The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'gay'
Australia's ongoing, rolling culture war has recently converged on the idea of gender and sexual orientation; this is perhaps inevitable, after the previous iteration of the country's conservative (“Liberal”) government used the threat of gay people being able to marry as a political football, and committed the country to a vaguely-defined plebiscite at some time in the future on how much of that sort of thing should be acceptable (possible question: “Do you hate poofters: ☐ Yes ☐ Maybe a little ☐ No, but they make me uncomfortable ☐ They're OK as long as they don't hold hands in public or anything ☐ Not at all, I live in Newtown/Brunswick"). In the Liberals' defence, the country needs a scapegoat to unite against, and with death-cult Islamist jihadists being a bit thin on the ground there and the public starting to feel awkward about sending babies to gulags, it'll have to be the gays, and the transgendered people, and boys who wear their hair long, and girls who play football, and trendy-lefty parents who let their daughters play football and their sons play with dolls, and other such deviants and transgressives.
Now the culture war has moved into the schools, with the Liberals' new “moderate” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ordering a review of an anti-bullying initiative after MP Cory Bernardi (a star of the Liberals' Putinist wing, who had previously compared homosexuality to bestiality) raised concerns that the program, by teaching that non-heterosexual/non-cisgendered identities exist and are valid, “indoctrinates kids with Marxist cultural relativism”. (Bernardi was referring to the trope of “Cultural Marxism”, emerging from a McCarthy-era anti-Semitic dog whistle, once confined to badly laid-out flyers from the swivel-eyed fringe of the far right, but now gaining mainstream acceptance, not least of all in Rupert Murdoch's Australian flagship, The Australian.)
The programme Bernardi is attacking, Safe Schools, was brought in by the previous Labor government in response to the plight of LGBTI teenagers in an environment where being anything other than heterosexual and cisgendered was to be a legitimate target; the result of this is that LGBTI kids in Australia are six times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers. And anti-gay bullying is not an isolated phenomenon in today's Australia: domestic violence is rampant, and heterosexual gender relations are defined by an almost Victorian paradigm of male forcefulness versus female resistance, where women who let on to enjoying sex on their own terms are “sluts” who “deserve what they get”. Australia has a long way to go, and it's not clear which direction it's heading in.
Anyway, it looks like Australia will now have an inquiry into this programme, and whether the poofters have it too good in Australia. At best, it'll turn out like the inquiry into “wind turbine syndrome” (a peculiar culture-bound syndrome affecting only conservative Australians), pissing taxpayers' money up a wall to come to the conclusion that, no, the Communists aren't
fluoridating the water supply trying to turn our kids gay (replete with exhaustive references to writings about the Frankfurt School of Marxist thought, carefully checked for proof of a conspiracy; in other news, it's probably a good time to be a German translator in Canberra). Though there's a real risk that it will result in changes such as bans on references to sexual orientation or gender identity, reducing the programme to a “bullying is bad, okay” motherhood statement, and once again allowing open season on gay kids (or those perceived, in the sadistic logic of the schoolyard, to be “gay”, an epithet having as much connection to sexuality as “Cultural Marxism” has to the writings of Karl Marx). Though one person's bullying is another person's “community-minded citizens' enforcement of shared cultural values” or something, and only a dirty commie would want to get rid of that.
Meanwhile in Newtown, one of the pockets of a bizarro-world progressive Australia, a school has allowed students to wear the uniforms of either sex without seeking permission to do so, much to the condemnation of religious bigots. I wonder how long it will be until the Christian Fundamentalist-dominated Baird government (which has recently strangled Sydney's nightlife with onerous regulation) tables a law mandating distinct male and female uniforms in all New South Wales schools.
The other big news this weekend, of course, Ireland voting in favour of legalising same-sex marriage. The margin (62%) was decisive enough, even without taking into account the fact that only one of Ireland's 43 parliamentary constituencies reported a majority against. The case is pretty much settled; even senior Catholic clergy have conceded that history was on the side of the change.
This result shows how much has changed in Ireland over the past few decades, and in particular, how much the influence of the Catholic Church, which once controlled all aspects of life in the republic, has waned. It has only been 22 years since homosexuality itself stopped being a crime in Ireland, and a decade or so longer since divorce became legal. Of course, the Church Holy Roman and Apostolic's influence still weighs heavily in one conspicuous area: abortion remains strictly illegal in Ireland, with several referenda in the past decades failing to reverse this. It is, to say the least, not at all clear that this would be repeated in any future referendum. (On the other hand, the experience in the US has shown that it is possible for a liberalisation in gay rights to occur alongside a rolling back of womens' reproductive rights, so legalised abortion in Ireland is by no means inevitable.)
The decision's impact will spread beyond the Irish Republic; calls for reform in Northern Ireland, the only part of the United Kingdom where same-sex marriage is illegal, are likely to be strengthened (though still face an uphill battle, with the conservative Democratic Unionist Party coming increasingly under evangelical Protestant influence. Considerably further afield, Australia is another place where this may have an impact. Australians famously like their politicians to be more conservative and moralistic than they themselves are, which has been reflected, as recently as a few years ago, in both major parties being against same-sex marriage. The vein of religious conservatism that animates this opposition, meanwhile, stems largely from Irish Catholic conservatism (the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, is an conservative Catholic whose political views stem largely from the ultra-conservative, Democratic Labor Party, which emerged when the Catholic elements in the ALP left, citing creeping Communist influence in the party); while it is possible that Australia will remain as a sort of Galapagos of the Irish Catholic Right circa 1950, preserving this otherwise extinct culture in the way that a 19th-century dialect of English remains alive on the South Atlantic island of Tristan da Cunha, the fall of the Old Sod to secular modernity could have an effect.
Recently, celebrity right-wing intellectual Niall Ferguson caused a stir when, during an investors' conference, he implied that economist John Maynard Keynes did not care about the future, on the grounds of being childless and gay. The comments seemed to have been an attempt to attribute Keynes' famous quote, “in the long run, we are all dead”, to an amoral nihilism that comes from neglecting one's duty to reproduce in favour of a decadent hedonism and aestheticism, and thus to tar Keynes' model of government borrowing and economic stimulus, popular amongst the left of the political spectrum but anathema to the neoliberal right, with the brush of this effete, degenerate nihilism:
Another reporter, Tom Kostigen of Financial Advisor, gave a longer account. Kostigen wrote that Ferguson had also made mention of the fact that Keynes had married a ballerina, despite his gay affairs. "Ferguson asked the audience how many children Keynes had. He explained that Keynes had none because he was a homosexual and was married to a ballerina, with whom he likely talked of 'poetry' rather than procreated," Kostigen wrote. He added that the audience at the event went quiet when the remarks were uttered.Ferguson has apologised unreservedly for the remarks once they became public, calling them “stupid and tactless”; chances are that they've served their purpose as a dog whistle, and many of the sorts of people who see “Cultural Marxism” and decadent weakness all around them will agree wholeheartedly.
While Ferguson was rightly excoriated for the anti-gay tone of the remarks, there has been less comment on the other part of his statement, the assertion, still commonly held in many places, that childless people are selfish, amoral nihilists, who refuse to grow up and shoulder their responsibility:
There is, among many otherwise intelligent individuals, an assumption that those of us who make a positive choice to not reproduce are selfish, rootless and have no concern about future generations or the planet. But those who have their own children often forget about the world and just worry about their own ever shrinking one.
I have seen the most passionately committed feminist activists go gaga once they give birth. All the promises such as "I'll still come on that march/go to that conference/burn down that sex shop" disappear when they sprog. All those in my circle with offspring seem to become unhealthily obsessed with their own little world. Principles go out of the window ("I still hate the private education system/healthcare but I am not putting my politics before my children"), and socialising becomes impossible.Big families and the political Right have gone hand-in-hand for a while. Meanwhile, the white-supremacist British National Party, feeling the angry-white-people vote taken away by the less overtly fascistic UKIP, is encouraging its supporters to lie back and think of
"I know, by now you will be giggling over this suggestion. But think about it, nationalists need to buck the trend of 1.8 children per white household. We need to aim between 3 and 4 children each if not more," he writes. "And the bonus is that making babies is fun! So fellow nationalists, less TV and more fun! Let's do our bit for Britain and our race."
Matthew Collins, a former BNP member and now an anti-racism activist, said the post was an attempt by the party to get some attention after its poor election results. "It's tongue in cheek but there is a serious point. Griffin is always going on about being outbred and in the past he has said members need to put away their boots and go and meet women. The problem is that your typical BNP member is a social pariah who is more into pornography than starting a family," he saidA more frightening possibility would be if these people are successfully persuaded to do their duty, especially with the BNP's record on gender relations (they're not in favour of womens' rights; one of their MPs is on record as saying that women should be “struck like a gong”). I wonder in how many suburban culs-de-sac in BNP heartland, aspiring Josef Fritzls are now drawing up plans for soundproofing their basements and making notes on the movements and likely racial purity of fit-looking local shopgirls.
Nobel laureate Lech Wałesa, who had led the Solidarność movement that overthrew Poland's Soviet-backed puppet government in the 1980s and served as the first President of independent Poland, recently caused an uproar when he said that gay people had no right to serve in parliament:
Wałesa said in a television interview on Friday that he believed gay people had no right to sit on the front benches in parliament and, if there at all, should sit in the back "or even behind a wall". "They have to know that they are a minority and adjust to smaller things, and not rise to the greatest heights," he told the private broadcaster TVN during a discussion of gay rights. "A minority should not impose itself on the majority."As a private citizen, Wałesa's words have no force in law, though given his status, they wield considerable influence, and resonate with a significant ultra-conservative proportion of Poland's population. (In Poland, the common colloquial word for “gay”, pedał, also means “paedophile”.) This proportion are well-represented; theirs is the opposition Law and Justice Party (currently allied with David Cameron's Tories in the EU Parliament, much to the discomfort of the we-are-not-the-Nasty-Party faction) and a conservative media which makes Fox News and The Australian look like the New York Times by comparison. (The fact that the Catholic Church was prominent in resistance to the Communist dictatorship imposed by the USSR, and that anything with a whiff of left-wing ideals, from secularism to equal rights for minorities, still stinks of Russian tanks to a proportion of the public doesn't help things.) Fortunately, they are not the unanimous voice of the Polish voting public: Poland's liberals have condemned the remarks, and the liberal Palikot's Movement party in parliament protested by temporarily promoting its two LGBT* parliamentarians to the front bench:
On Wednesday, Robert Biedron, a gay rights activist, and Anna Grodzka, who had a male-to-female sex-change operation, took seats in the front row of the assembly. Both are members of the progressive Palikot's Movement party, and party leader Janusz Palikot arranged for the two to sit in, relinquishing his own seat to Biedron.
The first row in the semi-circular lower chamber, or Sejm, is reserved for party leaders and prominent lawmakers. Biedron and Grodzka – who have been in parliament since 2011 – usually sit in the third row.Meanwhile, here is a petition asking for an apology from Wałesa for his statement.
The House of Commons voted today to legalise same-sex marriage in England and Wales; the bill passed by 400 votes for to 175 against. About a third of Conservatives voted for it, with slightly more voting against and the rest abstaining; a handful of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs voted against it, though most voted in favour. (Aside: according to accounts of the session, there are surprisingly many openly gay Tory MPs in Britain, a sign that the country has moved on since Tory electoral materials openly carried homophobic dog whistles and Thatcher tried to push through Section 28.)
The bill now needs to pass through the House of Lords; in theory, this should not be too much of a problem for a bill with this degree of support. Assuming it makes it through, it will become law and gay couples will be able to marry and have equal status to opposite-sex married couples.
The public acceptance of homosexuality has been one of the greatest social changes of the past half-century. It is scarcely to be believed that there are still men alive who went to prison for practising it. The real breakthrough may come only when gay people cease to demand the exceptionalism of a "victimised" group, when they can shrug off the intolerance of a few, having won the acceptance of the many.A few residual anomalies will remain, however: it will be impossible for a same-sex couple to claim adultery as grounds for divorce, as adultery remains defined as an opposite-sex act (illicit hanky-panky with one of one's own sex falls under “unreasonable behaviour”, and barring a change in the law, will continue to do so even when one's spouse is of one's own sex), and nor is there any legal definition of non-consummation of a same-sex marriage. Also, while same-sex couples can marry, opposite-sex couples who dislike the idea of marriage still may not obtain civil partnerships, though those remain on the table for same-sex couples. What eventually happens to these anomalies remains to be seen.
Meanwhile in Australia, not only is there still bipartisan opposition to gay marriage in parliament, but the nominally progressive government is moving to allow religious groups broad exemptions from anti-discrimination laws, for example allowing Catholic hospitals to fire employees who are gay or have children outside of a marriage.
The Russian feminist punk collective Pussy Riot have, as expected, been found guilty, and sentenced to two years in a gulag, a sentence less than the 3-7 years the prosecution wanted, but still alarmingly severe given the nature of the incident. Given the brutality of the Russian prison system (in which almost half of the prisoners are ill with HIV or antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis and disfavoured prisoners, a category into which unrepentant enemies of the powers that be may end up being coerced, are singled out for brutal abuse), their chances of emerging two years later more or less OK don't look good.
The trial, if anything, has been a turning point, in that Russia has given up the pretence of being a liberal democracy, and publicly reasserted the Czarist autocratic model, with the Russian Orthodox church acting as a Caesaropapist arm of the absolute State. Der Spiegel has a piece on Russia's reembracing of autocracy:
In the summer of 1991, for example, when the Soviet realm was collapsing, Putin moved into his office in St. Petersburg and promptly had the portrait of Lenin removed and replaced with one of Peter the Great. A janitor had brought Putin two images of the czar. The first one depicted the young Peter, looking amiable and idealistic, a modernizer who wanted to open the "window to Europe" for his giant, backward country. Putin rejected the picture. Instead, he chose one of a serious-looking older czar, marked by many battles and conflicts, one who had expanded his realm with new conquests, and one whose rule was so ruthless that he had his own son tortured to death after accusing him of being involved in a conspiracy.Then again, as Twitter user @mrcolmquinn pointed out, "Next time you see a staged photo of Putin doing something macho remember he is scared of a non violent group of young women."
And in other news, Moscow's top court has banned gay parades for 100 years.
On the eve of the Eurovision Song Contest, Der Spiegel has a piece on a group of academics who are looking at what the competition says about European cultures:
Take the 2007 winner, Serbia's Marija Serifovic. Many interpreted her act to be that of a campy, butch lesbian, but Gluhovic argues that people in the East viewed it differently, noting that the song's title, "Molitva" ("prayer"), is almost the same word in many Slavic languages. Viewers in Prague, Zagreb or Moscow may have been more inclined to think of the song as a prayer for a Serbia where EU sanctions against the former Milosevic regime had only just been lifted.
One thing neither academic disputes is the fact that countries in Eastern Europe and far beyond are investing heavily in their Eurovision acts as a way of polishing their images abroad. From Kiev to Moscow to Baku, tens of millions of euros have been spent on campaigns to burnish their images at Eurovision. Two approaches have proven highly popular -- either attempts to "self-exoticize" a country's "Orientalness" or Eastern culture, or to bring in famous producers to emulate Western pop styles.And while new arrivals go for nouveau-riche glamour to make an impression, those closer in seek to tone their appearance down, to distance themselves from their arriviste neighbours, not unlike the English class system:
Despite all the exuberant performers, some new entrants take a conservative approach. Researchers working on the Eurovision 'New Europe' project have seen a trend in Poland in which the country eschews the more outlandish performances adopted by some of its neighbors in favor of more mainstream pop. "In terms of their look and the way they sound, they have a strategy of disidentification with the more exotic East, thereby claiming its position in the Central European cultural core and values." The strategy has been a loser in terms of votes, however.Meanwhile, there is the question of Eurovision's campness and function as a signifier of gay identity, particularly in places where open homosexuality is disapproved of or worse:
At times, she continues, Eurovision can be outrageous, and at others downright silly, which all plays into its camp appeal. And in the past, Eurovision was a "secret code or club" for being gay in countries like Ireland, where homosexuality was only decriminalized in 1993. "You had a secret and your friends had a secret and you had those parties every year," Fricker says.
More recently, Eurovision has underscored differences in acceptance of homosexuality in different parts of Europe that give little reason to celebrate. When Belgrade hosted the contest in 2008, welcome packages for Eurovision attendees included warnings against displaying same-sex affection in a city that gets low marks for gay-friendliness. Moscow, which hosted in 2009, isn't exactly known as a bastion of tolerance either.Interestingly enough, in Australia, where Eurovision is broadcast most of a day later (a function of Australia having a lot of descendants of European migrants with connections to their old countries; the US, incidentally, doesn't have Eurovision, and Americans I've spoken to have found it befuddling, in the same way westerners see Japanese game shows), Eurovision isn't seen as a specifically gay thing, but rather a piece of kitsch to have a good laugh at with friends. This seems to be particularly common in the inner-city areas, populated by bohemians and avant-bourgeoisie who, thanks to SBS, have a finely tuned taste for Euro-kitsch.
Gay marriage: the database engineering perspective, or how different definitions of the institution of marriage would be reflected in different (relational) database schemas. Not surprisingly, the strictly traditionalist schemas do hideously inelegant things like have different tables for men and women, or mark one gender as subordinate to the other (i.e., have the males table contain a wife_id column), while the most elegant ones reduce marriage to a type of edge in generalised social networking, leaving policy (can you marry yourself for tax reasons? can more than two people be married?) outside of the schema.
I wouldn't be surprised if, at some point, some technically ignorant legislator in some conservative backwater proposed a law requiring databases to have separate tables for men and women or something similarly brain-damaged.
A heterosexual couple in London are planning to sue for the right to enter a civil partnership. Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle want the same rights as a married couple, but reject the separate-but-equal doctrine that separates gay and straight couples into "civil partnerships" and "marriages". Unfortunately, the law insists that, being heterosexual, they are only entitled to marriage (an institution with its roots in religious tradition, to the point that the government created "civil partnership" to keep the queers from defiling it with their existence).
Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle, both 25, want the same legal rights as any husband and wife, but said they did not want to be seen to be "colluding with the segregation that exists in matrimonial law between gay civil partnerships and straight civil marriage".
The couple applied for a civil partnership at Islington register office, in north London, but were refused because UK law bans opposite-sex civil partnerships.Freeman and Doyle have the support of gay- and human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
I wish them the best of luck. To say that a heterosexual couple's partnership automatically lumps them in with all other heterosexuals and separates them from non-heterosexuals is a denial of freedom of association. Furthermore, it casts light on the oddness of the concept of "marriage", which, on one hand, is a secular institution provided by a secular state, and on the other hand is robed in so much fusty religious tradition that the state imposes absolutely inflexible barriers along lines of ancient prejudice. It would be far more sensible to abolish secular marriage altogether, and have the state-recognised component be a civil partnership; if couples want to get married by their church (and their church approves), they could do that in addition to the state institution. The process could be streamlined, with churches acting as agents for the civil partnership agency whilst performing marriages, but at the end, all partnered couples, gay and straight, religious and irreligious, would have exactly the same title and status in the eyes of the law.
Some news from Venezuela, the Another World that Is Possible. There, the "Bolivarian" authorities have criminalised "violent" video games (a move which may be intended to shut down internet cafés which depend on game players for revenue but also bypass official means of the dissemination of information), and routinely round up gays and lesbians:
One Friday at around midnight, on Villaflor Street, a favourite spot for gays and lesbians in the Venezuelan capital, Yonatan Matheus and Omar Marques noticed two Caracas police patrol vans carrying about 20 detainees, most of them very young.
When Marques and Matheus, who are gay leaders of the Venezuela Diversa (Diverse Venezuela) organisation, approached to find out what was happening and take pictures, they were picked up too.
"Like most of those arrested, our identity documents and mobile phones were taken away, we were beaten, our sexual orientation was insulted in degrading language, and we were refused permission to speak to the Justice Ministry officials and members of the National Guard who were present," Matheus told IPS.
(via Boing Boing)
The Daily Mail specialises in pandering to the unspoken prejudices of Middle Britain; more so than other populist-Right tabloids, it maintains a veneer of middle-class respectability, tutting and curtain-twitching at the decline in public morality and property values, and, whilst officially deploring the BNP and its ilk, putting in the right plausibly-deniable dog whistles that appeal to the proto-fascist tendency. (The fascist tilt isn't just a figure of speech, the Mail notably praised Hitler and his strong leadership of Germany in the 1930s.)
Now, the Mail has outdone itself, publishing an article blaming the death of Stephen Gately, an openly gay boy band member (who, coroners determined, suffered from an undiagnosed heart condition) on his "unnatural lifestyle". The article's author, Jan Moir, almost managed to get away with not being overtly homophobic, by suggesting that the "dark appetites" and "private vice" were some kind of hypothetical celebrity drug culture, though blows any plausible deniability out of the water by saying that Gately's death "strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships.". (What's that you say, Jan? Perhaps had he been socially coerced into a loveless sham marriage to a woman he could never love he'd still be alive?) Anyway, advertisers including Marks & Spencer have pulled their advertising from the Daily Mail.
And here is Charlie Brooker's masterful response to the article.
Following a petition, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has issued an posthumous apology to Alan Turing:
While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can’t put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him. Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted under homophobic laws were treated terribly. Over the years millions more lived in fear of conviction.
But even more than that, Alan deserves recognition for his contribution to humankind. For those of us born after 1945, into a Europe which is united, democratic and at peace, it is hard to imagine that our continent was once the theatre of mankind’s darkest hour. It is difficult to believe that in living memory, people could become so consumed by hate - by anti-Semitism, by homophobia, by xenophobia and other murderous prejudices - that the gas chambers and crematoria became a piece of the European landscape as surely as the galleries and universities and concert halls which had marked out the European civilisation for hundreds of years. It is thanks to men and women who were totally committed to fighting fascism, people like Alan Turing, that the horrors of the Holocaust and of total war are part of Europe’s history and not Europe’s present.Has Turing been posthumously pardoned (as, I believe, Oscar Wilde was)?
In the 1990s, Tony Blair took the helm of the Labour Party and modernised it, ditching its unfashionable brown-suited socialist tendencies and transforming it into a neo-Thatcherite centre-right party with really good PR (or "spin", as they called it). In fact, the spin was so good that it allowed it not only to "outflank" the Tories, pushing them into corners, but to manoeuvre into bizarre and impossible positions, such as supporting George W. Bush's faith-based invasion of Iraq.
Blair's luck ran out, and he left the floundering ship of New Labour. Now, however, he has turned his attention to modernising another organisation he has joined; namely the Catholic Church:
The former prime minister, who converted to Catholicism shortly after leaving office two years ago, said he disagreed with the Pope's stance on gay rights and controversially suggested that the Church should reform itself along similar lines to how he re-organised the Labour Party.
"Organised religions face the same dilemma as political parties when faced with changed circumstances," he said. u can either A: Hold on to your core vote, basically, you know, say 'Look let's not break out because if we break out we might lose what we've got, and at least we've got what we've got so let's keep it'. Or B: You say 'let's accept that the world is changing, and let us work out how we can lead that change and actually reach out'."Of course, there is a lot of merit in the content of what Blair is saying in this specific instance; on gay rights, in my (liberal, atheist, cosmopolitanist) opinion, the Catholic church is out of touch, and Blair is right. A lot of people, of course, would disagree; whether they are a minority as Blair says is another matter.
However, the other part of Blair's statement, about the Catholic church needing to reorganise along New Labour lines, is more thought-provoking. What would a Blairite New Catholic Church look like? Well, firstly they would ditch the unfashionable old-guard dogmas (such as condemnation of homosexuality and contraception, to name two); those who believed in these strictures would be allowed to remain in the margins of the church, much as the left of the Labour Party was, growing steadily into fusty irrelevance, though still occasionally putting on a good, if cranky, show to keep the old believers from completely jumping ship. Freed from these dogmas, the church would be free to move towards the centre and, in classic Blairite fashion, "outflank" rival religions, appropriating their ideas and pushing them further towards the fringes. We could expect Blairite New Catholicism to appropriate everything from new-age crystal healing to promises of an afterlife filled with willing virgins and repackage what works, only with much better presentation.
As with New Labour, presentation would be the linchpin of New Catholicism. The church would be rebranded extensively, with the centuries-old trappings given new designs, crisply contemporary yet with a comforting gravitas. The vestments worn by priests and altar boys would be restyled by Paul Smith or someone, and cathedrals given an overhaul by Damien Hirst, with stained glass by Banksy. And Jamie Oliver would do the communion wafers. The sacred music would have to change, with big-name stars being brought in to give it a facelift. Finally, the Catholic Church would have caught up to that other great innovation of contemporary religious practice, the celebrity centre.
The selling of indulgences would also see a return, with donors not only being able to procure absolution of sins, but in some cases, sainthoods as well. And given the tendency of some clergy to get into scandals, the Blairite faculty of spin could prove very useful.
Music journalist Jon Savage, who has recently compiled a compilation of music from the gay underground of the 1960s and 70s, claims that today's popular music and pop culture is a lot less tolerant of difference and nontraditional sexual roles than it was in the bad old days:
A few years after Sylvester's triumph, explicitly gay music - Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Bronski Beat, the muscle-bound thud of high-energy dance music - was accepted into the British charts in a way that Joe Meek or the shadowy figures behind the Brothers Butch and Camp Records could never have anticipated. Twenty years on, Radio 1's breakfast show presenter is using the word "gay" as an insult.
"Lad culture has been a disaster for pop music," says Savage. "That definition of a heterosexual man - beer and football, Nick Hornby - is so restrictive. It's important that pop musicians play around with gender and sexual divergence. The fact that it's gone back to Oasis from the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger being very camp, is just pathetic, it's a complete failure. People are scared of nonconformity in music, so this album is a less-than-fragrant reminder of a time when pop music was less sanitised than it is now.Perhaps he has a point and the role of the rock star as a pansexual shaman of kink seems to have largely been displaced by that of a laddish alpha-male, with rock'n'roll's rebellious energy being focussed not so much at overthrowing repressive social strictures as enforcing them and gay-bashing those who transgress. (Witness the reactionary "rebellion" of "alternative" bands like Limp Bizkit, which has more politically in common with right-wing talk radio than any sort of progressive movement.) Where it exists, it is either used as a retro cliché (think Of Montreal's glam sleaze) or in a sanitised, cartoonish form (i.e., Mormon boy band The Killers' faux-transgressivism).
Then again, one could argue that rock'n'roll was always a regressive force; Susan Sontag, for example, equated it with "aggressive normality", and in his blog, Momus (of "Tender Pervert" fame) has asserted that rock music is inherently fascist. Could the 1970s glam nexus of rock music and gender-bending be more like oil and water, less a natural symbiosis than a chance collision brought on by external pressures (in that case, opposition to the strictures of "straight" society). With mainstream conformity eroded, in favour of a marketing-driven arms race of sexualisation, the brute berzerker force of rock has no external targets to be directed against, so it lashed out against the usual targets, and the rebels become bullies?
A few stories from the US elections:
- Barack Obama's acceptance speech. And here is McCain's concession speech; and a gracious and dignified one it is too.
- It seems that prejudice against less-religious folks no longer cuts it in the US; North Carolina Republican senator Elizabeth Dole lost to a relatively unknown Democrat challenger, Kay Hagan, after an attack ad accusing Hagan of being the choice of the "Godless" backfired spectacularly.
- Prejudice against gays, alas, is alive and well in California, with a ballot proposition amending the constitution to ban non-heterosexual marriage looking set to pass narrowly. I wouldn't have a problem with this, as long as couples civil unions had exactly the same rights and responsibilities as married™ ones—and such civil unions were available to heterosexuals. If religious traditionalists want to claim marriage as a trademark, that would be fine as long as those who don't agree with their agendas can opt out. At present, though, this discriminates against not only against gays but also against heterosexuals who don't wish to be lumped in with the bigots.
- It's not all doom and gloom in California, though, with the proposed high-speed rail link between LA and San Francisco looking set to win approval. The proposal to rename a San Francisco sewage plant after George W. Bush, however, didn't pass.
Campaigners from the Greek island of Lesbos are suing a Greek gay group to prevent them from using the word "lesbian" in their name, claiming that the use of the word "Lesbian" to refer to a sexual orientation has made things awkward for them:
In court papers, the plaintiffs allege that the Greek government is so embarrassed by the term Lesbian that it has been forced to rename the island after its capital, Mytilini.If they succeed, they plan to take the fight across the world to claim the word "Lesbian" back. Of which, of course, they stand about as much chance as Xerox and Band-Aid have of reclaiming their trademarks from generic use, hackers have of claiming the word "hacker" back from those who break into computers, or (your favourite music genre) has of dissociating itself from (watered-down commercial variant thereof).
A gay Iranian teenager who fled to Britain after his boyfriend was hanged for sodomy is facing deportation to Iran, and almost certain death. Britain's Home Office has already denied Mehdi Kazemi, 19, asylum, and now the Netherlands is extraditing him to Britain:
"There is no doubt that Mehdi will be arrested and probably executed if he is sent back there," said his 51-year-old uncle, a salesman from Hampshire. "The police have issued a warrant for his arrest. He will be in terrible danger if he goes back."
Mr Kazemi's father has also told him that if the state doesn't kill him, he will. "His father is very angry but his mother still loves him. She is extremely worried for him but she is in a very difficult position. In Iran, mothers don't stop loving their children because they are gay."
A Home Office spokeswoman confirmed Mr Kazemi had exhausted all his domestic avenues of appeal and could expect to be detained pending his deportation. But she added: "Any further representations will be considered on their merits taking into account all the circumstances."Meanwhile, in Lancashire, a court has heard that a gang of teenagers beat a 20-year-old woman to death because she was dressed as a Goth. The woman's boyfriend was severely bashed and left with brain damage. It is not clear what the assailants' dispute with the victims' subcultural orientation was, or indeed what their own views were, though it'd probably be a safe bet that they were of the hoody-wearing persuasion.
And the ultra-conservative former prime minister of Poland, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has spoken out against allowing internet voting because the internet is for pornography:
"I am not an enthusiast of a young person sitting in front of a computer, watching video clips and pornography while sipping a bottle of beer and voting when he feels like it," he was quoted as saying on his party's revamped Web site.
He added that Internet users are "the easiest group to manipulate, to suggest who to vote for."He's right, if one defines being manipulated as being persuaded to put aside cherished prejudices and entertain new, potentially controversial, ideas.
The Guardian has an article on the lengths to which the police went to persecute homosexuals in Britain before 1967, when homosexuality was decriminalised:
But his memories of the period are precise. In the early days, they tell me, living together was a dangerous business. When a drunk coach driver crashed into their car outside their house in the night, 'the first thing we had to do was make up the spare bed. We knew from experience that if you called the police and they suspected you were homosexual, they would ignore the original crime and concentrate on the homosexuality.'
For all that the law was draconian, it was also unenforceable. As a result, arrests often seemed to have an arbitrary, random quality. When Allan Horsfall became a Bolton councillor in 1958, he discovered that a public lavatory used for cottaging was well known to police and magistrates, yet there hadn't been a conviction in 30 years. On the other hand, there would be intermittent trawls through address books of suspected homosexuals, with the result that up to 20 men at a time would appear in the dock, accused of being a 'homosexual ring', even though many of them might never have met many of the others.Of course, whilst homosexuality was legalised in 1967, the age of consent was set to 21, and actually meeting other men for sex were still crimes, as "procuring" or "soliciting", up until 2003:
We shouldn't think this provision was quietly ignored either. In 1989, during the Conservative campaign for family values, more than 2,000 men were prosecuted for gross indecency, as many as during the 1950s and nearly three times the numbers in the mid-Sixties.
The Age looks at the Australian government's push to prevent official recognition of homosexual relationships, interviewing various prominent gay public figures, including Kerryn Phelps, Bob Brown and small-L-liberal columnist Margo Kingston, whose columns have been taking up the "anvil" side of the culture war for years:
Margo Kingston, a self-confessed Howard hater, argues it is a piece of executive arrogance. "Caesar Howard," she says. "Yes, it's a sensitive issue; yes, there are people of many opinions, but this is absolutely gutless and indefensible. The basic 'liberal' position is that whatever you do in your bedroom is private," says Kingston.Therein lies the rub. Kingston makes the mistake of assuming that Australia is a liberal society. Australia, as envisioned and reengineered by the Howard government, leans significantly more towards majoritarianism than libertarianism than most "liberal" societies (think Britain, Canada, the US blue states, and the northwest of Europe). The key distinction is that in libertarianism (not to be confused with Libertarianism, of the guns-and-Ayn-Rand stripe, but I digress), what individuals say or do privately is their own business. Under majoritarianism, there is one set of community/national values, in areas such as propriety, culture and sexual morality, and deviation from those values is seen as inherently corrosive and harmful and thus officially disapproved of and disincentivised. The majority of Australians are heterosexuals, hence tax breaks for having children, subsidised by higher taxes paid by non-breeders (both gay and straight) and official non-recognition of non-heterosexual lifestyles, making noises about "moral values" to pander to the reactionary heartland (and build up a US-style evangelical powerbase) whilst stopping short of outright persecution (as per Peter Costello's statement that gays in Australia are lucky because homosexuality is not a crime).
Gay and lesbian Americans with non-American partners are being forced to leave the United States to be with their partners; a lot are resettling in Britain, where immigration rules give them the same rights as heterosexuals. In contrast, US law does not recognise same-sex relationships for immigration purposes, as that would be Sending The Wrong Message and/or Contrary To God's Law.
Not everyone's happy about the liberal tone of Britain's laws: apparently hundreds of "committed Christians" who run bed-and-breakfasts are up in arms about being legally obliged to extend their hospitality to gays, unmarried couples and followers of the wrong religions:
"We've had a lot of correspondence from Christian B&B operators who don't want to be forced to accept Satanists, Muslims, gays and even unmarried couples as guests,' said a Home Office official. 'Protestants have been writing in saying they shouldn't have to admit Catholics because they have an issue with their religion, Catholics saying they didn't want Jews under their roof and objections from followers of other types of faith."
Dr Don Horrocks of the Evangelical Alliance, which represents about one million Christians in the Anglican, Baptist and other faiths, said : 'The Equality Act is being called "the bed-and-breakfast law". One B&B worker in the north has told me that he would rather cease operating than have gays staying in his house.
If they feel that strongly about judging others' lifestyles and beliefs and denying hospitality to those found wanting, then perhaps they're either in the wrong business, the wrong country or the wrong era.
The US military has given the world a number of things: the internet, GPS, and now, it turns out, San Francisco's gay scene:
During World War II, the United States armed forces "sought out and dishonorably discharged" homosexuals. Many men who were expelled for being gay were processed at San Francisco bases.
This site agrees, stating San Francisco was indeed a point of departure during World War II. Gay men often stayed in the city after completing their military service. Since then, San Francisco's gay and lesbian population has continued to grow.
(via Boing Boing)
A new report might challenge Australia's image as a tolerant, easy-going society, at least as far as non-heterosexuals are concerned, showing that gays and lesbians suffer abuse and depression in Australia. The survey of 5,500 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people revealed that 90% curb public affection for partners, 60% have suffered verbal abuse, nearly half have suffered a major depressive episode, and 16% have had suicidal thoughts. I imagine that Family First and the outer-suburban evangelical megachurches can take heart in the Australian silent majority's true-blue, dinky-di, resounding disapproval of "deviant" and "immoral" sexual behaviour. Meanwhile, those who don't fit in with "mainstream Australian values" can always pack up and move to Berlin or somewhere where that sort of thing is tolerated.
It would be interesting to compare this to, say, 10 years ago, and to see whether this has always been the case, or whether things were more tolerant back then and this is a sign of a growing culture of social conservatism and intolerance in Howard's Australia, which some commentators have pointed out.
Victoria's (State) Health Minister Bronwyn Pike will release this report, along with a website dedicated to gay and lesbian health.
The Federal Government, meanwhile, is expected to announce its own solution to the gay depression crisis, in the form of Medicare funding for a range of faith-based programmes to cure homosexuality.
Australian treasurer Peter Costello to gay marriage activists (paraphrased): "Shut up and just be grateful we don't criminalise gay sex":
Mr Costello said: "I think we do recognise the rights of gay and lesbian people in Australia." "We do not criminalise conduct or behaviour."
"I thought that was appalling. It was offensive. I found it suggesting that we were lucky that we weren't being thrown in jail," Ms Stricker said outside the Sydney Institute meeting. Prof Phelps, also offended by the comment, said it would be like saying to Mr Costello at the Sydney mardi gras: "You are really lucky that we don't lock you up because you are heterosexual." "That's as offensive as his comment to people who are in a committed same sex relationship," she said.I wonder whether not criminalising homosexuality is a policy issue which will become negotiable as those outer-suburban evangelical megachurches grow in political influence, and the government starts looking for minorities to bully to retain their favour.
Whilst various European states stubbornly refuse to rein in their freedom of expression to appease religious sensibilities, the Russians have no time for such liberal panderings. Moscow's city government has banned the city's first gay rights parade, on the grounds that the very idea has "caused outrage in society":
Gay and lesbian activists have been campaigning for permission to stage the country's first gay pride event on Saturday 27 May. The date marks the 13th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Russia in 1993. But the plans have drawn a furious reaction from religious leaders and been condemned as "suicidal" by other gay activists .
Earlier this week Chief Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin warned that Russia's Muslims would stage violent protests if the march went ahead. "If they come out on to the streets anyway they should be flogged. Any normal person would do that - Muslims and Orthodox Christians alike ... [The protests] might be even more intense than protests abroad against those controversial cartoons."
The cleric said the Koran taught that homosexuals should be killed because their lifestyle spells the extinction of the human race and said that gays had no human rights.
In the Communist era Russian homosexuals were jailed for five years and their "condition" was classed as a mental disorder. In post-Soviet Russia public acceptance of homosexuality has been glacial. An opinion poll last year showed 43 per cent of Russians believed gay men should be incarcerated.The organisers of the parade are planning to sue the Moscow government in the European Court of Human Rights.
Still in Russia, survivors of Stalinist gulags are outraged by the imminent opening of a Stalin museum in Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad). The museum is funded by local businessmen, though will enjoy pride of place in an official facility; its opening is only one manifestation in the recent rise of the popularity of the Soviet dictator.
What is the 90s? What does it represent? What was its zeitgeist? This is the tricky part. See, hipsters in the 90s thought that they'd figured out a way to position themselves as the first generation ever which wouldn't, in retrospect, look as ridiculous as previous generations. They thought they'd secure their place by ironically fixating on 70s retro (thus sparing themselves from having to create too much of their own destined-to-be-dated material) as well as adapting the language of a hyper-conscious, self-aware man-outside-of-his-time, narrated as glibly as possible, as a way of ironically distancing themselves from their own stances.The list itself starts off with "Authenticity" (and also takes in "Smog" and "Wobbly Camera As Authentic/Gritty Device") and ends with "Bare Midriffs", and includes the likes of "Generation X", "The Greatest Generation", "Grrls" (not to mention "Straight Edge", "Reclaiming The Night" and "Reclaiming Our Bodies/Empowerment"), several variants on "Aggrieved White Males", "Madonna-ology", "lower case spelling", "Wiggers", "Nerd Chic", "Misogyny Chic" and "Blue Collar Chic":
33. The End of Heroin Chic
The Shame: One of the few genuinely intelligent, smart trends in the mid-90s was the belated recognition that heroin is a good drug, overturning decades of hippie oppression and prejudice. We have Kurt Cobain and Trainspotting, a movie whose mediocrity is less important than the positive message it sent, to thank for that. Sadly, some people - we won't mention any RIVER PHOENIX names here, but a few LAYNE STANLEY guys couldn't handle CHRIS FARLEY their shit, making it tough for the rest of us, while other KATE MOSS people, again names THE EXILE we won't mention, functioned RUSH LIMBAUGH just fine while floating on the great poppy. Sadly, a combination of weak-willed celebrities, Ben Stiller's Permanent Midnight and 9/11 ended this brief dawn of reason. Now we are back in the Dark Ages of cocaine chic. Frankly, we'd rather drink beer than do coke.
The Sham:In the ultra-segmented scene of the 90s, being fat, ugly and socially retarded wasn't an impediment to being hip. You just had to wear lots of layers of black gauze to hide the blubber, get some prominent piercings and paint spider webs on your eyelids and, voila! You were a scary, alienated Goth! A whole bevy of bands competed for your attention, including Pretty Hate Machine, NIN, and Marilyn Manson, and the evening news might even do a segment featuring people who look just like you and the decline of American values or the dangers of Columbine - even though Klebold and Harris hated Goths.
63. Being Gay
The Sham:In college, most American girls of the 90's went through their obligatory BUG (bisexual until graduation) phase, which segued for more daring ones into their stripper phase. Gays became so big that even one of the Friends' star's mother had a lesbo tryst, and everyone had to have a gay neighbor to spice up their lives. Clinton made promoting gays in the military his first priority - and his liberal agenda was essentially destroyed by that. No matter, gays went bourgeois anyway, they didn't really need most of the liberal stuff anymore, not the help-the-poor/minorities crap anyway. Then 9/11 happened. A source who lives in Noe Valley told the eXile that within a year of 9/11, Noe Valley was transformed from the Dyke Quarter of San Francisco to the Baby Stroller Capital. Who'd-a-thunk.
73. Missing Children
The Sham:According to the National Center for Exploited and Missing Children, guess how many are "long-term" kidnapped by strangers every year? 20,000? 10,000? It's gotta be a lot, considering all the alarmist attention it gets. Welp, we got news for you: only 115 children are kidnapped in America each year, out of a population of 300,000,000. And about 100 children are kidnapped and murdered each year. In other words, NO ONE WANTS TO SOCKET-FUCK YOUR HAIRLESS CHILD'S STRANGLED CORPSE. Does that disappoint you? Statistically, your child has an infinitely higher chance of growing up to be a convicted sex offender than he does of getting kidnapped and killed by one. But you don't want to believe that your child, or you, are doomed to a life of never being stalked. So instead you'll pamper and protect your child and instill him with so many worries and complexes that when he grows up, he'll have this weird, tingly feeling every time he sees a vulnerable, hairless child left alone beside a car wash...
The Sham:Back before Live Journal gave every bored office worker in America a soap box, zines were the only outlet for folks who wanted to write something that nobody but friends would ever read. Made by Kinko workers working the graveyard shift and distributed to the local revolutionary bookshop, they were hailed as authentic samizdat. Except that there was a market for samizdat, and risk involved. Zines were just another way to convince grrls that you were authentic, so you could bang 'em.
89. Blue collar chic
The Sham:Middle class guys picking up garage mechanic uniforms with cursive names sewn into the breast pocket at the local thrift store and slumming it. Then, while downing cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon for a buck a pop at the local hipster dive, peopled with other indy hipsters wearing Confederate hats or T-shirts and scraggly beards, they'd talk about this art instillation they've got planned for their studio in Williamsburg.
90. Bare Midriffs
The Sham:Will someone please tell American girls to cover their lower hips? In the last 10 years, girls' hips have grown wider and wider, expanding like in some bad 80s horror film...and yet, for some reason they have no shame in showing these wide loads to the whole fucking world. All we can assume is that no one has the courage to tell them how bad they look. We're the types who, if we had a booger hanging out of our nose while talking to you, we'd want you to tell us. So we're doing the right thing and telling you: hide your hips, and while you're at it, tie a sweater around your ass. Note: This does not apply to Russian girls AT ALL.
Apparently, the founder of one of the original non-heterosexual indie nights in London, Popstarz, which provided gay indie kids one of their first chances to come out of the I-don't-like-disco closet, has passed away. No Rock&Roll Fun has this to say:
Hobart recognised that there was a massive unsatisfied market of gay and bi people who wanted to dance with their fringes over their eyes instead of their shirts off their backs. The feeling was that gay people had been liberated from the hell that theyd been in for most of their teen to adult lives, he said. So many people said to me it was like coming out of the closet for the second time.
The success of Popstarz led to a sudden blossoming of other non-straight indie club nights around the country, most notably in the form of Poptastic, although the lack of a large geographic catchment area meant a lot of the original bright-eyed provincial nights started to water down their indie policy: first Kylie would edge out the Mudhoney; then Sonia would start to take over from the Kenickie, until at some nights it could be difficult to remember you'd turned up on the promise of an alternative. Actually, that's not so very different from most straight indie nights, now we come to think of it.That is true. These days, indie kids are largely over indie music. They know about it, for sure, and can quote Pavement discographies chapter and verse and make allusions to Johnny Marr and Jarvis Cocker and such, but in a knowing, over-it way. Sometimes you may hear some obscure twee janglepop or what have you, but step into a night frequented by indie kids and you're more likely to hear old-sk00l Michael Jackson (if one were to compile a Coolsie Top 40, "Gotta Be Startin' Something" would be near #1) or crunk booty anthems or Eye Of The Tiger or something. Indie music serves its purpose, as the gatekeeper to the scene, but once you pass the test, you can put your Kindercore compilations back on the shelf, crack open a Pabst Blue Ribbon and get down to enjoyable top-40 cheese, knowing that everyone else in the room is as hip and knowing as you. The only people who still listen to indie music seem to be nostalgic thirtysomethings reliving their anxious adolescence.
Then again, the word "indie" is going the way the word "alternative" went in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Nowadays it refers mostly to hype-led, ultra-derivative new-wave/garage-rock copyists, who, if not signed to major labels, are pimped by multinational corporations like Coors/Carling and Clear Channel and have multi-million-pound advertising campaigns on the same scale as Robbie Williams. (See also: "new wave" and "art rock".) Perhaps it's time for a new term, one which deemphasises the problematic concept of independence (i.e., who is more "indie": Pulp (signed to Universal) or Bloc Party? Did Primal Scream and the Boo Radleys stop being "indie" the instant that Sony bought Creation?) and talks about the æsthetic and philosophical distinctions between the artists and music in question and the commercial mainstream. Perhaps "intelligent pop", or "art pop"?
As expected, America's religiots are making hay of Hurricane Katrina. A "pro-life" group claims that the hurricane is God's wrath on America for allowing abortion, taking as their proof the fact that the hurricane looked vaguely foetus-like in some satellite images. And an evangelical Christian group is claiming that God sent the hurricane to stop a gay festival due to take place in New Orleans. Meanwhile, holy man Rev. Fred Phelps has his predictable hate-on over recent events; you can almost feel the spittle flying from the screen as he calls the faithful to pray for more dead bodies floating on the santorum-rancid waters of New Orleans, not to mention for US soldiers to be killed in Iraq because America is an "evil fag nation".
Soon, I imagine, statements will appear on at least two Islamist websites from hitherto-unknown al-Qaeda franchises claiming responsibility for this daring strike into the very heart of the Zionist-Crusader Infidel.
A set of parodic postage stamps commemorating American anti-scientists; a more timely response to this:
While standing in line at the post office, I saw this new series of stamps devoted to American scientists...which is kind of ironic considering how our sciences are now under attack from all corners: from evangelicals to pharmaceutical marketing, educational declines, and funding cuts. It's like singing "Happy Birthday" to a man as he's being taken away on a gurney.
(via bOING bOING)
The Australian federal government adds another ally to its culture-war Coalition of Willing, with the Special Minister of State addressing a dinner by a militantly anti-gay Christian group known as Salt Shakers:
The Salt Shakers website says it is time to stop pandering to the gay minority group, especially as homosexual sex is still the main cause of HIV/AIDS in Australia.
"By lending his credibility to a hate group like Salt Shakers, Senator Abetz is undermining the Howard Government's commitment to tolerance of homosexuals and religious minorities," Mr Croome said.("Commitment to tolerance"?)
And so, the courtship dance between the Australian conservative government and a rising US-style religious right continues. Which suggests that, far from being in decline, Australian wowserism is remaking itself in the image of the tremendously politically sophisticated US religious right and attempting to make the (increasingly misnamed) Liberal Party its own (much as happened with the Republican Party in the US).
A list of some of the most unusual questions sent in to urban-legend researchers snopes.com, revealing the anxieties of the public:
I just read a blurb that pre-packaged foods can cause people to turn gay because of too much estrogen. If I was only allowed one question for snopes, I would ask if this is true. Is it?
They say that if a person has a pet cat and dies, if the person's body is not found fairly soon after death, the cat, having not been fed, will become ravenously hungry and eat the dead person's face off--JUST the face!
Is this true? My cat often looks me in the face. I used to think he was just being friendly. Now I know he's just sizing me up, like a chef at a butcher shop, waiting for "the big day". Since hearing this rumor, every time my cat licks his chops it gives me the willies!
I've heard that it is impossible to take a lightbulb out of your mouth once one puts it in, without either breaking the bulb or dislocating the jaw.
Do you know if this is true? I'm counting on you - my husband is really curious, and I don't want to have to drive him to the hospital...
(via The Fix)
A court in Sicily has overturned a decision by road authorities who suspended a man's driving licence because he was gay:
In a written ruling released on Monday, the Sicilian court said: "It is clear that sexual preferences do not in any way influence a person's ability to drive motor cars safely."
The judges added that homosexuality "cannot be considered a true and proper psychiatric illness, being a mere personality disturbance".
Homosexuality is legal in Italy, but openly anti-gay comments from politicians and officials rarely cause a stir.
The Bremerhaven Zoo in Germany has abandoned plans to break up homosexual penguin couples, to encourage the penguins to breed, after gay rights groups picked up their case, in an example of interspecies solidarity:
Gay groups had protested against "the organised and forced harassment through female seductresses" in an open letter to Bremerhaven Mayor Joerg Schulz and called on him to stop the program.
Zoo keepers discovered that the homosexual couples had gathered rocks that they coveted like eggs and fooled their keepers for years into thinking they were boy-and-girl duos.
The zookeepers realised that the penguins were somewhat on the lavender side after some "exotic Scandinavian birds" (phwoar!) specially flown in for their benefit failed to rouse their libidos.
bOING bOING has uncovered, entirely by accident, an online guestbook, apparently in the demo section of a guestbook software site, which ended up being used as an appointment diary by a Florida brothel/escort agency.
We have two new girls: Mercedes and Rose. Please put a wheelchair next to Rose (meaning don't book her) until we get proof of age from her. Of course, if anyone needs "Clarity" forms, they can get them at the pickup spOther than the wacky hijinks that go on in the course of running such an establishment, it contains details such as workers' real names and clients' phone numbers; either "Anne-Marie" (the operator of the brothel; real name: "Frank") was oblivious to the privacy implications of using a free online guestbook test page for storing confidential information, or he just didn't care.
On a tangent, The Age has the poignant story of one man's career as a (gay) phone-sex worker:
One call that really tugged at my heartstrings was someone who called from the country. He had just lost his boyfriend in a car crash and said he was feeling very lonely. The worst part of it was that, because he was from a small town where "you'd get the crap beaten out of you if they found out you were gay", he had no one he could talk to. So he called me. I didn't know what to say. What's a sex phone operator supposed to say in these circumstances? My 20-minute coffee with the boss certainly didn't include a crash course in grief counselling. All I could suggest was that he get out of town every now and again.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services has denied a Filipino man residency because his wife had had a sex change 24 years earlier, and thus was legally a man, making their marriage unlawful. The funny thing, though, is that the wife had been legally living as a woman in the United States for the past 24 years, and had been recognised as such on her US citizenship certificate.
Meanwhile, the CBS and NBC are refusing to air a church's television advertisement as it's "too controversial". The controversy has to do with the advertisement implying acceptance of gay and lesbian couples.
And in Alabama, a lawmaker has proposed a bill to ban novels with gay protagonists from public libraries, to protect children from the "homosexual agenda". The bill will also prohibit books which suggest that homosexuality, or any lifestyle prohibited by Alabama's sodomy laws, is natural.
Meanwhile, a recent report claims that abstinence-only sex-education programmes, as promoted by the Bush Whitehouse, are riddled with inaccuracies, including claims that touching a person's genitals can lead to pregnancy, AIDS can be transmitted in sweat or tears, half of gay male teenagers in the US are HIV-positive, condoms don't work, and a 43-day-old fetus is a "thinking person".
Scientists may have discovered an evolutionary basis for (male) homosexuality, previously considered a paradox of evolutionary biology. It appears that the same genetic factors that are responsible for homosexuality in men cause higher fecundity in women; i.e., whilst (most) gay men don't have children, their female relatives (who share the genetic factors) make up for this. (via FmH)
"This is a novel finding," says Simon LeVay, a neuroscientist and commentator on sexuality at Stanford University in California. "We think of it as genes for 'male homosexuality', but it might really be genes for sexual attraction to men. These could predispose men towards homosexuality and women towards 'hyper-heterosexuality', causing women to have more sex with men and thus have more offspring."
And now, a few topical stories for today's Hallmark Event:
- The latest plague in the dating ecosystem is the "Whimpster"; which seems to be like a cross between a metrosexual and a pathologically insecure emo boi:
Simply put: He is male. He is white. He is wimpy. He looks a little bit emo, a little bit hipster, and he's more dangerous than you'd think. So, the next time you wake up next to someone whispering acrimonious nothings about his ex-girlfriend instead of going down on you, you'll know a little more about this seemingly gentle boy you went home with. This is the 'dark side' of Lloyd Dobler, of our precious Duckie, and life with him is much different after the credits roll. Whimpsters are men who use cultural artifacts and politically correct platitudes in place of the empty spaces where real thought and emotion should be. Whimpsters are men who unwittingly enjoy Bukowski's misogyny. Whimpsters walk a tenuous tightrope between their secreted, terribly warped masculinity and the mainstream manliness that they claim to abhor.
(I wonder what happens when a whimpster meets a quirkyalone.)
- If you have the fortune to be non-heterosexual, there are now lots of things you can call yourself, from traditional words like "gay" and "lesbian" to niche genders like "boydyke", "genderqueer" and "boi" (which, here, doesn't mean "masculine specimen of alternative yoof subculture") (via FmH)
- A US psychologist has devised a mathematical model that can predict divorce with 94% accuracy, by studying videotapes of arguments within couples and analysing modes of interaction and physiological data to get "bitterness ratings".
Comment shamelessly stolen from someone else's a LiveJournal:
I wonder how long it will be before certain Christian Conservatives will argue that the earthquake in Bam, Iran was God's wrath against Iran for supporting terro...
Oh, wait. I forgot. God only inflicts disaster on US because of gay firemen.
(from Lt. Wilkes)
In London, two Conservative Party aides, both of whom worked for front-bench Tory spokesmen, have been arrested for beating up a gay policy adviser, in what has been described as a "homophobic meditated attack". Expect the usual platitudes about how this was an isolated incident by two bad apples, and is in no way indicative of deep veins of intolerance and hatred within the Tory Party's culture or a logical conclusion of the "family values" the Tories spout off about every so often.
So, since "marriage" is only for a man and a woman who want to make babies, is staying childless a reason for the government to break up a marriage? What about people like myself and my partner? We're married, but have no intention of children. Worse yet, with three cats we're actually helping the survival of another species, which must make us some sort of traitor to the women-are-for-making-babies school of thought.
(You can never trust these cat-owner types; they dress funny, read too many books and have unorthodox ideas or lifestyles. I wonder whether keeping cats (or having cat litter/cat food in one's supermarket purchase records) would increase one's score in TIA-style dissident-profiling systems. But I digress.)
He also points out anointed successor Costello's opposition to gay marriage, a bit of a step back from his lofty speechifying about his visions for a tolerant, indeed, liberal, Australia. I wonder whether it has anything to do with him falling out of favour as the next PM (something Nick Economou mentioned on 3RRR recently). Perhaps he was put on notice that if he kept that sort of thing up, the succession would go to Tony Abbott or some similarly staunch hard-liner?
The Harry Potter books might not be a Christian or Libertarian allegory; they may just be gay (or even just queer):
The interplay between the world of magic and the world of Muggles in the Potter books is identical to how queer historians and sociologists describe the interplay between the closeted gay world and the mainstream world, particularly in the days before the gay-liberation movement. Homosexuals were everywhere, yet heterosexuals usually could not see them. Gay bars looked just like straight bars from the outside. Gay people invented elaborate codes, often in language, dress, and deportment, so they could recognize one another but not be seen as abnormal by the heterosexual Muggle world. In his book Gay New York, historian George Chauncey writes of the "invisible map" that exists in all cities that enables queers to find fellow travelers and assembling places: people and places usually invisible to the unknowing heterosexual. This is precisely the situation in the Potter books, where Hogwarts, Diagon Alley (where the magic shops are), 12 Grimmauld Place (the meeting place of Order of the Phoenix), Azkaban Fortress, and even magical buses and trains that run out of major terminals exist in the middle of large cosmopolitan cities and yet remain invisible to Muggles who simply cannot see them.
Even if the gay thing is a bit far-fetched (and I'd put it on a par with the Lockhart-is-Philip-Pullman rumour or the alleged Objectivist government-interference subtext), the article makes a very valid point: the reason the God-botherers don't like these books have less to do with sorcery and witchcraft and more to do with their message against social control and indoctrination:
Children, before they are completely socialized, have vibrant imaginations and often a very finely tuned sense of alternative possibilities. They are, in a very real sense, queer. They have to be taught how to become "civilized." Socialization involves mastering table manners and politeness, but it also concerns learning how to conform to the worlds most terrible ways. Children have to learn racism to hate or fear certain people because of how they look; they have to be taught that work is far more important than play and that pleasure is always suspect; they have to be taught that there is only one correct way to worship God and everyone else is going to hell; they have to learn that heterosexuality is the only acceptable form of sexual behavior, and that some forms of sexual pleasure are wrong. They are taught to be normal whatever that may mean within the terms of the prevailing culture. They are taught to be Muggles. Is it any wonder evangelical Christians find the Harry Potter books threatening?
(via Largehearted Boy)
Recently aircraft were banned from the skies above Disneyland, to prevent terrorists from striking America in its heart (and to prevent competitors from advertising to its customers; one of the profitable side-effects of the War On Terror). Now Christian Fundamentalist groups are suing to have the ban lifted on Gay Days, allowing them to overfly the park with giant banners condemning homosexuality. Words fail me. (via MeFi)
Authorities across the Middle East are cracking down on music subcultures: form heavy-metal fans in Morocco to gay disco-dancing "Satanists" in Lebanon to anything to do with Michael Jackson in Saudi Arabia.
Among the objects exhibited in court as being contrary to good morals was a black T-shirt with heavy metal symbols on it. This prompted the judge to comment that "normal people go to concerts in a suit and tie".
Lebanese devil worshippers are easily recognised. According to one security official, they are young men with long hair and beards who "listen to hard rock music, drink mind-altering alcoholic cocktails and take off their black shirts, dancing bare-chested".
What is probably the most bizarre heavy-metal-and-satanism case occurred in Egypt in 1997 when state security police, armed with machine guns and satanically clad in masks and black uniforms, dragged about 70 youngsters - some as young as 16 - from their beds in a series of dawn raids. They took away posters from bedroom walls, CDs and tapes ranging from Guns 'n' Roses to Beethoven's fifth symphony and, in one household, a black t-shirt with a Bugs Bunny design.
"In the 1980s," Mohammed continued, "Saudis started dressing like [Michael Jackson], copying his hairstyle and doing moonwalks on the roundabouts. This is the reason most people give me about why his stuff is not allowed here.
More proof that Tony Blair is not any sort of progressive or liberal: Britain's Labour Party is planning to introduce legislation allowing employers with a "religious ethos" to sack gay/lesbian employees, and legalising discrimination against atheists. The law was meant to give protection to gays and outlaw discrimination, in line with an EU directive, but were watered down after a directive "from the highest level". Critics claim that this will allow any employer owned by a personally religious entrepreneur to discriminate freely. (via MeFi)
What is this man doing leading the Labour Party?
A Canadian researcher has found that the more older brothers a boy has, the more likely he is to be gay. It's not clear what the causal factors are, but the implications are quite peculiar. If it holds true, then (a) there were more gay men in the past (when people had larger families) than there are now, and (b) conservative religious subcultures, which encourage large families, may have more homosexuals among them than secular liberal society.
The World's Oldest Multinational Corporation: The local branch office of the Catholic Church has attracted criticism after officially supporting a visit by an American psychologist who claims that homosexuality is an illness and can be cured.
Meanwhile, it has recently emerged that, on the other side of the world, a religious organisation has been rounding up single mothers, sexual abuse victims and orphans as well as girls who were too dangerously pretty to be allowed out, stripping them of their identities, forbidding them to speak, and forcing them into slavery, making a tidy profit of their labour. Is this in Saudi Arabia? Nigeria? Or perhaps one of the excesses of the Taliban? No; it's the work of the Catholic Church in Ireland, and its "Magdalene Laundries", the last of which closed way back in 1996.
Gay activist groups in the UK are calling for the government to prosecute reggae artists inciting anti-gay violence in their lyrics. Apparently a lot of contemporary reggae songs aren't just about smoking ganja and finding Jah love, but contain lyrics like "bun the chi-chi" ("burn the homosexual"); this includes songs by popular artists such as Beenie Man. Which all raises the question: is gay-bashing more culturally diverse if it's in a reggae song?
¡Oye Esteban! Miserablist pop star par excellence Morrissey has become a cult figure among young Latinos in Los Angeles, and nobody quite knows why. Morrissey's new fans aren't mopey white suburban kids (no, those have rap-metal and industriogoth to angst along to), but marginalised Mexican youth in the space between Hispanic and anglo-American culture but not quite belonging to either. And thus, tattooed, macho homeboys openly cry along to Smiths songs, whilst refusing to believe that Morrissey might be gay.
"Some nights I lay in my bedroom and I listen to 'There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,' and I cry," he tells me. "I cry and cry and cry. I cry like a little bitch, man."
"People are always asking me if I'm gay because I have a photo of Morrissey hugging Johnny Marr," says Alex Diaz, a 16-year-old Smiths fanatic who plans on joining the marines when he's old enough. "My friends always ask me, 'Why do you like these queers?' But, you know, he's probably just bisexual. His songs aren't all about guys. Look at 'Girlfriend in a Coma'--that's about a girl. I think there probably would be some people who'd hate it if Morrissey ever came out and said he was gay, but, personally, I don't really care. And like I said, he's probably bisexual."
Mind you, the few remaining aging anaemic, besweatered wallflowers from the 1980s who haven't grown out of their Smiths phase don't quite know what to make of the new Morrissey fan subculture, one which they are as much outsiders in as they were back in high school:
"People have actually said to me, 'You like Morrissey? That's weird for a white guy.' And I find that completely bizarre," Hensley tells me, momentarily dropping his veil of irony for a grain of semi-sincere annoyance. "Most of the other people here wouldn't even know who Jarvis Cocker is. They only like Morrissey. We just came here to make fun of people."
Could the Dutch experiment with liberalism be over? After winning power and ending the long reign of the left, the new Christian-right government of the Netherlands has outlined its conservative social agenda, which includes recriminalising marijuana, shutting down drug cafés, and laws against same-sex marriage and prostitution. Mind you, I wonder how much of the "failure of liberalism" spin of the article is due to it being from a paper in Singapore, a city-state that is the epitome of the philosophy of benign authoritarianism. (via rotten.com)
Via Lukelog, some pages on Polari, a secret underground language used by London's gay community in less tolerant days: (1, 2, 3). Polari (sometimes spelled Palare) is believed to have originated from the lingua franca used by mediæval sailors and/or the slang used by carnival showmen, and contains elements from Italian, Yiddish, Romany and Shelta (the language of the Irish Travellers). It's the language in Morrissey's Piccadilly Palare (of course), and appears to be related to the argot used in an allegedly obscene verse, said to date from the time of the Crimean War, and quoted by Neil Gaiman in one of the Sandman books:
Nanty dinarly, the omee of the khazi,
said due bionc peroney, manjaree on the cross.
We'll all have to scarper the latty in the morning,
before the bona omee of the khazi shakes his doss.
In London, radical leftists picket film criticising Cuba. Opponents say that Before Night Falls, which deals with the persecution of a gay poet in Cuba, is "playing into the hands of the CIA". Wonder whether, when it reaches Australia, the S11/M1 people will be blockading the cinemas in a "Carnival against Disinformation".
Being boring: How Gay has become the New Straight in America:
As humorist Fran Lebowitz put it: "Who are now the most square people on Earth? Who are the only people left who want to go into the Army and get married? Homosexuals."
The modern experience of coming out of the closet has been funneled down to a prescribed set of rituals involving a blase soundtrack of disco anthems, a few white tank-top T-shirts, some boots, some unhappy Thanksgiving dinners with the family, a regrettable tattoo, some poetry scribbled in journals. The majority of gay people do not get pummeled or fired or expelled; they emerge a wee bit neurotic and immediately set about shopping.
The only people still preoccupied with gay male sex are the ones waving "God Hates Fags" posters in front of the statehouse, forever transfixed by the clinical details of sodomy, looking as anachronistic as the white people who yelled at black school kids.
When a disturbed patient told him that he feared that he might be gay, a psychiatrist told him to have sex with male and female prostitutes, with unfortunate results: (Telegraph)
Mr A had done his best to comply, despite his parents' objections, by going to Brighton and contacting two female prostitutes through cards in telephone boxes. Terrified of contracting Aids, he covered his body with plasters to avoid being infected through a cut. The meeting was "literally and metaphorically a flop".