Here are all the fantastically amazing Guest Slap entries!

Dr. Flamingo Jones And The Sacred Band Of Thebes

September 29th, 2010

Dr. Flamingo Jones stands beside the Lion of Chaironeia.

I’m very happy to present today’s Guest Slap. The author, Dr. Flamingo Jones, is a world-renowned archaeologist and researcher at the University of Oxbridgeshire. While I know little about his reclusive past and current whereabouts, he has kindly agreed to share with us, occasionally, his knowledge, discoveries, and insights.

Good day to you, ladies, gentlemen, and those who do not wish to confine yourselves to such limiting terminology. I apologize for my long absence in contributing to this esteemed publication, but I do so without regret. In the intervening year since my last article, I have been on sabbatical from my position as head of the Department of Queer Anthropology at the University of Oxbridgeshire to travel around the world in my ongoing quest for both modern and ancient truths.

With all the controversy in the last few years over the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in the U.S. military, I thought it would be rather illuminating to share with you an example of one of the greatest military teams from antiquity, one which had rather the opposite belief when it came to the sexual orientation of soldiers: the Sacred Band of Thebes.

2388 years ago, in 378 BC, a Theban military commander by the name of Gorgidas had an interesting idea for forming a novel type of elite military unit that would be more loyal than any other. He decided to put to use the homosexuality that has always been quite commonplace in military units throughout the ages. From the regular Theban army, Gorgidas hand-picked 150 pairs of skilled soldiers who were lovers with other soldiers. The logic behind this was that a soldier would fight with utmost ferocity and loyalty if he were fighting alongside his lover, defending him at all costs. The Theban commander himself would often fight among the Sacred Band with his own special companion.

Different commanders would use the Sacred Band of Thebes as a special forces team in different ways, scattered through the front ranks as a morale booster for the other troops, or solidified in one ferocious fighting unit. During the years of the Sacred Band’s existence Thebes gained greater and greater power in their region, even breaking free from Sparta’s dominance when the Sacred Band helped to defeat an army three times their own size.

Unfortunately, in 338BC the Sacred Band was annihilated by Philip II of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great). According to Plutarch, most of the Theban soldiers fled in the face of Philip II’s superior military technology, but not the Sacred Band. They stood, fought, and died as one that day, and are even buried together on that same spot, marked today by a statue known as the Lion of Chaironeia. Plato, in his Symposium, best describes the love and determination found of the Sacred Band of Thebes, in which he wrote:

And if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their loves, they would be the very best governors of their own city, abstaining from all dishonour, and emulating one another in honour; and when fighting at each other’s side, although a mere handful, they would overcome the world. For what lover would not choose rather to be seen by all mankind than by his beloved, either when abandoning his post or throwing away his arms? He would be ready to die a thousand deaths rather than endure this.

Ask, Tell

April 12th, 2010

Guest Slap

I’m super happy to introduce today’s special guest author / illustrator! Premee is not only exceptionally talented, but also living proof that not everyone living in Calgary is necessarily a gun-toting, cowboy hat-wearing, cattle-prodding, grit-eating, hay-growing, gay-hoeing, well, you get the idea…

The US military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy has always been a tough one for gay activists.  The proposed changes may make it a little easier to be a uniformed gay, inasmuch as an anonymous outing is no longer cause for immediate discharge (there’s an investigation now!), but the fact remains that the military culture is generally homophobic and feels that homophobia is a valid excuse to exclude, ostracize, threaten, and whine about undue exposure to gay folks.  “But it’ll ruin unit cohesion!”  “I’m scared I’ll be poked awake one morning!”  “I can’t focus on my job with all that gay around!”  “No man’s foxhole is safe!”

The rational response, of course, would be education and desegregation; unfortunately, it looks like the official response is ghettoization.

Marine Commandant General J. Conway has been interviewed saying “I would not ask our Marines to live with someone that’s homosexual if we can possibly avoid it,” and has gone on to outline his plans to completely segregate gay from straight troops.  This uninformed and frankly nasty attitude promotes a culture of otherness and, so far from progressing gay troops from inferiors to equals, will probably make them targets by setting them apart from the rest of their units.

On the other hand, since single housing is now proposed for those gay servicemen, it might actually end up being a little nicer than life in the closet!

Segregated rooms, one croweded, one lonely.

Christmas Christ-myth

December 9th, 2009

Guest Slap

I’m very pleased to introduce today’s guest author. Matthew David is a gay Christian and talented singer/songwriter with an aptness for challenging popular conceptions. In his second Guest Slap, Matthew questions whether Christianity’s appropriation of Christmas was wise, and whether it’s possible to integrate one’s faith with knowledge that the Nativity is rooted in pagan mythology.

Christmas is a write-off for a lot of people who have happily fallen deaf to the pagan reconstruction’s attempt at Christian symbolism. Adding to that the corporate cash-grab which brings about greed-gone-wild in our children (and our adults too), the heart of the season seems to have been lost. And ever a blog post, article, or television preacher crying foul about this very tragic loss every December.

I’ll join the chorus, but as an oddball—a gay Christian. Sure, many an “unsaved” soul has seen the Christmas tree, the holly, the stockings, and the virgin/manger nativity, and has observed that this is nothing more than a rebranding of Rome’s then-ancient pagan myth. Some have even seen the story behind the celebration as “same script, different cast,” referring to some Egyptian, Greek, or Hindu god-story, to list only a few. To be sure, the similarities are exact, and become frightening to the faithful.

Others have gone further, writing off everything the church believes as false, as they’ve seen how the institution’s dogma has mistreated the human race in ages past, and yes, continues to do the very same burning at the stake (well, as much as the law allows, the bastards). Many readers have experienced the unChristian manifestation of this dogma personally, and have in turn, turned their back on the people of this dogma, and even the dogma itself. Granted, if a belief prescribes atrocity, why believe?

But here’s a thought in a different vein: don’t let a people’s obviously-false doctrine rule out the pursuit of a correct interpretation of said doctrine. Siding with naysayers is the easy button for a person who has been hurt or has seen others hurt; likewise, news that demeans the character of an enemy is easily believed, and is rarely given fair and responsible thought.

Generally, looking at things with an open mind and a different angle is wisdom. Believe immediately the premise that Christmas is a man-made myth meant to help us sleep at night, or hear the criticism and ask a question. Perhaps this: Is Christmas veiled paganism, or is it the final manifestation of the persistent collective human psyche’s prophecy of a god-man coming? Have ancient sages, prophets, and star-gazers from every part of the world and from every age seen the same story in their rituals, apparitions, and star-charts, and deducted the same story to pass on to the masses? Or is this population control for a new era? Perhaps something even more sinister? There are many things to ask before a fair judgment is made, if we’re willing to be fair.

This holiday season, take the time to entertain the thought that there may be something good within the traditions to believe. When we have preconceived notions about anything, we miss the true notions when they come. And believe me, if you will, a pauper’s baby in a back-country manger is easy to miss… Still, strange so many have believed all this time.

Thanks again to today’s guest author! If you’d like to hear more from Matthew, including his brand new album, Masquerade, head on over to the official Matthew David website.

Gays And The Good Book

July 15th, 2009

Guest Slap

I’m über stoked about today’s special guest author. Matthew David is a talented singer/songwriter whose strong message of acceptance in traditionally unaccommodating communities has already crossed borders, earning airtime in both Canada and the United States. In today’s Guest Slap, Matthew shares his personal insights and experiences on what it means to be gay and Christian, challenging the widely-held perception that the two are mutually exclusive.

A lot of people blame the slow-relenting cultural phobia of homosexuality on the effect of our roots in a long-lasting Judeo-Christian tradition, and I tend to agree. After all, homosexuality certainly wasn’t feared or hated on a cultural level prior to the rise of Christianity—in fact, it seems secular culture now is catching up, as it were, to the thoughts of Greeks and Romans on the matter. Odd, eh? When you think about it, modern society is adopting more traditional values than those we currently label traditional (i.e. the religious folk).

As we observe the gradual movement of Western society away from Christianity and any form of institutional dogma, we also see secular culture slowly warming up to the former fringers, further polarizing the communities of faith. I say warming up about Western secular society, but generally it is quite warm, excepting the odd news item of discrimination and violence. In general, it is religiously-motivated groups taking political action against equality and protesting anything helping the gays.

This brings me to the struggle between homosexuality and the culture of faith. A growing group of modern Christians has been surprised to discover that the Good Book doesn’t actually condemn GLBTQ people to hell. And this group includes me, with a foot in both the gay and the Christian worlds. I grew up in an entirely Christian world-slash-bubble, and with the early-teen realization that I was gay, I went into impenetrable denial, dark depression, stark seclusion, and a twitching toward taking my own life. I finally came to the same understanding that God not only “loves the sinner,” but he also doesn’t “hate the sin,” contrary to the doctrine of many of his people. Why did I waste so many years in turmoil? Was all that pain over a silly misread of holy writ?

From age 13 to age 26 I wrestled with the straight-jacket and gag I so lovingly cherished—my faith. I did everything I could to be rid of my “demons,” to cure the supposed psychology that had  perverted me, and to pray away the gay, but nothing came of it. Finally, I was told by some brave soul that God loved me, and he didn’t love me “anyway” as many Christians had told me. He loves me fully and completely as I am—gay. He loves me gay, and the only abomination I could be guilty of would be to try to live straight. Doing so would desecrate his holy temple.

However, the struggle continues, as it is transferred from one with the faith to one with the faithful. I am now separated as disingenuous, or worse, fallen. On top of the many questions from the happily-naive like, “did somebody touch you?”, or “have you tried eHarmony?”, there are sucker-punching questions like, “but aren’t you supposed to be a Christian?”

One of the principles I live my daily life by is found in the Book that, on other pages, is used to condemn me and justify my persecution. It tells me “in all things God works for the good of those who love him,” and in the next breath that I am “more than a conqueror” just being his child. I trust it fully. It gives purpose to the struggle, and strength to withstand all the judgement and even the attacks.

What an odd Book. One man reads it with hate in his eyes and sets up a pile of wood to burn the witch; and the witch reads it in her time of desperate need only to find the strength and courage she needs to endure the injustice. One day, I have faith that injustice will be inconceivable in every culture and sub-culture, and the Book won’t be needed for purposes like this at all.

Thanks again to today’s guest author! If you’d like to hear more from Matthew, including his latest single, Masquerade, head on over to the official Matthew David MySpace page.

Dr. Flamingo Jones And The Great Hairpin Drop

March 2nd, 2009

This photo may or may not be historically accurate.

I’m exceptionally pleased to present today’s Guest Slap. The author, Dr. Flamingo Jones, is a world-renowned archaeologist and researcher at the University of Oxbridgeshire. While I know little about his reclusive past and current whereabouts, he has kindly agreed to share with us, occasionally, his knowledge, discoveries, and insights.

Good day to you, ladies, gentlemen, and those who do not wish to confine yourselves to such limiting terminology. Given all the recent hubbub about Harvey Milk and Sean Penn’s portrayal of him in the Oscar-winning historical film, I decided that this would be an ideal opportunity to talk about the modern gay rights movement.

While Milk was undoubtedly an important and influential early figure in the gay civil rights movement, gay people largely owe their rights to a moment several years before his first foray into the world of Californian politics. It’s a night that many people perhaps know the name of, but do not know much about, which is why it will be the topic of today’s article: The Stonewall Riots.

The Stonewall Riots took place in The United State’s other gay homeland, Christopher Street, in Greenwich Village, New York, 1969. At that time, America’s policies toward gays and lesbians was comparable to that of most Iron Curtain, communist-controlled nations.  Most states had laws criminalizing homosexuality, as did most other developed countries around the world.

However, in New York, there were a few bars that would serve openly gay customers, drag queens, and lesbians.  Police raids at these establishments were common; they would come in with both plainclothes and uniformed officers, claiming to be searching for liquor sale infractions. They would then arrest patrons of the bars providing little or no charges. Drag queens, butch lesbians, Blacks, and Hispanics would be arrested more often than white men. Men dressed as women would automatically be arrested, and women had to be wearing at least three pieces of feminine clothing, or else they would be arrested as lesbians. Adding insult to injury, the day after the arrests, the names of all arrested would be printed in the newspaper, often resulting in them being fired from their jobs. The bar would be allowed to re-open, sometimes that same night, after paying a bribe to the police. Indeed, most gay-friendly establishments were owned by the mafia, including the Stonewall.

On the morning on Saturday, June 28, 1969 at 1:20am there was a raid on the Stonewall that certainly did not go as the police had planned. They started off as usual, turning off the music, turning on the lights, lining everyone up, and inspecting genders. The bar was quite full that night—approximately 200 customers—but the patrons who had valid identification and were released didn’t just leave; they congregated outside the bar’s entrance, attracting a larger and larger crowd of onlookers who jeered and shouted at the police.

This was the second raid on the Stonewall in a week, and would become the straw that broke the camel’s back. There are differing reports as to who actually threw the first punch. Some say it was a drag queen, some say it was one of the bar’s African-American patrons, but several accounts exist of a woman, one of the bar’s lesbian regulars, who fought police for several minutes. As the stories go, when she finally was subdued and thrown into the back of a police wagon, she yelled out in desperation “Why don’t you guys do something?”

They did.

The crowd went berserk, freeing those in custody, smashing and burning the police vehicles, and pelting the officers with coins, beer cans, and bricks from a nearby construction site.  With mafia help, the police barricaded themselves within the Stonewall, trapped until reinforcements could come rescue them. Rioters used parking meters as battering rams to break into the bar, at which point police had to use the threat of firearms to make the protesters back off. The riots were spontaneous, an eruption of pent-up frustration that had built up in the repressed gay community, the flames of which were fanned by homeless gay youths who slept in a nearby park, as well as other anti-war, anti-police, individuals who weren’t gay, but found like-mindedness in New York’s Greenwich Village.

Sissies aren’t supposed to fight back. At least that’s what New York’s police believed. But those beliefs were rapidly overturned by the persistent escalation of violence that occurred that night, and continued the following night. On Sunday, thousands of demonstrators took to Christopher Street to riot again in an even larger protest that halted on Monday and Tuesday only because of rain, and erupted once more on Wednesday, when 500-1000 demonstrators took to the streets calling for changes in treatment by police, and calling for a boycott of the Stonewall and other mafia-run bars so that gays could control their own establishments.

The riots that night were the stepping stone for gay pride movements internationally, and are now known as the “hairpin drop heard round the world.” (The term “hairpin drop” was gay slang that meant dropping hints about one’s sexual orientation.) In fact, the riots were so unifying that in some parts of the world, such as many parts of Europe, gay pride parades are called CSD, or Christopher Street Day, named after the street where the Stonewall Bar once stood and which gave birth to the modern gay rights movement.

Dr. Flamingo Jones And The Wholly Inaccurate Film

January 28th, 2009

THIS... IS... A REALLY GAY MOVIE

I’m exceptionally pleased to present today’s Guest Slap. The author, Dr. Flamingo Jones, is a world-renowned archaeologist and researcher at the University of Oxbridgeshire. While I know little about his reclusive past and current whereabouts, he has kindly agreed to share with us, occasionally, his knowledge, discoveries, and insights.

Good day to you, ladies, gentlemen, and those who do not wish to confine yourselves to such limiting terminology. Normally I, Dr. Flamingo Jones, intrepid explorer and researcher extraordinaire, use this space to answer one of the numerous intriguing questions that I have come across in my work as the Department Head of Queer Archaeology at the University of Oxbridgeshire. This time, however, I am going to doll out one of these “metaphorical slaps” for which this electronic compendium is so highly acclaimed for. In particular, a Slap shall be delivered to Mr. Frank Miller, Zack Snyder, Gerard Butler and everyone else who worked with the script of the film 300.

300 recounts the Battle of Thermopylae, where a small army of 300 Spartans and 4000 other Greek allies attempted to defend their homeland against the Persian army (estimated between 200,000 and 2.5 million soldiers) during the 480BC invasion of the independent Greek city-states.

Most anyone who has seen the film generally agrees on one point: It is extraordinarily gay. 300′s somewhat pronounced homo-eroticism, depicting muscular, manly warriors wearing the classical era’s male equivalent of bikinis, made it an enjoyable viewing experience for me and every other gay man (closeted or otherwise). However, there was one remark made in the movie that just boiled my blood, and probably that of every other gay historian. Specifically, King Leonidas of the Spartans announces that it would be cowardly to surrender because the Athenians have decided to fight, and they are a nation of “philosophers and boy-lovers.”

Now, perhaps we could ignore that many of western civilization’s roots come from Athenian “philosophers and boy-lovers” such as Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates.  Perhaps we could also ignore that these “philosophers and boy-lovers” succeeded where the Spartans failed by proving their military superiority in that same war, as their navy of approximately 300 ships defeated the massive Persian fleet of 800 ships during the Battle of Salamis. We may even ignore Hollywood’s recurring anti-gay themes. There is, however, an unignorable inaccuracy with King Leonidas’ comment. Bluntly, the Spartans were some of the biggest queers in history.

The Spartans were gay—and fabulously so—to the extent that they were one of the few ancient societies that actually had institutions of mandatory homosexuality embedded within their culture. All Spartan males were taken from their families as children, to be trained as warriors though endless tests of self-reliance and endurance that Plato himself described as harsh and violent. Then at the age of 20, they joined military organizations called syssitia (those sissies), in which they lived their entire lives surrounded by men in which all were equal regardless of birth, wealth, or age. Homosexuality would have been the only option for the men, as they were not allowed to have wives, or even to leave their syssitia on their own.

An interesting aspect of Spartan homosexuality involved the traditions surrounding their weddings: They were finally allowed to take wives once they turned 30. The ceremony were like a reverse drag show, with the bride starting off the ceremony wearing a man’s clothing, changing into a woman’s clothing, signifying the husband’s transition from having sex with men to sex with his wife.

Makes you think of the Spartans in a whole new light doesn’t it? Perhaps they should name a condom line after them too.

Update: Slap reader Murray writes in with Frank Miller’s official stance on this issue:

The issue [...] was discussed in the letters page of the original 300 comic mini-series. Frank Miller’s position was that the Spartans only had sex with men who were their equals in age and status—in the Spartan army, it was believed that full intimacy with the man standing next to you in the phalanx would increase your will to fight and protect him. Therefore he had Leonidas deride the Athenians for being ‘boy-lovers’ rather than men-who-have-sex-with-men.

Thanks, Murray. I think Dr. Jones will be relieved to hear this, though I can’t imagine why this wasn’t mentioned in the series itself…

Dr. Flamingo Jones And The Search For The Two Adams

August 27th, 2008

I’m exceptionally pleased to present today’s Guest Slap. The author, Dr. Flamingo Jones, is a world-renowned archaeologist and researcher at the University of Oxbridgeshire. While I know little about his reclusive past and current whereabouts, he has kindly agreed to share with us, occasionally, his knowledge, discoveries, and insights.

Good day to you, ladies, gentlemen, and those who do not wish to confine yourselves to such limiting terminology. Today, I, Dr. Flamingo Jones, will be answering a question I received from one of my many fans about homosexuality in ancient times.

For those few of you out there who are unfamiliar with my work, I am an intrepid explorer, researcher extraordinaire, head of the Department of Queer Archaeology at the University of Oxbridgeshire, and part of the team of researchers that made international headlines when we discovered the world’s longest, 16th century gay club inside the Great Wall of China.

As my work deals with queer archaeology, I am often asked about how far back into antiquity evidence of homosexuality can be found. Of course, as long as there have been human beings, there have been Adams who find themselves oriented toward another Adam over an Eve (as has been demonstrated in classical legends of kings, gods and heroes in many ancient works, such as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey); however, finding actual archaeological proof of it is a much more difficult matter.

The oldest known evidence of homosexuality would have to go to the ancient Egyptians—specifically to two men whose remains were found in Ahmed Moussa’s 1968 excavation of the necropolis at Saqqara, Egypt.

Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum were two male manicurists serving Pharaoh Niuserre around the time of the fifth dynasty, which was about 2400BC. They were buried in the same tomb, much in the same manner as a wealthy husband and wife would have been. At first, theories were proposed that the two were brothers, even twins, or maybe just good friends. In fact, the tomb has become known as the Tomb of the Brothers. Modern interpretation by more open-minded archaeologists, however, has allowed for a more sensible consensus to be reached: that Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum were a same-sex couple, wealthy enough and favoured by the Pharaoh, to have their own elaborate tomb built for them.

Covering the walls of the tomb are various pieces of artwork depicting the couple together—one image depicting them embracing, with their noses touching. Some of the hieroglyphs of the names Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum form a play on words, and can be translated as “joined in life and joined in death.”

I visited the tomb of Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum seven years ago, hoping to find even more conclusive evidence of their sexual orientation. I scoured the tomb looking for hidden chambers or artifacts overlooked by previous researchers; however, I came up empty-handed as I realized that feather boas are probably too fragile to be well-preserved even in the dry Egyptian climate, and Madonna’s first album would have still been another four and a half millennia in the making.

I’d love to explain more about those queer Egyptians, but now I’ve got to go off to some ancient ruins to fight some mummies, avoid some very complicated traps, recover some lost treasure, fight aliens, Russians & Nazis, and then rescue a handsome single prince while I’m at it. You know, just an average day in the life of your typical archaeologist.

Dr. Flamingo Jones And The Lost Kingdom Of The Coral Sea Islands

August 8th, 2008

I’m exceptionally pleased to present today’s Guest Slap. The author, Dr. Flamingo Jones, is a world-renowned archaeologist and researcher at the University of Oxbridgeshire. While I know little about his reclusive past and current whereabouts, he has kindly agreed to share with us, occasionally, his knowledge, discoveries, and insights.

Good day to you, ladies, gentlemen, and those who do not wish to confine yourselves to such limiting terminology. It is with great pleasure that, today, in my guest post, I will be presenting to you my discovery of a lost civilization!

First, let me introduce myself for those of you unfamiliar to my work. I, Dr. Flamingo Jones, intrepid explorer and researcher extraordinaire, am the head of the Department of Queer Archaeology at the University of Oxbridgeshire. You may have heard of me from my groundbreaking paper on the discovery of a cache of phalli that had been chiseled off the nude male statues in the Vatican by order of the pope back in the 14th or 15th century.

To get right to the point, I recently stumbled across scarce but conclusive evidence of a civilization composed exclusively of homosexuals! Although homosexuality has been existent in one form or another in every human society, this nation, known as the Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands is the first one discovered in which all members were exclusively homosexual.

This unique realm was not found through usual methods such as carbon dating wooden tools, metallurgical inspection of coinage, or genetic analysis of indigenous peoples. No, this unique civilization was found through… their Myspace page.

You see, the Gay & Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands (GLK) was established in modern times (on June 14, 2004, to be precise) as a protest by a group of gay activists who were upset with the Australian parliament’s 2004 revision of the Marriage Act to officially ban same-sex marriages. A pioneer by the name of Dale Parker Anderson and a group of followers sailed out (their ship was named The Gayflower) to the chain of uninhabited islands off the coast of Australia and annexed the area for themselves, proclaiming Emperor Dale I as their ruler. Their main exports are fishing, tourism, and postage stamps. They don’t seem to have gotten around to actually building settlements on the islands yet, but Rome wasn’t built in a day… or 4 years.

The population of the GLK has to be commended on taking every possible legal action defend their sovereignty. Here are just a few of the bases they have covered:

  • There is an archaic British (and hence Australian) law of Unjust Enrichment, which states that if something is unjustly taken away, compensation must be made. As their right to marry was taken away, the GLK argue that the land they have ceded is their just compensation.
  • A Kingdom, not a Republic, was chosen because the GLK website claims that Australia has another archaic law stating “A defacto Prince trying to claim his crown and his supporters can not be charged with treason.”
  • The GLK declared a state of war against Australia for a period of about one week in 2004. There were no hostilities, but since the Australian government was notified through all the proper diplomatic channels and didn’t defend their claim to the islands, the GLK states that Australia effectively lost any rights to that territory.
  • Emperor Dale I has genetics on his side to help him bolster his royal legitimacy. First, he claims to be of royal blood, as he is a descendant of England’s King Edward II (who was also gay, but did produce heirs). Secondly, Dale I’s great grandfather was one of the sailors loyal to Captain William Bligh of the HMAV Bounty (the story of the Mutiny on the Bounty). When Bligh and his loyal men were left for dead by the mutineers, guess where they were abandoned? Why, the Coral Reef Islands, of course. As a descendant of British (and Australian) royalty, and a descendant of the first and only humans to ever settle on the islands, I’d say he actually has a credible case.

Emperor Dale I seems to have started a trend, as there are actually several other self-proclaimed gay nations out there as well, such as the Gay Homeland Foundation established in 2005 in Cologne, Germany, and two American groups: The Unified Gay Tribe, and the Gay and Lesbian Commonwealth Kingdom.

While none of the above countries is actually recognized by the United Nations, The Gay & Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands has a Wikipedia entry, which makes it legitimate. In fact, I think it’s time for an expedition there! Wish me luck, loyal fans, as I brave the fury of the dingoes! I’ll bring you back some t-shirts or stamps or fish.

Dr. Flamingo Jones and the Quest for the Artifact of Many Colours

July 28th, 2008

Dr. Flamingo Jones

I’m exceptionally pleased to present today’s Guest Slap. The author, Dr. Flamingo Jones, is a world-renowned archaeologist and researcher at the University of Oxbridgeshire. While I know little about his reclusive past and current whereabouts, he has kindly agreed to share with us, occasionally, his knowledge, discoveries, and insights.

Good day to you, ladies, gentlemen, and those who do not wish to confine yourselves to such limiting terminology. Today, I, Dr. Flamingo Jones, intrepid explorer, researcher extraordinaire, and head of the Department of Queer Archaeology at the University of Oxbridgeshire, am most humbly honoured to be writing a guest post for Slap Upside The Head. You may have heard of me from my previous work, such as my unearthing of the famous trove of phalli found in the great pyramid of Khufu.

Today I am here to discuss a much more recent artifact: The rainbow flag. As a researcher of Queer Archaeology, I am often asked about how the rainbow flag came into being. Some assume that the rainbow flag has always been a symbol for homosexuality, because, really, what could possibly be gayer? However, the truth is that the origins of this important gay pride symbol are much more recent than many folks suspect.

The creation of the rainbow flag is attributed to one Mr. Gilbert Baker (video interview) of San Francisco, who created it in 1978 to serve as a symbol for the gay community there. The original flag was influenced by a striped, multi-coloured—but not rainbow-coloured—flag to promote racial harmony, and has undergone myriad transformations over the years with revisions and vexillological offspring involving stars, hearts, triangles, paws, changes in the colours and number of stripes. In fact, Baker’s original flag had eight colours, as opposed to the current standard of six. These eight colours were pink, red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, indigo, and violet, which, according to Baker, represented respectively: sexuality, life, healing, sun, nature, art, harmony, and spirit. However, the first flags were dyed and sewed by Baker himself along with volunteers, so supply was limited and most of the public had to just go ahead and use whatever rainbow-ish flags they could find, regardless of what those flags actually represented. These flags came from all sorts of different origins, such as the Italian Peace Flag against war and nuclear weapons, India’s Meher Baba spirituality flag, or the Wiphala flag of the ancient Incan civilization.

Later that same year, San Francisco’s mayor, George Moscone, was assassinated along with Harvey Milk, the city’s first openly gay supervisor. In the wake of this tragedy, the gay community made the decision to rally around Baker’s flag as a source of strength and solidarity for the 1979 gay pride parade. However, when Baker went to mass produce his flags, he found that hot pink fabric was not as easily available as he had expected. That colour was removed from the flag. The decision was then made to change the indigo stripe to blue, and eliminate the turquoise stripe altogether, bringing it down to just six stripes, so that the flag could be displayed evenly along the parade route, with three colours on either side of the street’s lamp posts.

A fascinating history for a fascinating piece of our cultural tapestry, don’t you think? I shall be back in the future with more important issues in the field of queer archaeology, but for now I must be off. Those ancient Egyptian phalli won’t unearth themselves!

The Existence of Gaydar

June 16th, 2008

I’m super-happy to introduce today’s guest author / illustrator! Premee is an environmental specialist currently living in Calgary. She says her degree in molecular genetics has given her no noticeable edge in telling whether or not she’s hitting on a hot gay waiter, but it does make for interesting party conversation.

Gaydar exists, apparently, which is a bit of a shock to someone who’s spent years arguing that it doesn’t. (My arguments were based on the fact that I don’t have it. I just don’t. Elton John and his husband could come sit on my lap wearing WE’RE GAY t-shirts and I still wouldn’t know.)

Gaydar

Secondly, I had always thought it was an innate thing, like… well, like gayness itself. It turns out new research is showing that it can be traced to some very specific and definable physical characteristics—and I don’t mean the tired old stereotypes of mesh shirts or an iPod full of showtunes. This kind of basic research really provides more weapons in the arsenal against people who continue to insist that homosexuality is either learned or a choice. It’s becoming more and more obvious that it is innate, biological, and immutable.

So, without further ado, I summarize Lippa et al’s research as follows:

  1. A gay man’s index finger will tend to be about as long as his ring finger, similar to straight women; lesbians tend to have shorter index than ring fingers, similar to straight men.
  2. There exists a recognizable ‘accent’ in about 75% of gay men (sidenote: Rufus Wainwright is gay? I didn’t know th… now, see, this is what I was talking about.)
  3. More gay men than straight men have counterclockwise hair whorls.
  4. Gay men tend to have bigger… good heavens. You’ll have to read the article for that one.
  5. The gay man’s hypothalamus cell cluster INAH3 is similar to the size of a straight woman’s.

There you have it! Now go forth in comfort, dear readers, secure in the knowledge that talented scientists are working night and day to decode the signals behind what most of you do without even thinking twice.

On Being A Gay Teacher

May 9th, 2008

Guest Slap

I’m extremely pleased to present today’s Guest Slap. The author, who prefers to remain anonymous, is a gay high school science teacher here in Canada. Today, he shares his thoughts and experiences on what it means to be gay in a complex learning environment.

To be out or not to be out: That is the question; whether it is better to suffer the slurs and taunts of outrageous cowards, or take care with every word you say, and keep your true self guarded. This choice is faced by many in my school and every other school. The purpose of high school is all about learning who you are, more than about learning Archimedes’ Principle, conic sections, or how to play the flute. But because of the highly judgmental nature that exists in a milieu of teenagers, the decision of whether or not to come out of the closet is difficult for anyone in a high school, especially someone like me, a teacher.

I bet that many students who read this had never even considered the prospect that the person standing in front of you on Monday morning droning on and on about some dead poet could possibly be gay. After all, everyone knows that teachers live in the school, never take off their work clothes, and disappear in a puff of chalk dust on the weekends, only to re-materialize the following Monday in the teacher’s lounge. They certainly don’t have emotions, parents, friends, social lives, or sex. My students couldn’t believe that I went out for karaoke with my co-workers, and when I told them that—even though I don’t have kids—I bought a Nintendo Wii, they asked “What do you use it for?” So I’m pretty sure that if I were to tell them that I am gay, their brains would implode; it would be that difficult for them to comprehend.

When I was student teaching just a few years ago, I realized that it wouldn’t be long before I would have to make that decision about how out I would be at school. Every school has a different atmosphere when it comes to how well minorities are accepted, and thankfully, at mine both the administration and general student body are relatively open-minded and accepting. For example, on one of the first days of the year, I saw a group of kids surrounding two boys who were scuffling around. Immediately I thought “Oh God, I’m going to have to break up a fight.” But it turned out that they were having a dance-off to a Pokémon song they had invented. Still, no group of teenagers is free of bigotry. Everyone who has gone through high school knows that picking on the minority is an effective way to increase one’s social standing among the majority. So because of that, some gay teachers try to live a completely closeted professional life, and don’t open up their true selves to anyone at school. Others are completely fine with being out and proud to everyone, and even wear their leather outfits to school on Halloween (yeah, I’m not kidding there).

So I made the decision to make no decision; just to be myself. To any colleagues who I consider my friends, I am completely out. I’ve gone out for drinks with them, played Scrabble with them, taken them to see drag shows, and invited them over for dinner to meet my same-sex fiancé. With anyone who I know strictly on a professional level, like the principal of my school, or my students, I haven’t shared that side of my life.  But if they find out, or if it comes up in conversation, I’m not going to hide anything; I’ll just be honest about who I am.  After all, my students aren’t my friends; we can be friendly, but we can’t be friends. The rare teachers that do treat their students like actual friends, telling them about their night out at the bar… well, they’re just creepy to the exponent creep.

Sometimes I wonder if I would be a better role model for those students who are questioning their sexuality if I were more open about my homosexuality, even though it would mean opening myself up to personal attacks from homophobes. When I was in grade 12, would it have helped me to know that my Canadian History teacher was gay? Would it have helped me to come to terms with my sexuality easier?  Would it have hindered my understanding of Wolfe & Montcalme?

Eventually, I just realized that being out doesn’t have to involve being out to everyone—just everyone you care about. So I choose simply to be who I am.  After all, isn’t that what coming out of the closet is all about?

Thanks again to today’s special guest author!

Family-Friendly Means Different Things For Different People

September 21st, 2007

Guest Slap

deBeauxOs, a mother and regular contributer over at BirthPangs, has written an excellent article about the hijacking of the phrase “Family-friendly” by special interest groups. As someone who often feels clubbed over the head with this phrase, I’m extremely pleased that deBeauxOs has agreed to share her post with us today. Her article is reproduced here in its entirety.

Family-friendly. Who would have ever thought that the juxtaposition of these two words could be so contentious? That an expression could encompass so many contradictary meanings. That it could be exclusively claimed by some and denied to others.

If you google “family-friendly,” you discover that the expression was coined by feminists who attempted to reconcile paid and unpaid work, to validate both women and men’s parenting roles and to secure employment conditions that are not discriminatory towards workers who have children. And as family responsibilities shifted, the notion also grew to include caring for ageing parents.

“Family-friendly” is often used by commercial establishments who are willing to accomodate the combined needs of adults and children as clients, when offering services and goods such as housing, travel, entertainment, home furnishings, convenience foods and dining.

Now it’s become a weapon appropriated by those who consider themselves to be in absolute possession of the right to attack any other definition of family that is unacceptable to their standards. And they also use it to shield themselves against criticism.

In case you were wondering who are these people, let’s refresh your memory.

According to them, DisneyLand™ and DisneyWorld™ are NOT family-friendly because same-sex spousal benefits are provided to their gay and lesbian employees.

Planned Parenthood is NOT family-friendly because it respects: women and men’s choice to forego breeding, women’s choice to limit the number of children they want to bear, and women’s choice to end an unwanted pregnancy.

For Better or For Worse is NOT family-friendly because its creator Lynn Johnston included a sympathetic gay character inspired by her brother-in-law, in her family-oriented comic strip.

Lawrence is gay

Moms who breast-feed in public places are NOT family-friendly because… because some people say so.

Affordable daycare is NOT family-friendly because such people don’t use it and won’t support it.

What they consider to be family-friendly on one of their websites though, are hateful screeds that incite violence against the sons and daughters of parents who love them very much exactly as they are. Gay men and lesbians have families too—mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, daughters and sons.

But I digress. At this feminist board, parenting discussions include advice about baby poo. There have been long, heartfelt and supportive threads about sometimes difficult pregnancies, by women who choose to give life, and those who support their decision. In the last year, five babies were born; many vicariously shared the joys of the new parents. This is what family-friendly looks like.

If you would like to hear more from deBeauxOs, head on over to Birth Pangs.

Gay Refugee Speaks

September 17th, 2007

Guest Slap

Edward Lee is a student of social work at McGill university, focusing on gay refugee and imigration issues. In Part II of his two-part series, Ed has asked Alvaro Orozco to share his story in his own words, and outlines what we can do to help.

Alvaro Orozco is a young gay man who fled Nicaragua and is seeking refugee status in Canada. For numerous reasons it is unsafe for him to be in Nicaragua, including recent media attention in his country of origin, and the fact that it is a punishable crime to be gay there.

After months of advocacy and community action, Alvaro received his latest Pre Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) decision on Friday, September 14th. While the application was, again, rejected, Alvaro and his supporters were, fortunately, able to convince the immigration officials that he was not a flight risk and so he was allowed to go back to Toronto (versus getting arrested or deported immediately). The reasons behind the rejection included that the letters of support are “hearsay” and do not provide solid proof that Alvaro is in fact gay, and that Nicaragua is a safeplace because there are many cruising spaces, like parks and ruins where people can have gay sex.

Alvaro now is under a new deportation order for October 4th. Please read Alvaro’s thoughts on what is happening in this article and help him stay in Canada.

I asked Alvaro to write—from his own perspective—about what happened to him and the decision from the IRB. Here is what he had to say:

The Canadian immigration re-sent the letter from the old PRRA decision
of 2005 as my new decision for 2007 (9th august). In 2005, I used to have a different lawyer and I had lost my case. My new lawyer is El-farouk Khaki, who sent 3 months ago 2 new applications, the Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) and the Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds application for a stay. Immigration told my lawyer that they had no record of him sending anything. so then immigration called my lawyer and told him that they want to give me one more time until the august 28. but on the 26th (2 days before the deadline), immigration called my lawyer telling him that they have the new application decision of the PRRA of 2007,
but I have to show up in Niagara falls on august 28 to pick up the
decision. And as i am not feeling well and my stress levels and anxiety are affecting my health, my doctor advised me not to go, so I didn’t show up.

one week after that, immigration called my lawyer and told him that
they issued a new date for me to show up to pick up the decision and that is on september 14, this is the 3rd time that immigration are dealing with this application, is clear what they are willing to do with me. to take me away from Canada.

my message:

Before I filed my case, I was hoping that I can be granted status in this country because this country is a model for human rights for many countries around the globe. But with the way things have happend, I feel disapointed and am struggling to get over it. This has affected me physically and emotionally. It is not fair the amount of struggles I had since I was a kid and that I never really had a normal life, and I escaped from many countries hoping to find freedom and respect in Canada. But now I am facing this situation where I am being judged on my physical appearance by canadian immigration autorities, and they believe that my life is just a joke and I never been through this kind of life, but I’m a honest person and I always keep what I say and I always work for my dreams. I keep my self positive that better things will happen and I can get over this.

the most important:

the most important for me is not only win my case, it is that other
people who feel scared to speak out can have a voice and someone who can speak for them but not only people who just speak about immigration issues, but people who care about human rights, about peoples future and equal respect.

There is still something that you can do to help raise awareness about what is happening and help Alvaro to stay in Canada. Here is what you can do:

  1. Check out his website and read the latest press release
  2. E-mail and/or send a letter to Federal Immigration Minister Diane Finley at Finley.D@parl.gc.ca. Let the MP in your riding know what is going on and ask them how they will help Alvaro.
  3. Sign Alvaro’s online petition
  4. Keep talking about Alvaro with friends, family, media, join his facebook group, etc.
  5. E-mail Alvaro and help keep his spirits up!
  6. If you want to do more please contact Suhail at SOY Toronto

Thanks again to Ed for sharing his thoughts on this story, and his communications with Alvaro. If you would like to see more of Ed, check out his short film, Invisible Son, included as a special feature on the Margaret Cho Assassin DVD.

Related Update: Bruce at Canuck Attitude has dug up a story about a convicted criminal in Canada whose deportation ruling was reversed because he is in the midst of a “religious conversion.” In the meantime, Alvaro’s safety is in danger because he can’t prove he’s gay. Outrageous.

Gay Refugee Needs Urgent Support

September 14th, 2007

Guest Slap

Edward Lee is a student of social work at McGill university, focusing on gay refugee and imigration issues. In Part I of his two-part series, Ed has agreed to share his stories and insights on Alvaro Orozco, a gay refugee from Nicaragua, who faces immediate deportation from Canada and urgently needs our support.

Alvaro Orozco will be going to the immigration office, today, Friday, September the 14th, to pick up his rejection letter from IRB. That is the only way he can fight the rejection, but at the same time, in going to pick up the letter, he very much risks being put in jail, or worse, deported on the spot to the USA (and eventually Nicaragua). Your support and well wishes are needed now more than ever.

First of all, I would like to thank Mark for allowing me some space on his funky, yet timely website to talk about this important current event. I love your cartoons and your intellectual wit! [Aw, shucks. Thanks, Ed!]

I first met Alvaro when he arrived for the first ever North American Outgames in Calgary (April, 2007). We held a youth welcome event at Quickdraw Animation Society, as we invited all the youth that had been granted a bursary to attend the week long festivities—including Alvaro. He was so personable, gentle in a way, with eyes that spoke of a life of hardship and hope. Very clearly gay, he was excited to meet the other queer youth gathered at this event, happy to be among his peers. There was no doubt to Alvaro’s gayness. No doubt at all.

I got to know him as he attended the OutRights conference, OutFest cultural activities (PRIDE dance) and finally winning a medal at the OutGames, in the running event. By the time he flew back to Toronto, Alvaro become someone that I had come to admire and respect, someone who is so hopeful and optimistic about the world, even though the world has been so cruel to him.

The memory that will never leave me was hearing Alvaro speak at the Youth Roundtable that we held at the North American OutRights conference (held in Calgary prior to the OutGames). Some 40 youth leaders (and those involved with youth issues) were sitting around the table; teachers, lawyers, activists. Then there was Alvaro, with his limited english and shy demeanor, as he was introduced and began to speak of his experience as a gay refugee, traversing 4 different countries to end up in Canada, speaking at this conference to help save his life and be granted refugee status.

All of us sat there, intently listening as he very bravely told his story. He began his story with growing up in Nicaragua, being seen as gay, and the abuse inflicted upon him by his parents. As he spoke about this abuse, he broke down, and wept. Even though I was co-facilitating, I couldn’t help but weep with Alvaro. After what felt like a lifetime, he regained himself, and continued his story. As his right hand moved in a rolling, circular motion, as if to comfort and help him to continue, he spoke of escaping Nicaragua, then being in hiding in the US, sometimes with homophobic churches, and then coming to Canada. His face began to light up as he spoke of Canada, where he finally began to feel a sense of hope of being able to live in a country where it wasn’t illegal to be gay (it’s illegal to be gay in Nicaragua—meaning you can go to jail).

Sometimes, there are moments in your life that stick with you, that are burned in your memory, an emotional scar, for better or worse, will always be felt when you close your eyes and take yourself back to that memory. All of us at the roundtable were shell shocked as Alvaro took us on a virtual ride of his unimaginable, powerful life. This was one of those moments for me, one of the most powerful moments I have ever been a part of.

How sad it is that Calgary Immigration and Refugee Board adjudicator Deborah Lamont was so clearly lacking in sound and equitable judgement when back in February, at his first hearing, didn’t believe Alvaro’s story (read the Globe and Mail article for actual quotes of what she said). How utterly insane and incomprehensible it is that 6 months later, after articles various news media, press conferences, rallies, and Alvaro’s participation at the Outgames/fest/rights, the IRB (Immigration and Refugee Board) came back with the same negative response—re-inforcing Deborah Lamont’s heterosexist and unfair judgement. Alvaro’s last recourse is to be granted a stay from Immigration Minister Diane Finley based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

I can’t tell you how sad and upset this makes me. I only knew Alvaro for a week, but I saw someone who was so vulnerable, who had so many incredibly challenging life experiences, and yet, even with these hardships, he is someone who is so kind, so extremely open to others and hopeful about living life in this country, safe from persecution, safe from harm. As we speak, because of the IRB negative response, Alvaro is in fear of being deported, unable to work, relying on the generosity of others, not wanting to be deported to the US and eventually to Nicaragua.

As I write about this, there is still something that you can do to help raise awareness about what is happening and help Alvaro to stay in Canada. Here is what you can do:

  1. Check out his website and read the latest press release
  2. E-mail and/or send a letter to Federal Immigration Minister Diane Finley at Finley.D@parl.gc.ca. Let the MP in your riding know what is going on and ask them how they will help Alvaro.
  3. Sign Alvaro’s online petition
  4. Keep talking about Alvaro with friends, family, media, join his facebook group, etc.
  5. E-mail Alvaro and help keep his spirits up!
  6. If you want to do more please contact Suhail at SOY Toronto

It’s All About Maps

September 10th, 2007

Guest Slap

I’m extremely pleased to host Slap’s first guest post today. Arthur is a gay American who moved to New Zealand in 1995 to be with his partner, Nigel (who is a Kiwi). Arthur’s blog and podcast, AmeriNZ, regularly offers an international perspective on culture and politics. Today, he shares his insights on the perceived disconnectedness of the United States and how that relates to their attitudes, both domestically and multinationally.

We all laughed when South Carolina teen beauty contestant Caitlin Upton recently said the reason that twenty percent of Americans can’t find the US on a world map is that “some people out there in our nation don’t have maps.” You know what? She’s right.

The National Geographic Society has long championed geography education in schools, and points out how badly taught American students are. In their National Geographic-Roper Public Affairs 2006 Geographic Literacy Study, the most recent in a series, they found an appalling lack of geographic knowledge among 18-24 year olds in the US.

It’s not all just finding countries on a map, though it’s shocking that 63% couldn’t find Iraq on a map (or even some states within the US, for that matter). The study found some of the underlying reasons for the lack of world knowledge among young Americans.

Among other findings, 62% couldn’t speak a language other than their native tongue. While one in ten young Americans corresponded regularly with somone outside the US, most had no contact at all. 70% had not been outside the US in the previous three years, though most apparently couldn’t leave, anyway: Only about 22% had a passport.

The survey found that geographic knowledge was highest among those who travelled internationally, were university educated and who obtained their news from two or more sources. They were also more likely to own world maps.

As an American, I’ve often been embarrassed by lack of world knowledge among my fellow citizens. When I moved to New Zealand, a university-educated, internationally travelled person told me with great certainty that New Zealand was west of Australia. I showed him a map. He still couldn’t believe it.

Another, even better educated American asked me if we have the Fourth of July in New Zealand. “Yes,” I said, “It’s between the third and the fifth.” He meant the holiday, he told me, not the day.

So if Americans are so ill informed about the world, is it any surprise that they don’t understand other countries or that they may expect other countries to be like the US? I couldn’t possibly count the number of times that I heard of an American not realising that Canada is a country, or even sometimes that New Zealand isn’t one of its provinces.

I grew up with maps, had good geographic education in school, I’ve travelled, and now I live in another country, so maybe my perspective is skewed. But I can’t help thinking that if the folks in my homeland knew a little more about the world, we’d all be better off. They might realise that those of us who live in another country aren’t automatically any less free. They might be more respectful of people who are different from them in some way. They might come to realise that there are other countries that treat their gay citizens as, well, citizens. Heck, they might even finally adopt the metric system.

Too much to hope for? Maybe. But whoever sets up a “Maps for Americans” charity can count on a donation from me. After all, how can you find your destination without a map?

If you would like to hear more from Arthur, check out AmeriNZ.