This week, I finished reading a wonderful book — God Says No, by James Hannaham. The protagonist, Gary Gray, has this endearingly earnest, not-too-bright, surprisingly perceptive and doomed sense about him that really made me want to root for him throughout. Gary’s an overweight black guy attending a Christian college in Central Florida; he gets his girlfriend pregnant just as he realizes he has to question his sexuality. These two events catalyze a series of fairly significant catastrophes in Gary’s life, and through each one, I wanted Gary to succeed, to attain what he wanted.
Spoiler ahead. Read the rest of this entry »
In the struggle for gay equality (especially marriage equality), the aughts have been the equivalent of the anti-segregation ‘50s. Matt Sigl starts with Lawrence v. Texas and rolls from there:
In 2001 The Netherlands (of course) were the first nation in the world to recognize same-sex marriage. In 2003 Ontario followed suit, with Canada granting universal marriage rights to all citizens in 2005. By the end of the decade seven different countries (including South Africa!) have full legal marriage for same-sex couples. Many others have newly enacted civil union laws. And in America, after the shackles of legal and institutionalized homophobia were loosened with Lawrence, same-sex marriage became, just as Scalia predicted, not a lofty dream but a logical necessity and social inevitability. Within six months of the Lawrence decision the ice had thawed enough to allow for the Supreme Court of Massachusetts to demand the that Bay State offer the same marriage license to all its inhabitants, gay or straight.
I’d much rather the aughts be remembered as the Gay Decade than the Hipster Decade.
Both links via Sullivan.
It took a long time for Yale to accept Kramer money. After a number of years of trying to get Yale to accept mine for gay professorships or to let me raise funds for a gay student center, (both offers declined), my extraordinary straight brother Arthur offered Yale $1 million to set up the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies and Yale accepted it. My good friend and a member of the Yale Corporation, Calvin Trillin, managed to convince President Levin that I was a pussycat. The year was 2001.
Five years later, in 2006, Yale closed down LKI, as it had come to be called. Yale removed its director, Jonathan David Katz. All references to LKI were expunged from Web sites and answering machines and directories and syllabuses. One day LKI was just no longer here.
When this happened I thought my heart would break.
I wanted gay history to be taught. I wanted gay history to be about who we are, and who we were, by name, and from the beginning of our history, which is the same as the beginning of everyone else’s history.
This is a great speech, even though it’s peppered with the occasional, um, surprising claims (“George Washington was gay, and that his relationships with Alexander Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette were homosexual… his feelings for Hamilton led to a government and a country that became Hamiltonian rather than Jeffersonian”) and a tirade against queer studies that feels misplaced and, at times, childish:
It seems as if everything is queer this and queer that… Just as a point of information, I would like to proclaim with great pride: I am not queer! And neither are you. When will we stop using this adolescent and demeaning word to identify ourselves? Like our history that is not taught, using this word will continue to guarantee that we are not taken seriously in the world.
Just like dressing “in drag,” “acting” transgendered, or not wanting to let other people define your identities for you guarantee that you won’t be taken seriously in the world. Oh, it matters so much to be taken seriously.
In particular, it seems foolish to blame scholars of literature and anthropology or communication for doing what they do with anything rather than history or politics departments who refuse to give gay history a foothold.
Folks care about the words they use, and are chilly towards “homosexual,” not because they refuse to grant that same-sex desire/partnering/sex have always been around, but because 1) lots of people’s sense of their gender/sexuality doesn’t fall under what we’d just call “gay” or “homosexual,” not least because 2) to pick of an example, if you were born an anatomical woman but think of yourself as a man attracted to women, you wouldn’t think of your attraction as “same-sex,” and 3) people finally get to define the words for themselves! “Homosexuality” is a medical word; “sodomy” is religious; “queer” is social. They all have different valences, but the last offers a flexibility that for many, many people, is highly desirable.
Now, I absolutely agree that Eve K Sedgwick doesn’t do what George Chauncey does, and that we need about a hundred more Chaunceys a hundred times more than we need a hundred more Sedgwicks. But gosh, Larry, don’t bash folks for not being serious because you don’t like the name. Bash the institution for taking your money and not supporting what you wanted to do.
Also, pick up Epistemology of the Closet sometime and give it a read. I think you’d find that this marvelous turn of phrase you use (wait for the end) echoed nicely there:
Franklin Pierce, who became one of America’s worst presidents, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, who became one of our greatest writers, as roommates at Bowdoin College had interactions that changed them both forever and, indeed, served as the wellspring for what Hawthorne came to write about. Pierce was gay. And Hawthorne? Herman Melville certainly wanted him to be.
Two gems from MeFi this morning:
Think back a little more than a year ago, to the political campaigns of 2004. One of the hottest issues in presidential debates and congressional campaigns was the threat to traditional marriage posed by gay people seeking the right to wed. …
But a year later, it seems pertinent to ask: Have you heard or read a single word about a federal gay-marriage amendment since the election?
This BoGlo piece exploring the possible genetic and biological roots of homosexuality has made its way all over the gayosphere et al., but I didn’t actually get around to reading it until today and wow, is it chock full of goodness. Did you know, for example, that every older brother a guy has makes it significantly more likely the guy will be gay?
Of all the arguments against same-sex marriage, I always thought this one, given by Maggie Gallagher to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary in March of 2004, was the most rational: The available evidence indicates that children raised by both their biological parents in a low-conflict marriage tend to fare the best, on average, in our society. Government should have the freedom to promote this most successful arrangement above any other family structure, reserving for it the prized label of marriage.
Or, to put it another way:
Society is structured on the institution of marriage. … It has more to do with the welfare and civilizations of a people than any other institutions. … The state has a natural, direct, and vital interest in maximizing the number of successful marriages which lead to stable homes and families and in minimizing those which do not.
And honestly, it’s also true that families headed by partners of the same sex “are subjected to much greater pressures and problems” than straight families are, no doubt. Of course, the principal cause for that is probably societal bigotry, but when it comes to protecting the children, we must legislate with a mind to consequences as well as causes.
While I’m on a roll, it’s worth agreeing that removing the ban on same-sex marriage really does put us on a slippery slope towards things society considers unsavory, since it stands “on the same footing as the prohibition of polygamous marriage, or incestuous marriage.”
You have to admit, these are all rational arguments. Fortunately, the Supreme Court didn’t find them convincing 38 years ago yesterday, when it ruled against Virginia in the case that made interracial marriage legal in every US state.
All the quotes in this post were from the arguments made by Virginia’s counsel in that case, R. D. McIlwaine III, reproduced from the transcript of the case.