Oh Look, Another Person Cashing In on All of Those Wonderful Advantages That Being Openly Gay Brings in Our Society!

If it’s such an obvious career move and nothing but a facile publicity stunt and required no guts at all and is just a way of getting a contract when he’s past his prime, why is it that it’s two-thousand-freaking-thirteen and nobody else has taken this easy-peasy path to instant fame and fortune in major league sports before?

Looks to me like Jason Collins has done a gutsy thing, and he’s going to be living with the repercussions of this decision for the rest of his life, long beyond whatever career he has in basketball, and he can’t know what all those repercussions will be, except that they sure as hell won’t all be positive. Sure, it’s not as gutsy as it would have been 25 or 50 years ago. His chances of ending up in prison or shot to death over this are quite a bit less than they would have been a few decades ago. But for all that, this is still a bigger step than anyone else in his position has been willing to take. He gets a lot of credit for that in my book.

So I’m already pretty sick of reading commentators pooh-poohing this and saying it’s no big deal. Sure, it’s no big deal as long as you’re straight or closeted and don’t have to think or know too much about all the things that being openly gay in this society still makes you a target for.

In Other Words, the Only “Trend” Here Is That the Problem Is Now Only 98% Invisible to the Media Instead of 100% Invisible

There are roughly 31,000 teen suicides each year; let’s round it down to 30,000. Various studies have shown that gay teens are anywhere from twice as likely to seven times as likely to attempt suicide; let’s take a conservative estimate and say twice. The percentage of people who are gay is probably around 6% to 7%; let’s take a conservative estimate and say 5%.

That means that a conservative estimate of the percentage of teen suicides that are of gay teens is about 9.52%. Multiply that by 30,000 and you get 2857 gay teen suicides per year, or 238 per month.

That’s using very conservative estimates. Let’s try making them just modestly conservative. Say that 6% of all teens are gay, and that they’re 2.5 times as likely to kill themselves, and the result is that 13.8% of all teen suicides are of gay teens, or 4128 per year, or 344 per month.

Those are, as I said, conservative numbers. If you take the most widely quoted statistic, which is that 30% of all teen suicides are of gay teens, then you get 9000 per year, or 750 per month.

There’s nothing new about any of this; the estimates were in the same ballpark when I was majoring in psychology in college 25 years ago.

So if you hear me grinding my teeth at the recent articles about gay teens who have killed themselves, it’s not that I’m annoyed by the coverage. It’s that I’m annoyed about the repeated references to these six suicides as a “dramatic increase” or a “disturbing trend” or anything like that. The high suicide rate among gay teens has been a tragedy I have known about and lived with my whole adult life as a gay man, and hearing these six suicides presented as though they were anything out of the ordinary angers me.

The only thing out of the ordinary here is that, of the several hundred gay teen suicides that occur every month, the mainstream media is ignoring merely all but six of them, instead of ignoring all of them as they usually do.

Yes, it would be wonderful if the current media attention leads to some change. Not saying that’s a bad thing. I’m just angered at the pretense that at least thirty or forty times this many suicides haven’t been happening every month for decades.

Passing Thought

It seems to me that there are two scary things about the argument that homosexuals don’t deserve to have equal rights under the law because homosexuality is a mental illness, and the fact that homosexuality is not actually a mental illness is possibly the less scary of them.

Careful Travelers Don’t Let Just Anyone Handle Their Bags

Headline in the Miami New Times:

Christian right leader George Rekers takes vacation with “rent boy”

According to the article,

On April 13, the “rent boy” (whom we’ll call Lucien) arrived at Miami International Airport on Iberian Airlines Flight 6123, after a ten-day, fully subsidized trip to Europe. He was soon followed out of customs by an old man with an atavistic mustache and a desperate blond comb-over, pushing an overburdened baggage cart.

That man was George Alan Rekers, of North Miami — the callboy’s client and, as it happens, one of America’s most prominent anti-gay activists. Rekers, a Baptist minister who is a leading scholar for the Christian right, left the terminal with his gay escort, looking a bit discomfited when a picture of the two was snapped with a hot-pink digital camera.

Reached by New Times before a trip to Bermuda, Rekers said he learned Lucien was a prostitute only midway through their vacation. “I had surgery,” Rekers said, “and I can’t lift luggage. That’s why I hired him.” (Medical problems didn’t stop him from pushing the tottering baggage cart through MIA.)

Rekers found the young man through a website called “rentboy.com”, which does not seem to show up when I do a Google search for “luggage handlers”.

Help, I’m Being Victimized by Gay People Trying to Exist in My Universe!

Google News reports 74 news articles — 74! — on J.K. Rowling’s comment that she thought of one of her characters as being gay. Many of them are disapproving or even blatantly hostile — headlines like “If Dumbledore is gay where’s the proof?”, “Leave It Alone”, “J.K. Rowling’s Big Fat Mouth”, “Harry Potter Author Plays Dumb, Acts Surprised at Reactions to Gay Character”, on and on.

Barbara Kay in Canada’s National Post wrote — under the headline “Dumbledore has been diminished”, for crying out loud —

There is something very odd though about Dumbledore being singled out from the huge cast of adult characters in the books as having any sexuality at all. Some of the characters in the books are married, many more are single. …

My emphases. In Ms. Kay’s universe, saying that a character is married to someone of the opposite sex and maybe even has children with that person does not say anything about his or her sexuality. Saying that a character had one homosexual infatuation in his remote past, though, is apparently tantamount to rubbing the readers’ noses in his soiled bedsheets. It’s “singling him out.”

Seems to me that Ms. Rowling’s real crime is that she is not cooperating with the desire of people like Ms. Kay to preserve their illusions that everybody normal and decent can be safely and tacitly assumed to be straight.

I love this, too:

However, as a symbol for gay activists eager to inculcate knowledge about human sexuality at the earliest possible age, Rowling’s revelation has been a marketing godsend.

That’s the most important thing about this in Ms. Kay’s mind: When Ms. Rowling says in public that she thinks a gay man could possibly be a wise and positive influence on children, she is enabling child molesters. And Ms. Rowling is supposedly the one saying inappropriate things here.

Ms. Rowling didn’t rub anyone’s nose in Dumbledore’s sexuality, she answered a direct question about how she viewed Dumbledore’s life beyond the borders of the book and she answered it honestly. She never said that she intended the reader to understand that Dumbledore is gay; in fact, she has explicitly said the exact opposite, that her intention is that the average child will see it as a friendship and only adult readers who are sensitive to it will pick up on the hints.

Everyone has the right to create their own delusion and live in it. But when you’re complaining about the mere existence of people like Ms. Rowling who don’t share your delusion, and you’re turning it into some kind of personal attack on yourself — you know, they have pills for that nowadays.

And Don’t Even Get Me Started on What Was Really Going On Between Emma Wodehouse and Harriet Smith

Dave pointed me to Jeffrey Weiss in the Dallas Morning News joining the chorus of Oh no it’s not that I’m homophobic no no no it’s because I care passionately about the nature of literature that I am so very very upset about Rowling saying she thinks of one of her characters as being gay:

With the greatest of respect, I’d like to say something to Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling:

Shut up. Please.

Stop talking about what Ron will do for a living, whom Neville will marry, what kinds of creatures Hagrid will raise.

I’d have a lot more faith in Mr. Weiss’s pose of being equally upset about these other revelations as well if he’d uttered so much as a peep of protest at any of them instead of waiting for the first non-heterosexual tidbit to register his complaints. And isn’t it adorable how he blatantly expresses his hostility toward Ms. Rowling and at the same time pretends to be only doing it in jest? Thus indulging in all the intensely satisfying emotion of homophobia without having to take responsibility for its unattractiveness. Later he even writes “Jo — can I call you Jo?”, making a joke out of a display of arrogance and disrespect. A little problem with passive-aggressiveness, have we?

Then he abandons even the pose that he minded the earlier revelations:

I guess I don’t want you to stop explaining completely. I’d love to know more about what inspired some of the plot details in the books. If you want to dish about how you decided on those particular inscriptions for the headstones, how you came up with the names for the characters, or how you cleverly planned the religious underpinnings of the broad arc of the story – I am all ears.

But telling us that Dumbledore is gay, as you did last week? Why would you do that?

Maybe because it was true? Maybe because some of Ms. Rowling’s fans want to know more about what it was really like for her to write the book? And Mr. Weiss admits that he’s fascinated in all that, too — until it gets to finding out that Ms. Rowling thinks that putting one count ’em one gay character in a series of seven character-rich and increasingly bulky books might be a valid literary choice.

You gotta love this, too:

Based on what you decided to put in the books, I can imagine that Dumbledore once had a girlfriend or that he was so emotionally crushed by guilt that he sealed himself off from romance or that he was one of those rare men for whom romance never really came up …

In other words, Mr. Weiss is angry because Ms. Rowling has not participated in the preservation of his illusion that an author he likes cannot possibly have imagined that a character he likes could be gay.

If it were really a matter of Ms. Rowling inventing a character’s gay orientation after the fact, Mr. Weiss would be free to continue thinking whatever he wanted to think. If a long-lost diary entry revealed that, say, Agatha Christie always thought of Hercule Poirot as a werewolf, or Herman Melville thought of Ahab as a hermaphrodite, you’d think, oh my god, that is really weird, and then you’d go back and skim through a few chapters to see if you’d missed anything. And you’d conclude that if that’s really what he or she thought, there really isn’t any trace of it in the book, and you’d file the fact away under Literary Curiosities and never let it affect how you thought about Death on the Nile or Moby-Dick again.

But that’s not the case here. Remember: Fans all over the Internet have been speculating about Dumbledore for months because there are genuine hints in the last book. And what Mr. Weiss is upset about is that he wanted to be able to read the book without having to pick up on those hints, and now he can’t any more. Because the hints are really there, and now that they’ve been called to Mr. Weiss’s attention, he can no longer go back to not seeing them. He will never be able to read the books again without seeing that thread, and that it was there all along. Nor has Ms. Rowling left it possible for him to pretend to himself that he hasn’t seen it, or that fans arguing that Dumbledore is gay are imagining things that are not there.

The Harry Potter books were a place where he could pretend for a while that a man who isn’t attached to a woman must be that way because he once had a girlfriend or is crushed by heterosexual guilt. A romantic fantasy world where admirable men are much more likely to be asexual by nature than gay. Where he could pretend for a while that gay men don’t exist.

And now the books are not such a haven for him any more.