Friday, June 28, 2013

On Brokeback Mountain: Remembering Queer Lives and Loves Never Fully Realized

The Wild Reed’s 2013 Queer Appreciation series continues with an excerpt from an essay by Annie Proulx from the book Brokeback Mountain: Story to Screenplay. Proulx, as I’m sure many of you know, is the author of the 1997 short story “Brokeback Mountain,” which in 2005 was made into a critically-acclaimed film.

“Brokeback Mountain,” insists Proulx, is not a “tale of two gay cowboys” but rather a “story of destructive rural homophobia.” Is it appropriate, then, to highlight such a story as part of a “Queer Appreciation” series?

I believe it is appropriate, and here's why: First, we need to remember and honor the reality that the encountering of adversity has always been a defining aspect of queer experience and identity. Second, in the wake of the historic gay rights advances that have recently taken place in the United States, I feel it's important to acknowledge, and in some way honor, all those queer lives and loves throughout history that have been overwhelmed by adversity and thus were never fully realized. In her fictitious characters of Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist, Annie Proulx brings to vivid realization two such lives in "Brokeback Mountain." Indeed, as you’ll read in the excerpt below, one of the "small things, here and there" that helped Proulx construct her story and its central characters was her observation of an older ranch hand whose gaze one night in a bar was "fastened" on some pool-playing young cowboys. "Maybe he was following the game," writes Proulx, "maybe he knew the players, maybe one was his son or nephew, but there was something in his expression, a kind of bitter longing, that made me wonder if he was country gay."

As I mentioned, many of us are celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent rulings in favor of marriage equality. And without doubt they are rulings worth celebrating. But there are still many countries throughout the world and many places within the United States where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people live in uncertainty and fear. I lift this reality up not to be a downer, but to remind us that the journey continues, and to perhaps galvanize our commitment to complete the work that still needs to be done.

So, on that note, here is the excerpt from Annie Proulx's essay in Brokeback Mountain: From Story to Screen that I wish to share this evening. It's supplemented by images from Ang Lee's award-winning 2005 film Brokeback Mountain, starring Heath Ledger as Ennis del Mar and Jake Gyllenhaal as Jack Twist.

Close Range contains nine stories, including "Brokeback Mountain," ostensibly concerned with Wyoming landscape and making a living in hard, isolated livestock-raising communities dominated by white masculine values, but also holding subliminal fantasies. Most of the stories are loosely based on historical events, as the botched castration in "People in Hell Just Want a Drink of Water." "Brokeback" was not connected to any one incident, but based on a coalescence of observations over many years, small things here and there.

Sometime in early 1997 the story took shape. One night in a bar upstate I had noticed an older ranch hand, maybe in his late sixties, obviously short on the world's luxury goods. Although spruced up for Friday night his clothes were a little ragged, boots stained and worn. I had seen him around, working cows, helping with sheep, taking orders from a ranch manager. He was thin and lean, muscular in a stringy kind of way. He leaned against the back wall and his eyes were fastened not on the dozens of handsome and flashing women in the room but on the young cowboys playing pool. Maybe he was following the game, maybe he knew the players, maybe one was his son or nephew, but there was something in his expression, a kind of bitter longing, that made me wonder if he was country gay. Then I began to consider what it might have been like for him – not the real person against the wall, but for any ill-informed, confused, not-so-sure-of-what-he-was-feeling youth growing up in homophobic rural Wyoming. A few weeks later I listened to the vicious rant of an elderly bar-café owner who was incensed that two "homos" had come in the night before and ordered dinner. She said that if her bar regulars had been there (it was darts tournament night) things would have gone badly for them. "Brokeback" was constructed on the small but tight idea of a couple of home-grown country kids, opinions and self-knowledge shaped by the world around them, finding themselves in emotional waters of increasing depth. I wanted to develop the story through a kind of literary sostenente.

The early sixties seemed the right time period. The two characters had to grow up on isolated hardscrabble ranches and were clearly homophobic themselves, especially the Ennis character. Both wanted to be cowboys, be part of the Great Western Myth, but it didn't work out that way; Ennis never got to be more than a rough-cut ranch hand and Jack Twist chose rodeo as an expression of cowboy. Neither of them was ever a top hand, and they met herding sheep, animals most real cowpokes despise. Although they were not really cowboys (the word "cowboy" is often used derisively in the west by those who do ranch work), the urban critics dubbed it a tale of two gay cowboys. No. It is a story of destructive rural homophobia. Although there are many places in Wyoming where gay men did and do live together in harmony with the community, it should not be forgotten that a year after this story was published Matthew Shepard was tied to a buck fence outside the most enlightened town in the state, Laramie, home of the University of Wyoming. Note, too, the fact that Wyoming has the highest suicide rate in the country, and that the preponderance of those people who kill themselves are elderly single men.

In my mind isolation and altitude – the fictional Brokeback Mountain, a place both of empowering and inimical – began to shape the story. The mountain had to force everything that happened to these two young men. I have many times heard Wyomingites who have gone east for one reason or another talk about how badly they missed their natural terrain, the long sight lines, the clear thin air, how claustrophobic were trees and how dead the atmosphere without the constant flow of wind, and I find it so myself. It seemed to me that the story could only balance on love, something all humans need and give, whether to one's children, parents, or a lover of the opposite or same sex. I wanted to explore both long-lasting love and its possible steep price tag, both homophobic antipathy and denial.

I knew this was a story loaded with taboos but I was driven to write it. The characters did something that, as a writer, I had never experienced before – they began to get very damn real. Usually I deal in obedient characters who do what they are told, but Jack and Ennis soon seemed more vivid than many of the flesh-and-blood people around me and there emerged an antiphonal back-and-forth relationship between writer and character. I’ve heard other writers mention this experience but it was the first time for me.

As I worked on the story over the next months scenes appeared and disappeared. (The story went through more than sixty revisions.) The mountain encounter had to be – shall we say? – "seminal" and brief. One spring, years before, I had been in the Big Horns and noticed distant flocks of sheep on great empty slopes. From the heights I had been able to see a hundred miles and more to the plains. In such isolated high country, away from opprobrious comment and watchful eyes, I thought it would be plausible for the characters to get into a sexual situation. That’s nothing new or out of the ordinary; livestock workers have blunt and full understanding of the sexual behaviors of man and beast. High lonesome situation, a couple of guys – expediency sometimes rules and nobody needs to talk about it and that’s how it is. One old sheep rancher, dead now, used to say he always sent up two men to tend the sheep "so's if they get lonesome they can poke each other." From that perspective Aguirre, the hiring man, would have winked and said nothing, and Ennis's remark to Jack that this was a one-shot deal would have been accurate. The complicating factor was that they both fell into once-in-a-lifetime love. I strove to give Jack and Ennis depth and complexity and so mirror real life by rasping that love against the societal norms that both men obeyed, both of them marrying and begetting children, both loving their children, and, in a way, their wives.

. . . It was a hard story to write. Sometimes it took weeks to get the right phrase or descriptor for particular characters. I remember vividly that, driving on Owl Canyon Road in Colorado down over the state line one afternoon and thinking of Jack Twist’s father, the expression "stud duck," which I had heard somewhere, came to me as the right way to succinctly describe that hard little man, and a curve in the road became the curve that killed Ennis's parents. The scene for the kiss when Jack and Ennis reunite after four years occurred in its entirety as I drove past the Laramie cement plant – so much for scenery. In fact I did most of the "writing" while I was driving. The most difficult scene was the paragraph where, on the mountain, Ennis holds Jack and rocks back and forth, humming, the moment mixed with childhood loss and his refusal to admit he was holding a man. This paragraph took forever to get right and I played Charlie Haden and Pat Metheny's "Spiritual" from their album Beyond the Missouri Sky (Short Stories) uncountable times trying to get the words. I was trying to write the inchoate feelings of Jack and Ennis, the sad impossibility of their liaison, which for me was expressed in that music. To this day I cannot hear that track without Jack and Ennis appearing before me. The scraps that feed a story come from many cupboards.

I was an aging female writer, married too many times, and though I have a few gay friends, there were things I was not sure about. I talked with a sheep rancher to be sure that it was historically accurate to use a couple of white ranch kids as flock tenders in the early sixties, for I knew that in previous decades it had been mostly Basques who did the job, and today it is often men from the South American countries. But jobs were scarce in Wyoming in that period and even married couples with children got hired to herd sheep. One of my oldest friends, Tom Watkin, with whom I once published a rural newspaper, read and commented on the story as it developed. I thought too much about this story. It was supposed to be Ennis who had dreams about Jack but I had dreams about both of them. I still had little distance from it when it was published in The New Yorker on October 13, 1997. I expected letters from outraged relgio-moral types, but instead got them from men, quite a few of them Wyoming ranch hands and cowboys and the fathers of men, who said "you told my story" or "I now understand what my son went through." I still, eight years later, get those heart-wrenching letters.

– Annie Proulx

NEXT: Manly Love

For more on Brokeback Mountain at The Wild Reed, see:
Christian Draz's Critique of Brokeback Mountain
Frank D. Myers' Long Hard Look at Brokeback Mountain
Digging Deeper on Brokeback Mountain
The Shadow of the Closet on Brokeback Mountain
Heath Ledger (1979-2008)

For previous posts in The Wild Reed's 2013 Queer Appreciation series, see:
Doing Papa Proud
Jesse Bering: "It’s Time to Throw 'Sexual Preference' into the Vernacular Trash"
Dan Savage on How Leather Guys, Dykes on Bikes, Go-Go Boys, and Drag Queens Have Helped the LGBT Movement

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Liberated to Be Together

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Something to Think About . . .


Related Off-site Links:
Cardinal Timothy Dolan: "Today is a Tragic Day for Marriage and Our Nation" – Dylan Stableford (Yahoo! News, June 26, 2013).
On Marriage, the Court Rules and the Catholic Bishops Respond – Rocco Palmo (Whispers in the Loggia, June 26, 2013).
Best of the Worst: Right-wing Responses to the Court – Alex Halperin (Salon, June 2013).
Conservative Christian Pundits Say They're the Real Victims in the Gay Marriage Fight Now – Elspeth Reeve (Atlantic Wire via Yahoo! News, June 27, 2013).

Image: Brian McFadden.

Quote of the Day

Catholic lay people across the U.S. and in California have worked hard to support their deeply held Catholic belief that equal treatment by our government’s laws should be extended to lesbian and gay couples who want to marry. Catholics hold this belief because of their faith, not in spite of it. Our Catholic social justice tradition motivates us to work for strong families and expansive social protections, and these can only be achieved when all families are treated fairly and equally under the law.

– Francis DeBernardo

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Defense of Marriage Act
Doing Papa Proud
Jonathan Capehart: "Catholics Lead the Way on Same-Sex Marriage"
In the Struggle for Marriage Equality, MN Catholics are Making a Difference by Changing Hearts and Minds
The Minneapolis (and Online) Premiere of Catholics for Marriage Equality
A Head and Heart Response to the Catholic Hierarchy's Opposition to Marriage Equality
Drawing the Circle Wide
Patrick Hornbeck on Why Good Catholics Are Challenging Church Line on Homosexuality
Francis DeBernardo: "The Church is Better Because of the Presence of LGBT People"
Marriage: "Part of What is Best in Human Nature
Marriage Equality Comes to Minnesota
Rediscovering What Has Been Written on Our Hearts from the Very Beginning
Tips on Speaking as a Catholic in Support of Marriage Equality
God Weighs In on the Gay Marriage Debate

Recommended Off-site Link:
Catholic Coalition Celebrates Supreme Court Decisions on Marriage EqualityEqually Blessed (June 26, 2013).

Breaking News: US Supreme Court Strikes Down Defense Of Marriage Act

Rules It Interferes with ‘Dignity’ of Same-Sex Marriages

Reports National Public Radio:

In a highly anticipated ruling today, the Supreme Court ruled the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

"DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment," SCOTUSblog reports.

The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, barring federal recognition of same-sex marriages for purposes such as Social Security survivors' benefits, insurance benefits, immigration and tax filing.

Section 3 of the law defines marriage as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife" and a spouse as "a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife." That provision had been struck down by eight lower courts before the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling in United States v. Windsor.

The majority opinion was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

We're still waiting on another major decision on gay marriage which concerns California's ban on gay marriage.

Update: Notes Liz Goodwin of Yahoo! News:

The court also dismissed a case involving California's gay marriage ban, ruling that supporters of the ban did not have the legal standing, or right, to appeal a lower court's decision striking down Proposition 8 as discriminatory. The decision clears the way for gay marriage to again be legal in the nation's most populous state, even though the justices did not address the broader legal argument that gay people have a fundamental right to marriage.

Related Off-site Links:
Supreme Court DOMA Decision Rules Federal Same-Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional – Ryan J. Reilly (The Huffington Post, June 26, 2013).
Supreme Court Strikes Federal Marriage Provision – Mark Sherman (Associated Press via Yahoo! News, June 26, 2013).
Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA; Rules It Interferes with States, ‘Dignity’ of Same-Sex Marriages – Liz Goodwin (Yahoo! News, June 26, 2013).
Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA on Historic Day for Gay Rights in America – Dan Roberts and Amanda Holpuch (The Guardian, June 26, 2013).
Supreme Court Delivers Wins for Gay Marriage Movement – Lawrence Hurley (Reuters, June 26, 2013).
A Big Day for Gay: Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA and Prop. 8 – Erin Gloria Ryan (Jezebel, June 26, 2013).

A Home Run But Not a Grand Slam for Gay Marriage Advocates – Amy Howe (, June 26, 2013).
Minutes After Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA, Immigration Judge Stops Deportation Of Married Gay Man – Esther Yu-Hsi Lee (, June 26, 2013).
The Larger Stakes in the Supreme Court Marriage Cases – Richard Socarides (The New Yorker, June 26, 2013).
California Moves Fast on Gay Marriages – Lyle Denniston (, June 26, 2013).
Best of the Worst: Right-wing Responses to the Court – Alex Halperin (Salon, June 2013).
On Marriage, the Court Rules and the Catholic Bishops Respond – Rocco Palmo (Whispers in the Loggia, June 26, 2013).
Cardinal Timothy Dolan: "Today is a Tragic Day for Marriage and Our Nation" – Dylan Stableford (Yahoo! News, June 26, 2013).
Catholic Group New Ways Ministry Welcomes Supreme Court Decisions on Marriage Equality – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, June 26, 2013).
Catholic Coalition Celebrates Supreme Court Decisions on Marriage EqualityEqually Blessed (June 26, 2013).
Timeline of Gay Marriage in the United StatesReuters (June 26, 2013).
Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer – A Love So Strong It Could Take Down DOMA – Jean Ann Esselink (The New Civil Rights Movement, June 26, 2013).
The Supreme Court Makes History: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back – Amy Goodman ( via Common Dreams, June 27, 2013).
Justice Kennedy's Marriage Ruling Is About Gay Rights, Not States' Rights – Garrett Epps (The Atlantic, June 26, 2013).
How the Supreme Court Defended Marriage – Amy Davidson (The New Yorker, June 27, 2013).
The Supreme Court Giveth and Taketh Away – Jamie Manson (National Catholic Reporter, June 27, 2013).
Suprme Court on Wednesday Provides Cover for the Agenda of Tuesday – Colleen Kochivar-Baker (Enlightened Catholicism, June 27, 2013).
Poll: Views on Gay Marriage Still Divided After Court Ruling – Lawrence Hurley (Reuters, June 28, 2013).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Marriage: "Part of What is Best in Human Nature
Marriage Equality Comes to Minnesota
Rediscovering What Has Been Written on Our Hearts from the Very Beginning

Image 1: Benjamin Wheelock/Salon and Brandon Bourdages via Shutterstock.
Image 2: Noah Berger/Associated Press.
Image 3: Photographer unknown.
Image 4: Photographer unknown.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer Storms In

In the Twin Cities last week, summer arrived in the form of two huge storms that brought a deluge of rain and high force winds. Thousands of trees were toppled and over 500,000 homes and businesses lost power – many for several days.

The Star Tribune reported yesterday that:

In Minneapolis, streets blocked by downed trees were so common in some neighborhoods that emergency vehicles and Metro Transit bus drivers were forced to hunt for routes through the wreckage left by the storms that began Friday morning and continued through the weekend.

I experienced this street-blocking wreckage first-hand today when I delivered a meals-on-wheels route in south Minneapolis. There were trees down everywhere.

My home escaped damage but I know people who lost power last Friday night and had it restored only just yesterday. Still, as damaging and inconvenient as the storms have been, I'm grateful there were no fatalities or series injuries.

Related Off-site Links:

Storm Clean Up Continues, No Species of Tree Spared – Tim Sherno (KSTP News, June 25, 2013).
Minneapolis Homeowners Blame Root Cuts for Downed Trees – Steve Brandt (Star Tribune, June 25, 2013).
Xcel Energy Says Power Back for 95% – Paul Walsh and Linda Coutre (Star Tribune, June 25, 2013).
Minneapolis Working to Clear Debris After Weekend Storms – Caitlin Burgess (Southwest Minneapolis Patch, June 22, 2013).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Superstorm Sandy: A 'Wake-Up Call' on Climate Change
A Wild Afternoon in Minneapolis

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Dan Savage on How Leather Guys, Dykes on Bikes, Go-Go Boys, and Drag Queens Have Helped the LGBT Movement

The Wild Reed’s 2013 Queer Appreciation series continues with an excerpt from a piece by author, media pundit, and columnist Dan Savage. It's a response to a reader of Savage's column who expressed concern that events like San Francisco's annual Folsom Street Fair may be harming the LGBT civil rights movement.

Savage's response is helpful though limited in depth, no doubt owing to the spacial limitations of any type of 'advice column.' For a more in-depth exploration of the Folsom Street Fair, see this previous Wild Reed post. I'll say from the outset that I have no major issues with "leather men, dykes on bikes, go-go boys and drag queens" – unless, of course, their words and/or actions are cruel, unjust or hurtful. But then that goes for everyone, in my book.

I should also add that I'm not a huge fan of Dan Savage, and part of the reason why is exemplified when, in the excerpt below, he says: "Our movement is about the freedom to be whatever kind of straight, gay, lesbian, bi, or trans person you want to be. And freedom, as Dick Cheney famously said, means freedom for everyone – from pantsuit-wearing POS [piece-of-shit] sellouts like Mary Cheney and Chris Barron to kinky straight people and hot boys in harness."

And my problem with this? Well, basically, I find Savage's labeling of others as 'POS sell-outs' troubling, especially as he's clearly using an unspoken criteria of his own devising. Keep in mind that Savage, through his column, likes to present himself as an 'out there' kind of guy; a sexual renegade, if you like. Yet by certain 'queer' criteria, Savage himself is a 'sell-out' by 'mimicking the straights' and marrying his partner Terry Miller. As a friend of mine recently noted, Savage has the annoying habit of 'talking from both sides of his mouth.' It's a pitfall, I guess, of being a 'talking head' in the sensationalist-driven realm of the corporate media – a realm far less complex and demanding of thoughtfulness than the real world. All that being said, Savage does make some good points in the following response to one of his readers.

The Folsom Street Fair [right] has taken place on a Sunday in September in San Francisco every year since 1984. Pride parades have been taking place on a Sunday in June in cities all over the country since the early 1970s. And every year, we hear from concern trolls about the damage that's supposedly being done to the LGBT rights movement by all those drag queens, go-go boys, dykes, and leather guys at Pride or Folsom or International Mr. Leather.

But everyone acknowledges – even our enemies – that the gay rights movement has made extraordinary strides in the 43 years since the Stonewall [Uprising] in New York City. We're not all the way there yet, we have yet to secure our full civil equality, but the pace of progress has been unprecedented in the history of social justice movements. The women's suffrage movement, for example, was launched in the United States in 1848. It took more than 70 years to pass the 19th Amendment, which extended the vote to women. In 1969, at the time of the Stonewall [Uprising], gay sex was illegal in 49 states. Gay sex is now legal in every US state, gay marriage is legal in six states and our nation's capital (and in all of Canada), and gays, lesbians, and bisexuals can serve openly in the military. (The armed forces still discriminate against trans people.) And we've made this progress despite fierce opposition from the religious right, a deadly plague that wiped out a generation of gay men, and – gasp – all those leather guys at Folsom and go-go boys and drag queens at Pride.

We couldn't come so far, so fast if Folsom or pride parades were harming our movement. And I would argue that leather guys, dykes on bikes, go-go boys, and drag queens have actually helped our movement, They demonstrate to all people that our movement isn't just about the freedom to be gay or straight. Our movement is about the freedom to be whatever kind of straight, gay, lesbian, bi, or trans person you want to be. And freedom, as Dick Cheney famously said, means freedom for everyone – from pantsuit-wearing POS sellouts like Mary Cheney and Chris Barron to kinky straight people and hot boys in harness.

I don't think it's a coincidence that cities with big pride parades and events like Folsom are more tolerant and more accepting of sexual minorities than cities that don't have big gay parades and fetish street fairs. If an event like Folsom were actually counterproductive, you would expect San Francisco to be less tolerant and less likely to back equal rights for sexual minorities, not more likely.

And finally, any attempt to shut down the Folsom Street Fair – or to ban drag queens, go-go boys, dykes on bikes, or leather guys from pride parades – would be so poisonously divisive that it would do more harm to our movement than a thousand Folsom Street Fairs ever could.

– Dan Savage

NEXT: On Brokeback Mountain: Remembering Queer Lives and Loves Never Fully Realized

For previous posts in The Wild Reed's 2013 Queer Appreciation series, see:
Doing Papa Proud
Jesse Bering: "It’s Time to Throw 'Sexual Preference' into the Vernacular Trash"

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Catholic League's New Poster Boy?
What Is It That Ails You?

Image 1: Participants of the 2012 Folsom Street Fair photographed by Fred Alert.
Image 2: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press (2011).

Monday, June 24, 2013

Pahá Sápa Adventure

Earlier this month I spent time in Pahá Sápa, which is the Lakota name for the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming. I traveled with my friends Kathleen and Joey, with whom I've shared a number of road trips over the years, including to St. Louis in 2008, Trempealeau Mountain in 2009, Wisconsin in 2010, and Kansas City in 2012. We were accompanied on this year's trip by Will, a friend of Joey.

We visited many areas of both natural beauty and historic significance in both South Dakota and northwestern Nebraska, including Mount Rushmore (above), Custer State Park, the Crazy Horse Memorial, the town of Hot Springs, SD, Fort Robinson, NE, and the Badlands.

Part 1: The Journey Begins

Our trip started on the afternoon of Friday, June 7, 2013 when we left Minneapolis and headed west. Our dinner stop that evening was in the southwestern Minnesota town of Pipestone (above). The town is named after the red stone quarried by Native Americans to make pipe bowls.

Left: With Will and Joey outside Los Tulipanes, the great little Mexican restaurant we found in Pipestone. It opened just last year.

Above: South Dakota skies – Friday, June 7, 2013. Our first night was spent in a motel in the South Dakota capital of Pierre. We arrived at around midnight, just as a huge thunderstorm was unleashing an impressive display of lightening and a torrential downpour! We all got absolutely soaked just scurrying with our bags from the car to the motel lobby!

Above and left: The next day, Saturday, June 8, we drove to Wall, South Dakota, famous for it's drug store, and for being the northern gateway to the Badlands National Park.

Above, right and below: Views at the northeastern edge of the Badlands.

NEXT: The Badlands

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Pahá Sápa Bound

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Quote of the Day

Traditionally, a journalist was recognized as someone who compiled information to be presented as news through a chosen medium. The transmission vessel could be a newspaper, a television or a radio.

. . . Now, new media [has] altered the idea altogether of who can be a journalist. I like to believe everyone can be and should be journalists. When we see something important, we should write about it, photograph it, or record audio and share it with as many people as possible.

That’s what both [Glenn] Greenwald and [Julian] Assange did. They held important information that showed ways the U.S. government was lying to the public, and revealed it. Assange showed the slaughter of civilians [by sharing via WikiLeaks information leaked by Bradley Manning]. Greenwald revealed spying on Americans [by reporting information leaked by Edward Snowden].

Both men took courageous leaps. As the mainstream media runs to the side of Greenwald and other traditionally recognized “watchdogs of democracy,” they should remember what happened to Assange. The next time reporters expose government lies, they too might be labeled "high-tech terrorist."

– J. Andres Araiza

Related Off-site Links:
Greenwald Slams Obama Over Snowden Espionage Charges – Tracy Bloom (, June 22, 2013).
NBC's David Gregory Attempts to Criminalize Glenn Greenwald – Alexander Reed Kelly (, June 23, 2013).
Edward Snowden and the NSA FilesThe Guardian, June 23, 2013).
Edward Snowden: Profile in Courage – Christopher H. Pyle (Common Dreams, June 10, 2013).
Support NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden, Says Julian Assange – Tom Dart (The Guardian, June 22, 2013).
Pelosi Critical of Snowden, Clashes With Left – David Weigel (Slate via Reader Supported News, June 23, 2013).
Edward Snowden Seeks Asylum in Ecuador Amid Diplomatic Storm – Tania Branigan, Miriam Elder and Nick Hopkins (The Guardian, June 23, 2013).
The Judicial Lynching of Bradley Manning – Chris Hedges (, June 9, 2013).
The Bradley Manning Trial: Everything You Need to Know – Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai (, June 3, 2013).
Whistleblowing 2.0: From the Pentagon Papers to Bradley Manning to PRISM – Patrick McCurdy (Waging Nonviolence via, June 23, 2013).
Obama's Aversion to Leaks Channels Reagan – Kevin Gosztola (Salon via Reader Supported News, June 23, 2013).
Obama’s Second Term of Betrayals – Tremors of the Coming Revolt – Patrick Ayers (Socialist Alternative, June 23, 2013).
Obama, Cheney and Snowden’s Revelations – Bill Van Auken (World Socialist Web Site, June 19, 2013).
So When Will Dick Cheney Be Charged With Espionage? – Juan Cole (Reader Supported News, June 23, 2013).
For Obama, a World of Snowden Troubles – Warren Strobel and Paul Eckert (Reuters via Yahoo! News, June, 23, 2013).
The Deeper Meaning of Mass Spying in America – James Petras (Axis of Logic, June 15, 2013).
Understanding the Latest Leaks is Understanding the Rise of a New Fascism – John Pilger (, June 20, 2013).

The Pursuit of Edward Snowden: Washington in a Rage, Striving to Run the World – Norman Solomon (Common Dreams, June 24, 2013).
Glenn Greenwald is 'Aiding and Abetting' Democracy – John Nichols (The Nation, June 24, 2013).
Demonizing Edward Snowden: Which Side Are You On? – John Cassidy (The New Yorker, June 24, 2013).

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Progressive Perspectives on WikiLeaks

Image: "The Death of Truth" by Mr. Fish.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Jesse Bering: "It’s Time to Throw 'Sexual Preference' into the Vernacular Trash"

I realized this morning that my previous post could well serve as the first in this year's Wild Reed series celebrating Gay Pride Month . . . or, as I now like to think of it, Queer Appreciation Month.

So here now is the second installment of this year's series. It's comprised of highlights from a very informative and insightful piece by writer and psychologist Jesse Bering (right) in which he makes a very compelling case for dumping the term 'sexual preference.'

There are some phrases that should just be done away with, but over time they are used and heard so routinely that we develop a sort of soft spot for them and can’t bear the thought of chopping off their heads. The term “sexual preference”—at least when it’s used interchangeably with “sexual orientation”—is one of these seemingly harmless phrases whose cultural execution, I’d say in this month of pride, is long overdue.

This is more than a matter of pedantics, and it’s definitely not one of political correctness. You’re more than entitled to continue using “sexual preference” right alongside “the gay lifestyle” or “avowed homosexual” or whatever term you’d like to broadcast just how dense you really are. Just know that it’s simply flat-out incorrect to refer to a person’s sexual orientation as a “preference.” More than that, it’s dangerous.

. . . [I]t’s a quietly toxic expression. That’s because the very construct of a preference, or the verb “to prefer,” implies that the individual has a choice, that there are options available and yet, all else being equal and as a matter of taste, really, the person would rather “this one” over “that one.” Think how bizarre it would sound if we were to apply the same language to any other unalterable biological trait. “Suit yourself, and to each his own,” we might reason, “but my preference is to have hands this size, not that size.” Or perhaps, “It’s perfectly fine to go with a darker birthmark on your leg, I just preferred to get mine on my arm, and in this lighter shade of brown, too.” In fact, while we’re on skin color, this flawed logic would, of course, also extend to a person’s opting to be black, white, Asian, or any other race or ethnicity as a preference.

If there’s anything that the science of sexuality has taught us over the past few decades, it’s that human beings have little—if any—conscious control over what arouses them. That’s the case for men and women, gay, straight, or bi. Therefore, to say that one has a preference for males over females, or females over males, makes little sense, since it gives the impression that one had every opportunity to choose what to be turned on by. A straight man who is aroused by beautiful women may wonder how gay men could possibly “prefer” men instead, but from a gay man’s perspective, those beautiful women aren’t even an option—they’re in an entirely different, non-erotic category altogether.

One can speak of sexual preferences correctly, perhaps, when it comes to people of the same sexual orientation having different tastes or being attracted to different types, such as a straight woman who prefers men with beards while another is more into the clean-shaven look, or a gay man who prefers more masculine partners while another is into campy characters. It’s also logical enough to use “sexual preference” in the sense of sexual activities—a lesbian who prefers to give rather than to receive oral sex, for instance, or a straight man who prefers sex while standing up rather than lying in bed.

And perhaps it’s justifiable to use “sexual preference” in some limited sense with bisexuals, who really are equally (or at least notably) aroused by both sexes. A bisexual person might have a hankering for one or the other at any given time and prefer to be with a man or a woman in the same way that, while we like them both, tonight we’re more in the mood for Chinese than Mexican food. Even here, though, it can quickly become problematic to adopt the sexual preference language, since it insinuates that bisexuals have the option of being gay or straight like everyone else, they just can’t make up their minds whether it’s males or females that they’d prefer to have sex with.

By contrast, the language of “sexual orientation” avoids these types of conceptual pitfalls altogether, because it correctly conveys the scientifically accurate view that being gay, bi, or straight is a matter only of what our brains—and our genitals—“orient” to sexually. We’re given no options in that process. Whichever way our erotic antennae point isn’t for us to decide.

For most of us, our brains were tuned to be gay or straight before we were born. Once we became sexually mature, we realized that the world was carved up for us into erotic and non-erotic categories. There’s nothing “out there” that’s objectively sexual. Instead, our minds sexualize the scene before us, and the very same target in two people’s direct line of sight can be seen as two very different things. . . . All of this logic goes for the sexual paraphilias, too, which are primary patterns of arousal that lie outside the norm. The paraphilias, of course, are less tolerated as a whole than simply being gay, straight, or bi, and we argue over which groups get to use the term sexual orientation, but I see no rational reason not to regard the paraphilias as their own distinct sexual orientations. They’re notoriously difficult to study, but most scientists believe that paraphilias arise through a process of early childhood “sexual imprinting,” especially in males. The point is that whether it happens in the womb or in the first several years of life, a person’s sexual orientation, whatever it is, isn’t an option that he or she preferred over another. It’s a lens forged upon our brains that sexualizes the world for us in a distinctive way. It just is. There’s no moralizing in this scenario. Zero.

I’m happy to moralize until I’m blue in the face, though, when it comes to those who’d continue proselytizing by using the embarrassing “choice” and “lifestyle” rhetoric. And I think it’s time to throw “preference” into the vernacular trash with these venomous terms.

It’s become fashionable among social conservatives, I’ve noticed, to object to the use of the word “bigot” because their “personal beliefs” about homosexuality are simply different from another person’s. “I don’t ‘hate’ gay people,” they say. “I just disagree with them, that’s all.” By “disagreeing,” either you’re willfully ignoring the obvious fact that sexual orientation is not a choice (which indeed makes you a bigot), or you’re simply unable to grasp the obvious fact that sexual orientation is not a choice (which makes you stupid).

So . . . which of the two do you prefer?

To read Jesse Bering's article in its entirety, click here.

NEXT: Dan Savage on How Leather Guys, Dykes on Bikes, Go-Go Boys, and Drag Queens Have Helped the LGBT Movement

For The Wild Reed's 2012 Queer Appreciation series, see:
The Theology of Gay Pride
Bi God, Somebody Listen
North America: Perhaps Once the "Queerest Continent on the Planet"
Gay Men and Modern Dance
A Spirit of Defiance
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride – 2012
Worldwide Gay Pride – 2012

For The Wild Reed's 2011 Gay Pride/Queer Appreciation series, see:
Gay Pride: A Celebration of True Humility
Dusty Springfield: Queer Icon
Gay Pioneer Malcolm Boyd on Survival – and Victory – with Grace
Senator Scott Dibble's Message of Hope and Optimism
Parvez Sharma on Islam and Homosexuality
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride – 2011
Worldwide Gay Pride – 2011

For The Wild Reed’s 2010 Gay Pride series, see:
Standing Strong
Growing Strong
Jesus and Homosexuality
It Is Not Good To Be Alone
The Bisexual: “Living Consciously and Consistently in the Place Where the Twain Meet”
Spirituality and the Gay Experience
Recovering the Queer Artistic Heritage
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride – 2010
Worldwide Gay Pride – 2010

For The Wild Reed's 2009 Gay Pride series, see:

A Mother’s Request to President Obama: Full Equality for My Gay Son
Marriage Equality in Massachusetts: Five Years On
It Shouldn’t Matter. Except It Does
Gay Pride as a Christian Event
Not Just Another Political Special Interest Group
Can You Hear Me, Yet, My Friend?
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride – 2009
Worldwide Gay Pride – 2009

Friday, June 21, 2013

Doing Papa Proud

I recently noted on Facebook how honored I am to have been featured in the 'Marriage in Minnesota Retrospective' in Lavender magazine's Pride 2013 issue.

In this retrospective I'm profiled with some very inspiring folks, including Jack Baker and Michael McConnell, Sharon Kowalski and Karen Thompson, the late Sen. Allan Spear, former Gov. Arne Carlson, Sen. John Marty, Doug Benson, Dale Carpenter, Marilyn Carlson Nelson, and Gov. Mark Dayton. Elsewhere in Lavender's Pride 2013 issue Rep. Karen Clark, Sen. Scott Dibble, and OutFront MN Executive Director Monica Meyer are honored, while earlier in the year all involved with Minnesotans United for All Families were collectively named "Person of the Year" by the magazine.

Following is Lavender writer Shane Lueck's write-up of me. The photo that accompanies it is by Sophia Hantzes and was taken at this event in April 2010.

As the Executive Coordinator for Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, Michael Bayly speaks on behalf of many as a David to the Catholic hierarchy's Goliath. With a mission to answer the call of the Gospel's message of inclusion and compassion, Bayly's Roman Catholic organization advocates for civil marriage for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. Following Jesus' call for social justice, Bayly is passionate that marriage equality is a fundamental human right because of his Catholicism at a time when the Catholic hierarchy expressed just the opposite.

I've received many positive comments on Facebook about my write-up in Lavender, including from my dad in Australia who wrote:

You continue to fill your mother and I with pride. Love & Peace, Dad.

Of course, as I wrote back, I have my parents to thank for helping guide and shape me into the man I am today. I also have the best aspects of my Catholic faith to be grateful for. These include its grounding in the radically inclusive life and message of Jesus, its emphasis on the primacy of conscience, its rich and evolving teachings on social justice, and, as Pope Francis, the Catholic papa, has recently reminded us, its call for all of us to be revolutionaries of and for transforming love!

A Christian who is not a revolutionary today isn’t a Christian. . . . Love is the greatest force for transforming reality because it breaks down the walls of selfishness and fills the chasms that keep people far from one another.

Yes, a revolutionary of and for transforming love! That's exactly what I see my work with CPCSM and Catholics for Marriage Equality MN to be all about. I'm happy that so many Catholics – the majority, in fact – recognize that loving and supporting gay and lesbian individuals, couples and families is an authentic expression of that revolutionary love of which Pope Francis speaks.

And Papa himself? Does he, somewhere deep within his heart, recognize this also?

All I can hope and pray is that Pope Francis, as with so many other Catholics and people of good will, is on that wondrous, at times unsettling journey whereby old ways of thinking about the complex reality of sexuality are being inevitably dismantled and transformed by God's loving presence discerned and experienced in the lives and relationships of gay and lesbian people. The title of Lavender's Pride 2013 issue really says it all: it's all about celebrating love!

Postscript: I've decided to make this post Part 1 in The Wild Reed's 2013 Queer Appreciation series. For Part 2, focusing on Jesse Bering's contention that "it's time to throw 'sexual preference' into the vernacular trash," click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Michael Bayly: Changing the Church from Within
Knowing What to Do, Knowing Why to Stay
Trusting God's Generous Invitation
Catholic Rainbow (Australian) Parents
Thanks, Mum!
One of These Boys . . .
Soul Deep
Somewhere In Between
Thomas Fox: "Our Gay and Lesbian Brothers and Sisters Have So Much to Teach Us"
Catholic Theologian: "Heterosexism, Not Homosexuality, is the Problem"
In the Struggle for Marriage Equality, MN Catholics are Making a Difference by Changing Hearts and Minds
The Minneapolis (and Online) Premiere of Catholics for Marriage Equality
A Catholic Rationale for Opposing the 'Marriage Amendment'
Drawing the Circle Wide
Rediscovering What Has Been Written on Our Hearts from the Very Beginning

Recommended Off-site Link:
The War Between the Liberation Theology Movement and Rome is Over – Gianni Valente (Vatican Insider, June 21, 2013).

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Out and About – Spring 2013

With tomorrow being the first day of summer I'm thinking I'd best get a move on in posting this spring installment of 'Out and About'!

This post actually covers May 2013, along with a few images from early June. My previous 'Out and About' installment covered the first part of spring.

For many people in Minnesota, May was a time of great celebration owing to the successful passage of marriage equality legislation in both the House and Senate. On May 14, Governor Mark Dayton signed into law this legislation, making civil marriage for same-sex couples legal in Minnesota beginning August 1.

There were, of course, many other highlights for me in this last month or so – including a wonderful time in Pahá Sápa, the Lakota name for the Black Hills of South Dakota.

A highlight at the very beginning of May was the annual In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre's MayDay Parade in Minneapolis.

This year's parade took place on Sunday, May 5, 2013, and enacted an honest, cautionary tale inspired by the Bread and Puppet Theater's street show Hallelujah. It's message is a simple but powerful one:

See the World! When you put fire to the world and when you poison it, the world will cry and the children will die. When you sow seeds on the world, and when you water it and let the sun shine on it, it will grow! And the birds will feed on it, and the children will eat it. And the grandmas and grandpas sing Hallelujah!

As in previous years, I spent time before the parade began walking around its staging area, capturing some wonderful images of people – young and old – as they prepared to be part of what's become a world-famous event.

For my photos and commentary of this year's Mayday Parade, click here.

Above: At the May 3, 2013 Carondelet Gala at the Minneapolis Hilton. This annual event helps raise money for the St. Mary's Health Clinics.

These clinics are an ecumenical ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and are located throughout the Twin Cities metro area. They offer primary care, referrals to specialists, laboratory, radiology, in-patient, and prescription medications – all free to patients who otherwise would have no access to medical care.

Right: With my dear friend Rita McDonald, CSJ – one of the renowned McDonald Sisters.

Rita, along with Margeurite Corcoran, CSJ, were my “companions” during my journey to becoming a CSJ consociate.

Above and left: The Multi-Faith Rally for the Freedom to Marry – May 8, 2013. This event was held on the eve of the historic Minnesota House vote to grant the rights and responsibilities of civil marriage to same-sex couples. I was honored to be present representing Catholics supportive of marriage equality.

For more images and commentary, click here.

Above: Marriage Equality comes to Minnesota!

I spent much of Monday, May 13, 2013 at the Minnesota State Capitol, joining with others in showing support for the marriage equality legislation being debated and voted on by the Minnesota Senate. The House version of the bill was approved on Thursday, May 9. Its chief sponsor was Rep. Karen Clark. I wasn't present at the Capitol for the House vote, but I was determined not to miss the equally important Senate vote. My friend Lisa Vanderlinden (pictured with me at above right) felt the same way.

For more images and commentary on this historic day, click here.

Above: On Tuesday, May 14, 2013, before a crowd of more than 7,000 people, Governor Mark Dayton signed into law the bill that makes civil marriage for same-sex couples legal in Minnesota beginning August 1. With Gov. Dayton are the bill's two chief sponsors, Rep. Karen Clark, with her partner Jacquelyn Zita, and Sen. Scott Dibble, with his husband Richard Leyva.

Left: With my friend Lisa Clare, creator of the online forum Over the Rainbow for Marriage Equality – May 14, 2013.

For more images and commentary on this very special day, see the Wild Reed posts "Tongues and Souls on Fire" and "Rediscovering What Has Been Written on Our Hearts from the Very Beginning."

Above: Celebrating marriage equality in Minnesota with (from left) Lisa and Brent Vanderlinden, Jim Smith, Paula Ruddy, and Mary Kay Orman – May 14, 2013.

Above: With friends (from left) John, Noelle, Madeline, Curtis and Liana.

Right: With Eddie!

Above: Hello, Charlie!

Left: The noble Quinn, my little fox-faced man!

Above: A lovely photo of my friends Curtis and Liana. I'll be officiating at their wedding in July. How lucky am I!

Above: With my housemate and friend Tim and friends Angela and Meg.

Above, right and below: Views of the interior of the home that Tim and I share in south Minneapolis. And what a home of elegant simplicity it is!  I'm finding it a fitting place indeed to be currently re-reading Winston Graham's Poldark novels, set at the turn of the eighteenth century. For more about these novels, see the recent Wild Reed posts "A 'Useful Marriage' for Morwenna" and "Passion, Tide and Time."

Above: My prayer altar in the meditation room of the house Tim and I share. As I've noted previously, Tim and I have different prayer styles. As a result of his interest in and exploration of Buddhism, Tim prefers to focus on a blank wall, while I, as you can see, have my colorful little altar with all kinds of special objects – candles, rocks, icons, and feathers.

Here's something I recently read and spent time reflecting upon before my altar. It's by Julia Cameron, from her book Transitions: Prayers and Declarations for a Changing Life. As someone who senses they're at a threshold in their life, I find this reflection particularly meaningful.

The natural world teaches us the power of change. As seasons shift, I see the purpose and beauty of life cyclicality. I see the promise of spring, the ripening of summer, the bounty of harvest and the mysterious containment of winter. All seasons work for the good. So it is, too, with the changing cycles of life. As I surrender to the wisdom of a higher plan, I discover in all circumstances the opportunity for growth and expansion. There is no season in my life that is without worth. There is no season in my life that does not unfold my highest good. Challenged by difficult times, I consciously choose to affirm the goodness of life's timing. Today, I commit myself to actively seeking the benefit hidden in adversity, the wisdom inherent in all timing.

Above: My dear friend Joan, who must have one of the most beautiful and elegant living rooms in Minneapolis!

Above and left: Spring was quite late in returning this year, but it eventually did . . . and I have some great photos to prove it! See, for example, the previous Wild Reed posts "Springtime by the Creek" and "Photo of the Day – May 24, 2013."

Above and below: Spring blossoms and flowers.

Above: Tim, working on our backyard herb spiral.

Above: Taking time out in beautiful Pahá Sápa, also known as the Black Hills of South Dakota – Friday, June 7 to Thursday, June 13, 2013. More images and commentary coming soon!

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Out and About – Winter-Spring 2013
The End of a Very Long Winter
Spring Snow
A Winter Walk Along Minnehaha Creek
Threshold Musings
Out and About – December 2012
Out and About – Autumn 2012
Out and About – Summer 2012
Out and About - Spring 2012 (Part 1)
Out and About – Spring 2012 (Part 2)
Out and About – Spring 2012 (Part 3)
Out and About – Winter 2012

Images: Michael J. Bayly.