Published in: March-April 2014 issue.


Sweatin’ with Cong. Schock  When Barney Frank came out as gay in his forties, he was relieved to discover that his constituents really didn’t care about the sex life of a middle-aged man, and the world moved on. The same cannot be said for a colleague of Frank’s in schockshirtlessthe U.S. House, the still serving Aaron Schock, an Illinois Republican who’s attracted lots of attention, not for coming out as gay, but for not doing so, persistent rumors notwithstanding. Also, if the shallow truth be told, for the fact that this is what he looks like at poolside: But he also looks great in pressed plaid shirts or even in sweats, which he wears during (well-documented) workouts. Then, too, there was that shirtless photo on the cover of Men’s Health. Against this backdrop, it turns out that Schock has one of the worst records on gay rights in Congress, so he’s been deemed fair game for “outing” by some journalists. And, inevitably, his denials have become the stuff of comedy. A twitter feed has opened up under @GayRepSchock called “I’m not gay, I’m fabulous.” A send-up at was titled, “Aaron Schock denies gay rumors, reveals engagement to Liza Minnelli.” Next thing you know, he’ll be launching a male-oriented fitness program and appearing shirtless to demonstrate its benefits! Oh, wait, he’s already doing that.

The End Is Near  It takes a lot for the Family Research Council to get our attention these days, and they must know this, because their president, Tony Perkins, keeps escalating the level of hysteria. Recently he prophesied the end of humanity if homosexuality comes to be widely accepted. “The human race would be extinct within time if [homosexuality were]normal … if it were not for physical relationship, intimacy between a man and a woman.” Sure, the link between heterosexuality and procreation is pretty well-established, but is Perkins seriously suggesting that it’s only the taboo against homosexuality that has kept procreation afloat through all these centuries, that without it people would naturally gravitate to their own sex—exclusively!—thereby ending the human race? There must be something missing here—and it is Satan. Once society lowers its guard and gives the temptation of Sodom free rein, argues Perkins, everyone will be fair game, and it’s only a matter of time before the Prince of Darkness turns everyone gay. Here one has to be a bit surprised that heterosexuality can’t mount a stronger defense. Finally, one wonders: is this a policy statement on Perkins’ part, or is it a cri de coeur?

The End Is Near 2  “Conservative Protestants Destroy Traditional Marriage,” blared a blog headline about a study on the well-established fact that evangelical Protestants have higher divorce rates on average than the general population. The study, published in the respected American Journal of Sociology, offered a county-by-county analysis of divorce rates across the U.S.A. and found that, not only do evangelical Protestants have persistently higher rates of divorce, but this tendency spills over to other religious groups living in their proximity. The apparent paradox—given their emphasis on “traditional family values”—has puzzled sociologists. What the study found was that evangelicals tend to marry younger than do other groups, and this is highly correlated with the rate of divorce. Early marriage often means less educational attainment, reduced income, money troubles, and… there goes the marriage. The AJS article doesn’t offer a morality tale—but that doesn’t prevent us from doing so. The high divorce rate among conservative Christians is due to a prudish morality that condemns premarital sex and encourages early marriage. The dearth of real sex education, plus the lack of availability of contraception, leads to elevated levels of teenage pregnancy. Then doctrine steps in to limit a young woman’s options: abortion is officially off limits, while single parenthood is frowned upon. Marriage it is, then, but as a last resort, a way to avoid worse (because “immoral”) options. The very insistence upon marriage is what cheapens it and leads to divorce. That these are the folks who tend to condemn nontraditional marriages only adds irony to the paradox.

Another Surprised Father  It has happened again: one of the most homophobic men in the world has a gay son. This time the lucky father is Robert Mugabe, dictator-president of Zimbabwe, who once opined that homosexuals “are worse than pigs.” It was his third son, Chipape Mugabe, an MBA student at Oxford, who came out in a radio interview in the UK, offering a thoughtful appraisal of gay rights in his home country. But the question remains, why does every rabid homophobe end up with a gay son (or so it seems)? Assuming it’s not karma or coincidence, here’s a theory: Once it was thought that gay boys were the result of a “weak or absent father”; now we know that typically it’s the gay boy who doesn’t bond with his father, preferring his mother’s world instead. At some point the father develops a deep revulsion toward this non-bonding son who refuses to take after the old man, this momma’s boy who, with the onset of adolescence, appears almost as a freak of nature. Nothing is ever said, the closet door remains shut, but the father internalizes this fear and loathing and converts it into an article of doctrine and policy, folding it into a broadly authoritarian ideology. And a homophobic monster is born.

Kinky Caps  And now, coming to you from Mobile, it’s the Prancing Elites! Down main street they sashayed, part of the Christmas parade in Semmes, Alabama, a town of 2,000 that wasn’t prepared for the spectacle of a dance troupe of black drag queens in (Mrs.) PrancingElitesSanta ensembles. Turns out the booking was an accident on the part of the organizing committee, the Friends of Semmes, who must have thought it was the local cheerleading squad’s annual entry. Onlookers were reported to be “outraged and appalled” by the drag queen spectacle, or professed to be. Someone had the foresight to videotape the Elites, and the footage went viral on YouTube. So the townsfolk got their fifteen minutes; the Prancing Elites ended up booking some new gigs; and the Friends of Semmes were fired as next year’s parade organizer. Too much excitement!