Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Groundhog Gay

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

Here's to Groundhog Day, that gloomy 2nd day of February midway between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox when an unkempt rodent sticks its head out of its hole, and either retreats at a shadow that predicts six more weeks of winter, or frolics at the sign of early spring if there's nothing to see.

The logic is a mess. To cast a shadow there'd have to be sun, which one would imagine should lead any ordinary groundhog to expect better weather. But the pros like Punxsutawney Phil are apparently rotten, little, sharp-teethed cynics, turning up their squirrelly noses at every false glimmer and entrenching themselves against another sure round of sleet and bone-chilling cold.

The chubby, bitter Marmota monax is a tempting model what with all the false suns in the sky and the plethora of shadows. In a burst of wishful thinking and propaganda, CNN's Sanjay Gupta declared that Haiti doesn't need doctors any more, though many people with bad two-week old injuries have yet to see a doctor, and medicine's as scarce of food.

Likewise, the Senate hearings reconsidering lesbians and gay men in the military have been promoted as radiant promises of change, though just how that will manifest itself is unclear since nobody's even considering the repeal of the misnamed Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy that somehow results in queers getting ejected right and left even without anybody telling anybody anything. Apparently, what we can expect is a shift in enforcement. As Pam of Pam's House Blend writes, "I guess the result depends on how you define the word "change.""

You could say the same for the administration's press release entitled "Expanding Opportunities for the LGBT Community" that starts by patting itself on the back for steering the country away from a depression, and goes on to claim its budget includes means for fighting discrimination against LGBT folk, supporting Federal employee domestic partner benefits, and a host of other things.

While there might be money earmarked for such projects, there's still the matter of political will and how you define "expanding." Just a couple of weeks ago Lambda Legal had to file suit against Obama's administration demanding the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) obey prior rulings by Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski and cough up the spousal health insurance benefits awarded to Ninth Circuit judicial attorney Karen Golinski.

Frankly, I'll believe it's summer for queers when the fruit is on the vine. Until then, it's just more of the same rotten political weather. And this groundhog recommends full butt-wagging retreat, though maybe it's better if, like Staten Island Chuck, you instead sink your teeth into the nearest target. Last year it was Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

This year, take your pick. You'll have to get in line for a piece of the O-Man, but in the meantime consider all the New York politicos that promised the moon but shafted queers on same-sex marriage, or perhaps the evangelical conversion therapist of your choice that promises healing and gives years of torture instead. You could go for the American and Nazi Revisionist Scott Lively fueling antigay hate in Uganda, and only reluctantly suggesting conversion therapy instead of the ultimate cure, the death penalty.

Then there are the discredited American "experts" extending their conversion therapy movement into Britain, among them Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, founder of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), and Richard Cohen, who founded the International Healing Foundation, but has been permanently expelled from the American Counseling Association.

The damage they're causing in Britain and elsewhere isn't as immediately life-threatening as Africa, but don't underestimate the growing strength of the movement and its potential impact.

In an article this week in The Independent, "The ex-gay files: The bizarre world of gay-to-straight conversion" Patrick Strudwick describes how, under guise of treatment, more and more British shrinks are resuscitating the debunked stereotypes that homosexuals are all emotionally retarded, infantile, damaged, suffering from childhood abuse, pathological, sick, and sinful. An assertion of love between gay men was dismissed by one shrink as "... a darkness that's very real that keeps you as its dog, but of course our God is more powerful than that."

If you're tempted to snicker at them in this post-gay era, just look at the powerful effect this cocktail of religion and pseudoscience had on Strudwick. Openly gay and well-adjusted before going undercover, he afterwards found himself "confused and damaged. I began to constantly analyse why I found particular men attractive. Does that man represent something that's lacking in me? Do I want him because he looks strong which must mean I feel weak? Did something happen in my childhood? The therapists planted doubt and worry where there was none."

Sometimes I think it's just as well more Americans don't have passports.

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