Published in: May-June 2010 issue.

Down and Low in Sacramento When a California state senator was arrested for a DUI in the state capital after leaving a gay bar with a male passenger, the story was not so much that Senator Roy Ashburn was driving drunk or even that he was gay, as that he’s made a career out of opposing GLBT equality, having voted against every gay rights measure that came up in his seven years as a legislator. Yes, Ashburn is (or was) one of those deeply closeted Republican politicians who go way out of their way to denounce “the gay lifestyle,” believing that this will somehow bolster their heterosexual creds. Surely the jig is up on this ruse, or so one would think, given the vast number of right-wing politicians who’ve been hoisted on this very petard. And yet, Ashburn defended his anti-gay voting record as perfectly compatible with the purely incidental fact of his own gayness. An article in the Times opined that the gay community was divided over whether to reach out to the senator or to slam him for his hypocrisy. One group that took the reaching-out approach was, which offered Ashburton a lifetime membership in its on-line gay dating service—but only if he’ll stop voting against gay rights measures. Sounds to us like a win-win proposition.

Two Faces Have I There are money scandals and there are sex scandals, and whenever politicians get caught with their pants in the cookie jar, we are in for a lesson in human frailty. “I was drinking too much, working too hard, just wasn’t myself!” The latter defense—“That’s not the real me!”—has become fairly standard in the U.S., and now a Swedish politician has taken it to a new level. Caught red-handed accepting a glamour trip to Gran Canaria, member of parliament Fredrick Federley passed the buck to Ursula, his transvestite alter ego: “It’s not me as an MP doing this; it’s more a case of me traveling as my drag personality,” Federley maintained. He claims to have been paid for services rendered, namely preparing travel tips for people planning to attend the island’s annual drag carnival. Tough work, but someone’s got to do it: those travel tips don’t write themselves!

Lose the “Homosexual” Right-wing newspapers and talk show hosts insist on using the word “homosexual” rather than “gay”—and with good reason, if their goal is to subtly denigrate GLBT people. A new survey showed that the “homo” word carries a much more negative connotation than does the word “gay,” particularly with Democrats. The New York Times/CBS News poll found that support for allowing gays to serve openly in the military dropped from sixty to 44 percent when the word was switched from “gay” to “homosexual.” Like the word “Negro” in the 1960’s and 70’s, the word “homosexual” may be technically acceptable, but it still packs the wallop of the bad old days.

Fallibility The priest sex scandal that has engulfed the Catholic Church moved two steps closer to the Pontiff himself in recent months. First was the case of Angelo Balducci, a papal usher who doubled as a public works executive—the Church operates in mysterious ways—and who allegedly deployed a singer in the St. Peter’s choir to procure men for sexual encounters. The second involved a case in which the Pope, while a cardinal in Munich, personally intervened to protect a priest accused of child molestation. But back to Balducci, whose story is intriguing, not only because of his taste for male prostitutes and his use of a Nigerian named Ghinedu Ehiem to acquire them, but also for the sheer anarchy of his sexual appetites. In separate conversations—recorded by Italy’s Civil Protection Agency while investigating Balducci for corruption—Mr. Ehiem is heard to say: “I have a situation from Naples … a situation from Cuba … a German … two black guys … the soccer player … the dancer for the RAI.” La Repubblica reported that Balducci would sometimes order up two men in a single day. Wow, that’s one horny seminarian.

News You Can Use For years we’ve seen those “places rated” lists compiled by Rand McNally, et al., which compare cities on such criteria as the quality of the public school system, the availability of day care, and the like. To which we’ve all thought to ourselves, give me something I can use! Now a company has compiled a list comparing cities and states based upon the number of condoms sold in different sizes, which it views, sensibly enough, as a surrogate for penis size. The company is Condomania, which offers condoms in no fewer than 76 sizes, from three to ten inches in length and from “super slim” to “extra roomy” in girth. The company tracked 27,000 condom sales geographically over a five-year period. And (drum roll) the winners are, among twenty cities: New Orleans, D.C., San Diego, and New York. Finishing last were L.A., Detroit, Philadelphia, and Dallas/Ft. Worth. Among states, the top honors went to New Hampshire, Oregon, New York, and Indiana, with Alaska, Iowa, Utah, and Wyoming coming in last. So much for the “Marlboro Man” image of Dick Cheney’s state! Indeed one analysis pointed out that on balance the so-called “blue states” had bigger penises than did the “red states,” a fact that could help explain the latter states’ obsession with gun ownership.

File under 101 Uses for Gay Men Barroom fights are a fact of life wherever men—or at least straight men—are together and drinking, and the bars in the Philippines are no exception. There, an especially macho culture is mixing with a passion for karaoke to produce an epidemic of fighting and even murder. Curiously, it’s only when certain songs are sung that the karaoke fests take a deadly turn, notably Frank Sinatra’s version of “My Way,” which has been implicated in at least a half-dozen murders. Men have been stabbed for hogging the microphone for too long, but often the victims are simply bad singers who’ve butchered a beloved standard. But help is on the way. To stop this mayhem, bar owners have started hiring a group of people who are above the fray, indifferent to the competition for women that underlies all such sport, and able to turn crisis into camp: gay men. This new breed of G.R.O.’s, or “guest relations officers,” will intervene at the first sign of trouble and use humor or gentle chiding to defuse the situation. For cultural contrast, one has to imagine the equivalent practice at American taverns when a fight breaks out. But in the Philippines, hetero bars are increasingly making sure that there’s at least one gay G.R.O. on hand. And, of course, they’re warning singers to steer clear of “My Way.”