March 09, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Last week was one for the history books in the movement for gay civil rights worldwide. As of last week, same-sex couples are marrying in the capitals of four of the five most populous countries in the Americas, and each city offers an important lesson about what works in making progress on the mother of all items on “the gay agenda.”
In Mexico City, Buenos Aires and, of course, Washington, D.C., gay couples are now registering or entering into civil marriage, accessing a fundamental right already enjoyed by same-sex couples in Ottawa and throughout Canada. The only country missing from the Americas’ Top 5 is Brazil, where a patchwork of common law and judicial rulings extend some legal recognition to gay relationships in the capital Brasilia, and across the country.
The U.S. capital of Washington, D.C., grabbed most of the headlines last week, as the conservative Chief Justice John Roberts refused a last-minute attempt to block a gay marriage law adopted by the duly elected representatives of the District of Columbia. So much for the argument that “activist judges” are imposing gay marriage on their citizens; in D.C., it was gay marriage opponents who appealed to unelected judges to thwart the will of the majority.
Primary credit for that mammoth electoral achievement goes to a grassroots effort by a group called D.C. for Marriage, who tired of the snail’s pace and incremental progress made over many years by long-time activists and pushed the envelope with local politicians who had given lip service to marriage equality but still ducked for cover whenever possible.
If you agree with that aggressive strategy, then take a moment to check out the national org Freedom to Marry, where Michael Crawford, one of D.C. for Marriage’s founders, is now heading up online organizing.
The other key player in the fight for marriage in our nation’s capital was David Catania, first elected as a gay Republican to a citywide seat on the D.C. Council and later quit his party when President Bush introduced a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage nationwide.
Allies are crucial to the fight, of course, but we have seen time and again that having one of our own at the table makes all the difference. The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund has taken the leadership role in electing out LGBT politicians to office, and has consistently maintained some of the highest non-profit ratings for putting donor dollars to use in actually accomplishing that mission.
As important symbolically as gay marriage is in Washington, D.C, the real impact is dwarfed by the availability just two days later of marriage to same-sex couples among the 20 million-plus living in Mexico City, the most populous city in either North or South America.
As in D.C., marriage equality was achieved in Mexico’s Districto Federal by the locally elected legislature, which defied last-ditch conservative attempts to veto the new law in court. Despite dire threats about a national backlash, the center-left Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), which is a minority party at the federal level, pushed the gay marriage bill through.
The same courage hasn’t been displayed of yet by the center-left party that in firm control of the federal government here in the land of the free and home of the brave. Despite Barack Obama’s pledge during the primaries that, unlike Hillary Clinton, he would support full and total repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, a bill to do just that has languished for months in Congress.
Even Barney Frank, the powerful gay Democrat, is acting like he is a Democrat first and a gay man second, refusing even to co-sponsor the legislation for fear it would pressure Nancy Pelosi into actually expending some political capital on our behalf. After years of broken promises to push gay rights legislation through Congress, the Democratic Party at a minimum owes LGBT Americans the immediate repeal of the two anti-gay law signed by a Democrat, Bill Clinton: DOMA and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
Finally, and for only the second time, a gay couple in the beautiful Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires has tied the knot, after a deadlock in rulings by local judges was broken. Now that events in D.C. and Mexico City have put the lie to that old conservative saw about “activist judges” being the target of gay marriage opposition, rather than gay folks ourselves, it’s important to redouble our efforts here in the U.S. in the courtroom.
The most promising case is a lawsuit brought in San Francisco to challenge Proposition 8, which could lead to universal gay marriage rights throughout the country. The suit, brought by conservative legal kingpin Ted Olson and liberal David Boies, is itself a rogue effort associated with the newly founded American Foundation for Equal Rights.
Still, the good folks at Lambda Legal continue to achieve groundbreaking results that can’t be matched by any other national gay group, to forego the black tie dinners for once and get more equality bang for your buck.
March 03, 2010
Posted by: Chris
I speculated yesterday that must not have been easy for a conservative Catholic like Chief Justice John Roberts to deny a stay that would have blocked gay couples from lining up this morning to apply for marriage licenses in the District of Columbia. Apparently, I was right.
I haven't yet reviewed Roberts' three-page ruling (available here), but the well-respected SCOTUSblog indicates that he left plenty of wiggle room for the Supremes to revisit gay marriage in the nation's capital once local courts have ruled on a challenge designed to put the matter directly before voters:
Even while saying a delay was not now legally justified, Roberts noted that the challengers may still try to undo the new D.C. marriage provision by attempting to put it on the ballot asking local voters to repeal the law. That separate maneuver is now under review in the D.C. Court of Appeals, Washington’s highest local court. …
Roberts said the opponents’ legal challenge “has some force.” … And, he noted, the potential to pursue the initiative process will not cease to exist even though the marriage law does take effect Wednesday.
The opponents still have the option of asking another Justice, or the full Court, to consider their plea for delay, but Roberts’ action makes success unlikely on any such plea. Ultimately, the legal questions may reach the Court in a future test case after the Court of Appeals rules on the initiative maneuver.
The issue isn't as cut and dried as some gay bloggers have suggested, portraying the suit as desperate and baseless. In an effort to prevent these sorts of referendums, the D.C. Council amended the city's Human Rights Act to provide that it could not be altered in by referendum in a discriminatory way. As much sense as this makes in principle, it is unusual for a simple ordinance to be used as a mechanism for blocking a referendum process provided for in the D.C. home rule charter.
More on this later, when I've had a chance to look at the arguments myself, but it's enough to put a bit of a damper on today's festivities here in Washington. My advice to couples ready to the knot is get thee to the altar, lest you miss your opportunity a la Prop 8 in California.
(Photos of Darlene Garner, left, and her partner, Candy Holmes, via AP).
March 02, 2010
Posted by: Chris
This can't have been too easy for the conservative Catholic chief justice of the United States:
It's nice to see that sometimes the ministers of Judicial Restraint actually practice what they preach.
Chief Justice John Roberts rejected the request of gay marriage opponents to stay the effective date of the District of Columbia's marriage equality bill. He wrote: "Without addressing the merits of petitioners’ underlying claim, however, I conclude that a stay is not warranted."
Roberts specifically noted the argument advanced by the District that the Supreme Court generally defers to the local D.C. courts for "matters of exclusively local concern." He also noted the fact that Congress did not act to disapprove of the law during the 30-day review period and the remaining availability of the initiative process in reaching his decision not to grant the stay.
Bishop Harry Jackson, along with others opposed to marriage equality coming to Washington, filed a last-minute request at the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, March 1, seeking to stop the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 from becoming law on March 3 so that he can proceed with his referendum effort.
Aided by lawyers from the national organization Alliance Defense Fund, Jackson filed a request for an immediate stay of the law with Roberts because the chief justice is responsible for hearing appeals coming from the District.
Posted by: Chris
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has engaged in another round of shenanigans today in its continuing battle against recognizing the civil marriage of same-sex couples. Catholic Charities axed all spousal benefits for its employees rather than be forced to extend those same benefits to married gay workers.
Some complain the change is cynical, hypocritical and contrary to Catholic values. Let us count the ways:
- The "dilemma" faced by the Catholic Charities does not impinge on religious freedom, as anti-gay groups like the National Organization for Marriage have charged. The Catholic church may refuse to marry -- or even refuse communion -- gay parishioners. It simply may not "suck at the teet" of District government -- to the tune of $22 million annually -- and simultaneously flout District law.
- Something other than a mere desire to conform to papal teaching on homosexuality is at work here, since Catholic Charities happily provided spousal benefits for years to employees who had divorced and remarried, a sin that is every bit as severe, if not more so, than same-sex love.
- Catholic Charities chose the cheap way out. The Washington Archdiocese could have followed the example of its San Francisco counterpart, which eliminated spousal benefits while expanding the definition of domestic partner to include a spouse, parent, sibling or anyone else who in the household.
- By eschewing the San Francisco example, D.C. Catholic charities missed an opportunity to set a Christian example that says to its employees, gay and straight, that whatever the church's teaching on gay marriage or divorce, the church as employer wants to assist each worker to provide health care for a member of its household.
March 01, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Sometimes it seems the greatest obstacle to same-sex marriage in our nation's capital has been those who claim to support the effort. It was an unnecessarily long and winding road to get here, and now that our happy day has almost arrived, a cockamamie scheme threatens to crash the reception.
Even with a super-majority on the D.C. Council and the mayor on record supporting marriage equality, an older generation at the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance stayed an absurdly conservative course, incrementally adopting a few extra "domestic partnership" rights each year, year after year. Even after Congress was firmly in Democratic hands after the 2006 election, GLAA gave District pols and their DNC pals the cover to do nothing.
Finally, a fresh crop of activists and outside pressure dragged D.C. to the altar, the last legal hurdles to full marriage equality have been surpassed, and the congressional veto deadline is nigh. In just two days, on March 3, same-sex couples may apply for marriage licenses at the D.C. Superior Court.
How best to celebrate? How about a mass wedding ceremony of the type made famous by the Moonies that would trivialize the very institution we are finally -- finally -- allowed to participate in? For that ridiculous notion, we have to thank Event Emissary, a for-profit "destination management company."
For the pleasure of joining in the mass wedding, the same-sex spouses-to-be need only pay the low, low, ok not so low, price of $300.00 per couple. If you want to invite up to four friends along for the reception, that'll be $1,050.00.* Note the asterisk -- only the couple may actually attend the group ceremony.
For those yearning for something a bit more private, the "Forever Yours Private Ceremony," lasting a grand total of 15 minutes, will set you back $500.00, or $1,750.00 with the reception tickets included. Or double the bang from your buck and schedule an eternally long (30-minute) "Eternal Love Private Ceremony" for $900.00 per couple, or $6,250.00 including tickets for the mass reception.
We shouldn't cast aspersions on companies offering services to the gay community, including the newly-minted freedom to marry in Washington, D.C. But it's quite another to create a public spectacle that damages the cause of marriage equality elsewhere, and expect to cash in to boot.
February 18, 2010
Posted by: Chris
UPDATE: At the end of the post.
My favorite exchange of yesterday's Cato Institute forum on gay conservatives came in response to columnist Maggie Gallagher's claim that permitting same-sex couples to marry would invariably leads somehow to government intrusion into religion of the sort that all conservatives should abhor. In support, Gallagher, who is Roman Catholic, cited the requirement that Catholic Charities, for example, place children into households led by gay couples, despite their genuine faith-based belief this is against the child's best interest.
Let's leave aside for the moment the irony of conservatives resorting to the politics of victimization, previously the P.C. province of liberals, even as she claimed that 50-60% of Americans are on her side. Poor majority conservatives, oppressed by the 3-5% of us who are gay.
Let's even forgive Gallagher the obvious straw man here, as if a line can't be drawn in the law between opening up marriage to same-sex couples and requiring that religious institutions recognize those marriage in the provision of social services. Her example, as it turns out, comes straight out of the headlines, as the D.C. archdiocese just announced yesterday that it was shuttering its 80-year-old foster parent program for precisely this reason.
Gay Catholic blogger Andrew Sullivan, his forehead marked from Ash Wednesday services that morning, drew a crucial distinction between laws that over-reach, prohibiting independently funded religious groups from discriminating in hiring or in the provision of services, and less troublesome regulation requiring those faith-based orgs that "suck at the teat of government," as he put it, to treat us taxpayers equally.
Catholic Charities receives some $20 million annually from the District of Columbia, so any "interference" in their pristine religious function occurred at the time the Catholics showed up with their hands held out, asking for our money.
Even more devastating was Sullivan's pointing out that the rest of us can be forgiven for suspecting "some animus" behind complaints of the type Gallagher raises when Catholic Charities has for years placed foster and adopted children into the homes of remarried couples, despite the church's very clear prohibition on divorce. Seen in that light, the Catholic threat to suspend its social services looks more like a cynical attempt to bully gay couples out of the civil marriage pulpit.
The Washington Post story on the archdiocese decision suggest as much, reporting without explaining that despite yesterday's decision on foster parenting, Catholic Charities "is optimistic that it will find a way to structure its benefits packages in other social service programs so that it can remain in partnership with the city without recognizing same-sex marriage."
Most telling of all, however, was Gallagher's final reply to Sullivan, acknowledging the church's inconsistent treatment of gay and remarried couples and cheerfully, if ominously, warning that the bishops would soon be "cleansing" that process further, likely meaning that remarried couples would find themselves out of favor as well.
There, my friends, is the slippery slope. Marriage equality between gay and straight couples does not necessarily lead to forcing faith based groups to act contrary to their beliefs in the provision of services, but the coming cleansing will prove very instructive to millions of heterosexuals Americans who would never imagine that their households could be refused foster and adoption placements funded by their government.
UPDATE: Video of the forum is now available here or view it after the jump to this post.
February 11, 2010
Posted by: Chris
Chris Matthews goes all Hardball on D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty for the slow pace of plowing in response to the first wave of Snowpacalypse 2010. Paraphrasing JFK's famous witticism that Washington combines the charm of the North with the efficiency of the South, Matthews quipped, "We have the weather of Buffalo and the snowplowing capability of Miami." Boom!
My friend Jonathan Capehard says, "Amen brother!" WaPo's Jo-Ann Armao has the mayor's back, claiming Matthews is even more unpopular than the mayor. I guess I missed the memo; I'm a fan of Matthews and always thought Fenty was full of promise (and certainly better than several of his mayoral predecessors).
I spent most of the Snowmageddon Part 1 in the District and thought the plows responded pretty quickly, at least well enough for me to make my way back across the river over the weekend. D.C. folk don't know how good they've got it; Rosslyn looked completely unplowed from Round 1 as late as Tuesday night
February 10, 2010
Posted by: Chris
You might have gathered from the paucity of posts that we here in the Washington, D.C., area have been a bit busy, what with the blizzard(s) and all. Last night and today brought Snowpacalypse Part Deux.
When Snowpacalypse (or Snowmageddon, as some are calling it) dumped some 20 inches on the D.C. area last weekend, the temps hovered just below freezing, which made for light, wet snow and the perfect playground for massive snowball fights. It also yielded pretty scenes like the one I captured on Willard Street in Adams Morgan that looked straight out of a Tim Burton movie. (Those mounds of snow are cars.)
Well, the sequel hit last night and like most movie versions, this one was bigger but not better. The temps are lower and the wind is much, much stronger, resulting in crazy snow drifts and cutting blasts of snow even on a short walk outside to check things out. Until the gusts die down, there won't be so many snowball fights and sled rides as before. (Oops, I was wrong: Dupont Snowball Fight Part Deux is set for today at 2 p.m.)
Here are a couple of pics I snapped from the relative discomfort of the front porch of my friend Tom's home in the Shirlington neighborhood of Arlington:
January 12, 2009
Posted by: Chris
Across the country just this weekend, tens of thousands of lesbians and gay men rallied in dozens of cities to call on President-elect Obama fulfill his campaign promise to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, that notorious statute passed back in 1996 by a Republican Congress and signed by Bill Clinton that robs gay married couples from any recognition of their relationship by the federal government.
DOMA also purports to allow each state to decide for itself whether to refuse recognition of marriage licenses issued by other states or foreign governments. Politicians like Hillary Clinton who insist they have our best interests at heart have warned against touching DOMA for fear of inciting a new movement for a federal marriage amendment. Yet these tens of thousands of lesbians and gay men understand that politicians and their activist-apologists will always tell us that our calls for equality are poorly timed for one reason or another. They also understand that fighting for our basic civil rights will always carry some risk.
That basic activist nerve unfortunately gets dulled by the risk-averse Beltway doubletalk that has long handicapped our movement. I've already noted any number of times the disconnect between these grassroots activists pushing for relationship recognition and the D.C.-based LGBT rights groups, which are cutting deals for lower-hanging fruit -- like workplace rights and hate crime laws.
But the difference isn't just between local activists across the U.S. and the national activists lobbying the federal government. Even the local activists in Washington, D.C., lack the basic nerve to act and are woefully out of touch from even the local D.C. community they claim to represent.
Just last week, these "activists" declared victory when gay D.C. Council member David Catania decided not to introduce a marriage equality bill that had the support of the mayor and would have passed the Council by a lopsided vote of 12-1 or 11-2. Lou Chibbaro of the Washington Blade reported:
His decision followed what appeared on the surface to be an ironic development: A number of prominent gay rights advocates lobbied Catania and other Council members not to take up a gay marriage bill so soon in the legislative year.
That's what "activism" looks like in our nation's capital -- convincing politicians not to act. Why? The excuses are old and tired and make even less sense today than they have for the last decade that we've heard them from the same small cadre of mostly elderly folks, who are sadly blinded by their own partisanship and arrogance or who value their own influence over the process than they do the constituents they claim to represent. They fail to realize, of course, that their power is wholly illusory, since politicians -- Catania excepted -- are only to eager not to act when given an excuse not to.
When I first moved back to Washington in 2001, this same group -- personified by Rick Rosendall (pictured) of the ironically named Gay & Lesbian Activist Alliance -- urged caution because President Bush had proposed a federal constitutional amendment and Congress, which has veto power over D.C. laws, was under the control of anti-gay Republicans.
Never mind that these same Republicans had portrayed the marriage movement as one in which judges impt puttiose their will on "the people." The GL"A"A cautioned against putting the lie to that argument by forcing these same Republicans to veto or not the democratically-elected legislature and executive in Washington.
Years later, the threat of a federal amendment subsided almost entirely after it failed miserably in votes in 2004 and 2006. What's more, Democrats retook control of Congress in the 2006 midterm elections. Robbed of those excuses, these "activists" still refused to budge from the game plan they adopted sometime in the last millennium, claiming the Democrats hadn't wrested sufficient control of Congress so our equality was still too risky.
The election of 2008 put the final nail in that particular coffin, as Democrats won very comfortable majorities in both the House and the Senate. It's beside the point whether majorities in both houses of Congress favor gay marriage itself. Like the new president, clear majorities in the House and the Senate favor leaving D.C. alone to self-govern, especially on areas of social policy like this one.
Now these "activists" are offering up Proposition 8 as their latest excuse against action, since Washington, D.C., is majority African American, and black Californians voted in favor of the gay marriage ban. We are, of course, months and months away from a Prop 8-style referendum in D.C., assuming its backers could successfully navigate the District's complex referendum process to even get it on the ballot. Should they succeed, we have already learned much from the Prop 8 battle, and a campaign across a heavily Democratic city of 600,000 is far more manageable than it was in a geographically sprawling state of more than 36,000,000.
If these "activists" aim to prove that if we wait long enough, gay marriage won't be very controversial in Washington, D.C., then of course they are right. But since when is that the point of a civil rights movement? The prize is our equality, and the point of the movement is to make that day happen sooner rather than later. And yet still they counsel keeping our gunpowder perpetually dry for fear that success will illustrate the timidity of their long-time strategery.
If Rosendall, Rosenstein and other self-proclaimed "activists" in D.C. don't get that, then it is long, long, long past time that they just get out of the way and let others fight where they are unwilling or unable.
(Photo of DOMA protest in San Diego via Rex Wockner)
August 13, 2008
Posted by: Chris
This week has not been a good one for PlanetOut, the struggling giant of gay media. First came notice from the NASDAQ stock exchange that the company had failed for 30 consecutive days to maintain the minimum market value ($5 million) of publicly owned stock and as a result is facing "delisting" -- removal from the exchange, where it trades under the symbol "LGBT." PNO has 90 days to rectify the problem by meeting the $5 million mark for 10 consecutive days.
Planet Out's management responded by saying it would monitor the situation and if the picture doesn't look any rosier, the company will ask to be moved to NASDAQ's Capital Market for smaller publicly traded companies.
The downsizing of PlanetOut isn't just in stock value, of course. Just this afternoon, the company announced that it had completed the sale of its magazine, book publishing and soft-porn business, which includes LPI, Inc. (Advocate, Out and their websites, Out Traveler, Alyson Books) and Spec Pubs, Inc. (Men, Freshmen, Unzipped and the now defunct  magazine).
The new owner, Regent Entertainment (here!TV, Gay Wired) gets the marquis titles for a song: paying $6.5 million in exchange for not just LPI and Spec Pubs but also $6.5 million in advertising on Gay.com and Planet Out's other remaining properties. What a bargain -- considering Planet Out paid more than $31 million to acquire the same titles just three years ago!
At this point, all eyes are on Regent to see what changes they'll bring to the Advocate and Out, especially. Both publications have struggled alongside their gay and "mainstream" counterparts (Instinct, Genre, Time, Newsweek, People, Us) to stay relevant in the age of instant internet info gratification. From what I've seen, the quality of both pubs has improved considerably under the current editors, and the sale at least insures the fate of so much of national gay media isn't so intertwined. (Although Regent is itself another conglomerate).
The news isn't all gloomy for PNO. Financials released yesterday showed the company had stemmed the bleeding somewhat in losses, from a rate of around $800,000 per month for the last year or so to "just" $932,000 for the entire quarter ending June 30. With the high overhead print pubs out of the picture, a leaner meaner PlanetOut has a shot at turning the corner, or at least making itself more attractive for an acquisition.
Apparently some investors think so as well. After trading between $2.00 and $2.30 for several weeks, LGBT finished at $2.65 yesterday. It's a tiny fraction of early, heady days of $12 a share -- before a 1-to-10 reverse stock split to save the stock when it was trading below $1 per share. But it's something.
June 15, 2008
Posted by: Chris
As a candidate two years ago for mayor of Washington D.C., Adrian Fenty courted gay voters by in part promising he would release a long-shelved opinion by the District's attorney general on whether marriage licenses issued elsewhere to gay couples should be recognized in the nation's capital. Once elected, Fenty promptly reneged on his promise, egged on in doing so by a small kabal of old school gay "activists" frightened by their own shadow, who have long provided political cover for officials eager to do absolutely nothing on such a hot-button issue.
Now two years later, in time for California's gay marriage avalanche and for Capital Pride as well, Mayor Fenty is revisiting his abandoned campaign promise, assigning his own attorney general the task of reviewing and updating the legal opinion completed but never released by then-A.G. Robert Spagnoletti, who is gay:
I have asked the interim attorney general to review all developments since his predecessor's memo on this issue, including the California Supreme Court ruling. What he will do and when he will do it has not been determined, but he is looking thoroughly and wisely.
Like many gay residents of D.C., I long ago lost patience with the marriage of convenience between the city's toothless activist establishment and gutless political establishment and the foot-dragging to the alter that has resulted. At this pace, we can expect the District to recognize gay marriage at about the same time as the gay-friendly states of Mississippi and Alabama.
The difference, of course, is that the mayor and a majority of the D.C. Council are already on record favoring full marriage equality for gays, and the District's congressional overseers -- long the excuse for inaction -- are now Democrats pledged to respect local autonomy on the issue.
I am holding out some hope despite myself for the process set in place by Fenty because his interim A.G., Peter Nickles, is someone I worked with as a young lawyer about 10,000 years ago -- OK, 15 or 16 years ago. Nickles' gruff manner and intense work style made him probably the most intimidating partner at Covington & Burling, the D.C. firm where I first worked after law school.
But in my three years by his side, including some fun work for the National Football League, I was always very impressed by his intellect, his drive and, like many Covington partners, his distinguished pro bono record, especially on behalf of prisoners in the D.C. jail.
I don't remember ever discussing being gay with Nickles, even though I was out at the law firm, which was ahead of its time in those days in welcoming openly gay lawyers. But here's hoping my old boss Mr. Nickles will do his part to make gay civil rights history, reaffirming equality under the law for the District's gay and lesbian residents.
Regardless, it is looooong past time for Mayor Fenty and the D.C. Council to stop hiding behind legal opinions and live up to their campaign promises. Not only should the District recognize gay marriages from Massachusetts, California, Canada and elsewhere, but the city's laws should be changed so that gay couples can marry in Washington, D.C., itself.
May 17, 2008
Posted by: Chris
You may have already seen this priceless video clip showing conservative radio talk show host Kevin James making a complete ass of himself Thursday on MSNBC's "Hardball." From the get-go he is hyperventilating -- literally yelling -- about how President Bush was completely justified in comparing Barack Obama, at least by insinuation, with Neville Chamberlain, the infamous British prime minister and other "Nazi appeasers" from the late 1930s.
Chris Matthews tries 28 times -- I didn't count, but others have -- to ask James to explain what it is exactly that Chamberlain did so it could be compared with Obama's willingness to sit down for talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. James tries desperately to avoid answering, except to insist that Obama is "exactly the same" as Chamberlain. Eventually he admits he doesn't know what exactly Chamberlain did and Matthews pretty much lays him to waste.
I'd almost feel sorry for James, if he weren't so clearly deserving of the humiliation. The video clip is all over the Net -- just one version of it on YouTube has been viewed more than 250,000 times -- but the reaction in gay Washington circles has been more one of jaws dropping.
Could this really be the same Kevin James, who with his then-boyfriend raised huge sums of money in Los Angeles to support a number of gay political groups, including the Campaign for Military Service -- which later became the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network -- to support President Clinton's effort to end the ban on gays in the military?
I'm not familiar with James on-air schtick, but I'm mighty curious whether he feigns opposition to gay rights or if his Ditto Heads even know he's a big ole homo. Or maybe he's Tammy Bruce in drag?
March 21, 2008
Posted by: Chris
It's very gratifying to see today that the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association is speaking out publicly in defense of the watchdog role of the LGBT press, even when covering political "friends" of the gay rights movemement like Howard Dean and the Democratic National Committee.
I concluded my post last week about the DNC's contempt for the gay press with this:
The Democratic Party has enjoyed a major resurgence the last several years, attributable almost entirely to the utter disaster of the Bush presidency and the inspirational (until recently) presidential primary. Dean will no doubt ride that wave as long as he can, but it is long past time for gays and gay groups to speak out against the contempt and disrespect with which Democratic Party officials treat the gay press.
Where is the National Gay & Lesbian Journalists Association when the gay press needs it?
Afterward, I contacted Eric Hegedus, the group's president, to see where NLGJA stood, and to my very pleasant surprise he told me last weekend that the group would come forward with a strong statement in support of the LGBT media and press freedom. That statement is published in today's Washington Blade, in the form of an op-ed that encourages the gay press to "keep up the good fight" in watchdogging the DNC, party chair Howard Dean and his controversial staff chief Rev. Leah Daughtry:
In the end, the LGBT media deserve as much respect and attention as mainstream media, and I have just one message to [editor Kevin] Naff and the Blade, as well as other journalists working in LGBT press: Keep up the good fight. Continue to do your job, follow your ethics, question political motives and open the public's eyes and ears regarding how governmental process works.
There’s a reason journalists subscribe to the tenet of a “free press,” whether in mainstream or niche media. It's our job to cover politics, bureaucracy and governmental leaders, not to mention our communities, and we have no room for apprehension and scare tactics in our pursuit of the truth.
This isn't a matter of journalists working in the gay press simply circling the wagons. NLGJA consists almost entirely of gay journalists working in the mainstream media -- including all of the top newspapers, TV networks and new media -- and the org traditionally shies away from anything that resembles "activism." In fact, this is the first time in my decade of affiliation that I remember NLGJA ever speaking out for the LGBT press; it's important and very welcome.
Hegedus is careful not to take sides on the particular factual dispute here -- whether Daughtry sent lawyers to the Blade offices in an attempt to intimidate the paper from covering her and the DNC -- but NLGJA is offering a crucial defense of the independence of the LGBT media against attempts to disrespect and intimidate. He acknowledges that LGBT press is criticial because it can cover gay issues in a way that the mainstream press effectively cannot. (Although it was nice to see that the Washington Post awoke yesterday from its gay slumber long enough to cover Dean and the bias lawsuit brought by Donald Hitchcock.)
If only the gay men and lesbians with influence within the DNC apparatus could see beyond their partisanship long enough to join the NLJGA and stand up against the contempt shown by the party for the LGBT press -- and the movement and LGBT constituency itself.
February 13, 2008
Posted by: Chris
The strong gay support for Hillary Clinton evidenced in California and New York may have had an impact on yesterday's D.C. primary but not by anything like the same margins. According to the Washington Post, Barack Obama carried Ward 2, which includes neighborhoods like Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan with large gay populations, by a margin of 62% to Clinton's 37%, which is only somewhat less convincing than his overall D.C. margin of 75% to 24%.
Wards 2 and 3 (also 62% to 37%) are also the District's only majority-white wards, which along with gay support for Hillary could explain the discrepancy. In Ward 1, which is represented by openly gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham and includes Columbia Heights, Shaw and the U Street Corridor -- also popular areas for gays -- Obama did better (71% to 28%).
A large concentration of African American gays live in Precinct 112 in Ward 8, but the Post doesn't breakdown results by precinct and Obama blew Clinton away in overall in the ward, 86% to 14%.
More when precinct-by-precinct results are available.
February 12, 2008
Posted by: Chris
It's already shaping up as another huge night for Barack Obama, with exit polls in Virginia showing a landslide and the networks already calling D.C. for him as well. I will be curious to see how Hillary Clinton does in the District neighborhoods with large gay populations, something that the Washington Blade will likely analyze when numbers become available.
No doubt Hillary's strong performance with gay voters in California and New York factored into her decision to do an interview with the Blade over the weekend, although she would have been smarter to do it in advance of last Friday's edition, to broaden the exposure.
One "gay get" for Hillary that genuinely surprised me was an endorsement from David Catania, an out D.C. Council at-large member. Catania was initially elected as a Republican but quit the party but became an independent after President Bush pushed a federal constitutional amendment to block states from marrying gay couples.
The report from Politico doesn't explain his reasons, except that he said, "You don’t throw your voice behind someone simply in the good times," he said. "I don’t care if it’s the beginning or the end or the up or the down."
It's been something of a rarity to see independents, especially former Republicans, going for Clinton, who is far more partisan than Obama. I will also be curious to see Catania's reasons.
January 18, 2008
Posted by: Chris
The ongoing legal battle between the Democratic National Committee and ousted gay outreach liaison Donald Hitchcock just got a whole lot messier. Claire Lucas, a longtime DNC volunteer and a member of Hillary Clinton's national LGBT steering committee, stands accused of perjury in her attempt to avoid testifying in Hitchcock's DNC suit, which accuses the party of defamation as well as bias based on sexual orientation and gender.
When Hitchcock subpoenaed Lucas, she responded that she lived in California, not D.C., and appearing for a deposition would be a hardship for her. Now the Blade's Lou Chibbaro reports that legal filings by Hitchcock show Lucas is a registered D.C. voter, receives a "homestead" tax exemption from the District, and is listed by the Clinton campaign on its local Washington steering committee. Ironically, a Clinton campaign email sent by Lucas talked up her trip to New Hampshire for Hillary and how "lots of fun will be had." Apparently a side-trip to D.C. would be more hardship than "fun" for Lucas…
Internal email exchanges disgorged by the DNC as part of the lawsuit identify Lucas as among the small coterie of DNC staff and leading gay volunteers who trashed Hitchcock, first internally and then publicly, after his domestic partner, Democratic political consultant Paul Yandura, publicly criticized Howard Dean and the Democratic Party for standing by doing nothing while dozens of states enacted constitutional amendments banning gay marriage during the 2002 and 2004 election cycles. Eventually Hitchcock was ousted after he failed to fix the problem, i.e., shut Yandura up.
I bring up the Hillary connection not simply to "slime" her campaign with the Hitchcock accusations against Lucas and the DNC but because there is a very natural connection between the "establishment gays" central to Hillary's LGBT effort and those gay folk at the heart of the Hitchcock litigation who are Democrats first, and gay second.
Either their own political and career future trump even the civil rights of their own people, or they long ago drank the party Kool-Aid and buy into the simplistic notion that because Democrats are better on gay issues than Republicans, what is good/bad for Dems is good/bad for gays. Of course they are correct that Democrats are better on gay issues and anyone who suggests otherwise ought to have their head examined. But it does not follow that the gay rights movement should do the DNC's bidding, even at the expense of its own.
Real change comes from unrelenting pressure, even more on friends than on foes. For far too long now, the gay movement and its leading organizations have been co-opted by Dem-first gays who are unwilling or unable to apply that pressure and therefore progress proceeds achingly slow -- and only when it is in the political interest of Democrats to achieve it. That's why even the most basic civil rights legislation -- employment non-discrimination and hate crimes -- have not passed the Democratic-controlled Congress.
Imagine what would happen if they did pass -- and President Bush actually signed them! Then where would the DNC and Hillary be? If elected, she would face more difficult gay rights issues -- mainly undoing the damage from her husband's administration in the form of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act.
The Dem-first and Hillary-first crowd actively dreads that outcome because they know she will not expend anymore political capital than her husband did on gay issues, especially on the same gay issues he ran so scared from in the '90s. So instead they lollygag on ENDA and hate crimes, to the silence of the Human Rights Campaign and the trans-marginalized Task Force.
And anyone who dares to criticize or ask tough questions, be it the gay press or even longtime Democratic party activists, gets the Tagen treatment -- dismissed as having some sort of evil anti-Dem agenda.
Expect more revelations to come on these matters, including on this blog.
December 14, 2007
Posted by: Chris
I am happy to report that gay twinkdom is safe and sound, as Adam Dahl came out victorious in Metroweekly's annual Coverboy of the Year contest. You may recall that the D.C. gay weekly's annual vote-fest, which usually pits a dozen twinks up against the occasional musclebear or leather boy, this year featured something else entirely. Amidst all the well-defined 20-somethings was "Alexander O.," a female-to-male transgender man who waxed on about his girlfriend and how much he loved "The L Word."
Some transgender activists saw Alexander's candidacy as a chance to score some socio-political points and started drumming up support for him, even reportedly introducing him at a trans rights banquet. So I did my part, letting folks know that it was a bit odd to see a FTM trans man who identifies with lesbian culture and has a girlfriend as a contestant in a gay Coverboy contest. The predictable hilarity ensued, though if you take the time to weed through the usual vitriol, there is some interesting and provocative debate among the comments.
Anyway, hats off to my ex-roomie and all around super guy Adam Dahl (who unveiled his full name on the cover of this week's issue). It couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Kudos also to Jeff Code for his amazing (as always) photos. (Pout for the camera, Adam baby, pout!)
Adam, I expect a raspberry margarita with my name on it at the Diner upon my return to Washington in January!
December 11, 2007
Posted by: Chris
It was a big day in the news for Window Media, the gay publishing company that William Waybourn and I founded in 1997. William and I both left Window Media last year and are not active in management, though we remain part-owners. So viewing things from the outside, I'd say the odd thing is that all of today's stories are unrelated:
One of the men featured as part of a monogamous couple on the current Genre cover is actually heterosexual Playgirl model Julian Fantechi. Inside the magazine, they're presented as a real life couple, an example of monogamy. According to the reader that tipped off Queerty, "Inside the magazine, they are stripped down, appear to be into each other, and are allegedly, discussing their physical relationship, emotional, sexual and spiritual relationship."
Editor Neal Boulton told Queerty: "The idea was to use these hot boys to sell a bigger idea that I feel is very possible—longevity in relationships."
[Before the flap came to light, Boulton had earlier said:] "On the cover this month, Genre bravely put forth a reality couple, and not the typical models who hold perfection over our heads. Our message is simple. Reach for forever. Genre can help you get there."
2. Queerty reported that, for unrelated reasons, "Genre’s sales team walked out."
3. The Washington Blade has hired a new publisher who's no new face to the newspaper:
Lynne Brown, the Blade’s former director of business development, starts Wednesday as publisher. Brown said she was excited to rejoin the Blade.
“I am thrilled to be returning to the Washington Blade newspaper, which is a true passion of mine,” she said. “It touches people’s lives.” …
Brown, who first joined the Blade in 1988 working as a sales executive, left the publication in July 2006 to become director of business development at Metro Weekly, a gay publication in Washington, D.C.
Missing from the posts on the Genre cover flap are the real details about how the couple on the cover is portrayed in the story itself. It's not usual for publications to use hot models to illustrate a story, sometimes from "clip art" stockpile photos that have no connection to the actual story.
But portraying the models as an actual couple would be something else entirely -- and a surprising choice if for no other reason than that Julian Fantechi, the former Playgirl Man of the Year, is hardly a low-profile hetero. Here's hoping Genre Editor Neil Boulton, who's so far produced more headlines (here, here and here) than issues, will set the record, er, straight.
The Washington Blade news, on the other hand, is all good. Lynne Brown is a big reason why the Blade has been so successful over the years and her return can only mean positive things for the "gay paper of record."
I still remember the very first meeting William and I had with the Blade staff, back in May 2001, to announce Window Media was purchasing the paper. Lynne was the first to raise her hand to ask a question, wanting to know whether we understood that the strict separation between sales and editorial was a key to the paper's credibility and success. No question was more welcome for me, especially coming from someone in the sales department. The Blade should be well-served by that kind of leadership and her unquestioned commitment to the community.
December 01, 2007
Posted by: Chris
A little birdy tells me that Metroweekly has scheduled photo shoots with the top three finalists in its Coverboy of the Year contest, though it isn't telling the three which of them won the tally. Still, word is that my old roomie Adam is in the Top 3, and a certain tranny boi who loves "The L Word" and dates women is not.
It also seems that in the last 24 hours, certain transgender list-serves have caught wind of my original post about Alexander and are posting vitriolic comments accusing me and many of you of all sorts of "transphobia."
A lot of the reaction is to the suggestion that I (or you) called Alexander a lesbian disguising her/himself as a "tranny boi." That's not something I wrote or believe. What I was trying to argue is that Alexander's bio had much more in common culturally with lesbians than with gay men. And since Alexander likes women and is dating a girl, it was passing strange to include him in a competition for gay boys.
I did include a reference to a column by lesbian journalist Jennifer Vanasco, who has written about how it depresses her and some other lesbian feminists that at least some butch lesbians feel the need to identify as transgender rather than stretch the definition of "woman" to include a more masculine identity. Whether that's true or not I would leave to others better informed to decide. I emailed privately with Jennifer about my post and she backed away some from the views in her column.
Regardless, my more basic point was cultural about a "gay male" identity. A number of the commenters to the original post are female-to-male transgender folks who insisted they are gay men because they are men attracted to men. That may well be. I wasn't writing about them and, frankly, if Alexander liked boys and preferred "Six Feet Under" or "Ugly Betty" more than "The L Word" -- and wanted to take an Atlantis cruise rather than Olyvia -- I would be much more comfortable with his inclusion in the contest.
A reader responded to this post by pointing to some of my own words in the originalTwink-gate post that led some to believe I was calling Alexander a lesbian. In particular, I wrote this:
- The editors of Metroweekly — which began years ago as Michael's Weekly, a typical gay bar rag and now identifies as "Washington D.C.'s GLBT News Magazine" — never come right out and explain how a lesbian became a "Coverboy," but we find a clue in Alexander's willingness to talk about transgender issues.
- Is a butch lesbian who identifies as a tranny boi no different than a gay twink, despite his passion for "The L Word" and Angelina Jolie? If Alexander wins Metroweekly's Coverboy of the Year, will he "raise awareness" of transgender issues, or just raise a few hackles about how political correctness can rob the fun out of even the silliest of beauty contests.
Can't argue with a direct quote. It appears I'm guilty as charged. Since I know I never had it my head that Alexander is female, much less a female, then I can only assume I was being purposefully provocative. My choice of words was unfortunate because it's not what I actually think.
(That first sentence is especially a mess; it led one reader to think I was calling MW a bar rag, understandable given my somewhat tortured construction. I actually meant it used to be a bar rag. It transformed years ago into one of the nation's better gay entertainment weeklies.)
I do think there is something to the argument that Jennifer Vanasco made about how there is a slippery slope between butch lesbian and FTM tranny boi, but in the grand scheme of things, I'm a fish out of water arguing the point too strongly. As someone comfortable in his own gender, I can only take others' word for it on how it feels to be trapped in the wrong anatomical one.
November 27, 2007
Posted by: Chris
Here are the Top Five most popular stories over the last 24 hours on Gay News Watch, along with an Editor's Pick from me at the end:
- Gay escort denies rumors of sex scandal with Lott: QUICK LOOK: The San Antonio-based gay escort alleged to have been linked to Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott has issued a statement categorically denying any contact between the two... (MORE)
- Popular D.C. gay DJ arrested on crystal meth charge: QUICK LOOK: Robert Harris, a popular local DJ, was arrested last month and faces charges of conspiring to possess and distribute 50 grams of crystal meth, according to police sources... (MORE)
- N.Y. gay cop faces losing career, pension even after acquittal: QUICK LOOK: A gay cop who was stung by an undercover posing as a potential lover should be fired without a pension even though he was acquitted of criminal charges, an New York Police Department judge has ruled... (MORE)
- WSJ: More companies train workers on GLBT bias: QUICK LOOK: A growing number of employers are training managers on how to prevent workplace discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender employees, including Chubb... (MORE)
- The imagined anti-U.S. conspiracy of gay art pioneers: QUICK LOOK: "All the 'artists' with a capital A, the parlor pinks and the soprano voiced men are banded together," warned President Harry S. Truman in 1946. "I am afraid they are... (MORE)
- New study calls HIV in D.C. a 'modern day epidemic': QUICK LOOK: The first statistics ever amassed on HIV in the District, released today in a sweeping report, reveal "a modern epidemic" remarkable for its size, complexity and reach... (MORE)
The No. 2 story on GNW and my editor's pick are both depressing stories out of my old home. First the arrest of gay D.J. Rob Harris. For those of us who know Rob, the news is crushing and I wish him the best. He is a talented, incredibly friendly guy who made the transition from running A/V needs at the White House and a white-shoe D.C. law firm to his first love, behind the turntables at the city's dance clubs. His arrest is sad and shocking, and we should remember that he is innocent until proven guilty.
Cyrstal meth has been a scourge on the gay community in D.C., much as it has been in almost every other big city in the U.S. and Canada. Thankfully, the intuitive evidence suggests that use is on decline and few are foolish enough to give it a try for the first time. But still remain hooked, since the drug is incredibly hard to kick.
There's a connection, of course, between crystal and HIV, and the new study confirms what many have said about the nation's capital for a long time: the city's often incompetent government has never mounted an effective campaign against the illness among the city's majority African Americans.
The problem was only exacerbated by some of the District's most influential black churches, which railed against homosexuality, when they were acknowledging its existence at all. The result is sending more black gay men into the "down low," and more black women into denial about what their boyfriends and husbands might be up to.
For years at the Blade, we reported about the D.C. government's inept HIV AIDS agency. Perhaps this new, depressing data will be the kick in the pants that Mayor Adrian Fenty and the agency need to finally get things on track.
November 23, 2007
Posted by: Chris
I wanted to share a bit of reaction to my post earlier this week about the "Coverboy of the Year" contest put on annually by Metroweekly, the D.C. gay entertainment magazine. The post was about whether it was kosher to include a female-to-male "tranny boi" (my words, not his) who loves "The L Word" and has a girlfriend in a contest for gay boys.
I speculated in the comments to the post that the editors may have purposefully downplayed that something special about "Alexander O." -- even now they stop just short of identifying him as transgender -- so as not to arouse a concerted reaction from, shall we say, twink traditionalists.
Now comes word from MW that in fact they weren't even aware of Alexander's uniqueness until they were well into his photo shoot for his original spread back in March for the weekly "Coverboy Confidential" feature. Even still, it took reading between the lines in the year-end contest to figure out he wasn't like the other finalists.
Little did I realize back when we met that someday there'd be a blog with your name on it that even remotely involved me. Even with my usual foresight, I was surprisingly mistaken! Not to mention speculation on my part as to what the topic may be. At the time, if given pen and paper, I'd venture to guess the subject matter would have little to do with spotlight coverage around a posterboy contest or, even more distant a possibility, something wrapped-up in sexual identity or gender studies. For the record, I'm hear to say that day has come and I'm all the more surprised, impressed and, shall I say, honored.
In encounters with the other candidates, and trust that there have been plenty, it's clear we're all going through our own experience. I'd say this contest means something different to each of us, but regardless we're learning some things along the way. Whether we realize it today is one thing, but even as the announcement comes and goes, I gaurantee we'll chalk-up a nugget or two and move forward, just in-time for the next wave of coverboys to begin their own campaign season.
Pleased to see you're prompting discussion; happy to be a part of it.
Adam is a super guy, with a lot more substance than is going to come through in a "Coverboy Confidential" interview. And he was a terrific caretaker of "my boys," the beagle brothers Cliff and Norm, when I was away visiting Anderson in Amsterdam and São Paulo.
If you want to cast your vote for "twink traditionalists," consider checking the box for Adam. Don't miss Jeff Code's fantastic photos of Adam (and the other finalists, of course). Voting is live now on Metroweekly.com and closes this weekend.
November 21, 2007
Posted by: Chris
While combing the Net for content for Gay News Watch, I came across a "news" article on gay issues in the Howard University student newspaper The Hilltop that reads more like it's from the Christian Broadcasting Network than one of the nation's most respected historic black colleges.
Under the headline "College Students More Likely to Experiment Sexually," the article by Kailyn Hart starts by setting up the classic paranoia about the percentage of "Howard men" who are turning gay, then quotes bogus and completely discredited psychological theories to explain the phenomenon of "experimental" homosexuality.
Here are the highlights, beginning with the set-up:
For many students college life may be a safe haven to experience homosexual desires. Within the confines of Howard University, students are concerned with the high number of bisexual and/or gay men and women.
Due to mixed feelings and fast spreading rumors, students are paranoid about the notion of homosexual relations taking place at Howard University.
J.D. Brown, a 21-year-old student in the College of Arts and Sciences, said, "There are a great number of men on campus who are involved in the gay, bisexual or 'downlow' lifestyle. I feel as though walking up to any Howard man, there's at least a 50/50 chance that he has or does engage in homosexual activity, but many of my gay friends feel that the percentage is much higher."
Then, as expert sources, Hart quotes a psych major, J. Garrison (why don't these students have full first names?), who advances the theory that homosexuality is "normal" but a form of sex addiction:
"People become aroused by images because they mentally connect certain body parts to sex," he said.
Garrison also believes that homosexuality is a preference or choice, and that a person can choose not to be gay.
"Most who claim to be gay are addicted to the feelings of belonging or interpersonal interaction they get when they indulge in same-sex relationships," Garrison said.
Hart also cites thoroughly discredited psychologist Paul Cameron, who was expelled by the American Pschological Association back in 1983 and now works for the Family Research Institute, which The Hilltop article fails to identify as an anti-gay lobby group:
"According to [psychoanalysis], homosexuality is a mental illness, symptomatic of arrested development," Cameron said. "People believe that homosexual desires are a consequence of poor familial relations in childhood or some other trauma."
He also said that homosexual desire may stem from family abnormality, cultural influences and unusual experiences as a child.
Of course, Cameron's data is about three decades old, since homosexuality was removed from the list of mental illnesses in 1973. The article, however, fails to note that or even quote a balancing source.
The article concludes with observations by a bisexual male student and an Internet advice columnist, who at least do not pawn off their views as science.
I was the editor of my college newspaper and student magazine, as well as my law school newspaper, so I cut no slack to student journalists who ought to know better when it comes to following basic rules of journalism: balance, weighing the credibility of sources, and giving readers complete information.
I hope the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation will take a hard look at The Hilltop story and press the newspaper for a follow-up that corrects the errors of the first article and offers a balance of viewpoints about the issue of homosexuality on campus.
November 20, 2007
Posted by: Chris
UPDATE: I've updated this post, and backed away some from some of my provocative prose here, in a later post worth checking out.
There’s something about “Alexander O.,” one of the contestants for “Coverboy of the Year” in the D.C. gay mag Metroweekly. The other ten finalists in the popular annual contest gab about the typical mix of fashion, pop culture and boy craziness that we’ve come to expect of the 20-something twinks featured weekly in the publication’s “Coverboy Confidential” profile.
But Alexander’s bio reads a bit more, well, lesbian. His favorite TV show is “The L Word.” If he could have dinner with three people, alive or dead, he would pick Angelina Jolie, Katherine Moennig and Judy Dlugacz.
It’s safe to say that 99 percent of gay men don’t know Katherine Moennig is the actress who plays the sexy, butch character of Shane on said Showtime series, and the remaining 1 percent couldn’t pronounce Dlugacz, much less know she’s the founder of lesbian Olivia Cruises.
And then there is the matter of Alexander’s girlfriend, Melissa, who he describes as “hot,” “smart, sexy — she’s everything.”
The editors of Metroweekly — which began years ago as Michael’s Weekly, a typical gay bar rag and now identifies as “Washington D.C.’s GLBT News Magazine” — never come right out and explain how a lesbian became a “Coverboy,” but we find a clue in Alexander’s willingness to talk about transgender issues.
“I just want to be more visible and spread awareness,” says Alexander. “It’s OK to be transgendered — or not.”
Inclusive words, to be sure, but Alexander’s campaign to be Coverboy of the Year is sure to rub some the wrong way. He’s already been introduced at a banquet of transgender activists, who were urged to support him, and a number of trans email lists are drumming up votes as well.
It rubbed me the wrong way for the sake of “Adam D.,” another Coverboy finalist and, I should disclose, a friend and former tenant of my Washington, D.C., apartment. To be honest, I teased Adam endlessly when he posed for MW, not to mention when his three picks for that fantasy dinner were James Dean, Enrique Iglesias and Jeremy Bloom. But Adam is smart and incredibly sweet and has his sh*t together, and at least I know who his threesome is!
If Alexander’s underground campaign should succeed, as I suspect it will, it wouldn’t be the first time that trans activists have ruffled GLB feathers. For years, male-to-female trans women have tried to attend the female-only Michigan Womyn’s Festival, leading organizers to adopt a controversial “women born women” admissions policy.
Lesbian journalist Jennifer Vanasco has written about how the popularity of gender-bending among young lesbians has all but eliminated femmes from the under-30 crowd.
“Young women who once called themselves butch now call themselves tranny bois, and these tranny bois are mostly dating each other” Vanasco, a self-identified femme, wrote in a provocative column from a couple of years ago.
Some of those who champion gender bending claim it will once and forever explode gender stereotypes, but it’s not immediately clear just how. Are “tranny bois” really bending genders when they don’t feel comfortable self-identifying as women in touch with their masculine side? Or is it reaffirming gender stereotypes to say that being butch means being a man?
If Alexander is indeed someone who would have identified as a “tomboy” or a butch lesbian a few years back, does being a “tranny boi” really make him a gay twink, too?
What’s most striking about Alexander isn’t necessarily what he may or may not be packing below — he’s happy to do a striptease on request, by the way, according to his bio. It’s that Alexander, who comes off as completely endearing whatever gender he identifies with, is more lesbian or even straight male than he is gay boy — spiky hair and tank top aside.
We’ve all seen how changing cultural conventions can irritate, even as they generate greater tolerance and acceptance. Tranny teens have run for homecoming queen, and Bill O’Reilly practically foamed at the mouth earlier this month when a pair of happy lesbians were voted “cutest couple” for their high school yearbook.
But breaking down mainstream conventions is different than pressuring one minority group to include another as one of its own. Some of those tensions came to light during the divisive debate over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and whether to go forward with “sexual orientation” protections if the votes weren’t there for “gender identity” as well.
Some of us were upset at the idea that GLB people aren’t deserving of equal rights, or even our own organizations, because of the “LGBT” groupthink that has taken over the movement.
Those who wanted to scrap Barney Frank’s gay-only ENDA, on the other hand, argued that gays are necessarily gender non-conformists. Some even broadened the definition of “transgender” far beyond transsexuals and cross-dressers to include anyone who doesn’t fit masculine and feminine gender stereotypes.
But by saying “we’re all transgender,” in effect, the word itself becomes too watered-down to be useful as a descriptor. There are important differences between sexual orientation and gender identity, and blurring the lines doesn’t do anyone a favor, after a point.
Is a butch lesbian who identifies as a tranny boi no different than a gay twink, despite his passion for “The L Word” and Angelina Jolie? If Alexander wins Metroweekly’s Coverboy of the Year, will he “raise awareness” of transgender issues, or just raise a few hackles about how political correctness can rob the fun out of even the silliest of beauty contests.
Stay tuned. Voting on Metroweekly.com finishes this weekend.
November 18, 2007
Posted by: Chris
This is Gay Pride weekend here in Buenos Aires, where my partner and I are living for the rest of this year. My first reaction was to the small size of the event, since B.A. bills itself (repeatedly) as "the gay capital of South America." I would put the numbers at tens of thousands, certainly smaller than most big city Pride events I've attended, and a tiny, tiny percentage of the millions who filled Avenida Paulista for the world's largest Gay Pride, in São Paulo, Brasil, back in June.
The location yesterday was perfect, however, on the Plaza de Mayo, scene of Evita's famous speech on the balcony of the Casa Rosada. From that picturesque square, the parade proceeded through the Centro to the Plaza de los Dos Congresos. The event here in BsAs is called the "Marcha del Orgullo," or Pride March, and it did have a more political feel than the "Parada de Orgulho" in São Paulo.
There were political banners for the event's theme, "Equality, Liberty, Diversity," as well as, "The same rights with the same names," a direct call for marriage and not simply civil union recognition for gay couples. Still, drag queens dressed in wedding gowns, gyrating to "The Wedding Song" is unlikely to change many minds on the subject.
Gay marriage is a hot topic right now in Argentina, since the election earlier this month of Cristina Kirchner, the current first lady and a former senator. A prominent Cristina backer in the Senate introduced a gay marriage bill in the weeks leading up to the election, but gay Latino blogger Blabbeando has raised a number of legitimate questions about whether that support can be attributed to the prime candidate herself. Reading his analysis, Cristina comes off a bit like her cautious and calculating counterpart running for president back home in the U.S.
It's a mistake to judge a community by its Gay Pride, but overall I'm surprised that gay Argentinians are pushing for marriage. Moreso than in Rio or São Paulo, many gays here seem to be fairly closeted, although many would have you believe they are post-gay rather than pre-gay. Perhaps a bit of both is fair, but it speaks well of the activists here and the political scene that gays can be a political force with such a (relatively) small visible presence.
More pics follow here and on the jump as well.
January 18, 2007
Posted by: Chris
I remember being excited and worried at the same time when a whole slew of condo buildings replaced dilapidated storefronts and the like along 14th Street, N.W., between my office at 14th & U and my home just a few blocks up the hill. Excited because the neighborhood was changing so rapidly — already a complete makeover since my arrival in 2001. Worried because I'd seen something like this in Midtown Atlanta — the queens moved in, renovated home by home, then came the developers, then came the condo buildings, then came the glut and the condo market crash.
Last week, my condo hit three months on the market — not unheard of these days but not so great, either. I found some solace from this New York Times article from Tuesday that I'm not the only one caught in the glut. The story reports how even a savvy businessman like David Franco, the respected founder and owner of Universal Gear clothing stores, has been forced by the market to convert a planned condo building a couple of blocks from me from condo to rental apartments:
Since the middle of 2006, the frenzied condominium market here and in several other big cities like Las Vegas, Miami and Boston has collapsed. Once roaring sales have slowed to a trickle, sparse inventory has mushroomed into a glut and soaring prices have flattened out and started falling.
In hopes of salvaging something from their costly plans, hundreds of developers like Mr. Franco are looking to the strong market for apartments, planning to rent their units for at least a couple of years while waiting for today’s condo surplus to shrink. …
Industry analysts also point out that rents may start sagging if too many condos are converted into apartments too quickly. While rents were rising at a robust 6.1 percent annual pace in the Washington area late last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some buildings in the suburbs have recently started promoting move-in specials and other incentives to lure renters.
My place is in The Maxwell, a Wardman building from 1909 that was largely gutted and redone — preserving a beautiful staircase inside and parquet floors — in 2004. The timing was right for me, when I was ready to quit my 30-minute commute to/from my home in Falls Church, Va. That's what I get, I suppose, from being one of those gays who doesn't start trends but tries to be among the first to follow.
January 09, 2007
Posted by: Chris
A friend forwarded me a short but very sweet piece by Kevin Naff, my successor as editor at the Washington Blade, who wrote an open note in the Washington Post before the New Year to newly-sworn-in D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty not to forget his promises to gay District residents.
Kevin reminded Fenty of two campaign pledges: First, to release a memo written ages ago by former Mayor Anthony Williams' (gay) attorney general, advising whether the District should recognize marriage licenses issued to gay couples in places like Massachusetts and Canada. It's long been rumored that the memo says D.C. should give full recognition to such couples, but Williams reneged on repeated promises to release it. Fenty has said he would.
Second, Fenty came out strongly during the campaign in favor of gay marriage itself in the nation's capital. As I pointed out in a recent blog post, Kevin reminds the mayor that political stars are now aligned for such a move:
The fight for same-sex-marriage rights has been delayed in the District because politicians and activists have feared a backlash from the GOP-controlled Congress. But as Heidi Klum would say, "The Republicans are out!" So that excuse is gone. The City Council has the votes to approve a same-sex-marriage bill. The council should pass it and you should sign it. It's the right thing to do for the city's gay and lesbian families that lack basic protections and benefits that are taken for granted by our straight counterparts.
Here, here! Not to mention the lie it would put to the idea that only "judicial activists" can bring about marriage for gay couples.
Finally, Kevin asks Fenty to use his "bully pulpit to denounce homophobic rants" delivered by bullies in the pulpits of some prominent African-American churches in D.C. For a city with black political leadership that is incredibly supportive of gay rights, there are a surprising number of prominent ministers playing an active role in city politics who deliver jaw-dropping sermons about the sexual practices of gay men and lesbians.
I'm not sure it's necessarily the mayor's role to respond to Sunday sermons, but if they come from any of his own political allies, or those he has appointed to District commissions (as was the case with Fenty's predecessor), then absolutely he should find his voice. Fortunately, there's every indication that Adrian Fenty will do exactly that.
January 03, 2007
Posted by: Chris
My top New Year's resolution is to marry my partner in Washington, D.C., in 2007. I know, people say you should pick resolutions that are reasonably within reach. But marriage for gay couples in our nation's capital this year is, like so many other New Year's resolutions, mostly a matter of will power.
When it comes to legal recognition for gay couples, the District of Columbia already ranks very high. Washington's "domestic partnerships" offer many of the same rights and responsibilities as marriage, including child support, alimony, inheritance, legal standing to sue for wrongful death, immunity from testimony against a partner, automatic power of attorney for financial, medical and legal matters, and more.
Only marriage in Massachusetts; civil unions in Vermont, Connecticut and (now) New Jersey; and civil union-like domestic partnerships in California rank higher.
Much of the focus on the next states that might ramp up to marriage has been on places like Maryland, D.C.'s next door neighbor, and California, which have high profile marriage lawsuits pending before their state supreme courts, as well as New York, where the new Democratic governor supports full marriage equality.
But the political support in Washington is far more solid. Adrian Fenty, a Democrat sworn in as mayor on Jan. 2, is on record supporting full marriage, as did his predecessor. So does a clear majority of the D.C. Council, which includes one openly gay Democrat and one openly gay Republican who turned independent in 2004 after President Bush pushed for a federal marriage amendment.
Believe it or not, in Washington, D.C., of all places, the politicians aren't the problem. It's the gays — or more accurately, the local gay activists. Or to put it even more accurately, the few local and very vocal gay activists who make up the D.C. Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance.
For the most part, GLAA's leaders (since it has almost no active membership, per se) are old-old school. They have a long track record of lobbying local politicians, and they do it very well. They are smart and effective, at least on the battles they choose to fight.
But when it comes to marriage, GLAA's leaders have long suffered a failure of imagination and of courage. Their excuse has been the District's unique status in between that of a city and a state. Unlike other jurisdictions, the laws passed by the D.C. Council and signed by the mayor are subject to review by the Congress, which can effectively veto any law with which it disagrees.
Up till now, GLAA has argued that a D.C. marriage law would be subject to a near-certain veto by the District's Republican overseers in Congress — or worse, Congress could pass legislation blocking D.C. from passing a marriage law, which means it would require another act of Congress down the road to reopen the door.
But then came November, and the Republicans lost control of both houses of Congress. So surely now is the time, right? Not according to the final paragraphs of this Dec. 22 Washington Blade report:
GLAA spokesperson Rick Rosendall said the group — which supports same-sex marriage in principle — wants local and national gay leaders to carefully assess when it would be prudent to bring up a gay marriage bill for D.C., even under the new, Democratic control of Congress.
"It makes no sense strategically for us to dump on the Democrats' laps a marriage bill in the first year they came back after 12 years," Rosendall said. "The point is the numbers have not changed much."
Instead, the "activists" in GL"A"A seem far more interested in finding new homes for the seedy strip clubs displaced by the city's new baseball stadium than they are in marriage. In fact, therein may lie the problem. GLAA's silver-haired leadership probably relates more to those who ventured in to the now defunct Glorious Health & Amusement Club (a.k.a. the Glory Hole) than young D.C. gay couples aching to marry.
The arguments offered by Rosendall, the most intransigent of the GLAA bunch, make absolutely no sense. He counsels against any action this year, but next year is a presidential election year, which would be the worst possible time to try and push marriage legislation through.
What's more, "the numbers" have in fact changed quite dramatically because in Congress, having the majority means everything. The Democrats now control the committees that oversee D.C. and can block any effort to veto a District marriage law. They don't have to support gay marriage to do so; they only have to support states' rights and D.C. home rule — longstanding planks in the Democratic Party platform.
The Republicans have sucked all the air out of the gay marriage debate for three years now, claiming unelected "judicial activists" have decided the marriage question instead of "the people." In the District of Columbia, the people's elected representatives are ready to open up marriage for gay couples, a move that would be the first of its kind nationwide and enormously symbolic in our nation's capital — not to mention to those of us who are D.C. residents.
If only the "elders" in GL"A"A would step out of the strip clubs long enough to stop giving the politicians the cover to do nothing.