Thursday, January 26, 2006

Is Enjoying Gay Male Porn a Lesbian Taboo?

By Liz Langley

When the movie "My Own Private Idaho" came out in 1992, I was just giddy with excitement, somehow having gotten the idea that it was going to be a sweeping epic tale of love among gay hustlers, a blend of "Gone with the Wind" and "Midnight Cowboy."

It starred Keanu Reeves, who had that cutest-boy-in-the-class smile that always ensured there wasn't a dry seat in the house, and the brooding, breathtaking River Phoenix, who always seemed to be looking to some far horizon, nursing a secret wound, even if he was on the cover of Teen Beat.

The idea of two such heavenly creatures in a love story with each other was the most potently sensual thing I could imagine.

I was wrong about "Idaho." It had some sweet moments but wasn't quite the big romance I'd hoped for, plus it was confusing, and I remember that when I got up to leave the theater, my butt was asleep. I'd have to wait over a decade for the epic gay romance that was more what I had in mind, which would turn out to be "Brokeback Mountain." I watched it as though I'd been taxidermied, hardly breathing for the intimacy, crying until my sleeves were black with eyeliner (I forgot the Kleenex), being annoyed that the shiny screen obscured the allegedly graphic sex (which I still haven't seen) and wondering, though not very seriously, if there was something wrong with me.

Thirteen years is a long time to think you're probably the only woman in the world who finds two men in bed together a very sexy thing. In all that time, I read only one story expressing similar sentiments, but as I recall, it focused more on gay porn, which I have no problem with. But I wanted more romance! passion! words!

There is the threadbare cliche of men being loony for lesbians, which has become a cultural joke on a par with their inability to ask for directions, but one never hears it asserted in the reverse. It felt like a lonely little kink.

Why seeing two men together strikes me as both so sexy and so sweet, I'm unsure. It could be sheer novelty, that there's no subtly threatening presence of another woman, the predictable yen for something I can't be a part of, or wanting to see more of what I don't have (if I want to see naked girl, fergodsake, I can stick my head down my dress).

Or it could be because male-male love scenes must focus on male sensuality; male-female love scenes always seem to focus on the woman. Our bodies are always lauded as being the more elegant of the genders, but I think it's just because we're missing the centerpiece, so the table looks a little neater.

Men's narrow hips and soulful eyes are just as sweet as our napes and tresses. Plus, I would argue that the male pelvic area -- that V-shaped space above the pubic region -- is the most beautiful thing in the world, and that includes cupcakes, butterfly migrations and beach homes with keys under the mat.

And sensuality isn't just physical -- it's something people radiate, a reflex of gratitude for some stimulation -- a moan, a sigh, a laugh. Men have more of this gorgeous responsiveness than they often allow us to see, so when it's focused on so closely, it's extremely powerful.

Then there's the simple answer: If you double up the sugar, the cookie tastes twice as good. This is known in academia as the Double Stuff Tautology.

Whatever the reason, I recently learned that I'm not the only woman who finds two guys together at least somewhat knee-buckling. Using "Brokeback" as an excuse, I brought it up in live conversation and via email with girlfriends and drew at least some agreement. Most of the girls I mentioned it to didn't seem to care what Heath and Jake were doing, though, as long as they got two hours of Heath and Jake.

So on one hand, I feel like I outed myself, but as what? A woman who likes men? When I think of it that way, it doesn't seem like a big deal -- but that's always how it is on the other side of a confession. Secrets are like splinters; once they're out, it's hard to imagine that something so small could cause all that trouble.

Still, since the confessional is an eternally strong career move, I see a new niche for myself: rewriting the great romances with men in all the roles. Check it out: two guys share a ride to New York and end up becoming good friends, only they realize they can't be friends because one always wants to sleep with the other. In the end, of course, they fall in love and everything works out. I think the world is ready for When Harry met Larry.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A New War on Queer Families

By Laura Douglas-Brown

A month ago this week, my family got an early Christmas present.

With our two little girls bundled into tights and dresses, my partner, Donna, and I stood before a Superior Court judge who finalized Donna’s adoption of 7-month-old Carter.

As we explained to Dylan, who at age 4 seemed to grasp the solemnity of the occasion if not quite the meaning, the judge’s signature means Donna will always legally be Carter’s mother, just like me.

In many ways, it was merely a technicality.

Donna didn’t become Carter’s mother when the judge signed the papers making the baby that grew in my belly just as much her child as mine, any more than she became Dylan’s mother when we stood before a different judge back in 2001.

Donna was there when our little girls were conceived, there for their births. She’s changed diapers, bandaged boo-boos, soothed bad dreams.

She’s Mama, no matter what.

But the reality for families like mine seems increasingly lost on lawmakers around the country, who appear to have little better to do than try to legislate us out of existence.

I already knew that there are people in the world, including some notoriously anti-gay state legislators here in Georgia, who would like to stop my partner from adopting our daughters.

Now, in what may be the next wave of attacks on gay families, it appears some lawmakers would stop them from being born at all.

EVEN IF DONNA were banned from being our children’s legal parent, she would still be their mother in every practical sense.

The adoption just gives the kids the added security of knowing they would stay with her if something happened to me, and added support like Social Security benefits if something should happen to her. Rights like these are important, critically so, but without them, my family would still exist.

Bans on gay adoptions hurt us, but they are really designed to target gay parents who are adopting children who were not born to them. And of course, the people the bans hurt the most are those children, who languish in foster care while good potential parents who are gay pine for kids to love.

Adoption only made my family more secure, but donor insemination created it. So I am particularly horrified by a bill introduced in the Virginia legislature last week that would prevent lesbians like me from having children through what is often known as “assisted reproduction.”

Rep. Robert Marshall (R-Manassas) sponsored the measure that would forbid medical professionals from providing to unmarried women “certain intervening medical technology” that “completely or partially replaces sexual intercourse as the means of conception.” The bill provides a list of medical procedures, including “artificial insemination by donor” and invitro fertilization.

Equality Virginia, the state’s gay political group, accurately denounced the measure as a “direct attack” on gay families. But unfortunately, it isn’t a novel idea.

A similar, even more extensive measure was introduced in the Indiana state legislature last year by state Sen. Patricia Miller (R-Indianapolis). Her bill would have required all “intended parents” using assisted reproduction to be married, and also to go through a complicated assessment process conducted by agencies that normally place children for adoption.

In addition to information such as education and employment, the assessment would have included data on subjective issues like the “family lifestyle” of the parents and their participation in religious activities.

Needless to say, gay rights advocates were outraged. So were many heterosexual women — unmarried and married — who turned to fertility doctors when they were unable to conceive with their male partners. They argued that their medical problems shouldn’t force them to jump through additional hoops not required of anyone else who wants to have a baby.

Surprised by the level of criticism the bill generated, Miller withdrew it in October.

By narrowing the scope of the Virginia bill to focus only on whether women using assisted reproduction are married, Marshall may have hoped to avoid some of that controversy. But while his bill is less intrusive, it is also more obvious in its bias.

At least by requiring assessments — however fraught they might have been with the potential for discrimination based on education, religion or otherwise — Miller’s bill acknowledged that some married straight people won’t be good parents.

According to Marshall, married women are automatically deserving of having children, and the rest of us automatically aren’t.

ON FIRST GLANCE, the Indiana and Virginia bills seem blatantly unconstitutional. In Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court held that the right to privacy includes a woman’s decision to end a pregnancy with the help of her doctor; surely the decision to start a pregnancy should be covered, too.

But with the Supreme Court in flux and Roe under attack from conservative groups, we can hardly sit back and assume that a bill like Marshall’s is too stupid to pass, or would be struck down by the courts if it did.

That makes bills like this a win-win for gay rights opponents: If the measures pass, they’ve found yet another way to hurt gay families. But even if they don’t, they’ve managed to keep us so busy with what we are fighting against that we don’t have time or money left to actually fight for anything.

We saw it first with state constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage. By the end of 2005, 18 states had enacted such amendments, including many like Georgia that already had laws banning gay marriage.

Then, emboldened by the federal courts’ refusal to overturn Florida’s stringent law banning gay adoption, conservative lawmakers began attempting to pass similar measures in other states — the Human Rights Campaign noted an “exponential” increase in bills targeting gay adoption and foster parenting last year.

So far, the measures haven’t had much success, as none of the bills introduced last year won approval, but gay rights groups have still been bruised by the fights.

Now we have to wonder how long it will be before assisted reproduction measures like the bills in Virginia and Indiana spread to other states.

And how long it will be before “pro-family” ideologues like Marshall and Miller recognize our families, too.

Monday, January 16, 2006

People Like Us?

By Suzanne Magee

Sometimes it’s harder than others to keep my mouth shut. I mean, it’s never easy for me to do it at all, that’s just the way I am, but sometimes it really takes everything I have to zip it up. Unfortunately, when I’m at work I have to remember that I’m there to serve people at a time when they need help. As a ER Nurse, I see people at some of the worst moments in their lives, and I always try to remember that what you see of people in that kind of a stressful situation isn’t always who they truly are. People will say and do things when they are facing a tragedy that they would never even think of saying, or doing, under normal situations.

That’s why at work I’m not an activist when it comes to my interactions with patients. I never comment when I hear bigoted remarks about gays or lesbians, and I never let these kinds of comments affect the care that I give to patients. If it were a choice that someone made to be in the ER with me as a Nurse, I might feel differently about it. No one chooses to need to be with me at work though. Usually it’s an accident, or an illness, or sometimes even a true tragedy that puts me, a patient, and their family together. It’s just not the right time to respond to comments that I find insulting, or even hurtful. But, as I said before, sometimes it’s very hard to keep silent.

Recently I had a patient in the ER that touched me greatly. It was an elderly woman, trying to hang on to her independence when it was far beyond time to surrender it. She had fallen in her bathroom and broken her hip. She had presented to the ER after crawling for over an hour to get to the phone and calling 911. Her family arrived ( three adult sons and one adult daughter ) shortly after she did, having been notified by the ER staff of the accident. They were very attentive to her, and had obviously tried on many occasions to get her to move in with one of them. But she wasn’t ready to give up her home of fifty years, where she had spent so much wonderful time with her husband and raised her children.

Later in the night, when everyone realized that even though the fracture would require surgery, she was going to be okay, the conversations in the room became less serious, and her children began to discuss the elections that were going on. My patient needed to have her gown changed because she had soiled it, and to use the bedpan, so I asked her family to step out for just a moment. They stepped out into the hallway, and I pulled the curtain closed to provide my patient with some privacy. It was difficult for her with the fracture to even use the bedpan because moving even a little was very painful, and she was embarrassed at needing help with something so private. I medicated her for pain, and reassured her that it would be better soon.

I could hear her children talking in the hallway as I helped their mother off the bed pan, and cleaned her up. They were talking about why they were voting for George Bush in the upcoming election, and how for one of the men, the fact that Bush was pressing for a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage (actually the words he used were “fags from getting married“). He made other comments of the same kind, and mentioned that he found homosexuals to be “disgusting perverts” that he didn’t want to breath the same air with. I let it slide off my back, and went about my work, smiling at the old woman and reassuring her that she was going to be just fine. When I left the room, and told her children that it was fine to go back in with her, they thanked me for taking care of their mother, and one of the men walked up and said, “I don’t know what we’d do without people like you.”

Indeed. What would they do without people like us?