Takes on News of the Day

Published in: March-April 2011 issue.

Drooling Now  Sometimes these items almost write themselves, and there’s just nothing much to add. Take the recent rant by Rev. Pat Robertson of The 700 Club (yes, it still exists), when he blamed the January blizzard in New York on gay people. This would be garden variety Robertson, only this time the blizzard was seen not as a punishment for sins gone by but for planning to sin upon arrival by plane or car. God sent the snowfall, he averred, “to punish Americans who were planning to drive to do something gay.” New York airports were shut down “so that people who were hoping to fly to do something of a gay nature would have to take a train or a bus, so it might be days before the gay thing they were going to do could occur.” In short, Pat Robertson has officially reached the drooling stage of senility, admittedly a shallow slide from a lifetime of mediocrity. Nurse to Pat: think now, it’s winter, and it’s bound to snow somewhere, and the snow will probably ruin some people’s plans. Chances are, the vast majority will be straight people planning to visit Grandma for the holidays or go to Disney World for some good clean fun. But you’re saying that God would smite their trips just to stop “something gay” from being planned (gay sex? a trip to the Pottery Barn?) on this particular weekend? And, Pat, think of all the gay things that may have happened because people didn’t finish their trips but instead remained in New York!

Hurt, So Bad  Michael Medved has a long history of homophobic rhetoric, far beyond what might be expected of a movie critic who cut his teeth as a Roger Ebert clone. Even so, it did seem odd when Medved, while musing about the superiority of hetero- over homosexual relationships, turned to anal sex and blurted the following: “The most common sexual practice between two men involves an act of aggression—inflicting more pain than pleasure for at least one of the parties.” Condemning gay sex by quoting some hackneyed biblical passage is one thing, but Medved chose to descend into the physical sensation of the sex act itself. Why would this odd proposition even pop into his head? Unless… he knows of what he speaks, so to say. Could it be that Medved’s epic homophobia is all because it just didn’t go very well the first time out?

Heat at the Meet  There are wardrobe malfunctions, and then there are designs that wink a sexual message which is hidden in plain view. The latter would include the Singapore men’s swim team when they showed up for a meet in Speedos that seemed to sport an erect phallus right where this anatomical feature would be seen sans Speedo, only larger. Perhaps it was the woHeat at the Meetrk of a sly designer somewhere who managed to smuggle the naughty image past the coaches, or perhaps it was a deliberate display of male power, all in the spirit of the Greek hoplites decorating their weapons with phallic emblems. Of course, once the Speedo boys appeared on the scene, like the Emperor in his new clothes, someone noticed the graphic design and everyone was suddenly shocked. Later, The New York Daily News would change the country’s name to “Thingapore,” tossing a lispy gay slur into the mix. Back at the meet, there were calls for a change of swimsuit, but competition rules don’t permit a change of uniform midway through an event, so the suits stayed put for entire meet.

What Good Are Gay Conservatives?  This question has been raised in these pages a number of times over the years, notably by Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA), whose answer is always: not much. Frank’s position is that groups like the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) are wrong to reward a party based on the hope that some day they may do something helpful to gay equality. Okay, try this one: there’s an organization called GOProud that’s even more conservative than the LCR, which it views as too liberal, a group so right-wing that it gets invited to that über schmoozefest of conservatives, CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference), held each year in February. But the mere presence of any gay group at CPAC proved too much for some of the conference’s participants, notably the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America, two front groups for the religious Right, which pulled out of CPAC this year in protest. Hmm, a split in CPAC and a peeling off of some of its most homophobic members? There you have it, Barney: gay conservatives can serve a purpose, after all!

Making It Hard to Win Asylum  The European Union’s top human rights agency has criticized the Czech Republic for its practice of using a “sexual arousal” test to confirm the honesty of refugees applying for asylum on the claim that they’re gay (typically from an Arab country where they’d be persecuted if they returned home). According to a report released by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency, these refugees have been subjected to “phallometric testing,” a process in which sensors are attached to the penis and the subject is shown heterosexual porn. The Czech government defended the measure, saying that the men had consented in writing to be tested in this way. The problem here is with those who refuse to take the test, like those who won’t consent to a breathalyzer: there’s an immediate presumption of guilt or, in this case, heterosexuality. Needless to say, the phallometer is far from foolproof for all kinds of reasons that one can imagine—who said gay men are utterly unaroused by straight porn, for example?—and doubtless some aspirants to Czech citizenship will come up with ways to outsmart the machine, as people can be trained to fool lie detectors. The fact that the Czech Republic finds it necessary to screen out straight imposters is itself intriguing, raising the specter of legions of straight men going to great lengths, in a kind of parody of Les Cage aux Folles, to pass themselves off as gay.

“The Gavel”  Former Texas congressman Tom “the Hammer” DeLay was back in the news last January when he was convicted on felony charges of money laundering for illegally funneling corporate dollars into Texas state legislative races in 2002, for which he was sentenced to three years in the slammer. Largely unremarked was the fact that the D.A. who obtained the conviction was an out lesbian, Rosemary Lehmberg, elected as Travis County District Attorney in 2008. DeLay, who always got a score of “zero” from the Human Rights Campaign when he sat in Congress (1985–2006), stated in 2001 that “this country will go down” if marriage equality is ever enacted. The fact that DeLay himself was brought down by an out and proud lesbian—call her “the Gavel”—struck many observers as fine poetic justice.

A Papal Blessing  Matthew Hays, a frequent contributor to these pages, pulled off a minor coup late last year. On a whim, he decided to send a formal invitation to Pope Benedict XVI to attend the annual “Divers/Cité” celebration, the official gay pride event of Montréal. Hays received back an equally (no, more!) formal letter on official Vatican letterhead in which the Pope politely declined the invitation but thanked the letter writer, promising to remember him in his prayers and offering his blessings. Hays took this is a sign that the Vatican had now sanctified his life as a gay man and rescinded its curse of eternal damnation on his soul.