This column has become a little too turgid for my taste recently. Run-on paragraphs on the politics of repealing Donâ€™t Ask Donâ€™t Tell. Seemingly endless speculation on the future of the Prop 8 litigation. A sad dearth of scheming alcohol-sodden British lesbians. It has to change. And it will!
This morning, Iâ€™ve had the pleasure of discovering â€śRico,â€ť the muppet squirrel that represents Air New Zealand. Donâ€™t worry. Rico and his antics do not fall completely outside the rubric of GLBT news. But his charm transcends our main focus and it would be well worth your time to research him online.
The combination of Ricoâ€™s heavy Continental accent and broken English results in amusing malaprops, most of them so risquĂ© that Air New Zealand begins its TV ads with a warning screen. The provocative rodent also appears on at least one in flight safety video, fumbling with his oxygen mask and interrupting the crewâ€™s instructions. Indeed, it was a safety video that led me to Rico to begin with, albeit one that did not feature the engaging mascot.
One of Air New Zealandâ€™s videos is shot in a plane full of rowdy rugby fans. In the course of fastening their seatbelts, checking for the exits, and practicing crash positions, some famous rugby player (if youâ€™ll forgive the oxymoron) gets a kiss on the cheek from a female flight attendant as heâ€™s walking down the aisle. He promptly runs into a suspiciously handsome male flight attendant who taps his own cheek suggestively. The rugby guy smiles and shake his head, a rejection that was enough to fire up a couple of humorless gay watchdogs who now accuse Air New Zealand of homophobia and encouraging antigay bullying.
Say what? The airline announced it would delete the scene in the interests of â€ścaution,â€ť at the same time expressing surprise at last weekâ€™s criticism. The aptly named real-life gay flight attendant in the clip, Will Coxhead, said he was proud of his role in the video and â€śguttedâ€ť by the controversy.
â€śObviously there are some people in the gay community who can be a little precious and need to lighten up.â€ť
I couldnâ€™t agree more! The self-appointed martinets in charge of policing the media for the slightest hint of disrespect to our community do us no service.
UrineGate Leaves Questions at Harvard
One of my favorite stories this week comes from Harvard, where library staff recently filed an insurance claim for damages to three-dozen GLBT books. The books had been soaked in urine, which at first suggested a possible hate crime.
A few days later, Harvard announced that the damage had been â€śaccidental,â€ť presenting a unique conundrum. How do you accidentally pour urine on a library shelf? It turns out that a bottle of urine was left in the vicinity, and that a clumsy library staff person spilled its foul contents on the volumes in question.
Amazingly, when presented with this absurd scenario, the head of the campus GLBT group expressed â€śrelief that the damage was not an act of homophobia,â€ť the Associated Press reports. I leave it to you to wonder why human excrement was bottled and left in the gay section, and why the librarian failed to dispose of said container without first spilling it all over the books.
I am reminded of an incident that I donâ€™t share very often, my decision at age seven or eight to spend a couple of weeks collecting my own urine in a Listerine bottle. I had no particular plan. I didnâ€™t consciously want anyone to mistake the contents of the bottle, which I stored on a shelf under some towels. As I recall, it just seemed like an opportunity to do something really interesting at a time in my life when I was under constant observation and had very little autonomy.
My project was unexpectedly discovered, and I was obliged to confess and explain myself on the spot. I told my mother that the whole thing was an initiation ritual for a club and blamed a classmate, Alexa Halaby, who coincidentally was the younger sister of the future Queen Noor of Jordan. My mother promptly announced she was going to inform Alexaâ€™s mother of these perverse activities, and I remember my insane panic at the specter of innocent Alexa learning that I had accused her of such a depraved plot. My reputation would be irreparably ruined.
I begged my mother not to make the call, and thankfully she agreed. In retrospect, I realize that the last thing my mother would have done would be to call Mrs. Halaby and accuse Alexa of forcing me to fill up an empty Listerine bottle with urine. But back in the day, I lacked a keen perception of the dos and donâ€™ts of official Washington.
Anyway, it just goes to show that there are indeed motives, albeit Jungian ones, for storing urine. Was there perchance a bored seven-year-old loitering in the gay section of Lamont Library last month?
Let Oprah Be!
Can I ask why the media refuses to accept the fact that Oprah is not gay? Years ago, the exasperated talk show icon said that if she were gay, she would not be in the closet. And indeed, there is nothing we know of her personality and style that would suggest she would deliberately chose to lead a life of deceit. So what is the problem?
I suppose the obsession has something to do with societyâ€™s inability to conceive of a close same-sex relationship that goes a little beyond what we expect of platonic friends yet falls short of romance. Her affection for Gail Whatshername does not fit neatly into our communal stereotypes, but rather than adjust our assumptions or recognize an exceptional case, we persist in desperately trying to make the woman conform. Leave her alone!
On the other hand, is there any doubt that John Travolta is bisexual? Unlike Oprah, who has never once been the object of a specific gay rumor, Mr. Saturday Night Fever has a whole slew of ex-boy friends, lovers, one-night stands and tattletale friends who insist the man swings both ways. But here again, why are we reading all these headlines about how Travolta is secretly â€śgay?â€ť The man seems to be devoted to his heterosexual family, ergo, he appears to be bisexual. That said, who cares?
Sing with me! â€śNight fever, Night! FEE VERRRâ€¦We know how to DOOO it.â€ť
Fighting For Right to Fight
I reluctantly must turn to actual news, specifically the fate of Donâ€™t Ask Donâ€™t Tell, which as you know was defeated in the Senate last week as an amendment to the defense appropriations bill. The latest, and probably final, plan is to introduce a repeal as a stand-alone bill, send it to the House for quick passage (as I write) and fast-track it back to the Senate floor.
Itâ€™s a mystery to me why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid brought the defense bill to a vote, knowing he did not have the necessary 60 Senators in his pocket. Indeed, there are 60 or more Senators reportedly ready to vote for repeal, but several of them demanded that the Senate vote on the tax bill first, and these were the Senators that Reid inexplicably blew off. I suppose he wanted to embarrass them. But whatever his motives, itâ€™s undeniable that the man prefers playing politics to actually enacting laws.
I have no idea what will happen now. I assume that the House will pass the stand-alone bill to repeal Donâ€™t Ask Donâ€™t Tell but then what? We have twice watched Senator Reid send the repeal to certain defeat for reasons of his own. Maybe heâ€™ll do it again.
As you know, thereâ€™s a federal lawsuit on appeal in the Ninth Circuit that will likely strike Donâ€™t Ask on constitutional grounds. I hadnâ€™t realized that the appeal was expedited, but I recently read that the Ninth Circuit has agreed to speed up the process, which is nice.
Weâ€™ve also heard from our allies in the military that the â€śworst thing that could happenâ€ť would be for Donâ€™t Ask to be struck by a court, forcing the armed forces to change their policies from one day to the next without a deliberate process.
Hello? The â€śbig changeâ€ť does not require new infrastructure. It does not alter the personnel. It does not cost anything upfront. It does not involve going out and recruiting a hundred thousand gay and lesbian soldiers. It will not mean that gay military men will suddenly report to duty in drag, practice show tunes in the barracks and fill the shelves in the common bathrooms with skin care products.
It will mean one thing and one thing only. Gay and lesbian soldiers will no longer be discharged on account of their sexual orientation. And no, they wonâ€™t be allowed to violate the various sex rules in the Uniform Code any more than straight soldiers. Yet listening to the hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee the other week, you would think that ending Donâ€™t Ask was giving the green light to unchecked bacchanalia in the barracks.
Speaking of Donâ€™t Ask, gay military activist Lt. Dan Choi has had some kind of nervous breakdown and has been involuntarily committed to the psych ward at a veteranâ€™s hospital. I donâ€™t know the details, but I hope the emotional problems of one of our main poster soldiers is not hijacked by conservatives and used as proof that weâ€™re not up to the task of defending the American way of life. Bet you someone will make a nasty comment at the lieutenantâ€™s expense. A mean tweet at the very least.
And finally, three former gay servicemen have filed another federal suit in California, asking a judge to reinstate them and strike Donâ€™t Ask. Iâ€™m not sure why we need yet a third federal suit in the same jurisdiction, but by all means, letâ€™s go for it.
Here Comes The Vote!
Well, what do you know? The House is now debating Donâ€™t Ask, so I suppose weâ€™ll have some good news to report in a matter of minutes or hours. My tolerance for thinly disguised bigotry directed at me and my gay brothers and sisters has diminished over the last several years, obliging me to turn off the volume as we wait for the results.
Meanwhile, Iâ€™ve read this week that thereâ€™s a very good chance Maryland could pass marriage equality in the next session. I think I mentioned recently that Maryland bucked the midterm trend and actually added Democrats to both houses of the legislature, and now I gather that the balance has shifted in our favor in a key committee. I donâ€™t feel like looking up the details, but it appears that we have an excellent chance of adding the Soft Shell Crab State to our list of free marriage regions.
That said, I suppose we can also expect that if marriage equality were to come to pass in Maryland, Satanic forces would push for a 2012 referendum on the subject.
At this point, I canâ€™t predict where else we might have to campaign for marriage in two years. The Iowa senate leader is staunchly defending our freedom in the Ethanol State, where heâ€™s under pressure to allow a vote on a constitutional amendment that could hit voters in 2012 and theoretically roll back marriage rights. It looks as if weâ€™re safe for the moment, but the situation is dicey. And weâ€™re also threatened in New Hampshire, another free state where the new GOP majority is considering various bills to put marriage rights to a vote.
Since November, 2012 is a long way off, itâ€™s possible as well that one of the few states without an anti-marriage amendment will decide to roil the electoral waters. Minnesota for example, bans marriage by statute, but has long resisted putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot thanks to Democratic control of the legislature. Actually, it wasnâ€™t the Democratic Party who had control. It was that weird farm party they prefer up in St. Paul, the DFL. Same difference. At any rate, the Republicans regained a legislative majority last month, so marriage could be up for grabs in the Freezing Cold State.
Time will tell. And maybe, this nation has had enough. Maybe the folks in Iowa and Minnesota and wherever will decide their time can be better spent on ameliorating the ills of society rather than building sand castles against the slowly rising tides of civil rights.
Ah, and now I see that we will have a procedural vote, followed by an hour of general debate, so I will count my chickens before they hatch and leave you, confident of this victory. Will it be another symbolic House vote in our favor? Or the real beginning of the end of Donâ€™t Ask Donâ€™t Tell?
Donâ€™t know! By the way, itâ€™s 75 degrees in Austin and pleasantly windy. Iâ€™m going to take an outdoor shower, put the top down in my car and go out for a drive. Maybe Iâ€™ll buy Mel a Christmas present or two, have a glass of wine at a sidewalk cafĂ©, and try and rid my mind of the crushing burden of systemic antigay discrimination I carry with me like the weight of the Earth on my shoulders. Usually, one glass of wine will do it.