“The First Gay Activist” This is how the BBC described one Thomas Cannon, who wrote a defense of “pederasty,” published in 1749, that recently came to light. What University of Manchester scholar Hal Gladfelder discovered was not the work itself, but instead a legal indictment of the printer of a book called “Ancient and Modern Pederasty Investigated and Exemplify’d.” The indictment, a handwritten scroll, suggests that the book was an anthology of stories and philosophical texts defending male homosexuality. Cannon’s piece homed in on the argument that the Catholic Church had been using since the Middle Ages, namely that same-sex relations are somehow “unnatural” or a violation of “natural law.” Allowing for some lapses in his knowledge of anatomy, Cannon’s defense of pederasty sounds surprisingly modern: “Unnatural desire is a contradiction in terms; downright nonsense. Desire is an amatory impulse of the inmost human parts,” he wrote in one extract, foreshadowing the Freudian “id.” All traces of the book quickly disappeared, but the legal indictment quotes lengthy passages by Cannon, preserving his words for posterity. Noted Gladfelder: “[T]he 18th-century courts—who were trying to suppress this—unwittingly helped publicize it 258 years later.” Cannon fled to the Continent to avoid punishment—a move that’s strikingly reminiscent of Oscar Wilde’s flight to Paris a century and a half later. Sometimes history repeats itself as tragedy.
April Fools! Fox News anchors like Bill O’Reilly are notorious for grabbing a story from any source, preferably within the right-wing “echo chamber,” and then reporting it as news. This seems to be Fox’s MO on the local level as well, where the intelligence isn’t even up to O’Reilly standards. It was around April Fool’s Day (which should have been a tip-off) that Boston’s gay weekly Bay Windows published a front-page story about how the Vatican had sent a letter to Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, the Archbishop of Boston, demanding that he no longer buy his sandals in Provincetown, which rendered them “sandals of Sodom.” WFXT/Fox25 dutifully reported the story as part of the day’s news, only to be told by Bay Windows that it was all a joke. But it didn’t stop there: Fox25’s howler itself became a local news item and the butt of jokes (“Are those sandals of Sodom or are ya happy to see me?”). After all, consider what they had to believe in order to go with this story: that the ederly Cardinal wears sandals, that he goes to P’town to buy them, that the Vatican monitors his footwear choices… For whatever reason, the folks at Fox must have really wanted this story to be true.
Item Twenty-one-year-old Andrew Embiricos is a young New York socialite. The son of Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, a grandson of Rita Hayworth, he’s also a first nephew of the current Aga Khan. By tradition of the Aga Khan bloodline, he’s thus a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. As it happens, Embiricos is also an amateur gay porn star who regularly uploads videos to the Internet with names like “Chelsea Bareback Whores.” (From The New York Daily News [4/19/07]. Where else?)
McGreevey’s New Calling Hard to believe it’s been over two years since Jim McGreevey resigned as governor of New Jersey. To review: what got McGreevey into trouble was not being gay but appointing a man named Golan Cipel, with whom he was apparently in love or lust, to a top homeland security post even though Cipel had virtually no experience in this area. Cipel later accused McGreevey of sexually harassing him; McGreevey accused Cipel of blackmail. In more recent months things have headed south for McGreevey vis-à-vis his soon-to-be ex-wife. We all remember when he announced his resignation and declared, “I am a gay American,” even as his wife looked on and radiated loving support. McGreevey was soon on the talk circuit proclaiming that Dina knew all about his gay philandering and supported his decision to come out. However, Dina now claims the announcement came as a bolt out of the blue and that she felt utterly betrayed. Needless to say, it’s gonna be a messy divorce. Anyway, whatever else one might think of McGreevey, he’s not exactly a poster boy for Kant’s categorical imperative. That’s what makes his next career move so curious. Like many defeated politicians, he’s taken a job teaching college. And what would a guy like McGreevey teach? He’s landed a gig at Jersey’s Kean University teaching ethics to undergraduates.
Gloat If You Will And why not? The ultra-homophobic organization known as the Center for Reclaiming America is no more. Founded in 1996, the Florida-based Christian political organization closed its doors in April for lack of support. And to think it was only two years ago, at the CRA’s annual conference, that the speeches were all triumphalist and the plans grandiose: there would be a regional office in all 435 congressional districts and a killer lobbying arm on Capitol Hill to squash abortion choice and gay rights. Perhaps the group collapsed after last November’s election ushered so many of their candidates out of office. Or maybe it was their central role in the Terry Schiavo case, which seemed like such a good PR move at the time. One CRA leader, Rev. Joel Hunter, admitted that “We need to be not so narrow and combative.” Translation: a lot of good people have grown weary of a movement whose stock-in-trade is beating up on other Americans. Actually, Hunter himself put it quite nicely: “Most movements start off being against something. In order to mature, you have to figure out what you’re for.” Here’s a suggestion: liberty and justice for all.
Check It Out This one works best if you’ve seen exhibit A, which can be viewed on the Web at: adage.com/vidt?pld= . It’s a public service ad aga inst pot-smoking that ran on MTV Canada and left people agape. Three very handsome, indeed hot, young men are sitting in a car smoking a bong. Obviously wasted, the two in the front seat spontaneously lean toward one another, lock lips, and kiss passionately for seconds, as the guy in the back looks on in horror and confusion and finally asks, “But aren’t you guys—brothers?” And up flashes the message: “If you’re high, just make sure you don’t drive.” So it isn’t the gay kiss that we’re supposed to be horrified by; it’s the fact that the two guys kissing are brothers! How gratuitously weird is that? Still, it’s not hard to guess what happened here. In the government’s never-ending campaign to convince you that smoking pot makes you do wild and idiotic things, some PSA guy had this brilliant idea: link pot-smoking with the image of two guys kissing, still icky for many viewers! But no, you can’t do that, because a lot of viewers won’t get it: they’ll just assume the guys are boyfriends (or tricks, or whatever), and won’t be suitably horrified. And some viewers won’t be horrified at all, as it’s a pretty hot kiss. So they decided to add the bit about being brothers. Maybe it’s a sign of progress that in order to turn you against pot they have to raise the ante all the way up to gay incest. Anyway, they ended up producing what has to be the closest a PSA has ever come to gay porn.
Another One Bites the Carpet A propos of this issue’s theme: in a moment reminiscent of Tom Cruise’s sofa jump on Oprah—no, far, far stranger—ex-gay guru Richard Cohen appeared opposite Wayne Besen on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and strutted his stuff. To show how he fights off those lingering homosexual urges, he gyrated, he thrashed inanimate objects, he made animal sounds. As Bob Roehr put it in his column, “Words cannot describe how hysterically bizarre the segment was.” So astonishing was Cohen’s performance that the organization he was shilling for, the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (narth), quickly broke off all ties with Cohen and purged all references to him from their website. Thus we’ll never know whether narth was upset because Cohen’s behavior was so weird or because it hit too close to home.