Published in: May-June 2014 issue.


You Might Be a Rednik  Now that the Putin regime in Russia is officially in bed with the U.S. evangelical movement, it’s time for a new coinage: the Rednik. It combines two meanings of the word “red”: the association with Communism and the USSR, which reminds us that Putin was a KGB guy who cut his teeth during the Cold War and rues the day the Soviet Union lost its empire; and the “red states” in the U.S., an election night convention that has come to symbolize an America that’s more rural, more religious, more Southern—indeed more “redneck” in yet another sense of the color term. The connection between these two worlds is that American evangelicals were instrumental in the enactment last year of Russia’s harsh law banning the “propaganda of homosexuality,” effectively shutting down any GLBT rights advocacy. Groups like the American Family Association and its leader Scott Lively have for years been fomenting anti-gay sentiment in Russia and meeting with politicians, even help them to draft the anti-gay legislation. And so, in the spirit of Jeff Foxworthy:

•  You might be a Rednik if even in China people are protesting your anti-gay laws. In fact, just last Valentine’s Day a group of GLBT rights activists gathered outside the Russian Embassy in Beijing carrying a rainbow banner that read “To Russia with Love.” Following speeches denouncing Russia’s homophobia, they cheered as three same-sex couples kissed.

•  You might be a Rednik if you’re hosting this year’s international conference of the World Congress of Families. Plans are moving ahead for the anti-GLBT confab in Moscow this fall, whose main sponsors are U.S. evangelical groups like the National Organization for Marriage and Focus on the Family.

•  You just might be a Rednik if you start rounding up gay activists under the “Propaganda” law on the first day of the Sochi Olympics. It happened in St. Petersburg, where four protestors were arrested for unfurling a sign that read: “Discrimination is incompatible with the Olympic Movement, Principle 6, Olympic Charter.” They carried a couple of rainbow flags, but that was the extent of their “propaganda”—and the suggestion that discrimination is wrong.


Is Your Hubby a Homo?  This sign appeared outside the Atlah World Missionary Church in Harlem, and it provoked as much Missionary Church of Harlemconfusion as it did anger: “Obama has released the homo demons on the black man. Look out black woman. A white homo may takeyour man.” It was the work of Pastor James David Manning, who translated for the media. Citing the recent coming out of two professional athletes, Michael Sam and Jason Collins, he explained that black women will have a hard time holding on to their husbands now that it’s cool to be gay—and President Obama is to blame! This reminds us of Tony Perkins’ prediction in the last “BTW” that today’s lax attitudes toward homosexuality will lead to the end of humanity, since couples will stop having hetero sex once the homo variety is A-okay. Here again, one wonders why heterosexuality isn’t able to mount a more robust defense.


Corporate Rights  “License to discriminate” laws, which would allow a company to refuse service to GLBT customers on religious grounds, are being debated in many state capitals, and a few states, notably Arizona, have walked back from the brink of enacting such a law. These bills are so vaguely worded that people seem to have figured out that basically they would allow a vendor to refuse service to anyone they don’t happen to like for “religious” reasons. Supporters of these laws frame the debate as a matter of individual rights and the free market. But then, with an almost imperceptible sleight of hand, they’re suddenly talking not about an individual but about a collective body. “Corporations are people, my friend!” exclaimed Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign. That may be true in some post-Citizens United sense, but there’s a vast body of law establishing that a company such as a restaurant is a “public accommodation” which, unlike a private person, can’t refuse service to minorities. But take heart, Mitt! There are lots of things a corporation can do that a person can’t, such as buying and selling one another, for starters. But a corporation cannot vote or drive a car or hold opinions about the worthiness of customers according to their demographic characteristics.


“Ex-Gay” in China  Who knew that “conversion therapy” had reached faraway China, albeit transformed into what seems a decidedly Maoist approach? So a clinic in Chongqing is being sued by a dissatisfied customer, one Xiao Zhen, who traveled there on the promise—as advertised on Baidu, China’s answer to Google—that they could “cure homosexuality.” Xiao’s lawsuit also names Baidu as a culprit for advertising this phony treatment, and it describes the method that was used: Mr. Xiao would be induced to have gay sexual fantasies, and electric shocks would be administered when he got an erection. Now, you needn’t have read A Clockwork Orange—or B. F. Skinner—to know that this sort of aversion therapy isn’t going to turn the guy straight. In fact, Mr. Xiao claims it left him a neurotic mess, and he’s suing for an unspecified sum. Whether he has a leg to stand on in Chinese court is another matter. The ad only promised to cure his homosexuality, not to make him straight; and being zapped every time you get an erection could “cure” you of sex of any kind. It could certainly make getting a boner a lot less fun than it used to be.


Slipping in Sochi  We can’t resist a nod to the men of the doubles luge, who take such a ribbing for the physical positioning that their

Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman  of the USA  Olympic team
Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman
of the USA Olympic team

sport requires, what with one man lying on top of the other as they speed down an icy sluice. The jokes are too obvious to be funny, best left unanswered by the undoubtedly straight competitors. American Preston Griffall, for example, laughed them off: “We’re two dudes, laying on top of each other in spandex. Of course people are going to make fun of it.” But his teammate Christian Niccum seemed genuinely hurt: “They’re making fun of our sport, and it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me.” And he went on: “Can’t we show affection to each other without it being some sort of sexual contact?” Er, dude, who said anything about affection? But do go on!