Monday, January 26, 2009
by Wayne Besen
Portland's openly gay mayor, Sam Adams, correctly decided to remain in office
after acknowledging that three years ago he had a brief affair with an eighteen year old man. Calls for his resignation were politically motivated, homophobic and cheap shots dressed in the guise of morality. Sadly, many gay and lesbian leaders got sucked into the sexual hysteria and puritanical pandemonium and called for the mayor's resignation.
If Adams had exploited an innocent youth or abused his power in office to obtain sex, I would not be defending him. The affair with Beau Breedlove, however, was consensual and Breedlove told the Oregonian newspaper:
"I do not see any relationship that I ever had with Sam as me being taken advantage of. I do not feel like I was ever a victim."
Given this reality, I am having a difficult time understanding exactly why this is a controversy. The hypocrisy, double standard and anti-gay undertones are unmistakable. If a 42-year-old male politician had hooked up with an 18-year-old Hooter's girl, he would get high fives. If he's gay, people with pitchforks want to hang him from a high tree. For the conquering straight male, the affair would be a sign of virility. For the gay man, it is the mark of vulgarity.
This all goes back to the despicable stereotype that evil homosexuals recruit children into the so-called "lifestyle." People have to realize that sacrificing Adams won't erase this insidious myth from the minds of ignorant people who choose to believe it.
As in most self-righteous inquisitions, the pious finger pointers say it is "not about the sex, it is because Adam's lied" to the media about the tryst. This is the same disingenuous nonsense that Ken "Porn" Starr and the GOP used to rationalize their attempted coup of Bill Clinton.
In my view, Adams is the victim of an overzealous media asking questions about a relationship that was none of their business. There were only two legitimate questions that should ever have been asked of Adams:
Was Breedlove of legal age?
Did Adams supervise him at work?
We know the answer to the first question (barely legal), and Breedlove was an intern in the state capitol, which had nothing to do with the city council, where Adams had served as a commissioner.
So, why is this a story?
When asked about this affair during his campaign, Adams had every right to mislead reporters. What detractors call lying, was really just personal discretion. What next, are we going to pass sunshine laws that mandate public officials must sign sexual disclosure forms listing all sexual liaisons and post their names on the Internet? Because, that is essentially what people want when they insist Adams had an obligation to discuss his private life with the media.
Like starving vultures, the press is now sensationalizing the issue. For example, ABC News' website published an Associated Press story headlined, "Gay Teen Sex Scandal Mayor Won't Resign." This is misleading and irresponsible journalism that makes Adams appear to be a letch who hangs around middle schools with lollipops.
To be fair, Adams did let down the GLBT community. When asked about the affair during his campaign, he should have either told the truth or said, "none of your business." Instead, he accused his primary opponent of gay baiting and complained, "This is one of the worst smears you can make against a gay guy. It preys on the homophobic stereotype that gay men cannot be trusted with young people."
Adams diminished the noble cause for equality when he hid behind it to conceal his relationship. He should have acted with more integrity and not made his personal saga about the larger GLBT community.
Still, Adams did apologize profusely and should be allowed to move on. Human beings are not perfect, especially politicians. Last week, hundreds of citizens rallied in front of City Hall in support of Adams, giving him the strength to fight on.
Finally, I'm not begrudging those who think that it is irresponsible and wrong for Adams to have had sex with someone half his age. Those who believe that Adams does not share their values, have every right to vote him out of office when he is up for reelection. But the notion that Adams should be recalled is nothing short of an ugly witch-hunt.
The political judgment of Sam Adams is certainly questionable. There is no question, however, that his actions do not warrant the harsh judgment of those who demand that he resign. One may not like the mayor's personal choices, but this so-called "scandal" is nothing more than a fake crime scene in search of a real crime.
Adams is no superman, as many supporters thought he once was, but he is also no scoundrel. It is time people stop taking potshots at the mayor, and let him return to work so he can repair the potholes his constituents elected him to fix.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
by Wayne Besen
In 38 years, I've only once dressed in drag.
It was my senior year of high school and my friend Alex's father was out of town. While gone, he placed Alex in charge of his clothing shop, which was in a small hotel mini-mall. I swung by one evening to keep him company. Business was slow and we were looking for creative ways to pass the time.
Finally, one of us had the harebrained idea to replace the female mannequins stiffly posing in the large plate glass window -- with ourselves. Dressed in women's clothes, we stood completely still and patiently waited for unsuspecting customers. When they unassumingly meandered in front of us -- we came alive, startling these poor window shoppers.
This evening of adolescent mischief was the extent of my dabbling in the world of the opposite sex. Although this path was not my destiny, I never found drag queens at gay bars or transgender people weird or threatening. To anyone paying attention, it is clear that we live in a world of infinite and wondrous natural diversity. There is an obvious spectrum of human possibility that is in front of our eyes. Yet, supposedly educated people still act surprised and unnerved that transgender Americans exist. The truth is, it would be far more shocking to not have such people, considering the literally billions of prospective combinations and potential outcomes for each individual.
I'm confused as to why people are still "confused" about transgender Americans. For years, they have said that the birth sex on the outside does not match the opposite sex they believe is on the inside. Modern science confirms that sexuality has as much to do with what is inside our heads as what is between our legs. This concept is not rocket science, nor is it difficult to understand. There is nothing homogeneous about our species, and this includes sexuality and gender.
Unfortunately, talk show hosts are still using this issue for cheap laughs or to boost ratings. The latest example is the annoying and supremely talentless Dr. Phil. The talking (very large) head had an opportunity to educate the public by presenting the latest science. Instead, he shamefully chose sensationalism over professionalism by offering a platform to notorious anti-gay activists who used his show to promote quack theories with no scientific standing. Dr. Phil actually had the nerve to refer to Glenn Stanton, who is affiliated with Focus on the Family, and the laughable Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, as "experts" on gender and homosexuality.Dr. Nicolosi
is the same "expert" who believes gay men can become more masculine by drinking Gatorade and calling friends "dude." Stanton is tied to Focus on the Family, an organization that has been accused by scientists
throughout the world of distorting their work.
Of course, none of this mattered to Dr. Phil. Instead of exploring this issue in-depth, "the mouth of the south" sunk to new depths. On the show, he exploited Toni, a loving mother of a transgender child, by ambushing her with the aforementioned disreputable hacks.
Toni explained how she and her husband reluctantly decided to let her son transition into a girl after unsuccessfully forcing strict gender roles on the child. Such efforts backfired and her son tried to jump out of a window. Even after hearing such a real life story, Nicolosi and Stanton argued that Toni should have continued a "treatment" that nearly lead her child to suicide.
Dr. Nicolosi tried to humiliate Toni on national television, blaming her parenting skills for causing her child to be transgender. Nicolosi said that her child was transgender because the father was detached and Toni was overly "enmeshed." But, Toni's response undermined Nicolosi's unproven and dubious hypothesis.
"Dad wasn't there after the transition...my son, I wasn't close to at all," Toni replied. "I wasn't enmeshed with him, so I think your theory sucks."
Having their bizarre and outdated ideas effectively rebutted, Stanton chimed in to save face, glibly stating, "No human being is cookie cutter."
The truth is, the entire program of Nicolosi and Stanton is predicated on baseless cookie cutter ideas that support their extreme beliefs. It is disingenuous to say otherwise when the very heart of their work is confusing stereotypes with science.
I question why Dr. Phil offered a platform to men so at odds with every respected medical and mental health association in the country? And why didn't Dr. Phil inform viewers that these men were considered fringe religious figures with peculiar views on sexuality?
It really isn't hard to "get" the transgender issue. But, for your average American, it can be difficult to get accurate information, when real experts are juxtaposed with jokers who offer rubbish as genuine research. I suggest Dr. Phil dress up as a female mannequin if his goal is shock value. He'd hurt less people and would not come across as Jerry Springer when he sprung nasty surprises on innocent guests.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
by Wayne Besen
As long as we refer to the Middle East as the "Holy Land" there will be war. For peace to prosper, extremists, on both sides, will have to he marginalized. This will require courage from Israeli and Palestinian leaders, who have failed to take aim at the religious roots of this festering fiasco.
The first step to a brighter future is crushing Hamas. This cowardly terrorist organization indiscriminately fires rockets into cities and then hides behind human shields when Israel's military rightfully responds. Hamas' charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the forming of a radical Islamic Republic that would fly, "the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine."
Unfortunately, many "liberals" are infuriated that Israel is targeting these illiberal and violent theocrats. They mysteriously don't seem to be concerned that the rights of women and other minorities, including gay people, would be greatly eroded if Hamas lorded over a Palestinian state.
By protesting Israel, these well-intentioned individuals in the West are actually prolonging the pain of the Palestinian people. Israel, obviously, cannot make peace with an entity determined to destroy it. The longer Hamas remains viable, the longer these problems will be protracted. As the weaker party, the Palestinians will almost always be on the losing end. A cease-fire with Hamas does little but provide a band-aid solution that ensures future bloodshed.
The fact is, eliminating Hamas would pave the way for reuniting Gaza and the West Bank under Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Having seen the radical alternative, the Israeli government would be favorably inclined to seek common ground with Abbas -- expediting the possibility of a Palestinian state.
If this scenario plays out, Israel should move swiftly to empower Abbas by tearing down all illegal Jewish settlements. Nothing has done more to harm Israel in terms of world opinion and done less to improve its security than these outrageous outposts on Palestinian property. Someone has to tell these deluded settlers that the Messianic dream of a greater Israel is over.
Speaking of fantasies, the Palestinian people are going to have to give up their Jihad -- which hasn't exactly been a success. In 2006, they voted for holy war by electing Hamas -- a group which pays the families of suicide bombers $5,000. If you are going to choose terrorism over tourism as your main industry, don't cry to the world when bombs are dropped on your doorstep.
If the Palestinians face occupation, as they claim, they don't need "martyrs" -- they need leaders who will tell them the truth. In 2004, more than 200,000 Palestinians marched at the funeral of Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin, after he was assassinated by Israel.
That's fine, but where are the massive non-violent demonstrations that don't call for the demise of Israel? Such protests would do wonders to further their cause and help undo the image of the suicide bomber. The Palestinian people have to understand that there will be no state -- nor should there be -- until the average Israeli citizen feels peace will not come at the expense of safety. If the Palestinians fail to offer such reassurances, they will remain stateless and mired in deprivation and poverty.
Checking the powerful and entrenched interests that undermine Middle East peace will not be easy. In America we certainly know how a well-organized minority of ideologues can infect the political process. GLBT equality, for example, has been stymied for eight years under the oppressive Bush Administration. We have seen a concerted effort by social conservatives to hurt our families and legislate our marriages -- particularly in election years. And, we saw John McCain place America's future in jeopardy by selecting the unqualified Sarah Palin as his running mate to appease his extreme base. It is still unthinkable that she was nearly a breath away from the Oval Office.
Still, the battle in Gaza is an opportunity to move forward. The Hamas gunmen that Israel is targeting are self-righteous thugs that intimidate moderates who favor peace. Those in Israel who think God commands Jews to have every inch of land -- even if it belongs to Palestinian families -- are the same types who believe God wants gay pride marchers in Jerusalem to be stoned.
If Israel's true goal is security and the Palestinians genuinely want to secure a state, then I believe peace can occur and both groups can prosper. But, if negotiating is a way for Israel to stall so they can change facts on the ground through new settlements, or for Palestinians to replenish stocks of lethal rockets, God's people will continue to turn this disputed land into a hellhole.
While you can never fully separate religion from the region, the "Holy" must be detached from the actual "Land" if peace is ever to be realized. It is time to return the fanatics to their rightful place on the fringe, so good people on both sides of this divide have a chance to live normal and peaceful lives.