Don’t Boycott Israel’s World Pride 2006!
To the Editor:
This is in response to a call for a boycott of World Pride by Farris Wahben in the current issue [Jan.-Feb. 2006]. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has endorsed World Pride, which will occur in August 2006 in Jerusalem.
Some have raised questions and concerns about the location of World Pride 2006, due to Jerusalem’s contested status and the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is not the first time World Pride has been the focus of controversy: when it was held in Rome in 2000, the Vatican denounced it. Despite the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition, a quarter million people came to Rome and showed that LGBT people will not be intimidated by religious bigotry. In late 2004, after organizers announced plans to hold World Pride in Jerusalem, religious leaders from the three major faiths represented in the Middle East—Islam, Judaism, and Christianity—united to denounce the event.
The group sponsoring World Pride is Jerusalem Open House (JOH), an LGBT community center that serves everyone: Israelis and Palestinians; Jews, Muslims and Christians. JOH promotes tolerance and cross-community work in a city sorely lacking in such dialogue and cooperation. JOH is a non-governmental organization made up of people with a wide range of views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the status of Jerusalem, and what needs to happen for there to be peace and justice in the Middle East. Many leaders of JOH are active in the Israeli movement against the occupation of the West Bank. It is important to understand the distinction between Israeli LGBT activists and the Israeli government. JOH is as responsible for the policies of the Israeli government as the Task Force is responsible for the policies of the Bush-Cheney administration.
Jerusalem is a heavily segregated city, and JOH is one of the few venues where members of all communities come together to create change. Its work should be encouraged. World Pride can be an opportunity to call attention to the important work of JOH as well as the disparate needs and experiences of LGBT people in Israel and Palestine.
While gay pride in the U.S. is largely celebratory, gay pride in the heavily religious city of Jerusalem is still strongly contested by religious conservatives and is deeply political. Last year gay rights marchers were physically attacked. World Pride in Jerusalem will not be Mardi Gras in the Middle East. It will be a demonstration for equality for LGBT people around the world.
I am also concerned that Israel gets singled out and held to a higher standard. The U.S. is occupying Iraq and Afghanistan at the moment, and no one seems to object to attending gay pride celebrations or conferences in U.S. cities. Not only is Israel the only gay-tolerant country in the Middle East, its policies place it among the most pro-gay in the world.
By endorsing World Pride in Jerusalem and participating in it, the Task Force is supporting LGBT activists who have a vision of a different Jerusalem and a different Middle East—one in which all people can live together in peace, justice, and mutual respect. We encourage you to join us in this vision.
Sean Cahill, Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute, New York
To the Editor:
Farris Wahbeh’s article in the January-February issue is faulty in that it attempts to address the issue of Palestinian gay rights through a criticism of Israel, while simultaneously giving backhanded compliments to Israel on gay rights. It is not difficult to criticize Israel politically, but injecting this into a discussion of gay rights weakens all his arguments. Israel may sometimes allow political or social mores to affect the status of gays, but gays serve openly in the military and are accorded all basic rights. Marriage may even be in the cards. What Arab country is even close?
Mr. Wahbeh, please continue to write about Palestinian rights, but where gay rights are concerned, be open to the infinitely superior conditions in Israel without being cynical. I wonder if you have seen the film The Garden about two Arab hustlers in Israel.
Jay Donner, Cyberspace
On Being an Ex-‘Ex-Gay’
To the Editor:
Thank you for publishing Mark Benjamin’s piece on the ex-gay agenda [Nov.-Dec. 2005].
I became a born-again Christian in my freshman year in college in 1982, because I knew I was gay and didn’t want to be. In 1986–87, at the urging of an “ex-gay” friend who insisted I had repressed memories of childhood sexual molestation, I attended one-on-one therapy in northern Virginia with a counselor who called his ministry something like “the 96th thesis.” Insurance paid for this—something I still can’t believe. Since I was raised by my mother and grandmother, had no father and a workaholic grandfather, the counselor said I was a textbook case for being gay. He used some kind of subliminal suggestion or guided imagery technique to refocus my sexuality, and encouraged me to spend time on dates with women and to masturbate with Playboy. Eventually, he skipped town and the man who took over his patient load helped me focus on my relationship with my mother and told me flat-out that I wasn’t gay.
I started attending an “ex-gay” group at the mega-church I was attending in Maryland. All we did was talk about how we struggled with banishing homosexual thoughts. We were all in our early to mid-twenties, and were all climbing the walls a little bit. The sexual tension, combined with the shame and the exhaustion, was intense.
When I was 28, 1 gave it all up and came out. I also left evangelical Christianity. I’m now agnostic and partnered with a man who came out when he was fourteen. The efforts to shame gay men and lesbians into changing their sexuality, combined with the quackery that these conversion therapists use, needs to be exposed and renounced. Thank you for shedding more light on this subject.
Christopher R. Byrne, Burlington, Vermont
Inventing Gay Culture in the 70’s
Thanks to Ritch C. Savin-Williams’ for his piece on GLBT youth [Nov.-Dec. 2005]. I am a couple of generations ahead of the people he studied, but his findings feel familiar.
I came out at age 28 in the 1970’s in San Francisco, already home to renegades and the epicenter of free love and mind-altering drugs. Yet the discomfort of today’s youths with the image of the gay community mirrors some of my experience. I had no interest in emulating the gay subculture of the previous generation. I felt alienated from people I viewed as “sweater queens” who were deeply closeted by day and enchanted with movie divas like Bette Davis and Lana Turner by night. We wanted to be men, men who kissed other men; what shame we felt was masked by male seriousness. Our options, like those of lesbians, were limited, so we followed their example by creating our own community. Our lives would be out and public, and our commitment to liberation, fierce.
What none of us has in creating our generation’s identity is a sense of our ancestry. As children, our families, clergy, and teachers tell us stories about a great-grandmother coming over on the boat from Italy, about Jewish ancestors throughout history, or Greek mythology, or the history of slavery and civil rights. We do not grow up with stories of lesbian goddesses, gay conquerors, or great poets and artists who loved others of their sex or the ordinary folks living lives of gay communion across town. Our history is nonexistent or at best peripheral. Unlike other subcultures, we have no body of shared myths to define us.
Because we don’t know our ancestry, each generation of queer youth has to go it alone, starting from a place of being an outsider, someone different, someone queer. But we are not alone, and we are not a lifestyle; we’ve been around as long as civilization. Places like the Hormel Center at the San Francisco Public Library and journals like yours are a start at making that history and culture available to our young as they create their generation’s community. It’s not an easy journey, but knowing who we are and where we have been makes it a hell of a lot more interesting.
Chuck Forester, San Francisco
The Internet Can Also Combat Loneliness
Andrew Holleran in his essay “Laptops and Loneliness” (Jan.-Feb. 2006 issue) overstates the negative influences of computers on gay and lesbian life. In many ways the effects are no different from those on straight life. But laptops, it seems to me, do not necessarily contribute to loneliness and isolation but rather help to assuage these conditions. It is quite possible to be lonely in a crowd and, because of the way gay men treat those they find unattractive, especially the disabled and older men, rejection only exacerbates the loneliness. With cyber-access to a broader world, these men can and do find friendship. I am an old man who has made friends with men in widely dispersed cities. Our correspondence as “cyberpals” is not about getting laid. Laptops are not just for cruising.
Yes, few people write letters anymore (I’m an exception). But to a large extent this trend started when people became engrossed in television, which also is responsible for the sad state of American newspapers, not to mention movies.
While there may be fewer venues for gay/lesbian social interaction, a questionable supposition, instant cyber hookups in people’s homes have often replaced quickies in the bushes or public toilets. Such trysts are not without risk, but the danger of being assaulted or killed is greatly reduced. And sex in an instant friend’s apartment is far more comfortable and less anonymous than public sex, and does create some degree of an intimacy, however brief.
Holleran laments the decline of gay social life, which may be true of Manhattan. But Chicago still has seventy or so gay bars, three bath houses (the same number for decades), two thriving gay newspapers and a bar magazine rich with ads, a gay square dance club, gay and lesbian athletic teams, a lesbian and two gay men’s choruses, a gay porno theater, a legitimate theater that regularly stages gay-themed plays, and a GLBT lending and research library that’s the repository of the papers of some important people.
Although I have, out of necessity, been using computers for many years, I still don’t like them and feel uncomfortable with them. However, I am not a Luddite and would not go back to the stylus and clay tablet, or even to the manual typewriter.
Charles-Gene McDaniel, Prof. of Journalism (Emeritus), Roosevelt Univ., Chicago
ISBN’s Would Help Some Readers
When I begin searching for any one of the books covered in the G&LR, I usually have the publisher’s name. However, what with many authors having similar names, without an ISBN I am often adrift in a sea of book titles. I’m frequently asked for the ISBN, which of course I do not possess. What I would ask is that you require all contributors to your publication, including the advertisers of books, to provide titles, publisher, and ISBNs. I would also make this request to all future editors of anthologies when printing the authors’ credits. This one little action would certainly help us readers and our LGBT authors.
Dennis J. Hall, Lansing, Michigan
Many thanks for your suggestion. My thought was that ISBN numbers were rarely used these days, but I could be wrong. Let me invite other readers to contact me with their thoughts (e-mail HGLR@aol.com).
Michael Shernoff’s article in the Jan.-Feb. 2006 issue, “The Heart of a Virtual Hunter,” contained an error in the following sentence: “I was lamenting that since the closing of the Lure Manhattan was without a gay bar.” It should instead have read “without a leather bar.”