Browsing: The Persistence of Malice

May – June, 2010

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FOR TWO DAYS in early March 2009, Ugandans flocked to the Kampala Triangle Hotel for the Family Life Network’s “Seminar on Exposing the Homosexuals’ Agenda.” The seminar’s very title revealed its claim: GLBT people and activists are engaged in a well thought-out plan to take over the world. The U.S. culture wars had come to Africa with a vengeance.

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THE ECONOMY wavered back and forth and the nation’s most important film festival marched into the new decade with a bang. Set against the unexpected largest snowfall in years, the Sundance Film Festival opened on January 21, breaking an opening night tradition by screening not one but three cinematic events. There was a shorts program and there was a screening of the documentary Resperto, a pro-soldier vehicle in the vein of The Hurt Locker. And then there was Howl.

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MARK ROEDER of Bloomington, Indiana, is the author of the “Gay Youth Chronicles,” a series of interrelated stories about gay youth coming of age in rural America over the span of fifty years. He has authored a total of nineteen novels. While the narratives reflect the improvement in living conditions for gay youths realized as a result of the GLBT civil rights movement, homophobia appears throughout the series as the defining challenge that successive generations must confront in learning to accept themselves and find love.

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Eyes Wide Open Directed by Haim Tabakman Original screenplay by Merav Doster
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EYES WIDE OPEN is a compressed drama of forbidden same-sex love within an insular community, namely the highly regulated society of Orthodox Jewry in a tight-knit neighborhood in Jerusalem. Presented in New York at this year’s Jewish Film Festival, the film is a stark reminder that the irregular contours of gay experience are perhaps best depicted by those outside the commercial cinema who are not bound by its cosmetic imperatives.

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For the last six years, Sheng has photographed high school and college athletes who are out of the closet, an ongoing project he has titled “Fearless.” The most widely seen exhibition of “Fearless” was at the corporate headquarters of ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut. That show was covered in a feature on ABC World News. “Fearless” is usually displayed in school gyms, where athletes pass by it in droves.

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CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN POLITICS features a phenomenon that would have baffled Anita Bryant in 1977: the stealthy homophobe. Bryant looked voters in the eye and said that gay people were a threat to society. Right-wing political figures in the 21st century often act on the same belief but lack Bryant’s candor.

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HISTORIAN JONATHAN NED KATZ first published his essay “The Invention of Heterosexuality” in 1990, which he later expanded into an award-winning 1995 book of the same title. The beauty of Katz’s approach was its inversion, so to speak, of popular constructionist arguments about homosexuality. Recall Michel Foucault’s famous declaration that the homosexual as a “species” was “born” in 1870.

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WHEN A BRIDE and groom exchange vows in a cathedral, chapel, or temple, they receive a marriage license blessed simultaneously by their clergy and their state. But why? Other religious ceremonies aren’t wedded to civil ones. The county clerk doesn’t issue a baptism license. A priest doesn’t deliver a funeral eulogy and then sign the death certificate. Could separating religious and civil marriages solve the gay-marriage standoff?

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TO COMBAT HOMOPHOBIA, it is crucial that we first understand it. We often talk about homophobia as if it were a monolith, requiring just one set of solutions. In truth, this phenomenon comes in several varieties that are linked by a web of overlapping motivations, theories, religious doctrines, political calculations, and psychological issues. Its roots are as complex and diverse as homophobia is itself multifarious. The reality of this social disease necessitates that we carefully diagnose it so we can calibrate our responses and tailor our educational campaigns.

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Boylan has been married to Deirdre Finney (or “Grace” as she’s called in She’s Not There) for 22 years. The couple has two teenage sons, Zach and Sean, who refer to Jenny not as “Mommy” or “Daddy,” but as the hybridized “Maddy.” This interview was conducted in February via e-mail (a medium that Salinger probably dreaded).

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