Queer: August 2003 Archives

In a short post about the fluidity of male sexuality, where he references the legendary six beer theory, Welshcake evokes the media's latest tizzy over the supposed ascendancy of the gay aesthetic, commenting:

Metrosexual? Heteroflexible? Whatever. As my late friend, Richard, was fond of saying, "Ah, they all help out when we're busy..!"

exactly six beers each [uncoolcentral.com]

Ole von Beust

Rex Wochner reported two days ago:

The mayor of Hamburg, Germany, Ole von Beust, came out Aug. 19 after firing the city-state's interior minister, Ronald Schill, for allegedly trying to blackmail him.

. . . .

Von Beust's coming out means Germany's two biggest cities now have openly gay mayors. Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit also is gay.

Klaus Wowereit

[photo of Beust from Landesseniorenbereit Hamburg/ photo of Wolvereit from Der Bundesrat]

Follow-up on my August 2 Harvey Milk High School post

The big guns are still turned on the modest little New York high school which operates as a shelter for kids who really, really need it, and some on the assault team are homosexual.

The media's special tizzy includes this week's New York "Intelligencer" page, where 5 out homos are asked what they think about New York City's plan to expand its queer high school. Four of the interviewees just don't seem to quite get it, and they include Frank DeCaro, Andrew Solomon, Mistress Formica and Emil Wilbekin. Harvey Milk High may not have been necessary for them, and for the same reason Harvey Milk High probably wouldn't have enrolled them anyway.

Harvey Fierstein understands the stakes. First he replies to the question, "Were you out in high school?"

"At 13. I went to Art and Design. There was a boy named Pablo who used to breast-feed his baby doll in English class. I was hardly the most outrageous kid in school."
When asked if he wishes he had gone to a gay high school, he explains of course that his school was a special school, but he understands that even art can't protect all kids. "Is [a gay high school] a good idea now, in New York of all places?" Harvey:
"The school’s almost twenty years old! They wouldn’t be expanding it if they couldn’t say, 'Shit, this works.' This is not for all gay kids. It’s for 14-year-old drag queens who get beaten up daily. Gay teenagers have the highest rate of suicide attempts, and because they’re smart, they very often do it successfully."
For a pretty comprehensive outline of the issues at stake, see Michael Bronski's essay in the Boston Phoenix. I like his suggestion for an alternative solution to violence against queer kids in school:
Sending in the National Guard? Well, it was the last resort for integrating public schools in the South in 1950s.
He articulates every argument against the policy of a separate school, but he still can't conclude that in the real world at this moment the kids could be safe without it.

The school is not the mistake; the mistake is that after almost 20 years we have done nothing to make it unnecessary.

Storied John Weir ( "The Irreversible Decline of Eddie Socket" author, CBS terrorist, elusive man about town, beloved professor) has been watching Television. Well, maybe it's less like pay-per-view than view-per-pay, since his account of what he has been seeing ran under his own byline in the NYTimes on Sunday.

Professor John has been watching "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," but he has his own reading of both the amazing current popular flowering of queer sensibility, and the popular sense of queer powers which accompanies it. He thinks it's something of a misreading of reality, and something less than the straight guy's envy of a putative higher aesthetic way out of his reach.

I think John has adopted a French deductive approach in his analysis of the queer aestetic, something like, "It doesn't fit with my experience therefore it must not be true." John tells us that it's his experience that queers do not have an "eye" - or at least that they don't let it fashion their own appearance or manner, and especially not that of their personal environment.

If this is reality TV, why aren't the straight guys hostile and punctilious and the gay men sloppy and depressed? "All the gay men I know are terrible slobs, including you," my mother told me, when she called to discuss the show. "Do you think you could get them to clean up your apartment?" Indeed, the show insists on reinforcing the stereotype that gay guys are groomed and charming and slender and witty, and no more than 35 years old. Yet here I sit in my Megadeth T-shirt, dirt broke, middle-aged, downing a carton of vanilla ice cream and spilling it on my computer keyboard.

Some gay men dress down to look "street," but I'm not a chic slob, I'm a real one. My apartment is designed like a bowling alley, with the furniture pushed against the walls, except where it can be used to cover carpet stains.

Well, his proposition is at least worth an entertaining argument, and John is more than equal to that, but his take on why straight guys are willing to listen to queer style coaches is even more intriguing. He says the new "reality" TV show flatters heterosexual men by putting them where they already are, at the center of the action.
In the meantime, is "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" creating a new "common ground" where gay men and straight men can bond? No doubt it is, for some people — in particular, for television executives and advertisers impressed with the show's ratings. To me, however, the most touching aspect of the show is its plain proof that all men, straight or gay, yearn to be praised by a guy.

. . . .

Anybody with a father has learned how difficult it can sometimes be to get a man to pay attention to you. The subversive charge of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" may not be its homo/hetero get-together, but its demonstration that all men want contact with other men. Of course, you can learn the same thing from a hockey game.

Still, I think of the show's grooming guru, Kyan, asking his [straight guy] buddy Adam if anyone had ever taught him how to shave, and Adam's mumbled reply, "No, unh-unh, no."

In that moment, it seemed like five gay dads had been beamed down to planet Earth to give men what they really want: a father who's not afraid to pat your head and say, "Atta boy."

Oh John, we miss you. Now where's the new book, dad?

[image by Chris Gash, NYTimes]

Is that a basball bat in his right hand?

I admire a minds that can think in terms of millennia! Well, those who run the Catholic Church may be an exception, but perhaps it's because they only think in terms of millennia - other millennia.

This is the complete text of a July 31 press release from ILGA-Europe, the European region of the International Lebian and Gay Association:

Europe free of laws banning same-sex relationships for the first time in 1,500 years

On 1st August 2003, with the entry into force of a new penal code in Armenia, the last law in any country of Europe outlawing relationships between people of the same sex will be eliminated.

For the first time in many centuries, and probably since the enactment of [Catholic] Byzantine Emperor Justinian's legal code in the 6th Century AD, there will be no part of Europe where lesbians, gays and bisexuals face a threat of criminal prosecution simply because of their love for a person of the same sex.

While the process of repealing laws banning same-sex relationships goes back two hundred years to the Napoleonic Code, the major changes have come about in the last half-century: in 1950 two-thirds of today's 48 European countries still criminalised relations between women and between men, or between men only.

There were two key factors in accelerating the process of change: first, a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in 1981 that these laws
violated the European Convention on Human Rights; and secondly, the fall of the Iron Curtain, and the subsequent accession of the countries of Central and East Europe to the Council of Europe and to the European Convention.

The legal change in Armenia was made a condition of that country's membership of the Council of Europe in 2001, following lobbying by ILGA-Europe of the Council's parliamentary assembly.

A new criminal code was approved by the National Assembly on 18th April 2003, with ratification by the President on 30th April, and entry into force on 1st August.

Ailsa Spindler, ILGA-Europe Executive Director, commented "this is an important milestone in the achievement of LGBT rights in Europe. But it is just the beginning. A number of countries - Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Serbia/Montenegro, and the United Kingdom - still have discriminatory provisions in the criminal law. 33 European countries provide no legal recognition whatsoever for same-sex partners. And, of course, legal equality is itself only one element in the fight against discrimination".

Note for editors

While Armenia falls outside the usual geographical definition of Europe, it is generally accepted as falling within the political concept of Europe, as exemplified by its membership of the Council of Europe.

Hetrick-Martin youth

An email arrived Thursday at 8:30 in the morning, asking me to attend a press conference at City Hall to show "support for the Hetrick-Martin Institute."

Sure, I had heard the recent news that the city had finally agreed to extend serious support for the 19-year-old Harvey Milk High School, so I felt honored that I was being asked to be a part of the celebration, and I thought nothing more. It never occurred to me that some people would seriously attack the concept of educating and protecting from assault or even death kids who were, or who were perceived by others to be, lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered, or in some cases just questioning.

When I arrived, I found out that the press conference had been quickly assembled and scheduled in response to the news that some powerful people had decided to file a lawsuit to block the city from funding the school.

Let’s get a few things straight, before we try to address the issues being raised. One, the school is not new. It was first opened in 1984, and it was a public school "program" even then. Two, as a high school which operates to serve kids who would otherwise be lost in the system, it is not unique in New York. Third, it’s not a school where kids learn how to be homos; they are taught the same subjects available in any other school, but here they have a chance to learn, without having to worry about their safety.

These kids are truly at risk. They are tormented by their peers, and sometimes even by teachers, principals and others charged with their care; they are assaulted; they are terrorized. They are unable to learn in what is intended to be a learning environment. For the most vulnerable youths it is a torture environment which may somehow be endured – or not. Sometimes they are killed.

They are not like the character Will on television’s “Will and Grace.” They are not middle class. They are overwhelmingly not white [75% are black and hispanic]. They have no support system. Many are homeless or in foster care. Many have attempted suicide. Many are not open to their parents or any other adults. Many have been thrown out by their parents. They are not codifying their sexuality; others are doing it for them. Their numbers include many who are still questioning their sexuality, and statistically 13% of Harvey Milk students are straight. Regardless of whether they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, questioning or even straight but perceived by peers as otherwise, these kids just can’t hide it. And they shouldn't. They're kids.

There are 1.1 million children in the New York school system, which means that perhaps 100,000 are homosexual, and that doesn't even include the other queer categories. Harvey Milk, even after being expanded this year, will be able to protect only about 170. Obviously not every queer gets to be saved.

LGBT and Q youth have been in danger in our schools for hundreds of years, and they shouldn’t have to wait for adults to realize this and to decide what they will do about it – even whether they will do something about it. We should not inflict society’s bias on the young and simply say they have to live with it.

This totally unnecessary battle is being waged today in an electric environment. We are in the midst of a period of great change. The larger American public’s acceptance of sexual difference is clearly growing, but it is still appallingly retarded. Only this summer did our highest court decide that private homosexual acts could escape criminal charges. Largely due to attitude changes now everywhere so apparent, what I call the forces of darkness are feeling more threatened than ever, and they will not roll over. Bush and the Pope are freaking out. They hope variously to bring others along with them or to personally profit from the ignorance and fear of millions.

Notorious homophobe Ruben Diaz and his friends and allies want to erase us. Are they threatened by GLBTQ people finally being recognized as human beings?

Well, they sure ain’t interested in the kids. Diaz says his opposition is not based on prejudice but rather on the fact that the Harvey Milk school promotes “segregation,” yet Diaz and other social conservatives and religious fundamentalists have never supported the “integration” of queers, and they aren’t starting now.

The "Children of the Rainbow Curriculum" proposed ten years ago to foster greater tolerance and diversity in New York public schools was excoriated and thrown out the window by Mr. Diaz and other homophobic individuals and institutions. The result is the moral chaos we have now. My partner Barry looked at this photograph and said that Diaz and the New York Hispanic Clergy Association might as well be screaming, “We want our gay kids dead!” For Diaz-sorts however, there are no gay kids. There are only what he calls “normal” kids, and any others are just deliberately being perverse.

Diaz and his cronies shout that HMI means segregation. "It's misleading to say this is an issue of segregation," Newsday quotes the Hetrick-Martin Institute's director, David Mensah. "Kids have fled their home schools to get to us. They need a safe haven."

Mensah cited the example of a student referred to Harvey Milk after his third suicide attempt. "For him, suicide was not a mental health issue," Mensa said. "He was being harassed at his school."

In the latest Hetrick-Martin Institute newsletter, Debra Smock, the Director of its brilliant child, the Harvey Milk School, describes the need for its expansion as bittersweet. “In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be a need for HMS, but in this day and age there is a need for the school and a need for the expansion.”

The saddest part of this very sad story of what we do to our youth was made clear to me during the press conference, when several speakers described the means by which a student is enrolled in the school. Harvey Milk High School is over-subscribed. A kid can be referred by his or her parents, his teacher, principle or his guidance counselor. The kid can also apply directly. There's just one catch. To be admitted, you have to be able to demonstrate what one person called “a history.” Think what that means, especially when so many still have to be turned away.

We have to get to work on the schools that are not Harvey Milk. We have to get to work on New York. We have to work on America.

For more, see Bloggy, "REGARDING 'THE GAY HIGH SCHOOL,'" and dkos, "Gay hysteria."

This page is an archive of entries in the Queer category from August 2003.

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