Imagine the Ku Klux Klan publishing something called African American Today. African American Today sends reporters to rap shows and black churches to cover black culture, but what it’s really trying to do is uncover that culture’s “excesses.” It also promotes white supremacy and agitates for the reinstitution of slavery. Or imagine the American Nazi Party publishing something called The Star of David, a monthly platform to deny the existence of the holocaust and rant about Zionist conspiracies.
Hard to imagine? Not if you’ve seen the latest salvo from the Christian Right, the Lambda Report. The lambda is the Greek letter taken in the early 70s as a symbol of gay and lesbian liberation. But the Lambda Report is a new monthly from Washington, D.C., published by a group called the Report, the fun-lovin’, god-fearin’ folks responsible for a whole line of antiqueer videotapes. (The Report’s videotapes, mostly clips from queer pride demonstrations and interviews with “experts” on homosexuality, were distributed in Oregon during that state’s famous battle over its antigay initiative, and more recently on military bases and in Congress during the gays-in-the-military sideshow.) Coming in at an untaxing 16 pages, with large type and plenty of eye-poppin’ pictures (Boys kissing! Girls kissing! Men’s fannies! Naked lesbian boobies!), LR monitors “the homosexual agenda in American politics & culture” and offers “practical advice on how to combat the gay agenda, reporting on what works and what doesn’t in the struggles of citizens across the United States to fight pro-homosexual laws.” What appears to work, judging by the first three issues, is scare stories about S and M, child molesters, and the threat AIDS poses to “mainstream society.” One story in issue two implies that straights can contract AIDS by sharing pillows on airplanes with gay men. Headlined “American Airlines Caves in to Pressure,” the item recounts how “the crew of American Airlines Flight 701 from Washington to Dallas-Fort Worth tried to protect the health of their passengers by changing blankets and pillows after flying a planeload of homosexual activists home from the April 25 March on Washington,” though “AA Chairman Bob Crandall publicly apologized.”
Like all hate propaganda, LR plays on people’s fears. The editors of LR seem to have a pretty good idea of what scares uptight Americans about queers–AIDS, of course, but also our openness about sex, and the unashamed interest we have in the naked body and the spectrum of human sexual pleasures.
The Lambda Report promotes itself as the only antiqueer newsletter that “monitors the homosexual movement using gay sources.” Gay sources are easy to come by because the lambda in the name dupes people into thinking this is a gay-and-lesbian newsletter. Would a gay man talk to a reporter from a publication called Aren’t Queers Icky? Not too likely.
At the March on Washington, LR’s reporter interviewed one man wearing a dog collar and a leather sash riveted with the slogan “International Slave 1993.” “The man agreed to a photo,” the story reads, “and offered, ‘Do you want one with my master?’ He explained that he was a ‘slave’ who lived under a 25-year contract with his ‘master.’ In the S&M world, that means he had willfully submitted himself as a sex slave to obey the whims of his dominant partner, within a set of rules laid out in an official contract.”
One reporter even managed to attend a Leather/SM conference that was closed to most members of the press. His observations constitute the bulk of LR’s coverage of the march weekend. And close observations they are. Here’s a sample:
“As a crowd looked on approvingly, one man–using a cat-o’-nine-tails–would whip the rear end of the other who was bent over submissively, grasping his own ankles. After several hard lashes, the flogger would reach over and comfort the one who had just received his ‘punishment’ by kissing and petting him. This bizarre world of ‘leather’ sex . . . is quite popular among homosexuals.”
And that’s not all:
“At the rear of the auditorium, on a pulled-down projector screen, was the visage of a seated man in a shirt-and-tie with his fist fully inside the anus of a naked man standing beside him. This reporter had read and heard about this grotesque gay practice of “fisting,” but seeing an actual photo of it was a most revolting experience.”
But not revolting enough to make you want to leave, was it? Nope, and just in case LR’s readers aren’t convinced that homosexuals do yucky (or is it interesting?) things with their bodies, issue three follows up with another informative story about fisting. This one’s on female fisting and it quotes The Lesbian Sex Book at length on technique.
Why all the gory details? Why indeed. One of the secret benefits for people involved in the antigay movement is access to graphic and tantalizing accounts of the sex lives they wish they had. For every subscriber who is truly mortified by LR’s accounts of fisting, bondage, and blow jobs, there’s another locked in the bathroom with his pants around his ankles, sitting on the toilet, and not taking a crap.
The nice folks who bring us LR say they’re leveling the playing field, “correcting the one-sided portrayal of homosexuality in our culture.” The mass media, they feel, are on the homosexuals’ side, and the news media in particular bend over forward to shine the most flattering light they can on America’s queer community. Here’s their take on press coverage of the march. “While the march received generally favorable coverage in the press and on television networks, its less flattering elements–such as the hundreds of bare-breasted lesbians who took part–provoked outrage among Americans receiving their first exposure to the libertine homosexual culture.”
By ignoring the SMers at the march, the drag queens, the naked lesbians; by skewing coverage in favor of suit-and-tie fags and dykes and our heroes in the armed forces, the media are helping to destroy America’s–yawn, here it comes, folks–traditional family values. Yessiree, the very bedrock of this great nation is being ground to smithereens under the lavender-heeled jackboot of a liberal media in the service of the International Homosexual Conspiracy. The Lambda Report would have you believe the lesbian and gay civil rights agenda is a smokescreen, a Trojan horse being used to sneak the real gay agenda in under the noses of right-thinking Americans. Once we’ve secured our civil rights, once it’s too late (for what?), only then will we expose our real agenda: the right to fist each other on prime-time TV, quotas for the hiring of transvestite nuns to teach in Catholic grade schools, the right to take underage boys and girls from the homes of their god-fearing parents and raise them as our personal love slaves.
One wonders why the Christian Right has suddenly seized on gay and lesbian issues with such glee. One wonders, but not for long: with the passing of communism and the election of a prochoice president the Christian Right’s two big issues have evaporated. Though the possibility of a totalitarian/fascist Russia is a very real threat, it was communism’s godlessness, its state-sponsored atheism, that drove the Christians up the chapel wall. And abortion isn’t the issue it was a few years ago: at last weekend’s pope festival in Denver, Operation Rescue could muster only 60 protesters for a clinic blockade. Momentum and money are drying up. So now, to unite the right, its leaders have identified a new threat–me. That’s an oversimplification, I know, but like an African American passing a cross burning or a Jew taking a dump in a stall covered with swastika graffiti, it’s hard not to take it personally.
And so should you, queer or straight, Jew or gentile, black or white. The money the Right is raising by trotting out pictures of shirtless dykes and middle-aged sex slaves isn’t all being plowed back into the fight against “progay” legislation–it’s going to groups fighting all sorts of socially progressive legislation, to support the entire racist, sexist, homophobic conservative social agenda. (Only two cable outlets carried live coverage of the March on Washington: CNN and Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Service. On CNN the march was broadcast without commentary. On Pat Robertson’s station, it was broadcast over a running appeal for donations.)
One regular feature in LR, “Gay Hate Crimes,” chronicles “acts of intolerance and hatred by gays.” In issue number two we read about the unfortunate experience of high-profile antigay activist Lou Sheldon on a plane from Washington, D.C., after the march:
“A leading critic of the homosexual movement was forced to be isolated on a flight to California after a group of gays recognized and assaulted him on the plane. The Rev. Louis Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), and his wife, Beverly, said they were abused by gay activists on American Airlines Flight 477 from Washington, D.C., to Anaheim, California.
“Rev. Sheldon said that while in flight, he was surrounded in his seat ‘by hostile homosexual assailants who hurled epithets, obscenities and death threats.’ He then moved to the first-class section of the plane to insure his safety.”
Lou was heckled by queers who didn’t approve of his life-style choice–his choice to work hard to make this country a dangerous place to be queer. “Gay Hate Crimes” didn’t mention that Lou had just spent the weekend in D.C. denouncing gays and lesbians. Or that the gays and lesbians on Lou’s flight denied making death threats. (Maybe they offered to share their pillows and blankets with him.) Lou Sheldon attacks gay people (for a living!), and one day queers tell him they don’t like it. That’s no hate crime, that’s self-defense. The last guy I know who was gay-bashed died of his wounds. Lou was bumped to first class.
My favorite part of LR by far is the back-page column, “Good News: Gays Can Change!” featuring the stories of self-hating gay guys who manage to suppress their homosexual urges.
The idea that gays can “change,” that we can turn into straight people if we really want to, has been completely discredited. We can, of course, learn to hate ourselves, to deny who we are and to lead miserable, twisted lives in the bosom of homophobic families.
Wade Crowson, “former serviceman and former homosexual,” is profiled in issue two’s column. After his descent into homosexuality, which reads like the tragic-world-of-the-homosexual pulp novels of the 50s and 60s, we read that Wade “got a call from an old high school friend who ‘began to share with me what the Lord had done in delivering her from drugs.’ . . . Crowson said it was then that he knew he had to change. He committed his life to Christ and began a new life in the faith that had lied [sic] dormant since his youth. ‘Since that time,’ Crowson said, ‘I became celibate . . . and I’ve been celibate ever since.'”
Wade became celibate–but did he become straight? Let’s keep reading:
“The changed status ‘was a real shock for me,’ he said. ‘Going from the kind of activity I was doing . . . to nothing. . . . I know it was the Lord’s power that gave me the strength.’ Crowson was also encouraged by other former homosexuals in an ex-gay ministry he joined. There he also learned of the root causes behind his reckless behavior.
“He does not deny that he occasionally struggles with temptations. But he says a lot of his misplaced desires have been changed and have been replaced by others he’d long given up on–such as having a family.
“A real family, that is.”
Wade still “struggles with temptations.” Why? Because Wade’s sexual orientation hasn’t changed. He may have stopped having brunch and doing sit-ups, but he’s still gay. It’s his willingness to accept himself that’s been destroyed. Nowhere in Wade’s profile does he say, “I want to have sex with women now, the sooner the better.” Nowhere does he relate his uncontrollable desire to lick a shaved leg or bury his face in one of the airbrushed armpits he sees in the Playboy magazines he now rushes out to buy every month. Wade, LR’s Former Homosexual for June 1993, is as gay as I am–he’s just not having sex anymore.
In the eyes of the Lambda Report, “gay” isn’t something a person is, it’s something a person does. Get us to stop doing it and poof!–if you’ll pardon the expression–we’re straight! I haven’t had sex since yesterday. At 9:30 tonight I will have, by LR’s standards, not been gay for a full 24 hours. Maybe I could be the ex-gay poster child in issue four: “Writer sometimes goes for days at a time without being gay!”
No lesbians have been profiled in “Good News: Gays Can Change!” Perhaps editor-in-chief Peter LaBarbera has deduced that lesbianism is immutable, maybe even terminal. Or maybe no dykes have been featured because the Lambda Report, and Peter, aren’t much interested in them; except for those bare breasts at the March on Washington, and those fisters in issue three, lesbianism gets very little play.
The Lambda Report gives its phone number (1-800-452-NEWS) and asks readers to call in with info on the “homosexual lifestyle.” As only a select few of us can actually afford to subscribe to LR, pricey at $30 a year, I thought I’d do the neighborly thing and pass the number along to all of you. Call now with your hot tips–what condom is best for oral sex, why gay men brunch and lesbians pot luck, why we have better haircuts than straight people, what “hate crimes” are really like, hanky codes, bar etiquette, domestic partnership, where to find size 13 pumps. Dykes are especially encouraged to call: protest the scant coverage of the Lesbian agenda in LR: strike a blow for lesbian visibility. Straight people can play too: call and let LR know that not all heterosexuals are small-minded, homophobic, right-wing, flat-earth motherfuckers.
All calls to 800 numbers are automatically traced. Unless you don’t care if LR has your home phone number, call from a pay phone. It’s illegal to make harassing phone calls–hanging up, swearing, programming your computer to dial the number over and over–but it’s perfectly legal to (hello, First Amendment) call ’em up and give them a piece of your mind.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Jeff Heller.