Monday, December 21, 2009

Homo Stupidicus

You've heard of Peking Man and Java Man. Now meet Mecklenburg Man.

This prehistoric specimen, Bill James, is a Mecklenburg County (N.C.) commissioner. At a recent public meeting in Charlotte, commissioners debated whether to offer domestic-partner benefits to county employees.

During the proceedings, James, a Republican white man, sat next to Vilma Leake, a Democratic black woman. Presumably each now wishes the other had been sitting in another country.

Leake revealed her personal tie to the debate: "A son that I birthed that died of AIDS and I did not know that in 2010 I would be sitting here to defend . . . his lifestyle," she said with fervor.

After her speech, James leaned over and asked, "Your son was a homo, really?"

James is a caveman, really.

Leake responded, "You're going to make me hurt you. Don't do that to me. Don't talk about my son."

After the vote--the board approved domestic-partner benefits for Mecklenburg County employees in same-sex relationships—Leake briefly left her seat, still smarting.

She wants an apology, and the chair of the commission agrees. James told the Charlotte Observer he won't apologize. He said he was just asking for a clarification, wasn't making a derogatory comment, and used a slang word he grew up with.

Language was limited in the cave.

WBTV asked James for an interview, but he said with all the recent talking and interviews he'd lost his voice. Before you say hallelujah, check out how ignorant and nasty he can be when he types.

In an e-mail to the TV station, James called Leake "a religious hypocrite" who "used her son's 'lifestyle' and his death from HIV-AIDS to justify voting for benefits to allow individuals to use tax dollars to engage in the same behavior that resulted in her son's death.

"It is akin to someone whose son is an alcoholic and died from the disease, using his death from drinking as justification to have the taxpayers pay for more booze."

Somewhere, a Cro-Magnon village is missing its idiot.

He devoted his longest paragraph to taking Leake to task for threatening him with violence, saying that's her pattern. He has a long history of shooting from the lip, but that he omitted.

It seems to me the average homophobic politician of today makes an effort to avoid obviously anti-gay language. James is below average. With people calling for his ouster for his initial insensitivity, instead of hushing up, he spewed bile till Charlotte was knee-deep.

Not very politic for a politician. My guess is he likes that, views himself as a straight-shooter. Or he might simply be such a Neanderthal that all he knows how to do is speak his simple mind, then if there's trouble, automatically start swinging. He skipped evolution or evolution skipped him.

Before he lost his voice, James spoke on local talk radio's "Keith Larson Show." He said, "If Vilma is, frankly, dumb enough to try to use her sick and sadly dead son as justification for allowing more sickness and more death, then I've got a right to challenge that, in a public setting, in the arena."

Yes, he called a fellow county commissioner dumb. Yes, he again said being gay is lethal. Yes, a paramecium has more brains and compassion.

How long will the people of Mecklenburg County put up with James? His initial slur even disturbed people who agree with him. It and his subsequent statements should get him booted from the commissioner's chair.

Perhaps he'll land in a natural history museum, where he'll be linked with Peking Man, Java Man and others that—to his intense embarrassment—belong to the species Homo erectus.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Rainbow and TV Icons

Meredith Baxter's announcement that she is a lesbian has put a--you should excuse the expression--kink in the long line of all-American TV moms.

It's not June Cleaver or Harriet Nelson who has come out, but as Elyse Keaton on "Family Ties," Baxter was a loving mother and wife, a maternal anchor on a hugely popular show that ran during most of the '80s.

Now Baxter isn't just a member of the TV-mom sorority. She's also one of those LGBT actors who played iconic straight roles. Sometimes America's favorite, most heterosexual characters were played by actors who, well, were really, really acting.

Baxter says only relatively recently did she figure out she's gay, so she wasn't consciously hiding anything. From the television audience, anyway. Whether she was hiding anything from herself is between her, her therapist and, this being L.A., her other therapist.

Elyse Keaton, a liberal former hippie, had what so many TV moms had over the decades preceding her: maternal warmth, patience, wisdom. She also had what a TV mom needed by the '80s: a job, although I admit I couldn't remember she was an architect. You could argue that handling her conservative son Alex, famously played by Michael J. Fox, was work enough.

During the '80s Elyse Keaton was and she remains still one of America's best-known mothers. Now we know one of America's famous mommies was a lesbian. Life is good.

I had no idea back in the '70s that Grandpa Walton was anything other than straight as a board from the Walton family sawmill. In fact, Will Geer was more like the curly shavings.

Grandpa, patriarch of "The Waltons," was a good-natured character. Hard-working, dedicated to his family, wise, mischievous and fond of visiting the Baldwin sisters for a nip of upscale moonshine, he was still in love with his wife of a zillion years. I'd guess that regardless of class, race, religion or anything, many Americans would've loved to have Zeb Walton as their grandfather. He was the definition of endearing. Sort of a walrus meets a panda.

I can't think of any other grandfather on TV more appealing. Actually, I can hardly think of any other grandfather. Grandpa Munster? He was more all-Transylvanian than all-American.

When Will Geer took the role of Zeb Walton, he'd already had a long career on the stage and in film and television. He was attracted to radical politics; actress Helen Hayes once called him "the world's oldest hippie." In 1933 Geer met Harry Hay, who would later be one of the founders of gay liberation. The two men became lovers.

Geer was married for 20 years, and it seems the most accurate label for him is bisexual. America's ultimate grandfather dug both men and women. On Walton's Mountain, things weren't quite what they seemed.

Things weren't at all what they seemed in the case of one of America's foremost TV dads. Robert Reed, Mike Brady in "The Brady Bunch," was gay. That secret was hidden even better than whatever happened to Tiger the dog.

According to greginhollywood.com, Florence Henderson, who played Carol Brady, spoke of her TV husband during her recent one-woman show. "I always felt so sad for him because in the early '70s you couldn't come out because you wouldn't work," she said. "And here he was playing the father of America and he was gay."

Reed spent more time in the closet than Alice spent in the kitchen.

Speaking of Ann B. Davis, I've heard the rumors but I've no idea what her orientation is. Perhaps she's straight, perhaps not. If not, then in addition to an iconic TV mother, grandfather and father, we could even claim a housekeeper, too.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Turkey Count

It's that time of year when we think about turkey. Or in my case, turkeys. In honor of the season, I'm highlighting many people, at home and abroad, who've recently behaved like turkeys.

I realized I didn't know what to call a group of turkeys, a drawback when writing about multiple foul fowl. I searched the Internet for the proper term, and came up with a surprising number of distinctive options: rafter, gang, gobble, flock, brood and bale. The turkey is a wordy birdie.

So let's take a look at our first rafter of turkeys, which requires leaving these shores for the Philippines. A gay rights group called Ang Ladlad (Out of the Closet) wants to run in next year's national elections. But the Elections Commission decided the group can't register as a political party because it advocates immorality.

The Elections Commission is a gang of turkeys. A gobble of gobblers.

The commission stated Ang Ladlad "tolerates immorality which offends religious beliefs" and exposes youth to "an environment that does not conform to the teachings of our faith." The nation is largely Roman Catholic, but the commission generously cited passages condemning homosexuality from both the Bible and the Quran.

The leader of the gay rights group has filed a petition asking the Elections Commission to reconsider its ruling, which he points out was based mainly on religious grounds, not legal ones. We can only hope that some commission members start thinking for themselves and stop being birds of a feather.

Over 150 Christian leaders make up the next flock of turkeys. Roman Catholic bishops, conservative evangelicals and others issued "The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience," a document outlining their opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion and promising to protect religious freedoms.

These folks do a pretty good Turkey Lurkey.

The document claims that legalizing gay marriage could lead to marriage rights for "polyamorous partnerships, polygamous households, even adult brothers, sisters, or brothers and sisters living in incestuous relationships." The sky is fixin' to fall. Just like Henny Penny said.

The authors try to sound compassionate, but the sentiment falls flat: "We acknowledge that there are those who are disposed towards homosexual and polyamorous conduct and relationships, just as there are those who are disposed towards other forms of immoral conduct."

The statement continually couples gayness and polyamory. Is homosexuality so unthreatening these days that the authors felt the need to amp up the fear level? Or is there some meaningful movement for polyamory that I've missed? If it's the latter, I need to shake my caruncle—the fleshy growth on a turkey's head—and wake up.

Our final dirty bird is in Oklahoma. State Sen. Steve Russell, R-Oklahoma City, is all aflutter over the new federal hate crimes law protecting people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

In a press release, he claims the law "far exceeds" the power of the federal government over states according to the 10th Amendment. Russell further frets about harm to freedom of speech and religion. He's introducing multi-pronged legislation to "protect" the rights of Oklahomans.

If you've never heard the call of a turkey, it sounds like this: "Basically, if Oklahoma decided a case that the Feds later wanted to overturn, they would be on their own—we would not share evidence or manpower."

Russell flipped gays the bird when he told the University of Oklahoma's student newspaper, "Sexual orientation is a very vague word that could be extended to extremes like necrophilia."

At this time of year we ponder what we're thankful for. These turkeys—the Philippine Election Commission, "The Manhattan Declaration" backers and state Sen. Russell—don't make the cut.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Waiting on the Outcome

My girlfriend Anne and I reached the point in our relationship where we wanted to make it official. Also, her employer wanted proof that she and I are really a couple and she hadn't put me on her insurance because I looked pretty.

Here in the state of Washington same-sex marriage is illegal, so making it official means domestic partnership. We filled out the requisite forms and had them notarized. I deposited the envelope with the documents into a mailbox.

On Election Day. I don't know if it was an act of whimsy or masochism.

As you've likely heard, Washington was voting on whether to expand the domestic partnership law. Anne and I didn't know, when we submitted the papers, whether we would be receiving some of the rights of domestic partnership or all of them.

It was like buying a grab bag at the dollar store.

Anne goes crazy when she reads exactly what I just wrote, that the vote was over whether to expand the state's domestic partnership law. In fact, the legislature had expanded the law earlier this year; scaredy-cat religious conservatives responded by getting Referendum 71 on the ballot, which asked voters whether to approve or reject the legislature's action.

There. I've explained that the referendum was actually about taking away rights we'd been given. Now Anne will be happy, and there will be peace in my domestically partnered household.

Washington got the domestic partnership ball rolling in 2007, allowing same-sex couples all of 23 rights and responsibilities. In 2008 the legislature added over 170 more. In 2009 it added about 285 rights and responsibilities, bringing domestic partnership level with marriage.

What a peculiar mixture of pride and unease I felt dropping the partnership forms in the mail. Would Anne and I have the rights of 2008 or 2009? It wouldn't have surprised me if the cast of "Rocky Horror," dressed in postal uniforms, had jumped out from behind the mailbox to do the "Time Warp."

Our ability to take care of each other was in doubt thanks to a campaign led by a man on his third marriage, and another man with a history of unpaid taxes who lives in Oregon. Don't beam me up, Scotty—beam them up instead.

With our rights to be decided by the electorate, all Anne and I could do was wait. And wait some more, thanks to Washington's mostly mail-in ballot system. Finally it became clear that our side had won, and Anne and I were about to become industrial-strength domestic partners.

In signing off on the "everything but marriage" law, Washington voters became the first in any state to approve a gay-rights ballot measure. The evergreen trees in the Evergreen State should stand a little taller today.

However, we were clearly a state divided. Every county east of the Cascades rejected expanding the law. In fact, only the counties huddled around Puget Sound voted correctly. Something in the water, indeed.

I don't know precisely how I would've reacted had the outcome been different. I'm not the type to do an interpretive dance around the Space Needle—more likely I'd have spewed a colorful stream while walking the dogs.

I'm filled with sympathy for Mainers devastated by the vote on same-sex marriage in their state. Like us, their state government had passed a law, and reactionary citizenry had reacted with a ballot challenge. Unlike us, they'd achieved the dizzying height of marriage, so their fall was great.

California, Maine, Washington—each granted rights, only to see some residents try to snatch them back. With all this moving forward and being yanked back, this phase of our struggle calls for a neck brace.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Senator Makes the Grade

People in the public eye who utter inanities about gays keep me busy. I regularly poke into the verbal and written slams offered up by folks all around the world, from Oklahoma state legislator Sally Kern (Homosexuality is "the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism."), to Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov (Pride parades are "satanic.").

As a citizen of the state of Washington I'd like to highlight my homies now and then, but prominent Washingtonians have been largely restrained of late—and thus uncooperative.

Val Stevens changed all that. The state senator penned an anti-gay diatribe that is world-class. She's suddenly become über-cooperative.

With Election Day near at hand, Stevens wrote a letter that appears on the Web site of Protect Marriage Washington, the group that got Referendum 71 on the ballot with the aim of ditching the domestic partnership rights the legislature granted. The purpose of Stevens' letter is to urge supporters to pony up more money.

I assume it will work, because her message is Armageddon is coming and it's dressed in drag:

"Could this be the final battle?

"Are the homosexuals finally going to take control of our culture and push their depraved lifestyle on our children and families?"

That's gotta have some reaching for their wallets and it's only the start of the letter. I give my fellow Evergreen Stater credit for effective writing. She mixes hyperbole, hysteria and hate into a paranoid witch's brew. Just in time for both Halloween and the election.

Further on Stevens refers again to the possible "final assault on our families and American culture by the homosexuals." Clearly she has an exaggerated view of the importance of our state. I mean, I'm fond of Washington and all, but Referendum 71 is no Yorktown. Even if the gays win this particular vote in this particular state, we won't be taking control of American culture. We lack the infrastructure.

Stevens bemoans the state having repealed sodomy laws in 1970, "with government turning a blind eye to a behavior commonly considered perversion—and still the case with a majority of Americans." Apparently the Arlington Republican was AWOL from the planet in 2003, when that notoriously bawdy bunch, the United States Supreme Court, took a different view of consensual gay sex.

But then her aim is to terrify, so she pushes several of the tried and true buttons. In addition to sodomy, she invokes NAMBLA, always a crowd-pleaser. Stevens also points to "the devastation in Scandinavian countries," apparently referring to the discredited but often cited statistical "proof" provided by conservative pundit Stanley Kurtz that gay marriage destroys straight marriage. I wonder how Scandinavians feel about American social conservatives holding them up as a sociological nuclear winter.

Stevens also frets over "the objective of the feminization of the male in our society." Wow. I wouldn't want to be a guy in her household. One hint of sensitivity and you're off to military school.

She worries about school children being told that homosexuality is normal, and about the free-speech rights of pastors, two of the drumbeats that have become popular with her set in the recent past. While she bemoans the fact that gays in Washington are, "after 27 years of relentless pursuit," a protected group, she doesn't use the phrase "special rights." Obviously an oversight.

Now that the Washington state senator has put herself on the world map of bigots, I look forward to her next offering. I don't think she can top this for sheer hysteria. On the other hand, if she can tell supporters "we are on the verge of losing the battle of our lifetimes" over domestic partnership, there's no telling, when the battle really is over same-sex marriage, what hyperbolic heights she'll climb.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Soccer Snub

A soccer team in suburban Paris doesn't play well with others.

The Creteil Bebel club refused to play a match against a gay club called Paris Foot Gay. The gay team said it received an e-mail stating, "Sorry, but because of the name of your team and in keeping with the principles of the team, which is a team of practicing Muslims, we cannot play against you."

Further: "Our convictions are stronger than a game of football. Sorry to have informed you so late."

Was the Muslim team so late in cancelling the match because the players were arguing among themselves what to do? Are they of one mind now? I hope not. I hope present conversation goes something like this:

Goalkeeper: We stood up for our principles.

Midfielder: At least it gave your hamstring more time to heal.

Goalkeeper: I'm proud of us. We served Allah on earth.

Midfielder: Why couldn't we just have beaten them? Wouldn't that prove Allah is great?

Goalkeeper: We might have lost.

Midfielder: Ah.

Goalkeeper: Better not to take chances. Better for us, better for Allah.

Midfielder: Don't want to lose to a bunch of men-women.

Goalkeeper: Right. Besides, they had an advantage.

Midfielder: What's that?

Goalkeeper: None of us would've wanted to touch them. Hard to play football that way.

Midfielder: Oh.

Goalkeeper: They probably would've tried to touch us every chance they got. Nasty people.

Midfielder: Do you think every gay person is bad?

Goalkeeper: Of course. They break the holy laws. Every one of them should get a red card and be kicked out of the game of life.

Midfielder: Kill them?

Goalkeeper: Well, maybe just a concentration camp. Allah is merciful.

Midfielder: French law doesn't work like that.

Goalkeeper: That's the problem! No morals in this country! We have to fight even harder to uphold our standards. Plus they treat us like dogs. Nice to stick it to them in their Crème Brûlée.

Midfielder: You love Crème Brûlée.

Goalkeeper: Yes, along with Pot de Crème, Crêpe Suzette and even Bûche de Noël. But you get my point. Here's a chance to tell the French to go jump in the Seine. If they want to defend their faggot countrymen, make a big deal out of this, that's their problem.

Midfielder: What do you think will happen with the other team's protest to the league?

Goalkeeper: Maybe a slap on the wrist. Maybe they'll tell us we have to play them. We won't do it. Even if we're thrown out of the league.

Midfielder: And if we've broken French law?

Goalkeeper: It was a pleasure.

Midfielder: You stand firmer than the Eiffel Tower.

Goalkeeper: Thank you.

Midfielder: I'd rather give up breathing than football.

Goalkeeper: To be true to Allah, we must make sacrifices.

Midfielder: I'm not sure this one is necessary. I've read about the other team. They aren't entirely gay. They have straight players. They have blacks, North Africans, different religions. I'm thinking of asking if they need a midfielder.

Goalkeeper: I cannot believe it.

Midfielder: Neither can I. I hope Allah understands I love to play. And when it comes to hating people, I'm not as firm as the Eiffel Tower. I'm more like a Béarnaise sauce.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Keeping the Young Folks Apart

In his New York Times Magazine column called "The Ethicist," Randy Cohen recently tackled a modern dilemma.

A mother wrote in to say that her daughter, in her late 20s, has a same-sex partner, a fact known to most of the large Catholic family. But the writer's in-laws, the lesbian's grandparents, don't know, and the rule at their summer home is that nonmarried younger folk may not share a bedroom with their opposite-sex partners.

Trouble on the Jersey shore. Or Cape Cod. Or the Maine coast.

The mother reported that her daughter and her daughter's partner often stay in a small room for two at the summer home, and the grandparents think of the girls, who live together, as good friends.

Well of course. Bosom buddies.

The writer's younger daughter is consternated that she and her boyfriend have to stay in separate rooms. With a family reunion looming, the mother asked whether she should have a chat with her in-laws about her older daughter.

Talk about the sandwich generation. This mother is getting squeezed by the old and new mores like a bike running over a PB&J.

The Ethicist responded that it's her daughter's decision whether to come out. He did allow for an emergency that might force the mother to tell, namely "a complicated science-fiction scenario in which thwarting an alien invasion demanded the intervention of some sort of heroic interstellar lesbian."

If her daughter "were reluctant to step up, well, then perhaps you could announce, 'She is gay enough to battle the slime creatures and save the planet.'"

But not until then.

Ethicist Cohen further said the grandparents make the law in their own home, and the daughter should mind the rule or stay elsewhere. "Your daughter should not exploit their obliviousness to cadge a free room."

The problem I see is that if she stays elsewhere she's essentially coming out. How else to tell her grandparents she's not staying with them anymore? The sheets are too scratchy?

She might not be ready to risk losing her grandparents over the truth. She might continue to lie about herself. But if her grandparents are the sort to reject her over her nature, that says little for them. Lying, rejecting--whose ethics are lesser? Now I remember why I didn't take philosophy.

On the bright side, Cohen, in telling the lesbian to vamoose, is also saying her relationship is on a par with the heterosexual relationships. Both orientations must adhere to the same rule. Both can groan about it equally.

This rule that nonmarrieds must sleep in different rooms is far from unusual. My parents enforced it for years. The obvious reason for it is to prevent unmarried opposite-sex couples from having sex. Or at least, to prevent them from having it within earshot.

In preventing couples from having sex before marriage, parents and grandparents uphold traditional morality, and prevent pregnancy. They've done their bit.

As positive as it is to have gay couples treated equally--in this case put in lockdown just like the straights—it's simultaneously more than a wee bit silly.

If you're looking to prevent a lesbian couple from having sex before marriage, you're going to be an acting warden for a long time, as long as it takes for gay marriage to be legal. Meanwhile the couple will be growing old and dropping a fortune at Motel 6.

Upholding traditional morality? Until recently gay relationships were considered the pinnacle of immorality. Housing a lesbian couple in separate rooms to prevent pregnancy? Unless the gals tote a turkey baster around, you need not worry.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Inside Whose Mind?

You remember Mark Foley. How could you forget him? It was just three years ago that the Republican Congressman from Florida resigned over the salacious instant messages he'd sent male teenagers who were former Congressional pages. The dude was disturbed.

Now he's been given a radio show. If it flies, this will be a resurrection the likes of which hasn't been seen since Jesus. Foley, in addition to being a wreck himself, managed to offend or embarrass everyone from gays to Republicans to gay Republicans.

His new political talk radio show is called "Inside the Mind of Mark Foley."

I swear on a stack of pancakes I thought that was a joke.

Who would want to get into his mind? Not long ago it was the site of competing blustery storms smashing against each other. He didn't need a therapist, he needed The Weather Channel.

For starters, Foley was a gay man in a lifelong closet. Even as his homosexuality was a badly kept secret, the Congressman stayed resolutely mum about it. While campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat in 2003, Foley was increasingly outed in the media. He responded by calling a press conference where he said his orientation wasn't important; he also denounced the rumors as "revolting and unforgivable."

Revolting to be called gay? I guess if you've spent your life guarding the truth like Fort Knox.

Foley grew up Catholic, was a Republican in a conservative state, and may've been just old enough to miss out on gay freedom. I can strain myself and cut him some slack there. But not for the obvious fact that he stayed closeted for political gain. And maybe he couldn't bear to give up the Palm Beach parties and fundraisers.

Now to the e-mails and IMs that got him in trouble and were another ugly weather system in his head. It unfolded that the Congressman had been a bad cyberspace boy for years.

In one exchange a teen told him he was wearing shorts, and Foley responded he'd "love to slip them off" and "grab the one-eyed snake." When Foley directed him to "take it out," the high school student left the computer because "my mom is yelling." Had she known what was happening, she would've downright bellowed.

In 2003, while the House was voting on a war appropriations bill, Foley stepped away and had Internet sex with an 18-year-old former page. I wonder how that affected his vote?

After the scandal broke, people debated whether the disgraced Congressman was a pedophile, an ephebophile (sexually attracted to older adolescents and teenagers), or a "-phile" to be named later. I remember an expert's contention that Foley wanted to get caught, another gust in his head. So was the fact that he chaired the House caucus on missing and exploited children, and fought for tough laws against those who use the Internet to exploit children sexually.

Is this really a mind anyone wants to get into? The winds blowing in there were strong enough to flatten Florida.

After he resigned, we immediately learned of two more forces billowing inside Foley. He bee lined it to a rehab center for alcoholism treatment, and his attorney announced that a priest had molested Foley when he was a teenager.

But hey, three years have passed. Maybe the ill winds are now just anemic puffs.

It was Foley who approached WSVU in North Palm Beach with the idea for the show. The former Congressman is working for free, and there's even talk of syndicating "Inside the Mind of Mark Foley."

I take it back. Some people should go into his mind: psychiatrists and documentary filmmakers. For the rest of us, the place should be off limits as a hurricane zone.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Doing the Right Thing

In Utah it's legal to fire someone for being gay. The state's new governor has served notice he'll change that the day the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings Metallica.

In his first monthly televised news conference, Gary Herbert said discriminating against gay people shouldn't be illegal, but gosh darn, he sure would like it if everyone were treated with respect.

The Republican said sexual orientation shouldn't be a protected class like race and religion. Apparently he feels some groups deserve more of that aforementioned respect than others.

"We don't have to have a rule for everybody to do the right thing. We ought to just do the right thing because it's the right thing to do and we don't have to have a law that punishes us if we don't," he said.

And for his next attempt at straddling, the governor will try to balance atop the rock spires of Utah's Bryce Canyon National Park.

It's a lovely idea that everybody will simply do the right thing. If the world worked that way, we wouldn't need laws at all.

This country has gradually put laws in place guaranteeing the right thing for everyone. Now it's time to finish the job by extending fairness and freedom to the LGBT community. But there's a man in Utah standing in the way, his feet un-firmly planted on a couple of Bryce Canyon's hoodoos.

Herbert, formerly Utah's lieutenant governor, got his promotion when Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman became U.S. ambassador to China. Last year Huntsman backed extending some rights to gays, but the bills failed. Huntsman also favored same-sex civil unions.

Herbert, who's in charge until a special election in 2010, looks to be a different kettle of annoying fish.

In July the Salt Lake City Human Rights Commission released a report showing discrimination based on sexual orientation and other factors happens frequently in the city. The capital city is now eyeing an ordinance prohibiting discrimination against gays.

Gov. Herbert said he won't pass judgment on the ordinance until he's read it. At last, there's something he and I can agree on! But he also said he doesn't like the notion of protected classes in general.

"Where do you stop? I mean that's the problem going down that slippery road. Pretty soon we're going to have a special law for blue-eyed blondes . . . or people who are losing their hair a little bit," said Herbert. "There's some support for about anything we put out there. I'm just saying we end up getting bogged down sometimes with the minutiae of things that government has really no role to be involved in."

So, how do you like being called minutiae?

The tune of that old Dr. Pepper commercial comes to mind. Instead of "I'm a Pepper," try, "I'm trivial. He's trivial. Wouldn't you like to be trivial, too?"

Equality Utah fights for gay rights in the Beehive State. Will Carlson, its public policy director, told The Associated Press he wants to meet with Gov. Herbert to explain a few things.

"We don't have an epidemic of blonde-haired, blue-eyed people getting fired or evicted. We do have a situation where gay and transgender people are being evicted and losing their jobs, not for job performance, but because they're gay or transgender," said Carlson.

It turns out gay rights aren't the only area where Herbert holds a conservative opinion. He's skeptical of how much humans contribute to global warming, and he plans to host the first "legitimate" debate on the topic later this year.

Okaaaaay then.

The state of Utah is home to many fossils. Now Utahns have one in the governor's chair.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The School of Hard Knocks

I have a lot of respect for teachers. But not for two public high school teachers in Minnesota. I'd like to see those two sitting in the corner of the teachers' lounge wearing dunce caps.

The Anoka-Hennepin School District probably won't go for that idea, but it does find itself paying $25,000 to the family of a high school junior thanks to the teachers' harassment of the student over his perceived sexual orientation.

And how they harassed. StarTribune.com, citing an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, reported several of social studies teacher Diane Cleveland's bon mots.

During a class in the 2007-2008 school year, Cleveland said the boy's "fence swings both ways." On another occasion she nimbly expanded her library of metaphors, allegedly saying the kid's "boat floats in a different direction than the rest of the guys in the class."

With a teacher like that, bullies are redundant.

When the junior asked to go to the bathroom, Cleveland supposedly responded, "Would you like to have [another allegedly gay student] go with you so he can sit in the stall next to you and stomp his foot?" Presumably this was a reference to Idaho Sen. Larry Craig and his busy bathroom feet, an incident then in the news that occurred at the Minneapolis airport, not far from this school district.

Only the most together young person could've come up with an appropriate response like, "Why yes, could you arrange that for me?" The average kid would've prayed to shrink to the size of an eraser.

The student wrote a report on Ben Franklin, prompting Cleveland allegedly to say, in front of the whole class, that he had a "thing for older men." When the boy chose Abraham Lincoln for a different assignment, another teacher, Walter Filson, allegedly said, "Since you like your men older . . . "

Did these two synchronize their witticisms in the teacher parking lot?

I feel confident the boy wouldn't have escaped the taunting if he'd chosen other historical figures. Had he reported on Abigail Adams or Harriet Beecher Stowe, for instance, Cleveland and Filson would've mocked him for being as female as they were.

Filson also quipped in front of other students that the kid "enjoys wearing women's clothes." At one point a student in Filson's class talked about a deer that had been molested—yes, really—and said, "Hey, Mr. Filson, doesn't that sound like something [the boy perceived to be gay] would do?" Filson reportedly agreed and laughed, in a heartwarming show of camaraderie between student and teacher.

Not surprisingly, the boy enduring this abuse transferred to another school 25 miles away. Cleveland and Filson should've been transferred to Pluto, but that's not what happened.

In 2008 the district responded to the harassment allegations against Cleveland by placing her on two-day unpaid suspension and briefly reassigning her. That reassignment included working on a social studies curriculum and reflecting on diversity in the classroom. But Cleveland called in sick four of the five days. I guess she came down with an acute case of resentment.

Soon afterward she was back at work. It's unknown whether Filson, a law enforcement teacher, received any discipline. Both remain teachers, so I hope the settlement money they cost the district embarrasses them into better behavior. If it will keep other kids safe from this kind of cruelty, I'm not above rooting for shame.

In February a sexual orientation curriculum for staff and students kicked in. I doubt Cleveland and Filson will learn much, but I have faith that other teachers will earn top grades and a smiley face.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

I think we can call it official. Along with death and taxes, there's something else we can always count on: socially conservative politicians getting caught with their family values around their ankles.

The current headlining hypocrite is Tennessee state Sen. Paul Stanley, 47, a Republican who represents suburban Memphis. Stanley, married with two children, had a sexual relationship with intern McKensie Morrison, 22. The affair came to light after Morrison's boyfriend, Joel Watts, tried to extort $10,000 from Stanley. In his hot little hands Watts had hot little photos of Morrison taken by the senator.

I don't imagine those pictures are going to make it into the Stanley family album.

Stanley initially planned to remain in the Senate, but instead resigned. On his Web site he apologized for his "errors" and wrote, "Giving myself to (God) and rebuilding my family relationships are now the focus of my life."

What if God doesn't want him? Can God decline?

Stanley is keenly aware of having been a shining knight of the right who fell off his horse into manure. He wrote "many have criticized me for violating pro-family stances I have taken on a number of issues. I firmly believe God's standards are where they have always been. Just because I fell far short of those standards, does not negate the standard set by God."

Sounds to me like a template for slippery knights who come after him. When sitting in the manure, the next knight should declare he's not perfect, God is, and for a while he had the honor and joy of jousting on behalf of God. Until his lance got in the way.

Stanley has surely been a conservative force in Tennessee. On his site he boasted of receiving a 100 percent rating from the NRA and Tennessee Right to Life.

A Memphis Planned Parenthood executive met with Stanley in April and recently blogged, "He told us that he didn't believe young people should have sex before marriage anyway, that his faith and church are important to him, and he wants to promote abstinence."

Yes, unmarried people shouldn't have sex. Married people, however, can have sex all over the place.

Morrison the intern is married as well, to a man in a Florida prison, enabling her to practice the-world-is-your-oyster principle of marriage, too.

Where Stanley really took the social conservative lead was in the fight against gay adoption. The Methodist Sunday school teacher sponsored a bill early this year prohibiting any cohabiting unmarried couples from adopting children. It was Stanley's second try, having filed the same bill in 2008, the stubborn son of a gun.

His legislation would've prevented unmarried straight couples from adopting, but Tennesseans knew the bill's main aim was to block homosexuals from adopting.

Tennessee may be the Volunteer State, but Stanley didn't want just any old body volunteering.

He told a Christian news service that he espied a problem in the adoption process. "We were having a lot of [unmarried] individuals apply to adopt children from state custody . . . what we were finding is that some of those individuals were in same-sex relationships," he said. "And we just thought it was not advantageous to have children who are the responsibility of the state being placed in such homes."

Heavens no. Far better they languish unwanted and unloved. I'm sure that's what Jesus would say.

Stanley also stated he thinks same-sex couples can't adequately meet the emotional, physical and mental needs of children. Where did that silliness come from, "The Boy's Book of Bigotry?"

Humans make mistakes. All of us. Sometimes a fall is just sad. This isn't one of those times.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Episcopal Agenda

At the recent Episcopal General Convention, Episcopalians effectively lifted their temporary ban on gay bishops. They also chose to begin drafting an official prayer for same-sex unions.

In leading with its conscience like that, the Episcopal Church, the American wing of the worldwide Anglican Communion, has given Anglicans abroad, and some at home, another full-body rash.

It must've been a resoundingly difficult time for convention delegates, choosing between their beliefs and the prospect of a permanent Anglican split. I found myself imagining what those days at the gathering in Anaheim, Calif., were like. I suspect the average day's agenda looked a lot like this:

7-8 a.m. Prayers. Optional. Gene Autry room.

7:30-9 a.m. Breakfast.

9 a.m. All-Day Excursion to Disneyland. For spouses and those who can't face our reality.

9-10:15 a.m. Business Meeting. What to do when half your diocese wants to secede. Practical and legal direction.

10:15-10:30 a.m. Break.

10:30 a.m.-noon Seminars.
1. "Disagreeing in Christ: How to Keep the Dialogue Open and Civil." Donald Duck Room
2. "Schism: A Form of Resurrection?" Snow White Room
3. "Bishop Gene Robinson: A Symbol of Our Problems, Not the Cause." Fairy Godmother Room

Noon-1 p.m. Lunch.

1-2:15 p.m. Business Meeting. Budget question: Will the overseas Anglicans who no longer want our financial assistance cancel out the financial losses we're incurring due to domestic churches fleeing the fold?

2:15-2:30 p.m. Break.

2:30-3 p.m. Prayer Service. Not optional. Let's remember why we're here.

3-4:30 p.m. Seminars.
1. "The Conservatives Speak: Some of Us Still Haven't Given Up." Scrooge McDuck Room
2. "The Archbishop of Canterbury: Toughest Job in Christendom?" Goofy Room
3. "Fleeing to Catholicism: Bad Idea." Dumbo Room

4:30-5:30 p.m. Free Time.

5:30 p.m. Departure for those wishing to attend the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim game. No matter what part of the country we come from, tonight we're on the side of the Angels.

5:30-6:30 p.m. Cocktails.

6:30-8 p.m. Dinner.

8-10 p.m. Informal job networking. Pinocchio Room.

8 p.m. Movie. "Oranges are Not the Only Fruit." Cinderella Room.

8-11 p.m. Socializing. All arguments attaining a certain decibel level must be taken elsewhere. Huey, Dewey, and Louie Rotunda.

Notes: The gym is open all day. A psychologist will be available from noon to midnight in the Peter Pan Room. A doctor is on hand all day in the Seven Dwarfs Room for anyone feeling faint or nauseous. If you wish to participate in tomorrow's excursion to Knott's Berry Farm, sign up by 1 p.m. this afternoon. If you wish to flee altogether, we understand. But even if we don't know where you're hiding, God does.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Flashing Their Independence

Today is the Fourth of July. As fireworks boom outside in celebration of Independence Day, I’ve decided that a number of people have displayed various forms of independence lately.

Take William Crilly, whose actions at the Omaha, Neb., Pride parade displayed a total freedom from common sense.

The Pitch reported that Crilly attended Omaha’s Pride with a rainbow-colored wagon. Atop the wagon, which judging by the photos was meant to look like a coffin, a sign read, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ Our Lord.”

Obviously Crilly hadn’t come to ogle the fellas. Or maybe he had—you just never know.

Kansas City resident Kendra Konrady also came to Omaha with a purpose. As a Human Rights Campaign volunteer she handed out HRC stickers along the parade route. She saw Crilly’s mini-float and heard the men with it spouting Bible verses. She tossed a few stickers onto the wagon.

A voice said, “You better not do that.” Crilly pushed Konrady away from the wagon and put her in a headlock.

Whiplash is not your average Pride souvenir. I usually wind up with just stickers, beads and candy.

The crowd responded and Crilly let her go. She found a cop, who arrested him for assault.

It might come as a shock, but I feel some sympathy for Crilly, who’s described as 66 and wearing two hearing aids. Here’s an older deeply religious man from the heartland who is seeing his world turned upside down by gay freedom.

Or he could be a hate-filled bastard with tiny nuts. I don’t know.

Either way, Crilly did a stupid thing. Making the affair worse yet for him, news of what happened spread through the Pride crowd, and HRC signed up 159 new members.

Oh, the wages of putting a Pride marcher in a headlock and showing a remarkable independence from self-control.

Martina Navratilova grabbed independence from her relationship over a year ago, but now the icky details are coming to light, thanks to the lawsuit filed by her former partner Toni Layton, who told Britain’s Daily Mail that the tennis legend threw her out faster than you can say “Judy Nelson.”

Layton claimed that Navratilova ambushed her, suddenly ejecting her from their Sarasota, Fla., home in a scene that included aggressive security guards, changed locks and lawyers waving a $10,000 settlement document at her. “I was thrown out, left homeless, penniless and with only the clothes on my back.”

Martina was kinder to Wimbledon opponents.

Layton has filed a domestic partnership lawsuit against Navratilova, claiming she suffered “emotional, mental and physical trauma.” The lawsuit maintains the two agreed to split “all funds and assets earned and obtained by either while together.” Which means Layton is due a pretty Czech penny.

Layton said, “The greatest irony is that all this is happening in Florida, a state that doesn’t recognize gay rights. Marti makes out she’s a champion of gay rights, yet here she is, hiding behind Florida’s antiquated same-sex laws.”

This battle is shaping up to be both personally and politically ugly. Meanwhile Martina reportedly has a new girlfriend. Despite her throwdowns with Judy Nelson and now Toni Layton, Martina shows no inclination to be independent of women.

Gay and lesbian Mennonites hope to be free of discrimination from their church. While the Mennonite Church USA conference was going on in Columbus, Ohio, some 100 ministers and church members prayed and sang outside. They were dressed in bright pink.

The “pink Menno” protest was all about independence from spiritual pain. And independence from good fashion sense.

Monday, June 22, 2009

When the Circus Came to Town

Fred Phelps came to town and I missed him. I could just spit.

To be precise, the Rev. Fred didn't actually come here to Seattle. His minions did. Members of his Westboro Baptist Church, located in Topeka, Kan., journeyed to Seattle to stage protests around the city that featured their usual appalling signs, like "God Hates Fags" and "The Jews Killed Jesus."

Even without the ringmaster, the colorful circus carried on. And I, a devotee of such gay-hating performances, missed it even though it was on my doorstep. I feel like the elephant pooped on my foot.

I was so absorbed in something else, you see. Along with other folks from my Unitarian Universalist church, I had the task of organizing a breakfast and welcoming service for the church's new members. I'd been so busy with that and regular work that I hadn't even heard the circus was coming to town.

Next time I expect Fred to alert me with a personal phone call. Since I write humor about gay matters, and he's a clown on gay matters, I'd call it a professional courtesy.

On the Sunday morning of the church breakfast I became a fiend with a clipboard. I grabbed every new Unitarian, instructed them to sign the membership book, directed them to have their picture taken, and generally administrated the hell out of the process. One ear caught something about protesters, but the other ear was involved in a harried dialogue about how we were running low on breakfast seating and could we politely blast those who had finished eating out of their chairs?

It was my partner, joining the church that morning, who jolted me out of administrative overdrive by telling me the Phelpsians were outside. "You're kidding. Here? Now? I've never seen them in the flesh. I can't leave. Argh!"

She went outside for a look, as did the two ministers and some other members. She reported back to me that Fred's performing seals, stationed across the street, were actually protesting the synagogue next door, not us.

Well, why not? We're worth protesting! This church is gay-positive! Hell, there's an out lesbian whipping the new members into shape! Those idiots are missing a bet here!

I spotted one of the straight women also in charge of the morning's happy church events. She was in tears. I thought we'd run out of French toast. In fact she'd taken a trip outside, and was undone by "God Hates Fags" and the other messages of hate. I put my arm around her and said, "I'm a big old lesbian and they're not going to get to me. Think about something else. Like restocking the muffins."

At last I felt I could sneak away and get a good look at the group I've been reading and writing about for years. "They're gone," someone told me.

So close yet so vanished. I could do nothing but drown my sorrows in fruit salad.

I'm enormously fearful I missed my only chance. Fred Phelps is 79. When the ringmaster/clown dies, will the circus go on? Or will those horrible signs wind up on eBay?

As it turned out, the circus stayed longer in Seattle. The next morning seven protesters, all related to Phelps, staged a demonstration outside a high school. They faced off against what The Seattle Times called "a boisterous counterprotest by hundreds" of students and others.

In a Times picture, one of the high school students holds out a flower to a protestor. That student had in fact joined my Unitarian church the day before. There he was fighting ugliness with beauty. I'll feed that kid breakfast anytime.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Bird's-Eye View

Stories about the two gay male penguins that are raising a chick in a German zoo have included quotes from a zookeeper and other relevant humans, but not one of the accounts has presented the penguins' view of things. Until now. A reporter fluent in German, Spanish, English and Humboldt Penguin journeyed to the Bremerhaven zoo to interview Z and Vielpunkt, the new dads.

Reporter: Good morning.

Vielpunkt: Good morning.

Z: Careful where you sit. No time to clean up the doo-doo these days, don't y'know.

Reporter: Being parents is keeping you busy?

Z: Oh, we're rushed off our happy feet, feeding and looking after our little one.

Reporter: Is it a boy or a girl?

Vielpunkt: We're not telling. The zookeepers don't know. It's driving them crazy. I love it.

Reporter: Tell me about how all this began. Obviously neither one of you gave birth to the chick.

Z: You could've knocked me over with a flipper when that egg landed in our nest. Sure, we'd talked about having a baby, but realistically . . .

Vielpunkt: See that couple over there? The ones trying to look busy grooming themselves? They rejected the egg.

Z: Can you imagine?

Vielpunkt: The keepers put it in our nest. I don't know why they chose us. There are two more same-sex couples here.

Reporter: Really?

Z: Oh yes. It's a rainbow fowl fest.

Reporter: So all of a sudden you found yourselves being parents. How did it go?

Z: Swimmingly. We incubated the egg for 30 days.

Vielpunkt: Harder work than it looks. Gave me hemorrhoids.

Z: And then the big day! I heard a little crack, crack, crack.

Vielpunkt: It was so exciting, I have to admit.

Z: We made a complete spectacle of ourselves, yelling, "Go, baby, go!"

Reporter: Wow.

Z: Out came our little chick. All scraggly and icky and gorgeous.

Reporter: He or she is certainly sleeping soundly now. What an adorable chick.

Z: Thank you. I think the little one takes after my side of the family.

Reporter: Huh?

Vielpunkt: Humor him.

Reporter: What are your hopes for your chick?

Vielpunkt: Harvard.

Z: I just want our child to be happy, and never lack for fish.

Vielpunkt: I want our child to be a leader. To tell these stupid humans . . .

Z: Present company excepted, of course.

Vielpunkt: To tell them that they're killing us! Back in Peru and Chile where we come from . . .

Z: You came from a zoo in Vienna.

Vielpunkt: You know what I mean. Humans are overfishing and destroying our habitat! Humboldt penguins are disappearing!

Z: Now look what you've done. The baby is up and shrieking for food!

Vielpunkt: Hey little fuzz ball. You hungry again? Go take a bite out of that veterinarian over there.

Z: Vielpunkt!

Reporter: One last question if I may. What's your reaction to those who say two males shouldn’t raise youngsters?

Vielpunkt: Unprintable.

Z: My goodness, who has time to worry about what those people or penguins think? I have a chick to raise! I'm already losing sleep over how to teach this child to waddle.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Fighting the Good Fight Against DADT

It feels like a whole lot of nothing is happening in Washington to rid us of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The President hasn't rushed to fulfill his campaign promise to kick the policy to the curb. Some administration officials can't even see the curb. On Capitol Hill, Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy has been unable to find a Republican colleague to cosponsor a bill lifting the ban.

It's time for the gay community to adopt a new approach. Let's stop arguing that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the United State military is a matter of civil rights or fairness. Let's abandon logic and cease pointing out how harmful it is to our national security that the military keeps ejecting, for instance, Arab linguists.

Let's emphasize that this policy makes the U.S.A. inferior. To Uruguay.

Yes, that petite Latin American country is now ahead of us, having moved to lift its ban on gays in the military.

It's a blow to our national pride. We're lagging behind a country that, on a map, looks like the buttocks of South America.

Uruguay's gay ban was a relic of the 1973-85 military dictatorship. The law included homosexuality among the "mental illnesses and disorders" that made a person unfit for the armed forces.

The new decree says sexual orientation is no longer grounds to keep people from joining the military.

Altogether now, I want to hear every red-blooded American chant, "We're not number one! We're not number one!"

We’re not number two either. Scads of countries have leaped ahead of us. It's just plain embarrassing.

Earlier this year another South American nation, Argentina, jettisoned its ban on gays in the military. Days later the Philippines did the same. What a week. Not one but two countries outdistanced us. We earned ourselves a double helping of humble pie.

Really, that week should have been enough to get Americans hopping mad over being trumped by countries that don't have the decency to revere football.

The gay community played it wrong. We shouldn't have calmly pointed out that nations around the world are making the sensible choice for their militaries. Instead we should've harangued our fellow Americans, shamed them, demanded to know how they can put up with being left in the dust by countries no one can spell.

After attacking their patriotism, it might've been advantageous to question their bravery, too. These podunk countries aren't afraid of change. Are Americans so lily-livered that we're paralyzed by homos serving openly? Is the strongest military in the world actually made up of a bunch of wusses?

In addition to Uruguay, Argentina and the Philippines, other countries that have shot ahead of us include Canada, Israel, Australia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and more.

My favorite is Bermuda. The Bermuda Regiment doesn't discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and Regiment members aren't allowed to harass gay soldiers. In actuality discrimination within the ranks is tolerated, but at least the teeny island nation has seen fit to put an affirmative policy in place.

Which means that we've been bested by a military whose fiercest enemy is persistent seagulls.

There's another way of looking at this issue. Instead of focusing on those nations that allow gays to serve in the military, we could focus on those that explicitly ban them. Don't Ask, Don't Tell isn't precisely a ban but it's close, so we have much in common with Egypt, Syria, Peru, Singapore, and others.

The others include Cuba, Iran and North Korea. Axis of Evil party boys. Don't Ask, Don't Tell has us keeping company with the enemy. Blech.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Cluster of Firsts

The first half of 2009 has brought a happy helping of lesbian firsts. Early in the year Johanna Sigurdardottir became the first openly lesbian head of state when she accepted the job of prime minister of Iceland. Now we have two more prominent firsts.

I could get used to this. I'm exceedingly willing to try.

On May 11, Rabbi Denise Eger was formally installed as the president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California. She's the first openly gay rabbi to become the group's president. She's the first woman to become the group's president. Eger didn't just break the glass ceiling—she danced the Hora on it.

The rabbis on the board, about 300 of them, belong to different denominations: Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative and Orthodox. Yet nary a discouraging word was heard about her orientation during the decision-making process. Of course, only about 20 Orthodox rabbis currently participate in the organization, but still, her election is no small potatoes. Make that no small potato pancakes.

Eger founded and leads the Reform-affiliated Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood. It serves the GLBT community in that gayborhood, as well as interfaith families and straight folks. Now her congregants will just have to be big and share her, as she embarks on a two-year presidential term.

The Board of Rabbis of Southern California is 72 years old. By contrast, the position of UK Poet Laureate is almost 350 years old. Not once has a woman held the British post. Cue royal trumpets. Not once, until now.

Carol Ann Duffy, both a commercially and critically successful poet, has ended the long string of male Poet Laureates that began in 1668 with John Dryden and included William Wordsworth and Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Duffy is also the first openly gay laureate. Ten years ago, when her name was in the hopper for the job, she reportedly lost out to Andrew Motion because of concern over how her orientation would be received. "I think we've all grown up a lot over the past 10 years," Duffy said. "It's fantastic that I am an openly gay writer."

It certainly is fantastic. I raise a pint of lukewarm British brew to her.

The annual salary for the gig is about $8,500, which Duffy said she plans to give to the Poetry Society to fund a prize for the best collection published each year. She also stands to receive a "butt of sack." Whatever you're guessing that is, you're wrong. It's about 600 bottles of sherry. Really.

"Andrew (Motion) hasn't had his yet so I've asked for mine up front," said Duffy. Very sensible.

Duffy said once that she is "not a lesbian poet, whatever that is." She added, "If I am a lesbian icon and a role model, that's great, but if it is a word that is used to reduce me, then you have to ask why someone would want to reduce me?"

The Bisexual Index, which describes itself as "a UK activism group fighting bisexual invisibility," used the above quote in a press release to prove that Duffy is bisexual, not lesbian. That seems to me to be a convenient misunderstanding of her words, but there's no doubt Duffy has dallied with both men and women.

However she thinks of herself, she's definitely a member of the GLBT community, and by virtue of her new exalted position, a trailblazer. The way things are going she'll have more company in 2009, as other openly Sapphic gals around the world break through in politics, religion, the arts, and other areas. I'd say you can bet a butt of sack or a sack of butt on it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The News We Use

I've decided that it's time. Time to test your knowledge of recent GLBT news. Circle the right answer for each multiple-choice question below. The correct answers are provided at the end. No cheating. I'll know.

1. In Maine's capital of Augusta, so many people wanted to attend the first public hearings on same-sex marriage that officials moved the event from the State House to:
a. a high school gym
b. a movie theater
c. the Augusta Civic Center
d. Massachusetts

2. Beatrice Arthur, star of gay fave "The Golden Girls," died at age 86. Her character in that show was named:
a. Laverne DeFazio
b. Rhoda Morgenstern
c. Dorothy Zbornak
d. Roseanne Roseannadanna

3. A newspaper in a homophobic nation outed 50 citizens, publishing their names, occupations, physical descriptions, partners and HIV status. The report exposed the country's "shameless men and unabashed women that have deliberately exported the western evils to our dear and sacred society. They have been influential in spreading the gay and lesbian vices in schools to kill the morals of our lovely kids!!" In which nation did the exposé run?
a. Jamaica
b. Afghanistan
c. Uganda
d. Idaho

4. During the Miss USA pageant, Miss California said marriage should be between a man and a woman. The furor that followed completely eclipsed the pageant victory of:
a. Miss Delaware
b. Miss Oklahoma
c. Miss North Carolina
d. Mr. North Carolina

5. Last year former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey and Dina Matos concluded their bitter and melodramatic divorce. But they're back in the news, announcing they plan to share his pension fund. This writer doesn't care:
a. about New Jersey
b. about pension funds
c. if she ever hears about either one of them again
d. if you get this question right

6. A show called "Liberace: The Man, the Music, and the Memories," is slated to open this fall. Where?
a. Branson
b. Duluth
c. Broadway
d. a retirement home near you

7. A new book questions whether prominent cases of gays turning straight were fabricated. Whose work, happily cited by reparative therapy supporters, is now in doubt?
a. Alfred Kinsey
b. Shere Hite
c. Masters & Johnson
d. Little Lulu

The answer to every question is "c." How did you do? That badly, eh? Well, later on I'll give you another opportunity. But that's just because I like you.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Moving State Ahead

Iowa is the first state in the American heartland to legalize same-sex marriage. Vermont is the first state to allow same-sex marriage through legislative action rather than a court ruling.

I'm giddy. Mostly due to these fabulous events, and partly due to a pollen allergy. I cheer. I sneeze. It's been a memorable early April.

Such a run of good marriage news makes me wonder where it will happen next. Which states will join Iowa, Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts in offering gay marriage? I have a few guesses on whither the struggle.

California—Oh, the pain gays and lesbians around the country felt when California voters passed Proposition 8. The events in Iowa and Vermont have gone a long way toward muting that pain. And how notable that hip California—considered the nation's trendsetter—has now fallen behind an itty-bitty New England state, as well as a state that still believes in Jell-O.

Legal experts tell us the California Supreme Court will probably let Prop 8 stand. So it doesn't appear California will be the next state to grant same-sex marriage. Which means California's coolness level will plummet to the level of Mississippi.

New Hampshire—In March the House of Representatives approved a marriage bill; the Senate is expected to vote soon. Some think the fact that New Hampshire's neighbor voted for gay marriage will help persuade Granite Staters to do the same. As a former New Hampshirite, I think the opposite. The legislature will probably delay action on the marriage bill and instead pass a resolution criticizing Vermont for general smugness.

Maine—What I'm sure of is that if same-sex marriage passes here, there will be an immediate movement to undo it. This tendency to battle over and over and over on gay rights suggests that Mainers either like a good fight or are obsessive-compulsive.

Rhode Island—Three of the six New England states have granted gay marriage. Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri and his wife Sue hope to avoid the same result in Little Rhody. They've both just joined the state chapter of the National Organization for Marriage, a group fighting same-sex marriage around the country.

I suppose the governor could take an extreme step and have Rhode Island secede—but I'm not sure the rest of the country would notice.

New York—There will be more dithering, posturing, confusion and drama, but gay marriage will happen in New York. And when it does, New Yorkers will brag like they invented it.

New Jersey—This is certainly a state on a trajectory to do the right thing. In 2007 civil unions went into effect. About four months ago a state commission found that civil unions hadn't provided equal treatment, and recommended the state legalize same-sex marriage.

New Jersey has been generally disparaged for so long, and I'm tempted to say something will go wrong just because New Jersey is New Jersey. But no. I believe the Garden State will come through. And those wishing to marry can heed New Jersey's mildly paranoid state slogan, "Come See For Yourself."

Michigan—Nobody's working. They have lots of time to fight for same-sex marriage.

Washington—In 2007 Washington established domestic partnerships. In 2008 legislation expanded the rights and responsibilities of domestic partnerships. Now in 2009 the state Senate has passed the so-called "everything but marriage" bill, which adds all the other state-level benefits of marriage to domestic partnerships. The House will likely pass it, and the governor will sign it.

But it's no secret in the Evergreen State that politicians have pursued this route so LGBT families will be protected until marriage is acquired. When will that happen? I can say definitively it will happen in Washington before Sasquatch teaches a forestry class.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Florida Flush

These days when I think of Florida I don't think of Walt Disney World or spring training or the Everglades. I think of bathrooms.

That's because some Floridians seem to think of nothing else. They're not potty mouths, they're potty heads.

Consider events in the city of Gainesville, home to the University of Florida. Last year the city commission added gender identity to Gainesville's anti-discrimination ordinance, which already included sexual orientation. The city's transgender citizens were protected from discrimination in housing and employment, plus they could use the public restroom of their choice.

And so began the War of the Loo.

Irate bathroom defenders got a charter amendment on the ballot to sweep away the city's protection for trans folk AND gays and lesbians. A new broom sweeps mean.

A group called Citizens for Good Public Policy led the forces of bathroom segregation. The name Citizens for Good Public Plumbing would've been more to the point.

The group took its campaign to the airwaves. In one ad, a young girl leaves a playground and heads into a women's restroom. Lurking outside, a grungy-looking man follows her in. Words on the screen read, "Your City Commission Made This Legal."

How easily, in a political campaign, truth swirls right down the drain.

A spokesman for Citizens for Good Pubic Policy noted his side's message stayed consistent during the campaign: "Keep men out of women's restrooms!" He declared, "That's our motive, plain and simple."

In the end, this all-bathroom, all-the-time approach didn't work; on March 24 Gainesville voters rejected repealing LGBT civil rights. Three cheers and a 21-toilet-brush salute to the people of Gainesville!

A week before the Gainesville vote, the city of Fort Lauderdale enthroned a new mayor, ending the 18-year reign of Jim Naugle, a man known in and beyond Florida for his fixation with facilities.

Term limits prevented Naugle, a conservative Democrat, from running again. Thank the porcelain god, for presumably this means he won't touch off another firestorm like he did in the summer of 2007 when he told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that public restrooms in the beach town were plagued by "homosexual activity."

He wanted to install a robotic toilet near the gay beach as a deterrent. Robo-john as robo-cop.

Naugle also said he doesn't use the word "gay," since most homosexuals "aren't gay. They're unhappy."

I don't have to tell you that a certain substance hit the fan. The local gay community launched a "Flush Naugle" campaign. At the height of the flap, Naugle invited the media to come hear an apology. He proceeded to offer one—to families, for not being aware how bad the problem of gay sex in public restrooms actually was.

Fort Lauderdale police called bathroom sex "a non-existent problem." But Naugle's mind was bogged down in the bog.

Naugle had supporters. A man in Fort Worth, Texas, e-mailed the mayor to say, "It's time us straight people started taking our country back from these sick people and make them either get help for their disease or go to jail."

Ideas suitable for flushing.

Probably the people taking the most comfort from Naugle's loss of station are local tourism officials. They had toiled to make Fort Lauderdale gay-friendly, and the city collected lots of money from gay visitors. After Naugle roiled the waters with his comments, he was removed from the Tourism Development Council. Yes, he was no longer privy to what went on.

Tourism officials said the mayor's remarks kept gays away and also kept away families who feared the city was a sewer. As far as the officials are concerned, Naugle's mouth worked but his mind was indisposed.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Prom Fashion Fray

At this time of year, the thoughts of high school seniors all across America turn toward the prom. How do I rent a tux? Can Mom afford that dress I want? Is the guy I like going to be a total jerk and ask a freshman instead? Will I win my lawsuit?

Okay, that one isn't so common. But it's very much a concern for a 17-year-old lesbian student at Lebanon High School in central Indiana. The senior is suing the school district for the right to wear a tuxedo to her prom.

Wow. The closest I came to a prom-related legal struggle was considering charging my date, his Triumph convertible, and the wind with a wrongful pre-prom assault on my coif.

This youngster in Indiana, whose name hasn't been revealed, knows herself a lot better than I did at her age. Her school principal told her she couldn't wear a tux to the prom, and she must wear a dress. She responded by calling in the American Civil Liberties Union. By God and Calvin Klein, she's fighting for what she wants!

Indystar.com reported that court papers say the blossoming lesbian doesn't wear dresses because she feels they express a sexual identity that she doesn't embrace.

I wonder if such sentiments caused a collective Hoosier heart attack. After all, the school district's longstanding policy on prom attire—only boys may wear tuxedos, and girls must wear dresses—had never been challenged.

Now the ACLU of Indiana is arguing that the policy violates the federal Title lX law prohibiting gender-based discrimination in schools. The group also claims the policy violates her constitutional right of free speech. "From a First Amendment standpoint, wearing a tuxedo makes an affirmative statement about her own sexuality," said her lawyer.

It can look pretty hot, too, but I doubt anybody mentioned that in the court filings.

The head of the American Family Association of Indiana said he supports the principal's decision because it reflects the community's standards.

No doubt. In those rigid standards lies the problem. As unfortunate as a stinkweed corsage.

"I don't think we should allow kids to act out certain impulses," said the AFA guy. "A girl in a tuxedo doing this as a sexual statement, that's something the school should draw the line at."

Maybe if she said she was doing this as a fashion statement, he'd approve. She could claim bow ties are slimming.

This isn't Indiana's first rumpus over prom garb. In 1999 a male high school senior in Indianapolis successfully sued to wear a dress to the event. In 2006 a transgender student in Gary was denied entry to the prom for wearing an evening gown; Kevin "K.K." Logan's lawsuit is pending.

None of the accounts I read of the Lebanon High School senior's battle mentioned whether she has a date for the prom. Does she have a girlfriend? Is she planning to ask someone to accompany her? Is she expecting to go alone or with friends?

If she has a date, the federal court better get moving. The prom is April 25. The girls will have precious little time to coordinate colors!

The lesbian has a sensible classmate by the name of DeAmber Jaggers who told Indystar.com that she suspects the school made its decision due to the girl's orientation.

"What bothers me is that you won't let someone wear something conservative, but you'll let girls go with see-through parts of their outfits or something short," said Jaggers. "A tuxedo's not hurting anybody. Why should it matter?"

Personally, I've come to agree with the school district that not just anybody can wear a tux. I say an individual who wants to wear one must first be able to spell "cummerbund."

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Rocky Time in the Rockies

State senators in Utah and Colorado delivered hugely homophobic rants lately. It seems this country is suffering an outbreak of Rocky Mountain spotted fervor.

In the Utah case, Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, sat down with a documentary filmmaker to discuss the involvement of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in California's Proposition 8 battle.

Buttars said gay activists are "probably the greatest threat to America going down."

Not the frightening economy, not the two wars America's fighting, not the health care mess. The greatest threat to America is Americans demanding equality. The truth is out. Time for me to admit this gay activist is doing her part to bring America down: I've signed up to bring a town in Idaho, a subdivision in Michigan and a mall in Florida to their knees.

Buttars also said, "What is the morals of a gay person? You can't answer that, because anything goes."

Yes indeed. Today I managed to lie, embezzle, assault and commit arson. All before lunch.

The state senator compared gay activists to Islamic radicals. "Muslims are good people and their religion is anti-war. But it's been taken over by the radical side. And the gays are totally taken over by the radical side."

While I've never known a gay activist who wanted to blow up planes, I could suggest the idea at the next meeting. Maybe we could talk some eager young twink into it. Promise him that in the next life--to which we are rushing him--he'll be rewarded with an entire troop of Chippendales dancers.

After a Salt Lake City TV station aired Buttars' comments, people inside and outside the state called for him to resign. Fat chance. He has refused even to issue an apology.

The Utah Senate president, a fellow Republican, removed Buttars as chair of a judicial committee—to keep him from being a distraction, not to punish him. Buttars' colleagues agree with much of what he said. One senator noted Buttars' language was "immoderate," adding, "I don't believe that all gays have no morals whatsoever."

Oh. Goody.

Over in Denver, Colorado state Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, morphed into a preacher during debate on a bill extending health benefits to partners of gay state employees.

In a six-minute speech, Renfroe called homosexuality an "abomination" and an "offense to God." He quoted several Bible verses, including that pip from Leviticus that says men who sleep together shall be killed.

He pinched a page from the playbook of Sen. Buttars in the neighboring state, comparing gays not to terrorists but to something similar.

"I'm not saying this (homosexuality) is the only sin that's out there," he explained. "We have murder. We have all sorts of sin. We have adultery. And we don't make laws making those legal. And we would never think to make murder legal."

So homosexuality and murder are on a par. With apologies to John Denver, I'm experiencing a Colorado Rocky Mountain low.

After the appropriate uproar, Renfroe told the press he didn't mean to suggest that homosexuality and murder were the same. He also said he doesn't advocate punishing gay people.

However, he still holds that all sin, including homosexuality, offends God, and the state shouldn't enact laws condoning any of them. Amen and harumph.

Just when these two state senators have cast a pall over the region, an antidote arrives. Roger Carrier, a straight retired teacher from Salt Lake, was disgusted by the comments of Sen. Buttars. To combat what he feels is growing homophobia among Utah politicians, he's proposed placing a statue of Harvey Milk at the Utah Capitol.

It'll never happen. But Carrier showed a happier attitude in the high altitude.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Womyn's Diary

The New York Times recently ran a story about Alapine, a lesbian community in rural Alabama. Home to 20 women ranging in age from 50 to 75, Alapine is truly womyn's land. Men may only visit. Moreover, straight women may not live there. The story highlighted how critical a matriarchal way of life is to these residents, and how such communities could be doomed since they appeal much less to younger lesbians.

After reading the piece I was moved to imagine a day in the life of an Alapine gal. Here's a diary entry I rustled up:

11:00 p.m., Friday, Feb. 27, 2009

I woke up at 6:00 this morning, which is a damn sight better than 4:00 like I've been doing. Looks like Sylvia really knows her way around those homeopathic remedies. I'll ask her if she has anything for corns.

Took a long walk through the woods with Gertrude and Alice B. (corns be damned). Gertrude would chase squirrels all day if she could. We ran into Joyce walking Cleopatra and Boadicea. It's dogs that have it the best around here! All that room to run, and all of us old dykes to fawn over them.

On our way home Gertrude spotted one of the chickens, and that was all she wrote. She chased it up Diana Drive and down Athena Avenue. Well, did Cynthia have something to say about that! It took me a century to calm her down. Told her Gertrude had just put the "free range" in free-range chickens.

Beth came out to see what the fuss was about. Damned if she wasn't toting a shotgun. What a mistake the army made kicking her out in the '60s for being a lesbian. She could've won the Cold War by herself.

Beth took the opportunity to tell us she'd changed the gate security code again. I'd like to know how a bunch of seniors can be expected to remember a new code every week!

This afternoon I got brave. I sat down to write a poem for tomorrow's community full moon circle. After an hour I gave up on anything rhyming. The free verse I wrote, well, I hope it's good. I've never read a poem out loud before! I'm as nervous as Cynthia's chicken! Of course everyone will be supportive to the teeth, but still.

Sandy announced the topic for discussion at the circle will be "Menstruation—Do We Miss It?" Not sure what I think of that, but it makes a change from discussing communication styles and past lives.

I got e-mails from both Andrew and David today. They sound like they're both hurting in this economy. I'll say this for our no-males policy. It's gonna keep my sons from moving back in with Mom!

Betty told me her daughters complain that she isn't a "normal lesbian," whatever that is. They hate saying that their mother lives in a lesbian commune. They don't understand her attachment to nature. She doesn't understand their attachment to money, so I guess everyone's good and confused.

Thank the goddess that Ruthie works in town. She brought me some more Krispy Kremes today. Manna from heaven.

I tried a new recipe for this evening's potluck. Shrimp and grits. The girls seemed to like it, those that eat shellfish. Bernie's fig bars were out of this world. I swear, if she didn't cheat at canasta, she and I could get involved. She can bake and build houses. What's not to love?

It's 11:30 at night. An hour ago Shirley and Charmaine next door were arguing. Now they're making up. Gotta ask Bernie if she knows how to soundproof a double-wide.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Leading Lesbian

It's a tough name for non-Scandinavians to pronounce or spell, but I promise to learn it. Cross my rainbow heart.

Johanna Sigurdardottir is the new prime minister of Iceland, and she's openly lesbian. It makes me want to wave the hat I bought 25 years ago in the Reykjavik airport.

That actually would be appropriate, as Sigurdardottir was a flight attendant and must've been in that airport countless times. So wave I will, to salute Iceland. While Björk sings in the background.

Iceland's new leader was a union organizer for flight attendants, and became a member of parliament in 1978. She's been in government a long time. Most recently she served as social affairs minister, before being tabbed to sit in the big chair.

The big chair could be a hot seat. The worldwide economic crisis hit Iceland like a horde of Vikings in pinstriped suits. The banks collapsed, the currency swooned, and inflation and unemployment are surging.

Protesters pelted the former prime minister's limo with eggs. In this nation of only 320,000 people, recent anti-government protests drew thousands. Police used tear gas for the first time in some 50 years.

This is the happy backdrop to her taking power. Remind you of someone? Maybe things had to get so bad for a black man to lead America, and a lesbian to lead Iceland.

Or maybe not. Like Obama, people have a lot of faith in Sigurdardottir. Polls give her high approval ratings. "It's a question of trust, people believe that she actually cares about people," a political scientist told the AP.

Besides being popular, she has another thing going for her as she takes on this ridiculously hard job: She's temporary. If the job sucks or she sucks at it, she's outta there before too many eggs can decorate the limo.

Sigurdardottir will be prime minister until elections are held, probably in May, when her Social Democratic Alliance Party isn't expected to do well enough to keep her in power. I wonder whether realistically she can make things much better or worse in that short amount of time. She can be a calming influence. Assure Icelanders that their island isn't sinking into the sea.

No matter how she performs, she'll always be the first out lesbian to lead a country. She'll always be a trailblazer for gay folk the world over. She'll always be the answer to a trivia question.

Actually, she'll always be a bit of a trick question. Sigurdardottir isn't the first out gay person to lead a country. Technically she's the second. Per-Kristian Foss, Norway's finance minister in 2002, served as his nation's acting prime minister when both the prime minister and foreign minister were abroad. But Foss's tenure as prime minister was so short he didn't even have time to put his feet up on the furniture.

It's telling that the first and second openly gay heads of government come from the same part of the world. Scandinavians seem to be farther along in their thinking than the rest of the world. Maybe it's something in the water—or fjords and geysers.

Sigurdardottir entered into a civil partnership in 2002 with journalist and playwright Jonina Leosdottir. How will Leosdottir be referred to? As the civil partner? The first lady? The first lesbian leader's first lesbian lady?

Oh, and did you notice that both women's names end the same way? Come to find out that most Icelanders derive their last name from their father's first name. Icelanders address each other by their first name. If I understand correctly, that means Sigurdardottir will be called Prime Minister Johanna.

Works for me! Now I don't have to learn that name after all. Whew.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sculpted Stereotypes

I thought the only person who could antagonize most of Europe at once was George Bush. Now a Czech artist has given it a try.

In Brussels where the European Union is headquartered, it's the Czech Republic's turn to take over the presidency of the EU. To mark the occasion, the Czech government commissioned homeboy artist David Cerny to collaborate on a work of art with artists from the other 26 EU countries.

Even before the formal unveiling of the 172-square-foot sculpture inside an EU building, Cerny had proved he'd taken the concept of a free society to heart and then some.

The brochure he presented to his government describing all 27 artists was as fraudulent as the Hitler Diaries. Cerny and a few friends had actually created the entire sculpture.

"We knew the truth would come out," Cerny told the BBC. "But before that we wanted to find out if Europe is able to laugh at itself."

There's a lot to laugh at. Called "Entropa," the satirical sculpture looks like an unassembled plastic modeling kit, with pieces shaped like the EU nations, all 27 of which receive a lampooning.

Belgium is depicted as a half-full box of partially eaten chocolates, while a strike banner covers France. Entropa presents Romania as a Dracula theme park. Germany is a network of highways somewhat resembling a swastika, according to some observers, and England isn't even present, a nod to its aloofness toward integrating with Europe.

Bulgaria is represented by a series of connected squat toilets. Bulgaria is not happy about this. The government summoned the Czech ambassador to register its official disapproval. I bet government officials spitefully wouldn't let the ambassador use their facilities.

And then there's Poland. In Entropa, Poland is presented as a group of Catholic priests hoisting the rainbow flag Iwo-Jima style.

I'll just let you absorb that image for a minute.

Yup, clergy raising the gay flag in deeply Catholic Poland. I wonder what the late Pope John Paul II, a native Pole, would have to say about that.

In the recent past Poland has been anything but gay-supportive. Polish President Lech Kaczynski has been the leading light of homophobia, forbidding Pride marches when he was mayor of Warsaw and last March railing on national TV against the EU's proposed new charter of fundamental rights because it could—insert the Polish word for gasp here—lead to same-sex marriage in Poland.

When casting about for some national characteristic to make fun of, Cerny chose this for Poland, the overheated relationship between the nation, Catholic Church, and gays. I imagine Czech diplomats took one look at that piece of the sculpture and braced themselves for a rant from Warsaw. Or Rome.

At this writing, neither has happened. More surprisingly, the Polish people don't seem offended. Wikipedia cites an online poll of Poles in which 64% said Poland's portrayal was "spot on," and just 13% decreed it "an insult to Polish people." Perhaps they're just glad they escaped Bulgaria's toilet treatment.

There's another group that could be offended: American veterans. Some wouldn't like the iconic image showing up in satire; others would be specifically irked that it's the gay flag being raised. But since Americans generally don't pay much attention to goings-on abroad, Czech diplomats probably need not lose sleep over an angry reaction from the American Legion.

Last fall the Lithuanian foreign minister admitted that EU critics are correct in calling Lithuania the most homophobic country in Europe. But in Cerny's sculpture, Lithuania consists of figures peeing on their eastern neighbors.

Very educational, this sculpture. If Americans should want to start learning more about Europe, this might be the place to start.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Caught in My Own Web

I am a techno-phobe.

I'd be a card-carrying one, if I knew how to make a card on my computer.

My inability to cope with technology is now officially hurting my career. A columnist needs readers, and in this era readers find columns on the Internet.

But my Web site has fallen and can't get up.

It's amazing that I even have a Web site, but I do. All I know is I annually fork over some money to pay for domain names. I don't ask any questions. That would seem like prying.

In the past after I had finished a column and dispatched it to the gay publications, I would then religiously send it to a friend of mine who slapped the column up on my Web site. Marjorie, a musician, empathized with having a career that generated little money, so she kindly used her computer skills to do whatever it is people do to stick something on a site.

Once in a cobalt moon I could pay her; usually I couldn't. Sometimes she wasn't able to get to the task for months. But the columns arrived on my Web site eventually, and my mother would finally stop asking when she could read me.

But all good—meaning free--things must end, and Marjorie became too busy to tend to my site. Recognizing how precious her time had become, I, with a hand to my brow, nobly freed her from helping me. Martyr-wise, Joan of Arc would've been impressed.

I can do this, I told myself. I should learn how to maintain a Web site. It would be a great skill to possess. Besides, there's no way I can pay anybody to do it, so I have to learn. Yes, I'll get the hang of it! I'll overcome my fears and lack of skill and do it myself!

And dachshunds will fly.

I walked around in this fog of wild optimism for a long time. The fog lifted when I realized I hadn't done a thing to learn about Web sites, probably wouldn't, and the columns on my site were older than Monticello.

For the record, I want to state that I come by ineptitude honestly: I inherited it from my father. During World War II the army assigned him to carry a tripod upon which a machine gun was supposed to go. He couldn't set up the tripod, let alone the machine gun. My family believes, had he not been re-assigned to create programming for a radio network, the wrong side would've won the war.

Later, as a novelist, he couldn't negotiate the jump from manual to electric typewriters. Obviously from Dad I inherited both the writing gene and the technical incompetence gene. It seems to me the two go together with notable frequency.

So here I am now, still regularly producing columns for an LGBT audience. Columns that are all dressed up with nowhere to go. Yes, they land in publications and on some Web sites other than my own, but they don't grace the space specifically devoted to them. I picture my Web site as a lost astronaut floating around in cyberspace, no longer tethered to anything. Space junk. Jet-packed flotsam.

This can't go on. I need a homeport so readers can find me. So when people ask where they can read my stuff I don't mumble something about space debris.

I need a person with more technological ability than I—say, your average 7-year-old—who has the time and desire to help bring my Web site up-to-date. And who will do it for free. And then I'd like world peace and a pony.