Categories
LGBTQ

🏳️‍🌈 Lesbians to Subaru: We Hear You Loud and Queer

Not everyone bursts out of the closet. Some take their time, send subtle signals, test the waters, and — when they feel they’re ready — jump to the head of the parade.

That’s what Subaru did.

In the early ’90s, Subaru began winking at lesbian car buyers. The messages were coded so carefully that they would go over a straight person’s head. But lesbians, and the LGBTQ community as a whole, knew exactly what was going on.

It was like sneaking a game of footsie under the dinner table.

This is part of my Gayskool project:
A new LGBTQ-themed post every day for Pride month.

Subtext Is Everything

Today, the clues will seem obvious, even to many straight people. At the time, though, they were cleverly hidden in plain sight.

Here are a few examples.

She Was a Fast Machine, She Kept Her Motor Clean, She Was the Best Damn Woman That I Ever Seen

First, a quick ad that, depending on your point of view, either pokes fun at or perpetuates lesbian stereotypes.

Subaru ad that sounds like a dating profile.
I love camp, but not this type.
You’re On The Right Track Baby …

While everyone was embroiled in the nature vs. nurture debate, Subaru coopted one of the key talking points to say four-wheel drive was standard on all vehicles and not a choice. At the time, “Not a choice” was a rallying cry for LGBTQ people — our enemies were adamant that homosexuality was not an innate trait but something that could be unlearned.

Subaru ads with "It's not a choice" language.
Safety isn’t a preference.
Aced It!

Subaru knew what it was doing when it tapped tennis icon Martina Navratilova as its spokesperson.

Straight people, even those aware of her sexuality, would see a top-tier athlete with more hardware than Home Depot (she has nine of those fancy silver dishes from Wimbledon, just for starters) talking about a car company.

But LGBTQ people knew Navratilova as an icon and activist, and her endorsement carried a lot of weight.

This 1990 TV ad features Navratilova and three other athletes: pro golfers Juli Inkster and Meg Mallon and Olympic skier Diann Roffe.

What makes this ad so fiendishly clever is that straight audiences would take it at face value — four athletes poking fun at the “I’m just a girl” trope to tout Subaru’s performance. LGBTQ audiences would also pick up on the fact that lesbians admired all four women.

What do we know? Quite a bit more than you’re letting on, Subaru.
Artistic License

And now, my absolute favorite ad. It screams lesbian — but only if you know what you’re looking for.

A straight audience would see Subaru touting the versatility of their vehicles — there’s a model for everyone!

LGBTQ people would have immediately picked up on the license plates:

  • CAMP OUT: Like in the first example above, camping would have been an activity associated with a lesbian stereotype. Plus, the word “out” makes the message abundantly clear. (Note the rainbow flag on the back bumper: This symbol was much less prevalent and known in the ’90s than today.)
  • XENA LVR: Xena: Warrior Princess was a campy TV show with a massive lesbian following. Xena and another character, Gabrielle, were the hottest lesbian couple1 ever to appear in syndication, even though the actors (Lucy Lawless Renee O’Connor) said they were playing it straight, so to speak.2
  • P TOWNIE: Provincetown, Massachusetts, is an LGBTQ enclave at the very end of Cape Cod. If you didn’t know that, you’d think Provincetown was just another picturesque seaside beach town. And if you’d never heard of Provincetown to begin with, the license plate would have no meaning.
Subaru ad with lesbian-coded license plates.
The license plates read CAMP OUT, XENA LVR, and P TOWNEE.

The Drive to Succeed

Don’t give me credit for figuring any of this out. Many people have reported, researched, and analyzed Subaru’s not-so-secret lesbian strategy:

The tl;dr is that Subaru wasn’t performing well financially and decided to host focus groups for buyers in cities with strong sales, like Northhampton, Mass., and Portland, Ore.

The focus groups were filled with lesbians. These were out and proud lesbians with money to spend and a penchant for practical cars. Subaru had found its target market. While every other car company was going after straight folks in the suburbs, Subaru was figuring out how to sneak Xena references into ads.3

In the early 2000s, Subaru stopped winking at LGBTQ customers. It was time to make the relationship public. Subaru sponsored events, programs, and even the first LGBTQ satellite radio station. It also contributed to AIDS research and LGBTQ advocacy groups, like the Human Rights Campaign.

From where I sit — which, if I’m in the car, is behind the wheel of a Subaru Forester — Subaru’s efforts have paid off. Subaru is one of those brands that LGBTQ people seem to love and trust. Unlike the pinkwishy-washy companies I identified a few days ago, Subaru has demonstrated true allyship that goes well beyond rainbows and Pride flags. It has spoken our language for 30 years, embraced us publicly for 20 years, and has even used its clout as a major employer to speak against anti-LGBTQ legislation.

The road ahead looks bright for Subaru. And I know a lot of LGBTQ people will come along for the ride.

______

  1. If you’re into that kind of thing. ↩︎
  2. Oh, don’t believe me? Just watch this. And keep in mind that this video is just Part 1 of a series about Xena and Gabrielle. ↩︎
  3. Subaru also had some ads with coded messages for gay men. For example: “Try me … I’m versatile” and “Nice package!” ↩︎
Categories
LGBTQ

🏳️‍🌈 Lessons From a Pink-Stained Wretch

One of the most important things an LGBTQ person can do is be out and outspoken in the workplace.

That’s what I learned when I was the only out reporter at The Tampa Tribune.1, 2 I wasn’t a decision-maker, but I made sure the decision-makers knew about stories and issues that might otherwise go overlooked. In some cases, I wrote these stories myself. In others, I helped editors and fellow reporters with context and connections.

This makes a difference, especially in journalism. Newsrooms, regardless of politics, tend to be managed conservatively, which creates blind spots. I saw the impact female and BIPOC colleagues made when they shared their perspectives and experiences, and I felt compelled to do the same as an LGBTQ person.

This is part of my Gayskool project:
A new LGBTQ-themed post every day for Pride month.

(I’ve written about my time at the Tribune before: Take a look at My Out at Office Message to learn about Groundhog Day attempts to get same-sex domestic benefits.)

I’m proud that I stepped up and made a difference in the Tribune’s coverage of LGBTQ issues, even though, looking back, I know I could have done more. One article stands out in particular: It addressed trans employment issues at a time when trans issues were often considered confusing and controversial.

The story, by design, was not confusing or controversial.

I decided to write the article in early 2007, not long after the city manager in Largo, Fla., was fired after she announced she would begin transitioning. (If you think things are bad for trans people today in Florida, imagine what it was like 17 years ago. I can’t remember how our paper handled the story, but many media outlets were happy to treat the controversy as a carnival.)

I was out, covering business, and I knew what was happening in Largo was out of step with what was happening everywhere else. So, I pitched a story about trans professionals gaining acceptance and making headway in the business world.

I didn’t have to fight hard for the story. Editors saw the value. And I gave them more than 40 inches of my best stuff. (Get your mind out of the gutter. Newspaper articles are measured in column inches. This is about 1,300 words, not including a sidebar.)

This story stands out years later because of how matter-of-factly it approached the issue. This, as I said, was done deliberately — it was a story about good business, not culture wars. I felt no need to bring false balance to the article: What would I have done? Interviewed Fred Phelps about trans employment laws? How would that have been different from interviewing David Duke about the EEOC?

Believe it or not, the story calmly addressed the bathroom issue at least a decade before it became a conservative cause célèbre. After noting it was a touchy subject, the article said:

Berry, of Out & Equal, said her organization suggests that employees use the bathroom for the gender that matches their outward appearance. Employees presenting themselves as women should use the women’s room, and those presenting themselves as men should use the men’s room.

See? These things can be discussed with common sense when the reporter knows there’s no trans boogeyman lurking in the corner of every women’s restroom.

I’m not bringing this up to pat myself on the back, but to point out what someone can achieve at work when they have a voice at the table. If I weren’t in the newsroom then, I don’t think anyone would have thought of this article. And, if they did, they might not have approached it the same way as an LGBTQ person.

So, Dave, Are You Gonna Let Us Read the Damn Article?

Sheesh. There’s no need to yell. I hear you. Here’s the article, which I’m fairly sure I can share without violating copyright and fair use laws.3

A few bullets before you dive into the story:

  • Susan Stanton was still identifying herself as Steven and using he/him pronouns at the time. In fact, I don’t think she had announced her new name. Nonetheless, seeing the wrong name and pronouns in the first two grafs makes me uncomfortable today.
  • Brogan-Kator gave me permission to use her former name.
  • A caption, which I didn’t write, used the term “sex change.” I had a shit fit when I saw it in print.
  • The headline should have been “Businesses Finding Profit in Diversity.” It’s not wrong as is, but it’s misleading: Most people will interpret it to mean it refers to a single business, but in this case, it’s referring to the business world as a whole.

Business Finding Profit in Diversity

Transgender Acceptance is Part of the Bottom Line

Steve Stanton’s employment saga might have turned out differently if he worked for corporate America.

Largo decided to fire the city manager after the public learned he is transgender and plans to begin the lengthy process of transitioning into a woman. On Feb. 27, by a vote of 5 to 2, the city commission voted to place him on paid leave and begin the process of firing him. A public hearing is scheduled for tonight, and Stanton is expected to appeal the decision to fire him.

What happened in Largo contrasts sharply with what’s happening in the business world, where an increasing number of companies are moving quickly to add gender identity to their antidiscrimination policies.

Today, one-fourth of all Fortune 500 companies include gender identity in their written nondiscrimination policies, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a nonprofit organization based in Washington. That figure has risen dramatically from three years ago, when 7 percent of Fortune 500 companies could claim such a policy, and it is expected to continue growing.

Mara Keisling, executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality in Washington, cites two reasons: First, businesses recognize the value of a diverse workforce and want to recruit and retain talented workers; and second, transgender workers are speaking up and asking employers for equal protection.

When employees aren’t worried about being fired for reasons not related to their workplace performance, they’re more productive and effective, Keisling said.

Selisse Berry, executive director for Out & Equal Workplace Advocates in San Francisco, said that a diverse, inclusive workplace helps employers reach out to all kinds of prospective workers — not just those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

“A lot of companies are recognizing that, in a way, LGBT issues in general — that is, sexual orientation and gender identity — are kind of the litmus test for any progressive-minded person,” she said. “They know that if those policies are in place that it’s going to be a company that provides work-life balance and provides benefits for everyone.”

Gender identity refers to how a person identifies him- or herself. Most men have a male gender identity; most women have a female gender identity. A transgender person’s gender identity doesn’t match the gender he or she was born with.

Denise Brogan-Kator knows firsthand what it’s like to work for a company that discriminates against transgender workers.

Brogan-Kator recalls working as the vice president of finance for a medical products company in Pinellas County in the early 1990s. She said she was hired to help turn around the company, which was having such dire liquidity issues that it had problems making payroll.

At that time, Brogan-Kator went by the name David and presented herself as a man in the office. When the owner discovered Brogan-Kator was transgender, she was escorted from the office.

“I was there four or five years. Some months before he terminated me, he had written me a letter praising me and thanking me for having turned his company around,” she said. “It made me feel like you would expect it would make me feel.”

A Rough Landing

Brogan-Kator landed next with a software company in Tampa. “I told my boss that I was going to transition from male to female,” she said. “He suggested I do it somewhere else.”

Brogan-Kator eventually went to work as chief financial officer for Blue Ocean Software, a Tampa-based company that was purchased by Intuit in 2002 and later sold off to become NumaraSoftware. Although she had legally changed her first name to Denise when she was hired at Blue Ocean, she applied for the job as David.

When she explained the different names to company founder Russ Hobbs, her boss, “he sort of dropped his jaw and said, ‘What’s that about?’” she said.

Then, Brogan-Kator said, “he said, ‘I don’t care about that. If you can do the job, that’s what I care about.’”

Brogan-Kator still swells when she recalls that moment.

“For Russ to say that —truly, it’s a cliché, but it was a breath of fresh air. It was, I thought, this is what life is supposed to be like,” she said.

Brogan-Kator said she thrived at Blue Ocean Software, helping the company negotiate a large venture funding deal and then orchestrating the Intuit acquisition. She continued to present herself as David in the office, but when it became apparent the Intuit deal was going to close, she began the process of transitioning to a woman.

“By the time I left the company, my hair was at my shoulders and it was common knowledge,” she said.

‘Denise Did A Great Job’

Hobbs, who left Blue Ocean Software after the Intuit deal, said he has no regrets about hiring Brogan-Kator.

“I’m happy to say that our experience with Denise was only another example of a diverse individual doing an outstanding job and contributing towards the team’s success,” he said in an e-mail message.

“Denise did a great job, and was well-liked and highly regarded by her co-workers as well as the banking and legal professionals with whom she interacted.”

After leaving Intuit, Brogan-Kator enrolled in the University of Michigan Law School. She graduated in December and she and her partner, Mary Kator, intend to open a law firm that helps lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in discrimination cases.

“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do after I got fired the first time,” she said. “I went to a lawyer and asked how this could happen — how could he be firing me for something outside my scope of employment. He said, ‘I’m sorry but that’s just the way it is.’ I was appalled.”

At many companies, the question isn’t whether to include gender identity in the nondiscrimination policy but how to craft those policies so transgender employees are treated fairly.

A written nondiscrimination policy is just a first step, said Keisling, of the National Center for Transgender Equality. Companies also must make sure they’ve got procedures in place for updating an employee’s gender and first name in corporate records and to comply with medical privacy rules.

And, Keisling said, companies must be prepared to deal with one of the touchiest transgender issues of all: the bathroom issue.

Berry, of Out & Equal, said her organization suggests that employees use the bathroom for the gender that matches their outward appearance. Employees presenting themselves as women should use the women’s room, and those presenting themselves as men should use the men’s room.

If a company doesn’t have a written antidiscrimination policy that covers gender identity, an employee has little recourse if he or she is fired for being transgender. Federal and state laws offer few protections, and only a handful of cities and counties across the country have laws protecting transgender people from employee discrimination.

Employment lawyer Theresa Gallion, a managing partner at Fisher & Phillips LLP in Tampa and Orlando, said she typically fields one call a week from a company concerned about a transgender employee.

“I’m happy to report that nine out of 10 times, the nature of the communication is, ‘How do we accommodate this person?’” she said. “It’s usually a long-term valued employee, and there are worries about boundary issues.”

Keisling said she expects more employers to follow the example set by corporate America and not Largo. “Employers are beginning to realize that people who are courageous enough to do this out in the open, like Mr. Stanton, are examples of the kind of employees they want,” she said. “The kind of courage and focus and determination that Steve is showing are just remarkable characteristics in an employee.”

_____
1 A once-fine newspaper that, years after I left, got strangled by investors, dipped its toe in bigotry, and then was shuttered without warning one morning by its rival.

2 The title of this blog post is a play on “ink-stained wretch,” my favorite term for a newspaper reporter. I wasn’t so much ink-stained as I was wretched, but I loved being a journalist.

3 My reasoning as a non-lawyer person:

  • Since The Tampa Tribune no longer exists, I assume this content is owned by the Tampa Bay Times.
  • The Times’ privacy policy permits people to copy content from its site as long as it is for personal, non-commercial use. This is a personal blog that does not generate revenue, and I have no plans to monetize it.
  • If the copyright does, in fact, belong to The Tampa Bay Times, I’ll state clearly now that the article is © The Tampa Bay Times, and all rights are reserved.
  • The content is being used to inform and educate people, which means sharing it here may fall under the fair use doctrine for copyrighted material.
  • I wrote the damn thing. That’s gotta count for something, right?
Categories
Current Events LGBTQ

🏳️‍🌈 Pinkwishy-Washing

Plenty of companies hoist the Pride flag in June, but not all do it out of allyship. They want to polish their image, sell rainbow-colored merchandise, and — even worse — distract us from their support of anti-gay organizations and politicians.

These superficial gestures are called pinkwashing. It’s a topic I haven’t addressed yet in Gayskool, but I will soon.

Instead, I’d like to talk about an alarming new trend that I’m calling pinkwishy-washing.1 This is when a company scales back its support for the LGBTQ community in the face of criticism from our enemies.

We’re here for you, they say, except when people are mad at us.

Two examples come to mind.

This is part of my Gayskool project:
A new LGBTQ-themed post every day for Pride month.

Bud Light

Last year, Bud Light backpedaled after a partnership with Dylan Mulvaney, a trans influencer, turned into a bigot-backed firestorm.

What kind of marketing campaign could cause so much ire? Super Bowl ads? Billboards on every corner? A huge trans flag on every bottle and can?

Nope.

They send Dylan some personalized cans of beer to celebrate the first anniversary of her transition. That’s all.

Bud Light’s response was to defend their bottom line, not to defend Mulvaney. That didn’t go over well. After losing support from the bigot community, they lost support from the LGBTQ community. Their parent company, Anheuser-Busch, was downgraded significantly in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.

Target

Target was also targeted (sorry) by the usual suspects last year. You’ve already seen how a single Instagram post triggered a huge ignorant outburst, so you can imagine the collective conservative convulsions over a major retailer promoting Pride merchandise in June.

Target responded by moving or removing some of its Pride displays and products. The company said it was to protect workers, but to many LGBTQ customers, this seemed like a convenient excuse for acquiescing to bigotry.

This year, Target has cut back its Pride offerings and won’t even sell the items in some stores. I live near two Targets, and you must hunt to find anything with a rainbow. That certainly wasn’t the case last year.

Tiny, hard-to-find selection of Pride items at Target.
Not only is Target selling fewer Pride items than last year, but they’ve also made them harder to find. This paltry selection was tucked away in the women’s clothing section and is easy to miss. Last year, the Pride section was located at the front of the store, looked much more attractive, and had better signage.

The Insidiousness of Pinkwishy-Washing

Both Bud Light and Target chose expedience over integrity when confronted by conservative extremists, and it didn’t turn out well for either of them. Spinelessness isn’t a long-term solution.

The true cost of pinkwishy-washing isn’t what shows up on balance sheets and in survey results. It’s the unfortunate and unforgivable message it sends. It’s the precedent it sets. And it’s the way a few companies cast doubt on the sincerity and strength of allies.

Carl Nassib, the retired NFL player who made history when he came out, has the best take I’ve seen on pinkwishy-washing. He recently told the Advocate:

These brands just have no grit to them. They see bad comments on their social feeds, and they just back off.

If they think the comments are bad for them, just imagine what kids are going through when they see it. And then the brands cave to the hate, and what message does that send to these kids?

They should see that hate still exists and there’s work to be done to fight that hate.

They should lean into the progress rather than go backwards, and they should stick to supporting our community in the long run.

Carl Nassib

Bravo, Carl.

_____
1 Can I trademark this?



Categories
Entertainment LGBTQ

🏳️‍🌈 Man, What Are You Doing Here?

“Piano Man” is about a straight entertainer oblivious to the fact he’s playing in a gay bar.

People have theorized about this for a long time. But I can prove it.

“Piano Man,” of course, is Billy Joel’s signature song. It’s a clarion call for straight people. They stop what they’re doing when they hear the first few notes. By the time the harmonica licks begin, they’re on their feet. They belt out the entire song from memory, unironically, as if they were overcome with religious fervor.

I suppose it’s their “I Will Survive.”

I’m going to lay out my case in two parts: First, I’ll provide some background information and context. Then I’ll analyze the lyrics, focusing on each character named in the song. By the end, you’ll be convinced and will never hear the song the same way again.

This is part of my Gayskool project:
A new LGBTQ-themed post every day for Pride month.

The Early Seventies After Stonewall

Joel says he based “Piano Man” on his experiences playing in lounges in Los Angeles in the early 1970s. It was a transformational and challenging time for both straight and gay men.

Straight men had to ensure the horror of leisure suits. (Shudder.)

Gay men, on the other hand, had to reevaluate and reorient their lives after Stonewall broke all of the paradigms and conventions of dealing with society. No one knew how to navigate this new world. Freedom went hand-in-hand with fear. But at least we avoided the leisure suits.

In 2024, it’s hard to fathom the rapid and fundamental changes gay men experienced in the early ’70s. They saw things that would have been unimaginable just a few years earlier, including the first Pride parades.

Before Stonewall, LGBTQ activism was mainly cautious, reserved, and incremental. To be fair, it was a pragmatic and calculated approach led by realists who understood the politics and culture of the time. Stonewall ignited a new type of activism: We no longer wanted to be polite and non-threatening in the hopes that the majority would reward us with rights and dignity. We would go out and win rights and demand dignity. Gay is good was supplanted by Out of the closets and into the streets!

This new attitude changed the way many gay men socialized. They were done hiding in the dark and in the closet. A gay bar in San Francisco tore down walls (literally and figuratively) and installed windows. Think about what that meant! For the first time, gay men were willing to be seen publicly in a gay bar.

View of the Castro showing the Twin Peaks Lounge sign an a large Pride flag.
The Twin Peaks Lounge, a bar that opened in the 1930s on the corner of Castro and Market streets in San Francisco, installed street-facing windows in 1972. That made it the first gay bar in the world where people inside could be seen by passers-by.

We also stopped hiding when we turned out en masse for disco. Our celebrations were louder, bigger, more visible — and much more fabulous — than ever.

This is an incredible story, but I’ve left out an important part: Not everyone was ready to come out and get down. Many people had no option but to remain in the closet. Their livelihoods and very lives were on the line.

These folks couldn’t risk being spotted sipping cocktails in one of these new bars, or sweating under a mirror ball on an electrified dance floor. They needed to seek refuge in a familiar place where they would feel safe and comfortable.

Somwhere like a piano bar.

Meet the Customers and Staff

Listen carefully to “Piano Man” and you’ll notice that the customers:

  • Are all men
  • Are regulars
  • Aren’t happy

This would fit the cultural and historical context I’ve described above. The men at this bar feel life is passing them by. This is because they are locked out of the joy, excitement, and validation now open to so many others. They have always known the misery of exclusion from the straight world, and now they also had to deal with the weight of feeling left out of an exciting new gay world.

All they have is a bar they’ve patronized for years … where they feel welcome and secure … and where the clueless piano player won’t out them.

Unnamed Customer

There’s an old man sittin’ next to me
Makin’ love to his tonic and gin
He says, “Son, can you play me a memory?
I’m not really sure how it goes
But it’s sad, and it’s sweet, and I knew it complete
When I wore a younger man’s clothes”

This customer feels out of place today, so he wants to be reminded of a time when the world made sense. I picture him as a WW2 veteran who found some degree of happiness and security in California after the war. He’s about 50 years old now, afraid to change, and envious of the young people who can enjoy the freedom and happiness he never experienced.

Two more points:

  • The younger man’s clothes may not have been his clothes. The Complimentary Spouse is older than I am, so every time he raids my closet, he’s wearing a younger man’s clothes.
  • I assume that he’s requesting a Judy Garland song.

John the Bartender

Now John at the bar is a friend of mine
He gets me my drinks for free
And he’s quick with a joke, or to light up your smoke
But there’s someplace that he’d rather be
He says, “Bill, I believe this is killing me”
As the smile ran away from his face
“Well, I’m sure that I could be a movie star
If I could get out of this place”

There are two things to unpack here.

First, John is hitting on the piano player. I know of what I speak. I’ve been hit on by bartenders. I’ve hit on bartenders. I’ve gotten a lot more than free drinks, flirty jokes, and a light from bartenders, if you catch my drift.

Second, John fantasizes about being a movie star but knows he’ll never be on a marquee. If we are to assume this bar is in Los Angeles (because the song is about Joel’s real-life experience as a piano player there), Hollywood is right down the road. So when John says, “if I could only get out of this place,” he’s not talking about somewhere on a map. The place he can’t escape from is the closet.

Paul

Now Paul is a real estate novelist
Who never had time for a wife

Two things here:

First, “Who never had time for a wife” — uh, duh. You don’t need gaydar to figure this one out.

Second, unless Paul writes novels about real estate (“Zen and the Art of Property Maintenance”?), he’s compartmentalizing his professional life (real estate) and his creative life (writing). Gay men learn how to compartmentalize early. It’s a survival skill that allows us to integrate with society without opening parts of our identity to judgment and ridicule. It also helps explain why Paul, like every other customer, is miserable.

The damaging part of learning to live your life in two parts, whether in reality or fantasy, cannot be underestimated. It is an infectious skill that you learned, one that would eventually spread beyond the bedroom of your life. Life wasn’t ever what it seemed on the surface. Nothing could be trusted for what it appeared to be. After all, you weren’t what you appeared to be. In learning to hide part of yourself, you lost the ability to trust anything or anyone fully. Without knowing it, you traded humane innocence for dry cynicism.

Alan Downs, “The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World.”

Davy

And he’s talkin’ with Davy, who’s still in the Navy
And probably will be for life

Davy is in the closet. If the military learns he is gay, he will be dishonorably discharged. Coming to a piano bar, instead of one of the new gay bars or a disco, minimizes his chance of being outed — which his how he’ll ensure he’ll be in the Navy for life.

Why stay in the Navy instead of pursuing a government or private sector job? In the 1970s, it didn’t matter who you worked for. Being outed most likely meant being fired.

Also: In the Navy, you can put your mind at ease.

The Waitress

And the waitress is practicing politics

There are two ways to interpret this:

  • The waitress is discussing politics. Since it’s the early ’70s, that means she’s talking about things like the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam, and Watergate. These are not good topics to bring up if you want tips from uptight straight guys.
  • The waitress is playing politics. That means manipulation, gossip, alliances, and backstabbing. So. Much. Drama. And you know who loves drama?
Jenna Maroney, star of “The Rural Juror” and “Jackie Jormp-Jomp.”

The Manager

And the manager gives me a smile
‘Cause he knows that it’s me they’ve been comin’ to see
To forget about life for a while

Stroking your talent’s ego isn’t a gay or straight thing. It’s just good management.

The Ending

The song ends with:

And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar
And say, “Man, what are you doin’ here?

Are the customers asking a direct question? Or just dropping a hint? No matter how you interpret this last line, it’s clearly queerly obvious that the piano player is the only person who doesn’t know he’s in a gay bar.

“Piano Man,” like many songs, is open to interpretation. I have shared mine. Yours might be different. Who’s to say which one is correct?

Or, in other words …

You may be wrong, but you may be right.

Categories
LGBTQ

🏳️‍🌈 Eight Years Later

Today is the eighth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre.

The building is still there, but it is not a club. It is a scar that will never heal. Its ghosts call us to action and remind us to live.

The truth is, the most important lesson I learned after Pulse also seems to be the timeliest: we can only get through these trying times together.

Brandon J. Wolf, “A Place For Us: A Memoir”
Pulse survivor, author, and activist
Categories
LGBTQ Sportsball

🏳️‍🌈 Straight-Up Whiffing

The Texas Rangers started using the tagline “Straight Up Texas” on June 1, the first day of Pride Month.

To quote the great Yogi Berra, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

Year after year, the Rangers refuse to acknowledge their LGBTQ fans. While every other team in Major League Baseball tells us baseball is for everyone — bring on the rainbow banners and Pride games — the Rangers have been content to sit on the bench and pretend gay people don’t exist.

Actually, this year, it’s worse than that. Instead of ignoring us, the Rangers straight-up insulted us. “Straight Up Texas” is the antithesis of saying baseball is for everyone.

Here’s the full story from Queerty: “Texas Rangers find themselves embroiled in another Pride Month controversy”

“Straight Up Texas” isn’t a new rallying cry. The Rangers have used it before. However, it’s hard to believe it’s a coincidence that they’re using this slogan during Pride Month.1

If this is the Rangers’ way of throwing shade at LGBTQ people, their pitching sucks. If you’re going to try to insult us, at least be clever about it. Apparently, they don’t teach camp at spring training camp.

This is part of my Gayskool project:
A new LGBTQ-themed post every day for Pride month.

The Rangers Are Batting .000

I’ve written before about the history of Pride games (cf. Take Me Out to the Ballgame) and what these events mean to people who aren’t part of the LGBTQ community (cf. Allies Go to Bat for Pride Games).2

Major League Baseball (the organization) and 29 teams tell us baseball is for everyone. But the Rangers aren’t getting the message.

To quote the great Yogi Berra, “They made too many wrong mistakes.”

Compare the stuck-in-the-mud Rangers with my beloved Tampa Bay Rays, a team that has been leading the way in embracing LGBTQ fans for more than a decade.

The Rays were among the first teams to record an It Gets Better video for the Trevor Project. In fact, I think they were the first team in all four of the major sports leagues (MLB, NHL, NBA, and NFL) to contribute to this critical and groundbreaking campaign.

The Rays’ first Pride event came days after the horrific Pulse massacre in Orlando. The team immediately realized they needed to do more than hand out rainbow flags. They removed the deck tarps, made every seat in the Trop available, and created an event where the entire community — not just LGBTQ people — could come together, grieve, show our resilience, and gain a sense of normalcy throughout nine innings.

Here are some Instagram posts from the Rays. Do yourself a favor and don’t wade into the comments section.

Inclusive Baseball Is a Home Run

The Rays, like everyone else but the Rangers in baseball, are moving forward. They’ve done so much, but there’s still more to accomplish.

To quote the great Yogi Berra, “It ain’t too far, but it ain’t close either.”

In contrast, the Rangers are headed in the wrong direction. That’s their prerogative.

To paraphrase the great Yogi Berra, “If they don’t want out people to come out to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them.”

Perhaps the solution is to send the Rangers down the minors. They keep striking out while everyone else is rounding the bases. They clearly have much to learn.

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1 A life lesson from Dave: Don’t give the benefit of the doubt to people or organizations that have already shown they don’t deserve it.

2 Fun fact: A gay player invited the high five!

Categories
LGBTQ

🏳️‍🌈 Gaydar Detector

I’ve been asked if gaydar is a thing.

Yes, it is, but it’s limited.

That’s why I have Gaydar Pro, which unlocks full functionality and removes ads. It’s only $9.99 a month. Available on the App Store.

(Insert rimshot here.)

Gaydar is indeed a thing, but so is déjà vu, intuition, and the placebo effect. It exists but is hard to explain. That doesn’t stop people from trying to figure it out, though.

This is part of my Gayskool project:
A new LGBTQ-themed post every day for Pride month.

Psychologist Nicholas Rule at the University of Toronto, for example, has conducted many studies into perception and judgment. His research with gay men and lesbians shows:

  • Gay men can accurately identify another man’s sexual orientation just from a face photo.
  • Lesbians can do the same with a photo of a woman’s face.
  • It takes about 50 milliseconds for this to happen.
  • You don’t need to show a photo of the entire face. It also works if you show only the eyes.
  • The results are nowhere near 100% correct, but they are much too accurate to be explained by chance alone.

Perhaps the question shouldn’t be if gaydar is a thing, but what kind of thing it is.

As an amateur skeptic, I’ll immediately dismiss the possibility that it’s mystical energy and magical auras. It can’t be pheromones, since gaydar works with photographs. Nor can it be Farrah Moan, since she was eliminated in episode 8 of her season and didn’t make it too far in All-Stars. Oh, Ru!

Here’s my unscientific, unresearched, and most likely incorrect theory:

Gaydar is most likely related to body language, facial expressions, and social cues. Gay men instinctively learn, through trial and error, what actions and characteristics indicate a person is gay. I don’t think it’s an innate skill, but it’s driven by an inherent need to identify others like us.

If this is the case, gaydar should become more accurate over time as we learn which blips on our screens are truly gay men and which are Zaddy Zac Efron. This experience prepares us to extrapolate information from incomplete data, which explains how we can determine sexual orientation from a photograph.

Perhaps the best description of gaydar comes from a short story written by a straight author and told from the perspective of a straight narrator. It’s from “The Country Ahead of Us, The Country Behind” by David Guterson. I remember nothing of the book but the following passage, which has stuck with me for nearly 30 years:

When I was twenty-four I saw Wyman again in a bar in west Seattle. He was shooting pool with two other men, the three of them circling the table with their cues and leaning low into the smoky light there to take their shots with the utmost seriousness. It was not so much something in their appearance, or even in their manner, that suggested what I came to conclude from the scene: that Wyman was gay, a homosexual. It was rather their intimacy that suggested it, the way in which their pool game shut them off from the world and made them a society unto themselves, so that what the rest of the bar might think of them was a matter of complete insignificance. 

David Guterson, “The Country Ahead of Us, The Country Behind”

Perhaps that’s all gaydar is: A skill born of necessity to bring us together and protect us from harm over centuries of discrimination, degradation, and shame. If that ain’t worth $9.99 a month, I don’t know what is.

Categories
LGBTQ Married Life

🏳️‍🌈 Presentando a Mi Media Naranja

There are two words for husband in Spanish, but I only use one to refer to mi media naranja, the Complimentary Spouse:

Marido.

A few English speakers have tried to tell me that the correct word is esposo

Really? ¿Cómo te atreves a cuestionarme?

There are two reasons why esposo is not the right word. One is conventional, and the other has to do with same-sex marriage.

This is part of my Gayskool project:
A new LGBTQ-themed post every day for Pride month.

First, marido is the word I’ve always used for husband. Growing up in Madrid, marido y mujer meant husband and wife. No one used esposo y esposa in everyday language. They are formal words, like those you’d find in legal documents.1

Second, there is no feminine version of marido.2

That’s critical for me because I no longer speak Spanish well. I forget essential words and stumble over verbs all the time. Recently, I couldn’t remember the word for spoon and had to ask for un tenedor para sopa.3 The few times I have said esposo, the person I was talking to assumed I meant esposa. I’d assume the same if I were dealing with someone with the vocabulary and grammar skills of a discombobulated toddler.

With marido, there’s no confusion. People get it right away.

Because of how gender works in Spanish grammar, saying somos esposos is open to interpretation. Most people will assume it refers to an opposite-sex married couple. But somos maridos is unambiguous. It means we’re husbands.

Being out and visible makes a difference, no matter where you are or what language you’re speaking. Not only is marido the right word to use, but it’s also the right word to describe the other half of my orange.

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1 I think American schools teach esposo y esposa because it follows the simple, predictable pattern for pairs of masculine and feminine nouns. I’m talking about simple, well-known words like perro y perra, professor y professora, or cazafantasmo y cazafantasma.

2 The word marida exists, but it’s not a noun, and it doesn’t mean wife.

3 Britt says I speak Spanish better than I think I do. On a train from Segovia to Madrid a few years ago, I turned to him and said, “You know, I really wish I could still speak Spanish well.”

“At lunch, you explained Critical Race Theory to the couple next to us,” he said.4

“I’m not sure it made sense,” I said. “I probably sounded no smarter than a six-year-old.”

“They clearly understood you,” Britt said. “And a lot people protesting CRT sound no smarter than a six-year-old … in their native language.”

4 No, I did not turn to them abruptly and say, “Can you pass the salt and, also, do you want to hear about controversial U.S. social issues?” We struck up a conversation about how great the restaurant was, and we ended up chatting all lunch. They asked about CRT because something was recently on the news in Spain, but they didn’t fully understand it.

Categories
LGBTQ Sportsball

🏳️‍🌈 Allies Go to Bat for Pride Games

Updated on June 9, 2024, with more fabulous feedback from adorable allies!

The Complimentary Spouse and I spent this afternoon at the Trop, America’s best OKest worst godawfulest ballpark, and saw our beloved but bumbling Tampa Bay Rays lose to the Orioles. We had a gay ol’ time, despite the loss, because it was this year’s Pride game.

This is part of my Gayskool project:
A new LGBTQ-themed post every day for Pride month.

I’ve written about Pride games before (cf. Take Me Out to the Ballgame and Up High!), but I’ve never asked straight allies what they think about them. I reached out to a few friends to get their thoughts. Here’s what they said:

I feel proud to be part of a celebration of humanity. 🌈

It’s always great to celebrate humanity. It’s even better with hot dogs and beer.

I think of Pride games the same way I think of all such games. Whether it’s Jackie Robinson Day, Roberto Clemente Day, Jewish Heritage Day, or any similar day, it’s all about recognition. They demonstrate that baseball is for anyone and everyone. All people should be comfortable at the ballpark, whether playing or in the stands.

When I’m at a Pride game, or any similar type game for the matter, for whatever reason, I find myself looking around to see if there are any assholes who have a problem with anything that is happening. But I love seeing the people celebrating the day.

I wish we were at a point where such days weren’t necessary. But those who have a problem with it are the ones who get ostracized. That’s progress.

Yup, I see my fair share of sneers, whispered asides, and disdainful looks. But I know the assholes have to be on their best behavior at these events, so I feel more amused than endangered.

Their discomfort tickles and sustains me.

I think it’s fabulous! It opens the eyes of straight white heterosexual men in an environment they’re comfortable in.

Yup, I see this too! A lot of people in the stands aren’t used to being around so many out and proud LGBTQ folks. They see real human beings, not stereotypes from teevee or the bogeymen our enemies portray us as. Sometimes, I catch them waving rainbow flags, mouthing the words when the DJ plays a gay anthem, and applauding the same-sex couples featured on the KissCam.

Their comfort tickles and sustains me.

What is this thing you call “sporting events”?!

It’s that stuff that happens before and after the Super Bowl halftime show. No, not the commercials. The other stuff.

I remember one time I wore a red shirt to Disney. This was before the internet, and I had no idea it was Gay Day. People kept coming up to me to celebrate. It took me a while to figure out what was going on. I didn’t mind. I liked being part of something like that.

I think it’s the same thing with Pride games. People are celebrating something important to them. What’s the problem with that?

By the way, you guys need more than a month. Pride should be all year long.

“By the way, do you still wear red shirts?” he asked.

“No, we’re doing hot pink T-shirts covered with Swarovski crystals now,” I replied.

Fun for the whole family.

Not only that, but you’re guaranteed to hear Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family.”

It’s pretty much the only time I go. My straight friends never invite me to baseball games.

I’m biased, but I certainly think events are more fun with LGBTQ people. Especially baseball, because every term related to the game is a gay double entendre.

I know you’re dying to learn what those sporty yet naughty terms are. Well, I’m not going to tell you here. You’ll just have to join Britt and me at an upcoming Pride game.

Categories
LGBTQ

🏳️‍🌈 Naming a Plague

Before AIDS was called AIDS, it had another name. Actually, a few.

In 1981, doctors noticed an unexpected and alarming increase in pneumonia deaths among gay men. The cause was a sexually transmitted disease that attacked the immune system.

Researchers named the disease Gay-Related Immune Deficiency, or GRID. It was sometimes called Gay Lymph Node Syndrome, Gay Compromise Syndrome, and Community-Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.

Some simply called it Gay Cancer.

By late 1982, it was becoming clear that gay men weren’t the only victims. Some people who had received blood transfusions or shared intravenous needles were also succumbing to the same disease. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began calling it Auto-Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS.

I grew up as the plague took hold, insulated from it but not ignorant about it. The word AIDS (or SIDA when I lived in Spain) was inescapable when I was in my teens, and I knew that it wasn’t simply a medical term. Those four capital letters could be more powerful and devastating than a nuclear bomb (another inescaple term from my teens) becuase led to pain, ridicule, shame, guilt, ostraciziation, hate, and death.1

I learned later that, for some, the word did more than strike fear and invite despair. The acronym of my nightmares ignited compassion, spurred action, transfomed people into activists and allies, and gave us the strength, vision, and moral impertive to push for acceptance, diginity, and equal rights.

The word AIDS connotes despair and darkness — rightfully so — but let’s never forget it also refers to love and hope. After all, what’s in a name? Whatever we want.

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1 An interesting but utterly inconsequential footnote: The Complimentary Spouse used to belong to an academic association called the American Institute for Decision Sciences. That meant he contributed to AIDS journals and participated in AIDS conferences. In 1986, for obvious reasons, it changed its name to the Decision Sciences Institute.