Published in: January-February 2010 issue.


Showing Your Bona Fides Proving your status as a refugee eligible for political asylum often means demonstrating that you are who you say you are. This can entail providing a DNA sample to prove you’re someone’s relative, or revealing scars or other evidence of brutal treatment in your native country. But what if the basis for your claim is that you’re gay—how do you demonstrate this fact to the satisfaction of a judge? Two Islamic men seeking asylum in Australia faced just this dilemma when threatened with extradition to Bangladesh. So they offered to prove they were gay by having sex before an Australian immigration official. The offer followed attempts by an immigration tribunal to get to the bottom of the men’s sexual orientation through verbal means, which included questions on their use of lubricants when having sex, whether they did it in the morning, and so on. One of the men told a reporter that he’d been “too embarrassed to answer the personal questions.” Which is when the two men issued this statement: “We are prepared to have an adult witness view us engaged in an act of homosexual intercourse and then attest before you to that fact.” The fact that this form of demonstration was less embarrassing than talking about sex might point to a feature of Islamic culture. Meanwhile, the case has moved to a higher court, which blasted the tribunal for this line of questioning—and for insisting that the men were really brothers (which was disproved by a DNA test). No word on whether they ever had to perform for an immigration official; this may be a case when just the offer was enough.


Down (or Up) for the Count The government of Kenya has decided to carry out a census of gay people in an effort to get control of the country’s HIV epidemic. This is something that American activists are actively lobbying for—the ability to be counted in the upcoming U.S. Census—but in Kenya it’s a double-edged sword. This is a country in which homosexuality is illegal, punishable by a jail term of up to fourteen years. Thus officials in Nairobi have expressed concerns that gay people will be afraid to reveal themselves in the upcoming census. Well, duh! It may well be that the government of Kenya has the very best of intentions and truly wants to slow the spread of HIV and save lives, but they might want to consider repealing that fourteen-year prison stint before embarking on their Gay Domesday Book. Meanwhile, back in the U.S., where people are clamoring to be counted in 2010, lest we forget: it was only a few years ago, in 2003, that the last state laws outlawing homosexuality were struck down.


Going Alphanumeric Popping up in the gay press of late, usually without explanation, are references to “the LGBTTIQQ2S community”—which seems to set a new record for the number of letters ever strung together to describe this “community.” It used to be that if you worked at it, you could eventually figure out what all the letters stood for. Can it still be done? The presence of two “T’s” might vex some, but we’re hip to the fact that “transgender” and “transsexual” are separate identities (no transvestites!). Then follows another category that refers more to gender variation than to sexual orientation: “I” as in “intersex.” The double “Q” requires a bit more thought: presumably one is for “queer” and the other stands for “questioning” (but aren’t we all on some level?). Then follows the number 2—a reference to the Kinsey Scale? And what could the “S” possibly mean—without the “M,” that is? Ah, but if you put the last two digits together, you get “2S,” which must stand for “two spirit,” a reference to Native American trans-people. Then, too, the list can never be complete. Just in this batch of potential “BTW” entries there was an article on the joys of polyamory (a separate sexual orientation!) and another on “the new asexuals”—people who are out and proud about their lack of interest in the whole sexual chase. And the alpha-beat goes on.


Religious Persecution Okay with Boehner During the recent debate over a federal hate crimes law that included sexual orientation as a protected category, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH, pronounced Bay-ner!) issued a statement that he “supports existing federal protections (based on race, religion, gender, etc.) based on immutable characteristics,” but not for being gay, which he regards is a personal choice. Okay, maybe the jury is still out on whether being gay is a genetic or an acquired trait—not that it should matter—but religion as an immutable characteristic? People convert to new religions all the time, including to the religion of Congressman Bohner, Roman Catholicism, which sends missionaries all over the world to encourage just this action. That being the case, if innateness is the test for federal protections, then it is religion rather than sexual orientation that clearly doesn’t belong.


Be Careful What You Vote For Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a Houston lawyer and Democratic candidate for attorney general, has discovered an odd anomaly in the wording of a 2005 constitutional amendment that was designed to ban not only same-sex marriages in Texas but civil unions, as well. The amendment, approved by the legislature and ratified by a voter referendum, declares: “Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.” So far, so good. But then follows Subsection B, which adds: “This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.” Hmm… it’s one thing to outlaw unions that are “similar” to marriage—we get it already!—but there’s only one kind of union that’s identical to marriage, and that’s marriage itself. Thus, concludes Radnofsky, the amendment outlaws all marriages in the Texas, meaning that anyone who’s gotten hitched there since 2005 could technically be living in sin! Ms. Radnofsky may just be trying to score political points against her opponent, Greg Abott, the sitting attorney general who presided over this potential legal debacle and stands accused of “an error of massive proportions.” But it may not be just a simple matter of linguistic incompetence. In their zeal to close the door on any conceivable alternative to heterosexual marriage—or just to lard it on for sheer spite—Mr. Abbott and the people of Texas have apparently outlawed the very thing they claimed to be “protecting.”