Published in: September-October 2014 issue.


Quipping for Equality  It was one of those stage-managed events in which a politician visits a popular venue and has a few awkward encounters with “real people” for the local press. But this time—at the Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas—President BTW-Webb+ObamaObama met his match when he went to pay for his burgers and fries, and a male cashier slammed his hand on the counter and exclaimed, “Equal rights for gay people!” Unfazed by the outburst, the President asked the man, whose name is Rugg Webb, whether he was gay, to which Webb replied without missing a beat: “Only when I have sex!” It was at that point that Obama said “Bump me,” and the two men shared a jovial fist bump. Of course, it was all caught on camera, the footage went viral on YouTube, and Webb is enjoying his fifteen minutes of fame. Turns out, in addition to his restaurant gig, Webb is a local comedian and artist who’s been known to perform in drag. As he explained to The Austin Chronicle: “It was just a lucky day to be the register girl.” And then he mused, apparently referring to persistent rumors about the governor of Texas: “If Rick Perry would’ve walked in, I would have lost my job. I would’ve taken that old queen to town!”


Find the Phallus  The prudes will always be with us, and every so often they receive a gift from the government that justifies their existence and gives them something to do. Thus, when Russia passed its law banning the “propaganda of homosexuality” last year, prying eyes and roaming imaginations were unleashed to uproot words and images that could by their very nature turn the children of Russia gay. One such uprooting was the work of none other than Roman Khudyakov, a member of the Russian parliament. And there it was all along, right on the 100-ruble note: a naked Apollo whose penis is exposed (he claims) for all the world to see. The indignant MP demanded action: “I submitted a parliamentary request and forwarded it directly to the head of the central bank asking for the banknote to be brought into line with the law protecting children and to remove this Apollo.” An examination of the offending currency could lead one to conclude that Mr. Khudyakov has a vivid imagination indeed—is the tiny Apollo figure even nude?—and might even cause one to accuse him of spending way too much time looking for naked penises. At any rate, now that he’s brought this to everyone’s attention, kids in Russia are undoubtedly stealing their parents’ magnifying glasses to see what all the fuss is about. As always in these matters, the attempt to suppress something only makes it more enticing.


Wrapping Your Whopper  Closer to home, a similar mindset was at work when the head of the American Family Association (AFA), Bryan Fischer, went on a rant about a promotion at a Burger King in San Francisco that involved the use of a rainbow flag motif to wrap hamburgers during Pride Month. Fischer seems to have assumed that the company’s plan was go national with the promo: “If this isn’t bottled up in San Francisco, this kind of nonsense, then it’s going to be spreading across the entire fruited plain. And you’re going to be going to your Burger King in Des Moines, Iowa, and you’re going to have a rainbow color wrapper for your Whopper.” We’ll let that “fruited plain” reference slide, but then he went on to declare: “I think this is a bonehead move from a marketing standpoint. Because I guarantee you, when people sit down to eat a hamburger, the last thing they want to be thinking about is two guys having sex.” So, you’re saying that the mere sight of a rainbow wrapper is all it will take to cause visions of man-on-man sex to dance in the heads of hungry heteros pawing for their burgers? Who knew the gay flag had such powers?


Got Milk?  Speaking of the AFA, which once concerned itself with great social issues such as same-sex marriage, consider their other cause célèbre of the summer: a commemorative stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service to honor Harvey Milk. It was a BTW-Milkmilestone because the stamp recognizes Milk precisely for his work as a gay activist. Declaring that “This is not diversity; this is perversity,” the AFA called for a boycott of the stamp (what else?). And they offered guidelines on how such a boycott should be executed. Avoid buying the stamp at your local post office, of course, but also: “Refuse mail at your home or business if it is postmarked with the Harvey Milk Stamp.” Which is always a smart thing to do when you receive a first-class letter, such a rarity these days. We can only imagine that somewhere in America there’s a gay clerk sending out, say, refund checks or airline tickets, who decides to go with the Harvey Milk stamp just in case there’s someone out there who follows the AFA’s advice.


Cock and Bull  Here are three stories that are united in their theme of a right-wing politician getting caught with something where it probably doesn’t belong:

1. John Schindler is a professor at the Naval War College who’s known for his conservative views, notably his defense of government secrecy and his disdain for whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. Upstanding to a fault, the professor was caught sending photos of his semi-erect penis, along with some lurid prose, to a female fan. And while sending a penis shot is quickly losing its scandal power, there was also this oddly confessional bit: “My views are much more right wing and I am much more religious than I ever let on.” So what is it about sending someone a dick pic that makes men want to to confess everything about themselves?

2. Jordan D. Haskins wants to serve in the Michigan legislature, and he’s running as a far right candidate from Saginaw who proudly declares: “The three values that make up my stool of conservatism are faith, family and freedom.” And while this might be a fine stool to run on under normal circumstances, the word is out that Haskins has a long criminal record involving an unusual sex crime for which he’s been repeatedly arrested and incarcerated. It’s called “cranking,” and it involves masturbating in a stolen car while the engine is running. Has-kins’ MO was to break into a car lot, find a vehicle to hot wire, and—get crankin’! Getting caught in the act almost seems to have been part of the thrill: he was once nabbed while masturbating in an idling police cruiser. Haskins regrets his youthful felonies and asks for voters’ understanding: “I was bored. It was the rush.” Anyway, that’s all in the past, and, hey, his last arrest was way back in 2011.

3. This one is BTW-worthy mainly for the visuals. Again it concerns a conservative politician, in this case one Mark Parkinson, a BTW-Parkinsonstate rep in Missouri. Well, on a beautiful day in June, Parkinson posted to his Twitter feed what appeared to be a man in a giantpenis costume, with the caption, “Always that problem in the morning.” Claiming that his Twitter account must have been hacked, he quickly deleted the image, but not before someone had screen-grabbed it and posted it for everyone to enjoy.