Monday, March 20, 2006

We Are Family

I love that song from Sister Sledge. And it was playing in my head as I read the following piece from Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle:

I believe I lost it. I believe I yelled. It was in an empty room, so no animals were harmed in the making of that yell, but still. I felt frustrated. And you know what's really good when you're feeling frustrated? Remembering that you have a newspaper column.

Last year the Ford Motor Co. started to buy ads in several publications aimed at gay readers. They did so, one presumes, because they realized that gay people buy automobiles, and Ford has, alas, not been selling many automobiles lately. Then the company got assaulted by the American Family Association, a creation of the Rev. Donald Wildmon, a clever right-wing agitator with a hate-based agenda. So Ford announced that it would stop advertising in gay publications.

But then, whoops, Ford reversed its reversal and said, never mind, it was going to advertise in gay publications after all. So then a representative of the AFA announced that it was reinstating its boycott. "We cannot, and will not, sit by as Ford supports a social agenda aimed at the destruction of the family."

What a vile sentence. What a vile sentiment. What overbusy, underbrained worms these people must be. I am not yelling.

My older daughter is a lesbian. She is also the single mother of an adopted child, working to make and sustain a family with jaw-dropping tenacity. I am a member of that family, but she is the head of it. The idea that any part of her social agenda involves the destruction of the family is insulting and stupid. She adopted a child, which means that a child who would not have had a home now has one. It means that a child who would not have rested safely in a mother's arms now does so. These are real family values, not the poison spouted by these thoughtless, gossip-mongering abominations.

Sure, I feel strongly because it's my daughter who's being smeared, but it ain't just my daughter. All over this nation there are gay and lesbian families working hard to make a life for themselves and their children. I know a few of them. They could have done it the easy way, stayed in the closet and decided not to endure the hassles of having children, but they didn't. They wanted a family. They wanted a lover and companion to share their lives with, and they wanted children to love. And for this they get insulted by cretins.

The gay and lesbian parents I know are too busy to have an agenda, unless the agenda is "1. cook dinner, 2. wash clothes, 3. find frog." They're doing the usual stuff, teaching manners and insisting on homework and keeping doctor's appointments and reading bedtime stories. It's all very conventional and humdrum; families with kids often look pretty boring from the outside. But when you're in such a family, the last thing you are is bored. Tired, maybe. Irritated, occasionally. Bored, no.

The reality is the mirror image of the stereotype. The real keepers of the American flame, the real practitioners of daily love and a life of the spirit, are gay and lesbian parents. They are, gosh darn it, what made this country great. Someone get a damn fife and drum.

The people who hate America are the members of American Family Association and its ideological fellow travelers. They're the ones who do not believe that all people are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, and that among these rights are life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. They're the ones who believe that this country was founded on hate and fear; they're the ones who want the hate and fear to continue.

"Where's Daddy?"

"He's out picketing a funeral of a gay veteran."

"Will he be home in time for the flute recital?"

"Your father is very busy, dear."

I mean, render unto me a break. If your family feels so threatened by my family that you think you have to organize a boycott of a car company, then your family has problems my family can do nothing to solve. If you think a woman kissing a woman is going to get your daughter hooked on drugs and drive your son into a life of crime -- get home. Have a pizza. Talk about stuff. Go to a ballgame. That's what gay and lesbian families do, and it seems to work out fine. Take a lesson. And, please, shut the hell up.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Smack My Thoughts Up

I just saw the video for the song "Smack My Bitch Up." Despite the lyrics, I sat down to watch. The video is shot in first person throughout. You see a guy as he makes his way through a night of total debauchery. He feels up any woman in reach, gets into brawls with guys left and right, and drinks like a fish. Usually I'm not one for videos like this. But the camera angles and shots are really well done, and the kinetic beats of the song totally pull you in. At the end of the night, he takes a woman home, gets wild, and then he finally rears up in front of a mirror. And that's when you realize that this entire time it was a woman!

In retrospect, you can see little clues here and there. But for the most part, it's interesting how easy assumptions are made. I never even thought to question the gender of the misogynist.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Wiccan and Hulkling

So much has changed since Northstar became the first openly gay superhero in 1992. Back then, it was pretty hard to find a copy of his coming out, since a lot of retailers pulled the comic from the stands :(. A friend of mine was telling me about Young Avengers, Marvel's answer to DC's popular Teen Titans. It debuted maybe about 8 months ago? I've been out of the comic loop for a while now, so I was surprised to learn that Young Avengers features a gay teen couple!

Wiccan (formerly Asgardian)


After coming out to Wiccan's family

From the wiki article on Young Avengers:

Exchanges between Asgardian and Hulkling (and the latter's character design) have led some readers to speculate that the two young men have a much more intimate bond than mere friendship. Allan Heinberg confirmed this speculation at a San Diego convention panel, stating that his intent was to reveal the relationship in issue #12, and he was surprised that his subtle clues were picked up on so quickly.

Since Young Avengers #2, each issue's letters page has seen the exchange of opinions between people who support and people who are against the portrayal of homosexual superheroes. Many readers praise the addition of a gay couple in a comic, while others have cited their disdain for the relationship. In #6, Kate advises that Asgardian should change his name to avoid the obvious puns when the press discovers that he's in a relationship with Hulkling, implying that the others already know the two are gay.

In Young Avengers Special, the team agrees to give an interview to Kat Farrell, and Jessica Jones warns Billy and Teddy that Farrell will probably ask if the rumors about them are true. After some deliberation, the two decide to tell her, with Teddy adding, "Why should Northstar have all the fun?"

And here's a review from Broken Frontier:

Homosexuality really shouldn’t be more of an issue than any other aspect of characterization in comics, but, unfortunately, it is. I started with this aspect of Young Avengers because issue #7’s most interesting page—the letters page—is totally devoted to it. Somehow aliens, gods, zombies, vampires, magicians, and some of the most vile characters to be found in any storytelling format are readily accepted in comics, sometimes as heroes, but a concrete reality like homosexuality—not poverty, racism, sexism, or an ill-thought out war—causes more controversy than all of those real world issues combined.

Would Young Avengers be a better book without the gay relationship between Hulkling and Wiccan? It doesn’t matter to me, because, like The Authority, Young Avengers would be a fine comic regardless. But perhaps it matters to some young kid out there who loves superhero comics but has trouble coming to grips with his own sexuality. If a comic book could help him and do whatever small part it can to show him how to live with and acceptable himself as Hulking and Wiccan do, then what matters to me is irrelevant, because it becomes something more important than merely a well-written, entertaining comic.

Allan Heinberg’s script, very aptly entitled "Secret Identities," is about just that—acceptance and adjustment during that difficult time between being a kid and becoming an adult. The secret identity isn’t just the alter ego a hero has when not fighting evil, but the true person she or he is when no one is looking, not even himself. We are what we acknowledge about ourselves, but we also are what we hide, even from ourselves, and in this way, we all have, indeed need, secret identities. Heinberg hits this note well a number of times throughout the issue. Spider-Man talking about becoming a hero at the age of 16. The choice of the new villain. The depiction of Wiccan and Hulkling coming out. Revealing the deeper, darker secret that burdens Patriot. How Stature deals with her parents’ disparaging remarks about the possibility that she could be a superhero. The reader sees and feels the awkwardness of adolescence, but to Heinberg’s credit, he doesn’t hit the reader over the head with the idea that the Young Avengers are mature enough to be superheroes. Rather, he leaves the question open, so much so that one finishes Young Avengers #7 wondering if Captain America isn’t right after all. Maybe "Young" and "Avengers" are two words that just don’t go well together at all. If Heinberg can keep this tension going, Young Avengers will take its place beside Runaways as the best titles about young people that Marvel has published in years.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Race and Sexuality, 1994

Today I stumbled across an online copy of a collegiate article I was interviewed for 12 years ago. It's put me into a very reflective mood. So much has changed since then. My parents and I get along so well now, that I almost feel guilty for even thinking about how things used to be. Plus I'm blushing at the part where I insist that I'm bisexual. Not that I think bisexuality is a myth, but I was one of those faux bi-guys. Anyway, here's that article:

Race and Sexuality

On a sidenote, Harvard's Asian American Association's mass emails were always truncated by the school's email system to "Asian American Ass." Ah, memories!