Uptight ‘Boy Erased’ can’t loosen its own collar

In his adaptation of a memoir about a male college student who survives gay conversion therapy, Joel Edgerton directs like he acts: solidly, stolidly, without imagination. Boy Erased is not a waste; its vaunted care makes heaving noises at every step. But as the minutes accumulate its cloddishness becomes wearing. A movie depicting social conservative horror of sex, it turns out, is also deathly afraid of gay sex. Continue reading

‘You’re disgusting’

A gay couple and their adopted black son move into a community close to Tampa Bay. Neighbors didn’t acknowledge them. A mother yanked their daughter away from the boy. Then it escalated:

The yard had been transformed into a graveyard. “CNN,’’ was written on one white cross, with a gruesome gray skull at its base. Other crosses bore the names of Democrats Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. A firepit contained a jumble of bones and a cross marked “George Soros,’’ the Jewish billionaire who supports liberal causes.

All had been critics of President Donald J. Trump.

Kidd was so appalled that he took to Nextdoor, the social media site on which residents of a neighborhood can post messages, whether offering items for sale or reporting suspicious behavior. Kidd’s message was more pointed.

“This is pathetic,” he said of the graveyard display. “Can’t we take the politics out of Halloween?”

That elicited a quick response: “You’re disgusting. If you don’t like it why don’t you move

Now, a person can put a graven image of Paul Ryan licking Ronald Reagan and there’s nothing you and I can do about it because This is America and so on, but I wouldn’t do it because I don’t want to offend neighbors — indeed, what would be the point of such a display if not to offend?

Two days.

‘I should burn in hell and I was a deformity’

Decapitated Barbie dolls, dirty laundry, and a van whose interior smelled like thirteen rotting possums. And Sayoc, the Trumpist nut, was an asshole homophobe too.

His former boss at a Fort Lauderdale pizza restaurant said Sayoc, who worked there as a delivery driver during the graveyard shift, would openly mock her for her sexuality and proclaim his love for Adolf Hitler and ethnic cleansing.

“When he found out I was a lesbian the second day, he told me I should burn in hell and I was a deformity, that God made a mistake with me and I should go on an island with Hillary Clinton and Rachel Maddow and Ellen Degeneres and President Barack Obama and all the misfits of the world,” said Debra Gureghian, the general manager at New River Pizza & Fresh Kitchen, where Sayoc worked from January 2017 to January 2018.

Gureghian, a lesbian, said she could not fire Sayoc for his racist and bigoted views. She said Sayoc appeared to have a split personality of sorts. In the same breath, the “dependable” employee would call her a pimple on a flea and still loyally follow her every command.

I remind readers that we homosexuals are expected to smile and even laugh off these cracks like Gureghian did; it’s our life. Yet if we called Sayoc a racist we’d have to worry about Sayoc or his friends waiting for me by my car holding a two-by-four.

‘Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits’

Remember these halcyon days?

Mr. Trump is now the leading candidate for president in the Republican primary, which has traditionally been dominated by hopefuls eager to show how deeply conservative they are on social issues like gay rights and marriage.

But Mr. Trump is far more accepting of sexual minorities than his party’s leaders have been. On Thursday, he startled some Republicans by saying on NBC’s “Today” show that he opposed a recently passed North Carolina law that prohibits people from using public bathrooms that do not correspond to the gender they were born with, striking down a Charlotte ordinance.

Two and a half years later, the same newspaper publishes the following revelations:

Now the Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times….

…“Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” the department proposed in the memo, which was drafted and has been circulating since last spring. “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

The new definition would essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who have opted to recognize themselves — surgically or otherwise — as a gender other than the one they were born into.

There is no reason for this other than spite: the Trump administration will leave no stone unturned in its efforts to wipe the memory of Barack Hussein Obama. Yet even if Obama had ignored the transgender population the political appointees in the Trump Justice Department and Department of Education would’ve done the same. A President Rubio or President Jeb! too.

Wipe them out.

Ranking Velvet Underground albums

I like to think the Velvets taught me to be free — that it was alright. Whatever you wanted, it was alright. This meant that they realized the hippie dream in which Crosby, Stills and Nash and a hundred of their execrable imitators reveled. We queer folk who see the Stonewall riot as the apotheosis of a decade spent forcing the country to come to terms with what the Johnson administration and the Warren Court had wrought — well, we love the Velvets for it, and I forgave Lou Reed many things, including unfortunate sartorial decisions. Continue reading

Rashod Ollison — RIP

Doing research for my 2018 MoPOP Pop Conference paper on Angela Winbush, I found the following bit published two years earlier:

It’s a shame the St. Louis native, who’s a successful producer, arranger, songwriter and musician in addition to being a powerhouse vocalist with a five-octave range, isn’t more well-known outside of R&B. But some of the fault lies with Winbush. Steeped in the holy waters of gospel, like many soul sisters who preceded her, her style was perhaps too black. And given the culture erasure of the Reagan era, that was too much.

“The cultural erasure of the Reagan era” — a phrase fraught with significance. So vehemently do we despise the GOP and Donald Trump that we have allowed media elites on cable shows to use Ronald Reagan’s appropriation of John Winthrop’s figure the city on a hill as an example of What We Have Lost; so swiftly do we mythologize our presidents that the evil is oft interred with their bones. To millions of gay men and black Americans, the white straight dudes who endorsed an assault on state and federal power lived in a beautiful city on a hill; the rest of us were condemned to shacks at the foot of the hill.

Not until a week before the conference did I understand that the author of this Winbush piece would sit on my panel — beside me. This intimidated me. Reading a paper on the power of Chaka Khan, Rashod Ollison seduced the crowd from the moment he played a clip of her marvelous hit with Rufus, “You Got the Love”; he held their attention with the precision of his insights, read in a silken purr that rumbled when confronted by an obscenity. Black and gay, Rashod Ollison, the columnist and reporter who died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma two days ago, could not be bullshitted. I sensed he would not bullshit me either. After my presentation, he looked me in the eye, nodded, and mumbled, “Thank you.” I demurred. He said, “Now I’m goin’ back to my room to blast me some Angela.”

Other tributes have praised Rashod’s warmth and the depths of his commitment to music as soul power. Because she gave us permission to “dream and build,” Aretha Franklin “will always be a revolutionary act,” he wrote two months ago about the R&B and gospel singer-pianist. A life like Rashod Ollison’s was also a revolutionary act. Men like Rashod don’t wear out their recti muscles looking for cities on a hill — they make do with what they have, describing it as ruthlessly as their imaginations allow.

Ranking Missy Elliott albums

What a marvelous Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott had at the turn of the 2000s. For a rapper-singer often called a singles artist, every one of her albums has tracks that put her thing down, flip it and reverse it (The Cookbook, to which I’ve never warmed and I haven’t mentioned here, has “Meltdown,” rubbery smut that fans don’t often cite).

I rank five of her albums.

Continue reading

Ranking Suede albums

Absorbing Noname, Christine and the Queens, Eric Church, and Neneh Cherry has put Suede’s new album at the bottom of my list of priorities, but the excellence of their two albums released this decade suggest it won’t disappoint. I haven’t shed my affection for the eponymous debut and especially Dog Man Star, and I need to give Head Music another listen.

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The state with the prettiest name, #2436

Only in Florida would thirty-three-year-old Bryan Deneumostier dress as a woman, lure straight men to his Homestead home, and record their sex for porn purposes:

Deneumostier, known by the screen name “susanleon33326,” pleaded guilty to two counts of illegal interception of oral communications before U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga. He faces up to 10 years in prison at his sentencing on Nov. 29, though he is expected to receive less time. As part of his plea agreement, three related charges will be dropped by federal prosecutors….

…Deneumostier was arrested in July on charges of making unlawful recordings of commercial sex acts for an adult website. An indictment, filed by prosecutors Cary Aronovitz and Mona Sedky, lists three victims related to his operation of “StraightBoyz.” The site promised gay men videos of real straight men being conned into accepting sex acts, all while blindfolded or wearing blacked-out goggles.

Investigators believe Deneumostier helped operate the subscription-based adult site, which featured about 620 video hookups, over the past four years. Although the website is no longer in operation, many of the videos can still be viewed on other porn sites.

“The site offered for streaming approximately 619 ‘hook up’ videos that depicted sexual activity between Deneumostier and other men,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “The defendant had surreptitiously made audio and video recordings of the sexual encounters, without the victims’ knowledge or consent. He later sold the ‘hook up’ videos to a third party located overseas and caused them to be posted onto the website.”

To be clear, straight men all over the world want to be deceived, but we Floridians have the entrepreneurial spirit.

It might blow up, and it might go pop: Troye Sivan and Ariana Grande

Troye Sivan — Bloom

This Australian started making sense after re-watching Call Me By Your Name — imagine him as Timothée Chalamet’s first boyfriend, about the same age, wowed by Chalamet’s experience, for which he has Armie Hammer to thank. Like Years & Years’ Ollie Alexander, for Troye Sivan every sexual adventure is an incitement, a glum thrill. The reverb and synthesizers on opener “Seventeen” suggest the abyss into which he loves tumbling; he’s hooking up with older dudes on Grindr for the tickle in the belly as much for the tightening of his crotch. “What a Heavenly Way to Die” borrows a Smiths lyric to limn an afterglow. “Lucky Strike” is a welcome sign that young men still find a cig or two on a hookup’s breath kind of hot. Key to liking this fellow are his vocal choices: the talk-sing of an introvert afraid he’ll embarrass himself, at its most affecting on “Plum,” absurd metaphors and all (“Coming over me/like bitter tangerine” uh huh); I’m sure he wants the chorus to be “even the sweetest cum.” Besides the reggae preset, the guitar line snarling after the hook is the most unexpected delight. That’s how it is over and over again on this modest little affair of an album as Jam City, OzGo, and the ubiquitous Ariel Rechtshaid’s faint electronic pulses elbow Sivan in the ribs. Bloom is, like Love, Simon, populist queer art, and Sivan is outré enough to give his conventionality a faintly serrated edge. So maybe he’s Timothée Chalamet’s Elio instead.

Ariana Grande – Sweetener

With pop in need of a pan-globalist sensation, she surprises us by sticking (mostly) to a single producer, and this single producer, in another surprise, is Pharrell, who I thought was tapped out. Other than wishing “R.E.M.” offered Ariana Grande’s confessions about the travails of loving the obscure Athens band in the twenty-first century, he brings bounce, ounce, and flounce to half the confections: “successful” would’ve been an ace Britney single in 2003, and radio has made “no tears left to cry” irresistible as well as inescapable. I still have problems when she believes the hype about her prowess: when she scrapes the ionosphere on “goodnight n go,” I hide in the bathroom with a mattress. Except for the Camila Cabello album, 2018 has seen no sturdier example of deluxe chartbound pop.

On fighting the last liberal battles

I belonged to a Facebook film forum to which I’d often post links to my lists and reviews. On Friday afternoon a couple members and I had what I thought was a polite discussion about gender and sexuality and the casting of Scarlett Johannson as a transgender character in Rub & Tug, specifically about the importance of separating gender from sexuality. A poster alluded to Felicity Huffman in Transamerica. Not a good movie, I said, but at least the casting made sense: Huffman, a cis woman, plays a trans woman. Instead of decrying the “cultural Stalinism” of Hollywood, to quote a poster, let’s focus our anger at the industry’s reluctance to cast trans actors.

Yesterday morning I realized I’d been kicked off the forum; the moderator has also blocked access to him on Facebook. Perhaps other reasons led to my elimination. But if what I suspect is true, then here’s another reminder that liberals disgusted with Donald Trump who support gay marriage and may even have queer pals will turn into the most blinkered #MAGA cap wearers when they must discard a lifetime’s worth of assumptions.