Sunday, July 31, 2011

Who Decides What’s Right or Wrong?

We all know the Bible appraises self-worth according to strict sets of laws and hierarchies: Go to Hell if you covet the neighbor’s house, kill the neighbor, or take off with the neighbor’s wife.  It runs moral meanings smooth over broken fine lines that fall somewhere between fact and fiction and good and evil. God still hates figs and shrimp, right? It also often hides contradiction and its very own accommodating history under stories that once upon a time were not its own: Remember, Christmas and Easter grew from Pagan roots.

Unfortunately for us, the Bible and people's interpretations of it can brew misguided thoughts about homosexuality. But it does deserve our attention. Its words read just like modern humans behave: We wake hand-in-hand with dissension; we evolve, yet still keep patterns of judgment close. And we all at some point in time ask, “Where did we come from? What’s the point?”
So where do the gays go from here?
Well, former United Methodist minister and Duke University seminary scholar, Jimmy Creech, suggests that maybe it’s time we re-evaluate what the Bible really says about homosexuality.
In Adam's Gift: A Memoir of a Pastor’s Calling to Defy the Church’s Persecution of Lesbians and Gays, straight-identifying Creech defends same-sex love against the Church’s dangerous distortion of homosexuality as sin. He digs deep into Biblical texts, mines credible sense from scripture and history, and writes passionately about his decision to reconcile his stance on gay rights and same-sex marriage even though these things ultimately led the Church to revoke his ordination credentials.
What would Jesus do? Jimmy Creech might know.


Does the Bible condemn homosexuality?

No, it’s actually not possible for the Bible to say this in any way. First of all, the writers of the Bible had no understanding of the innate human trait of sexual orientation. Consequently, there were no words for homosexuality, bisexuality and heterosexuality. These words were coined in the late 1800s when the young science of psychology studied human sexuality and discovered that sexual orientation is an innate aspect of human personality. We’ve come to understand these three sexual orientations as equally normal, natural and healthy. There are a few references in the Bible to same-gender sexual acts, though all of them are condemned because of the context in which they are found: violent rape, idolatry, and promiscuity. There is, by the way, no condemnation in the Bible of same-gender loving relationships. However, because of the fear and prejudice against same-gender loving relationships, church leaders have used these condemnations of violence, idolatry and promiscuity to condemn same-gender loving relationships. If the logic used against homosexual sex acts was used in the context of condemned heterosexual sex acts, one could claim the Bible says “heterosexuality is a sin.” But, of course, no one does. 
Another issue at play is patriarchal culture. Men are considered the masters (the Hebrew for husband actually means “lord”) and women are inferior and subservient. Consequently, for a man to have sex with another man as men have sex with women violates the rigid gender roles and threatens the patriarchal culture. Such an act puts the submissive man in the woman’s role which from the biblical perspective is “abominable.” Interestingly, there’s only one biblical reference to women having sex with women (chapter one of Romans), most likely because the writers of the Bible (men) weren’t concerned about that – it didn’t threaten their patriarchal culture. 
The few references to same-gender sexual acts have thus been interpreted and used in ways to justify the persecution of LGBT people. In similar ways, passages in the Bible were interpreted in ways to justify slavery, white supremacy and racial segregation. The Bible denies equal rights to women because of its patriarchy and allowed the persecution and mass murder of Jews. Modern society has rejected the misuse of the Bible to justify these injustices even though each case is a form of abuse. Using the Bible to justify the persecution of LGBT people is no less an abuse and can no longer be tolerated. It’s intellectually dishonest, pure bigotry.
Can you explain how the word “homosexual” is misused in Biblical texts?
In First Corinthians and First Timothy, the Apostle Paul used Greek words that no one else had ever used – either before him or after him.  These words came to be associated with homosexuality in the late 13th Century after Thomas Aquinas condemned same-sex sexual acts in his writings. From then on, the Greek words in these two passages were understood to mean, a “man who has sex with a man.”  Because there was no Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek words (the three languages in which the Bible was written) for a “man who has sex with a man,” the term Sodomite was invented.  It is often found in translations, but has no basis in the languages of the Bible – it’s purely an example of bigotry written into those translations after the fact.
Aquinas was the first church teacher to associate the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah with same-sex acts.  Before then, the destruction was attributed to the violent inhospitality and greed of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.  A similar thing happened when the Revised Standard Version of the Bible was published in 1952.  Instead of using “a man who has sex with a man,” or the King James version, “them that defile themselves with mankind,” or Sodomites, the translators chose to use the modern term homosexual – even though there was no basis for it in biblical languages. Consequently, people who do not know this history innocently claim that the Bible says “homosexuals can’t inherit the kingdom of heaven” because First Corinthians says so; and, that “homosexuals” are contrary to sound doctrine. 
While careful study of these passages reveals no condemnation of same-sex loving relationships, the mass of people who read these passages without the benefit of careful study feel justified in condemning homosexuals. The harm that has been done to LGBT people by this scandalous scholarship cannot be exaggerated. 
Do you think Christianity will eventually embrace LGBT people in the future, however near or far?
Yes, mainline Christian communities will fully embrace the LGBT community with equal standing and participation in the nearfuture. Christian communities actually have come a long way toward this goal in a relatively short time. The Unitarian Universalist Association was the first in this country, soon after Stonewall. And now the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church, USA, the Episcopal Church, USA, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America have all embraced the ordination of clergy in same-sex committed relationships and marriage for same-sex couples.
Even though the ecclesiastical leadership of the Roman Catholic Church remains adamantly against sexually active LGBT people, more than 74% of Catholic laity support same-sex marriage or civil unions with support for their full civil rights and equal protections. There will be some who will never accept same-sex relationships, but they belong to the past of fear and hatred, not the future of acceptance and equality.
What do you say to non-believers, atheists and agnostics? Do you see religion as something essential and necessary to humanity’s place in the universe?
No, I don’t believe religion is essential and necessary. Religion is an organized or structured expression of the innate wonder and awe human beings have about life, nature and time. This wonder and awe and the beliefs people have about it are not dependent on religious language and concepts. I find common ground with anyone who explores those big questions about life.
Being religious doesn’t guarantee a person will be good, nor does being a non-believer make a person bad. These are just two ways humans approach the mysteries of life. But, I do believe everyone who is aware and sensitive to what’s happening in the world, in their lives and the lives of others, has a keen sense of wonder and awe about it all. What really matters is how we treat each other.
Your memoir, Adam’s Gift, is about the United Methodist Church's decision to revoke your ordination credentials after you performed same-sex commitment ceremonies. But what do you think the real gift was for you? 
Adam’s gift was the truth about himself – a truth he’d concealed for nearly 50 years of his life. It was a gift because it opened my eyes to a reality I’d not seen before – a persecution of LGBT people in which I unknowingly was complicit. It was his humanity, his dignity and integrity, his gentleness and humility that would not allow me to rely on my conventional stereotypes and prejudice about the gay community. While there was much study and understanding I had to pursue afterward, Adam transformed me in the moment he revealed to me his true personhood and personal history. He gave me his most precious gift: His personal truth. 
How do you feel about Christianity’s position in US politics? It’s sad, but a holier than thou attitude still marginalizes the LGBT community.
It’s not possible to speak of “Christianity” as if it is one set of beliefs and values. Today, Christianity is not a term that has meaning because of the diversity within and among Christian groups. The Christians with whom I’m aligned are progressives. There are large numbers of moderate Christians too. And, there are Christian reactionaries who have found a political home in the Republican Party. The attack on LGBT people by many Christian reactionaries is sincere – meaning, it is an expression of their real fear and prejudice. However, right-wing politicians cynically exploit this bigotry for political ends (Karl Rove and George W. Bush). I believe that the political strategy of exploiting anti-gay bigotry is coming to an end. With marriage equality in a growing number of states, with the repeal of DADT, and the current discussion of the Respect for Marriage bill, the momentum is toward inclusion and acceptance, not exclusion.  Even some right-wing Republicans are saying their party should no longer talk about gay issues. 
How do you think we can change the way other people less understanding think about LGBT people?
People I know who’ve changed their hearts and minds about gay people have done so because they got to know someone who is gay. They didn’t change because of a good argument or debate about the Bible. They changed because they couldn’t reconcile their fear and hatred with the dignity and character of someone they discovered to be gay. Sometimes, this is a new acquaintance whose respect is earned over time.  Sometimes, it’s someone loved for a lifetime. So, the gift Adam gave to me is a gift all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people can give to someone – a parent, sibling, child, neighbor, pastor, friend or colleague. LGBT people should not undervalue the power of their own dignity and integrity. There are, of course, some people whose minds and hearts will never change.
In addition, those of us who are straight must challenge anti-gay bigotry and malice whenever we encounter it and challenge elected officials who perpetuate persecution. An unjust world belongs to all of us, and all of us have an obligation to end the injustice.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Moment of Zen: Summer Afternoon


I struggled with what to subtitle this post, but then I realized that what drew me to this picture is that it is an ideal way to spend a summer afternoon.  Throw out a blanket the pier at the lake (in a park or at the beach, wherever you find solace) with a hat, sunglasses, and a book. Even though there is no one visible in this picture, you know that the guy is having a great relaxing afternoon, probably swimming in the lake and will go back to his book later.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Blue? Or Maybe, Gay?

The above title is a play on words: blue/sad and gay/happy, but it also has a different meaning. As some of you may know, the Smurfs movie opens in theaters today. I remember watching the Smurfs on Saturday morning as a kid, it ran on NBC from 1980-1989, my prime years of watching cartoons. But to be honest, I didn't remember much about them except that they were blue, they substituted the word smurf and various versions of it for other words, and that their nemesis was Gargamel and his cat Azreal. So, being the curious person I am, I looked up the Smurfs on Wikipedia. The article was quite enlightening. From Wikipedia:
The Smurfs (French: Les - Schtroumpfs) is a comic and television franchise centered on a group of small blue fictional creatures called Smurfs, created and first introduced as a series of comic strips by the Belgian cartoonist Peyo (pen name of Pierre Culliford) on October 23, 1958. The original term and the accompanying language came during a meal Peyo was having with his colleague and friend AndrĂ© Franquin in which, having momentarily forgotten the word "salt", Peyo asked him (in French) to pass the schtroumpf. Franquin replied: "Here's the Schtroumpf — when you are done schtroumpfing, schtroumpf it back" and the two spent the rest of that weekend speaking in schtroumpf language. The name was later translated into Dutch as Smurf, which was adopted in English.
Papa Smurf
I had no idea that the Smurfs had been around since 1958. Moreover, I didn't realize some of the odd criticisms that the Smurfs has received. Not only were there allegations of the Smurfs representing a communist utopia, with Papa Smurf (the only one to wear red) as a representation of Karl Marx and Brainy Smurf as representing Leon Trostky. Regarding these accusations, Thierry Culliford, son of Peyo and current head of Studio Peyo, said the accusations were, "between the grotesque and the not serious."

Brainy Smurf
There were other allegations that the Smurfs were homosexual society. Now if you remember the Smurfs, you may ask yourself, what about Smurfette. In the original Belgian versions of The Smurfs, Smurfette did not exist. Hal Erickson said in Television Cartoon Shows: An Illustrated Encyclopedia 1949-1993 that the inclusion of Smurfette was "bowing to merchandising dictates" in order to "appeal to little girl toy consumers." Jeffrey P. Dennis, author of the journal article "The Same Thing We Do Every Night: Signifying Same-Sex Desire in Television Cartoons," said that the inclusion of Smurfette in the cartoon version of The Smurfs was likely to serve as an object of heterosexual desire for the other Smurfs and to end speculation arguing that the Smurfs were homosexual. In a response to Dennis's statements, Martin Goodman of Animation World Network, said that Dennis had not taken into account Erickson's comments about merchandising. Goodman further argued that capturing the young female audience would increase ratings, so the networks were more likely trying to pander to young girls than trying to defuse accusations of homosexuality; Smurfette was the most frequently merchandised of the Smurfs.

Smurfette
After reading about Jeffrey P. Dennis's work, I decided to look into him a little more. Jeffery P. Dennis received his Ph.D. from SUNY Stony Brook in 2001 and is currently an Associate Professor of Sociology, SUNY, College at Oneonta. He is interested in the intersection of deviance and criminology with issues of gender, masculinity, and sexuality, especially the historical representation of deviant youth and bullying, harassment, and delinquency among LGBT youth today. Dr. Dennis is the author of Queering Teen Culture (2006), We Boys Together: Teenagers in Love before Girl-Craziness (2007), and many chapters, articles, and research presentations. However, I wanted to look more closely at his article "The Same Thing We Do Every Night: Signifying Same-Sex Desire in Television Cartoons." Journal of Popular Film & Television. Fall 2003. Volume 31, Issue 3. 132-140.

Though I could not get a look at this article, I did find in Soundscapes—Journal on Media Culture, the article "Queertoons: The Dynamics of Same-Sex Desire in the Animated Cartoon" by Jeffrey P. Dennis, which seems to be remarkably similar, if not the same article under a different name and publication In this article he discusses same-sex relationships in cartoons, though the article is in need of being updated in regards to present-day Fox Network adult-oriented cartoons, such as The Simpsons, American Dad, and Family Guy. The article was quite interesting, but I think he is extrapolating ideas that aren't intentional by the cartoonists. I want to end by quoting what he has to say about the Smurfs:
Vanity Smurf
[J. Marc] Schmidt finds a "homotopia" in The Smurfs (1969-1986), a group of small blue humanoids named after their primary personality characteristics ("Hefty", "Brainy", "Clumsy"), because all but one was male, and because the Smurf named Vanity was a self-absorbed dandy who might be read as a homophobic stereotype. However, male Smurfs never developed exclusive or even close relationships with each other, whereas they often developed goofy crushes on Smurfette. The back story reveals that an evil wizard created Smurfette to introduce discord into the all-male village; more likely the character was introduced specifically to provide an object for the Smurfs' heterosexual desire and defuse conjectures that they might be "really" gay.
Some of these arguments, I find to be quite humorous. People will read so much in a simple cartoon. I remember with G.I. Joe, and a few other cartoons of the same time, having a moral at the end of the show. "Now you know, and knowing is half the battle." I just thought that this was interesting and wanted to share. So what do you think? Were the Smurfs a homosexual/communist utopia? Was Smurfette merely a cover-up, i.e. the smurf's beard?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I just can’t…

I really can’t picture anyone at all having a crush on me. I can’t picture anyone daydreaming about me. I can’t picture someone thinking about me when they lay in bed before they fall asleep. I can’t picture anyone telling their friends about me. I can’t picture anyone getting butterflies because I hugged them, or even just because I made eye contact with them. I can’t picture someone smiling because my name lit up their phone. I just can’t.
This is not poetry, but I find it somewhat poetic.  Probably, not everyone has experienced these feelings/insecurities, but many of us have.  How do you feel about the quote above? Have you had these feelings before?  Or, are you just naturally gorgeous and charming with people falling at your feet?  I know that I have felt this way in the past, still do to some extent.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

If Sometimes in the Haunts of Men

If Sometimes in the Haunts of Men

If sometimes in the haunts of men 
    Thine image from my breast may fade,
The lonely hour presents again
    The semblance of thy gentle shade:
And now that sad and silent hour
    Thus much of thee can still restore,
And sorrow unobserved may pour
    The plaint she dare not speak before.

Oh, pardon that in crowds awhile
    I waste one thought I owe to thee,
And self-condemn'd, appear to smile,
    Unfaithful to thy memory:
Nor deem that memory less dear,
    That then I seem not to repine;
I would not fools should overhear
    One sigh that should be wholly thine.

If not the goblet pass unquaff'd,
    It is not drain'd to banish care;
The cup must hold a deadlier draught,
    That brings a Lethe for despair.
And could Oblivion set my soul
    From all her troubled visions free,
I'd dash to earth the sweetest bowl
    That drown'd a single thought of thee.
6a00d8341cc27e53ef01157144f88f970c-600wi
For wert thou vanish'd from my mind,
    Where could my vacant bosom turn?
And who could then remain behind
    To honour thine abandon'd Urn?
No, no--it is my sorrow's pride
    That last dear duty to fulfil:
Though all the world forget beside,
    'Tis meet that I remember still.

Thomas Eakins - ArcadiaFor well I know, that such had been
    Thy gentle care for him, who now
Unmourn'd shall quit this mortal scene,
    Where none regarded him, but thou:
And, oh! I feel in that was given
    A blessing never meant for me;
Thou wert too like a dream of Heaven
    For earthly Love to merit thee.
                                                                               -Lord Byron (1812)


George Gordon Noel Byron, 6th Baron Byron, was born 22 January 1788 in London and died 19 April 1824 in Missolonghi, Greece.  He was among the most famous of the English 'Romantic' poets; his contemporaries included Percy Shelley and John Keats.  He was also a satirist whose poetry and personality captured the imagination of Europe.  His major works include Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812-18) and Don Juan (1819-24).  He died of fever and exposure while engaged in the Greek struggle for independence.
The images accompanying the poem above are by Thomas Eakins.  To read more about Eakins, click “More” below.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Something to Think About...

I came across this article on gay.com.  I'd love to hear what you guys think about it.

DOES YOUR SIZE DETERMINE IF YOU'RE A TOP OR BOTTOM?

That's one of the questionable findings in a study conducted to determine how the size of a man's penis affects his sexual health.
The study, titled “The Association between Penis Size and Sexual Health among Men Who Have Sex with Men,” was launched and subsidized by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and looked at 1,065 gay men. Among its findings are the following bombshells:
Gay men who felt they had small or inadequate penis sizes were more likely to become “bottoms,” or anal receptive, while gay men with larger penises were more likely to identify themselves as “tops,” or anal insertive.
That's all certainly debatable, but can penis size affect your mental health? Another discovery from the research: Men with smaller penises were more likely to be psychologically troubled than those with larger genitalia. The goal of the study was to understand the “real individual-level consequences of living in a penis-centered society.”
I have not found this to be true in my sex life.  In fact, I have heard of a few very large guys who found that they were considered  too large to be the top.  I've also known at least one small guy (2-3" erect) who was a top.  These may actually be exceptions to the rule, but I do find this study to be interesting.  I wonder if this also means that guys who are average are versatile?  It would make sense to me.

The other aspect of the study that said that men with a smaller penis had psychological problem and those who had a large penis were less likely to psychologically troubled.  What I have found in my life is that those men with a larger penis tend to be more confident.  Does that mean they have fewer psychological problems? I honestly don't know.  Some guys that I have known to have a large penis are confident on the outside, but that does not mean they were not troubled on the inside.  As for those with a smaller penis, I really haven't known enough guys who were smaller to form a personal opinion about their mental state.  Men with a smaller penis tend not to show it off as much.  

What do you guys think?  What is your opinion on this topic?  Do you really even care?  I hope you guys found this interesting.  If not let me know.


By the way, my job interview yesterday seemed to go well.  Now it is just a wait and see game.  I was told that there would be a second interview for those who make it to the top three.  Hopefully, I will make it to the top three.

Monday, July 25, 2011

California Gay History Law

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill making California the first state in the nation to add lessons about gays and lesbians to social studies classes in public schools.
Brown, a Democrat, signed the landmark bill requiring public schools to include the contributions of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender in social studies curriculum. The Democratic-majority Legislature had passed the bill last week on a largely party-line vote.
"History should be honest," the governor said in a statement Thursday. "This bill revises existing laws that prohibit discrimination in education and ensures that the important contributions of Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life are included in our history books."
Brown signed the bill Wednesday, but announced on Thursday that he had done so.
The bill has drawn criticism from some churches and conservative groups that argue such instruction would expose students to a subject that some parents find objectionable.
Republican lawmakers who opposed the bill had called it a well-intentioned but ill-conceived bill. Some raised concerns that it would indoctrinate children to accept homosexuality.
State Sen. Mark Leno, a Democrat from San Francisco and the bill's author, hailed the bill signing as a step toward teaching tolerance. Supporters say the bill will teach students to be more accepting of gays and lesbians in light of the bullying that happens to gay students.
"Today we are making history in California by ensuring that our textbooks and instructional materials no longer exclude the contributions of LGBT Americans," Leno said in a statement.
California law already requires schools to teach about women, African Americans, Mexican Americans, entrepreneurs, Asian Americans, European Americans, American Indians and labor. The Legislature over the years also has prescribed specific lessons about the Irish potato famine and the Holocaust, among other topics.
The new law, SB48, requires the California Board of Education and local school districts to adopt textbooks and other teaching materials that cover the contributions and roles of sexual minorities, as soon as the 2013-2014 school year.
The legislation leaves it to local school boards to decide how to implement the requirement. It does not specify a grade level for the instruction to begin.
Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, a conservative family group, said under the new law parents will have no choice but to take their children out of public school and homeschool them to avoid what he said was "immoral indoctrination." The new law applies only to public schools, not private schools or families who homeschool.
"Jerry Brown has trampled the parental rights of the overwhelming majority of California fathers and mothers who don't want their children to be sexually brainwashed at school," Thomasson said. "This new law will prohibit textbooks and teachers from telling children the facts that homosexuality is neither healthy nor biological."
The bill was supported by gay rights organizations including Equality California and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network. Teacher groups also said the bill would help students prepare for a diverse and evolving society.
"There is no room for discrimination of any kind in our classrooms, our communities or our state," said Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Machu Picchu

On July 24, 1911, that’s right 100 years ago today, Machu Picchu was found by an American historian, and this weekend many are celebrating the centennial of the "discovery" of the cloud city high in the Andes — one of the most remarkable archeological sites on the planet.

Now, of course, Peruvians say that the city was not discovered a century ago today, because they never lost it. But Americans give credit to Hiram Bingham III, who climbed the Andes and saw the remarkable city, surrounded by holy mountains and filled with houses, terraces and temples that with all our modern skills and machines would be impossible to build today.

Machu Picchu is a pre-Columbian 15th-century Inca site located 7,970 feet above sea level. It is situated on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley in Peru, which is 50 miles northwest of Cusco and through which the Urubamba River flows. Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often referred to as the "Lost City of the Incas", it is perhaps the most familiar icon of the Inca World.

The Incas started building the "estate" around AD 1400, but abandoned it as an official site for the Inca rulers a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Although known locally, it was unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham. Since then, Machu Picchu has become an important tourist attraction. Most of the outlying buildings have been reconstructed in order to give tourists a better idea of what the structures originally looked like. By 1976, thirty percent of Machu Picchu had been restored. The restoration work continues to this day.

Since the site was never known to the Spanish during their conquest, it is highly significant as a relatively intact cultural site. Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.

Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its three primary buildings are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. These are located in what is known by archaeologists as the Sacred District of Machu Picchu. In September 2007, Peru and Yale University almost reached an agreement regarding the return of artifacts which Yale has held since Hiram Bingham removed them from Machu Picchu in the early 20th century. In November 2010, a Yale University representative agreed to return the artifacts to a Peruvian university.

And if you want a fun read that centers around this wonderfully historic site (one which I hope to visit one day), you should check out William Maltese’s Beyond Machu.  From the first chapter, Beyond Machu is jam-packed with mystery, adventure and intrigue. Dan Green, travel photographer and investigative reporter extraordinaire, has a chance meeting with the mysterious and sexy Sloane Hendriks that results in Dan leaving his comfortable world and being thrust into an unexpectedly dangerous trip to the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu. Sloane is a man with a dark past, which could be fatal, but Dan believes Sloane is the ticket to a newspaper story that will expose hidden ruins, illicit archeological finds, and long-lost treasure - if they can stay alive long enough to find it.

Sloane and Dan are captivating characters whose connection to one another only increases as the tension mounts. From the heights of Machu Picchu to the dangers of the South American rain forest, the reader is taken on a chaotic journey that can lead only to death--or riches beyond anyone's wildest dreams. It's Indiana Jones meets Allan Quatermain with enough man/man romance to make your toes tingle.

A Fine Bromance


The modern nature and circumstances of bromance are what separate it from more general homosocial practices and historic romantic friendships. Aristotle's classical description of friendship is often taken to be the prototype of the bromance. He wrote around 300 BC, "It is those who desire the good of their friends for the friends' sake that are most truly friends, because each loves the other for what he is, and not for any incidental quality." There are numerous examples of famous intense male friendships throughout most of Western history, and such relationships were likewise common. It has been posited that in the late 19th century, Freudianism and the emergence of visible homosexuality directed heterosexual men to avoid expressions of intense affection.
Research into friendship and masculinity has found that recent generations of men raised by feminist mothers in the 1970s are more emotionally open and more expressive. There is also less concern among men at the notion of being identified as gay and so men are more comfortable exploring deeper friendships with other men. Research done in the United States suggests that the trend of rejecting "traditional views of masculinity" is most prevalent amongst men of Anglo-Saxon descent and lowest in those of African descent, with those of Hispanic descent falling in between. Furthermore, it was found that men who strongly endorse "traditional views of masculinity" are more prone to alexithymia (a difficulty to understand or identify with emotions).
Another factor believed to influence bromance is that men are marrying later, if at all. According to the 2010 US Census, the average age of a man's first marriage is 28, up from 23 in 1960. It was also found that men with more education are waiting until their 30s before getting married.
Friendships among men are often primarily based on shared activities, This can include playing video games, shopping, watching movies, fishing, camping, and other sporting activities, gambling or social drinking. Emotional sharing (which is common of women's friendships) is another such activity.
It is not uncommon for people in a homosocial friendship to be physically affectionate with each other, not implying sexual bonding or desire. Hugging, piggybacking, shoulder leaning or teasing are all common features of homosocial relationships, as are frank discussions about sexuality, life, and health. Researchers believe that the physical aspect of such friendships may actually be an important socializing tool, pointing out that people with less physical contact in their lives can be less socially confident and emotionally stable.
Many of us have probably had a bromantic relationship, especially if we have been good friends with a straight guy who is secure enough in his masculinity not to be threatened by your homosexuality. One of my best friends and I have this type of relationship. We kid each other and joke with each other and are very close, yet he is straight and I am gay. Yes, I do have a crush on him, but over the years it has turned into more of a man crush, than a gay/straight crush (you know that type of relationship where we fall for the straight guy that we can't have).

PS My nerves are a bit on edge today, and I expect it to be even worse for the next several days.  I have a very important job interview tomorrow, and I think I am as prepared for it as I can be (but you never know how these things will go).  I hope everything goes well.  I think that this job would be a good career move for me. I hope you guys will wish me luck and send your prayers/positive energy my way.  Thanks in advance.

Friday, July 22, 2011

What Is Really to Blame?

My post on Bigotry has faced a number of criticisms in the comments section.  One of those criticisms, which I want to address first, is that my post made it sound as if there was an organized selective breeding program of slaves going on during the Antebellum South.  As Russ Manley of the blog “Blue Truck, Red State” wrote, “It's important, though, not to give people the impression there was any organized program going on - all depended on the individual whims of slave owners, and antebellum accounts are full of complaints about the "lazy darkies" who had to be watched and prodded every minute to get their work done.”  I certainly didn’t mean it to sound that way, and one of the reasons that I love to have you guys comment is so that I can clear up misunderstandings in my posts.  I do that with my students as a way to get discussion going in the classroom.  As long as civility reigns, I very much appreciate comments and criticisms.


Furthermore, there was also much debate about religion being the main cause of homophobia and bigotry.  I admit, that it is part of the equation, but not the only reason.  When we choose one reason for homophobia then we are missing the larger picture.  Homophobia, or the hatred of same-sex intercourse, has been around much longer than Christianity of Judaism.  More than likely, it has been part of societies since the beginning of man.  Therefore, there are many parts to this equation.


In another criticism, Lonnie left the the following comment on my post about "Bigotry":
I think John D'Emilio and Sherry Wolf give a much better account of the origins of gay oppression:
http://platypus1917.home.comcast.net/~platypus1917/demilio_captialismgayid.pdf

http://www.isreview.org/issues/37/gay_oppression.shtml
Since it was suggested, I read the two articles.  I found Wolf's article to be particularly hard to stomach, but I read it anyway.  Both of these authors present a Marxist historiographical approach to the question of the origins of gay oppression.  In its most basic form, the Marxist historical tradition blames all of the problems of the world on capitalism and class struggles.  However, I have always found it deeply flawed.  For one, if you look at the sources used by Marxist historians, you will quickly find that more of those sources are from other Marxist historians.  They so narrow down their sources, until they ignore the larger historical picture, even though they claim to be looking at the larger historical picture.  In my opinion, this effectively removes their objectivity which is at the heart of true history.  They ignore those sources that contradict their point of view.  You cannot be an effective historian and dismiss the sources you do not agree with, you must take them into account.  History has many schools of historiography (the study of the history and methodology of the discipline of history), and Marxist interpretation is only one of them.


Before I continue, I want to say this, John D’Emilio is one of the greatest LGBT historians.  His books Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940-1970 and Intimate Matters:A History of Sexuality in America are two of the seminal books on LGBT American History.  The article suggested above by D’Emilio, and I do hope that each of you will go check these links out for yourself and not just take my opinion, was written while he was still a graduate student, which does not diminish his writing in the least, but his tone has changed since those early days in the 1980s when it was written.  Still, the two books above are well worth reading if you want a greater understanding of LGBT history in America.


Now that I have stated why I disagree strongly with Marxist interpretations, I want to address some of the semi-valid points in their arguments.  First of all, homosexual identity as it is seen today was nearly non-existent before the twentieth century; however, that does not mean that just because we did not have the word for it, that it did not exist.  I think it most certainly did, though it was quite rare and was not always practiced in the same way, it still existed.  The love between persons of the same sex existed before the advent of capitalism, which did not emerge until the end of mercantilism in the late 19th century.  D’Emilio and Wolf try to state the difference between homosexual behavior and homosexual identity.  Do you really think that no one before 1900 realized that they had an attraction to someone of the same sex and that they were not attracted to someone of the opposite sex?  Do you think that we become homosexual because family structure has broken down?  The answer to these questions is no.  The history of Florence, Italy during the Renaissance shows that homosexuality/sodomy was not illegal during that time period.  Some men married because they felt the need to procreate, but other did not.  They had homosexual relationships.  Also, the Inquisition records of the Catholic Church in Brazil during the 17th-19th centuries has numerous documented cases of homosexual persecution.  This was not a phenomenon of capitalism. Brazil only had a brief history of capitalism in the early twentieth century that was quashed by GetĂșlio Vargas and his corporatism from 1930-1954 and then largely under the control of the military until 1985. Likewise, Spain who continually persecuted homosexuals under Francisco Franco from c. 1936 to 1975, was not a capitalist country but was a hybrid of corporatism, fascism, and dictatorship.  Even in the late 19th century in America, there was talk of so-called "Boston Marriages," a term is said to have been in use in New England in the decades spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries to describe two women living together, independent of financial support from a man.  The term was believed to be first coined by Henry James in The Bostonians.  Since 2000, many mentions of "Boston marriage" cite as examples the same few literary figures, in particular the Maine local color novelist Sarah Orne Jewett and Annie Adams Fields her late life companion, the widow of the editor of The Atlantic Monthly. There is often an assumption that in the era when the term was in use, it denoted a lesbian relationship. However, there is no documentary proof that any particular "Boston marriage" included sexual relations, but there has been a great deal of speculation, some of which comes from what we know or the private life of Willa Cather.


Furthermore, these authors argue that same-sex segregation during World War II brought about modern day homosexuality.  First of all, World War II is not the first time that large numbers of men and women have been separated from their families. This has happened in all major modern wars.  In Europe, this had happened in the First World War, and to a lesser extent in America.  So I don’t think that you can pinpoint WWII as the starting point.  It had all happened before.  Wolf does not address that millions of men in Europe served in World War I, and that millions of women left their homes and family to either work in the military or in factories during World War I.  Because it is convenient for her argument, she dismisses the history of Europe when it is inconvenient, and then turns around and uses it when it is convenient and the same history in America in turn is inconvenient.  In addition, both authors cite WWII as the beginning of homosexual persecution in the military and that it has continued largely uninterrupted until the modern day.  The problem is that it was largely ignored during Vietnam, when men identified as homosexual to not be drafted, most of those men truly were homosexual, however, they were forced to serve in the military anyway.  The ban on homosexuals was largely ignored by the draft board and military during the Vietnam War.  Likewise, today, when America is fighting two wars, and there is an increasing need for soldiers in the war against Terrorism, they have repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  It is not a coincidence in my opinion.


I have three more points that I want to make.  Both authors claim that sexual liberation, that is sex for enjoyment not for procreation, is capitalist invention/byproduct.  I cannot buy that explanation.  First of all, communism and socialism pushed for the ideas of free love, long before the flower children of the 1960s.  The sexual revolution was made much more visible because of birth control, but people have been having sex for reasons other than procreation since man first had an erection.  We are the only species who we know for sure have sex for enjoyment.  It is not a modern phenomenon.


I also want to point out that Wolf argues that the family has not always existed in human history.  If she would look at the anthropological studies, archeological studies, and historical studies of mankind, she would realize that it has always existed.  From the earliest humans, the family structure has been the governing structure.  The idea of the family or clan is the first political structure in any society.  As the family grows larger, the head of the family becomes the head of the clan.  From there, stronger clans take over weaker clans and form chiefdoms, which eventually grow into kingdoms and empires.  The family structure has always been the basis of human society.  Even as gay men and women today, we are not abandoning the family, we want families of our own.  We want marriage, and we want children (at least I do, and so do many others.)


The last point that I want to make is that urbanization has led to gay communities more so than capitalism. Urbanization has more to do with the industrial revolution than it does the rise of capitalism.  As fewer people were needed to work a farm, due in large part of the end of slavery and the mechanization of the farm, that excess labor moved to the cities to find work.  Most did not abandon the families, and a large family often lived together in a household trying to make a living wage.  However, the urbanization of America began before capitalism, and thus I feel that it is not the cause of the breakdown of the family, nor is it the cause of class warfare.  Class warfare has existed long before capitalism, and therefore, capitalism cannot be the blame for all the evil of the world.


Wolf is not totally wrong in all that she writes. In fact she (surprising to me) got this part of history correct:

In Paris and Berlin, medical and legal experts in the 1870s examined a new kind of "degenerate" to determine whether or not these people should be held responsible for their actions. The word "homosexuality"was first coined by a Hungarian physician named Karl Maria Benkert in 1869.  Homosexuality evolved in scientific circles from a "sin against nature" to a mental illness. The first popular study of homosexuality, Sexual Inversion by Havelock Ellis in 1897, put forward the idea that homosexuality was a congenital illness not to be punished, but treated. Nineteenth-century sexologists developed ideas about homosexuality as a form of mental insanity. One famous theory held that gayness was the result of "urning"–the female mind was trapped in a male body (or vice versa). Another theory widely disseminated referred to homosexuals as a third sex.

I do want to make one final point before I end this post.  Both D'Emilio and Wolf argue that there is not basis for being "born gay."  This is a recent argument that I have actually come across several times in the last few weeks from LGBT activists and scholars.  Most of the recent attention to arguments against a biological component to homosexuality is because of the Lady Gaga song, "Born This Way," to which some in the LGBT community are now starting to argue against.  This is a topic for a future post, so I won't go into much detail right now. I merely wanted to mention this as part of the discussion.


I may have rambled a bit in this post, but I wanted to talk a bit about historical interpretation.  I hope that you will read those two articles cited above and give me your take on them. I do not believe that either author presented a convincing argument for the beginnings of gay oppression.  In fact, from my reading of the articles, it seems to me that both vaguely lay the blame on capitalism, but do a poor job of giving evidence to this claim. Do you think that I am completely off base or are they completely off base or are all of us a somewhat right and somewhat wrong?  I want to know what you think.  I personally think that the origins of gay oppression is a many faceted problem and cannot be explained in a simple historical method.  We have to look at all parts of the picture and not ignore those parts that we find inconvenient.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Blah


Last night, I had a bit of a sinus headache, so I took some NyQuil to help me sleep and to take care of the headache and sinus problems.  It worked, but I slept nearly all day.  Now I have the Blahs,  I don't feel like putting together a post, so this is all there will be today.  I had a post in mind, but I will do that one for tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Song by Allen Ginsberg

Song 

The weight of the world
is love.
Under the burden
of solitude,
under the burden
of dissatisfaction

the weight,
the weight we carry
is love.

Who can deny?
In dreams
it touches
the body,
in thought
constructs
a miracle,
in imagination
anguishes
till born
in human--
looks out of the heart
burning with purity--
for the burden of life
is love,

but we carry the weight
wearily,
and so must rest
in the arms of love
at last,
must rest in the arms
of love.

No rest
without love,
no sleep
without dreams
of love--
be mad or chill
obsessed with angels
or machines,
the final wish
is love
--cannot be bitter,
cannot deny,
cannot withhold
if denied:

the weight is too heavy

--must give
for no return
as thought
is given
in solitude
in all the excellence
of its excess.

The warm bodies
shine together
in the darkness,
the hand moves
to the center
of the flesh,
the skin trembles
in happiness
and the soul comes
joyful to the eye--

yes, yes,
that's what
I wanted,
I always wanted,
I always wanted,
to return
to the body
where I was born.

Allen Ginsberg


For more on Allen Ginsberg, click "More" below.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Inner Geek


First of all, I am an unapologetic GEEK, and I admit it.  If you’ve read my blog for a while, then you already know that I am a huge fan of “The Big Bang Theory.”  My inner geekiness goes far beyond “The Big Bang Theory” because I am a total Sci-Fi nerd.  I admit it.  It may not be very sexy to most people, but I am going to tell you why it is to me.  I really do love science fiction.  Had I gone to the right grad school and had the right advisor, I might have written my dissertation on the Representation of the Cold War in Science Fiction.  (Star Trek Example: Federation=The United States [with England as the Vulcans], Klingons=Soviet Union, Romulans=Chinese, etc.) It still might make a great book and research project one day if no one beats me to it.  It is not an idea original to me.

I love most things sci-fi: Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate, and even Starship Troopers.  I love Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica, and Buck Rogers.  I’m not a big comic book person, though I admit I do love the movies and TV shows that come from them, such as The Fantastic Four, X-Men, Batman, Wonder Woman, Daredevil, The Flash, Flash Gordon (and Flesh Gordon may come into this category, at least as a spoof).  I also have a long standing crush on Superman: Superman (Christopher Reeves), Lois and Clark (Dean Cain), Smallville (Tom Welling), Superman Returns (Brandon Routh), etc.  I also loved The 4400, great show.

So lets go through a few of the examples and let me explain why I find science fiction appealing (and even sexy). Let’s begin with the Star Trek franchise. The Star Trek captains have all been sex symbols.  Kirk was always the sexy womanizer,.Picard the reserved cultured captain. Sisko was also a bit of a womanizer, though in a reserved damaged sort of way (his wife had been killed in the Borg attack, and he later married a female freighter captain).   Captain Janeway was always a very butch female captain, bordering on lesbianesque.  Of course, you then have Captain Archer who returned to the more womanizing sex symbol type like Kirk.  Now with the new series of movies, we have the absolutely gorgeous Chris Pine as Captain Kirk, and he is surrounded by the best looking of all of the Star Trek casts.  In addition the original Sulu, played by George Takei, is an openly gay man, giving gay Star Trek fans someone to look to.  Of course, Star Trek has had a number of hot male stars:  Wesley Crusher (TNG), Dr. Julian Bashir (DS9), Tom Paris (VOY).  Dr. Bashir was made out to be the first real sex symbol in the new incarnations of Star Trek after the original series.  Enterprise ramped up the sexiness with Trip, who was often seen in his “star trek/space age” underwear.  Enterprise was actually expected to have a gay character, rumored to be the weapons officer Malcolm Reed, but it never materialized with the low ratings the show received.

Stargate has also had it fair number of sexy men.  Daniel Jackson was smart, cultured, and always on a moral crusade would have made the most likely gay man in the series, but since it began with him being married, that was unlikely to materialize.  In my opinion, he was always very sexy.  Stargate: Atlantis has Col. Sheppard who could just make me weak in the knees, but it was the short-lived Stargate: Universe that really ramped up the sex factor.  Matthew Scott, played by Brian J. Smith, who has been known for playing several gay-themed characters in the movies Hate Crimes and The War Boys, both of which are highly recommended.  Also, and just because he played the dorky and somewhat awkward character of Eli, I always found him attractive.  The character also had a mother who suffered from HIV contracted when she was a nurse and was attacked by a drug addict.

A few other science fiction movies and shows got my blood pumping, such as Starship Troopers  Who could forget Casper van Dien in the shower scenes showing off his lovely behind or the whipping scene, which I found oddly erotic?  Then in the new incarnation of Battlestar Galactica, you have the ever lovely Jamie Bamber, who has a particular towel scene that is amazing to watch. 

Most recently, we have several sci-fi/horror shows that give us just what we want with sexy guys.  True Blood has a host of sexy men, some of whom are gay, and MTV’s Teen Wolf has a host of sexy young guys, including the beautifully (and possibly gay) Colton Haynes (Warning: this link is NSFW).

And finally, a science fiction show has an openly gay character.  Warehouse 13 on the SyFy Channel has a new character Agent Steve Jinx, played by Aaron Ashmore, who admitted on last night’s episode that he is gay.  Ashmore also has played at least on other gay character when he played Marc Hall in Prom Queen: The Marc Hall Story. I wonder if they will give him a boyfriend.  All of the other major characters on the show have been given love interests through the course of the show, so I certainly hope that Jinx will be given one as well.