“Only weeks ago in Orlando, Florida, 49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist. This time, the terrorist target: LGBTQ community. No good, and we’re gonna stop it,” said Donald Trump during his presidential nomination acceptance speech last night. The abbreviation that was supposed to represent the United States’ queer population was reduced to alphabet soup dribbling off Trump’s lazy tongue; he stumbled between the “G” and the “B”. “LGBTQ” is a catch-all for queerness that attempts to be inclusive while reflecting diversity. In another context, this could be sneered at as “politically correct,” but coming from Trump’s mouth, it sounded flattened so impersonal as to border on the clinical. At the RNC, “LGBTQ” existed in the abstract—just as the threat of Islamic radicals to this country’s queer population that Trump says he’s gonna stop did.
As we continue to mourn for Orlando, it’s important to not lose sight of homophobia’s status as a global problem. Offering some depressing perspective on that note is a story out of Uganda—which remains a horrific place for LGBT people and where homosexual activity is illegal— via KuchuTimes, “Africa’s first collective online radio, television and news platform focusing on LGBTI issues in Africa,” according to its Twitter. Reportedly, several students have been expelled from western Uganda’s boys-only Mbarara High School after being shamed and tortured by fellow students for being gay. Reports KuchuTimes:
“I love a red carpet,” 26-year-old Star giggled excitedly in Chelsea’s Bowtie Cinema last Saturday night. She was wearing a shiny, yellow A-line dress with flowers printed on it, and high-heeled gladiator sandals. In her D.C. accent, she drew out the next sentence so as to luxuriate in it. “I love to be seeeeeeeeeeen.”
We know the world is becoming a more accepting place for queer people, despite visible disparity and virulent backlash. But until we achieve equality for all, how do we reconcile the surviving traditionalist mindset with that of today’s progressive youth? Cecilia Aldarondo’s documentary Memories of a Penitent Heart suggests, if not an answer, then a method for telling stories along our way.
In the 1991 movie Madonna: Truth or Dare, the titular superstar plays the role of her lifetime: herself. Filmed during her 1990 Blond Ambition tour when the then-31-year-old pop star was at her commercial peak, the Alek Keshishian-directed concert film/backstage documentary finds Madonna reveling in the cult of her personality. “She doesn’t want to live off-camera, much less talk,” her then-boyfriend Warren Beatty remarks in one scene, delivering a perfect capsule review. Seemingly baring all, at least in terms of her personality’s facets, she is unafraid to come off as a demanding asshole, just as often as she promotes the idea that she’s the nurturing mother in the “family” of employees that support her.
Citing “misinformation, misinterpretation, confusion, a lot of passion and frankly, selective outrage and hypocrisy,” North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has issued an executive order amending his state’s outrageous House Bill 2, which, among other things, requires transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond to the gender listed on their birth certificates in government buildings, and kills local anti-discrimination ordinances. So if you said, “Hey, that’s fucked up!” when you read about this law, well, you were just misinformed and here’s some new information to digest. This how McCrory delivers “common-sense solutions to complex issues.”
At a certain point while preparing for my interview with the novelist, memoirist, and editor Edmund White, I had to ask myself: What could I possibly say about a certain segment of gay life that Edmund White hasn’t already said beautifully or unflinchingly? “What we desire is crucial to who we are,” he wrote in his 2009 memoir City Boy. “People also like to slur someone who’s very good-looking; beauties are often branded ‘sluts’ or ‘whores,’ though these words make little sense in a sexually permissive age. What, in fact, do they mean? That someone likes to have a lot of sex with a lot of people? What’s so bad about that?” he asked in the ‘Beauties’ entry in the original 1977 edition of The Joy of Gay Sex, which he edited. And then there’s this astounding paragraph from his 1980 travelogue about regional gay culture, States of Desire:
“What a depressing state of affairs that making this web series about gay people is necessarily a political act. That’s so stupid,” says Adam Goldman, the creator/co-director/co-writer/star of The Outs, the cult web series that debuted in 2012 and returns today for Season 2 via Vimeo. Goldman says that he’s been asserting the inherent politics of making a show about a group of friends—many of them gay—in Brooklyn since its early days. What has changed in the past four years, though, is his comfort with labeling The Outs as a “gay show.” Goldman told The Atlantic in 2013:
Trans people are not a threat, but they are threatened. There are no recorded incidents of trans people attacking cisgender people in bathrooms. In fact, trans people experience hate violence at rates disproportionate to their cisgender counterparts, and sometimes these anti-trans attacks occur in bathrooms. It’s counterintuitive for someone who presents as female to use a restroom designated for males (and vice versa), and all the proof of the resulting absurdity you need is captured in the picture above, which transgender woman Kelly Lauren posted on Facebook in November in response to the public’s voting down of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance: “Houston, do you REALLY want me in the same restroom as your husband or boyfriend?”
Woe be unto those who conflate the way things are with the way things play out in their social media feeds. Steve Grand, an internet-famous gay musician, now has plenty of evidence of this after an observation of his in an interview with PrideSource caused a furor, by the internet’s standards (but in actuality is just people weighing in on a thing that other people are talking about because all we have is time to fill between our being born and dying). To interviewer Chris Azzopardi, Grand said:
It’s depressing and telling that the man in the video above carries an ideology that has serious heft in the ongoing struggle over the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance Club at Franklin County High School in Winchester, Tennessee. But the world we live in is one in which someone can babble, “You know, when you have clubs, usually it’s a science club, uh, uh, different clubs, health club or Rotary Club or different clubs, but their schools have their clubs, uh, but a club that’s just to decide about sex that falls out of the realm of the education,” earnestly, without forfeiting his standing in an issue that has precisely nothing to do with him.
If you care about gay culture and/or good writing, you need to read Garth Greenwell’s debut What Belongs To You. The slim novel, which chronicles a multi-year relationship between its narrator and a hustler named Mitko that he hires after meeting him in a bathroom under the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, has been acclaimed by the likes of the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the New Republic, which called it “the Great Gay Novel of our times.” Since its January release, it’s gone on to become a Los Angeles Times bestseller.
“Because we’ve always suspected that this potentially could happen, and now we’ve shown that it can happen, people need this information to make decisions about their sexual health that feel right for them,” Dr. David Knox told me by phone yesterday. “The more information, the better. And that’s the bottom line.”
“Falling into the easy trap of foregrounding sex has the effect of erasing the nuance, the richness, and even the messiness of people’s lives,” writes professor of history at Connecticut College Jim Downs in his new book Stand By Me: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation (out March 1). The book exists to highlight the nuance, the richness, and even the messiness of people’s lives by offering an alternate history of gay life in the ‘70s. Though the years leading up to the AIDS epidemic are largely thought of as a sexual free-for-all (as depicted in the 2005 documentary Gay Sex in the ‘70s, and Larry Kramer’s 1978 novel Faggots), clearly there was more going on than just fucking, and that’s where Downs comes in. He doesn’t negate the idea that lots of men had lots of sex in the ‘70s, he merely supplements it.
Two-time Academy Awards nominee Ian McKellen has spoken out about the lack of diversity in the film industry, as it relates to being acknowledged by the Oscars (and landing the kind of roles that could yield gold-plated glory). “The fact that black people feel underrepresented in studio movies and big movies…well, it’s what women thought for a long time,” he said in an interview with the U.K.’s Press Association. “It’s what gay people like myself still think. And it’s a legitimate complaint and the Oscars has become the focus of those worries. So I sympathize.”
In an early contender for the greatest coming out of 2016, Tory MP Crispin Blunt told the House of Commons on Wednesday, “I use poppers. I out myself as a popper user.” It’s moments like these that make being a gay guy with a jackhammering pulse, spotty vision, and brain full of dicks just a little bit easier.
In the early 1950s, writer Patricia Highsmith had every reason to hide her pride, and quite a few to hate herself. Living under the tyranny of McCarthyism was devastating for those with same-sex attraction—if homosexuality was acknowledged in public at all, it was condemned. And yet, Highsmith transcended.
Luke (aka Vadim Black) and Ben (aka Sean Cody’s Sean) (links NSFW) are two straight-identified guys who make their living by doing gay porn. They were both profiled on last night’s True Life: I’m a Gay for Pay Porn Star. They were both extremely firm on their heterosexual orientation (no doubt because their line of work calls it to be questioned regularly, certainly from the outside, but probably internally as well). My takeaway is that these guys are really straight, or they’re by now very gifted at mimicking the kind of ennui that comes from performing sexual acts one wouldn’t otherwise have interest in for money.
There are about 30,000 little people in America, according to Joanna Campbell, executive director of the largest little people organization in the country, Little People of America. Campbell estimates that the amount of little people are equally divided by sex. If there are 15,000 men with dwarfism in America, and like the general population according to Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, five percent of them are predominantly attracted to men, that means there are 750 gay little men in America. That’s .000233 percent of the population, or one in every 430,000 people.
As a gay little person, Joey Navedo, 30, lives one of the rarest of lives. Despite the incredibly low number of people who share his specific experience, though, he has plenty in common with the average-sized gay men he parties with frequently as a nightlife entertainer. This installment of Rare Lives features a very frank conversation about hooking up, fetishization, and the prejudice Navedo faces (and has roll off his back).