedented, coming at a time when even many conservative states are moving to protect gay state employees from discrimination. But doing it while declaring “Diversity Day” is reminiscent of every petty dictator who ever waited for his enemy’s wedding day to have him arrested or rounded up a rival faction just as they were celebrating their high holy day.

Too Butch for Basketball  Pennsylvania State University fined a women’s basketball coach $10,000 after finding that she pressured a player to change her appearance to be more feminine. According to a report (GenderPAC 4/20/06): “Coach Rene Portland reportedly pressured Jennifer Harris, who was among the leading players for Penn State, to look ‘more feminine,’ told other players not to associate with her, and repeatedly inquired about her sexual orientation before abruptly dismissing her from the team in March 2005.” One could be forgiven for thinking that this sounds more like a woman scorned than a coach worrying about her team’s PR. Indeed, the coach’s sexual orientation has been a matter of some speculation, though she has denied being a lesbian. Not known is whether Portland provided specific suggestions on how Harris could make herself look more attractive, more alluring, more femme.
Failure to Evolve  At a March 2006 conference titled “The War on Christians and the Values Voter in 2006,” a large number of preachers and politicians, including Congressman Tod Akin and Senator John Cornyn, gathered to discuss how to mobilize “the base” for electoral victory this fall. Event organizer and Baptist minister Rick Scarborough opened by announcing that “God always does his best work right after a crucifixion,” whatever that means. But some of the comments by other speakers were less opaque and even more disturbing, among them (with thanks to Ben Edward Akerley for compiling the following):
• Peter LaBarbera, Illinois Family Institute: “We need to find ways to bring shame back to those who are practicing and advocating homosexual behavior.”
• Rev. Tom Crouse, Congregational pastor: “It was just an event to proclaim the truth that God created us all heterosexual.”
• Rod Parsley, pastor of the huge World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio: “A spiritual invasion is taking place. … I came to incite a riot. Man your battle stations. Ready your weapons. Lock and load.”
Just so we know what we’re dealing with.

American Exodus  Same-sex couples are flocking to the UK in search of a new life where they can take advantage of the Civil Partnership Act that grants gay couples all the privileges of marriage, according to a Human Rights Watch report. Gay couples have also been emigrating to other of the nineteen countries that now allow similar unions or full marriage, such as Canada. Meanwhile, back in the U.S., more states are amending their constitutions to ban same-sex marriage. For now, it’s mostly binational gay couples who are making the passage, but others can be expected to emigrate if the climate in the U.S. continues to sour. And it may well turn out that GLBT people are, as often in the recent past, harbingers of a wider demographic trend and pioneers in their own right. As the U.S. drifts toward abortion bans and “intelligent design,” it seems likely that people on the cultural fringe—or just those in search of universal health care—will look to the north and east for alternatives. In fact, it appears the exodus has already begun.

The Nose Knows 2  This column reported earlier (July-August 2005) on a study  which showed that gay men respond to male and female sex hormones more like straight women than like straight men. Now a Swedish study (by the Stockholm Brain Institute) has come up with a similar finding for lesbians, whose sexual response, as observed in brain scans, was more like that of straight men than straight women. While lesbians and straight men both responded positively to the smell of female sex hormones, both registered irritation when exposed to male hormones. Interestingly enough, the findings were less robust for lesbians than for gay men, which is to say, lesbians were in a more intermediate position between straight male and straight female response. This could support the anecdotal observation that sexual orientation is somewhat more fluid in women than in men. The study also supported the claim that humans do in fact have pheromones, until recently a controversial notion, suggesting that human sexual attraction is driven by chemical reactions that place it well outside the realm of volition. But no one seriously believes that sexual orientation is a “choice,” do they?