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.

Besides, Who Else Would Be That Obsessed About Wands?

So J. K. Rowling made an offhanded remark during a Q-and-A session that she thought of Dumbledore as being gay, and now there’s a huge uproar of people writing crap about how wrong this is — but I’m not irate because I’m homophobic, mind you! I think gay folks are fine! Oh, no, I have perfectly rational reasons for being angry and hostile about this! It’s because I believe with heart and soul that the work must speak for itself! And there are no clues about this in the books, so it’s just my perfectly normal and non-prejudiced reaction to this blatant display of political correctness after the fact that makes me froth! at the mouth! in! this! way!

Which is all bullshit, as you can figure out in about five seconds if you imagine the lack of a fuss there would be if her offhand revelation about Dumbledore had been, say, that she’d always thought of him as having had a similar but heterosexual romantic attachment in his youth. Wait a minute, would be? In fact, J. K. Rowling has been making plenty of equally innocuous remarks about her backstory for the books in public appearances all over the place, and nobody in the press has even taken notice of it, let alone let forth with the howls of outrage we’re currently getting. But now the tidbit du jour is that one of the characters is gay, and suddenly everybody is a passionate, angry advocate of the principle that “the work must speak for itself”.

Most of the time the opiner will also make a point of saying that the Harry Potter books aren’t very well written, maybe even adding that the books would have been better if things like Dumbledore’s gayness had been more evident, just to see if we can rub a little salt into the wound we’d like to believe we’re important enough to inflict. Personally, I’m not for the life of me going to defend Ms. Rowling’s leaden prose, but if you think the work isn’t any good, what the freak do you even care whether or not it is being allowed to speak for itself? All over the country, innocent college students are being fed the most ridiculous and countertextual postmodern notions about the characters of Beowulf, Hamlet, and Humbert Humbert, for crying out loud, and not a peep out of you; but now you’re charging to the rescue of Dumbledore? Where are your priorities, man?

And a little bit of unconscious homophobia doesn’t have a thing to do with it, eh? Well, good for you.

By the way, fans have been speculating about precisely this issue, Dumbledore’s sexuality, in discussion groups around the Internet for months. Why? Because there are freaking hints about it in the books, that’s why.

This Time essay, charmingly titled Put Dumbledore Back in the Closet, is not only a typical snark-a-thon, it contains this maddening statement:

Yes, it’s nice that gays finally got a major character in the sci-fi/fantasy universe.

The author’s examples to back up this remarkably ignorant statement? There are no gay characters in Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. Well, there you go.

I guess the appearance of gay and other sorts of alternatively sexed characters since at least the 1970s in books by minor, unimportant, scarcely known science fiction writers like, oh, say, Robert A. Heinlein, Ursula K. Le Guin, Mercedes Lackey, Theodore Sturgeon, Poul Anderson, Orson Scott Card, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Samuel Delany don’t count. We’re only talking about major works of science fiction. You know, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and the Harry Potter books.

Sorry, guy, but science fiction got around to making gay characters a normal part of the human landscape well before any other literary genre, or at least among those genres that you could peruse outside an adult bookstore. Same-sex relationships were common in science fiction when they were still rare and controversial in other genres.

Fun fact: The San Francisco gay and lesbian bookstore “A Different Light” gets its name from a 1978 repeat 1978 science fiction novel featuring a relationship between two men.

(One might also ask how the Time writer knows that Gandalf isn’t gay. Is there something establishing his heterosexuality in the books that I’m forgetting? Or are we just assuming that anyone not explicitly identified as gay is therefore straight, and isn’t that assumption itself unconsciously homophobic?)

I’m not saying I’m a Harry Potter fan. I’ve seen the movies so far, which I thought were charming but nothing more, but I tried reading the first book and was bored by chapter five.

I’m just getting royally irritated at the dozens of columnists raking Rowling over the coals for this, the steam rising off their printed pages even as they adopt the pose that they aren’t homophobic at all, oh no, they’re just literary purists and have been so all along. Mm-hmm.

A Divine Penicillin

An international anti-gay movement called the Watchmen on the Walls has been increasingly active in the Sacramento Valley and other parts of the Northwest, particularly among Slavic immigrants. According to a story at AlterNet:

Vlad Kusakin, the host of a Russian-language anti-gay radio show in Sacramento and the publisher of a Russian-language newspaper in Seattle, told the Seattle Times in January that God has “made an injection” of high numbers of anti-gay Slavic evangelicals into traditionally liberal West Coast cities. “In those places where the disease is progressing, God made a divine penicillin,” Kusakin said.

In Latvia, the movement is openly violent toward gays and lesbians; it is increasingly becoming so in the United States as well. Members have assaulted gays and lesbians at gay pride events in the Sacramento area. A lesbian photographer was dragged through a Portland church by her hair by one of the movement’s chief spokesmen.

Then on July 1, a group of Russian-speaking picnickers at Lake Natoma noticed that one member of a group two picnic tables away was an effeminate man without a female date, though the others at the table were three married couples.

According to multiple witnesses, the men began loudly harassing Singh and his friends, calling them “7-Eleven workers” and “Sodomites.” The Slavic men bragged about belonging to a Russian evangelical church and told Singh that he should go to a “good church” like theirs. According to Singh’s friends, the harassers sent their wives and children home, then used their cell phones to summon several more Slavic men. The members of Singh’s party, which included a woman six months pregnant, became afraid and tried to leave. But the Russian-speaking men blocked them with their bodies.

The pregnant woman said she didn’t want to fight them.

“We don’t want to fight you either,” one of them replied in English. “We just want your faggot friend.”

One of the Slavic men then sucker-punched Singh in the head. He fell to the ground, unconscious and bleeding. The assailants drove off in a green sedan and red sports car, hurling bottles at Singh’s friends to prevent them from jotting down the license plate. Singh suffered a brain hemorrhage. By the next day, hospital tests confirmed that he was clinically brain dead. His family agreed to remove him from artificial life support July 5.

Scott Lively, the above-mentioned lesbian-dragging spokesman, is the co-author of The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party.

Published in 1995, the book is a breathtaking work of Holocaust revisionism. It asserts that Hitler was gay — a claim no serious historian supports — and that Hitler and other evil gay fascists were central in forming the Nazi Party, operating the Third Reich and orchestrating the Holocaust. (Lively’s most recent book, The Poisoned Stream, similarly details “a dark and powerful homosexual presence” through “the Spanish Inquisition, the French ‘Reign of Terror,’ the era of South African apartheid, and the two centuries of American Slavery.”)

The Watchmen on the Wall seem like one seriously obsessed bunch.

The Watchmen portray the battle against gay rights as nothing less than a biblical clash of civilizations. “The homosexual sexual ethic” and “family-based society” are at war, Lively proclaimed in his letter to the Washington Times. “One must prevail at the expense of the other.”

That sort of militant rhetoric is standard among Watchmen followers on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Speaking to his American counterparts in a Watchmen video, a Latvian anti-gay activist intones: “Your generation beat the Nazis, and our country beat the Communists. Together we will defeat the homosexuals!”