Wednesday, June 29, 2005
by Wayne Besen
I am very excited about the launch of Logo
, the MTV-sponsored all-gay cable network that will initially be available in 10 million homes. For the first time, a corporate giant, Viacom, has put the money and muscle into making a gay cable channel work.
This is also a big risk for the GLBT community. If the network tanks, other corporations will be afraid to invest money into gay programming. Therefore, I propose that Logo play it safe and initially stick to mimicking successful mainstream television shows, but with a lavender twist. Here are twelve shows that would be a safe bet to succeed:The White Party CSI:
Forensics experts investigate and track down an evil drug dealer who sold a lethal combination of poppers and Viagra at a Miami circuit party.Metro Guy For the Queer Pig Sty
: This show is dedicated to all the beer guzzling, plaid-shirt wearing, fat, pale gay men who think Universal Gear is a shop that fixes tractors. In this stereotype-breaking show, a gang of five straight Metrosexuals enters a Bear's house and teaches him how to properly shine his leather thong and trim his back hair.Survivor:
In this highly anticipated show, 10 "ex-gays" will be airlifted and placed on an island stocked with sex addicted A&F Models. Each time an ex-gay breaks down and sodomizes, he is booted off the island. This show should have extraordinary ratings, but there is a reasonable fear that none of the ex-gays will make it to the second episode.The Practicing Homosexual
: A knock-off of "The Practice", this follows the legal travails of closeted Spokane Mayor Jim West and closeted right wing talk show host Armstrong Williams, as they try to fend off allegations of gay sexual harassment and abuse.American Idol
: Scratch this idea. After Clay Aiken, there is no way Logo can make this show any gayer.Larry Kramer Live
: This is the perfect antidote for those tired of Larry King's passive questioning style. ACT-UP founder Larry Kramer will always get the most out of his guests with his probing questions. Here is an excerpt from the pilot: "Answer the question, asshole!! You're Killing Us!!! KILLING US!!!! One more word and I'll have 50 ugly, bald queens in combat boots picketing on the Goddamned manicured lawn of your insipid suburban Connecticut shit hole of a house."Morning Aerobics
: Scratch that idea. After Richard Simmons, there is no way Logo can make a show any gayer.The Fake World
: Five young, hot men share a brownstone in Chelsea and talk about botox, boys and Britney Spears. Watch them prattle about Tina and Connie, while admiring how steroids have ballooned their calves!The Apprentice
: A host of aspiring young drag queens perform in a cutthroat competition to win over a powerful Drag Momma. When a contestant loses, Drag Momma snaps her fingers, rips off the losers wig, and says, "Miss Thang, you are so fired."The West Hollywood Hillbillies
: In this show, a gay hillbilly wins big in a drunken night of riverboat gambling and moves to West Hollywood in a doomed effort to make the A-List.
Out That Cartoon
: This is a spin-off of 70's hit, "Name That Tune". In this show, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and other Religious Right figures get a quick glimpse of various cartoon characters and have ten seconds to decide if the animated figures are homosexual.Crossflamer
: Michelangelo Signorile and Andrew Sullivan are lowered into a pit of mud and argue about politics until they either fall in love, or one of them cries Uncle.
We can only hope that Logo takes my sage advice and incorporates these themes into their programming. With such safe and milquetoast shows, how could they go wrong?
Thursday, June 23, 2005
by Wayne Besen
First, I want to say that in some respects I am an Andrew Sullivan fan. At his best, he is an articulate spokesperson and a brilliant writer. On more than one occasion, he has obliterated gay rights opponents on television, helping to advance our cause. As an openly gay man living with HIV, Sullivan has also accomplished the remarkable feat of starting a wildly popular Blog with a sizable conservative following. For this, he deserves nothing but respect and admiration.
Unfortunately, Sullivan has crossed the line of reasonable and responsible writing with his breathtakingly reckless column in the Advocate Magazine
where he glamorized HIV and made it seem about as burdensome as a hangover.
"I have never felt better. HIV transformed my life, made me a better and braver writer, prompted me to write the first big book pushing marriage rights, got me to take better care of my health, improved my sex life, and deepened my spirituality," writes Sullivan, in his typically persuasive prose.
Wow, what an advertisement for the bug! Where can I get that HIV? Sullivan makes it sound more like a panacea than a pathogen. The disease suddenly comes across as highly desirable, if not intoxicating - like a blissful combination of Viagra, Spanish Fly, Prozac and Ecstasy all rolled up into one.
If this glamorization of HIV isn't bad enough, Sullivan sarcastically mocked HIV prevention efforts for using fear to promote safe sex.
"Young negative men need to see more of us keeling over in the streets, or they won't be scared enough to avoid the disease that may, in the very distant future, kill them off, " Sullivan flippantly wrote. "You know, like any number of other diseases might. They may even stop believing that this is a huge, escalating crisis, threatening to wipe out homosexual life on this planet…But the bottom line is that HIV is fast becoming another diabetes."
I think it is important to concede Sullivan's main points: 1)
It is no longer as scary to catch HIV today, as it was in the early 1990's. 2)
Catching HIV is not necessarily a death sentence for many well-off gay men.
However, Sullivan went overboard where he appears to tacitly endorse unsafe sex. His apparent message: "Hey, AIDS is no big deal. Don't worry if you get infected, you'll barely notice." To reinforce his misleading point that HIV carries a limited burden, he quips that he takes only "five pills a day", as if AIDS meds were nothing more than Flinstones vitamins.
While HIV might not be the plague that haunted the gay community in the 1980's and early 90's, it is an awful epidemic that still claims too many lives. Sullivan's column, which begins as thought provoking dissent, quickly devolves into dangerous denial.
Activist Michelangelo Signorile, a long-time nemesis of Sullivan, forcefully responded
to the controversial column by asking Sullivan some tough questions.
"Should gay men try as hard as they can to stay negative, including always engaging in protected sex? Unless we warn them against getting HIV by using the fear of becoming infected, what else will be the incentive to stay negative? And why are you so angry, anyway, about people using fear as a way to warn people to play safe - the way we use fear to warn people that obesity will lead to adult onset diabetes or smoking will lead to lung cancer - even if it sometimes isn't as effective as we'd like it to be?"
As someone who is HIV-negative, it is always a struggle not to get carried away in the heat of the moment and do something regrettable. The GLBT community desperately needs our leaders to reinforce safe-sex messages, not undermine them, as Sullivan has done.
The last thing gay youth need to hear is that it is okay to ignore warnings about the dangers of contracting HIV. We already have the religious right working to kill us by falsely claiming that condoms don't work. We don't need Sullivan to help Rev. Jerry Falwell by offering young men one more excuse to keep the condom in the wrapper.
What a shame that a once influential class act is quickly becoming a circus act, whose ridiculous rhetoric on HIV will surely help lead to more infections. Andrew is gifted writer with enormous influence. We expect better from someone who has a platform to do so much good for the GLBT Community.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
by Wayne Besen
It often seems like the religious left won't realize it has a dog in the fight against fanaticism until the right's pit bulls are lunging at its timid throat. For too long, Christian moderates have been invisible, submissively surrendering and allowing the most destructive elements in America to claim the mantle of God. Fortunately, it appears that people of faith and reason are finally awakening from their long scriptural slumber.
In last week's New York Times, former Missouri Republican Senator and Episcopal minister John C. Danforth wrote an op-ed that was nothing short of a seminal call to action for moderate Christians.
"We reject the notion that religion should present a series of wedge issues useful at election time for energizing a political base," wrote Danforth. "Following a Lord who cited love of God and love of neighbor as encompassing all the Commandments, we reject a political agenda that displaces that love. Christians who hold these convictions ought to add their voice of moderation to the debate on religion in politics."
Less than a week after Danforth's call to arms, the Times published a powerful op-ed by former New York governor Mario Cuomo chastising President George W. Bush on moral grounds for his primitive opposition to embryonic stem cell research. In a rare attempt to knock Bush off his moral pedestal, Cuomo openly challenged Bush's religious hypocrisy.
"Although Mr. Bush believes that destroying an embryo is murder, he refuses to demand legislation to stop commercial interests that are busily destroying embryos in order to obtain stem cells. If their conduct amounts to murder as the president contends, it is hardly satisfactory for him to say he will do nothing to stop the evil act other than to refuse to pay for it."
Cuomo is clearly setting a brilliant values trap by calling Bush's bluff. The president can either act on his professed convictions and block popular scientific research or he can look morally insincere. What is so important about Cuomo's message is that he speaks as a person of faith and reason. The combination of logic and liturgy is a powerful anecdote to the anti-intellectual ramblings of the right.
Fear is a key reason that moderates have been reluctant to speak up. It is no secret that men such as Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph and Osama bin Laden are products of religious fanaticism. Fundamentalism, by its very nature, must rely on bullying, intimidation and violence to quell dissent, if it is to survive. A rational debate is certainly out of the question, because such open spiritual exploration reveals the irrationality and incoherence of their rigid, illogical doctrines.
Nevertheless, a few brave souls are beginning to take-on the Biblical barbarians. A new book by religious scholar John Shelby Spong systematically eviscerates the right's dangerous dogma and exposes the utter hollowness of fundamentalism. In "The Sins of Scripture", Spong shows how the Christian right has historically twisted Scripture to launch appalling campaigns of hate against virtually every minority in existence.
"Religion has so often been the source of the cruelest evil," Spong trenchantly writes. "Its darkest and most brutal side becomes visible at the moment when adherents of any religious system identify their understanding of God with God. The two are never the same."
This is an issue that affects everyone, especially those who are secular, because abusive religious systems create intolerant leaders who make restrictive laws that we all have to live by. This is especially true when it comes acceptance of gay people. A nation that has a dominant religious tradition that rejects evolution is one that most certainly will, in the end, reject gay rights. The key to America surviving as a secular society depends on the nurturing of mainstream religion.
In this vein, I think it is crucial that a new religious television and radio network be launched to compete against today's conservative televangelists. Establishing liberal Air America radio is wonderful, but it only accomplishes half the job. We need to invent CARE America, The Christian Action Revival Entertainment network that caters to the God loving, not the God fearing.
Recently, Dean Hamer published a book, The God Gene, which explains that some people are biologically destined to seek spirituality. This is why, like gay people, religious people exist in even the most hostile environments, such as Christians in China.
Like it or not, religious folks are here to stay. A wise society channels these pious impulses in a way that benefits society, while a shortsighted culture allows profiteering preachers and opportunistic politicians to appropriate these passions for their own hateful and divisive ends.
Events like the invasive Terri Schiavo debacle may be causing the left's passive preachers to finally join secular America at the pulpit of pluralism. If moderate Christians don't fight for their beliefs, they will soon find their faith extinct, with Jesus forever transformed into a judgmental bigot who unfailingly votes Republican and watches Fox news.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
by Wayne Besen
(Rev. D. James Kennedy Wants Bible to Replace Constitution)
General Motors announced 25,000 layoffs, and a Washington Post-ABC News
poll revealed that 58 percent of Americans disapprove of President George W. Bush's handling of the economy. Fortunately, I'm impervious to such bad economic news. Even if we return to the dark days of the Great Depression, I'm comforted knowing that a high paying job is always just one phone call away.
"Operator, collect call to Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs."
(Ring, Ring) "James Dobson, speaking."
"It's ME! Wayne Besen."
"Sir, please, don't hang up. I understand that you are still upset about the time I photographed your star ex-gay guzzling cocktails and hitting on men in a gay saloon.
"But, James, times have changed. Are you sitting down? Good! I am calling to tell you that I have renounced my homosexuality and become an ex-gay! I know it's hard to believe, but one night in a hotel I started reading the Bible. An hour later, I went down to the hotel's cocktail lounge to get a stiff one. And to my surprise, that is exactly what happened, but not as I had planned. I couldn't believe it, I suddenly found myself ogling breasts. ME and BREASTS! Halleluiah, it's a miracle.
"Wow, James, FAB-u-lous! Uh, I mean, intriguing. Of course, I'll sign on the dotted line. I thought you'd never ask. See you at work on Monday and we'll fight the gay, I mean, homosexual agenda. God Bless you."
While the stock market may be down, the soul market is bullish. Morally compromised minorities can now guarantee success and reap a stream of profit by agreeing to sell their people down the river. Sure, it is a deal with the devil, but no one ever said a partnership with Lucifer isn't lucrative.
If you haven't noticed, the far right now uses so-called ex-gays like Stephen Bennett to counter the gay community. Clarence Thomas
and Alan Keyes clones are trotted out to oppose African American interests. Homemakers who never seem to be home and appear to make a lot of money, such as Beverly LaHaye, are the chief spokespeople for rolling back women's rights. And one cannot attend a right wing Christian event these days, without tripping over a rabbi willing to bless these overtly sectarian gatherings as Judeo-Christian.
For example, Texas Gov. Rick Perry recently breached the separation of church and state by signing an anti-gay bill and an anti-choice bill at Calvary Christian Academy. To make the unconstitutional event appear kosher, Fort Worth Rabbi David Stone, who leads a Jews For Jesus cult, gave the closing benediction.
Unfortunately, this dangerous dance with the right is already having consequences. The Air Force Academy, for example, has become an out-of-control hotbed of Anti-Semitism and proselytizing. Jewish cadets have been called "filthy Jew" and a chaplain who complained about the Biblical abuse was unceremoniously demoted and shipped off to Japan.
Superintendent of the Air Force Academy, Lt. Gen. John Rosa Jr., acknowledged the problem in a meeting with the Anti-Defamation League.
"I have issues in my staff, and I have issues in my faculty - and that's my whole organization," Rosa said, according to The New York Times
. "If everything goes well, it's probably going to take six years to fix it."
Let me get this straight. In 1967, Israel defeated the entire Arab world in six days. In less than six months, the United States crushed and occupied Iraq, driving Saddam Hussein into a rat hole. It took the allies roughly six years to win World War II. Yet, it is going to take six years to root out anti-Semitism at the Academy?
The truth is, we can solve this un-American scandal in six hours, if our leaders had the will to do so. Everyone involved in such unbecoming conduct should immediately be demoted and shipped to a new base, preferably near the Bering Straight. The Air Force Academy should also be moved away from Colorado Springs, where the intolerant and pseudo-religious ideas circulated by Focus on the Family are clearly disintegrating military morale.
The nightmare that is taking place at the Air Force Academy is a cautionary tale. Minorities who think that bashing gays and playing footsy with theocrats will endear or protect them from what is increasingly looking like a fascist movement are kidding themselves.
"Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost," Rev. D. James Kennedy said, according to Rolling Stone magazine. "As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise Godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors - in short, over every aspect and institution of human society."
Not much Judeo in that Christian proclamation. If you can look past the Right's colorful and diverse panoply of spokespeople, it is clear they are a monochromatic movement that deplores the very pluralism they disingenuously claim to support.
Sunday, June 05, 2005
by Wayne Besen
(Nancy Heche, A Paragon of Family Values)
It turns out that Focus on the Family has been right all along, but in a way the group had not anticipated. This week marks the world's first documented success stories showing sexual orientation can be changed. But in a twist of sweet irony, the subjects did not go from gay to straight, but from heterosexual to homosexual.
Let me explain.
Scientists at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, turned female heterosexual fruit flies into winged lesbians, simply by splicing in a variant of a male gene.
"We have shown that a single gene in the fruit fly is sufficient to determine all aspects of the flies' sexual orientation and behavior," said the author of the paper, Dr. Barry Dickson, which appeared in the prestigious journal Cell
. "What this tells us is that instinctive behaviors can be specified by genetic programs, just like the morphologic development of an organ or a nose."
As the all-important and highly politicized nature vs. nurture debate reaches a fevered pitch, the implications of this study are already reverberating throughout America's culture war.
"Hopefully this will take the discussion about sexual preferences out of the realm of morality and put it into the realm of science," Dr. Michael Weiss, chairman of the department of biochemistry at Case Western University, told The New York Times
The right extremists, of course, will cling to Dr. Dickson's assertion that behavior may play a small role. He suggests the possibility that frequently rejected straight male fruit flies, over time, become less aggressive in their mating behavior. But, for the right to capitalize on this point in the debate over human sexuality, they would have to prove that people turn gay because they can't find opposite sex mates. Yeah right, Rock Hudson, actor Rupert Everett and former Mr. Universe Bob Paris turned out gay because they couldn't get dates.
This research comes on the heels of a new Swedish study that shows that the portion of the brain that helps regulate sexuality, the hypothalamus, reacted the same way in straight women and gay men when exposed to male pheromones, which are chemicals designed to provoke a behavior, such as sexual arousal. The same area of the brain only became stimulated in heterosexual men when introduced to female pheromones.
Tragically, not even the birth of this enlightening data has stopped Neo-Puritan groups from trying to trick people into believing that homosexuality is not inborn. Focus on The Family is shipping in Nancy Heche, mother of erstwhile lesbian actress Anne Heche, to speak at the group's June 25th Love Won Out conference in Seattle.
It is absolutely nuts that Focus on The Family is showcasing Nancy, a wretched mother, who Anne accused of literally driving her insane.
"My mother loves Jesus, so I wanted to become Jesus Christ," Anne once said. "I wanted to save the world to get her love."
It is ironic that Nancy is headlining a conference that encourages gay men to marry, when her own husband, Don Heche, was a closeted gay man who died of AIDS. Fortunately, her daughter understands that the closet is not a cure.
"I put a very high premium on honesty," Anne told Cosmopolitan Magazine
. "What I learned from [my father's] death is that if you don't accept your sexuality, it will kill you."
Anne also accused her father of repeatedly molesting her as a little girl. She eventually confronted her mother by phone about his alleged pedophilia. In the ultimate act of betrayal, Nancy hung up the receiver, and Anne says at that moment her personality split.
"Anne, this girl who had just confronted her mother, shrunk and out came Celestia [a future-telling space alien], where I was thrown to the ground...and heard the voice of God. I thought I was absolutely insane...I was existing as two people."
What a wonderful role model and stellar example of family values to present at Love Won Out! The dysfunctional Nancy and the diabolical Focus on the Family clearly deserve each other. But while they will attack us "fruits" in Seattle, the new research undeniably shows their outdated "nurture" theories simply don't fly. These studies have exposed Focus on the Family founder, James Dobson, for the Scripture-spitting, simple-minded, superstitious savage he truly is.
Bad parents, like Nancy, do not cause homosexuality, as Focus on the Family preaches, but they can produce tormented young women like Anne Heche. Similar to Anne's creation of Celestia, the fantastical notion that gays can go straight is imaginary hocus pocus from Focus. One can sense their desperation as science rapidly exposes their Love Won Out
scam as sanctimonious Science Fiction.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
by Wayne Besen
(Creating A New Reality In South Carolina)
A few weeks ago, I wrote a controversial column, "Losing the Battle", which sounded the alarm that the GLBT movement is going backwards. This remains indisputably true on a political level, as our sworn enemies are increasingly sworn into office. Each morning we rise, we live the long nightmare of George W. Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-TN., and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-TX.
Nonetheless, I still remain hopeful as our community progresses in this most hostile of environments. The following is an excerpt from a speech I gave at South Carolina Gay Pride reflecting my confidence in our strength, resourcefulness and ultimate victory.
"This year's Pride theme is 'Creating a New Reality'. Meanwhile, our opponents are in denial of reality. The world is changing, albeit slower than we may like. Nonetheless, we are moving forward. Two recent Boston Globe polls show that when we stand up and fight, we can change hearts and minds, and in the process change the world.
The first poll shows that nearly 80 percent of Americans believe gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military. Americans are finally beginning to realize that prejudice hurts the platoon and bigotry undermines the brigade. Misplaced morals are a danger to military morale and undercut unit cohesion.
In a second Boston Globe poll, 56 percent of Bay State voters now support the freedom to marry. This is amazing, considering that last year, only 35 percent of these same voters supported marriage equality.
Why the change in attitudes? There are 6,100 reasons, meaning the number of weddings for gay couples that have already taken place. When people meet our families the stereotypes vanish and disapproval disappears.
Last year, I went on a national book tour and visited countless communities. What I learned is the GLBT movement has firmly taken root in virtually every corner of this nation. From Salt Lake City to New York City, from the District of Columbia, to Columbia, South Carolina, there is no place where our struggle remains in the shadows.
But as we succeed, our opponents mislead. They grow desperate with each passing hour, and more dangerous as we achieve unprecedented power. The Neo-Puritan right is even willing to destroy democracy, so they can deploy theocracy.
My friends, this is the worst political environment in memory. And while we may not have the votes, we still have our voices. In this wretched climate, somehow, we are still climbing. If there is any group in America able to withstand the withering and increasingly vituperative attacks, it is those of us, here today.
I am so proud to stand with you as a member of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. Just to be here, out and proud, we have overcome obstacles and persevered against prejudice and persecution. We are robust and resilient; vibrant and vital. And, we will succeed and create a new reality in America.
But first, we must turn our pride into passion, and our passion into action. Our future is in our hands and we must not drop the fragile object of freedom. One person can make a difference. Think of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks. Their singular acts of courage liberated the world and unleashed the soaring spirits of millions.
While not everyone can lead a movement, we can all do our small part to move the world forward. Here are five things you can do:1)
If you have straight friends and family ask them to support full equality. You have taken the courageous step to come out. Now it is time your friends and family step-up.2)
If you are a person of faith, don't let counterfeit Christians such as Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and Pat Robertson hijack religion. Jesus never once mentioned homosexuality. Yet, these phoniest of Pharisees are obsessed with the issue. If you are a Christian, whose priorities do you trust? Jerry Falwell's or Jesus Christ's?3)
Look around you and you will see that there is strength in numbers. Join a gay civil rights group today, because they need you and you need them. Together, we can win.4)
Get involved in the political process. I guarantee you that many of your representatives do not think that any GLBT people live in their districts. Come out to politicians in your area.5)
We can create a new reality, but first we must be real. Coming out turns the meek into mighty, and turns the passive minority into the massive movement. Visibility is victory.
Be out. Be strong. Be vigilant, Be Proud. And be the best openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person God intended you to be.
Thank You and Happy Pride Month!"