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Year in review: 2012 in quotes

The year’s most memorable remarks on LGBT issues

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From left, President Obama, Jason Mraz, Christopher Plummer and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (Obama and Cuomo photos Blade file photos; Mraz and Plummer photos courtesy Wikimedia)

From left, President Obama, Jason Mraz, Christopher Plummer and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (Obama and Cuomo photos Blade file photos; Mraz and Plummer photos courtesy Wikimedia)

From President Obama coming out in support of marriage equality to celebrities like Anderson Cooper just plain coming out, 2012 provided plenty of notable quotables.

Here is a look back at some of the most memorable LGBT media moments of the year.

OBAMA SAYS ‘I DO’

“For me personally, it is important to affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

President Barack Obama, announcing his support for marriage equality in an interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts (ABC News, May 9)

“With his embrace of phony ’gay marriage,’ Obama outs himself as a soulless panderer with no core beliefs. He mocks his own Christian profession.”

Peter LaBarbera, founder for Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (via Twitter, May 9)

“Let me make it very clear, that my preference is to have a national standard that defines marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.”

— GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney (CNN, May 9)

“Obama is for same-sex marriage. When the president is saying that, who am I to go the other way? It’s cool.”

50 Cent, speaking out on gay marriage after also being asked his reaction to fellow hip-hop artist Frank Ocean’s decision to reveal a past relationship with a man. “Anyone that has an issue with Frank Ocean is an idiot,” 50 Cent said. (BET.com, July 16)

POLITICAL MILESTONES

“Now you can be proud of serving your country, and be proud of who you are.”

— U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta thanking gay and lesbian military members for their service on June 15, as the Pentagon prepared to mark June as Gay Pride month with an official salute.

“I’m well aware I’m the first woman elected to the Senate from Wisconsin, and I’m well aware I will be the first openly gay member. I didn’t run to make history. I ran to make a difference.”

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), who on Nov. 6 became the first openly gay candidate elected to the U.S. Senate, in a recent interview on her historic victory. (Green Bay Press-Gazette, Nov. 18)

“When I decided to run, I said either you come out and become an activist and have a major role there or I run for Congress. There was no way I could have been out and won.”

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) on his first run for Congress in 1980. Frank, who came out in 1987 while serving in Congress, is retiring after 32 years in the U.S. House. (Washington Post, Dec. 3)

CELEBS SPEAK OUT

“For me, it is a choice. I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me.”

— Actress Cynthia Nixon in an interview with the New York Times after her recent remark that “I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better” drew criticism from some LGBT activists. (ABCNews.com, Jan. 24)

“While I don’t often use the word, the technically precise term for my orientation is bisexual. I believe bisexuality is not a choice, it is a fact. What I have ‘chosen’ is to be in a gay relationship.”

Cynthia Nixon in a written statement clarifying her remark. (Advocate.com, Jan. 30)

“I have an important message, all the bling and Mercedes aside: I’m an openly gay Persian man. According to the president of the country I was born in, I don’t even exist.”

Reza Farahan, a star on Bravo’s new reality series “Shas of Sunset.” (AP, March 10)

“I’ve never dealt with the question of my personal life in public. It’s just not gonna happen.”

— Actor and singer Queen Latifah, explaining that it “definitely wasn’t the case” that she came out when performing at Long Beach Gay Pride last month, while adding, “To me, doing a gay pride show is one of the most fun things.” (Entertainment Weekly, June 1)

“The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.”

— CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, ending years of speculation by coming out via email to gay writer Andrew Sullivan. (Andrew Sullivan/The Dish, July 2)

“I’m a black, gay woman. I think the only way to make the GOP hate me more is if I sent them a video of me rolling around on a pile of welfare checks.”

— Comedian Wanda Sykes in a clip from her two-part Logo special, “NewNowNext Vote with Wanda Sykes.” (Huffington Post, Sept. 10)

FAMOUS FRIENDS

“I think everyone sort of understands it might be the last leg of the civil rights movement.”

Actor George Clooney, a gay marriage supporter, speaking for LGBT rights in an interview at the Golden Globe Awards, where he won Best Actor. (Politico.com, Jan. 16)

“I sing songs about love and just as people have a right to choose to listen to songs about love, I believe people have a right to marry the person that they love.”

— Singer-songwriter Jason Mraz in a video for Americans for Marriage Equality, an HRC campaign to let gay couples marry. (HRC.org, March 21)

“I think that gay marriage is going to happen. It must. We are not actually equal — humanity — if we are not allowed to freely love one another. What the Pope thinks of being gay does not matter to the world. It matters to the people who like the Pope and follow the Pope. It is not a reflection of all religious people.”

Lady Gaga, who is Catholic, responding in a radio interview to Pope Benedict XVI’s comments against gay marriage. (Fox News, Sept. 25)

“You can’t change the way you are or who you fell in love with … We support Uncle Poodle and all the other poodles in the world too.”

— TLC reality star Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson, age 7, in a statement publicized by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation about her gay uncle. (GLAAD.org, Oct. 19)

PLAYING GAY

“In some ways, gender should be irrelevant. It shouldn’t matter who someone is connected to and finds love and a life with. I hope [full federal equality] will come to be a reality for the LGBT world.”

— Actress Glenn Close, who plays a woman who lives as a man in 19th century Dublin in her film “Albert Nobbs.” (Windy City Times, Jan. 25)

“Gay characters are human beings. We’re all exactly the same. That’s the reason I played it the way I did, not as a caricature. … I know there is a lot of anti-gay sentiment in our society at the moment and I abhor it.”

Actor Christopher Plummer, who portrayed a gay man who came out after age 70 in the film “Beginners.” (On Top Magazine, Jan. 30)

“’Truth’ is our small chance to ask that you try and understand someone who lives their life in a way that is a little bit different from yours, even though all of our hearts are the same. We want to stop the hate and find understanding.”

— Pop icon Janet Jackson on why she is serving as executive director for “Truth,” a documentary about transgender people and their fight for equality. (Advocate.com, June 4)

GOOD SPORTS

“I guess [coming out publicly] seems like a weight off my shoulders. I’ve been playing a lot better than I’ve ever played before. I think I’m just enjoying myself and I’m happy.”

Megan Rapinoe, a midfielder for the US women’s soccer team, who scored three goals on the way to the team’s gold medal. Rapinoe came out in the press before the start of the London Olympics. (Associated Press, Aug. 8)

“I find it inconceivable that one of your players, Mr. Brendon Ayanbadejo, would publicly endorse same-sex marriage… I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football Franchise Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employee…”

— Maryland General Assembly Delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. in an Aug. 29 letter, sent on official letterhead, to Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti. (Yahoo Sports, Sept. 6)

“I’ve also been vocal as hell about the issue of gay marriage so you can take your ‘I know of no other NFL player …’ and shove it in your close-minded, totally lacking in empathy piehole and choke on it. Asshole.”

— Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe in a hilariously profane open letter to Md. State Delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. (Deadspin.com, Sept. 7)

COURTING CONTROVERSY

“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’”

Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, noting that his company is “guilty as charged” in opposing same-sex marriage. (Comments published by Baptist Press on July 16)

“The comments …  that sought to link the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy to our state’s embrace of marriage equality are as offensive as they are ignorant.”

— New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, responding to Rabbi Noson Leiter, who called Hurricane Sandy “divine” retribution for New York legalizing gay marriage. (New York Daily News, Nov. 5)

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At 15, restored ‘Shortbus’ is still a movie ahead of its time

Depictions of real sex among actors raised eyebrows

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Paul Dawson and PJ DeBoy in ‘Shortbus.’ (Photo courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories)

When it debuted in 2006, John Cameron Mitchell’s “Shortbus” – which this month receives a special 15th anniversary re-release in the form of a sumptuous new 4K restoration – was described by Variety as being “unquestionably the most sexually graphic American narrative feature ever made outside the realm of the porn industry.”

That description arguably still holds true, and it was not hyperbole. Mitchell, fresh off the success of both the stage and film versions of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” had deliberately set out to make a film exploring “the language of sex as a metaphor for other aspects of the characters’ lives.” He solicited videotaped submissions from would-be cast members – whether they were trained actors or not – who were open to the experience of performing in sexually explicit material, then collaborated with the chosen players over a two-and-a-half-year process of improvisational workshops to create the story and script. When the cameras finally started rolling, the cast had already developed a level of emotional and physical intimacy that allowed them to deliver unprecedented authenticity. Almost all the sex scenes were un-simulated – and indeed, according to Mitchell, all but one of the many orgasms that take place in the film are real.

It’s not surprising that “Shortbus” would garner a lot of attention 15 years ago for its bold approach to onscreen sex, considering that real sex on film is still largely considered a taboo in the mainstream. What’s surprising is that it generated relatively little outrage or backlash from the conservative crowd. There were detractors, of course, whose pearl-clutching reaction to the idea of such a film was simply to decry it as “pornography,” and it was banned in some foreign markets with draconian censorship laws regarding sexual content; nevertheless, thanks to Mitchell’s established reputation as an artist and the enthusiastic response it received at the Cannes Film Festival, the movie managed a reasonably widespread release across major markets in the United States without raising too many eyebrows, meeting with a mostly favorable response from both critics and audiences – at least the audiences who weren’t too squeamish to go and see it.

Those who did quickly found themselves drawn into the lives of a collection of young New Yorkers, all struggling to find meaning, connection, and gratification in a city still reeling from the tragedy of 9/11 and the frustrations of Bush-era politics. There’s Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee), a sex therapist who has never had an orgasm, and her attentive but increasingly bewildered husband Rob (Raphael Barker), whose own sexual needs are not being met, either; there’s Jamie (PJ DeBoy) and James (Paul Dawson), a former child TV star and his ex-hustler boyfriend who are looking to open up their relationship to others, and Caleb (Peter Stickles), a voyeuristic neighbor who lives vicariously through stalking them and obsessively following their lives; and finally, there’s Severin (Lindsay Beamish), a professional dominatrix frustrated over her inability to make emotional connections. Along with other sexual pilgrims of the New York underground scene, they come together at Shortbus, a weekly “salon” dedicated to art, music, politics, and polysexual carnality.

At the time of its initial release, “Shortbus” felt for many – perhaps even most – like a glimpse into another world, an erotic utopia where sexual freedom and experimentation were not only “normal” but incorporated into a holistic view of life and used as a valid avenue for achieving personal growth. Seen today, what strikes the viewer most is just how far ahead of its time Mitchell’s purposefully transgressive movie really was. Though we haven’t quite reached a cultural place where the freewheeling and permissive sexuality it depicts has been fully embraced by all, many of the then-arcane sexual concepts it presents – polyamory, BDSM, “pegging” – no longer carry the same sense of transgressive danger they once did in the mainstream cultural imagination. More importantly, the attitude of sex-positivity it champions has become far more widespread in our modern world, thanks in no small part to the increased visibility and acceptance of “non-traditional” sexual practices in popular media.

There’s also an unexpected – indeed, almost eerie – resonance to be found in the underlying zeitgeist of the film’s post-9/11 New York, as reflected in the existential crises with which its characters resignedly grapple. This is particularly notable in the secretly depressed James (Dawson’s sensitive portrayal of his mental health struggles provides the emotional heart of the movie), but any of the characters could easily be transplanted into the COVID-exhausted world of 2022 and seem just as much at home.

For all that looming heaviness in the air, though, “Shortbus” remains as refreshingly upbeat and unexpectedly joyful as it was 15 years ago – and that’s not just because of the sex. Mitchell, in talking about making the film, says he did not “necessarily seek to be erotic.”

“In the years I was making ‘Hedwig,’ he says, “I welcomed the fact that movies were exploring sexual frankness again, as some had in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but I regretted the fact that most of the new ones were so grim and humorless. Sex seemed just as connected to negativity as it was for, say, Christian conservatives. I guess it’s understandable. I was brought up in a strict Catholic/military environment where sex was the scariest thing imaginable, which, of course, made it fascinating. I decided to make a New York-style, emotionally challenging comedy that would be sexually frank, thought-provoking, and, if possible, funny.”

True to that goal, “Shortbus” feels for most of its running time like a light-hearted romp. Justin Vivian Bond, playing themself as the host of the film’s titular salon, brings a buoyant sense of humor to the movie that pervades even when they’re not onscreen, and the colorful community of background characters – including an Ed Koch lookalike who confides in a young potential hook-up that he was “once the mayor of New York City” – provide a constant stream of memorable comedic moments throughout. There’s even an overtly farcical sequence involving a remote-control orgasmic egg, which would not seem at all out of place in a 1960s screwball comedy from Blake Edwards.

Still, to downplay the sexiness of “Shortbus” would be to ignore its most enduring legacy. After all, it’s a film that features graphic sex between various combinations of gender, including extended scenes of three-ways, orgies, rimming, cunnilingus, fellatio, self-sucking, and full-on penetration of multiple orifices. Yes, some of it may arouse you – but the real power of sex in this film has to do with the fact that, unlike porn or even most “tasteful” Hollywood sex scenes, the intention is not so much to turn us on but to help us get over it.

As Mitchell puts it, “In the current and important campaign to correct social wrongs, sometimes sex itself gets a bad name. To some today, any kind of sex on screen is exploitation… Let’s not let our need for safety and justice boomerang us back to our default American Puritanism. Sex between consenting respectful adults is one of the great joys and mysteries of our lives. No need to panic. 

“Let’s just lie back and think of each other.”

The new 4K restoration of “Shortbus” opens theatrically in New York City on January 26, followed by an expansion to other cities across the US. You can find information about theatres and dates at the Oscilloscope Laboratories Website.

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Arts & Entertainment

Amy Schneider’s Jeopardy! winning streak ends at 40 games

Transgender contestant is the highest-earning woman in competition’s history

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(Photo Courtesy Casey Durkin/ Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)

Amy Schneider‘s record-setting Jeopardy! winning streak came to an end on Wednesday’s show after getting tripped up on the Final Jeopardy! clue.

Schneider is the first transgender contestant to qualify for the Tournament of Champions, and she’s the highest-earning woman in the competition’s history, with a total of $1,382,800 from 40 wins.

Schneider was leading by $10,000 as the contestants headed into the all-important “Final Jeopardy!” category, she failed to answer the clue. It was, “The only nation in the world whose name in English ends in an H, it’s also one of the 10 most populous.” Contestant Rhone Talsma managed to overtake Schneider when she answered, “What is Bangladesh?” the correct response. Schneider ended up with $19,600 versus Talsma’s $29,600.

“I think that the best part for me has been being on TV as my true self, expressing myself and representing the entire community of trans people,” Schneider told Good Morning America this week. “And just kind of showing a different thing than maybe some people have seen, of just being a smart, confident woman and just doing something super normal, like being on Jeopardy!.”

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Opinions

A Revolution for Women in Baseball

Last week, they announced that Rachel Balkovec will become the first woman to manage a team in minor league baseball.

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Rachel Balkovec was hired as a hitting coach in the Yankees’ system in 2019. She will now manage the Class A Tampa Tarpons.Credit. Photo Courtesy of Rachel Balkovec/Instagram.

The Yankees were late on introducing an African-American player to their roster, adding Hall of Famer Elston Howard to the team in 1955, eight years after Jackie Robinson starred for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  The Yankees seem determined not to repeat that bad history.  Last week, they announced that Rachel Balkovec will become the first woman to manage a team in minor league baseball when she takes the helm of the Tampa Tarpons this spring. 

It has been just over ten years since Justin Siegal threw batting practice to the Cleveland Guardians and five since she was the first woman to coach a MLB squad with the Oakland Athletics.  Two years ago, Kim Ng became the first female General Manager of any of the four major professional sports when the Marlins hired her to run their team.  In the two years since then, the dam has burst.  Women have been hired to important on-field positions with professional baseball at an impressive clip.  As baseball has lagged behind other professional sports in bringing women into the game, the current pace of hires indicates that baseball’s embrace of analytics and objective measures have finally penetrated the walls of one of the most enduring old boys clubs in the U.S. and given talented women opportunities they have long been denied.

Ten women will be coaching with major or minor league teams in 2022.  In 2021, Bianca Smith became the first African-American woman to coach in the minors when the Red Sox hired her. Alyssa Nakken became the first woman in uniform during a Major League Baseball game when she coached first base for the Giants in a July 2020 exhibition against the Oakland A’s.  Her jersey now belongs to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Cuban-American Veronica Alvarez is not only the coach of the U.S. Women’s National Baseball team, she also served as a spring training coach for the Oakland A’s.

The proliferation of women in baseball is not an accident.  More girls than ever are playing baseball.  Here, in the DC area, 160 girls participated with D.C. Girls Baseball in 2021.  Baseball for All, an organization that supports and promotes girls in baseball, held a tournament last summer that drew nearly 600 girls who play baseball.  There are more women than ever on collegiate baseball rosters.  Major League Baseball has also devoted significant resources to girls and women in baseball, running several development camps for girls in baseball.  Six of the women now coaching professional baseball participated in MLB’s Take the Field initiative, which is designed to help place women into baseball positions. To top it all off, the classic film about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, A League of Their Own, is getting a reboot on Amazon Prime this year.

The pace of hiring is exhilarating.  Unfortunately, every report of a woman being hired is followed by predictable hateful commentary on social media.  Many cannot imagine that a woman may be hired for a baseball position on merit and resort to making sexist and derogatory comments.  As women in baseball, the coaches are used to that vitriol and have developed thick skin and sophisticated defense mechanisms.  However, also reading are thousands of girls who are inspired by the achievements of these women and they are, sadly, learning that to achieve in baseball means enduring the sexist taunts, gross come-ons, and hurtful comments.

Baseball has a long way to go.  Other leagues have women officiating games, so it should be reasonable to expect that baseball will have women umpires in the near future.  The possibility of women playing professional baseball is tantalizingly close as 17 year old Genevieve Beacom made history last week as the first women to play Australian professional baseball, when she threw a scoreless inning against the Adelaide Giants.

We are watching a revolution in baseball unfold before our eyes. 

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