Published in: January-February 2005 issue.


Fun with Family Values  The scales of poetic justice were operating in an otherwise gloomy political season, as the progeny of a number of famously homophobic public figures came out of the closet in a very big way.

1. Sadie Fields  Doubtless the most spectacular case was the self-outing of Tess Fields, who penned an article for the Atlanta Journal Constitution (10/29/04) that began with these words: “I am the daughter of Sadie Fields, president of the Christian Coalition of Georgia. I was appalled by the column my mother wrote justifying her bigotry, and I feel compelled to respond.” In the article that followed, the younger Ms. Fields offered a life history of her lesbian origins and development starting in her mid-teens and culminating in her total estrangement from her mother over ten years ago. In the meantime, her mother “has written numerous articles comparing me to pedophiles and people who have sex with animals,” and has yet to see her daughter’s son, whose gestation and birth she completely ignored. The article in the Constitution ends with an impassioned plea for the reader “not to follow my mother’s lead” on election day by rejecting the state’s Amendment One, which would ban same-sex marriage. [It won.]

2. Jesse Helms  If ever a politician deserved to have a gay or lesbian descendant, it would have to be Jesse Helms; and behold, his granddaughter Jennifer Knox is apparently a lesbian who has been in a committed relationship with another woman for three years. In the case of Ms. Knox, her public outing was not entirely voluntary—it was in fact nudged along by a friend who’s sympathetic to gay rights—but is apparently an open secret in North Carolina. Just don’t let the Senator in on it: “I could never tell my grandfather, it would kill him,” Ms. Knox is reported to have replied when asked by her friend if the old man knew about her.

3. Alan Keyes  But wait—there’s one politician who might deserve it even more: Alan Keyes, who ran for president a few years ago and recently ran against Barack Obama for senator of Illinois (he lost big time), is known not only for his virulently homophobic views but also for his habit of really larding it on when denouncing sinners of all kinds. At the Republican convention, for example, he was going on about how homosexualty is just “selfish hedonism,” at which point the interviewer asked if Dick Cheney’s daughter Mary was a “selfish hedonist,” and Keyes replied in the affirmative. Turns out Keyes’s only daughter Maya is another of same, as revealed by a woman who announced that she is Maya’s current lover, and who has since been quite outspoken on the matter. The same cannot be said of the father, who was uncharacteristically silent when asked if the reports were true.

But the Thrill is Gone  “Outing is back,” declared an article in the San Francisco Chronicle—that controversial practice from the 1980’s whereby famous gay people would be dragged out of the closet kicking and screaming by some pissed-off gay journalist or act-up member. This time around, word went out that people would be outed if they directly aided and abetted anti-gay politicians or causes; and names were named. It’s the “kicking and screaming” part that left something to be desired. The best-organized outing effort was that of D.C.-based Michael Rogers, who exposed (among others) two high-level officials in the Republican National Committee, Jay Banning and Daniel Gurley, and got them to acknowledge publicly that they were gay. But if Banning and Gurley were expected to issue a tearful mea culpa and slink away, that’s not what happened. Instead, they gave interviews with gay publications such as the Washington Blade and declared that “Everybody’s been completely supportive of us.” It seems outing just ain’t what it used to be. The actions of Rogers and others have rekindled the debate over the ethics of outing, but somehow it doesn’t seem the same when the people being outed don’t even squirm.

On the Fecundity of Aunts  For those who believe that homosexuality is governed by a genetic component, there has always been one big mystery. How can we explain the perpetuation of this sexual orientation, given that those having it are clearly less likely to produce offspring and pass on this gene? A number of hypotheses have been advanced, but perhaps the most convincing to date comes from a study done in Italy of 200 men, half of them gay and half straight. What researcher Andrea Camperio-Ciani found was that the gay men have significantly more relatives on the female side, which is to say, their mothers and maternal aunts show an unusually high rate of fertility. “For a long time it has been a paradox,” Camperio-Ciani commented. “But we have found that there might be a set of genes that, in males, influences homosexuality but in females increases fecundity.” This means that women carrying the “gay gene” have a selective advantage over those who don’t, and the gene survives despite the lack of gay male progeny. Another finding of this study, seemingly unrelated, was that the gay men had displayed a higher interest in sex before the age of ten than did their non-gay peers. Hmm, so the gay boys are hornier than the straight boys early on. Could this also provide a clue as to what’s behind the stepped-up fecundity of their female relatives?

Name That Dildo  The scandal involving Bill O’Reilly’s phone-sex escapades with Fox News employee Andrea Mackris failed to produce the hoped-for tapes of the talk-show host’s words and moans. But it did produce as part of the permanent record a legal complaint by Mackris detailing the alleged incidents of sexual harassment point by point. Our favorite has to be §66: “During the course of o’reilly’s telephone monologue on August 2, 2004, he suggested that Plaintiff andrea mackris purchase a vibrator and name it, and that he had one ‘shaped like a cock with a little battery in it’ that a woman had given him. It became apparent that Defendant was masturbating as he spoke. After he climaxed, Defendant o’reilly said to Plaintiff: ‘I appreciate the fun phone call. You can have fun tonight. I’ll appreciate it. I mean it.’” Wow. It’s hard to decide which is stranger, O’Reilly’s ownership of a toy cock—how ’mo is that?—or the fact that he had apparently given it a name.