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A little more conversation.

There's a wonderful biopic coming out this fall on Alfred Kinsey, the 1950s sex researcher who came up with that famous 10% figure and the 0-6 scale of sexual attraction--totally straight (0) to totally gay (6). In the middle of the film, out writer-director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters) has constructed a powerful montage of people recounting their sex lives. One after another, calmly and without shame, a cross section of mid-century Americans share their intimate memories, and it sets them free. Kinsey's obsession was statistical--getting an accurate sampling of sexual practices--but his revolutionary impact was that he coaxed a nation to talk about sex. And as we know from our own coming-out stories, knowledge dispels fear.

Every antigay law is in part a gag order. Last year The Advocate went to press with our Sex Issue only days after the Supreme Court's Lawrence v. Texas decision lifted the silencing stigma of all state sodomy laws. In celebration of the sudden freedom to be ourselves, to allow publicly that we do indeed love our partners, we splashed across the cover the words FIRST TIME EVER: LEGAL IN ALL 50 STATES. But we'd forgotten something: Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which even today forbids "unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or"--how's this for an insult?--"with an animal."

Article 125 is the basic building block of "don't ask, don't tell," the policy that requires tens of thousands of gay and lesbian service members to tie to their fellow troops, on whom they must depend for their very lives. It's a self-perpetuating dilemma, because the rules ban the very candidness that could easily dissolve most straight soldiers' irrational distrust of their gay comrades.

"Don't ask, don't tell" isn't just a military policy; it's how most of us live our lives. We might let on that we're gay at an office party or family reunion, but we understand implicitly that no one wants to think about what that means we do in bed. And so the fear of gay sex remains, standing firmly in the way of full equality.

In Hollywood the film Kinsey is the exception that proves the rule: Gay is fine; gay physicality isn't. Even the out filmmakers behind this summer's A Home at the End of the World [see page 74] anguished over the inclusion of a kiss between Colin Farrell and Dallas Roberts-a kiss, mind you, not even a sex scene. And don't expect Alexander the Great (Farrell again) and his beloved Hephaestion (Jared Leto) to be doing the nasty In Oliver Stone's epic Alexander either.

As Patrick Moore likes to point out [see page 41], having made gay identity into something nonthreatening, a la Will & Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, hasn't made much of a dent in the underlying homophobia. Most arbiters of morality--whether the film ratings board, the Department of Defense, or the United Methodist Church--still rank gay sex right up there with bestiality on the ickiness scale.

Fact is, the most mundane sex can seem scary if it's invisible--if the FCC censors it, if a deadly "abstinence" curriculum keeps teens from learning about it, if everyone pretends to Mom and Dad that/over is no different from roommate.

No one asks. No one tells.

It's time to give ourselves permission to talk about sex again. No matter how much the Christian right prays for it, there's no going back to the days before Kinsey, when all sex acts were a taboo subject. Straight sex has been completely demystified by an American culture steeped in hetero mating rituals. A little more conversation could similarly normalize gay sexuality.

Does that mean we have to tell Dad whether we're tops or bottoms or what sex toys we prefer? No, but it shouldn't scare Dad, or us, to think about such things. The only way to get to that point of matter-of-factness is to loosen the cultural bindings that hinder us, to insist that it's OK to talk about sex--in classrooms (as Kinsey did), in TV programs, or in living rooms.

Because ff "don't ask, don't tell" doesn't work in the military, how can we expect it to work in our lives?
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:on social acceptance of gays and lesbians
Author:Steele, Bruce C.
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 17, 2004
Words:707
Previous Article:Right and wrong.
Next Article:My straight little brother.
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