aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Monday, February 20, 2006
Bring on some liberals!
You know, I’m a liberal and I enjoy lots of conservative commentators. I don’t just like them when I agree with them, I like them when they make me think a little differently. I’d like to believe that conservatives could feel that way, too, about liberal commentators. That is, of course, if there were ever any to be found on Sunday talk!
Katrina Vanden Heuval sure comes close and she was on This Week yesterday. I just saw it. (TiVo! You can see it via Crooks and Liars.) I did not agree with all that she had to say but wow was she a pleasurable presence.
Here George Stephanopoulos asks about a Pew poll on happiness that found Republicans are happier than Democrats. Katrina follows George Will’s sanctimonious “conservatives believe in the pursuit of happiness, liberals believe in the delivering of happiness from a post-New Deal government.” And she does so with great style:
[Y]ou’re asking a woman named Katrina who is an independent Democrat half Jewish half Catholic, wakes up with guilt and anxiety every morning, and edits a liberal weekly in the fifth year of the Bush administration—no, I think that for, for Democrats or people who believe that the Declaration of Independence meant the inalienable right to pursue happiness, that you look around your country today, at the squandered promises, the unfulfilled promises and you can’t sit back and sing “Be Happy,” you know, that song, “Be Happy, Don’t Worry,” because you have got to get out there with some passion and remake that nation and be proud of it again.
She makes me proud!
There are others like her out there. I only wish they could be a regular feature of Sunday talk.
A Wichita woman
From the Wichita Eagle, There was no way I was ever a man:
“People like me tend to do a disservice to the transgender community,” she said. “Once we finish our surgery, we just want to disappear into the mainstream. We don’t want to become the poster child for anyone.
“But I have an obligation to the ones coming up behind me. I know how hard it is to feel that you are all alone.” [...]
Lisa said that when she was growing up in the 1960s in a strict, small-town Kansas environment, she never heard of “transgender.” She recalls being confused about her sexual orientation.
“I thought I might be gay and a transvestite,” she said. “I thought it was that simple. I thought I could outgrow it or that, with age, it would become unimportant. But it only gets worse. It’s only a matter of time until you crack up.”
She had little idea that her condition was about more than her sexuality.
“Being trans is not about sexual orientation,” she said. “Gay is how you love others. Instead, trans is about gender identity. That’s internal."[...]
Kansas law does not allow birth certificates to be amended for gender. Some states, such as California and Illinois, do.
But Lisa got her Kansas driver’s license changed to “female” two years ago.
“There’s no established procedure,” she said. “It’s up to the person at the DMV. I had to plead with them to just look at me. They put down I was a woman.”
Lincoln’s homosexual proclivity
On this Presidents Day, it’s worth remembering that many historians have suspected that Abraham Lincoln had a homosexual proclivity. In Lincoln’s day there was only homosexual activity and no such thing as a gay identity; I, for one, believe he might have been a happier man if there had been and if he had been free to choose it.
From the December 2004 NYTimes, which asked, ”Was Abraham Lincoln a gay American?”
The subject of the 16th president’s sexuality has been debated among scholars for years. They cite his troubled marriage to Mary Todd and his youthful friendship with Joshua Speed, who shared his bed for four years. Now, in a new book, C. A. Tripp also asserts that Lincoln had a homosexual relationship with the captain of his bodyguards, David V. Derickson, who shared his bed whenever Mary Todd was away.
In “The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln,” to be published next month by Free Press, Mr. Tripp, a psychologist, influential gay writer and former sex researcher for Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey, tries to resolve the issue of Lincoln’s sexuality once and for all. The author, who died in 2003, two weeks after finishing the book, subjected almost every word ever written by and about Lincoln to minute analysis. His conclusion is that America’s greatest president, the beacon of the Republican Party, was a gay man.
Of course, I believe a gay identity is a choice that Lincoln did not have, and though I haven’t read the book my reading about it and of Lincoln through the years leads me to find its central thesis persuasive.
These things are agreed to by pretty much all Lincoln scholars: Lincoln spent years sleeping in a small bad with Joshua Speed, he slept in the White House with Captain David V. Derickson when his wife was away and pulled strings to keep the good captain around.
Even Phillip Nobile, a co-author dropped from the Tripp book project who later became its chief critic, wrote in 2001, “I do believe that bisexuality (he was bisexual by definition) is the best explanation for Lincoln’s sex life” and “If I am right, all of Lincoln biography is wrong and all of Lincoln’s biographers were blind.”
For more, here’s Nobile’s review of the Tripp book. Andrew Sullivan called it a hatchet job, pointed to an earlier Nobile essay that contradicts it, and did side by side comparisons of the earlier essay and the review.
Then there’s this from The New Republic by Princeton’s Christine Stansell. She starts out by asking, who cares? and what would it matter anyway? then walks through the evidence dismissively ("what did it really mean for people to sleep together in small beds?"), calls it all “conjecture amplified by conjecture,” and explains away his affinity for men as “like the great majority of nineteenth-century men.”
Sounds like Homophobia in Lincoln studies to me.
Professor William Labov, a University of Pennsylvania linguist and author of the new book Atlas of North American English Phonetics, Phonology and Sound Change, says there is a shift of vowel sounds in the inland northern cities. He calls it the “northern city shift.”
Via Jonathan Skillings:
Most of us probably don’t make much of a distinction when pronouncing “do” and “dew.” There’s a subtle difference in the pronunciation of the vowels, but for linguist William Labov, a significant one...you can play around with an interactive map (with audio) based on his book “Atlas of North American English” via the Web site of publisher Mouton de Gruyter. (Registration required to get to the free demo.)
UPDATE: If you haven’t noticed, I can’t spell. I’ve corrected the spelling of “vowel.” Thanks Doug!
GLBT studies at Catholic U: “there’s a tension there”
A few weeks ago I quoted Gary Cestaro, director of a new lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies minor at Chicago’s Catholic DePaul University, saying he saw the program as a “no-brainer.”
Now Newsweek’s reporting:
DePaul is the nation’s largest Roman Catholic university-and the Vatican’s official teaching is that homosexuality is “objectively disordered.” “I understand that there’s a tension there,” says Assistant Prof. Gary Cestaro, the program’s director.
So do some conservative Catholic groups, who are calling for the program to be abolished. “It’s clearly portraying the culture in a favorable way,” says Patrick J. Reilly, founder of the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization that promotes conservative teaching on Catholic campuses. “There’s no doubt that this program, at least in a subtle way, is undermining Catholic teaching on homosexuality.”
Cestaro, who largely developed the program from already existing classes on campus, disagrees, noting that he’s even considering adding a class, taught by the campus’s Catholic Studies Department, that would address the church’s stances on homosexuality. He defends the program’s merit-and the university’s right to offer it. “Institutions of higher learning, even if they are Catholic, aren’t spokespeople for the Vatican,” he says. “Like any university, there should be room for free inquiry.”
LATER: Heck I almost missed the gay film festival and staging of “The Vagina Monologues” at Notre Dame! It sounds like DePaul might soon be the Catholic U of choice.
THE NEXT DAY: The Chicago Tribune has a major piece on DePaul’s program.