Whew! This should be it on everything that happened in the past month. We should now be back to our regularly scheduled weekly round-up.
It’s been a fun couple of weeks for me. My sister is in town between a semester in Russia and her last semester in Wisconsin (she should have something to say for us about that soon!), and I’ve been spending tons of time with her. We hosted a dinner party last weekend, spent this week getting my apartment from mostly-moved-in to fully set up and looking like a home, and two nights ago broke it in with a housewarming party. It’s been lots of fun, but blogging and spending time with my other friends have been falling by the wayside a bit as I try to stock up on time with her enough to last me the next three months. They say that how you spend the New Year is how you spend the next year, and I would be so okay with spending this year in people’s living rooms with a few close friends. Eating homemade soup, tearing apart neocon craziness, and laughing til it hurts. Bring it on.
Meanwhile, in the world:
I still have reservations about Rick Warren. But this Huffington Post piece my friend Rachel pointed me to makes some very good points. Warren looks far less bad when marriage is not the lense you look through. While I’ll never be a fan, even if he weren’t invested in retaining his right to speak out against homosexuality from the pulpit, we all know marriage is not the lense I look through. And if we’re going to have a country full of evangelicals I’d rather have them be the type that spend most of their energy toward fighting poverty than the ones who spend it talking about the evil gays. And his won’t be the only religious voice present that day. I take back my reservations about going to the inauguration – I’ll be there. Even if I do make faces while Warren’s talking.
Tamora Pierce points out that, in all of the fuss about Warren, almost no one is talking about Reverend Joseph E. Lowery. Who is not only a giant of the Black civil rights movement but also strongly, publicly, consistently pro-LGBT rights. It’s a remarkable oversight, shame on us.
My friend Stacey has a brilliant and optimistic conspiracy theory concerning Warren. She allows that it’s entirely possible that Obama has made a stupid and/or thoughtless mistake in selecting Warren to give the invocation. Neither of us are such rabid Obama fans that we think that’s impossible. But while we don’t know whether he’s devious, we do know he’s very smart. So what if this was a calculated move intended to piss off his base, so that he would have to pass LGBT rights legislation to placate them? He does have more people up in arms about it than I would have predicted, and he’s had to make some strong pro-LGBT rights statements as a result; maybe he did it intentionally, so he’d be “cornered” into supporting us. I don’t know that I buy it, but I like it as a theory.
Of course, I’d like it a lot more if he’d just openly support us.
The Canadian government is trying to decide whether to send Jane Okojie back to Nigeria, where her bisexuality is apparently punishable by up to 14 years in prison. I always find the equivocation in these cases puzzling and frustrating. The question at hand is, ostensibly, whether she would be safe there. Given that her sexual orientation is against the law and punishable by prison time, and given that it’s now an internationally known case and it’s unlikely that she could go back and be successfully closeted (not, of course, that such a thing should ever be required for safety…) — how is there a question as to whether she’ll be safe? Surely there’s a lot I don’t know about immigration law — American, let alone Canadian — but it’s hard not to suspect institutional homophobia in what seem like such clear-cut cases.
Did you know modern liberalism is directly descended from ancient religious practices that most likely never existed to begin with? Whoa. Couldn’t resist sharing that snippet of crazy…
I have mixed feelings about this pledge some straight couples are making to get divorced if Prop 8 stands. On the one hand, it doesn’t actually help queers for straight people to not be married, and it’s less effective to try to give up your privilege than to fight for everyone to have it. On the other, solidarity and making a statement is important, and it would send a powerful message if this caught on with any meaningful numbers. I do think it’s a useful stance for an ally to take. But on the third and funniest hand, I love the way this turns on its head the religious right’s argument that same sex marriage will somehow destroy the institution of heterosexual marriage/damage individual heterosexual marriages. Apparently, it’s the outlawing of same sex marriage that will destroy heterosexual marriages.
In one of its many efforts to hand the Obama administration a messy disaster and force Obama to anger the religious right by rolling back discriminatory laws and policy, a couple of weeks ago the Bush administration increased doctors’ rights to refuse treatment based on religious or moral objections. This is really a disastrous policy, on any number of levels. It allows doctors to refuse not only abortions, contraception, and fertility treatment for lesbian couples, but to refuse to treat LGBT folks at all because they have religious or moral objections to us. Pharmacists could refuse to fill trans folks’ hormone prescriptions. Doctors could refuse to administer HIV tests, and would no longer be required to inform patients where else they could get the test. Whatever happened to the Hippocratic oath? If you are the sort of person who is going to refuse to care about the health of people you consider objectionable, you should not become a doctor. Leave it for those who have a calling to heal greater than their calling to punish. It is impossible to overstate how damaging this policy is, to LGBT folks and to everyone. At least we can be somewhat confident Obama will not allow this to stand — but it will serve to mightily piss off the religious right when he overturns it, Rick Warren or no Rick Warren. As Alex Blaze writes on The Bilerico Project, “That’s Bush: playing politics with less important people’s bodies for 14 years. Why should he stop now?”
Britain’s Court of Appeal has ruled that a straight man can be the victim of homophobic harassment at work — even though he is not gay, his coworkers do not believe him to be gay, and he knows that they don’t believe him to be gay. While I admit to an initial reaction of “oh, boo hoo, it’s hard to be straight,” I actually think this is a really valuable ruling. On the face of it, it’s unacceptable for this man’s colleagues to call him a faggot, mock him in the employee magazine, and otherwise make his work environment unbearable for him. Of course he should have recourse even though he’s straight. And on a deeper level, it’s important for people to see that heterosexism and rigid gender norms hurt everyone. Unfortunately, I doubt that most people outside the queer world will go this deep with their analysis, but I can dream. Because that’s very clearly what’s happening here; this man fails in some ways to live up to a strict cultural idea of what a cisgendered straight man should be, and he’s being punished for it. The system as it currently exists does oppress all of us — although, of course, not equally.
This didn’t happen in the past month, but on Bilerico’s list of their top 70 most-read posts of the last year I found this look at transgender characters in science fiction. There are even more interesting-looking books mentioned in the comments. And there’s a list of the top 10 books every bisexual should read here. I’ve only read one of the books on it so far, so I can’t speak to the quality of their choices, but several of them have been on my to-read list for some time.
HRC is pressuring Obama to make certain concessions in exchange for picking Warren (there you go, Miss Stacey!) But their call for Obama to prioritize Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, more severe punishment for hate crimes, and unequal tax treatment of domestic partnerships seems to me to again illustrate how HRC, with its lack of an intersectional analysis, often misses the point. I agree that it’s important for Obama to endorse a gender expression-inclusive ENDA, but I don’t know that I would call for anything other than an endorsement even on that in the first 100 days. This man is taking office at an extremely difficult and critical time. I would prioritize things like sorting out the economy, getting started on rescuing the environment, and changing the previously discussed guidelines that allow doctors to refuse people medical care over an LGBT-specific agenda. Being able to afford to keep our homes and feed ourselves and our families is critical — especially to queers, who are more likely to be un- or under-employed. So is being able to count on getting medical care when we need it, and having the earth remain habitable for humankind. I absolutely agree that Obama needs to practice what he preached on LGBT equality, and that he needs to keep the promises he made to secure our votes and not just forget about us once he’s in office. But he can’t do everything he needs to achieve in his presidency in the first 100 days, and maybe we should make sure we will all be alive to struggle for the things on the gay agenda.
I’m not even sure what’s going on with this piece about Ashlee Simpson , whose husband apparently announced on the Howard Stern show that they have anal sex. Is the suggestion here that men who want to have anal sex with women must be bisexual? ‘Cause, um, there’s nothing true about that. Lots of straight men fantasize about anal sex, often having more to do with it being forbidden than with a woman’s ass being the next best substitute for a man’s. Nor is anal sex the only way for men to have sex with other men, though people always seem to assume it is. Any idea what’s going on here?
Mona Charen writes in the National Review Online about same sex marriage being a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad thing. Mostly not on its own merits, but because of the awful things it would lead to (married twins! Seriously, folks, there’s no difference! In which case why do we even bother to have the word “incest”when we could just use the word “gay,” and life would stay nice and simple?) But the really charming part is where she writes, “But what about bisexuals? I ask this not to poke fun or to hurt anyone’s feelings, but in all seriousness. How does gay marriage help a bisexual? I assume that if you are bisexual, you believe that you need to have sexual relationships with both men and women. If you are a bisexual man married to a woman, don’t you need to break the marriage bond to express your bisexuality? If you choose to express just the homosexual side of your bisexuality, then aren’t you gay? Likewise, if you choose to express only the heterosexual side, how are you a bisexual? Why is bisexuality not a recipe for infidelity?’ In all seriousness, indeed. Could she be more disingenuous? Going on to talk about the definition of the word “transgender” she cites the Wikipedia article, so clearly she’s capable of doing at least a minimum of research before making counter-arguments against her “assumptions” without bothering to find out how things actually are (although she then dismisses the many things “transgender” can encompass as “a multitude of sexual deviances,” so no points for her there.) The same five minutes of research that must have required would have told her that there’s a difference between bisexuality and polyamory, and that bisexuality is not synonymous with infidelity. Maybe that’s too much effort to put in for the bisexuals. Someone should tell her that bisexuality is about being attracted to both men and women, not necessarily on whether you act one both or either. The same way she doesn’t cease to be straight when she’s single or not actually at that moment engaged in the act of having sex with a man, we remain bisexual even when we commit to monogamous relationships. And of course we’re attracted to other people while in them, but so are monosexuals — and they probably act on it at about the same rate that we do. Also, thanks for dismissing queers’ objections when bigots compare gay sex to incest, bestiality, and pedophilia as “hurt feelings.” That implies that the statement is true but unnecessarily harsh, rather than a deliberately inflammatory inaccurate analogy designed to get right-thinking Americans offended and disgusted at the thought that they might be condoning such sex. (Oh, wait, I should be the someone who tells her. That’s the great thing about having a blog; it prompts me to do all kinds of things I used to think of but not bother with. Consider it done.) I saw this on Art at the Auction, which takes it apart quite nicely. The Confabulum also has a counter-argument , but it’s more focused on marriage, which I find boring. And the author makes a point of dismissing the slippery slope argument by claiming that there are other good reasons to disallow group marriage, without ever bothering to explain what they are. It’s my favorite when people argue for their rights by agreeing with the majority that some other group still doesn’t deserve similar rights. Give us same sex marriage, we’re just like you, not like those nasty people who want to have more than one partner at once. Those debaucherous perverts.
This is a remarkable piece of wackjobbery. The evils of Santa, gay reindeer, a gratuitous mention of how women should stay home, and wouldn’t it be great if all the queers died. Go ahead, read it for the laughs. (Ok, the last part is more plausible and therefore much much less funny. Did you know that all queers are rapists? Maybe he’s confused because the sin that led to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah wasn’t gay sex at all – it was raping all the travelers that came through town. Which I have to agree is pretty wicked. Also, check out the first comment — with friends like that, who needs enemies?) And speaking of the laughs and wackjobbery, I recently spent two hours with friends tearing apart Dennis Prager’s theory that women should never deny sex to their husbands, giggling the whole time. Thanks to Pandagon for pointing it out to me, and doing a hilarious job of refuting it.
I really enjoyed this piece on the newly developing acceptance for transfolks in Reform and even Conservative Judaism. I’ll have to look up the new rabbinic arguments arguments in support of accepting people as their authentic gender. And check out Transtorah, a new resource on transgender issues for the Jewish community. The piece respectfully referred to trans men (never using that phrase, but saying “transgender rabbi” or “transgender student” in a way that makes the word “man” superfluous rather than pointedly leaving it out). They lost me, though, when they then referred to a trans woman as “a transgender male-to-female literature professor…formerly a man known as [previous name].” They didn’t feel the need to tie the trans men they discussed to their assigned genders with the phrase “female-to-male” or their previous (assumedly) female names, and I don’t know why they did it with this woman.
I want to read this biography of Dusty Springfield now. I don’t pay much attention when people label celebrities of the past as bisexual, as many bi activists tend to seize on their cover relationships, one kiss with a person of the same gender, or misinterpreted cultural context and assign them an identity they very well might not have claimed. I’m fascinated, though, by what the article says about Springfield’s disregard for her culture’s rules and suggestion to “ask the people who go to bed with me” if one wants to know her sexuality. That sounds much more like the kind of approach and identity that’s interesting to me.
And finally, I give you this discussion of the possible benefits female bisexuality can have for men. It classifies female celebrities who’ve fooled around with girls (some identifying as bisexual, some not) as “bisexual straight women,” and posits that they talk about being attracted to other women more than they act on it, and may indeed want to have sex with women but certainly don’t see them as relationship material or potential life partners. Which is especially puzzling since the list includes Lindsay Lohan, who seems to see one particular woman as exactly that. “This sexual trend is spreading like wild fire all over the world and many people are already benefiting from it!” author Janet Sheridan writes. She explains that female bisexual behavior is not more common now, only more accepted, and my favorite part is her explanation of the aforementioned benefit. You see, women will be more comfortable experimenting with another w0man when a man is present (because the dick reassures her of her core heterosexuality? because really women only ever do anything to turn boys on anyway? It’s unclear). This will make them feel safe to “enjoy the soft and creamy touch of another female“…no, I am not making this up. So, “this is why it’s ESSENTIAL that you learn how to help women transform their secret sexual desires and fantasies into reality… If you learn to do this, having threesomes regularly will be easier than you ever possibly imagined….If you want to attract threesomes into your life you’ll need to understand the little known psychological secrets that will literally push any woman over the edge to having a threesome with you.” Go on, push women over the edge and out of their comfort zone for your own sexual gratification. Everybody wins!
(For the record: I am not claiming that some women don’t do it for the attention. But the way people dismiss all bi women as doing it for the attention is still offensive. And I don’t even have space here to talk about how the women who do probably do so because they live in a world where pleasing men is the only way to power.)
And a little giggle as a reward for those of you that got through all that:
In Philadelphia with Sarah a couple of weeks ago, I walked by the construction site for the soon-to-be National Museum of Jewish American History. Along the wall outside, blocking your view of the ugly construction site, they have billboards with pictures of prominent Jewish figures and little blurbs about what they accomplished. Next to a picture of Betty Friedan, it said “She invented the feminine mystique.” I’m sorry, what? No. She wrote The Feminine Mystique. She critiqued the feminine mystique – or if that rhymes too much for you, or you want to play into the word mystique, she revealed the feminine mystique. But invented it? I bet she’s rolling in her grave.