Posts Tagged ‘gay’

The Pink Side of the Force

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Homosexual! Gay! Lesbian!

“[T]hese are terms that do not exist in Star Wars”, according to Sean Dahlberg, message board moderator for the Star Wars game The Old Republic. These words were banned from the message boards, and conversations about characters’ sexuality were closed.

Cue kerfuffle.

And cue backtracking by the game’s publisher, BioWare. The closed threads have apparently been reopened and the offending words have been unbanned.


Now, I sort of understand where Mr Dahlberg was coming from here. Homosexuality is a modern concept. Same-sex relationships aren’t, but framing it specifically as ‘homosexuality’ is anachronistic, and after all, Star Wars did happen a very long time ago. (Or not at all, depending on your grip on reality.)

It is not unreasonable to suggest that people in the Star Wars universe had no concept of homosexuality, even though it’s been demonstrated in a couple of Star Wars licensed properties (including BioWare games) that same-sex relationships do exist in that universe. (Not in George Lucas’s own work, of course; he only has camp comedy characters.)

That said, there are other concepts that don’t exist in the Star Wars universe that seem perfectly acceptable to talk about on the same message boards. Like, for example, Star Wars. Or XBox. I suspect that, even within the game, people can probably get away with mentioning these things.

The question is, should players be able to identify themselves within the game as gay when gay people don’t exist in that setting? And the answer is; it’s a game, for God’s sake. It’s just a game. If someone wants to identify themselves as gay - or Asian, or Jewish - in a game that doesn’t recognise those concepts, it is not going to unravel the essential verité of an artificial world where people fight each other with lightsabers while communicating via keyboards and headsets.


One suspects that “these are terms that do not exist in Star Wars” was a bit of a figleaf explanation. Discomfort with homosexuality seems unusually prevalent in geek culture.

Back in 2006, games maker Blizzard booted a gay player group from World of Warcraft, leading to a similar outcry. They backtracked too. XBox Live recently caused problems by banning users who identified as gay, claiming that this was “sexual innuendo”. They later adjusted their position to say that they were trying to ban people who were using words like ‘gay’ perjoratively. Even that is a figleaf; a blanket ban that destroys the visibility of the group you’re claiming to protect is clearly not a sensible solution.

Sensitivity to gay issues in the gaming world may be some distance behind that of other entertainment media. In gaming, there may still be a widespread misconception of sexuality as a depravity, rather than as a valid part of a person’s identity that might form the basis of a sense of community.

Among the comments from gamers on one message board discussing the Old Republic incident were these gems:

“There will be children playing as well do you intend to flaunt your sexual preference in front of them?”

“I don’t mind the fact that someone’s gay, but whining about it every single time something doesn’t recognize gay people is just ridiculous.”

“Does homosexuality seriously have to infiltrate every facet of life until they force it in your face and make you accept it? And if you don’t really care for it, you’re called homophobic and a bigot. It’s REALLY getting annoying.”

Uh-huh. I can only imagine how annoyed you are, you poor dear.

Too Late on 8

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Does the gay rights movement in America lack leadership? Did the opponents of Proposition 8 fumble their campaign? The answer to both questions seems to be ‘yes’.  Prior to the election, then-candidate Barack Obama wrote a letter to a gay rights group stating, “I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states”.

The No on 8 campaign had this letter. They chose not to make any use of it, even as the Yes on 8 campaign claimed that Obama was on their side. The letter showed in no uncertain terms that Barack Obama was opposed to Proposition 8, amd yet nothing was done to draw attention to this. That’s mind-boggling. 

I found the story on Towleroad, but they linked back to Dan Savage, who raised an interesting point that I’ve also wondered about, though more with regard to culture than to politics. The point is this; if you’re gay and brilliant at something, why would you choose to be brilliant for a gay audience, or would you choose to be brilliant for a much bigger straight audience? 

Most brilliant people choose the latter course; to leave the ghetto and try their luck in the world. So, gay cinema is terrible because most gay directors don’t make gay films. Gay fiction is crap because gay writers want to reach a wider audience. And gay politics is leaderless because good gay political strategists avoid the niche of gay issues. No-one wants to be the gay Jesse Jackson, even if it takes a few Jesse Jacksons to get to one Barack Obama.

It’s only a theory, but I worry that there’s some truth to it.


Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Iceland is getting a new prime minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir. I don’t generally take much interest in Iceland’s leaders, but this new PM is notable because she’s a gay. That makes her one of the first openly gay world leaders of modern times.

So what did it take to get a gay politician into high office? Well, in this instance all it took was a worldwide financial crisis, the collapse of the Icelandic economy and the resignation in disgrace of the sitting prime minister, facilitating the appointment of a gay prime minister without an election. Sigurdardottir is expected to leave office in four months’ time, just as soon as the public gets a chance to vote on their leaders. Truly, the dream of gay acceptance has been made real!

So, I’m not going to get too excited about Prime Minister Sigurdardottir. I already got my hopes raised and dashed by Portland Mayor Sam Adams. I don’t know how well known the Sam Adams scandal is outside the communities of Portland and Gay, but it’s a sorry story.

In November Adams became the first openly gay man to be elected mayor of a major US city. Also, the first cute mayor. Probably.


During the campaign, Adams was asked about his former relationship with a young intern back in 2005. He said that they had just been friends. Then he got elected, and then he admitted that he had lied about their relationship. The reason he lied? The intern had been 17 when they first met, and sex with a 17-year-old is against the law in Oregon.

Now, Adams insists that they did not have sex until after the intern turned 18, and he says the reason he lied was because he did not think people would believe him. Fair enough. I actually still don’t. I mean, I don’t think 17 should be considered ‘underage’, but that’s not the point; the law’s the law.

Saying ‘yes we had sex but not until it was legal’ is a difficult pitch to sell on the campaign trail, so Sam Adams lied. There are no other issues here; Adams was not unfaithful to anyone (he’s in a relationship now, but wasn’t then). There was no abuse of power - the intern worked at the Oregon House of Representatives; Adams worked on the Portland City Council. No criminal charges have been placed against Adams for sex with a minor (though an investigation is underway). A taste for chicken is not a resigning offence.

Sam Adams is not the gay Bill Clinton. Clinton lied, abused his power and cheated on his partner. Adams has ‘only’ lied.

There have been calls for Adams’ resignation - even from Portland’s gay paper - but Adams has said that he intends to stay in office, and I’m not sure how that will play out - I suspect it all now depends on the results of the criminal investigation. A recall election has been suggested, but that seems unlikely to occur.

I sympathise with Adams. Sleeping with a teenager doesn’t look good for any politician, but even in liberal Portland it probably looks worse for a gay politician, so I can understand why he lied. He expected a gay witch hunt, and I’m sure he would have got one. I’m not sure he isn’t getting one now. It was still bloody stupid, both to get involved with someone that young when you harbour those ambitions, and to lie about it when questioned. It would have been better if he had stonewalled the question (no pun intended) and taken his chances.

It has become very clear on the back of this story that if you’re gay and you want to run for public office, you need to be as squeaky clean as Jesus. (Actually, squeakier and cleaner; Jesus would never get elected. He palled around with terrorists.)

On balance, I’m glad Adams did not resign. I think that was the right decision. Even so, it’s devastating that one of America’s most prominent gay politicians will now serve with a tarnish hanging over his entire career.

Incidentally, the intern in question does have a name, and I’ve studiously avoided using it. His name is Beau Breedlove. And that is why I avoided using it.

Speaking of good-looking politicians, I am disgusted - disgusted - that Huffington Post is running a ‘Who’s the Hottest Congressional Freshman‘ poll. Is this what serious leftie political blogging has come to? I’m doubly disgusted that most of the contendors aren’t even remotely hot! In fact, the only one who passes muster is Aaron Schock.


And here’s what makes this especially digusting; Aaron Schock is a Republican! (And a somewhat swishy ‘bachelor’ Republican at that. A ‘friend of Haggard’?) And - and - he’s only 27. That makes him the first congressman born in the 1980s! No wonder he’s in the anti-abortion party - he’s probably still at risk!

While we’re talking about politics, bachelors and suchlike, one final note. Advice columnist Dan Savage recently ran a contest to come up with a definition of the word ‘saddlebacking‘, in reference to Rick Warren’s inauspiciously named Saddleback Church. Here’s the winning entry:


Keep squeaky, chums.