The Name of the Spouse The last issue featured an op-ed piece by Michelangelo Signorile on the Associated Press’s announcement that it would stop using the word “homophobia,” which it disparaged as inaccurate and outdated. Now the AP has ventured into the fraught turf of same-sex marriage and adjudged the words “husband” and “wife” to be off limits to describe a legally married same-sex couple except when “those involved have regularly used those terms” when referring to each other. Or such was their stated intent—until a spate of criticism from gay activists and others persuaded them to reverse this reversal. No doubt the AP thought they were doing the polite or PC thing, but the upshot was discriminatory because it treated the two types of marriage as linguistically distinct. Unless they’re prepared to check on every heterosexual couple’s use of these terms—and doubtless there are many who eschew them—the AP will grudgingly refer to “husbands” without wives and “wives” without husbands.
Sordidness x Homophobia = The catalog of anti-gay clergymen and politicians who’ve gotten caught with their hands in a bad place is so long at this point—many instances having landed on this page over the years—that the bar is always being raised on what qualifies as BTW-worthy. Thus, for example, the recent arrest of a Delaware politician described as a “rising star” might have been humdrum if not for the sheer number of sex counts on which he was charged: 113, including 39 first-degree felony counts of unlawful sexual intercourse. Republican Eric Bodenweiser, described as a “rabid anti-gay activist” with close ties to the Tea Party, had a lock on a seat in the Delaware state senate in last November’s election until he abruptly withdrew from the race following his October arrest. One victim testified that he had been sexually molested by the accused as a small child (from age five to eight) in the late 1980s. So, Mr. Bodenweiser gets a mention not only for quantity but for sordidness. And for the fact that he was a leader in Delaware’s Family Policy Council, which pushes a stridently anti-gay agenda. Finally, there is the distance of his fall from grace to consider: from looking at a seat in the senate one minute to looking at the lining of a prison cell the next.
Buddies to Die For Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, not known for his ironclad logic or even rational thought, has decided to blame gay people for the high rate of suicide in the military, which he traces to the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” Referring to the new policy of inclusion, Perkins claimed that it’s “adding additional stress by this social engineering,” causing soldiers to kill themselves. Well, now, for starters: the policy in question has been in effect for a matter of months, while the rising suicide rate is a long-term trend that affects mostly combat veterans, especially those who served in Iraq. Reports of what these guys experienced over there—from IEDs blowing up in their faces to being ambushed on night patrol—range from the hellish to the vertiginous. The idea that the presence of a gay person in one’s unit could push someone over the edge is merely insane, but it does reveal a trait that we’ve come to recognize in all puritans: a wildly exaggerated estimate of the power of sex to play a role in human affairs, invariably to mess things up.
Real Men Don’t Ban Wrestling In keeping with the theme of gays as scapegoats, but moving deeper into Bizarro World, the head coach of Russia’s powerhouse Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling team, Vladimir Uruimagov, has blamed gay people for the Olympic Committee’s recent decision to drop his sport from the Summer Games. Seriously, Mr. Uruimagov attributes this sad development to the power of gay men on the Committee, because… if anyone would want to kill a sport that involves young, sweaty guys in close physical contact, it’s the gays. Indeed the opposite suspicion was advanced in some gay circles, namely that the expulsion was secretly or subconsciously homophobic. And yet, the coach is quite emphatic in this conviction: “If they expel wrestling now, that means that gays will soon run the whole world,” the R-Sport agency quotes him as saying. “It turns out this committee is headed by representatives of these minorities.” And his rhetoric grew increasingly apocalyptic as he warned that the fate of humanity could be at stake: “It is necessary for millions around the world to understand that this is a man’s sport and to understand the need to continue the human race to go out and explain their position to the Olympic Committee. We should prove and explain that in any other case there is no future.” Yikes! Greco-Roman wrestling is important, but either this guy has read too many Mary Renault novels or he’s deeply worried about his own fascination with manly men tangling on the mat.
Taboo Tattoos And why leave Russia when another tale of cluelessness awaits? The Russian military has announced that new recruits will now have their tattoos inspected because the Kremlin believes that they can reveal signs of homosexuality. According to the Defense Ministry’s central administration, soldiers will be given a thorough physical exam to look for tattoos in places such as the sexual organs and buttocks. The policy is based on a 2005 military psychology textbook, which clearly states: “The reason for getting tattoos could indicate a low culture or educational level. If an influence by external factors is determined, for example—persuasion or direct coercion—this indicates the malleability of the young man, his disposition to submit to another’s will” (cited in dailyqueernews.com, 1/26/13). Are they trying to say that bottoms are more likely to get tattoos than tops? And hey, isn’t the essence of military service that you’re supposed to submit to another’s will? Finally, what kind of social pressure induces a guy to get tats on his sexual organs and buttocks? In any case, one suspects that these areas will be checked with the greatest of care and interest.
Exhibit A Being gay can be grounds for gaining asylum in tolerant countries if you come from, say, Iran, Uganda, or Cam-eroon, where gays are persecuted. This avenue of escape has caused authorities in some quarters to suspect that people are falsely claiming to be gay. As reported in an earlier BTW, some countries, such as the Czech Republic, have even used tests to verify claimants’ sexual orientation (what’s a “phallometer” for, after all?). This practice was criticized as a human rights abuse, but now asylum seekers are taking the initiative to prove their homo bona fides. In England, a barrister named S. Chelvan who specializes in asylum cases with the UK Border Agency, has documented the extraordinary lengths to which individuals are going, notably by filming themselves in gay flagrante and submitting the footage as evidence. The obvious punch line here is that a government policy is inadvertently turning people from very conservative cultures into amateur porn stars. The reality is that these folks are greatly raising the stakes for themselves, especially if their claim is denied—in which case the horror that awaits them at home becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. This in turn must weigh on authorities who know that they now possess the most incriminating evidence against these folks that could exist—which is all part of the bluff in this high-stakes game: “Now you really can’t send me back there!”