Published in: March-April 2007 issue.


Haggard Scandal Redux  The twin scandals of ex-Congressman Mark Foley and (ex-?) Reverend Ted Haggard escaped notice in the last BTW (too obvious?); but here are two footnotes on the more entertaining of the two, Haggard, who didn’t merely fall from grace but plunged into the abyss. Former head of the National Association of Evangelicals, Haggard got busted for hiring a male hustler for sex and for scoring crystal meth from the same gentleman (who’s said to be writing his memoirs as we speak). Turns out, the signposts were there all along (they always are). One blogger described the over-the-top services at Haggard’s megachurch as featuring not only faaabulous special effects but also several hunky young men who served as assistant ministers and solo musicians, making it “the gayest place on earth.” Eventually, it was revealed that Haggard would undergo three to five years of “restoration”—the preferred term now that “reparative therapy” has been thoroughly discredited—to treat his homosexuality. A pattern emerges here, one that links Haggard with so many deeply closeted ministers and conservative politicians before him: you lead a double life until around early middle age, whereupon you get caught and sent to homo rehab for about five years, which will probably stretch into ten, after which they hope you will have ridden out your horny years to retreat quietly into eunuch-hood.

Yet Another Way to Be Gay in Church  You may know—or won’t be surprised to learn—that Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye (Bakker) Messner produced a son who’s gay. What you may not have known is that Jay Bakker has followed in his parents’ footsteps and gone into preaching, and he’s lost neither their evangelical fervor nor their flair for showmanship. And now Jay is coming out with a six-episode documentary called One Punk Under God that goes behind the scenes to explore the alternative church he founded, revolution. How he reconciles being an evangelical preacher with his radical positions on homosexuality and other social issues takes up a good part of the movie, which will air on the Sundance Channel. Whether the target audience for the series is the evangelical market or the gay and lesbian market isn’t entirely clear, but Jay’s tattooed and pierced appearance and hip-punk manner guarantee that the two groups will have very different reactions (wrath and bemusement, respectively, one would imagine).

It Takes a Drag Queen  Ali Saleem is a man who regularly appears, dressed as a woman, on a nationally televised talk show in Pakistan, where the subject often turns to sex —or so we learned from a front-page article in The New York Times (1/3/07). It’s hard to decide which is weirder, the fact that a man in high drag has a talk show in Pakistan or the fact that he’s able to get away with talking about sex—in the persona of a woman, in a country where women are strictly forbidden to mention sex. The Times offered no explanation for the anomaly other than to suggest that Pakistan may be a more open society than we thought, at least in big cities —which doesn’t square too well with the article’s main thesis that Saleem is truly out on a limb, breaking every taboo in a society that doesn’t even allow straight men to discuss these matters on television. A better explanation is that Saleem is so altogether unexpected that the mullahs (who are doubtless having nightmares) just don’t know what to make of him. Here’s where a fundamentalist moral code can trip a society up: there’s always the possibility that someone will find a loophole in the literalist code, some contingency that hasn’t been tried before. Perhaps the mullahs regret not shutting Saleem down earlier on some charge or other, but now that he’s got an audience, he’s acquired the kind of power that only celebrity can bring, even in conservative Pakistan. It took a man in street drag to do it, but clearly Saleem has tapped into a range of topics that Pakistanis are hungry to discuss, however impossible it is for almost everyone else to talk about them.

Tell and Serve Anyway  Previously it was reported here that a number of students in Minneapolis had carried out a bit of agitprop against the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy by going to a recruitment office and signing up for the Army, only to reveal that they were gay and therefore ineligible to serve. At the time we mused, what if some bored or desperate recruiter decided just to look the other way and sign these guys up? So be careful what you agitprop for! Well, life imitates musings, it would seem, and now it looks as if some military recruiters are doing just that. A team of investigative journalists at CBS4 in Denver reported late last year that they had gone undercover to expose shady recruiting practices at military offices. In several interviews a CBS “applicant” revealed that he was gay, but he was not disqualified or informed of the military’s policy. One recruiter responded, “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that. Is that right?” As for the Minneapolis students, who were part of a national strategy to flummox recruitment officers by coming out as gay, no word on whether any of them has encountered one of these indulgent recruiting officers desperate to make his monthly quota. But don’t say you weren’t warned!

It’s Even in the Food  The Devil’s hoofprints are everywhere in this world if you’re an evangelical preacher on the lookout for evil influences of all kinds. And if you’re a self-described “health-food guy,” your bailiwick is the stuff we eat. Thus has Megashift Ministries and health guru fundamentalist Jim Rutz discovered that tofu and other soy products can make you gay, or at least a little light in the loafers. “Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion, and homosexuality, ” he wrote for, proposing that the well-known surge of homosexuality in recent years is due to all that soy we eat. And especially tofu, because we all know who eats that stuff! Rutz spins a little theory about how tofu stimulates the production of estrogen and all that that implies for developing boys. Not to put too fine a point on his “science,” but it seems far more likely that eating beef from today’s estrogen-juiced cows will have this most unwelcome effect (homosexuality and a smaller penis—yikes!). In Rutz’s world, of course, where real men eat beef and only limp-wristed vegetarians eat tofu, science works in predictable ways, even down to validating your dietary choices.

The Year in Travesties  The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), a watchdog nonprofit that blows the whistle on anti-GLBT slurs in the media, published its list of the worst offenders in 2006. The list offers a rogues’ gallery of bigotry and imbecility, the former represented by the nation’s professional wedge hammers such as Ann Coulter and James Dobson, the latter by people like Don Imus who know better but occasionally regress to puberty.

• Ann Coulter, referring to Bill Clinton on Chris Matthews’ Hardball on MSNBC last July, said: “He may not be gay. But Al Gore—total fag. No, I’m just kidding.”

• James Dobson, following the announcement that Mary Cheney was pregnant, wrote an article for Time magazine last December in which he cited research by Carol Gilligan purportedly showing that children raised by a married hetero couple do better “on every measure of well-being” than do kids of gay parents. Dr. Gilligan quickly came forward to denounce Dobson’s use of her research, pointing out that he hadn’t merely distorted her findings but reversed them completely.

• Don Imus, discussing the movie Brokeback Mountain on his radio show in January 06, quoted Michael Savage (not to be confused with Dan) as dubbing the movie as “Fudgepack Mountain,” provoking laughter in his interlocutor, Chris Matthews.

Today, the daily newspaper of the island of St. Maarten, following a severe gay-bashing incident, published an editorial (4/11/06) dismissing the crime as “common sport” perpetrated against “silly homosexuals” who were undoubtedly misbehaving and probably high on something.

• Tucker Carlson of MSNBC dissed a transgendered person who worked as a substitute teacher in New Jersey, professing tolerance but insisting that “a person who voluntarily undergoes castration, that is the act of a crazy person. … And I don’t want a person that unstable teaching my kids.”

Hope springs eternal that this will prove a better year.