Published in: July-August 2011 issue.


The Hand of Doom  This year’s Masturbate-a-Thon in San Francisco had a topical theme, falling on May 21, the Day of Rapture when the world was supposed to end according to Harold Camping and his followers. “You’ve seen the billboards,” observed organizer Carol Queen. “What better way to spend your last day than self-pleasuring and raising funds for the Center for Sex & Culture?” The theme gave rise to some lively if slightly strained word play: “The end is coming! Are you?” And: get ready for “Arm-(and Hand)-ageddon.” As it happens, the Thon was planned as a two-day event that spilled over to May 22, making it possible for people to celebrate the fact that they had lived to wank another day.

Ministering to the Needs of Youth  It’s that time again: time to revisit the wacky, creepy world of homophobic pastors who get caught having illicit sex—and are then forced to explain themselves. And the explanations seem to be getting ever more brazen and baroque. The new perp of the month is a youth pastor named Brent Girouex of Council Bluffs, Iowa, who stands accused by at least eight men of molestation when they were underage boys. Dispensing with the usual denials and alibis, Girouex told police that he had sexual contact with the boys to help them achieve “sexual purity in the eyes of God.” That’s right; and this is apparently the line that he fed the boys when soliciting sex, claiming that it would end their sinful desires. “When they would ejaculate, they would be getting rid of the evil thoughts in their mind,” Gireoux explained to detectives. One victim reported that he’d had between fifty and a hundred encounters with Girouex, which suggests that a lot of ejaculating was needed to reach purity. The pastor even claimed that it was his pastoral duty “to help [the teen]with homosexual urges by praying while he had sexual contact with him.” Perhaps the boys believed this promise, as that urge really does go away—for a while, at least. Of course, any purity obtained thereby is temporary at best, and we’re talking about teenage boys. From Gireoux’s standpoint, it was a bottomless spigot.

Oh, What a Night!  It was a breakthrough when same-sex couples began showing up at high school proms—and surviving the experience both legally and bodily. Another step was taken in April when Craig Cassey attended his prom in Pennsylvania with his boyfriend Carl—and was crowned as king of the prom. Cassey is a track athlete, which may have helped his chances of winning the title from a field of seven dudes, but he’s also a literate sort and set to recording his impressions of the evening on a widely circulated blog. There he describes the moment he was crowned, his first dance with Carl as prom king, and the fact that “There were no shouts of ‘Homo,’ no negative remarks, just congratulations and ‘bro hugs’ and pats on the back.” So apparently it wasn’t just a campy joke; no one even made a crack about the prom king being a “queen,” a remark that would seem almost inescapable to a certain generation of readers. Maybe it’s just that the lingo is changing (has “queen” lost this meaning?), or maybe it’s a sign that the kids, and our society, are finally growing up.

Nothing Happened  A billboard in Toledo, Ohio, has become a conversation piece for declaring that being gay is a gift from God. Sponsored by the Central United Methodist Church, the digital billboard was the brainchild of church trustee Dan Rutt, who said in an interview that he was moved to launch the project after last fall’s spate of suicides by teenagers who were harassed or bullied for being gay.BTW-Billboard The church’s pastor, Rev. Bill Barnard, agreed to spring the $1,500 monthly fee in the hope that the message would stimulate discussion about a controversial issue. If anyone expected a firestorm of condemnation from Toledo’s righteous residents, here’s a situation in which the big story is that the sign went up, and nothing much happened. Rutt described the response as “mixed,” an assessment that’s supported by riffling through the many comments that were posted on-line, which range from thoughtful criticism (“If the Bible condemns it, then how can it be a gift from God?”) to hearty praise, including one from out of town that read, “Mazel tov on your ‘Gay is a Gift from God’ campaign!” So when is Ohio going to pass a nondiscrimination act already?

Playing the Tolerance Card  To its credit, Israel stands alone among Middle Eastern countries in legally protecting GLBT equality, even as it supports gay pride parades, meeting centers, and the like. Now a Palestinian group has charged that Israel is using its support for gay rights as a way to cover up human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza. “The Israeli government and its propaganda organs … insist on advertising and exaggerating its recent record on LGBT rights … to fend off international condemnation of its violations of the rights of the Palestinian people,” says Joseph Massad, associate professor of modern Arab politics at Columbia. Actually, Israel has been somewhat laggard on the gay rights front when compared with the social democracies of Europe on which its polity is largely modeled. Still, one has to believe that an important milestone has been reached when the expansion of gay rights is seen as a plausible way for a country to tout its record on human rights in general, especially when it comes from someone who rejects these rights out of hand.

Say “Takei”! Even before the Tennessee state Senate passed a bill outlawing any discussion of homosexuality in the classroom—better known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill—a prominent elder member of the community had a solution. Star Trek alumnus George Takei offered to allow his last name to be used any time a teacher wanted to use the word “gay.” In a viral video, Takei exclaims, “Don’t say ‘gay,’ say ‘Takei’”! No word on whether the Tennessee legislature has decided to amend the law to ban the name of Mr. Sulu just for good measure.