Heroes, Exiles and the War Over Gay History

Simon Callow “searches for facts among the fantasies” in Heroes and Exiles: Gay Icons Through the Ages by Tom Ambrose.  Here is a bit of that exploration. -Editor

81MMpNCdEnLThe National Portrait Gallery’s recent exhibition Gay Icons was somewhat baffling – Nelson Mandela a gay icon? The manager of Elton John’s football club? Tom Ambrose’s subtitle for his new book – Gay Icons Through the Ages – seems to share the exhibition’s confusion of purpose. What is a gay icon, to begin with? Someone who has special meaning for gay people? Judy Garland, for example? Or someone whose actions stand as a model and an inspiration specifically for gay people? It seems that the latter is the focus of Ambrose’s attentions, but if so, he has selected a very rum group for our admiration. He seems to think it a disgrace that the 19th-century Gothic novelist William Beckford was encouraged to leave the country because of his ardent and intemperate pursuit of an 11-year-old schoolboy (in whom he quickly lost interest when the boy turned out, by the time he was 16, to be “interested only in millinery”), and feels that the Swedish Count Fersen had his human rights intolerably compromised by not being allowed to host schoolboy orgies. Ambrose’s general view seems to be that the slavish pursuit of one’s sexual impulses at whatever cost to anyone else is a definition of heroism.

This view is allied to an absurdly sentimental and unhistorical conception of sexual history, which leads him to construct a prelapsarian model of an ancient Greece in which male homosexuals were “once the most respected members of . . . society”. No they weren’t: many of the most respected members of ancient Greek society were homosexuals, an entirely different proposition. Even this is a misleading formula: there was of course no group in Greek society designated as homosexuals (Ambrose fastidiously refrains from using the word gay for anyone from before the 1950s, but liberally scatters across the whole of human history a term coined in 1870). It is true that in ancient Greece many men and boys, under a fairly strict code of limitations, engaged in homosexual acts, but this, along with a range of heterosexual practices, was considered a normal expression of their emotional and sexual impulses. They were neither respected nor condemned for it. Ambrose next claims that the elevation to the heroic pantheon of the tyrannicides Aristogeiton and Harmodius, who were lovers, “equated” homosexuality with heroism and civic responsibility. What it did was to affirm that engaging in homosexual acts was no bar to heroism or civic responsibility, but an informed historical perspective was perhaps not to be expected from a writer who refers to Plato as “the acclaimed Roman philosopher”.

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Obscure Gay Slang

There are 51 gay slang phrases that you might enjoy from Thought Catalog.  The site won’t load in my browser, so here they are in their entirety. Compiled from  dictionaries and glossaries featuring centuries of queer slang from around the globe, here are a few dozen uncommon or out-of-use phrases that you should commit to memory. “Over the bridge to Pimpleton” we go.

1. Angel food (n.) – homosexual male pilot currently serving in the Air Force.

2. Basket shopping (v.) – when cruising or checking someone out, British term refers to examining the object of your affection’s private areas through their clothing.

3. Beat (adj.) – extremely wonderful or great, “fabulous.” Example: “Did you see her at the club tonight? That look was beat.”

4. Bulldagger (n.) – a masculine woman, closely related to “butch lesbian.” Also see: “Diesel lesbian,” term referring to queer women who look like truck drivers.

5. Chapstick lesbian (n.) – queer identified woman who is sporty and athletic. The word denotes that she’s the not the type to wear makeup (ala a “lipstick lesbian”) and goes for a more natural look.

6. Chicken (n.) – a young homosexual male seeking older men; see also: Chicken hawk, referring to an older gay male looking for younger partners.

7. Cottaging (v.) – British slang for hooking up in public restrooms.

8. Donald Duck (n.) – a homosexual male who is dishonorably discharged from the Navy for their sexuality; see also: “Dishonorable Discharge,” or masturbating solo after trying to pick someone up and failing.

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What’s Your “Gender” Role?

thThe old stay-at-home wife and bread-winner husband model of society went out the window with black and white TV.  So how does any marriage gay or straight define household roles and rules?  What do you do in your family?

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained exactly why marriage was long understood to be incompatible with homosexuality in just five sentences:

[Same-sex couples] wouldn’t be asking for this relief if the law of marriage was what it was a millennium ago. I mean, it wasn’t possible. Same-sex unions would not have opted into the pattern of marriage, which was a relationship, a dominant and a subordinate relationship. Yes, it was marriage between a man and a woman, but the man decided where the couple would be domiciled; it was her obligation to follow him.

There was a change in the institution of marriage to make it egalitarian when it wasn’t egalitarian. And same-sex unions wouldn’t — wouldn’t fit into what marriage was once.

Justice Ginsburg’s point was that, until surprisingly recently, the legal institution of marriage was defined in terms of gender roles. According to Sir William Blackstone, an eighteenth century English jurist whose works are still frequently cited today to explain the common law principles we inherited from our former colonial rulers, “[t]he very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband; under whose wing, protection and cover, she performs everything.” As late as 1887, fully one third of the states did not permit women to control their earnings. And married women could not even withhold consent to sex with their husband until shockingly recently.

Under the common law, “by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given herself up in this kind unto her husband,” and this consent was something “she cannot retract.” The first successful prosecution in the United States of a husband who raped his wife did not occur until the late 1970s.

So American marriage law, and the English law that it was derived from, presumed that the wife was both financially and sexual subservient to the husband. In a world where marriage is defined as a union between a dominant man and a submissive woman, each fulfilling unique gender roles, the case for marriage discrimination is clear. How can both the dominant male role and the submissive female role be carried out in a marital union if the union does not include one man and one woman? This, according to Justice Ginsburg, is why marriage was understood to exclude same-sex couples for so many centuries.

But marriage is no longer bound to antiquated gender roles. And when those gender roles are removed, the case for marriage discrimination breaks down.

Yeah, Because What’s Happening in Indiana Looks Real Appealing Right Now

On Tuesday, Arkansas lawmakers approved legislation similar to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Reform Act.  What’s the big difference between Arkansas’s would-be new law and Indiana’s, you may ask?  While you really are safe from discrimination if you happen to be in one of the four cities or two counties in Indiana that consider LGBT people a protected class, you aren’t safe anywhere in Arkansas!  Last month Governor Hutchinson allowed legislation to become law that prohibited any local anti-discrimination ordinances protecting LGBT individuals.  The Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, retail giant Walmart, and democrats who have been paying remote attention to America’s reaction to Indiana’s law have all voiced concern about the bill.  I guess I’m not the only one who doesn’t think anyone takes trips to Arkansas, because Hutchinson has said that he will sign the bill.


Breaking news: Just kidding! Governor Hutchinson has announced that he would like the Arkansas legislature to recall the bill, and that he will not sign it in its current form

81% of Floridians are just fine with same-sex marriage

New poll comes two months after nuptials began statewide

March 26, 2015

Jim Harper, Media/Communications, 727-388-3636, jim@eqfl.org

A new poll shows that a vast majority of Floridians are content that same-sex couples can now marry in their state.

“Gay marriage becoming legal in Florida doesn’t seem to be doing anyone much harm,” says Public Policy Polling, a widely respected research firm in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“Eighty-one percent of voters in the state say it’s either had a positive impact on their lives or no impact at all, with just 20% claiming that it’s affected them negatively.”

Even among Republican voters, whose party has long argued against marriage equality, more than seven in 10 said marriage equality had affected them positively or not at all.

“Florida has embraced the freedom to marry. The hollow rhetoric of prejudice continues to fall away as people across the state celebrate the weddings of their friends and family,” said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, one of several groups that helped overturn Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage. “Thousands of couples have already taken advantage of this new freedom in Florida, and our communities are better and stronger because of it.”
The poll of registered voters was conducted between March 19 and 22, a little more than two months after a federal appeals court decided not to intervene in lower court rulings that had invalidated Florida’s ban.

Why do some gay couples feel the need to define their relationship in terms of “husband-wife”?

The self-appointed sages at Quora have answered that burning question so many straight people seem to have:
So often have I seen gay people, of both sexes, refer to their partner as husband / wife. Why do they feel to define it that way? What are they implying when they say that? How do they decide who is the husband and who is the wife? Is the designation based on roles?

Find out what people think on this queer question at Quora.


At Least Florida’s Anti Equality AG Looks Hot in Her Underwear

PamBondirunI mention this because Pam Bondi’s response to a lawsuit challenging Florida’s anti-equality laws doesn’t really raise any new arguments or give us anything we haven’t heard over and over (and over and over and over) again.  She just wants the case thrown out.

She feels that if two men or two women marry each other in another state and Florida is forced to recognize those marriages it will “impose significant public harm”  She raises the tired “Won’t someone please think of the children?” argument claiming that society “has a legitimate interest in increasing the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by the mothers and fathers who produced them in stable and enduring family units”  Bondi is on her third marriage currently, so she knows all about those.  She also claims that Florida will suffer financially if it is forced to pay all these pensions and benefits people have been working for.

"It's not the men in your life, but the life in your men." – Mae West