When Horny = Homo The story of the “gay bomb” first surfaced a few years ago, but it seems only the GLBT press took notice, including this column, back then. For whatever reason, this summer the story suddenly blasted into the mainstream media, which was kind of a story unto itself. It all goes back to 1994, when the U.S. Air Force put forth the idea of developing a chemical weapon that would cause enemy soldiers to engage in homosexual behavior—obsessively, to the point of abandoning their posts. Once the story got out, it didn’t take long for all the media outlets, notably the 24-hour cable channels, to start calling the would-be weapon the “gay bomb,” and the late-night stand-ups followed with suitably (or not) gay-oriented jokes. What’s curious is that the proposed chemical was actually going to be an aphrodisiac that would just make the soldiers horny, not specifically gay, so apparently it was just assumed that in the absence of women the men would automatically turn to each other for gratification. The fact that the military made this assumption tells us a lot about their fear of having gay men serve openly in their ranks: with soldiers in the barracks always that close to resorting to homosexuality, the presence of a few gay men in close quarters could easily push them over the edge!
Leaving Kraków Poland is now a full member of the European Community; its bankers and merchants can do business with other EU countries in borderless profitude; its citizens can travel freely and settle in any of the other member countries. In fact, some two million Poles have left their country in just the last few years. Many have gone in search of economic opportunities elsewhere in Europe, but a large proportion of the gay and lesbian population has reportedly left for non-economic reasons. The trouble is, Poland under its current right-wing government has turned harshly against its gay population: using the pretext of a bomb threat by an allegedly gay man two years ago, the police have been spying on and compiling a database of gay individuals and organizations; gay pride parades have been banned or disrupted in major Polish cities; and the government is even offering behavioral guides to help parents and teachers to recognize signs of “gay behavior.” As it happens, most of the gay emigrants from Poland have headed straight to London—that hippest of Europe’s cities that’s also its economic powerhouse. Indeed these two features often go hand-in-hand: research in the U.S. suggests that gay people tend to be in the vanguard of the “creative class” that drives economic growth in the knowledge society. Indeed, the presence—or absence—of an out gay population is considered a good indicator of economic vitality. So while Poland now has open access to Western Europe’s markets and capital, the mass exodus of gays could be the harbinger of an epic migration of creative talent in Europe away from intolerant countries in favor of enlightened ones.
Update: Pakistan An earlier BTW (March-April 2007 issue) reported on the phenomenon that is Begum Nawazish Ali a.k.a. Ali Saleem, a male talk show host(ess) in Pakistan who, dressed in high drag, is able to discuss a range of issues that are normally taboo on Pakistani TV, such as marital relations and even sex. Now Ali has decided to parlay his celebrity into a run for prime minister of his country in the next election. Stated candidate Ali: “You know at every level we have problems and issues and people are extremely unhappy, and I just want to make people happy. I really want to make people happy and give back to my country.” In Pakistan’s parliamentary system, the PM is the head of the government, not to be confused with the president, a powerful office currently held by the beleaguered Pervez Musharraf. Ali would be stepping into the shoes of former PM Benazir Bhutto, now in exile but promising to return soon—but will she be arrested? Yes, Pakistani politics are as complicated as a ten-day-old game of Risk. Still, the entry of the wide-eyed—and eye-shadowed—Ali just could complicate things a bit more.
Heady Mix The traffic posts were pretty much standard issue, but their sudden appearance on the streets of Keiser, Oregon, raised eyebrows nonetheless. Perhaps the good citizens of Keizer just need to get out more often, or perhaps there was something about the placement of the uprights—their proximity to one another?—that made some people squirm in their seats as they drove down Main Street. Soon a solution was at hand—but if the objective was to make the posts look less gay, the proposed fix was a little perplexing (as reported by our source, KATU Web Staff): “The city is looking into retrofitting the posts with metal collars and chains that run between them, which they hope will change the look.” It certainly will: now they’ll have an S/M dungeon motif running along the streets.
How Banning Same-sex Marriage Hurts Hetero Marriage In this age of “freakonomics,” we’ve learned that causes and effects are often related in unexpected ways. For example, an analysis by Dale Carpenter (Bay Area Reporter, 5/24/07) showed that by banning same-sex marriage the states are actually depressing the marriage rate for heterosexual couples. This happens because, in the absence of any legal status for same-sex couples, the law has had to make accommodations that set up whole new possibilities. If the main rationale for marriage is that it allows for the custody and care of children, then what to do when a couple with children is comprised of two men or, more commonly, two women? The solution, spearheaded in the 1980’s by lesbian couples, is the widespread practice of “second-parent” adoptions, which allow a second adult to adopt a child regardless of marital status to the first. But now straight couples with children in the picture have discovered this loophole and decided that they have less reason to marry than ever, so more of them are “living in sin” rather than getting hitched. (Then there are “triple-parent” adoptions involving a surrogate father and two lesbian mothers, a situation that starts to look like polygamy!) Meanwhile, in the one state that allows same-sex marriage, Massachusetts, companies and government agencies are eliminating “domestic partner” as a status that once gave gay couples the benefits of marriage when it wasn’t legally available—so now all the pressure is on couples to tie the knot lest they lose those benefits. Old-line gay liberationists are troubled by this seemingly conservative retreat, which raises the question: why are social conservatives not troubled by a policy that discourages marriage between straight couples?