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Ross Douthat is a Bigot

In Politics, Rants, Sex on August 10, 2010 at 8:59 am

If I spent all of my time railing against right-wingers with whom I disagree, I would have no breath left in my lungs.  However, I recently came across a column I thought was so subtly nasty, that I was compelled to write about it.

Like most snooty American liberals, I read the New York Times editorial page.  Paul Krugman is probably my favorite avuncular bearded economist, and I find Thomas Friedman sort of amusing, as he usually gets quite enthusiastic about issues that broke five or so years ago.  (I recall him being very excited about cell phone cameras in the mid 2000s.  It was cute.)

Yesterday at dinner my friend L asked me if I’d read it that morning, and I said that I hadn’t.  She alerted me to a piece by Ross Douthat, the NYT‘s resident token conservative who isn’t David Brooks.  Douthat’s column was basically a screed against gay marriage, but not for the reasons that you’d expect.  He does not seem to oppose gay marriage for religious reasons or because it will lead to polygamy.  He says, basically, that heterosexual marriage is special because:

This ideal holds up the commitment to lifelong fidelity and support by two sexually different human beings — a commitment that involves the mutual surrender, arguably, of their reproductive self-interest — as a uniquely admirable kind of relationship. It holds up the domestic life that can be created only by such unions, in which children grow up in intimate contact with both of their biological parents, as a uniquely admirable approach to child-rearing. And recognizing the difficulty of achieving these goals, it surrounds wedlock with a distinctive set of rituals, sanctions and taboos.

The point of this ideal is not that other relationships have no value, or that only nuclear families can rear children successfully. Rather, it’s that lifelong heterosexual monogamy at its best can offer something distinctive and remarkable — a microcosm of civilization, and an organic connection between human generations — that makes it worthy of distinctive recognition and support.

Again, this is not how many cultures approach marriage. It’s a particularly Western understanding, derived from Jewish and Christian beliefs about the order of creation, and supplemented by later ideas about romantic love, the rights of children, and the equality of the sexes.

This is utter sophistry.  This is ahistorical dreck.  This is nothing but thin apologetics for bigotry.  A few points:

1:  Douthat’s last section, about “equality of the sexes” is particularly laughable, especially when juxtaposed with Christian and Jewish beliefs.  The ideal of sexual equality is new, and we don’t have religious traditions to thank for it.  Thank the feminist movement.  Thank women’s liberation.  Thank Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem for that.  Prior to that, wives were pretty much property.  You’re actually going to claim that “later ideas” “supplemented” religious beliefs?  No.  Just the opposite.  These later ideas overturned religious beliefs.

2:   He is also equating marriage with monogamy.  Admittedly, this is most people’s expectation, but it is entirely possible for married couples to have any array of sexual arrangements open to them.  There are plenty of happily married non-monogamists out there, and their marital unions are as legally binding as anyone else’s.  Marriage, really, is about whatever the people in it say it’s about.

3:  Douthat also brings children into the equation.  Aside from the fact that the children of gay couples tend to be just fine, who says marriage has to be about children?  Matrimony doesn’t equate to kids.

4:  Heterosexual marriage, says Douthat, is distinctive.  All relationships are.  Heterosexual relationships are distinct from each other, and homosexual relationships are also distinct from each other.  For instance, an elderly couple who get married late in life and can’t have children will have a very different relationship than young people who pop out tons of kids.  Both relationships, though, are worthy of legal sanction.

Douthat ends his column with this bit of semi-coherent vileness:

[I]f we just accept this shift, we’re giving up on one of the great ideas of Western civilization: the celebration of lifelong heterosexual monogamy as a unique and indispensable estate. That ideal is still worth honoring, and still worth striving to preserve. And preserving it ultimately requires some public acknowledgment that heterosexual unions and gay relationships are different: similar in emotional commitment, but distinct both in their challenges and their potential fruit.

“But based on Judge Walker’s logic — which suggests that any such distinction is bigoted and un-American — I don’t think a society that declares gay marriage to be a fundamental right will be capable of even entertaining this idea

Douthat obviously thinks highly of heterosexual marriage.  Great.  Wonderful.  Good for him.  However, we’re not just talking about how we feel about people’s relationships, here.  We’re talking about the law.

We’re talking about health care and inheritance, tax breaks and hospital visitation rights.  We’re talking about partner benefits and unique legal protections that apply to spouses.  We’re talking about a whole array of privileges that come with marriage.  Very real privileges that translate into rights, money, and legal recognition.  For that state to deny such things just because “lifelong heterosexual monogamy is a unique and indispensable estate” is indeed “bigoted and un-American.”

The state, in matters sexual, really ought to be neutral.  We would balk at the government taking official positions on religious beliefs, political parties, or journalistic entities.  Theoretically, the state is neutral with how it treats with all of those in their various forms and kinds.  It should be likewise so with sexual behavior.

I would not be nearly so incensed about this if it weren’t in the New York Times.  Not because the NYT is a liberal newspaper, but because it’s serious one with standards, an editorial board, and all that.  Even though they carry Maureen Dowd, I still expect them to maintain a certain degree of intellectual cache.

Douthat would be a more honest person if he just said his thesis directly- that he does not like the idea of gay relationships.  He is, I imagine, uncomfortable with the idea of two men having sex.  Such queasiness is not the basis for law.  I’m uncomfortable with the idea of two fat people having sex, but I still believe they should get to have their relationship sanctioned.

There is nothing left for the opponents of gay marriage.  No argument that carries any sort of serious weight.  Nothing for them to say that is at all persuasive.  On every meaningful philosophical point, they have lost.  Douthat and others like him are grasping at straws, and those straws are slipping away.


In Comedy, Religion, Sex on May 15, 2010 at 10:09 am

Last night I found myself on stage with a microphone in my hand in front of a room full of complete strangers. I could feel my heart banging against my ribcage, and I wondered if the mike was able to pick up the beats and gasps of my cardiopulmonary system. I’d been wearing a long-sleeved shirt, but ditched it in favor of a black tee. Freedom of movement and looseness were necessary. I was sweating and filled with a very specific kind of fear. The primal part of my system was telling me to run away, to get the hell off the stage. I had to tell that part of my brain though, as well as my heart, lungs, and sweaty forehead, to shut the fuck up.

“We’re doing this,” I mentally said to my rebellious brain-stem, “we’re doing this and it’s going to be great.” At the comedy open mike I’d already seen one guy bomb horribly. At the very least, I would not be the least-funny person on stage that night.

I opened my mouth and heard the parting of my lips amplified by the mike. “I was raised Catholic,” I said. There were a few “Whoos!” from the audience. I proceeded to talk about being an altar boy, and launched into a routine about how I never got molested.

“I was an altar boy for a lot of priests,” I said, “and I never got molested. Ever. What I want to know is-” and here I did my best to adopt a put-out expression, “why the fuck not? I mean, I’m not that bad looking of a guy! I was even sexier when I was fourteen. I ran cross-country- I was fit! And I didn’t even get a wink from a single priest. Nothing! Quite frankly, I feel left out.”

For the next few minutes filled the air with absolutely filthy material about pedophilia, the Catholic church, and how God was an asshole because he cuckolded Joseph. I made jokes about Mary was probably a pushy Jewish mother, and how if God had any manners he would have offered to have had a threesome with Mary and Joseph instead of just going behind the dude’s back.

I chose sex and religion because I thought it would be easy to joke about. Joking about the Catholic church and sex is kind of like selecting Ryu in Street Fighter- it’s cheap, easy, and gives you an overinflated sense of your own skill. The subject matter, though, seemed to make a lot of the audience very uncomfortable. I had a few people laughing consistently (I was pleased that they were other comedians) most of the audience seemed to be squirming uncomfortably as I called God an asshole for knocking up Mary and then never calling her back.

Their discomfort made me in turn uncomfortable. I thought to myself “I’m offending people! Shit! I should have done my routine about ancient Greece!” I realized that working with that kind of subject matter means that you have to not give a shit about the people who are uncomfortable or offended. If you’re going to talk about God giving Mary the best orgasm in history, you have be prepared to deal with the people who think that’s gross. I did my best to focus on the people who were laughing, and stay positive.

I finished my routine, got off the stage, and my heart rate immediately dropped. My back muscles loosened, and I breathed easier. The host shook my hand and told me “right on.” I sat back down. Prior to my routine I’d been too nervous to drink the beer that I’d ordered from the bar. I sat down and almost immediately drank all of it.

As I was sitting down and drinking my beer, my dominant thought was “I want to do that again!”

I felt loose and exhilarated. Despite seeing audience members squirm awkwardly, I wanted to go on stage and do another comedy routine. Punching through the fear, the pressure to perform, and the feeling of actually succeeding at being engaging, actually making people laugh, was a huge rush. I had all kinds of endorphins firing through my system, and I was enjoying a very familiar sensation.

I enjoy public speaking. I enjoy getting in front of groups and being interesting, funny, and engaging. I did speech and debate in high school (where I did pretty well at competitive stand up), was the speaker at my high school graduation. I was in a band in college, and have been a teacher, tour guide, and wedding officiant. Maybe I’m a huge narcissist, but feeling a roomful of eyes on me, and then being able to power through the nervousness and actually perform is my drug of choice.

I love the idea of being alone on stage. There is nothing there. Nothing. Everything that comes off stage has to do with you. The mood, the audience reaction, the vibe of the room- it all comes from your voice, body language, and presence. I want to be that kind of person, the kind of person who can fill a room with just their voice, and make people react with just a gesture. The instant gratification is also nice- as much as I like writing, I can’t see my audience. Closing the gap between creation and reaction is, quite frankly, just neat.

I admit that I love hearing myself talk, being the center of attention, and being able to charm a crowd of people. I will do stand up again, probably soon. It will probably be a while before I do another routine about sex and the Catholic church, though. I have a routine about ancient Greece I’ve been working on, and some jokes about science fiction. I don’t care about my rebellious brainstem- I wanna go again!

Why I Think That Lady Gaga is Pretty Great Even Though (In Fact, Because) I Don’t Want to Have Sex With Her.

In Music, Sex on February 15, 2010 at 9:59 pm

There are lots of celebrities whom I would like to have sex with. Lady Gaga is not one of them.

“Joe, you red-blooded bucket of unabated virility and leonine manliness! Why on earth not? Aren’t you utterly entranced by the current Empress of Popular Music?”

Well, Hypothetical Reader, yes. Yes I am. I find Her Gaga-ness as fascinating and entertaining as any other consumer of popular culture. However, unlike so many other nubile young famous people, I don’t really want to fuck her. When you really think about it, that’s kind of neat.

And also, really, really fucking weird.

I mean it! Really weird. Utterly strange. Most of celebrity, fame, and general media-ness has to do with the parading about of pretty young things, both male and female, whom the general populace can fantasize about whilst touching themselves at night. If you disagree with me, then I would like to politely refer you to to Jersey Shore, a massively popular television show that seems to be mostly about breasts and hair of titanic proportions, and men who possess no shortage of hair gel but not a single shirt.

I suppose what I’m trying to say, is that if you don’t think that popular culture is about fantasy sex, then you are a delusional stupid person who has a bowl of sodden guacamole instead of a brain.

So, yeah. Anyway, here’s how it usually works in the music world: You’ve got your standard rock-star person up there on stage. Let’s say it’s David Bowie, someone who’s also known for being sort of weird and shiny. There are lots of women in the audience. These women are watching and enjoying the music, but also, on a certain level, they probably want to fuck the Thin White Duke. Sure, it might be in just a little corner of their mind, but they think to themselves “I would totally do his glitter-covered ass.” Many of them would settle for having their male consorts be a bit more Bowie-like, and proceed to pursue men who wear impossibly tight pants.

You’ve also got men in the audience, men filled with a sense of identification who want to be David Bowie. They don’t want to fuck him, but they want to be him while he’s fucking someone else. They put themselves in his role, and they get off on it. This is why James Bond is popular.

Meanwhile, you’ve also got gay and bisexual dudes who want to be and fuck David Bowie simultaneously, and they are probably having the best time of all, eventually breaking out into a cocaine-fueled dude orgy that fills the other people in the concert with a mixture of arousal, envy, and fear.

Where were we? Oh yes. Sexy fame. That’s how it usually works.

Lady Gaga does not seem to do this.

“Joe, you massively erudite cogitator! How could you say that? Didn’t you notice how she often dresses in a provocative manner?”

Yes, Hypothetical Reader. Yes I did.

Lady Gaga objectifies herself. I do not mean that she objectifies herself in the sense that the word is normally used, but rather she portrays herself as an object, specifically something manufactured. In her videos she’s often made to look artificial or damaged in some way, covered in armor, plastic, bandages, or exotic clothing. She does bare a lot of skin, yes, but she comes off more like something that has been engineered to be a simulacrum of sexuality. There is a sort of perfunctory and robotic way of her movements, or rather, how her videos are shot and edited to portray her movements. She and her backup dancers move like they are filled with pnuematic cams and shafts, and there is a an unnatural, puppet-like lurching to her.

She does not flirt with the camera. There is very little in the way of knowing winks or direct interaction with the audience. Instead we are given a kabuki-like tableau of massively elaborate costumes and enigmatic visuals. Faked sex in popular entertainment is often pitiable, and Gaga, rather mercifully, does not attempt it. Instead, she revels in her bizarre nature persona.

I like this. After seeing lots of interchangeable starlets look directly into the camera and act like they are singing just for you, Gaga’s detached and cold videos are immensely refreshing. She does not attempt to be authentic when she is not. She does not pretend she is not artificial when she is. She is completely honest about how fake she is which kind of makes her like Andy Warhol, except that she’s entertaining.

It also makes her more honest than, well, most other pop stars. Lady Gaga proudly proclaims that she is a product of an advanced industrial society, a singing, dancing super-robot. And she is a glorious super-robot, a fantastically well-engineered one.

Which brings me back to my original point: I don’t want to fuck a robot. Sure, I used to live in Japan, but I never really got into that scene.

I respect a well-engineered and transparently fake thing. I like machines, spectacle, and moving shiny things. Moving shiny things like Lady Gaga. Her whole schtick is well-executed artificiality, and that beats fake authenticity any day. It also acts as a refreshing counter the cloying and ultimately pitiable attempts at sexiness that are so often trotted out for our collective “entertainment.”

So, no. Gaga the android, the plastic-and-brass dance robot, the techno-puppet, does not arouse. She does something better- she entertains.

Tough Chicks

In Athletics, Eugene, Seattle, Sex on September 27, 2009 at 11:52 am

About two weeks ago I found myself in Seattle, watching several scantily clad women run around and tackle several other scantily clad women. They were, theoretically, playing football. Not very good football, mind you. There weren’t many completed passes, and the game was pretty lopsided, score-wise, but there were scantily clad women, which theoretically made up for that. (American football, by the way, is a game that I would be more into if there weren’t so many interruptions. It’s tactically interesting and can be exciting in fits and start, but the pace of the game really kills it for me.)

It was the opening night of the Lingerie Football League in Seattle, and as semi-amusing as I find the conceit I could not help but be reminded of the XFL, the failed and gimmicky “extreme” football league started (and folded) some years ago by wrestling mastermind Vince McMahon. Like the XFL, lingerie football seemed extraneous- an established sport with a patina of something allegedly interesting on top of it. The “extra” part of it, though, the girls and their semi-unclad states, was not sufficient to really hold my attention. Even though two teamsworth of conventionally attractive women were piling on top of each other (though not especially well) I didn’t really see too much of a reason for the league’s existence other than the brief novelty we were all enjoying in our variously semi-drunken states.

The whole time, I thought to myself “Roller derby is much better.” The comparison was unavoidable, really. Both are active spectator sports, and both feature attractive women falling down. The next week, miles southward in Eugene, I got to view my preferred ladysport, watching the last bout of the year of the Emerald City Roller Girls.

Unlike lingerie football, roller derby is something wholly new and other. It is not an approximation or copy of something else, not a parody of something established. The image I got of lingerie football was some barker saying “Hey, buddy! Yeah, you! You like football? You like bitches? Well guess what we have! We have bitches playing fucking football! You like that? Yeah you do. Get in there.”

Roller derby, however, is it’s own realm and species, unlike other forms of competition. Because of this, the attitudes and sexiness of it all come across as intrinsic and essential, an organic part of it without pretense or artifice. Moreover, it has teeth, and the teeth are half the reason I enjoy it so much.

For some reason or another, roller derby has become a sort of hipster/punk/indie/etc. event, a spectacle bedecked with skulls, flames and attitude. The derby girls sport noms de track such as “Lil’ Whip-Her Snap-Her,” “Bettie Aim Fire,” “Slapcat,” and “Reign of Tara.” Team uniforms are not uniform at all- embellishments and flairs of individuality are common. There may be fishnets here and garters there, flashes of nonuniform color or different stuff on helmets. The roller girls really do look a lot like a gang, like a bunch of like-minded people who just happen to dress in a very similar fashion.

Once they start rolling, the action itself stays, and interruptions are usually only about thirty seconds. By definition and nature derby is about speed and maneuvering, tactical issues that carry the unavoidable side effects of people falling down. It is jostling through a crowd, except the crowd is zooming and turning. There is action, music, and spectacle. Lingerie football billed itself as something explicitly prurient, and for that reason my interest in it (and the girls) flagged. Roller derby is not prurient. It is a real sport. There is impassioned competition flying by, courtesy of those wheels and axles. There is a sheen of sexiness upon it, but like I said that sexiness is emergent rather than applied. Watching the roller girls, I found them in their embellished uniforms far more interesting than any of the football chicks. Given the choice, I know which breed of female I would rather chat up.

Which brings me to a larger point. I’m going to ignore the creep-factor of a single guy talking about chicks, and talk about them anyway.

I’d take Bettie Page over Marilyn Monroe, thorns over roses, Suicide Girls over Hustler. My preferences are by no means radical or even all that unusual, but I like to think that this choice of attitude and aesthetics says something positive about me, makes me a better man in some respects. I would by lying if I said that I didn’t feel superior to “ordinary” guys because of these preferences. I set myself apart from the rotund guys wearing football jerseys because I think “I get off on better quality shit than you do, suckers.”

I don’t think that this is simple arrogance. I really, honestly do think that roller girls are sexier than lingerie football girls, and I actually do think that finding them so is the more enlightened/feminist/socially responsible/generally interesting position. The conclusion that I’m drawing here is that I like women who are actually ambitious, creative, and idiosyncratic. By extension, I’m putting guys who like conventional blond bimbos in a negative light- supposedly if I like these things, they don’t, and I, therefore, have a cozy place where I can feel arrogant and superior.

This does bother me slightly, but turning the idea over in my head I can’t get away from the feeling that I am, in fact, right. Heres why. The lingerie football girls all seem to be approximations of some kind of cenerfoldian ideal that remains unreached, and therefore they do not become as interesting as their skate-mounted counterparts. (By the way, I’m sure that individually they could easily be highly cool, but I’m dealing in generalities and images here.) The derby girls, on the other hand, seem to have dispensed with such uniform pursuits and mostly just present themselves in a way that they find interesting and suitable. This is much better, and why the aesthetics of roller derby interest me much more.

Armpieces, centerfolds, and trophies are boring. I don’t think this is a misogynistic conclusion to come to. If anything, I think it’s a very feminist position for a guy to have. I don’t want to personally associate myself (or find myself in the position of wanting) a girl who has all the personal constitution of a well-soaked piece of gingerbread. Granted, both the lingerie football and derby girls were presenting themselves as tough. But, in the case of the football girls, it was a kind of parodic and cute toughness, as if inviting us to say “Aw, look! The chicks are doing boy things!” Roller derby, though, has none of that.

I’ll probably never go to another lingerie football game, but I’m definitely catching roller derby again. The Rose City Rollers are supposed to put on quite a show, and I’d love to see it on a banked track, rather than a flat one. Wheels and attitude. That’s what will keep me coming back.

A Bit of Awesome Portland-Based Smut

In Music, Portland, Sex on July 22, 2009 at 2:06 pm

This is just to joyously perverse/sexy to not share with others. Anything that puts strippers, drag queens, a furry and a superhero all together is probably going to get at least a smile out of me.

My sister and her fiancee caught Storm Large earlier this year, and had nothing but awesome things to say about her. This video makes me wish I’d caught the show.

EDIT: Oh yeah, I forgot to mention: She lives in Portland. That’s the Park Blocks behind her in the last bit. This here is some good, Portland-grown smut, and makes me all the happier to live here. She performs her all the time, and now I feel like I’ve got some kind of moral imperative to go see her live at some point.

Yay Portland! Our shit is weird! Woo!

Moderately NSFW, by the way.

Sympathy For Sanford

In Politics, Relationships, Sex on July 1, 2009 at 10:16 pm

I know I’m a week late on this, but whatever.

Last week, I found Mark Sanford’s press conference oddly touching. Yes, there was a certain amount of schadenfreude in me as well, as he is, in fact, a Republican and called for Bill Clinton’s resignation during the whole Lewinsky thing. But, he was obviously flustered, obviously unscripted, and obviously falling apart emotionally in a very public setting. The cameras were on him, the ticker underneath him was summarizing his words, and he seemed to constantly have a look on his face that said “Um… What do I say next?”

The whole “politician has affair” story is rather tiring. It’s commonplace and trite, and I don’t think it’s really all that newsworthy most of the time. Seeing Sanford, though, brought a few things to mind:

1: The personality of a successful politician and the personality of a successful monogamist do not overlap.

Politicians are generally outgoing, charismatic people with powerful personalities who know how to talk to people. They are also, almost by definition, ambitious. They are generally exactly the sort of people who attract others (they have to be, really) and exactly the sort of person who seek others out. We demand monogamy of our most driven, most well-spoken, most socially skilled people. It’s almost like expecting vegetarianism from orcas. Which makes me wonder…

2: How many of them are actually swingers?

No, really. It seems like there would be way more political fallout if a politician admitted to being in an open relationship than cheating on their spouse. Cheating, after all, is an indiscretion performed by red-blooded testosterone-charged Americans. Open relationships, though, are for perverts who live in filthy hippy holes like Eugene, Oregon. Better to just cop to the cheating, rather than admit being involved with weird, pervy sexual practices. Which brings me to my third point…

3: Monogamy isn’t for everybody.

But we expect it to be. As far as I’m concerned, if everyone’s on the same page and no one is emotionally maltreated, consenting adults can do whatever they wish with their anatomy. I don’t think that what Mark Sanford did was right because he obviously lied to his wife and it sounds like he was also stringing his girlfriend along. However, I think that in a more permissive culture, he could have done right by both of them. Having multiple partners, I think, is utterly possible. However, one can’t be fair about it unless they are open and honest about it. That can’t happen when you’re strutting about as a public figure pretending to have a vanilla marriage. Also…

4: Your favorite politician is a probably a cheater, so just get used to it.

Like I said, their personalities make it more likely. Better to just expect them to be boning half their staff, while the other half watches. (And who knows, maybe their wives are in the cheering section.) Barack Obama, messiah that he seems to be, is probably sleeping with someone who is not Michelle. G. W. probably had a few girls on the side. Reagan probably forgot more sex than you’ll ever have.

But you know what? I don’t care. I don’t think any less of, say, FDR for having a mistress. I don’t think any less of Bill Clinton, John Ensign, John Edwards, or Mark Sanford. If I was in their position, I would have probably succumbed as well. You probably would, too.

The idea that Sanford should resign because he cheated on his wife is utterly ridiculous. Politicians should resign because they break the law or are incompetent. Sanford was a dick to his wife, yes, and also a dick to his girlfriend, but that has nothing to do with the execution of his office. He should fill out the duration of his term according to the law, and doesn’t deserve the abuse he’s gotten in the press.

Gayest Post EVER!

In Politics, Portland, Sex on June 16, 2009 at 5:59 pm

Puttering around Sunday morning, I thought to myself, “Well, I could sit on my ass and listen to economics podcasts, or I could go snap pictures of crazy shit at the gay pride parade.” I like to think that in my own internal brain-battles, I tend to err on the side of “crazy shit.” I pried my eyes and ears loose from the internet, took a shower and hopped on my bike. I found myself behind a rather butch array of women on mountain bikes and thought “Yep, I’m going in the right direction.” Downtown was overcast but not dreary, warm but not sweat-inducing. All in all, a good day for it.

I found myself near the start of the Parade in Portland’s nicely green South Park Blocks. A brass band was playing a song I vaguely recognized but couldn’t really place. Once it got to the chorus I recognized it as Dancing Queen, and smirked with recognition. The crowd and participants did not disappoint. Sure, most of the people were just holding signs and waving and such, but there was no shortage of weird costumes makeup. The gentlemen below were not extras from Amadeus, but rather on a float promoting affordable housing.

This guy was waving around a sword and shouting “God save the queen!” a lot. I have no idea what he meant by that, but the atmosphere was only improved by having a Don Quixote show up. He was waving that sword around quite enthusiastically, and I wished that I could have directed him to an obliging windmill.

Inevitable political digression: There were plenty of people (like the folks below) who were parading about their own unrelated political agendas at the parade. I can understand why they’d do this- the liberal, open-minded population of Portland was out in force, and they wanted to both energize the base and target a demographic that would be more inclined to agree with them.

I found their presence, though, to be a little weird. The whole atmosphere of the parade was one of joy and liberty. Even though I’m not gay, I do appreciate what the gay movement has done for everyone. Because of lots of really dedicated people demanding respect, the field of what is sexually “legitimate” has been expanded for all of us. Even though there’s still a lot of work to be done with regards to reformatting the stupid bits of American culture, there was a general atmosphere of celebration and achievement. A lot has changed for the better, and we should really be happy about that. Oregon used to have a governor who was an out-and-proud member of the KKK. Now, Portland has a mayor who’s an out-and-proud gay dude. That’s real progress.

Hearing familiar angry shouts about how we need a revolution or whatever clashed with that feeling. I suppose the right has it’s own contingent who love being victims as well. In the midst of party-town were a bunch of people whom I think secretly love being “oppressed.”

But enough about the angry socialists. Check out this dude’s nipples!


Other, different nipples!


I found this group especially endearing, actually. It was gay parents and their kids, and for whatever reason, they’d decided to dress up as monsters. I like the idea that whatever someone’s aesthetic is, it’s welcome and legitimate. Whatever sort of style you’ve got (in this case “zombie”) is a potential catalyst for niftiness. This might sound trite, but I like aesthetic and stylistic pluralism. Seriously! Hooray for multitudes! Hooray for the varied panoply of people and stuff! Woo!

And of course, hooray for mostly naked chicks. Yes, most of them would want absolutely nothing to do with me or my filthy, filthy testosterone (unless some of them had unladylike anatomy that was not on display) but I found them visually appreciative nonetheless. Also, a rather tall drag queen told me that I was “beautiful.” I said, “Thank you, so are you!” I’ll take praise from all quarters.

All in all, a lot of fun, and quite the display of awesomeness and drove home my admiration of Portland. Since I’ve been back, I’ve really come to appreciate this place, more than I was ever able to in high school, when I last lived here. I know that there are lots of other fun, liberal cities, but this one is mine. This place, this effusive and varied place, is my home. The next time I leave it will probably be for good, but in the meantime I’m immensely happy to find that my geographical parent is more awesome than I could have ever hoped for.