Supreme Court Says: Non-Discrimination Trumps Free Association

Last month I blogged about Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, a pending Supreme Court case that pitted a public university’s nondiscrimination policy against a Christian student group’s desire to restrict membership based on belief and behavior. Specifically, Hastings College of Law (a University of California institution) denied official recognition to the CLS because they required their members to be professing Christians and to disavow “unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle”, i.e. homosexuality.

Following their tradition of shooting off controversial opinions just before they leave town for the summer, the Court yesterday decided the case in favor of Hastings, in a 5-4 decision written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

As I wrote before, it depresses me that a Christian group chose to make their anti-gay stance so fundamental to their identity. I’m glad that Hastings is trying to be a safe place for gay students, especially gay Christians. However, I think the precedent established here will do more harm than good. I sympathize with this analysis from the Christianity Today article:

…[I]t’s unlikely that many state colleges and universities will adapt such an “all comers” policy in the future, said Carl Esbeck, a constitutional law professor at the University of Missouri who filed a friend of the court brief in the case for the National Association of Evangelicals, Evangelicals for Social Action, and leaders of the Evangelical Theological Society.

“It’s unlikely, because an all-comers policy by and large defeats the purpose for which state universities allow student organizations to be created and recognized by the educational institution,” he told CT. “Namely, that like-minded people can band together in an association or organization and thereby have not only common reinforcement among themselves but also have a greater voice because they’re speaking as a united group.”

Timothy Belz, who wrote the friend of the court brief with Esbeck, agreed that few schools will follow Hastings’s lead. “Even Justice Ginsburg said that just because it was constitutional didn’t mean it was advisable,” he said. “A lot of universities are not going to find that this is an advisable policy, where you can force the Young Democrats to elect a Republican, or a lesbian group to elect a straight male as their president. It’s a silly rule.”

The spectre of students organizing to take over the leadership of groups they don’t like has already happened at Central Michigan University, said David French, senior counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund and director of the ADF’s Center for Academic Freedom. It’s a strong possiblity at any school with a policy like the one at Hastings, he said in a blog post.

“By emphasizing the value of dissent within groups, the Court ignores the fundamental reality of an all-comers policy: Distinct student organizations exist at the whim of the majority,” French wrote. “If ‘all comers’ can join, then the majority can override the speech of any student group. Thus the true marketplace of ideas exists by the permission (or, more likely, apathy) of the majority. The potential for minority or disfavored groups at schools with an all-comers policy to self-censor to avoid controversy — and potential hostile takeovers — is high.”

But even if Hastings remains the only institution with such a policy, the Supreme Court decision is a blow, Esbeck said.

“The ruling today by the majority of the Supreme Court means that associational freedoms for all groups are diminished today. That includes groups that might celebrate the particular result here,” he said. “The First Amendment is of less value to all of us.”

Indeed, imagine your favorite unintended-consequences horror show here: A men’s rights activist takes over the leadership of a student feminist group. A Holocaust denier wants to join the board of Hillel. Applied in this mechanical way, a school policy aimed at protecting diversity actually produces homogenization because there are no safe places for affinity groups to flourish and resist assimilation by the majority.

Elsewhere, at the liberal site Religion Dispatches, Candace Chellew-Hodge counters:

…I don’t really know that, given the tenor of CLS and what it stands for, how many budding gay or lesbian lawyers would want to join them—but they ought to be afforded that right—especially if CLS is looking for recognition and funding from the college. They have to abide by the rules—they don’t get any special right to discriminate.

For all the years that the religious right has been howling about how gays and lesbians want “special rights,” it’s always nice to see the double edged sword cutting the other way from time to time.

I don’t think Candace is seeing the big picture here. Still, she’s right to point out the irony in conservatives’ selective use of the principles of equality, tolerance, diversity, and free association–all of which they want to deny to the GLBT community.

Ultimately, student groups across the political spectrum may realize that official recognition by the university comes with too high a price tag. A little more church-state separation, so to speak, might do them some good.

Oscar Wilde: Surface as Depth

No Pride Month series would be complete without a nod to Oscar Wilde, the queen mother of the queer aesthetic. This profile by Joshua Glenn from Hermenaut , a journal of philosophy and popular culture, summarizes Wilde’s defense of artifice as a vehicle for a subversive and redemptive critique of society. Like Emily Dickinson, Wilde believed the best way to tell the truth was to tell it slant…or, if you prefer, inverted . Some excerpts from Glenn’s article:

…Contemporary theorists of “subversive laughter” argue that laughter provoked by slips, stumbles, and somersaults of the body or tongue offers the hope of political liberation by suggesting that the world is not unchangeable, that inflexible rules can suddenly be transformed into something flexible: think Charlie Chaplin or Lenny Bruce. Irony, on the other hand (they claim), is a form of humor which is not revolutionary but subversive, since it only pokes towards reform among an elite audience instead of seeking to overthrow the reigning order outright: think of Socrates’ affected ignorance or Kierkegaard’s roundabout writing. Wilde’s humorous plays, which take sly jabs at bourgeois customs and morals, are certainly ironic, but not in the detached and shallow way that every “sophisticated” playwright after him—from Noel Coward to Neil Simon—has used irony. Because it is always laden with the foreboding sense that the society he was baiting would eventually punish him for it, and because it is also always informed by a deep moral seriousness (although his morality conflicts with that of bourgeois society’s), Wilde’s flippant yet emotionally and politically engaged form of irony is camp.

When asked to describe the “philosophy” behind The Importance of Being Earnest (whose subtitle is “A Trivial Comedy for Serious People”), Wilde replied, “We should treat all trivial things very seriously, and all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality.” This is perhaps the closest anyone has ever come to defining the camp attitude, which asks, “What is the importance of being earnest, anyway?” “Who are the people the world takes seriously?” asks Lord Darlington in Lady Windermere’s Fan, “All the dull people one can think of, from the Bishops down to the bores… I think life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it.” Wilde, who published his own intellectual notions (which he took seriously) in collections of witty aphorisms with titles like “Maxims for the Instruction of the Over-Educated” and “Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young,” also refuses to accord intellectual seriousness the respect it demands: “Nothing is serious except passion,” says Lord Illingworth in A Woman of No Importance, “The intellect is not a serious thing, and never has been. It is an instrument on which one plays, that is all.” The earnest mind cannot comprehend the paradoxical truths which Wilde would reveal, and, like Nietzsche’s Overman, Wilde’s aesthetes operate at a moral level which is so absurdly removed from the ordinary it seems like a put-on.

Wilde and the enlightened aesthetes of his writing are not flippant, nor are they earnest; nor are they not-flippant, nor not-earnest. Like the dancing Shiva image in Hinduism, which is indifferent yet amused, detached yet dancing the world into being, Wilde’s camp irony is more revolutionary than the laughter espoused by radical humor theorists, precisely because it is beyond good and evil, beyond funny and un-funny. Wilde’s camp philosophy, which mixes serious espousal and mockery, is absurd, and only by being so can it be truly redemptive.


“The first duty in life is to be as artificial as possible. What the second duty is no one has yet found out.” —from Wilde’s “Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young.”

“My ambitions do not stop with composing poems. I want to make of my life itself a work of art,” announced Wilde. Putting on new identities like he put on new outfits, Wilde wasn’t simply heeding Pater’s admonition that “Failure is to form habits”; he was putting into practice his existential belief that the self is in fact no deeper than a painter’s canvas. Having studied under the American drama coach Steele Mackaye, who taught that self-conscious gestures and poses could transform one’s very interiority, Wilde sought to transform his own self into a work of art which—like all art considered beautiful by Wilde’s theory of aestheticism—called into question conformist bourgeois values. So although the dandy pose Wilde adopted seems merely frivolous and queer, in the utilitarian bourgeois culture of Victorian England it represented something much more subversive.

Today, Wilde’s brand of dandyism signifies a frivolous, non-threatening display of homosexuality. But the “sodomite,” according to the Victorian mind, merely engaged in a peculiar sort of sexual behavior: The word “homosexual” didn’t even exist at the time. Same-sex desire, that is to say, was considered to be nothing but a degenerate pose, not a mode of being—hence Queensberry’s curious accusation of Wilde. So, although his trial may have forever associated effeminate dandyism with same-sex desire, for Wilde the dandy represented the struggle artistically to develop one’s unique individuality in a materialistic society which requires of its male citizens the utilitarian virtues of rationality, moderation, self-sacrifice, self-discipline, industry, and thrift.

How so? When the English bourgeoisie came into being, it rejected the pleasure-seeking values of the hated aristocracy in favor of new virtues related to hard work and simple pleasures. According to one recent study, the no-nonsense bourgeoisie even created a new body language, one which was open and direct as opposed to the stylized poses of the aristocrats. So the original dandies of the 17th and 18th centuries, who admired the vanishing aristocrat’s disdain for the socially acceptable pursuit of wealth (in favor of the pursuit of self-development), were in turn rejecting bourgeois values with their frivolous poses. This explains why Wilde set his plays and stories among the aristocracy: not because he worshipped power and money, but because he admired the dandy’s anti-utilitarian world-view. Wilde wasn’t against the “common man,” but he despised anything “common” or “vulgar” (by which he meant “received” or “taken for granted”). In Wilde’s first play Vera, the hero states, “In a good democracy, every man should be an aristocrat.” Wilde wanted an aristocracy of everyone.


…Art, for Wilde, is the source of truth—precisely because it never tells the truth. In a famous passage in “The Decay of Lying,” Vivian tells Cyril that “Things are because we see them, and what we see, and how we see it, depends on the Arts that have influenced us… Truth is entirely and absolutely a matter of style, while Life—poor, probable, uninteresting human life…will [always] follow meekly after…” However, although the artist performs a service by showing reality as it is not, his or her perspective is still made too narrow by the focus of their particular medium. The critic, however, who is free to explore all schools of art, and is therefore free of prejudice, is another matter.

Wilde argues that in “criticism of the highest kind” (or “right interpretive criticism”), rather than seeking to discover the “true” intention of the artist, the critic actually lends a text or canvas its myriad meanings. (Any work of art which has but one message to reveal, and is therefore incapable of inspiring reverie and imagination, is not beautiful by Wilde’s definition.) “It is Criticism that, recognizing no position as final, and refusing to bind itself by the shallow shibboleths of any sect or school, creates that serene philosophic temper which loves truth for its own sake, and loves it not the less because it knows it,” says Gilbert. “Truth,” he concludes, “is merely one’s last mood.” More importantly, according to Lord Illingworth, “Taking sides is the beginning of sincerity, and earnestness follows shortly afterwards, and the human being becomes a bore.”

But Wilde is not simply a relativist. For as one character says in Dorian Gray, “The way of paradoxes is the way of truth. To test Reality we must see it on the tight-rope. When the Verities become acrobats we can judge them.” And in “The Truth of Masks,” Wilde writes that “A truth in art is that whose contradictory is also true.” (“The wise contradict themselves,” agrees “Phrases and Philosophies.”) That which is ultimately true can only be that which beautifully contradicts itself, thereby provoking us to wonder. This is why Wilde so often praises the liar, whose aim “is simply to charm, to delight, to give pleasure.” By not seeking to force his opinions on others, the liar may actually help to usher in a new, utopian world in which, as Vivian puts it, “Facts will be regarded as discreditable, Truth will be found mourning over her fetters, and Romance, with her temper of wonder, will return to the land.” The willful creation of self-contradictory, multiplicitous, “insincere”—and therefore wonder-inspiring—meaning, is camp truth.

Read the whole article here .

Alicia Ostriker: “The Blessing of the Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog”

The column below is reprinted by permission from American Life in Poetry, a project of the Poetry Foundation. Sign up for their free weekly e-newsletter here . I was enticed by the fairy-tale sound of this poem’s title, and then nourished by its deeply joyful and embodied spirituality.

American Life in Poetry: Column 274

Alicia Suskin Ostriker is one of our country’s finest poets. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey. I thought that today you might like to have us offer you a poem full of blessings.

The Blessing of the Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog

To be blessed
said the old woman
is to live and work
so hard
God’s love
washes right through you
like milk through a cow

To be blessed
said the dark red tulip
is to knock their eyes out
with the slug of lust
implied by
your up-ended skirt

To be blessed
said the dog
is to have a pinch
of God
inside you
and all the other
dogs can smell it

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “The Blessing of the Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog” from The Book of Seventy, by Alicia Suskin Ostriker, © 2009. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press. Introduction copyright ©2010 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Straight Allies of the Week: Rev. John Makokha and Anne Baraza Makokha

Being a straight ally isn’t easy. Even in a diverse, open society like America, we sometimes find that people close to us will reject us or question our faith in God. Imagine how much harder this is in African countries where speaking up for gay rights can also get you arrested or killed.

Other Sheep is an outreach ministry to GLBT Christians in the developing world. Among other projects, they help persecuted members of sexual minorities gain asylum, and they bring affirming theological resources to churches and schools in many countries.

Rev. John Makokha and his wife Anne Baraza Makokha are Other Sheep coordinators in Kenya. Their stories can be read on the Other Sheep website. Anne began reexamining the Biblical evidence on homosexuality when her beloved older sister came out as a lesbian but continued to be a devout Christian. Despite resistance from her professors at her evangelical college in Nairobi, Anne kept up her studies and now teaches seminars on affirming theology. Her husband John, a minister in the United Methodist Church, also works tirelessly to educate his fellow clergymen in Kenya about sexual orientation and faith.

Needless to say, this is not the kind of work that is conducive to career advancement in a homophobic society. Other Sheep’s coordinators do amazing work on a very small budget. Please donate to help them with their living expenses so that they can continue to protect our GLBT brothers and sisters in Africa.

TC Tolbert Interviews Performance Poet Sonya Renee Taylor

The blog Persephone Speaks is a project of Kore Press, an excellent feminist literary press based in Arizona. Persephone Speaks features interviews with authors and performers about the creative process, gender issues, social justice and antiwar activism, and much more.

Their latest newsletter introduced me to the work of performance poet Sonya Renee Taylor. Her first full-length collection of poetry, A Little Truth on Your Shirt , has just been released by GirlChild Press. See this video of her powerful and heartbreaking poem “Still Life” from the National Poetry Slam:

TC Tolbert, a genderqueer feminist poet and educator, recently interviewed Renee for Persephone Speaks. The two artists talk about sexual identity, the difference between poetry written for the stage and for the page, and the challenges of telling difficult personal truths in a way that is also healing and respectful toward the people in your life. Here’s an excerpt:

TC: How do we, as artists, – or, do we – consider the reader or audience? At what point do their needs influence what we create?

SR: It’s difficult. Nothing starts, for me, with the reader. It starts with me and my place in the experience, in the observation, in the thought process. That’s where it starts, for me. My decision to share that is about where I believe the reader exists in the work. There are things that I have written that I feel very clear that the reader does not exist at all in that work. And I feel very clear about that. Usually the poem will tell me if it is for more than just me. And if the poem tells me that, then I share it.

TC: A personal question I found myself wondering – has her mom read this? Has her dad read this? How do the folks who are very much present in this work, how do they respond? How do you navigate that?

SR: They know that they are in the book. There are a lot of pieces that they have heard already. I read “Penance” to my mother long before I considered publishing. We were having a conversation about how I could establish boundaries around her drinking and what I could do that does not re-traumatize me and I didn’t know what to say so I said let me read you this poem. Just yesterday I read the piece, “Dreams for My Father,” on the radio in Portland, Oregon and my father called me b/c he had heard me read it and he said, “When I hear the poem it reminds me that I need to call and tell you I love you unconditionally. So I’m calling to tell you I love you unconditionally.” And this is its own art in that experience b/c that is not where we started when I wrote that piece. The piece, “Fragility of Eggs,” I read to my mother when I first wrote it and she cried and asked me to never do it publicly. I obviously didn’t honor that. And here is my perspective. Whenever the experience impacts me, it becomes my experience. And as an artist, I want to honor the space where that came from. And I’m not going to not tell my truth b/c that makes you uncomfortable. Because it is mine. But what I feel committed to doing is writing from a space that honors, that doesn’t exploit, that shows the humanity in the experience. I can do that. I feel committed to doing that. But I don’t feel committed to keeping other’s secrets, for their sake. Not when it makes them my secrets too.

TC: That is interesting as it relates to other kinds of writing, like memoir, and the expectation that everything that is written is factual. I wonder what is the line in your work between what is factual and what is true?

SR: There is a difference. Truth is often conceptual. Knowing isn’t about detail. It is about core and spirit and synthesis. That is not about detail. That is not about making a left turn instead of a right turn at two in the afternoon. In my work, knowing and truth are about destination. And facts are about roads. How did you get there? Sometimes I absolutely believe in factuality. I am interested often in how do you make fact poetic. Fact is newspaper and newspaper isn’t often poetic and I’m interested in that line between fact and poetry and where do you create that. But I think poetry is about creation and creativity and nuance and language and I feel free to utilize that when I need to. And I feel like the truth in my work is always present. The other thing is that truth, in my work, is never about exploitation. I have read work that is more about exploiting the subject, reader, or audience to get the reaction you want but I never want to exist in that space. My story is about truth and people’s ability to find their own truth in my truth.

Here is a concrete example. In the Bonus section “Liking Me” it is about me and an interaction with a guy who does not want to use a condom. Did that scenario happen in that exact way? No. Have lots of scenarios similar to that happened? Yes. Have those always ended with me being super strong and saying “Get the fuck out of here – I’d rather masturbate.” No. Sometimes I’ve bent. But the truth of my spirit is that I know that I am more important than someone who is getting me to compromise my safety. That is my knowing. And that work is a vehicle to get me to live in my knowing and to get other people to live in their knowing.

Read the whole interview here .

Susan Stinson: “Tell”

Susan Stinson is the new poet-in-residence at Forbes Library, our public library in Northampton, where I recently had the pleasure of hearing her read from several of her books. Her published novels include Martha Moody and Fat Girl Dances With Rocks, and she’s also working on a novel about the Puritan theologian Jonathan Edwards.

The poem below is reprinted by permission from her chapbook Belly Songs: In Celebration of Fat Women (Orogeny Press, 1993). Stinson says that it came out of the process of writing Martha Moody. Like her, I sometimes find that the best way to get inside my fictional characters’ heads is to step outside the narrative, let them write a poem, and see what comes up.

   I realized I had to tell Martha.

   She’d given this gift to me: sex and an outpouring ofwords. I wanted Martha to be an adamant vision in theworld, with her low-slung belly swaying in the morning ofa culture. Martha: the woman standing on the scallopedshell emerging from the sea. Martha’s hair is red foam, herfist is tight, her knees are dimpled. She poured water on myfeet, and there’s no part of me that can forget that.

   I changed under the water and under her hands to anoutspoken woman. It was inspiration. She brought me tosex and to voice. She gave me a mouthful of wine. I drank,oh, I put my tongue along her tensed lips.

   The way I feel when I’m moving the words is so closeto what she gives me with her knee between my legs, herfingers spreading me.

   Please and thank you.
   She’s talking.
   Rich. Reach me.
   Reach inside me.

   My uterus has tongues and they are lapping at her knuckles.
   My cervix swells a story.

   Her own breasts fall, cascades of fat and nipple, over herpadded ribs. She is mammoth. She haunts me. My soul ismy own, but when I write I find Martha, the miracle,riding a golden cow. Much moaning and lowing, manysmall hairs.

   There are three forces. One is the body and my move-ments, need to eat, desire for Martha. Another is the spiritand the leaves and the way it moves in the leaves. Anotheris the spirit and the words and the way it moves in thewords.

   It moved me. It woke me. It caught me. It disturbedme. Then I had a moment of absolute presence. Martha.

Straight Women, Gay Romance: Bridging the Gender Gap?

There isn’t a name for us (yet) but we’re out there.

I discovered my inner gay man four years ago when I began writing literary fiction. It wasn’t a “choice” to write about certain “subject matter”: he was just there. And I liked him, sometimes more than the woman named “Jendi Reiter”, that persona assigned to me by biology, life circumstances, and the strange sense of humor of the Lord.

However…not only am I not “Julian”, I am not even a real gay man writing about “Julian”. I don’t want him to sound like a chick with a dick. (No offense to my intersex friends.) And I worry that when he tells me what’s in his heart–when he admits to caring about something other than casual sex and sarcastic put-downs–our readers will say to both of us, “You throw like a girl.”

Until recently, I didn’t know there were others of my obscure species, apart from the slash fanfiction subculture (you know, Kirk ‘n Spock in luv). But apparently, according to this Dick Smart column on the Lambda Literary book blog, we straight female writers of gay male romance/erotica even have our own publishing niche, “M/M”, with specialty presses and everything.

On one level, this is encouraging. I’m relieved that I haven’t been afflicted with a unique (and unmarketable) kink.

At the same time, I feel a little sad that traditional male-female divisions persist even in queer culture. Some editors quoted in Smart’s article suggest that the difference between gay male fiction and female-written M/M is that the latter is more romantic and sentimental. Men who want lasting love, who talk openly about their emotions with and for other men–are these still mainly a female fantasy, scorned by other men regardless of sexual orientation?

It wouldn’t surprise me if, in a sexist and homophobic society, gay men police each other for not acting macho enough. I would be more depressed if I had to accept that the difference is innate–that even among gay men, there will always be someone of lower status, namely me, who gets the low-prestige job of doing the emotional work for both genders and is excluded from the boys’ treehouse by virtue of that “weakness”.

There are many reasons why I write M/M. I’ve posted about the more high-minded motives on this blog: I’m proud of my queer family, I believe in radical equality, blah blah. Yeah, and I also think naked men are hot, and the more the merrier.

But, to get back to the high-minded stuff for a second, I have an agenda for everything I write. Spiritual, political, ethical–it’s all of those. I believe (or at least hope) that people are more alike than they are different. We all need an intimate connection to God and to one another. We all need dignity and a safe place to be honest about who we are. I believe that gender roles that restrict our emotional range (men get lust and anger, women get empathy) are oppressive illusions. I want to dispel these illusions by writing in the voices of characters outside my demographic, and reaching readers outside that demographic, too.

Lesbians Raise Good Kids (If I May Say So…) reported Monday on a study that concluded that children raised by lesbians were better-behaved than their peers. Naturally, I find this flattering, though some might say the results have worn off with age.

A nearly 25-year study concluded that children raised in lesbian households were psychologically well-adjusted and had fewer behavioral problems than their peers.

The study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, followed 78 lesbian couples who conceived through sperm donations and assessed their children’s well-being through a series of questionnaires and interviews.

Funding for the research came from several lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy groups, such as the Gill Foundation and the Lesbian Health Fund from the Gay Lesbian Medical Association.

Dr. Nanette Gartrell, the author of the study, wrote that the “funding sources played no role in the design or conduct of the study.”

“My personal investment is in doing reputable research,” said Gartrell. “This is a straightforward statistical analysis. It will stand and it has withstood very rigorous peer review by the people who make the decision whether or not to publish it.”

Gay parenting remains a controversial issue, with debates about topics including the children’s psychological adjustment, their parents’ sexual orientation and adoption restrictions.

Wendy Wright, president of the Concerned Women for America, a group that supports biblical values, questioned the legitimacy of the findings from a study funded by gay advocacy groups.

“That proves the prejudice and bias of the study,” she said. “This study was clearly designed to come out with one outcome — to attempt to sway people that children are not detrimentally affected in a homosexual household.”Gartrell started the study in 1986. She recruited subjects through announcements in bookstores, lesbian events and newspapers throughout metro Boston, Massachusetts; San Francisco, California, and Washington.

The mothers were interviewed during pregnancy or the insemination process, and additionally when the children were 2, 5, 10 and 17 years old. Those children are now 18 to 23 years old.

They were interviewed four times as they matured and also completed an online questionnaire at age 17, focusing on their psychological adjustment, peer and family relationships and academic progress.

To assess their well-being, Gartrell used the Child Behavior Checklist, a commonly used standard to measure children’s behavioral and social problems, such as anxiety, depression, aggressive behavior and social competence.

The answers were coded into a computer and then analyzed. This data was compared with data from children of nonlesbian families.

The results surprised Gartrell.

“I would have anticipated the kids would be doing as well as the normative sample,” she said. “I didn’t expect better.”

Children from lesbian families rated higher in social, academic and total competence. They also showed lower rates in social, rule-breaking, aggressive problem behavior.

The involvement of mothers may be a contributing factor, in addition to the fact that the pregnancies were planned, Gartrell said.

Read the rest of the article here .

I have just one objection to CNN’s reporting. Can we please not call the anti-homosexual position “Biblical values” without a qualifying phrase, as if there’s only one legitimate or mainstream interpretation of the Bible on this issue? That’s how Concerned Women for America uses the phrase, but it’s hardly uncontested.

Compare how major news outlets cover another equally controversial topic. Reporters understand that the phrase “partial-birth abortion” is a value-laden description of a medical procedure, crafted by its opponents to stir certain emotions. Instead of endorsing this description uncritically, the paper will say something like “the procedure that doctors call intact dilation and extraction, and opponents call partial-birth abortion.” The disagreement in nomenclature reflects a disagreement in values, and so an objective journalist will refuse to take sides by omission.

In the story above, a more accurate and neutral description could be “Concerned Women for America, a group that interprets the Bible to condemn homosexuality” or “…that opposes same-sex relationships, based on its interpretation of the Bible”.

Against Compulsive Revision

Before I entered that zone of Sisyphean torment reserved for writers of novels-in-progress, I used to say I was a poet because I have a short attention span. I can see my way around all sides of a poem at once: it’s like carving a statue, rather than building a house. It takes me about an hour to write, and once it’s done, it’s pretty clear to me whether it sucks or not. If it does, I generally abandon it. When the tone is off, it’s off. None of that “parts of the omelet are excellent” wishful thinking.

If the poem smells OK, I don’t do much to it after that. I’ll tinker with a line or two that might have concerned me the first time around, but I don’t approach my drafts with the presumption that more input will always make them better. By contrast, it’s common for creative writing workshops to silence the author while the other students critique her piece, an approach that troubles me because of the potential for peer pressure to stunt the development of her own internal smell-o-meter.

Even outside a group setting, the self who writes the first draft is not the same person who revises it. You are, in a sense, your own peer pressure. You’ve got to be careful that the anticipation of judging-self’s criticism doesn’t stifle creative-self, because creative-self is the expert and needs to be trusted as such.

A Facebook link posted by the poet Rus Bowden led me to this satisfying screed by Art Durkee , a writer, musician, and visual artist, who goes off on his fellow poet Mary Karr’s advice to students that “every poem probably has sixty drafts behind it”. Durkee thinks, as do I, that bragging about how many reps you did at the revision gym says more about your ego than the quality of the poem. Some choice quotes:

…Rewrite after rewrite after rewrite after rewrite is a completely alien way of working, for me. I literally cannot imagine doing sixty drafts of a poem. I cannot imagine doing endless rewrites without the process itself literally killing every good thing in the poem, including the impulse that originally caused me to want to write it. The spontaneity and freshness and surprise and life will all be killed, each phrase will become so overly-familiar that all the life will be sucked out of it merely by repetition. You can’t bring a poem back to life, after killing it with rewrites: there are no zombie-poems (although one can make a case for there being some living-dead poets, in certain instances). I’d rather shoot the poem and put it out of its misery than subject it to such pointless and endlessly painful surgery.

If I can’t get it in four or five drafts, sixty drafts won’t make any difference: one reaches a point of diminishing returns. Far better to start over, because—in my case at least—endless rewrites will not magically repair what a few drafts cannot. It’s magical thinking—or worse. The definition of insanity is to keep repeating the same behavior again and again, each time hoping for a different outcome than that which the previous hundred repetitions provided. In the case of obsessive rewriting, I’d want to see some evidence that the last twenty drafts made any noticeable improvements to the poem. I remain skeptical until presented with such….

…Poets constantly suffer from an insecurity, inherited perhaps from Romantic stereotypes about tubercular Writers wasting away in starving garrets, that other members of the literary clan won’t respect them if they don’t appear to be working hard enough at their “craft and sullen art.” Certainly every poet wants to appear to the non-poet as hard-working, as if they must work hard, to achieve what they’ve achieved. Poetry is, after all, specialized language, intensified and heightened speech, with more meaning packed into a few words, compared to every other literary artform. Yet poetry is a verbal artform, with no physical component to it, so one might well understand how a poet might feel like a slacker when standing next to a construction worker: although both are building things, only one makes tangible things that one might actually trip over. I myself would argue that poetry at its best is a tangible thing one can trip over, and have one’s life changed thereby—but it’s easy to see how some poets might be insecure about their art’s lack of apparently physical results, especially in a consumer economy wherein the dominant measure of intrinsic value is monetary and physical utility….

…I can conceive of no worse hell than being forced to follow a creative process so alien to one’s own, natural process.

The point here is that there are many different ways of working, even within similar creative processes. We may have fundamentally different working methods. I’m fine with that. I’m not okay when the disbelieving try to impose their values, or their working methods, on others.

Read the whole post here .

Signs of the Apocalypse:

Summer is here, and the smell of roasting meat offers enterprising Christians new opportunities to start those all-important conversations over your backyard barbecue. The store’s “Gifts for Father’s Day” page offers this lovely apron that shows which side of the grill you’re on. What better way to impress upon your guests the urgency of escaping hellfire?

For those of you with a mote in your eye, the fine print says “(“It is a burnt offering to the LORD, a pleasing aroma” – Ex 29:18, NIV)”

If Father’s Day is not your thing, other designs include “I’m a Christian Empty Nester Single”. Sounds like that person needs a hug.