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Politics, Polar Pride, and Chopin’s Gay Letters

Gay news and noteworthy articles for the week of December 3, 2020

Gay Politics and News

After a short Thanksgiving break, we have returned to discover that Joe Biden has named a gay man—Carlos Elizondo—as White House social secretary. Mr. Elizondo previously served in the Obama administration. Mr. Biden has also selected “Black lesbian political powerhouse Karine Jean-Pierre” as deputy press secretary.

Meanwhile, the election postmortem grinds tediously on: In The Washington Post, Giselle Donnelly and James Kirchick argue that “the increase in LGBTQ support for Trump has a silver lining” because “a sizeable number of LGBTQ voters apparently feel safe and liberated enough to vote much like the rest of the country, which is something to applaud.” We’re not sure we agree, but we may be spared having to decide: A recent GLAAD poll found that only 14% of gay voters cast their ballots for Mr. Trump—“about the same as…four years ago”—not the 28% reported earlier based on exit polls.

Even if Donnelly and Kirchick are right, there is still plenty of room for improvement: As The Economist reports, “courts in 39…states still admit the ‘gay-panic’ defence. That is 39 too many.” And next week, the Supreme Court will consider whether to hear a case in which Indiana is seeking to overturn earlier rulings allowing both gay parents in a couple to be listed on their child’s birth certificate, even though one of them may not have a biological connection. So if you need a reason to give a few bucks or write a few get-out-the-vote letters for the Senate runoff campaigns in Georgia, now you have it, because passage of a federal Equality Act may well depend on that election.

And it happens again: An anti-LGBTQ Hungarian member of the European Parliament was arrested in Brussels for participating in a “male sex party” in violation of Belgium’s lockdown, according to The Daily Mail. Jozsef Szajer “allegedly tried to flee the 25-person orgy by climbing through a window and shinning down a drainpipe.” Police in Uganda used COVID-19 as an excuse to raid a hostel sheltering gay youth, then publicly humiliated, imprisoned, and tortured them—all in the name of “public health.” More happily, November also saw the celebration of the first official “Polar Pride,” with rainbow flags flying over Antarctica.

Gay Books, Arts, and Culture

Fiona Sturges reviews William S. Burroughs and the Cult of Rock’n’Roll, by Casey Rae, in The Guardian. And Allan Hollinghurst reviews Lot and Bryan Washington’s new book, Memorial, in the New York Review of Books.

The Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps became the first LGBTQ group to perform in Macy’s (abbreviated) Thanksgiving Day Parade. Journalist Moritz Weber says he has found previously unacknowledged homoerotic love letters in the papers of the great nineteenth-century composer Frédéric Chopin. One of the letters to a male friend apparently reads, “You don’t like being kissed. Please allow me to do so today. You have to pay for the dirty dream I had about you last night.” The claim is not going down well in Chopin’s native Poland, where “LGBTQ-free zones” have recently been sprouting up. Elton John won the Global Impact award at this year’s British LGBT Awards. And Out published “thirteen photos of the incomparable Freddie Mercury just because.”

Actors presumed to be straight have again been catching flak for playing gay roles. James Corden’s portrayal of a gay man in The Prom was called “one of the worst film performances of the 21st century.” Viggo Mortensen defended his portrayal of a gay man in Falling, saying “How do you know what my life is? You’re assuming that I’m completely straight. Maybe I am, maybe I’m not.” Sri Lankan-Canadian director Brandon Ingram’s movie Funny Boy is winning accolades in Canada for telling the story of growing up gay in Sri Lanka. And, spurred by Helena Bonham-Carter’s portrayal in The Crown, Town & Country asks the all-important question: “Is Princess Margaret a gay icon?”

Finally, Destiny 2 designer Robert Brookes has confirmed that the video game characters Saint and Osiris are gay and in love, authoritatively ending an “are they bros or boyfriends” dispute simmering in the community.

Illustration: Bronzino, Portrait of a Young Man, 1530s (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

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