Monday, June 23, 2008

The Case of the Raging Grandma

Joyce Beddell will not be winning Grandmother of the Year. Right now she's just trying to win her freedom.

The 61-year-old from Reading, Pa., was arrested by police for beating the daylights out of her granddaughter after finding the 16-year-old in bed with another girl.

Apparently Beddell has a strong opinion about lesbianism, and a strong arm to back it up.

The Reading Eagle reported that Beddell's granddaughter, whose name hasn't been released, and another female 16-year-old from the neighborhood shared some afternoon delight one Thursday in mid-June.

I immediately wondered if that was their way of celebrating the end of the school year.

They had just finished their activities when Joyce Beddell walked into the upstairs bedroom and found them.

Beddell beat her granddaughter with a cane. The other girl fled to her house nearby. Understandable, but not the most chivalrous action.

Beddell's fury must've been monumental; she beat her granddaughter with her cane until it broke.

Neighbors saw Beddell leave the house, accompanied by her granddaughter, who was limping. Come to think of it, Beddell might've been limping too, her cane having just met a bad end.

The pair's destination was the house of the other girl. Grandma wanted to tell the girl's mother what the two teenagers had been up to.

The newspaper didn't say whether she got her chance. Even without that scene, the events read like a young adult novel. Teenage lesbian love paying the ultimate price.

Even if we're not talking about ardent devotion but simply a case of ill-timed teenage lust, the tale has a clear villain: a Pennsylvania grandmother with a scary anger-management problem and humungous homophobia.

After Beddell and her granddaughter returned from going visiting, Beddell resumed beating her, this time with a belt. Police arrived, thank God, investigating a report of child abuse.

The police ferried the teenager to the hospital. She was in great pain, suffering from serious bruises on her legs and buttocks. Her afternoon certainly turned from pleasure to pain faster than you can say "lesbian-in-training."

Beddell told the cops that she hadn't done anything wrong, and she should be allowed to discipline her granddaughter as she wished.

The police begged to differ, charging her with aggravated and simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and endangering the welfare of a child.

I feel confident that Beddell would say concern for the child's welfare was precisely why she beat the crap out of her. If smacking her with a cane keeps her from going gay, then she's going to lay in a supply of them. Raid all the drugstores in town. Knock them out from under old people. It's for her granddaughter's own good. Better crippled than a dyke!

After arraignment before a judge, Beddell wound up in Berks County Prison in lieu of $10,000 bail. If she's still firm in her belief that she did nothing wrong, she must be furious at her granddaughter, whose perverted actions were the reason her poor grandmother's keister landed in jail. Possibly Beddell is spending a lot of her prison time mentally designing a cane that won't break.

How would Joyce Beddell have reacted if she'd found her granddaughter in bed with a 16-year-old boy? Would she have beaten her just the same, or giddily celebrated that, while the girl might get pregnant, at least she isn't queer?

If Beddell's granddaughter was in the closet, she sure isn't now. Everybody in Reading knows what she was doing that afternoon, and how she paid for it. Out of the closet and into the hospital is a horrid teenage coming-out scenario. I hope she gets some help—from people who don't wield canes.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Hissing at Kissing

I'm the only person in Seattle who hasn't weighed in on the Ballpark Kissers. Time for me to step up to the plate.

The case of the two lesbians ordered to stop smooching at a Seattle Mariners game has not only engrossed the local media and blogging types, but has popped up in newspapers from Cape Cod to Minneapolis to Phoenix.

The nationwide interest in this incident seems to stem from its contrast with Seattle's gay-friendly reputation. I presume the salacious aspect hasn't hurt, either.

In case you've still managed to miss the details, let's review them. Sirbrina Guerrero, 23, attended a Mariners game at Safeco Field with a date, 21, who's in the closet. During the third inning, an usher told the two gals to stop kissing. A woman nearby had complained that kids were in the crowd and parents would be forced to explain why two women were locking lips.

Accused of necking, Guerrero said later she and her date merely pecked while eating garlic fries. They "were just showing affection," but a straight couple about seven rows away was making out.

First, if Guerrero and her date were eating garlic fries, it's a good thing they had each other to kiss.

Second, it's ironic that the closeted girlfriend now finds herself nationally referred to, even if anonymously, as a participant in a lesbian smooching furor.

Third, considering how disappointing the Mariners have been this season, they're lucky to have anybody in the stands.

In the days that followed, Dan Savage, sex-advice columnist and editor of a Seattle alternative weekly, called for a kiss-in. Some accused Guerrero, who was a contestant on the MTV reality show "A Shot at Love With Tila Tequila," of seeking attention.

Then the Mariners released the results of an internal review. "We believe that our staff acted appropriately because they were responding to the behavior of the couple involved, not because of the couple's sexual orientation."

Two staffers described that behavior as "making out," "fondling," and "groping."

If that's true, I guess the gals weren't really interested in the game.

Safeco staffers told the women to "tone it down," not stop kissing. The two "refused to modify their behavior, began swearing at the seating hosts and complained that they were being singled out for their sexual orientation."

The Mariners bemoaned the accusations of discrimination. And well they should, since non-discrimination is their policy and the city's law. Moreover, since Seattle has such a large gay population, the organization would be dumber than toast to alienate all those paying customers.

To Guerrero, the Mariners' statement was as palatable as following garlic fries with nachos, sushi, and cotton candy. "What they are saying is so far from the truth," she told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "It makes me sick."

She said she's never experienced discrimination—"until now." What happened at Safeco was "very painful and embarrassing."

So as I write this the situation has come down to he said, she said, oy vey.

Whatever the truth, whatever the motivations, this case has raised several important questions. Seattleites are doing some soul-searching on how gay-friendly they really are. It's never a bad thing for a majority to ponder how it treats a minority.

Then there's the matter of public displays of affection. The same rules that apply to straights should apply to gays. Kissing at the ballpark is fine. Fondling at the ballpark is not. Unless what you're fondling is the baseball you just caught.

Regarding that woman in the crowd who complained to the usher--if the lesbians were being a spectacle, then fine. But if she can't bear to see any lesbian affection for fear of having to explain it to kids, she'd best plan on never leaving the house.