Rainbow Over Sochi Russia’s growing hostility to gay rights has come to the world’s attention as we anticipate the Winter Olympics in Sochi. When the German team introduced its uniforms this fall, it was clear that the design referred to the familiar “gay flag” with its six rainbow stripes. And while fashion critics applauded the attempt to show solidarity with GLBT Russians, they were fairly unanimous in panning the design. “Extremely hideous,” declared one. “Butt-ugly,” jeered another. “A cross between a pot-bellied pig and a parrot,” squawked a third. The simple fact is, there’s really no way to bring all the colors of the rainbow into one ensemble without looking like Joseph’s tacky “coat of many colors.” So if the price of showing solidarity with gay Russians is the creation of a fashion disaster—well, how ironic is that?
“Rosebud” Gore Vidal surprised the world one last time when his will was read and he’d bequeathed his entire fortune of $37 million to—wait for it—Harvard University. The shocker was that Vidal had always seemed to be at war with Harvard, sneering at its elitism and its ties to the ruling class. Vidal’s nephew, Burr Steers, is mounting a lawsuit for his expected legacy, claiming that his uncle was not of sound mind when he changed his will. And indeed the writer’s last years were reportedly marked by heavy drinking and bouts of dementia. Still, it’s not as though he willed everything to his pet gerbil. Indeed it just may be that the ever calculating Vidal was thinking quite clearly about his legacy. Maybe he figured that his nephew would just blow the money, while who knows what Harvard might do with it—a Gore Vidal building or wing, anyone? But why Harvard? That is the question! Well, for starters, Yale was taken—by Vidal’s archenemy, William F. Buckley, Jr., whose very first book was titled God and Man at Yale—and who called Vidal “queer” on national TV at the 1968 Democratic Convention, which the two were covering for ABC News. (Granted, this came only after Vidal called Buckley a “crypto-Nazi.”) Truth is, Vidal had been building ties with Harvard for many years, delivering lectures from time to time and, in 2003, donating his papers to Houghton Library. To be sure, he used those visits to denounce the university itself (among much else), even while lamenting that he was meant to attend Harvard but for unforeseen events. So he decided to send his tangible remains there instead.
Keep Your Chin Up Physical differences between straight and gay men and women have turned up in enough studies that perhaps there’s something to it. First it was found that finger-length ratios—the second and fourth fingers in particular—differed between gay and straight men and between lesbians and straight women. Other studies have found that body type—the masculine “tubular” versus feminine “hourglass” shapes—can be a marker of sexual orientation. Still others have found that “gaydar” is real: people can beat the odds when picking who’s gay from a stack of photos. Now a Prague University study has tried to nail down what physical traits make gaydar possible, and, through minute measurement of facial attributes (nose length, eye width, etc.), they’ve actually identified a few. (Okay, it’s a little creepy à la phrenology.) They also asked subjects to rate the “masculinity” or “femininity” of subjects’ faces. What they found, counter-intuitively enough, was that the gay men’s faces were consistently rated as more masculine than the hetero men’s. The difference was in the jaw line, that symbol of virility, and gay men had more prominent ones. It is in puberty that the mandible juts forth in human males, among the most prominent of the secondary male traits, behind only the primary trait itself as a marker. As luck would have it, many studies have found that gay men have somewhat larger penises on average than do straight men. Coincidence? Check out that jawbone!
Class Project A nineteen-year-old male student in the UK, Clayton Pettet, has announced that he’s planning to lose his anal virginity in a performance piece to be enacted before 100 people in January (as reported by The Daily Mirror). The piece already has a title: “Art School Stole My Virginity”—oddly stated in the past tense even though the event has yet to take place. And in what sense is it remotely true? No matter, he’s nineteen. Pettet’s story has been grist for the press in Britain: we know that he’s studying at Central Saint Martins art school and that he’s been planning this performance since he was sixteen. But reports have only referred in passing to “a friend” as the designated driver, so to say, whose role in this is not inconsequential, especially when you consider the number of things that could go wrong. That this is being done for an art course raises the intriguing question of how the project will be graded. Will there be a mandatory deduction if Clayton cries out in pain? extra points for endurance? Watch this space.
Upsize This Demographers can peg the percentage of Asians or lefties down to a decimal point, while estimates for the GLBT population have ranged from one percent (in an infamous 1993 study) to ten percent (Kinsey’s oft-quoted figure). Because some people are reluctant to come out as gay in a survey, the true number tends to be suppressed. A recent Ohio State study employed an advanced protocol that guarantees anonymity and compared the results to conventional survey methods. Like Kinsey, the Ohio team asked subjects about past sexual behavior rather than sexual identity. What they found was a dramatic jump in those reporting same-sex activity when anonymity was assured, up by 65 percent (and doubling for self-identified Christians). Men went from twelve to seventeen percent, while women leapt from 24 to 43 percent. The team cautioned that their sample was not representative but believe that the 1.65 multiplier can be applied to other population studies to compensate for the “veiled” gay percentage. They also found, by the way, that rates of homophobia likewise jump significantly when anonymity is assured, suggesting that, just as some people hide their gayness, others conceal their homophobia. Conclusion: we’ve reached a point where it’s still not totally cool to be seen as gay, but it’s not cool to be seen as anti-gay either.