Food Blogging

What could this be?

Oh look. A juicy, fresh, locally-grown* heirloom tomato, picked ripe off the vine a few hours earlier at a hippie organic farm.

So tasty!

Let us all be grateful we have access to such tomatoes during the summer. Imagine how horrid it would be to live in a place where no such tomatoes were available? Where the best you could do is get tomatoes shipped to you from hundreds of miles away, picked green and ripened (or should I say “ripened”) with ethylene gas? How would one bear it?

*Astute Spo-fans will observe that the adjective “home-grown” is missing from this list. It appears that I will harvest zero tomatoes from the three seedlings I planted this year. Why do I even bother? Remember, folks: gardening is a valuable and in-demand skill, well worth mentioning on your Grindr profile.

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Lurkopolis Pride

As previously threatened I did end up going out of town, and it did coincide with Lurkopolis Pride. Attending Pride had not been the focus of the trip, but I interacted with the festival in two ways.

First, I inadvertently ran into the Dyke March. I was trying to get to downtown Lurkopolis, and the road got very busy very quickly. What could I do? I stopped and watched the march. First there were scary dykes on motorcycles, and then there were scarier dykes on bicycles, and then there were some marchers advocating assorted left-wing and sex-radical causes. I have never been much of a parade person, but this march felt different from a typical parade. Maybe it is the war drumming that changes the tone? Certainly the march seemed to be as much a political demonstration as a celebration.

Secondly, I later spent a couple of hours intentionally wandering through the festivities. It was busy! Also corporate, and you know my feelings about that. I saw a lot of ridiculous faux-allyship from assorted brands, but the one that sticks out in my mind was a misappropriation of Froot Loops to somehow become a sugar-laden artificially-colored gay symbol.

Mostly I wandered through the boothing area. Again, there were lots of corporations hawking their wares, but there were more grassroots groups as well. I was interested to see that members of my ethnic background (which is not exactly known for being queer-positive) were attempting to put together a support group. More power to them, I guess.

The nudists were also out, which was moderately jarring (the nudists tend to stay under cover during Lurkville pride) but overall it was fine. I attempted not to gawk (after all, nudism is about freedom and body acceptance, not sex), but I will note that a couple of the participants could have been straight out of that line drawing of secondary sex characteristics, except for the cockrings. It did occur to me that this was the first time in over fifteen years that I had seen another adult’s genitals in the flesh. Having seen educational materials on the Internet, I knew what adult genitals looked like, so maybe it should not be surprising that naked grownups turned out to be no big deal? Later that afternoon I saw a bearish couple get out of an Uber, and honestly that was more titillating. (One of the fellows was wearing tight, shiny booty shorts.)

There was one group that was desperately and loudly trying to raise funds for gay refugees. They probably harshed a few people’s mellows, but it was probably good that they were there. There are many places in the world where corporations refuse to associate their toucan mascots with queerness.

I saw some good T-shirt slogans over the weekend, but oddly enough few of them were at the Pride festival itself. Somebody at the festival was wearing a “More Fats, More Femmes” T-shirt that was endearing, but it was not until I was in the suburbs that I saw a fellow wearing a shirt that read “PWR BTTM”. I also saw a jogger wearing an “Anti Running Running Club” shirt that I thought was cute.

As I was heading out of Lurkopolis I saw some of the parade floats being trucked in for the parade. Boy howdy am I glad I got out of town in time.

Was it worth taking time during my Lurkopolis trip to attend Pride? I guess? I had never been to a big-city Pride before. Now I have attended once, so I can say that I have done it. Having said that, the trip would have been worthwhile if I had missed Pride completely.

Mostly I felt out of place. I was not festooned in rainbows, which probably hurt. Despite all of the community groups on display, I did not feel there is a place for people like me. I have little reason to feel much pride in anything I have done, especially on the LGBTQ+ front. Much of the time I feel the queer community would be better off without me, and attending Lurkopolis Pride did little to dissuade those feelings.

Then and Now

Then

“Homosexuality is unnatural. Men and women were meant to come together to have children. Homosexuals are promiscuous and spread disease — do you think AIDS was an accident? The homosexual lifestyle is worldly and hedonistic, in pursuit of shallow pleasure, but in the end gays end up unhappy and unfulfilled. Homosexual impulse is always prompted by an inner sense of emptiness. Homosexuals cannot be allowed in our classrooms. They will convert our children to their homosexual lifestyles. As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children. I do not wish harm on homosexuals — and I know some homosexuals personally — but I cannot support their deviant lifestyles. Homosexuals are out to destroy families and the institution of marriage. If homosexuals are allowed to marry, what comes next? People marrying their dogs? Children need a mother and a father to grow up. Why would you jeopardize the well being of children by allowing gays to adopt?”

Now

“Yes, you’re gay. Good for you. Nobody cares. Do you have to keep bringing it up? It’s so boring. People are people — I don’t see gay, straight, whatever. Why do you have to keep pushing your sexuality in our faces? Straight people don’t go around announcing their sexuality all the time. They don’t need a big parade. They don’t fly their flags everywhere, and they don’t complain to City Hall when it refuses to devote their entire month to their so-called celebrations. Why do you make such a fuss? Being gay is not a personality. Do you really have to dress like that? Do you have to act like that? I know you are desperate to draw attention to yourself, but it is embarrassing to us respectable gays.”

“Don’t you understand that we can’t let those people into our country because they don’t respect gay rights? They want you gays dead, and would just as quickly throw you off a building as say hello to you. They are not enlightened the way we are.”

Corporate Pride

A few days ago I went to the mall. Boy was that a mistake. Not only are impoverished homosexuals prohibited in shopping malls, but now I am going to write the entry that finally at long last will alienate the rest of my readership. What I saw in that mall was supposed to be inspiring, but it made me real angry.

The stores had all decided that this was Rainbow Month. They festooned their displays with full-color posters and platitudes about Diversity! Celebration! Equality! Love being Love! and of course Pride! Pride! Pride!

I was supposed to be heartened by this. I was supposed to be glad that we went from being the enemy to being celebrated by retail outlets. I think the vast majority of these companies don’t care one bit about us. We all know exactly why they turned June into Rainbow Month. Do I need to spell it out for you? Fine. D-I-S-P-O-S-A-B-L-E I-N-C-O-M-E. The companies think that if they represent us they’ll get our pink dollars. And we fall for it again and again. The worst part is that I am no better than anyone else. Put a g-ddamn bear paw on something and I’ll be drooling with consumerist lust. Advertise a product with some woofy spokesperson and I’ll buy whatever is being sold. But just because I am gullible does not make this practice ethical.

Marketing to gullible queers is one thing. Doing so under the pretense of allyship is something else. If some corporation is going to claim that love is love and that it is proud to support diversity, said corporation had better be damn well prepared to back those claims up. In 2019 Lurkistan, the gays are beloved and Pride is cool, so it is the easiest thing in the world to market your allyship — and you appeal to those progressive straights who want to show they love the gays too! Where were you in 1989 Lurkistan, when gays were still dying of AIDS because drug cocktails had not been invented yet? Were you supportive allies then? Were you providing healthcare for your sick employees? Were you tending to their hospice needs? Or were you firing them as soon as you found out they were gay, because you had an image to maintain and a reputation to protect? Where was your pride then?

How about in the early 2000s, when gay marriage had not been legalized yet? Were you providing same-sex health and insurance benefits to the partners of your gay employees? Or were you arguing that offering same-sex benefits were too expensive and too complicated? Were you festooning your stores with rainbows and pride displays? Or were you too apprehensive about scaring off the straights?

Okay, fine. I am being totally unreasonable. Corporations have gone on a learning journey just like the rest of us, and now they are much more understanding and tolerant of sexual and gender diversity than they once were. Are they supporting their employees as they transition, by funding hormones and surgeries via insurance benefits? For that matter, are they even supporting their trans customers by insisting on gender-neutral bathrooms in those aforementioned malls?

Okay, maybe supporting trans people is too difficult. How about poly people? Does any employer anywhere support benefits for complicated families with several primary partners? If one member of a triad gets sick, can that person depend on the benefits provided by one of their partners’ employer? No? That would be too expensive? Too complicated? Too prone to abuse? Where have I heard those arguments before?

Okay, let’s forget about those weird poly people. How about those regular old gays and lesbians, the kind you are proud to support? How about those gays and lesbians that are persecuted in foreign countries, including some of the foreign countries in which you do business? Aren’t a bunch of those t-shirts you sell manufactured in Bangladesh? As of this writing, LBGTQ+ rights in Bangladesh are not good. How about that wonderfully soft Egyptian cotton? How are gay rights there? Oh, but you couldn’t advocate and pressure local governments on LGBTQ+ issues. That would be colonialist in a way that regulatory capture for your financial interests would not.

Okay, improving the conditions in an entire country seems difficult. You do know that some of those Bangladeshis who sew your fancy t-shirts are themselves gay, right? Are you doing anything to make sure they are safe from persecution? What’s that? They aren’t actual employees of your company? You have no jurisdiction on how they are treated? That’s just too bad.

Funny, isn’t it. Any time supporting gay rights or being an ally would cost you money or require some political courage, you shy away. You have all kinds of nice lip service for the affluent gays who have money to spend, but are you willing to put your principles where your mouth is? Do you even put up your pretty rainbow displays in the Southern United States just as you do in progressive Lurkistan? (The majority of you are multinational, after all.) If you are not willing to do these things, then maybe you really aren’t an ally. Maybe the next time we become stigmatized or unprofitable, you’ll throw us under the bus too.

And that, Virginia, is why impoverished homosexuals are not permitted in shopping malls.

(Of course, dear readers, your favorite shopping establishment is a true ally which does things properly. Right? If you asked these questions of that establishment, surely it would pass with flying colors. Right? Right?)

Sympathy for the Devil

In a recent comment, Debra (the dear! [1]) exhorted me to “not go over to Satan”. As is usually the case with Debra, this was wise and insightful advice. Unfortunately, it is not easy advice to follow. The Prince of Temptation has done a real number on me. I mean, just look at him:

Satan on a cruise

With that broad chest and manicured goatee, he would fit right in on Fearsome’s blog:

Satan portrait
Cuddly Beard

As you know, I am not much of a Christian. Everything I know about Satan comes from the documentary South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. (Incidentally, this is also where I learned everything I know aboot Canada.) Although it was released in 1999, the documentary has aged well. In the film, Satan has recently gotten into a same-sex relationship with Saddam Hussein, but already the relationship is rocky.

Saddam and Satan

Being from 1999, you might think that the filmmakers would portray Satan and Saddam’s relationship as a great big joke, and although there are jokey elements, the issues that Satan and Saddam face are not that different from any straight relationship where one partner is a tone-deaf, emotionally abusive jerk:

Kenny asks Satan what is wrongSaddam doesn't nurture Satan's emotionsSaddam just wants sex and can't learn to communicate

The thing is, Satan just wants the same thing every gay on Grindr is looking for: love and companionship with someone who understands them and appreciates them for who they are inside. But I have some news for you, Satan: Saddam isn’t that guy. He is not good enough for you.  You’re gorgeous, and you have a job, and you have that deep resonant voice that would fit right in with a Gwaenysgor choir. You can do so much better than Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti.

Girl, I know you have baggage. We all have baggage. Sure, Jesus doesn’t like you. Join the club. Sure, a lot of people don’t like your career. The thing is, every society has unpleasant tasks necessary  in order to keep it functioning, and we should celebrate you — not disparage you — for being willing to get your hands dirty and do what needs doing. Sure, you are the embodiment of evil and sin in the world, but does that mean you don’t deserve love? That it is okay for that Saddam to mistreat you and diminish your self-worth?

I don’t care that you skip leg day. I think you are gorgeous, and although I am no catch I would like to think I would make a better boyfriend for you than that Saddam. I would listen to you go on about whatever book you are reading. We could stay up and cuddle instead of just having sex. Admittedly, my immortal soul is a pretty steep price to be in a relationship, but am sure we could work something out.

Oh, who am I kidding? I wouldn’t be a better boyfriend than Saddam Hussein. If anything I am more controlling and less mature than him. At least Saddam was good in bed, and he managed the affairs of an entire country for decades. Meanwhile I can’t pull myself together enough to get to the grocery store before it closes. Come to think of it, I suck at both nurturing emotions and at communicating effectively. Debra is completely right. I am not boyfriend material for anybody, and I should keep well enough away. I have hurt more than enough people for one lifetime, and you deserve better.

But don’t give up hope, little horn. Somewhere out there there’s a boyfriend who is kind and supportive waiting for you, and I hope that you and he will cross paths sooner rather than later.

Satan looking up

[1] Yes, as we recently learned, this expression is not intended to be entirely complimentary. I do not care; we should never let facts spoil a good catchphrase. All of you (well, most of you) are dears, and you will just have to deal with it.

Unpride

Oh look. It’s Debbie Downer with another whinefest. What tedious opinion will she share with the world today? Well, it’s June, so I guess that makes this the obligatory Pride entry.

Everybody seems to be taking Pride especially seriously this year, probably because of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Although I have some problems with the narrative behind those riots (namely: violent resistance is an effective way to earn political credibility), overall I am glad that people are commemorating the event and taking Pride seriously. I genuinely want each and every one of you to get out there and have a lot of fun. But speaking only for myself, I’m just not feeling it this year. I don’t have very much to be proud of, and I increasingly feel there is no place for me in the LBGTQ+ community.

Although I am still doing some behind-the-scenes volunteering for the Lurkville LGBTQ+ center, the truth is that I am not very involved any more. The reading group I was involved with ran its course, which means that (a) I don’t go down to the center much any more and (b) I am reading a lot less LGBTQ+ literature than I used to. I also participated in an exercise group (yes, really), but that is now a shadow of its former self. The obvious solution to this would be to get more involved, but I don’t, partially because those groups that interest me conflict with other commitments. If this was poor Steven’s blog I would be leaving some acid-tongued comment about how he was making excuses, and I would be correct.

I did attend a second social gathering for LGBTQ+ people a couple of times, but I felt super out-of-place there. For one thing I am too socially awkward to do well in the presence of others, and for another I was at least a decade older than anybody else. I definitely came across as the unwelcome, creepy fat old guy, so I stopped attending.

Up until recently I had not experienced the dreaded “too old to be gay” feeling that so many others write about, but it has hit me hard over the past couple of years. It seems many (if not most) of the LGBTQ+ events locally are either implicitly or explicitly for the kids, and those that aren’t are for lesbians. And since I am cisgendered and more conservative than I like to admit, I am now classified as an oppressor, enforcing heteronormative privilege and the patriarchy. For all of our talk of diversity, there is not much room for people like me under the umbrella.

Having said that, I did go to Lurkville Pride for a bit. The event was rained out, but even before that I was feeling out of place. Admittedly, I skipped the “march” that was to happen the next day, so that is my fault. I also went to a second Pride event in the nearby municipality of Lurkton, but I got there late and only caught the tail end of the festivities. Again, I felt pretty out of place.

I will be taking a multi-day out-of-town trip to the big city of Lurkopolis this summer. I had not realized it at first, but I will be visiting during Lurkopolis Pride celebrations. Honestly the prospect fills me with more dread than excitement. Lurkopolis will be busier than usual and more expensive than usual. If I get a few spare hours during the trip I might wander through the festive areas but I am not sure I will enjoy them. Mostly I am grateful that I will have left town before the big Lurkopolis parade, because that is going to be a zoo (and will probably be co-opted by an activist group anyways). It is not good news that I am so apprehensive about being around the big celebration. Shouldn’t I want to be around my people?

This is probably all just projection on my part. Although none of the areas of my life are currently in crisis (knock on plastic), they have been uniformly disappointing. The only topics I have been able to consistently discuss with others have been my lack of employment and my dismay at the current state of politics, not my pathetic love life. But truth be told I am increasingly unhappy about being lonely. Even as I am grateful I do not have a sex partner, my body wants to be touched. I don’t think I have ever been the object of another person’s desire, even when I was in a relationship. To my knowledge I have never been hit upon, and nobody has ever flirted with me. (One caveat: back when I was younger and thinner, some people apparently made comments about my butt. However, those comments were not made in my presence, and I learned about them secondhand.)

I ought to be grateful for all that (maybe not the butt comments) but it gets hard to take sometimes, and it is not getting easier as I get older.

Whine, whine, whine. Scooter boys and Argentinians, Europe shed the blood of the Indians. And here I sit in the land of plenty, crying about my own virginity.

Be sure not to end up like me. Go out and celebrate. Happy Pride, everyone.

Public School Sex Education Turned Me Gay

No doubt some of you wonder exactly how I became such a horrible person. It is not difficult to connect the dots. Unlike many of you who were raised in the warmth of a values-based, God-focused Catholic education, I was indoctrinated with the treacherous secularism of the public school system. Part of that indoctrination, of course, consisted of sex-ed.

I vaguely remember the evening before my first sex-ed class, when I was twelve years old or so. I remember feeling nervous. I knew there was a thing called sex, but I didn’t know what it was and I was not sure I wanted to. I was right to feel apprehensive; not only would the subject of sex preoccupy my time and attention for years to come, but public school sex ed turned me into a homosexual.

The first day of sex-ed wasn’t terrible. We were handed a booklet produced by a tampon company, which detailed the many ways our pubescent bodies would betray us, and told us all about tampons and the role they played in dealing with the menstrual cycle. The booklet was 80% focused on cisfemale development and the many questions that young women might ask. The remaining 20% discussed male body parts and nocturnal emissions. I was relieved to know that being a cismale was far more straightforward than becoming a woman and menstruating. We also learned the “proper” names for our private parts, and some information about how cismale body parts interacted with cisfemale ones to make babies. (Readers wanting a refresher on this might refer to this entry I wrote for poor Steven.)

The pictures in the tampon-sponsored education book were sterile and abstract, the cutaway renditions of human genitals pointing out fallopian tubes, the vas deferens, etc. But then our secularist schoolteachers (or more likely the amoral, culturally relativist curriculum designers who probably studied postmodernism in university) took things a step farther: they passed around photocopied line drawings illustrating (so to speak) secondary sex characteristics in human development. The line drawings were reminiscent of those in coloring books, but instead of farm animals or Disney princesses these drawings consisted of a man and a woman standing side by side. Unlike the educational drawings from the tampon-sponsored education manual, these were not medical diagrams cut away to show the innards. They were just drawings of people — naked people. Neither of them was wearing any clothes.

Supposedly, these nefarious drawings were intended to be educational, pointing out the different changes puberty would bring. But these drawings were nothing less than soft-core pornography, and like an innocent gosling gazing upon Konrad Lorenz, I imprinted. One secondary sex characteristic was facial hair, and sure enough the naked man in the drawing sported a full beard, in addition to a broad chest, pubic hair, and a lengthened wee-wee. If he had not been a line drawing, this man could have come straight out of Fearsome’s blog, and he warped my impressionable young mind immediately. That was the point I turned into a homosexual (For further evidence, see shocking disclosure #2.)

Almost immediately I knew something was wrong. I felt the drawing was somehow shameful. I hid it in my room and only took it out to gaze at it when I thought nobody would catch me.

Why? Why did the public school system do this to me? If they had not exposed me to such images maybe I would not have imprinted on Mr. Naked Dude and maybe I would not have been doomed to a lonely, loveless life.

I’m not trying to say that I oppose sex education. To the contrary, I learned many things in sex-ed that I might not have been aware of otherwise: never put anything other than food in your mouth because that is unhygienic; using a tampon does not mean you have lost your virginity; and condoms really aren’t good at stopping the transmission of STDs, because they only cover your penis and not your entire body. I do believe we should have comprehensive sex education, but it should be age appropriate, and we should be sure to defer material that impressionable young minds might imprint on until their hormones have settled down — maybe age 35 or so. In exposing young minds to morally corrosive illustrations of naked people, just how many homosexuals are we trying to create?

Books for Sixpence

Sixpence Nottthewiser (the dear!) recently posted an entry about the importance of reading. He writes about being horrified when he finds no reading material in some beautiful man’s apartment. Although I am in no danger of receiving a visit from Sixpence (or anybody else), and although anybody who did visit would be horrified for different reasons, I do sometimes read books. When Sixpence asked us for a favorite book to recommend, I had to speak up. So here are a few of the favorite books I have read over the past five years or so. Although I occasionally read books for straight people, for this entry I picked out books that are related to LBGTQ+ authors or themes in some way.

The Young in One Another’s Arms

by Jane Rule

Jane Rule is an amazeballs lesbian writer. Her strength is writing about the nuances of relationships. The Young in One Another’s Arms is about a one-armed landlady interacting with her boarders. The novel consists of the flow of everyday human relationships in a boarding house punctuated by surreal, sometimes violent episodes of ultradrama. It is such a strange novel.

Unlike some of her other works (eg Desert of the Heart) this book is not explicitly lesbigay, but it is so strange I feel compelled to recommend it. My guess is that you will either like it or be bored stiff.

Tomboy Survival Guide

by Ivan Coyote

Several autobiographical essays by a thoughtful, observant writer. I was not expecting to find an ally in the homosexuality wars from a butch lesbian who transitioned to male (sort of?) but there you go. (I think my allies in the homosexuality wars try to bring us together rather than driving us apart. But what do I know?)

Particularly memorable to me was the story “We’ve Got a Situation Here”, which tells the story of Coyote being scheduled to talk at a high school, and then the local Concerned Parent Organization finding out.

The Naked Civil Servant

by Quentin Crisp

Yes, it’s a classic. Yes, you have very likely read it. Read it again. Yes, it’s hilarious, because Quentin Crisp is a comedic genius who can turn a phrase like nobody’s business.

In some ways it is a very sad story about a crossdressing homosexual who just couldn’t bring himself to fit in regardless of the cost. I for one am grateful that this book helped him find his place in the world.

Real Live Nude Girl

by Carol Queen

As you know, I don’t fit into lesbigay culture that well. I feel like a freak and an outcast even among the homosexuals. Carol Queen gives me hope that there might be a place for freaks in this world. Queen is a sex radical to the sex radicals. She is partnered to (and has sex with) an openly gay man. She has such adventures! She goes to work as a peep show model to see what it is like! She trains doctors how to give pelvic exams by sitting in stirrups with her pants off! She goes to graduate school and watches seventeen simultaneous porn movies projected on a giant wall!

I am nothing like Carol Queen. But something about her approach to sex, about her rejection of labels, about her acknowledgements that sexuality is tough for everybody (even the straights) resonates so deeply with me. If I had to recommend one book that matched my sexual politics most closely, it might be this one. I was skimming through some illicit photocopies I made of some of the essays in this book, and I just want to type them all out for you word for word. This book is probably going to be difficult to find (it was published in 1997) but it is completely worth the search. If I had to pick a single recommendation, this would be it.

Far from the Tree

by Andrew Solomon

This book starts out fairly lesbigay. Solomon has an unusual family structure. He and his husband have some children and he is the sperm donor to some others. They make a complicated family. Solomon is gay, of course, and his gayness launches the explorations of this book. Gay children usually have straight parents, and the book explores how parents deal with children who are very different from them.

But the book does not stop with parents of gay children. It explores the lives of parents whose children have become criminals, about the lives of parents whose children are profoundly disabled, about parents whose children are on the autistic spectrum, and even about parents of children who are child prodigies. None of them have easy lives (do any parents have easy lives?) but the explorations are fascinating.

You might know Solomon from another landmark book: The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression. This book changed the way I think about my broken brain. If you suffer from melancholia (or maybe even if you don’t) that book is also a worthy read.

Captivity: 118 Days in Iraq and the Struggle for a World Without War

by James Loney

This is yet another book that does not come across as particularly lesbigay (and it is yet another book written by a Canadian. What’s up with that?), but Loney’s sexuality is definitely a factor in the story.

You might remember James Loney’s story. He was a member of a pacifist group called Christian Peacemaker Teams, whose role was to use their First-World privilege to intervene in scenes of conflict, with hopes to de-escalate the situation. Loney was in Iraq when he and three of his fellow CPT members were kidnapped and held for ransom. Much of the book relates Loney’s experiences in captivity, and the complicated feelings he had about his treatment and his rescue. The book is full of contradictions, but Loney is aware of these contradictions, and faces them directly and with honesty.

In this hyper-polarized world Loney somehow looks for the humanity in everyone — even the captors who mistreated him. He fell in love with a philosophy that spoke to him, and he tried to live that philosophy at the expense of his own well-being. But he does not come across as a saint or a martyr. He is just a guy trying to live out his values.

The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Get Pregnant

by Dan Savage

I have documented my affinity for Dan Savage before, and I continue to feel an affinity for him even though he is uncool and mainstream. He can be awfully strident at times, but he is also articulate and smart and once in a while he allows himself to demonstrate vulnerability. I like a good Dan Savage rant as much as the next mainstream homosexual, but Savage is at his best when he is off his soapbox.

I appreciated the ambivalence Savage showed in having children at all, and the mixed, politically-incorrect anxieties he felt in learning about the troubled history of his birth mother. (She’s giving up her unborn baby to fags. Duh.)

This book is very much a time capsule. I will never ever ever get pregnant or have a baby, but it is worthwhile look into the lives of a couple that really wanted one.

Saving Alex

by Alex Cooper and Joanna Brooks

The subtitle of this book is “When I was Fifteen I Told My Mormon Parents I was Gay, and That’s When My Nightmare Began”. The subtitle is not a lie. Alex’s nightmare, in this case, was being sent off to a reform house to punish away the gay. It’s harrowing. It made me angry. But it was well worth the read.

My Husband is Gay: A Woman’s Guide to Surviving the Crisis

by Carol Grever

What’s interesting about this book is that it was written in 2001, long before having a gay husband was acceptable. Much of this stuff is similar to stuff you will read on the “Gay Husband” corner of the blogosphere, but it is written well and all in one place.

Men who come to terms with their sexuality, come out of the closet and live their lives with authenticity have to go through an emotional journey. So do their wives, but we homosexuals often neglect that part. To some extent, this book fills in the gaps.

Self-Made Man: One Woman’s Journey to Manhood and Back Again

by Norah Vincent

Norah Vincent (a lesbian) wanted to know what men were like. So she went undercover, posing as Ned, a somewhat metrosexual man. She joined a bowling league. She went to a monastary. She tries to date women posing as a straight guy. She visits strip clubs. She goes to John Bly manhood groups. Sure enough, she learns what life is like in exclusively male spaces.

I learned a lot from this book. Despite being fairly male, and despite participating in some communities that are largely male, I have never felt in tune with male culture. I have never played poker or been to a strip club or joined the clergy. I do not really know what it is like to be a real man interacting with other real men. Ned enters these spaces and observes, and I am the richer for it.

We talk a lot about “toxic masculinity” these days, but I am still not sure what that is, or how it differs from regular masculinity. I guess this book offers some clues. It also offers sympathy, which appears to be a common theme of many of the books I am recommending.

It is worth noting that this book took a toll on its author, which Norah Vincent documents in her followup Voluntary Madness: My Year Lost and Found in the Loony Bin.

Boys Like Us: Gay Writers Tell Their Coming-Out Stories

edited by Patrick Merla

Back when I participated in an LGBTQ+ reading group at the Lurkville Community Centre, I read a lot of LGBTQ+ anthologies. Many of them were mediocre, with a few standout stories. This collection was much better than average.

I wrote about this collection before, in my entry about Chip Delany, but there were a number of other standout stories as well. We have all read a lot of coming out stories, both in blogs and in print. I am not certain that this collection has anything new to say, but it says those things in an interesting way.

The New Moon’s Arms

by Nalo Hopkinson

A flawed fiftysomething woman adopts a young boy who may or may not be a sea creature. I thought that this was going to be tedious and boring, but I was pleasantly surprised. It also does not seem to be particularly lesbigay, but keep reading.

Blog Puppy

Today’s self-indulgent blog entry is about online community and my relationship to it. The more I think about it, the more I perceive myself as being like a puppy. Puppies are social creatures. They want love and affections from their masters. They have lots of energy to jump around and play, and they will play with you much longer than you are interested in playing back. Unlike older dogs they are often impulsive and imperfectly trained. They have accidents. Sometimes when puppies are play fighting with you they nip too hard, and you get hurt. They don’t mean to hurt you; they are just unaware of their limits.

There’s no need to explain how this simile relates to my online behaviour, so I’ll do it anyways. It is abundantly clear that I am not very good at blogging myself, and that I have run out of things to say. But I enjoy playing with other bloggers in their comment sections. I crave attention and affection, but sometimes I nip too hard and feelings get hurt. Occasionally, a few bloggers throw a stick for me to fetch a few times, but I tire them out quickly. Other bloggers are busy doing two-foot things to engage much, and still others don’t like puppies (in particular this puppy) that much. I try to recognise when bloggers don’t want to play, but it is difficult for my puppy brain to understand that you don’t want to spend every waking minute keeping me entertained. I may exist in the world of two-foots but that doesn’t mean I comprehend it.

One disappointing aspect of blogs is that they tend to be one-to-many interactions. The blogger in question makes a post, some commenters respond to that blogger, and sometimes the blogger writes back. Sometimes I wish blogs were more like dog parks, where commenters could sniff each others’ butts and run around together independent of the blogger. Old bulletin board systems had that property, but it is mostly gone now. The blogosphere is okay, and I am grateful to read the blogs of so many thoughtful, erudite, and intelligent people, but I miss group interaction, and I treasure it when I see it happening in your comment sections. This is not to say that dog parks are perfect. Sometimes they get noisy and chaotic. Sometimes there are mean dogs that will growl and make me feel unwelcome. But they can be a nice alternative to one-on-one walks.

Mayor Pete

I probably should not write this entry, but I realized that (a) repressing it is not working, and (b) if I am going to alienate my entire readership* then I might as well do it in one blow. So here goes.

In this corner of the blogosphere, there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, otherwise known as “Mayor Pete”. Many people have been posting inspirational video interviews and praising him as a hopeful candidate. People went nuts when he formally announced his presidency.

But along with the Mayor Pete wave comes the Mayor Pete backlash, and not every corner of the Internet is as enthusiastic about Buttigieg as this corner is. Another place I lurk heavily supports Elizabeth Warren, and somewhere in there I ran across a critique of Mayor Pete — in particular a critique of his character and his campaign, based upon the pre-presidential-run book he wrote. (Apparently one of the qualifications for running for President in the United States of America is authoring (or “authoring”) an inspirational autobiography.) In order to protect your innocent enthusiasm I won’t link the piece here. Instead I’ll put a link at the end of this screed, long after you have stopped reading.

I wish I could say that I stayed strong after reading this attack piece, but you know me better than that. I was swayed. The piece throws a lot of criticisms at the wall — many from a far left perspective — but some of them stick, and I have been swayed. I have suspicions now. In particular, I am wary that once again we are being manipulated, and that once again we are going to be disappointed.

I want to believe, y’know? I am tired of being cynical and hopeless about politics. I admire the faith that the system isn’t rigged, that we can somehow elect leaders who will govern with wisdom and won’t be in the pockets of our lobbyists. I read all of you celebrating and wish I could join the party. But I wish I could be Christian, too, and that isn’t happening either.

I am also upset that any time I see something hopeful, along comes a wave of criticism to sow the seeds of doubt. This is a deliberate strategy used by political opponents to foster indecision and inaction — and it totally works on me. But once you see the patterns they cannot be unseen. So here are a few words of caution about Mayor Pete. Some of these ideas are taken from the attack piece, and some of them have come to mind since.

As most of you know, I have exactly no business writing about any of this. I don’t get to choose the Democratic nominee for president any more than you do — less, even, given that I am Lurkistani, not American. However, we do not have a president in Lurkistan, so we adopt yours, and follow American politics closely. Also many of the blogs I read come from the Greatest Country on Earth ™, so I get a big dose of American politics there too. I may not have qualifications, but I have opinions.

Blowing the Filter Bubble

Why am I seeing so much about Mayor Pete? Should I believe that this is a grassroots movement that sprung up from nowhere? I am getting my Mayor Pete fix from your blogs. What are your sources? Are you searching them out yourself? Or are they being curated for you?

In this world of “personalized recommendations” I do not trust that there really is a grassroots. Somebody seeds these videos that go viral. It is in somebody’s interest to get these videos to our eyeballs. Who is engineering this? What do they have to gain from it? Are their interests in alignment with our own?

Although it does not pertain to this situation directly, there is a good (if slimy) book that illustrates how easily we are manipulated, called Trust Me I’m Lying, by Ryan Holiday. (And how did I come across this book, hrm?) The premise of the book is that news organizations are desperate for stories, so big media companies republish stories from smaller ones. But the smaller ones are also hungry, so the farther down you go the easier it is to feed the story you want to a small news source. If the story is juicy enough, it gets fed up the media chain until your friends of friends see it, who post it on their blog or Twitstream or wall, and then it hits our eyeballs.

Nobody tries to get to our eyeballs more than political campaigns. Mayor Pete seemed to come out of nowhere. According to his mythology, one day he was minding his business as the mayor of South Bend and the next he was getting booked on late night talk shows. I don’t think that is an accident. Given that he has both run for DNC chair and written the mandatory presidential autobiography, I also am disinclined to believe the mythology.

So why are we hearing about Mayor Pete? Why are we talking about him and not, say, Wayne Messam, who is also a mayor, also young, also inspirational? Why are we not talking about Julián Castro, who was also a mayor, is also young, and served with Barack Obama? Is this a meritocracy — the superiority of Mayor Pete bubbling to the top of our consciousnesses? Or is something else going on here?

As a somewhat-relevant sidenote, why do we feel that Kamala Harris is scary and shrill? Why do we feel that Bernie Sanders is too old now? He certainly is not cool the way he was in 2016. Why did we feel as if we needed to hold our noses and vote for Hillary instead of supporting her enthusiastically? There are a lot of narratives floating around, and it is surprising how quickly they come to mind. Where do these impressions come from? Are we doing the research ourselves and drawing our own conclusions? Or are they being fed to us?

Comparing Candidates

I have read some people supporting Mayor Pete with statements like “all the other candidates made me feel uneasy, but Mayor Pete really speaks to me.” I am glad the rest of you have been getting comprehensive information about the Democratic nominees. I haven’t. In fact, I did not know who most of the other nominees were before researching this blog post, and I probably can’t name half of them now.

This is a real problem. In fact, it is multiple real problems. Let’s for the moment assume that there are not frontrunner candidates and also-rans, and let’s also assume it was somehow our job to identify the best candidate to support in a nomination. You don’t go about that by being fed a steady stream of media about one candidate in particular. You do that by comparing candidates, which pretty much no politician wants you to do.

How does one actually compare candidates? Debates can work, although debates are highly orchestrated. In municipal politics questionnaires can sometimes be useful. I spent a little bit of time looking for some presidential candidate comparisons, and ran into a New York Times questionnaire about climate change. If you have any articles left (or know how to get around the NYT article limits) then it might be worth a look. The last question of the questionnaire is about nuclear power — a contentious issue on the left. The responses to that question are especially telling, but overall one gets a clearer sense of which candidates have insights into these topics, which are willing to say whatever they think we want to hear, and which are not willing to address certain questions at all. I feel Mayor Pete’s responses to many of these questions are illuminating.

How many side-by-side comparisons of these candidates have you done? If you have not done many, are you still willing to declare fealty to a particular candidate?

Now let’s talk about frontrunners, because here in the real world there really is no point in comparing all of the 17 (or 18? or more? Wikipedia says over 200?) candidates as if they all have an equal chance of the nomination. Some of the candidates are well-entrenched and some are upstarts like Mayor Pete. For a while those candidates will be in the running and we will all support our favorites and we will fight among each other, because there is nothing more a Democrat likes more than infighting. And then somebody (hint: probably somebody with money, and with entrenched support within the Democratic Party) will win. Then what? Are you prepared to hold your nose and vote for that candidate?

Do we think that Mayor Pete could surge in popularity the way Bernie did in 2016? If so, do you think he would be the establishment-supported candidate? It looks as if superdelegates are less of a thing but I am sure that the powers that be in the Democratic Party will find other ways to ensure the party doesn’t get too democratic. I do not have an answer as to whether Mayor Pete could be the establishment candidate, and that in itself is disconcerting.

The Gay Thing

This is a blog about sexual perversion, so let’s talk about the gay thing. In particular, let’s talk about the familiar refrain, “It’s not just that Mayor Pete is gay!”

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. Mayor Pete is allowed to live his life however he sees fit. He is not obligated to be a sex radical. If he chose to wait until age 33 to come out as gay then who am I to criticize him? Maybe these tearjerking stories about how he was in denial about himself for so many years are actually true. I am not one of those who demands that Mayor Pete be more of a sex radical.

However, that does not let him off the hook and it does not let us off the hook.

When you think to yourself, “It’s not just that Mayor Pete is gay!” do you actually mean it? Pretend that Pete Buttigieg was a nice, white, cisgendered man who went to a good university, served in the military and was married to a nice woman named Chastity who had a kickass Twitter account. Look deep in your heart. Would you be as enthusiastic about Mayor Pete if he was another straight white charismatic politician like Tim Ryan? Really? Okay then.

Even though Mayor Pete’s sexuality is not biasing your perception of him in any way, consider how much he is playing it up during this campaign. Watch that video where he declares his nomination again. He gushes about his husband and about marriage equality a lot. Do you think that is an accident? Do you think his heartfelt story about coming out during a mayoral campaign because he didn’t want to be single anymore was an accident? Hint: he is cultivating an image, and he is doing so deliberately. Do you ever notice how he relates his brave story about coming out during a mayoral campaign and receiving a majority of the vote, but does not acknowledge South Bend as a university town? Sure, that university is a Catholic institution, but even Catholic university towns skew liberal — especially in 2011. Instead his narrative is being a poor gay mayor in an Indiana city that was once built on heavy industries that left town, as if he was in the Trumpiest of Trump Country. None of this is an accident.

How is a white, male, cisgendered, highly-educated, relatively wealthy politician supposed to stand out in a world where black people and even women are allowed to run for President? Would it not be convenient for the aforementioned white male to have some other characteristic that would allow him to stand out?

And isn’t it fortunate that Mayor Pete is just gay enough to make liberals feel good about themselves while being so inoffensive that he doesn’t scare away those who are more socially conservative? Again, I am not criticizing Mayor Pete’s sexual choices, but aren’t they convenient? Presumably he was completely celibate before deciding to come out as gay and look for a husband. Mayor Pete never gets edgier about his sexuality than joking about the app he used to find said husband. And is it not darling (and suspiciously heteronormative) that Chasten adopted Buttigieg’s last name? Mayor Pete really is the living embodiment of the notion that gay people are exactly like straight people except for the people they choose to love.

I do not know the extent to which Mayor Pete organized his life such that his gayness would be so picture-perfect. But I highly suspect that he has cultivated this image of being gay and inoffensive very, very carefully. And honestly, I am tired of gayness being used as political leverage.

Look. I am glad that gays are cool now. It is much better for politicians to be using their gayness as an asset, as opposed to the bad old days when Anita Bryant said we should not be allowed to teach in schools, or Mike Huckabee wondered why we were not quarantined to prevent spreading AIDS to straight people, or the Mormon and Catholic churches insisted that we were intent on destroying the institution of marriage**. It is nice that gay people are the heroes and not the villains now, but homosexuality is still being used for political ends.

Claiming that Mayor Pete is leveraging his sexual identity for political gain is not the same as claiming he should remain in the closet, or that he should never mention his sexuality, or whatever. It is possible to simultaneously be a gay politician and not make it a central part of your narrative, if you so choose.

I have one more thing to say about homosexuality and politics: it is our responsibility as gay people to avoid giving politicians a free pass because they are gay. Just because a politician is gay does not mean that said politician will be effective. Debra recently elected a leader who is rumoured to be gay, but that does not imply that I agree with anything that leader stands for or does. Although not a politician directly, lawyer Roy Cohn was a gay political figure who was heavily involved in the McCarthy anti-communist witch hunts. Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn was openly gay and openly anti-Muslim. All too often those of us (gay and straight) who think of ourselves as enlightened are willing to give politicians a pass based on their homosexuality, and I do not feel this is justified.

Anti-qualifications

What is up with our fixation on electing people who have special stories? Why are we so opposed to nominees for President of the United States having relevant qualifications for the job?

I am not diminishing the importance of city mayors. For the most part, I feel that running a city (even a relatively small city like South Bend) is a complicated matter, and I think many mayors do an admirable job. However, municipal politics is different than state or federal politics, and for some reason we think it is okay that Mayor Pete has no legislative experience at the federal level.

I mean, President of the United States seems like a pretty difficult job too, but I think it is difficult in different ways than being mayor of a small city. Should we not have some expectations that the presidential nominees have some knowledge of how federal (or at least state) politics work?

Buttigieg is not, of course, alone in this. We all know what happened in 2016, and the qualifications for office that presidential nominee possessed. But (and here’s where I lose the rest of my readership, if I have any left) it is not as if Barack Obama was well-qualified to be president either. His legislative experience consisted of half a term as a Senator, which is something but not a lot. Frankly, I feel that Obama’s lack of experience as a federal politician showed, and that it hurt him.

I am not claiming that one needs to be Vice-President of the United States in order to be qualified for President (sorry, Joe Biden). I am not claiming you need to be in your 60s or 70s. But is it so unreasonable to expect a term or two in the Senate or House of Representatives? Being a state governor also seems like a good qualification. Is serving in Afghanistan and then becoming mayor of a small city for eight years enough? Even if you want to smash/reform the system, surely you should understand how the system works?

Trump

Speaking of Trump, why are we all so certain he is going to lose in 2020? Most of you are too young to remember this, but way back in 2004 we had an unpopular president named George W. Bush, and a decently qualified candidate in John Kerry. There was no way that Kerry could have lost the election against such an unpopular incumbent, right?.

The End

There is no chance you read this far. I didn’t read this far. I furiously unsubscribed from this blog several sections ago.

Look. I hope you’re right. It would be fantastic if Mayor Pete was the real deal, and won the nomination, and somehow beat Trump in 2020, and was the smart, well-spoken president who is going to solve all our problems. Oh wait. Where have we heard that before? One of the reasons we all fell in love with Obama was because he was a blank slate. We all projected our hopes and wishes for the presidency onto him, and — surprise! — he turned out not to meet those expectations. In a similar way, I feel we are projecting our hopes onto Mayor Pete. I worry we are being fooled again. So hate me if you want (yes, I know you already do), and hold on to your enthusiasm and hope, but also do your homework. Please don’t be fooled again?

If after reading these 3000 words you want to read thousands more, here is a link to that attack piece that I mentioned at the top: https://www.currentaffairs.org/2019/03/all-about-pete.

  • I guess JP is British, so would not be as repulsed by this entry as the rest of you. But if I throw in some grudging respect for the Extinction Rebellion movement then he should be covered too. I’ll alienate Kato by forgetting that Australia exists.

** I’m still working on that last one.