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House Passes Equality Act

But is it doomed in the Senate? Plus more books, art, and news, including: Derek Jacobi and Ian McKellen in a red convertible, Pete Buttigieg bikes to work, and Ghana LGBTQ center shut down...

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, which seeks to prohibit “discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity.” The bill now moves to the Senate, where it would need support from all fifty Democrats plus ten Republicans to move forward. But with comparative moderates like Susan Collins and Mitt Romney declining to support the bill, it seems unlikely to pass the Senate in anything like its current form.

The Washington Post described the House debate, in which a Republican representative harrassed a Democratic colleague with transphobic tweets, as yet another sign of a “ramped-up culture war over LGBTQ rights.” Would that Republicans would honor their own party platform, which affirms “as did the Delaration of Independence: that all are created equal, endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”! But if they will not—if their all does not include all LGBTQ Americans—then Democrats must end the “Jim Crow” filibuster and act alone.

Books, Arts, and Culture

In books this week, Sweeter Voices Still: An LGBTQ Anthology from Middle America offers essays, poetry, and memoirs “from the Midwest, Appalachia, the Rust Belt, the Great Plains, and the upper South,” according to KCUR. And in Lone Stars, reviewed in Harvard Magazine, Justin Deabler brings us “a sprawling and powerful family epic” focused on the trials and tribulations of the young, gay Julian Warner. And a New York Times reviewer reviewed The New York Times Book Review on the occasion of its 125th anniversary, including its original judgments of Gore Vidal’s The City and the Pillar (“pornography”) and James Purdy’s fiction (“the sick outpouring of a confused, adolescent, distraught mind”).

The Columbia Journalism Review offers a fascinating appraisal of Bachelor magazine, which briefly—in 1937 and 1938—offered coded titillation to a mainly gay audience. “One issue featured a sketch of two men holding hands; another featured an illustration of two naked women, who whispered to each other, ‘Don’t look now, but I think we’ve come up in the wrong magazine!’”

In The New Yorker, Michael Waters tells “the untold story of queer foster families,” how “in the nineteen-seventies, social workers in several states placed queer teen-agers with queer foster parents, in discrete acts of quiet radicalism.” NBC News reveals “how the Black freedom movement inspired early gay activists,” including Frank Kameny, whose story was retold recently in Eric Cervini’s The Deviant’s War. And in Time, Benji Hart and Michael Roberson bring the story of New York’s ballroom scene from the 1960s to today, observing that the “radical freedoms for Black and brown queer people” provided by the balls matter today “more than ever.”

In art, Rome’s Quadriennale exhibition—which includes works by queer artists such as Silvano Bussotti—“opens up space to grapple with issues linked to Italy’s fascist history and the country’s feminist and LGBTQ movements of the 1970s,” writes Francesco Dama in Hyperallergic. And in The Calvert Journal, Portia Kentish introduces us to the work of “Fungus: the queer Georgian art collective destroying toxic social norms” in the ex-Soviet republic. And Bortolami in New York brings us a show of drawings and paintings by Patrick Angus, “an artist known for his strikingly intimate portraits of men and honest depictions of the gay experience in 1980s New York,” running through Saturday.

Finally, in the category of “things we just love,” there is this photograph of Derek Jacobi and Ian McKellen in a classic red convertible, and a new gay-divorced musical group called, appopriately enough, The Gay Divorcees.

Gay News

Ghana’s only LGBTQ community center has shut down less than a month after it opened, according to The Guardian. LGBT+ Rights Ghana established the center in Accra in late January with help from the EU’s delegation, according to PinkNews. Almost immediately, the Ghanaian Catholic Church and other religious groups demanded that the center be closed and urged the government “never to be cowed down or to succumb to the pressure to legalize the rights of LGBTQIs in Ghana.” While the president obliged with a public avowal never to legalize same-sex marriage, the attacks inspired one brave journalist to come out as gay on live television and ask for the “opportunity to love like all humanity loves.” Reports differ about whether the center was shut down by the police or “closed preemptively…to protect its staff”; either way, its director, fearing for his safety, has gone “offline.”

According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans identifying as LGBTQ rose to 5.6%, up from 4.5% in the last survey. Even more encouraging is the distribution by age: The younger you are, the likelier you are to identify as LGBTQ, with only 1.3% of respondents born before 1946 self-identifying but a striking 15.9% of respondents born between 1997 and 2002.

LGBTQ identification by generation (gay·F·fect, based on Gallup poll data)

The sight of Pete Buttigieg biking to his new job as Secretary of Transportation, riding a sturdy cycle from the Capital Bike Share program, has the internet all in a tizzy. A transportation secretary using public transportation—amazing! Husband Chasten joked on Twitter, “Sure looks like there’s room for groceries in that basket.”

In other U.S. news, the Census Bureau released a report on same-sex households based on the 2019 American Community Survey. The report estimates that there are 980,000 same-sex households nationwide, of which 58% are married. Unsurprisingly, the Bay area, Portland, and Seattle/Tacoma “were among metro areas with the highest percentages” of such households, followed by Orlando, Austin, Miami, Boston, and Denver. And last month, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases—directed by Dr. Anthony Fauci—began accepting grant applications for research to develop gene therapies for HIV, as part of a $200 million joint project between NIAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Sidney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade on March 6th is just around the corner. COVID-19 safety precautions have been introduced for the parade and festival, which started on February 19th; some events, such as fair day, have been canceled for the year. Organizers in New York are also planning to move ahead with pride this coming June, with a combination of virtual and in-person events on the theme “The Fight Continues.” And in the United Kingdom, Manchester and London pride events in August and September will also take place, likely also with some virtual and some in-person events.

“Gay Trump sycophant” Richard Grenell may run for governor of California, according to LGBTQ Nation. In a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday, Grenell said—apparently referring to current governor Gavin Newsom—“If a public official is still failing to deliver on their promises, and if you can’t limit their term or recall them in time, there’s always one other option: you can run against them yourself.” Meanwhile, in Fresno, LGBTQ activists protested a memorial to “recently dead hatemonger Rush Limbaugh” posted on the marquee of a “historically gay-friendly theater” by a conservative church trying to buy the building, according to the Advocate.

Finally, Lawrence Ferlinghetti has died at age 101. “The poet, publisher, painter, and political activist who co-founded the famous City Lights bookshop in San Francisco” was jailed on obscenity charges in 1957 for publishing Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl.”

Art Note

Saint Sebastian, by the Italian Baroque painter Giovanni Lanfranco (1582–1647). According to tradition, the third-century martyr was tied to a post or tree and shot with arrows; he was rescued and healed by Saint Irene before being clubbed to death. Images of Sebastian became a staple of homoerotic art, including two famous photographs of Yukio Mishima and by Carl van Vechten.

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