Published in: July-August 2013 issue.


Find the Gay Swimmer  Which is more improbable, that a tiny island nation of 100,000 is able to field an Olympic swim team, or that one its members is openly gay, fully accepted by his teammates, and an activist for GLBT equality? One-named, New-BTW-Amini-Fonua=2Zealand-born Fonua represented the South Pacific archipelago of Tonga in the 100-meter breaststroke competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Soon after that, he matriculated at Texas A&M University, where he joined the swim team and found broad acceptance from his peers. What induced him to speak out publicly was a student campaign to de-fund the GLBT resource center on campus. His activism won the support of teammates, who voted Fonua the recipient of this year’s Aggie Heart Award, which is “given to a teammate who puts the team’s needs above their own and exemplifies leadership…” Oh, and which swimmer in the photo is the gay one? If you chose Number Three in the lineup as the one who’s “not like the rest,” you’d be incorrect. Fonua is the second from the left.


You Are What You Like  A research team found that they could accurately predict numerous attributes about Facebook users solely on the basis of their “Likes”—without reference to social networking profiles. The large-scale study (published in the Proceedings for the National Academy of the Sciences, 3/6/13) analyzed 58,000 Facebook users’ Likes on Facebook itself and on other sites around the Web—all information that’s in the public domain. Among many intriguing findings was that sexual orientation is right up there with gender and race as a variable that can be predicted with a high degree of certainty. This was especially true for gay men, who clocked in at 88 percent accuracy, while lesbians were at only 75 percent. (For comparison, race was at 95 percent and gender at 93, while “uses drugs” was at 65 percent.) This gender gap is intriguing in itself but not explained in the study. What tipped the balance in separating the gay men from the straight was the suite of movies and TV shows that they Liked, whereas only five percent of the gay men had identified with an openly GLBT group or cause. This might suggest a distressing reluctance to be out on the Web, but the larger question concerns the ability of any Tom, Dick, or Harry to predict your sexual orientation, albeit within a certain margin of error, regardless of your desire to be out on the Internet. Indeed the study concludes with a dire warning: “One can imagine situations in which such predictions, even if incorrect, could pose a threat to an individual’s well-being, freedom, or even life.” And while this language might be a tad hyperbolic, it undoubtedly means that many of us will be getting more come-ons from gay cruise lines and sexy underwear venders on our iPhones.


Ecce Hommen  A headline in GayStarNews read: “France: Is this the most homoerotic anti-gay protest ever?” and sure enough, Frenchprotest-1there were the photos of muscular, shirtless dudes in the street protesting France’s same-sex marriage bill. The men of “Les Hommen” scribbled slogans on each others’ bodies, held hands, and exhibited all the fraternité of men in a Pride parade. The article assumed the demonstration Frenchprotest-2to be a parody of the “Femen” women who went topless to protest Russia’s anti-feminist and anti-GLBT policies during Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to Amsterdam. If that’s the model for Les Hommen, someone should tell them that, while baring breasts is an act of defiance for women, it isn’t so for men, for whom going shirtless is not taboo but is conducive to a kind of tribal exhibitionism. Some of the French protesters were arrested for other peccadilloes, but most left in peace, doubtless heading off to give one another warm sponge baths to remove those pesky slogans. Cold comfort, however: within days President Hollande would be signing the law that extends full marriage equality to same-sex couples throughout France.


The Vatican After Dark  Two stories from the Vatican, and a third from a notch below the Holy See, prove once again that men will be men for all the vows they may take:


I.  Someone in the Vatican has been downloading hardcore pornography featuring transgender stars, bondage, and lesbians. This discovery comes courtesy of a website called Torrent Freak, which can analyze file-sharing records and determine the source of such downloads. What they found is that a number of films and pornographic clips had been downloaded to an IP address right in the hub of the Roman Catholic Church. Torrent Freak was even able to determine some of the content of the clips, which included a lesbian film starring trans performer Tiffany Starr and a German title that loosely translates as “Teen slave punishment games in dark basement workshop.” Ah, something from the homeland of the recently retired Pope, Joseph Ratzinger of Bavaria.


II.  Soon after the selection of the new Pope, the Vatican raised eyebrows with news that it had spent 23 million Euros to buy into a building that also houses a large gay sauna. Located on an apartment block in Rome, the palazzo includes not only some rather palatial condos but also the Europa Multiclub Gym and Sauna. Having purchased several of the apartments for said large sum (almost $30 million), the Vatican was hard-pressed to claim that it wasn’t aware of their proximity to the sauna, which is heavily promoted as Italy’s premiere gay leisure house and may be the largest venue of its kind in Europe. A certain Cardinal Ivan Dias, the 76-year-old head of the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples, has moved into a twelve-room suite on the first floor, just meters from the Multiclub entrance. And while Dias is an outspoken opponent of gay rights, he apparently doesn’t mind abutting a gay pleasure palace.


III.  The head of the Scottish Catholic Church, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, has been accused of sexual abuse by a number of priests, most recently, and flagrantly, a Scottish priest who reported an incident that occurred just hours after O’Brien’s ordination as a cardinal in Rome in October 2003. It all happened right there at Scots College following the ceremony at which O’Brien was awarded the red mitre by Pope John Paul II. In keeping with Henry Kissinger’s dictum that “power is an aphrodisiac,” one has to assume that being elevated to Cardinal can really buck a guy up. And where better to turn when randy than to the nearest priest? Indeed O’Brien faces charges from several other priests who claim to have been groped by him back in Scotland. The odd wrinkle here is that it’s usually priests going after choirboys rather than priests as the target of ecclesiastical lust. Then again, this is in keeping with Church hierarchy, so it kind of makes sense.