Jun 28, 2014

Fall 1969: My Boyfriend and I Play "Fighting Prince of Donegal"

This is the 1966 Scholastic Book Club edition of Fighting Prince of Donegal, by Robert T. Reilly.

It may not look like much now, but when I was in fourth grade at Denkmann Elementary School, and it appeared among the selections offered by the Scholastic Book Club, I was entranced.

This was no wimpy fairy-tale prince in love with a princess, but a Fighting Prince, strong and powerful.  I had never heard of Donegal, but it was obviously a mystical, distant country with castles on high mountains, outlined against an orange moon.

My boyfriend Bill and I both ordered copies.  They wouldn't arrive for four to six weeks.

We talked about the book every day.  Would the Prince have muscles?  Would he have a best man?  Would he rescue his best man, who would then sigh "My hero?" and melt into his arms?

We made swords out of cardboard and played "Fighting Prince of Donegal."  My brother got to be the villain, who would lock Bill in the dungeon (the lilac bushes outside my house) so I could rescue him.

We often talked about what the Prince looked like.  If you read the ad very carefully, you could see that the book was originally called Red Hugh, Prince of Donegal.  That meant a red-head.  He must look something like this: 

Or, from an adult point of view, like this:

We looked up Donegal in the Golden Book Encyclopedia.  It was a county in Ireland, on the northeast coast.

There was a book in the Denkmann Library about Donegal, but it was all fairy tales, which we  hated.

Would those books ever arrive?

Bill's big brother Tom told us that a couple of years ago, Disney made a movie version of The Fighting Prince of Donegal, starring Peter McEnery as Red Hugh.

"Did he rescue a boy or a girl?" I asked expectantly.

"Neither one," Tom said.  "He gets rescued by an older guy.  I don't remember his name." (It was Henry O'Neill, played by Tom Adams.)

The books arrived around Halloween.  We ran to Bill's house and upstairs to his room, thrust aside our other selections --  Journey to the Center of the Earth, Arrow Book of Ghost Stories, The Forgotten Door, The Secret Hide-Out, 13 Ghostly Tales -- and opened our books and started reading.

It was the most boring thing I had ever read!

After a few minutes, I looked up.  Bill was leafing through the pages, looking for the "good parts."

I skipped ahead to the end -- Red Hugh gets a girlfriend!

Bill and I looked at each other.  He put the book down and glanced at our cardboard swords in the corner.

"Wanna play Fighting Prince of Donegal?" I asked.

He nodded.  "But this time I wanna rescue you, and you have to melt into my arms and say 'My hero!'"

See also: Gay Teens in the Summer of Love.

Jun 26, 2014

8 Gay Reasons to Visit New Guinea (and 5 Reasons Not To)

New Guinea is a large island north of Australia, with a population of 7 million divided between two countries: the Papuan province of Indonesia to the west, and the independent country of Papua New Guinea to the east.

Here are 8 Gay Reasons to visit:

1. It's the most linguistically diverse place on Earth, with 850 languages in many different families. Most people communicate in Tok Pisin, the only pidgin language to attain official status.  It is based on a trade form of English.  The Tok Pisin word for penis is kok, or kandare ("uncle").

2. In spite of official homophobia same-sex behavior has been documented in many tribes.  Most common is a rite of passage for adolescent boys requiring them to have sex with an older man of the village.  Usually the relationships end in a year or two, but, as Gilbert Herdt notes, in about 5% of cases they remain intact.

3. Anthropologists are most likely to document age-gradiated same-sex activity, so they can write that the men aren't really gay.  But some have been brave enough to note tribes where the adult men favor same-sex relations as noble and invigorating, and think of heterosexual relations as a necessary evil.

4. Gay men have often found a safe place there.  Tobias Schneebaum lived for several years among the Asmat, and married a man (although both were free to find other partners).

5. Michael Rockefeller, the "secretly" gay son of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, also found a safe haven in New Guinea.  Until he was killed and eaten.

6. Melanesian men tend to be extremely muscular.

7. They wear koteki, or penis sheaths, both to protect their sex organs and to make them look bigger. If that's possible.

8. Tribal art does not follow the Western custom of making the sex organs as small as possible.

On the other hand:

1. It's very dangerous, with a sky-high crime rate.  Port Moresby has a homicide rate of 54 per 100,000, the same as Detroit and New Orleans.

2. It's one of the most homophobic countries in the world.  Not quite Saudi Arabia, but close.  male same-sex acts are criminalized, with the penalty of 14 years in prison.

3. Officially, the population is "horrified" by the Western concept of gay people.

4. There are no gay bars, clubs, or organizations.  Everything is strictly underground.

5. Flights to Port Moresby from the U.S. cost about $4,000, and you have to change planes in Sydney.  Why not just stay there, and have a nice holiday in one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world instead?

See also: What's Not to Like about New Guinea

Jun 25, 2014

The Mysterious Disappearance of Mr. Gay Austria

34-year old Aeryn Gillern was living the life that every gay American wants: he had a beautiful apartment in Vienna overlooking the Danube, a job at the United Nations, and a face and physique that won him the title of Mr. Gay Austria in 2005.  Best of all, he had found a "good place," where the homophobia and heterosexism of his home country was a distant memory.

Or so he thought.

On the night of October 29th, 2007, he left work at 6:00 pm and checked into the Kaiserbrundl, a gay sauna near the City Center.  It is known for its upscale, closeted clients, including high-ranking politicians and religious leaders.

He was never seen again.  

The next morning, his partner called the police, but they refused to take a missing person report for three days, and then refused to investigate. 

A few days later, Aeryn's mother, Kathy Gilleran, flew in from Ithaca, New York.  A retired police officer herself, she tried to appeal to their professionalism, but, as she said, the police "treated me...as a vile creature who had the audacity to ask them to help me find my gay son."

Sexual deviants disappear all the time, they said; it's not a police matter.  When they finally issued a statement to the press, three weeks after Aeryn's disappearance, they called him an "emotionally unbalanced homosexual."

They told Kathy that Aeryn was probably so wracked with guilt over being a sexual deviant that he decided, on the spur of the moment, to commit "spontaneous suicide" by jumping in the Danube.

Good riddance.  Case closed.

Eventually, through the efforts of Kathy and Aeryn's friends, witness statements began to emerge.  But the story was contradictory:

7:00: A bald man, naked except for a towel, is seen running out of the Kaiserbrundl.

8:20: A passerby hears a splash, and sees a bald man floating in the Danube Canal near the Urania Bar in the City Center.

8:30: The police search the river.  They have divers, or don't, depending on who you ask.  They find nothing.

10:00: The Kaiserbrundl staff claims that Aeryn is still in the sauna.  He gets into an argument, and they call the police.  He runs out before the police arrive, leaving his clothes behind.

So he ran out at 7:00 or 10:00, or not at all.  Why would he run from the sauna naked, on a cold Austrian night?

And if he indeed fell (or was pushed) into the Danube near the Urania bar, why did it take him an hour and a half to go 1/2 mile?   

And why didn't anyone see him run through the crowded, heavily-traveled streets, dodging cars and trams?

Two years later, two witness came forward and said that they had seen a naked man running through the City Center.  They mentioned that he "looked terrified."  They sounded like they had been coached.

Sounds like Aeryn saw something he shouldn't have, and ran, but didn't get far.  .

Kathy has continued to investigate, and to publicize the official homophobia.  In June 2014 the newly-formed Sonderkomission, the Cold Case Division of the Austrian police force, agreed to re-open the case, based on an article in Der Falter by investigative reporter Joseph Gepp.  You can read about new developments on her website.

The documentary film Gone, by Gretchen and John Morning, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2011.  You can see the trailer on youtube.

The Hottest, Coolest, and Most Homophobic Daytime TV Judges

When I was living in Florida, there were judge shows on nonstop every day from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm: Judge Judy, The People's Court, Divorce Court, Judge Joe Brown, Judge Mathis, Judge Hatchett, Judge Alex, and so on.  In spite of public perception, they are not actual court proceedings; they are binding arbitrations presided over by a former judge.

The cases are taken from small-claims court, so they are mild: a roommate sues over a broken lease; a girlfriend sues over an unpaid loan; a bride and groom sue their wedding photographer for shoddy service.  Still, the voiceovers sensationalize the cases, envisioning vast scenarios of good versus evil, of "tough justice," lex talionis, giving scumbags their just deserts.

Come on, the "scumbag" didn't do anything more heinous than reneging on a contract!

Here are the most homophobic, heterosexist, gay-positive, hottest, and coolest of the daytime tv judges:

1. Most Homophobic:  A tie between Judge Joe Brown and Judge Mathis.  They are constantly appearing shocked and horrified when they get gay litigants (which isn't often) and saying things like "A child needs a mother and a father."

The voiceover introductions don't help: a woman is suing her LESBIAN LOVER!!!! for non-payment of a loan,  or two MALE LOVERS!!!! are suing the contractor who botched their new kitchen.

Most Heterosexist: Oddly, Judge David Young (left) , the only "openly" gay tv judge.  Every male litigant is advised to get a woman, and every female litigant to get a man.  “Are you a woman who has been taken ad-vantage of by a man?” he asks, unaware that a woman might be taken advantage of by a woman. He advises a male litigant who has just graduated from high school to continue his education, because: “There are a lot of cute girls in college who would like you!” The young man has not once mentioned being heterosexual.

Coolest: the acerbic Judge Judy Scheindlin/.  She rarely makes homophobic comments, but her courtroom is infused with heterosexism.  She demands that unmarried litigants "Grow up, stop playing house, and get married!" Thus voraciously equating straight practice with maturity, condemning gay people to perpetual adolescence.

Most gay-positive: Judge Marilyn Milian of The People’s Court.  Like the other judges, she often asks male litigants "Do you have a girlfriend?" and female litigants "Do you have a boyfriend?" without determining their sexual orientation first, but she never goes beyond that kneejerk heterosexism, and she treats her LGBT litigants like anyone else, not as ratings-grabbing scandals.

Hottest: Judge Alex Ferrer (left)

There are also some hot bailiffs, such as Doyle Devereaux, bailiff for Judge Mathis, and Douglas McIntosh (left), bailiff for Judge Marilyn Milian.

And many attractive litigants.  A fun game is to write down their names and home towns and search for them online.  They often have galleries of shirtlless photos on Facebook or Instagram.

Jun 24, 2014

Loki: Beefcake and Gay Rivalry in Norse Myth

In Norse mythology, Loki was a trickster god with a dark side.  Jealous over the attention that the other gods were giving Baldur the Beautiful, Loki arranged for him to be assaulted by a spring of mistletoe .  Jealous over the attention that Baldur the Beautiful was receiving from the other gods received, he arranged for him to be assaulted by a sprig of mistletoe, the only thing that can kill the God of Beauty.

Lots of gay symbolism there:
1. Loki is upset over the attention that other men were giving a male god.
2. The male god can only be killed by a symbol of male virility,  Maybe a symbolic rape?

Outraged over the murder of thee most beautiful man in Asgard, the other gods tied Loki naked to a rock, where a serpent drooled venom all over him.  His wife Sif took pity on him, and captured the venom in a bowl.  But every now and then she has to be gone for a few moments to empty the bowl, and Loki's agonized thrashing is the reason we have earthquakes.

The story may have a heteronormative end, but it's inspired many male artists to emphasize masculine beauty by painting a  muscular, naked man next to a fully-clothed lady.

Such as Marten Eskil Winge (1863).

Or Christoffer Eckersberg (1810)

Or Karl von Gebhardt.(1891)

Ernst Hermann Walther (1851) gives us a Loki with no Sith.

19th century writers often reformed Loki, making him a friend to humans and bringer of fire, like Prometheus.

But more recently, he has been demonized again, appearing in movies and comic books as a god of evil who wants to destroy the world. Some notable Lokis on film have been played by Tom Hiddleston (top photo), David Blair, and Jayson Sloan.

Jun 23, 2014

Guess Which New Teen Hunk on "Teen Wolf" is Gay

I heard that there will be three new characters on the gay-positive lacrosse team of  Teen Wolf this season:   One will be gay, and the others heterosexual.  Can you guess the actor playing the gay character?

1. Dylan Sprayberry was in Bedrooms (2010) and Man of Steel (2013).  He has been linked to Disney teen star Ryan Ochoa, either as a romantic partner or a best bud.

2. No shirtless pix of Khylin Rhambo, sorry.  There was one where he was wearing a muscle shirt, but it had a naked woman on it.

He has appeared on First Family (2012), a sitcom about the first African-American family in the White House (wait...didn't that already happen in 2008?).  And in Ender's Game, based on the novel by homophobe Orson Scott Card.

3. Mason Dye is famous for Flowers in the Attic (2014), based on the 1979 novel about kids who are trapped in an attic for years by their evil grandmother (she can't reveal their existence to the world, or she loses her inheritance).  The older boy and girl grow into teenagers and begin an incestuous heterosexual romance.

The 1987 version starring Jeb Stuart Adams omitted the incest angle, but the 2014 version didn't, throwing Mason into a storm of controversy.  

He takes off his shirt a lot, no matter what he's doing, and he has a lot of cute guy friends.

Answer after the break.

Henry: A Surreal Comic Strip about Oral Fixation

When I was growing up, my parents didn't approve of reading anything but the Bible  -- you remember what happened to My Book of Cute Boys .

But they still had a stash: Collier's Encyclopedia, the Junior Classics, some cookbooks, and some very, very old children's books that must have come from their own childhoods.

Like a book of comic strips featuring this creature, Henry.  Ostensibly a boy, but oddly pear-shaped, with a bald, bulbous head and no teeth -- usually no mouth.  He didn't speak.

I was fascinated.  Why was this being masquerading as a boy?  Why did he never speak?  What was this ghostly, Freudian world that he moved through?  Why was he so obsessed with oral gratification, with the mouth, faces, and bodies of other boys?

In a little while, Henry and his African-American stereotyped friend will be kissing.

Henry's quest for oral gratification often got him into the mouths of  muscular boys. Here he as stolen a lollipop.

Years later I discovered that Henry was a newspaper comic strip that first appeared in 1932, the creation of 67-year old cartoonist Carl Anderson (who stylized his name AnderSon).  Growing up in the era after the Civil War, Anderson naturally placed Henry in an archaic world of ice trucks and confectioner's shops that seemed surreal even in the 1930s.

In 1942, John Linley took over the strip. Several other artists have contributed.  It is still running in 75 newspapers.

Henry didn't cross over well into other media.  There are no Big Little Books, movies, or cartoon series, although he is interviewed by Betty Boop in a 1935 one-shot.  There is one children's book, Henry Goes to a Party (1955).

Dell published a comic book from 1946 to 1961.  There Henry speaks and the people in his world get names (the nude boy is his best friend, Julius). And he's conventionally heterosexual, with a girlfriend, or rather a female counterpart named Henrietta.

See also:  Little Brown Koko.

Jeremy Sumpter: A Normal Kid

Jeremy Sumpter's biography on IMDB states that he was a "normal kid," and that seems to be the mantra of the former child star's career: be normal, be heterosexual, flee from anything that might hint at the existence of gay people.

I first saw him in Frailty (2001), about a Christian fundamentalist who goes around killing people who are "possessed by demons," and is grooming his sons to follow in his footsteps. Gues who some of those people  "possessed by demons" are?  Of course, it's a bad thing to kill them, but still...

Then, in Florida, Local Boys (2002), about a group of local boys in Hawaii who go surfing.  "This was a hard film to shoot," Jeremy says on his website, "Since we were surfing at the beach almost everyday and there were all these girls around in bikinis."

Ok, ok, you're heterosexual.  I got it.  

Then came Peter Pan (2003), an execrable adaption of the gay-subtext classic.  Peter Pan wears a slinky-sexual vine-costume with odd bits of bare skin -- um, did anyone realize that Jeremy Sumpter was only 13 years old?  And instead of gay subtexts, we get a creepy attempt to initiate heterosexual desire in the pubescent Wendy.  Gross, disgusting, disturbing.....but, you have to admit, heterosexual.

Although it wasn't really his fault that he was cast in a movie for pedophiles, Peter Pan turned me off on ever seeing anything else with Jeremy Sumpter (or directed by P.J. Hogan).  So I didn't watch Clubhouse (2004-2005), about a teenager who becomes a batboy for a major league baseball team, and presumably, chases girls.

Or Calvin Marshall (2009), about a junior college baseball player who finds out what's really important in a boy's life: girls.

Or You're So Cupid (2010), about two girls in love with the same guy.

Or Friday Night Lights (2008-2010), about a high school football team in small-town Texas.

However, I did see Sasquatch Gang (2006), about slackers hunting the legendary monster.  Jeremy's character is aggressively heterosexual, but if you can get past the jokes about farts and turds, and the homophobic panic scenes, you get a nice gay-subtext couple, two guys (Justin Long, Joey Kerns) who live together and don't express any interest in girls.

And I understand that Animal (2014), otherwise a cliched horror movie, will include a gay character among its disparate types trapped in a wilderness cabin by a monster.  Maybe he'll be played by gay actor Paul Iocono.

So Jeremy can't keep gay people completely out of his work. But he's come close.

See also: Peter Pan.
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