…even when they’re part of a corporate branding campaign. As this one happens to be.
Naturally, ANZ bank also put out a “why we did this” video, which is somewhat less successful.
…even when they’re part of a corporate branding campaign. As this one happens to be.
Naturally, ANZ bank also put out a “why we did this” video, which is somewhat less successful.
Elections reflect public attitudes, or so the thinking goes. They reveal the unspoken beliefs of our family, friends, and neighbors. They take the pulse of the nation, gauge the health of the body politic, and engage in many other medical metaphors.
Are those ideas complete bullshit? Maybe, but there’s no arguing that they’re deeply ingrained. As a result, it’s easy to take elections personally.
I did just that in 2008: the election that brought hope to the Oval Office after eight years of despair also brought a profound sense of sadness for LGBT Americans. Though we had elected an extremely LGBT-friendly president, one of the most liberal states in the nation–California–had voted against marriage equality. If same-sex couples in California couldn’t secure marriage equality, what hope did the rest of us have?
Or, more to the point: if there was that much homophobia in California, how much more must there be in other states? My state?
The fact that few of us saw all that hate a-coming made it even more shocking and dispiriting.
The 2016 election was different. Hatred was front and center the entire time. Emboldened by their allegedly bold candidate, Trump supporters had no qualms about speaking their minds–in fact, Trump’s own “straight talk” gave them the courage to speak up. This has strained race relations, made politics even more partisan (as if anyone thought that were possible), and given the Alt-Right license to shout racist, misogynist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic opinions that were deemed inappropriate decades ago.
But you know what’s funny? The homophobia that’s fueled the Republican party for most of recent history didn’t really pop up in this election. True, the GOP’s official party platform was among the most LGBT-unfriendly on record. However, Trump never really espoused those views. In fact, even after the election, when he was free to say whatever he liked, he described Obergefell as “settled“. That doesn’t mean that his henchmen and women won’t be trying to undo the rights we’ve earned, but that’s clearly not one of Trump’s priorities.
Before Saturday night, I hadn’t seen Lady Bunny perform in nearly 20 years.
It may be another 20 before I willingly see her again.
It’s hard to criticize Bunny, who’s been a loudmouth for the LGBT community since the Reagan administration (and if ever we needed loudmouths, it was then). But…well, let’s just say that her current Trans Jester show is not the best example of a revered performer aging gracefully.
On Friday, the Washington Post published a hot-mic conversation recorded in 2005 during which Donald Trump and Billy Bush discussed the joys of sexual assault. Among other things, Trump bragged about how he could grab random women “by the pussy” simply because he was famous.
Over the past three days, folks on both sides of the aisle have criticized Trump, including the man’s own running mate, Mike Pence. They’ve issued statements that begin with phrases like, “As the father of two young daughters…”, or “As a woman…”, as though Trump’s comments only affected people with two X chromosomes.
But make no mistake: Trump’s comments about women are indicative of an old-boy mindset that has helped oppress the LGBT community for…well, nearly all of recorded history.
Last night during the second debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton, Trump tried to dismiss his banter with Billy Bush as “locker room talk”. The appalling thing is: he’s right. It was locker room talk. It was talk between presumably straight men who think no one else is around. Any of us who’ve ever been in an all-male locker room or overheard that kind of conversation have listened to similar comments–and possibly worse.
We all know the hallmarks of that kind of hyper-masculine bro-chat. Not only do women become objects for possession, but gay men become objects of ridicule and verbal violence. Misogyny and homophobia go hand-in-hand, like internet banter and mentions of Hitler. Frankly, I’m a little surprised I didn’t hear Trump using words like “fag” or “queer”, but maybe they ran out of tape.
Bottom line: though Trump’s comments were directed at women, they were in keeping with the misogynist, racist, xenophobic bile he’s spewed throughout his campaign. He likes to say that he’s a friend of women and gays and African Americans, but comments like these–comments made in private, when he’s not trying to sway an electorate–show the real Donald Trump.
And like Pence, he’s no friend of ours.
Priceonomics may be one of the best blogs you’re not reading. This week, the site’s Ben Christopher published a great article on transgender Americans and military service. It confirmed some of the suspicions I’ve always had and raised several points I’d never considered. It’s well worth a read.
And FWIW, I have a hunch that you could substitute “the church” for “the military”, and the article would read mostly the same.
Anyway, here’s a taste:
While media coverage of high profile trans service members like Chelsea Manning and Kristin Beck often presents the stories of transgender troops as novel—a singular juxtaposition of gender nonconformity within institutions that prize conformity above all else—they are anything but.
In fact, the available evidence suggests that transgender Americans serve at rates well above the national average. Though the data is sparse, studies estimate that trans men and women are anywhere from two- to five-times more likely to join the military as their cisgender (nontrans) counterparts. For all its perceived conservatism and raging heteronormativity, the United States Armed Forces is almost certainly the largest employer of transgender people in this country.
Trans service members and veterans offer a variety of explanations for this disparity. For some, the military uniform functions as gender camouflage—a way to forestall uncomfortable questions from friends, family, or spouses. For others, joining the armed forces offers financial security and community to a group that is disproportionately denied both.
I’ve never met Michael Weinstein, the president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. I don’t know his likes, his dislikes, his virtues, his vices.
But I can say this unequivocally: Michael Weinstein should quit his job immediately–today–and have nothing more to do with HIV/AIDS outreach, education, advocacy, or activism. He is actively doing harm to gay men, regardless of their HIV status.
Weinstein’s problem? PrEP.
Since Truvada was introduced as a once-daily medication for pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, Weinstein has gone increasingly off-script. Off-message. Off-the-charts crazy. He’s become so concerned about what people–particularly gay men–do in their bedrooms that he’s become blind to the fact that PrEP appears to offer 100% protection against HIV.
In his apoplectic, ill-conceived fight against PrEP, Weinstein has pulled the AHF dramatically off-mission. AHF was founded to reduce HIV infections and treat those who’ve already been infected. But Weinstein is so narrow-minded that he can’t envision any means of HIV prevention other than condoms–which, by the way, have slightly lower rates of effectiveness than PrEP and which gay men really, really don’t like to use anyway.
And so, he’s become a sort of PrEP denialist. He can’t deny the effectiveness of PrEP itself, but he loves to talk about its downsides, like reduced condom usage and the increased prevalence of other sexually transmitted diseases.
Now, are STDs worthy of concern? Of course they are.
Are STDs the focus of AHF? Nope. AHF should be focused primarily on HIV prevention and treatment. And PrEP is the best tool for prevention on the market. AHF should be working to make sure that every sexually active adult has easy access to it and understands how to use it.
Unfortunately, Weinstein treats PrEP like Jenny McCarthy treats vaccines. And like McCarty, he’s endangering millions of lives.
Also, by shaming people who use PrEP, he’s encouraging a cycle of self-loathing, particularly among gay men. He makes them believe that they’re doing something dirty, that any sex acts that don’t follow his prescribed methods are dangerous, worthy of disgust.
If Weinstein’s actions have prevented anyone from using PrEP, if he has driven anyone to depression or suicide because of their sexual acts, he should be held accountable–no less accountable than Ronald Reagan, whose unwillingness to act in the early days of the AIDS crisis cost untold numbers of lives. Weinstein and Reagan: they’re really no different in my book.
Too harsh? If you’re one of those who’s inclined to defend Weinstein, ask yourself this: would he have been so anti-PrEP if it were available in 1981? 1985? 1990?
Also, consider this AHF press release, which landed in my inbox late last week:
AHF: New UCLA Study Shows Gay Men on PrEP Are 45 Times More Likely to Contract Syphilis; 25 Times More Likely To Be Infected With Gonorrhea
LOS ANGELES (September 8, 2016) — Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) issued a damning new report this week showing a dangerous link between the usage of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) by men who have sex with men (MSMs) and an astronomical increase in sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
In a research letter by Noah Kojima, Dvora Joseph Davey, and Dr. Jeffrey D. Klausner published in the September 10th issue of AIDS, the official journal of the International AIDS Society, the authors report that a meta-analysis of 18 cohort studies of MSMs with incident STIs found that “incidence rate ratios showed that MSM using PrEP were 25.3 times more likely to acquire a Neisseria gonorrhoeae infection, 11.2 times more likely to acquire a Chlamydia trachomatis infection, and 44.6 times more likely to acquire a syphilis infection versus MSM not using PrEP.” The studies included in the meta-analysis, including the PROUD and IPERGAY trial studies that PrEP supporters often reference to promote PrEP usage, covered a time period from 2010 to 2016 for MSM using PrEP and from 1998 to 2016 for MSM not using PrEP.
“These results by the UCLA researchers add timely, statistical evidence to the concerns AHF has long held and expressed regarding PrEP being widely promoted as a public health strategy,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “While we’ve often been mischaracterized and criticized for our position on PrEP, AHF’s mission and goal has always been to use scientific evidence to advocate for public policies that will inform and help protect the public from all STDs. This latest analysis should be a wakeup call for MSMs and other sexually active people that PrEP is not the magical panacea it’s often promoted to be.”
Heralded as a breakthrough medical advancement in the fight against HIV/AIDS, Gilead Sciences, Inc.’s antiretroviral HIV drug Truvada was approved for PrEP by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in July 2012. Following its FDA approval, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) threw its full support behind PrEP, championing PrEP coverage as one of its “key prevention strategies” and encouraging in May 2014 that 500,000 MSMs should go on PrEP. Last November, the CDC upped its support for PrEP by recommending that 1.2 million “high risk” Americans—including 25% of all sexually active gay and bisexual men, 20% of people who inject drugs, and 1 in 200 sexually active heterosexual adults—should be considered good candidates for PrEP.
Yet after four years of Truvada being available for PrEP prescriptions and millions of dollars spent to promote its benefits and usage, the number of PrEP prescriptions remains at a miniscule fraction of the recommended numbers, with Gilead releasing a report in June that declared that only 49,148 total cumulative PrEP prescriptions have been filled based on data reported by 82% of all pharmacies. In response, AHF issued an “Open Letter to the CDC on PrEP” that called on the federal agency to “rebalance your prevention efforts to align with what patients want and need so that we can achieve better success in preventing new infections.”
“Not only have gay and bisexual men largely rejected the relentless drumbeat for PrEP by the CDC and other agencies who have been dubiously shilling for Gilead, the men who are using PrEP are having increased condomless sex—contrary to the PrEP guidelines set by the CDC—and, as a result, are exposing themselves to dangerous sexually transmitted infections,” continued Weinstein.
The UCLA researchers’ report supports a 2014 study from Kaiser Permanente that revealed that the use of PrEP resulted in a 45% increase in condomless sex among certain study participants, leaving them vulnerable to disease.
Their findings come amid growing international concern about the rise of antibiotic resistant strains of gonorrhea and other STIs. In releasing its new guidelines for treating bacterial STIs last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) expressed concerns that “resistance of these STIs to the effect of antibiotics has increased rapidly in recent years and has reduced treatment options. Of the 3 STIs, gonorrhoea has developed the strongest resistance to antibiotics. Strains of multidrug-resistant gonorrhoea that do not respond to any available antibiotics have already been detected. Antibiotic resistance in chlamydia and syphilis, though less common, also exists, making prevention and prompt treatment critical.” Last December, Britain’s top doctor and pharmaceutical officer issued warnings about an antibiotic resistant “super-gonorrhea” that had been identified in the country.
“These global warnings about antibiotic resistant STDs must be taken very seriously, especially considering that using PrEP alone offers zero protection against infections like gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia,” Weinstein added. “Despite some people’s desire to simply wish them away, these common STDs remain health risks that must be taken seriously and are best avoided by using condoms.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported notifiable disease in the United States, with 350,062 gonorrhea cases being reported in 2014.
AHF’s Wellness Centers provide free testing for sexually transmitted diseases, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV. To find the nearest location for STD screening and treatment, visit www.freestdcheck.org
I admit, it’s a complicated situation. However, Weinstein should focus on the mission of the organization he leads, which is about HIV prevention and treatment. If he’s unwilling to find ways to incorporate PrEP into AHF’s prevention programs, he should resign immediately, before he does any more harm.
Full disclosure: I’ve known Martin Pousson for a long, long time. Decades, in fact. It can be a little awkward having artists as friends: will I like their new work? What will I say if I don’t? Thankfully, that’s never been a problem with Martin. He’s a master of language and a magnificent storyteller.
In some ways, Martin and I had similar upbringings. Our parents came from humble, country backgrounds. Our mothers strove to give us the best of everything: clothes, toys, an education, far more than they’d had growing up. Our fathers worked day and night to meet our mothers’ demands, and as a result, they figured less into our lives.
But Martin’s mother was ambitious in the extreme. In his writing, she’s always pushing, nagging, coddling, scolding, concerned about appearances and keeping up. (She reminds me a little of Rebecca Wells’ mom in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, but so, so much crazier. And more real.) Not surprisingly, his mother figures prominently in his first novel/memoir, No Place, Louisiana, and in his second, Black Sheep Boy.
You might wonder how someone could wring two memoirs out of one childhood, but in Martin’s case, there’s plenty of material to explore, and there’s astonishingly little overlap between the books.
More importantly, they’re written in dramatically different styles. They’re companion pieces, best read together.
No Place, Louisiana is the fairly straightforward story of Martin’s childhood. I’d describe it as creative nonfiction: a real-life, start-to-finish story laid out in stunning prose.
Black Sheep Boy is told through vignettes, 15 stories of events that took place over the first 20-ish years of Martin’s life. They unfold, unravel, dip, and climb through chapters, paragraphs, and sentences comprised of pure poetry.
Put another way: in No Place, Louisiana, Martin goes from Point A to Point B to Point C, connecting the dots of his own story. In Black Sheep Boy, the connecting lines disappear, and Martin dives deep into the dots themselves, exploring and explaining how he’s come to be who he’s come to be.
As such, Black Sheep Boy doesn’t have a conventional plot; Martin himself is the throughline. Each chapter brings its own story, its own mesmerizing turns of phrase, its own climaxes — sometimes literally. It’s a magnificent read for anyone, but for this gay man of a certain age, it wasn’t just beautiful, it was a look at part of my own life.
I fell asleep on the beach at Long Point, the sandy, sun-baked tip of Cape Cod, where the calm waters of Provincetown Harbor merge with those of Cape Cod Bay and eventually, the Atlantic. I awoke to the sight of a galleon–a real one, a seaworthy one, one with three masts, three decks, and miles of rigging, suitable for pirates, but used for tourists. It was quiet and massive, a magnificent spider skimming across low waves toward the swells of the open ocean.
You’ve had moments like this too, I hope–confusing moments that make you question not where you are, but when. The brief exhilaration of peeking out from a time machine.
I wondered how many others in that once-small, once-fishing-village had seen the same thing: a ship cutting across the waters, a hulking, man-made thing carrying away loved ones, messages, dreams. Wives praying that their sailor husbands would return home safely. Merchants hoping for strong trade winds and huge fortunes. Fathers and maybe even mothers remembering when they’d gone to sea themselves, before the flotsam of age accumulated around their waists, anchoring them to this remote spot.
If I were alive a hundred years ago, two-hundred, three-hundred–if I were my same self, my gay, yearning self–what would I have done?
Would I have turned my back on the ship, returned to my work, content that others were on the move, even if I weren’t?
Would I have chased it, shouted at the crew, jumped into the cool waters of the harbor, praying to swim faster than the wind in the ship’s sails so I could be carried away to another life, another view of another harbor where I might’ve found happiness?
Or would I have watched my last hope of salvation disappear across the horizon, walked into the bay, and tread water with the seals, enjoying their company until the sharks came and separated us, pulling me under?
From my dear friend Brick and his deeply NSFW blog (seriously, mom, don’t click that link):
“Eventually something you love is going to be taken away. And then you will fall to the floor crying. And then, however much later, it is finally happening to you: you’re falling to the floor crying thinking, ‘I am falling to the floor crying,’ but there’s an element of the ridiculous to it — you knew it would happen and, even worse, while you’re on the floor crying you look at the place where the wall meets the floor and you realize you didn’t paint it very well.” – Richard Siken
Many of my gay friends bear the scars of religious upbringings. Some more than others.
I know, I know. The stories of the Young Gay trying to pray away his alleged sins, trying to hide his clandestine hook-ups with curious friends and knowing strangers, trying to avoid handsy priests and youth ministers after choir practice or during lock-ins: these are the stereotypical stories that draw the media’s attention, sell books, spawn movies and plays.
But just because they’re stereotypes doesn’t mean that they’re not true.
* * * * *
I was raised in the Southern Baptist church in the middle-of-nowhere Mississippi. Difference and diversity were as foreign as subways and discotheques.
I was a poor match. As soon as I figured out what “gay” meant, I knew that “gay” meant me. And I knew that that was bad. Our preacher said so, my teachers said so, my family said so.
I spent a decade running from myself — hiding from myself, really — denying my urges, wishing I could be “normal”, and fooling around with plenty of guys on the side. Living that kind of double-life required loads of secrecy and Olympics-level mental gymnastics.
Even now, long after I’ve given away my last fuck about what people think, I’m still wary of religion. Christianity is the scariest monster under the bed, but honestly, all faiths make me skittish.
Which is why I was surprised to get this message from my sister-in-law on Sunday: