Published in: November-December 2012 issue.


A Ring Too Far  It is a legal quirk of the city of San Francisco that it has no statute expressly outlawing public nudity, and (needless to say) this loophole has not gone to waste. Of course, people walking abroad in the streets unclothed is not the norm, but there are certain times and places when they do just that, such as at the annual Folsom Street Fair, a weekend-long leather festival for (mostly) gay men, and in certain parts of the Castro district at night. There have been sporadic attempts to pass anti-nudity laws over the years, of which the latest is being spearheaded by District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener (yep!), who has introduced a bill that would “ban public nudity in response to an increase in the number of men who’ve taken to wearing cock rings in public” (Huffington Post, 9/14/12). Wiener’s objection is that “the jewelry brings attention to one’s genital areas” … which were otherwise being ignored? And why the plural? As inconceivable as public nudity would be in a city like, say, Boston, it does seem odd that the tipping point for San Francisco could end up being an adornment rather than the thing itself.

A Flush Campaign  It’s been a while since we heard anything about Larry Craig, the ex-U.S. Senator (R-ID) with a “wide stance” who was arrested by an undercover cop in a men’s room at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport in 2007. Craig was forced to drop his bid for re-election to the Senate; and then there were the legal costs of mounting a defense, which did keep him out of jail but didn’t come cheap by any means. Meanwhile, all those unused campaign funds were burning a hole somewhere, so Craig used $217,000 to pay off the lawyers. Of course, the payment was a rather blatant diversion of campaign funds for personal use, and the Federal Elections Commission has sued the ex-Senator. To avoid repayment, Craig is now claiming that the outlay was neither a personal nor a campaign expenditure but fell under his official duties as a senator. Okay, this wouldn’t be the first time a politician has put “adult entertainment” on his expense account, but this doesn’t usually extend to legal fees incurred if the establishment gets raided by the cops. And what about the new legal fees incurred by the lawyers that Craig will surely need to make the case that tearoom cruising qualifies as “official government business”? The mind reels.

Sympathy for the Straight Man  The headline read “Gay Fathers Ruining Hot Gay Sex, Says New Study”—but before you accuse the next gay dad you see of ruining your sex life, read on. It turns out only their sex lives are being ruined, or so says a San Francisco State study appearing in the Journal of Couple and Family Psychology. The study tracked the effects of entering into parenthood for 48 gay male couples in the Bay Area, and it’s not a pretty picture: a drastic decline in the frequency and quality of sex once they acquired children by whatever means. Which is probably a big yawn for the vast hordes of heterosexual men who’ve experienced the joys of fatherhood. “Not tonight, honey” are words that straight guys have been hearing, and cursing, for millennia. They’ve blamed their wives or all of womankind for having to endure this state of denial, and they’ve bitterly resented gay men for having things so easy. Turns out it was the kids’ fault all along.

Amtrak women adAre We There Yet?  And speaking of gay dads (and moms), the GLBT family got a nod from an unexpected source when Amtrak ran a pair of ads showing unambiguously gay couples riding the rails with their kids. The optics are intriguing—the fact that the men have a son while the women have a daughter; that both of the women are African-American; that the men are interacting with each other rather than with the kid. It’s the kind of Amtrak men adimagery that gives heartburn to the radical liberationists and militants in the movement who view this as the height of assimilationism (a theme of this issue), but it also gives heartburn to the religious Right. And when you stop to think about it, who’s to say that these aren’t the most “radical” images to be published in recent GLBT memory?


Born This Way for a Reason  A paper in the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry reported that doctors are prescribing an off-label drug to prevent “lesbianism, bisexuality, intersexuality, and tomboyism”—in short, “behavioral masculinization”—in females. The drug is a synthetic steroid called desamethasone that has other uses, but it’s completely untested—and potentially dangerous—for pregnant women. This fact has not prevented a number of doctors from prescribing the drug to prevent a syndrome called CAH that’s associated with masculine traits in females. And while interest in this drug may already be waning, it provides an early test case for a brave new world that we’ve long been anticipating. What happens when there’s a medical method available to prevent homosexuality? Will people take advantage of it? Will gay people be a thing of the past? At one time the assumption was that “born this way” meant your sexual orientation was in your genes, which led to scenarios of selective abortion or recombinant DNA therapy—the first messy, the second quite far in the future. But it turns out a more important factor than genes may be the fetus’s prenatal environment, which includes a raft of hormones supplied by the mother during gestation. And that’s something that can be fairly readily modified, however crudely at present. Indeed one has to wonder what other experiments along these lines might be in progress. For if steroids can be used to “demasculinize” a womb, surely the opposite is true as well. For now, what this episode shows is the lengths to which some women and their doctors may go to avoid having a gay or lesbian child.