Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Dan Kloeffler (ABC News)

Inspired by recently-out actor Zachary Quinto (pronounced KEEN-toh), who revealed he was gay in the pages of New York magazine, Dan Kloeffler of ABC World News Now came out on the air two weeks ago while giving a report about Quinto’s disclosure. Kloeffler did it in the form of admitting a crush on the actor:

“Look, he’s 34, I’m 35, I’m thinking I could lose my distraction about dating actors for that one, maybe.”

Kloeffler also wrote a post on the ABC News blog after the show clarifying why he'd decided to do it:

“Kind of a big moment for me while filling in on World News Now, which is by far the most fun you can legally have at 3:00 in the morning! Yunji de Nies and I were talking about celebrity headlines, when I read the story about Zachary Quinto, who played Spock in “Star Trek,” coming out as gay in a magazine interview. Because WNN is a show where you can offer some personality, I had a little fun with the story saying that I would drop my rule against dating actors.

I’ve never shared that I’m gay on-air, even though I’ve been out to my family, friends and co-workers for years. In fact, an old boyfriend – now best friend – has always given me a hard time about not doing so. But for the same reason that Zach decided to come out, I too, no longer wanted to hide this part of my life.

There have been too many tragic endings and too many cases of bullying because of intolerance. As a kid I wanted someone to look up to, someone that could relate to the feelings I was having. Most of all, I wanted to know that it would get better.

And it did.

As a journalist, I don’t want to be the story, but as a gay man I don’t want to stand silent if I can offer some inspiration or encouragement to kids that might be struggling with who they are.”

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Chad Allen

Chad Allen, born in California in 1974, currently resides in New York and Los Angeles. He came out publicly in the October 2001 issue of The Advocate, when he also acknowledged his drug and alcohol addictions. He was raised within a strict Roman Catholic household and regards himself as a deeply spiritual person because of his upbringing. Controversy surrounded Allen's casting as real-life Christian missionary Nate Saint in the 2006 docudrama film “End of the Spear,” as some conservative Christians lashed out at producers for putting an openly gay man in the role.

Allen's first television appearance was at age four in a McDonalds commercial. At age six, he landed his first dramatic role in a pilot for a television series, and by the age of eight, he captured the hearts of the viewing public as the autistic Tommy Westphall on the cast of "St. Elsewhere." Allen has guest starred in several television series: Webster, Our House, My Two Dads, Airwolf, Hunter, The Wonder Years, Star Trek The Next Generation, In the Heat of the Night, Highway to Heaven, Simon and Simon. Chad made his transition to an adult actor as Matthew Cooper on Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, NYPD Blue and Charmed.

In 1996, at age 21, Allen was outed as gay when tabloid The Globe published photos of him kissing another man, Alex Hannaman, in a hot tub at a party. The photos had been sold to the paper by Allen's then-boyfriend. Allen has since become an activist for the LGBT community in addition to his continuing acting and producing career. In 2006 Allen appeared on Larry King Live with San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom to represent his viewpoint in a debate over same-sex marriage. Allen thanked Newsom for his attempts to legalize same-sex marriage in the city.

In 1995, Chad Allen co-founded The Creative Outlet theater company. He considers theater to be his "first love, without a doubt." Allen has appeared in the stage productions of "Change at Babylon" (Los Angeles), "Temporary Help" (Seattle, Westport, Connecticut), and "Sons of Lincoln" (Los Angeles).

Allen's then real-life partner, actor Jeremy Glazer, was also in the film “Save Me” (2007, trailer below), a film exploring the ex-gay movement; it premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, and Allen was the star, developer and producer of that film.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

John Amaechi

John Amaechi, the first Briton to make a big impact in the NBA, was the first pro basketball player to come out of the closet. The announcement was made on February 7, 2006, two years after his retirement from basketball and just before the release of his autobiography, “Man in the Middle.” In Amaechi's book, he talked about the difficulties of being gay in the NBA, where every player is assumed to be heterosexual. Amaechi also wrote about homophobic comments made by Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. In May 2007, shortly after coming out, Amaechi said he had "underestimated America", adding that he had expected the "wrath of a nation", but it never materialized. In 2010, Amaechi made public that he had been denied entry to a gay bar in Manchester (England), allegedly because the doorman felt he was "big, black and could be trouble". Amaechi is 6-feet 10-inches tall.

Earlier this week Amaechi received an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) title from Prince Charles during an Investiture ceremony in Buckingham Palace, London on Wednesday. The OBE is an order of chivalry established in 1917 by King George V of the United Kingdom. Amaechi was honored for services to sport. Speaking after the palace ceremony, he said, however, that anti-gay sentiment in sporting institutions is still a "massive problem".

Amaechi, a former England centre, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to a Nigerian father and English mother, but was raised in Stockport (Greater Manchester, England), before moving to Ohio as a teenager and snagging a basketball scholarship at Penn State University. He went on to spend four years playing in the NBA, the top basketball league in the world, with the Knicks, Orlando Magic, Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets. He retired in January 2004 but returned to help England win the bronze medal in the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

John Amaechi was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science by Manchester Metropolitan University on July 19, 2007, in recognition of his achievements not only as an athlete and broadcaster, but also for his charitable work with the National Literacy Trust and the establishment of the ABC Foundation to encourage children to become involved in sport and their community

Amaechi now runs a motivational speaking business from Manchester, where he founded the Amaechi Basketball Centre. Now 40 years old, he has served as a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign Coming Out Project. He currently works as a psychologist, educator and political activist in both Europe and the United States. In a radio interview, Amaechi said that he was returning to school to get a Ph.D. in psychology. "I want to do something more meaningful in my life," he said. Amaechi also explained why he played for Orlando in 2000 for much less than the $17 million offered to him by the Lakers; his answer was that Orlando had hired him in 1999 when no other team would. "There are many people who are asked what their word is worth, and when people ask me that, I can say, 'At least $17 million.'"

Rev. Peter J. Gomes

Openly gay Rev. Peter Gomes, known as "Harvard's Pastor," was regarded as one of America's most distinguished preachers. Although a staunch Republican most of his life, Gomes was an outspoken critic of anti-gay discrimination.

In November 1991, Gomes spoke to a crowd of students gathered to protest a student publication that had condemned homosexuality. The New York Times reported: "I do not know when the quality of life has been more violated," he told a crowd of about 100 as he stood on the steps of Memorial Church, setting off sustained applause when he added, "I am a Christian who happens as well to be gay...Those realities, which are irreconcilable to some, are reconciled in me by a loving God."

Gomes was Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard's Divinity School and the author of several books, including The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What's So Good About The Good News? (published 2007). He was 68 years old when he suffered a fatal aneurysm and heart attack earlier this year. Gomes was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts, descended from the Fulani, Tikar, and Hausa peoples of West Africa, as well as from Portuguese Jews through his Cape Verdean paternal grandfather. He was baptized as a Roman Catholic, but later became an American Baptist.

Profiled by Robert Boynton in The New Yorker and interviewed by Morley Safer on 60 Minutes, Gomes was included in the premiere issue of Talk magazine as part of its feature article, "The Best Talkers in America: Fifty Big Mouths We Hope Will Never Shut Up." He became an advocate of acceptance of homosexuality in American society, particularly in the area of religion.

Gomes was a registered Republican for most of his life and offered prayers at the inaugurals of US Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. In August 2006 he switched to the Democratic Party.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hockey star Gus Johnston

This is a video worth watching. Australian athlete Gus Johnston is a thoughtful and articulate hockey goal-keeper who speaks about his coming out process. He’s in a good place these days, but it wasn’t always so. He shares some dark moments, as well.

He posted this 12 minute video on YouTube on September 13, 2011, and wrote: “After many years of competing in hockey at an elite level, I’ve decided to share my story and experience with homophobia in sport. It’s taken me many years to find the strength to share it, but I hope that people find value in hearing it.”

Beside being a goal-keeper, Gus Johnston is a Melbourne-based art director, writer, and film maker.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pro-Wrestler Chris Kanyon

Pro-wrestling superstar Chris Kanyon, whose real name was Christopher Klucsaritis (born January 4, 1970) made headlines when he publicly announced he was gay in 2004.
During his wrestling career, from 1997 to 2004, he fought for the World Championship Wrestling and World Wrestling Federation (renamed World Wrestling Entertainment in 2002) under the name "Kanyon." He planned on using his homosexuality as an element in a wrestling character. After 2004, Klucsaritis still wrestled on occasion, billing himself as an openly gay wrestler. Tragically, he was found dead in his Queens, N.Y. apartment after he committed suicide in April of last year.

He made his WCW debut as part of the construction worker tag team called "Men at Work" with Mark Starr. However, the partnership ended in 1997, and Kanyon began wrestling under the name "Mortis" and several other aliases. Kanyon dueled as a solo wrestler and as a part of teams before his contract was released in 2004. Kanyon alleged his career was ended by wrestling officials because he was gay.

"I last saw Chris at Wrestlemania in 2004. I may have seen him once since then. He looked good, but talked about packing it in, calling it a career. I never knew of his struggles – the bipolar disorder, the pressure of keeping his sexuality secret for so many years," pro-wrestler Mick Foley commented.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Charles Robert Ashbee (1863-1942)

Despite his father’s reputation as a heterosexual pornographer who donated thousands of pornographic volumes to the British Museum, English Arts & Crafts designer C. R. Ashbee was gay. He came of age in a time when homosexuality was illegal, known as “the love that dare not speak its name.”

Ashbee was a member of the Order of Chaeronea, a secret society founded in 1897 for the cultivation of a homosexual ethos. To cover his homosexuality, Roberts married Janet Forbes, daughter of a wealthy London stockbroker. CRA, as he was known, had admitted his sexual orientation to his future wife shortly after he proposed. Nevertheless, they married in 1898 and, after 13 years of rocky marriage (including a serious affair on the part of Janet), had four children.

Ashbee was a prime mover of the English Arts and Crafts movement that took its craft ethic from the works of John Ruskin and its co-operative structure from the socialism of William Morris. Ashbee established the influential Guild and School of Handicraft in 1888 in London, producing metalwork, jewelry and enamels as well as hand-wrought copper, wrought iron work and furniture. Personally, Ashbee was also involved in house design, including furniture and decoration, and utilitarian items such as fireplaces.

Ashbee founded the Guild with the revolutionary idea that training in art and design could be conducted alongside actual production, a dramatic departure from contemporary practice. He sought to restore lost traditions associated with preindustrial production and the bonds of comradeship that he thought humanized the workshop, and urged that silversmiths, craftsmen, and designers should work together.

The Guild's chief production and best known crafts were metalwork, silverware, and furniture. In contrast to machine produced wares, the Guild's metalwork featured a hammered texture finish, which communicated human endeavor and a personal touch. By the last decade of the nineteenth century, Ashbee had achieved international fame. He exhibited in most of the Arts and Crafts Exhibitions, and often saw his work discussed and illustrated in journals and magazines. In 1896, Ashbee completed the first of several visits to America, where he met Frank Lloyd Wright, to whom some art historians contribute Ashbee's later change in ideology.

Ashbee still conceived of a haven from the trials of the city in a rural setting where he hoped to find a simpler life. In the summer of 1902, the Guild, comprised of some 150 men, women, and children, moved from Essex House, the stately mansion they occupied at Mile End, to the medieval town of Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds.

Ultimately, Ashbee found himself forced to recognize the need to reconcile the claims and perceptions of the individual with the requirements of the mass market; he saw that the Arts and Crafts ideals of truth to material and individual expression would require application to the machine-made product. His decorative items fetch huge prices today. A single butter knife from 1901 recently fetched $2,300 at auction.

At right:
Mahogany etagère
Charles Robert Ashbee, 1895
Manufactured by Guild of Handicraft, London

Silver container with cover and glass liner
Charles Robert Ashbee, 1900
Metalwork, sterling silver, glass, enamel and mother-of-pearl.
Manufacturer: Guild of Handicraft

This magnificent Ashbee piano case is a masterpiece of Arts & Craft movement decorative style.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Jean-Baptiste de Lully

Giovanni Battisti Lulli (1632-1687) was born in Florence, the son of Italian peasants, who had no idea their son would grow up to become a best friend of Louis XIV, king of France. Lully rose from obscurity to the heights of influence in European music (especially French opera), but his career was thwarted by homosexual scandal. He became very wealthy and brazenly engaged in homosexual affairs, but kept a wife, and even a mistress, as "cover".

Lulli was brought to France at age 14 as an Italian tutor for Louis XIV's cousin Anne-Marie Louise d'Orléans, "La Grande Mademoiselle." He was also put to work as a servant in the royal kitchen. His musical, dancing and acting abilities soon distinguished him, however, and after the exile of Anne-Marie in 1652, he entered the king's service at age 20. He and the king danced in court entertainments, establishing a privileged relationship that led to the musician's quick advancement. In short order the king regarded Lully as one of his few true friends, indispensable in providing court entertainments.

Within 10 years Giovanni Battisti Lulli became a French citizen, thereafter known as Jean-Baptiste de Lully. He was appointed Master of the King's Music, and the following year married the daughter of a prominent singer/composer at the French court. Lully raised six children, and he appeared to have been a good father and provider, in spite of numerous extramarital activities with both men and women. In particular, Lully seemed unable to keep his hands off the handsome young men he kept in his household, ostensibly as “students.”

Lully is considered the founder of French opera (as distinct from Italian-style opera), but perhaps his biggest claim to fame is the invention of ballet. Since Louis XIV loved to dance, and evidently was good at it, the two formed a close friendship.

Lully collaborated with Molière, the great French dramatist, in creating popular plays with musical interludes and ballets. When the two fell out, Lully used his influence to prevent Molière from using music in his later works. By the age of 40 Lully staged his first opera, and 14 more followed. They established the rules for French opera for decades to come, particularly the inclusion of ballets in operatic productions.

Lully was ruthless in his pursuit of power and used his influence with the king to eliminate potential rivals, who were too happy to spread stories concerning Lully’s sexual exploits. However, Lully was usually discreet enough that the king overlooked his salacious activities. In 1681 Lully was made a court secretary to the king and given a noble title, thus able to use the moniker "de Lully".

OK - it's time for a reward if you made it this far. The rest of this post will make strong emphasis on the male posterior regions, all of it ingeniously related to Lully.

Unfortunately, at the age of 53 Lully's influence with the king evaporated when he was caught in a scandalous affair with Brunet, a very young male "music page" being trained in the royal service and living in Lully’s household. Brunet was exceptionally handsome – and known for the appeal of his shapely back side. Although he was not prosecuted, Lully was forced to break off the relationship, and he lost his standing at court. Ultimately the king had to abandon him as a friend, and two years later Lully was dead.

A ditty was sung about this time, and it goes like this:

One day Cupid said to his mother,
“Why am I not wearing any clothes? 
If Lully sees me naked,
My backside will be lost.”

Well, it rhymed in French: “sa mère” (his mother) with “derrière” (backside).

Brunet was carted off to a monastery, where he was regularly beaten by the monks. He received more lenient treatment, however, in exchange for coughing up names of other homosexuals, especially when one of the names he divulged was the son of the chief of police.

It seems this inspired another little ditty:

Monsieur de Lully is all worked up
To see his little Brunet beaten up.
He’s jealous that a Priest
Now gets to sample Brunet’s derrière
(if you get my meaning).

It all rhymes in French, trust me.

Although homosexual activity was a capital offense in seventeenth-century France, a large number of the nobility at Versailles, including the king's brother Philippe*, formed a homosexual subculture, and Lully was in the thick of it. While the king disapproved of homosexuality, he loved his brother and was unwilling to exile, or otherwise punish, these nobles. At the same time, pressure was exerted by Louis's wife, Madame de Maintenon, and her priest to rid the court of homosexuals.

*Philippe I (Duke of Orléans) was a ferocious warrior and an enthusiastic and stylish drag queen. He rode into battle wearing women's dresses, high heels, lipstick and makeup.  I'm not kidding.

On January 8, 1687, Lully was conducting a Te Deum in honor of the king’s recent recovery from illness. He was beating time by banging a long staff against the floor (as was the common practice at the time before hand-held batons became the norm), when he struck his toe, creating an abscess. The wound turned gangrenous, but Lully refused to have his toe amputated, and the gangrene spread, resulting in his death three months later. He died an extremely rich man, the owner of five Parisian houses, two country estates and vast sums of cash. All three of his sons – Louis Lully, Jean-Baptiste Lully fils and Jean-Louis Lully – also had musical careers at the French court.

The best butt in Early Music performances these days:

Even if you don’t fancy this music, hit the pause button and have a lingering look at the male singer’s posterior at the 1:19 mark (screen capture above). For the record the tenor performing the role of Perseus (son of Zeus) here is Cyril Auvity. I know of few images more likely to result in converts to French Baroque opera, an acquired taste, in my opinion. Note: the kind director has Persée (Perseus) hold this enticing pose for a full 23 seconds. The frontal pose (my God, those tights are revealing) at the 3:31 mark satifies, as well. By the way, Auvity is French Early Music’s “It” Boy these days. I like the duet singing at the 4:19 mark, but you won’t be interested in that. Nevertheless, check it out – go for some high-brow voyeurism!

One of the comments about this YouTube video:
“le ténor chante très bien – dispose également d'un beau cul”
(the tenor sings very well – equally disposed of a cute butt).

But wait, there’s more! Here’s a poster announcing a performance by Auvity in a rare Pergolesi opera presented in Krakow, Poland on January 20, 2011 – if my translation is correct.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Zachary Quinto's star turn in MARGIN CALL

Openly gay actor Zachary Quinto plays a leading role in this just-released film. Reviews of his performance have been uniformly excellent. Until I read today’s reviews, I had not realized that Quinto was also one of the film’s producers. Here's the trailer:

At a Goldman Sachs-like investment firm, the company is being battered by another round of layoffs. The casualties include one risk management officer (Stanley Tucci), who has been evaluating the company's numbers. As he shuffles out the door, he hands his USB drive to his assistant, entry-level analyst Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto), with the warning, "Be careful."

Peter runs the numbers, and realizes the company's troubles are much worse than previously believed. Chandor's screenplay does a good job explaining how the company's reckless investment strategies have put them on the precipice of total ruin. Viewers might not understand the world of credit-default swaps and other financial chicanery, but won't misinterpret the faces of the actors gazing at computer screens with growing horror.

The bad news goes up the firm's chain of command, from Peter's hard-nosed boss Will (Paul Bettany) to Will's avuncular boss Sam (Kevin Spacey), then to his smooth shark of a boss, Jared (Simon Baker) and finally to the CEO of the company, played to the hilt by Jeremy Irons. The running joke is that as the information moves higher, the bigwigs understand less and less what the company actually does, until we get to Irons' CEO, who tells Peter, "Explain it to me as if I were a small child, or a golden retriever."

The drama comes as the executives weigh whether to unload all their toxic assets in a one-day "fire sale" that will get them off their books, but cripple the company's credibility and possibly bankrupt their customers. Spacey's character emerges as the voice of moral conscience. He delivers two excellent rally-the-troops speeches, even more impressive because we can tell that, deep down, his character doesn't believe what he's saying.

But all the cast is good, even Demi Moore as a ruthless executive who advocated the reckless strategies and now is trying to cover her flank against the blowback.

Although set in 2008, some of the dialogue in "Margin Call" feels like it could have been written last week. Irons has a gloriously cynical closing monologue where he talks about how "the percentages always stay the same" between the winners and losers in the world, and one can't help but think of "99 percent vs. 1 percent." But for a film that captures the arguments of the moment so well, it's a taut, powerful film that transcends the headlines.

If you’d like to see a little more of Mr. Quinto, watch this TV clip (click on link below):
Click here: Quinto's sauna scene from TV

Saturday, October 22, 2011

New Novel from Alan Hollinghurst

The Stranger's Child
by Alan Hollinghurst

UPDATE: This book is now available stateside.

At long last, a new book from Alan Hollinghurst (b. 1954), a gay British novelist, poet, professor and editor who lives in London. His first four books, written over a span of almost 20 years, form a quartet that explores gay life in England, past and present. The Swimming-Pool Library (1988), his sex-drenched first book, mapped the gay world before and after the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, which decriminalized homosexuality in Britain. The Folding Star (1994) was a disturbing study of pederastic desire, in which a 33-year-old male tutor had a romanticized sexual obsession with one of his male high school students. The Spell (1998) was a sex-and-drugs-fueled comedy of manners. The Line Of Beauty, which won the Booker Prize in 2004, was a dark comedy exposing the hypocrisy of Thatcher-era England in the 1980s, tackling the thorny issue of AIDS. The Line of Beauty was made into a highly regarded 3-part TV mini-series in 2006.

Those four books, obviously influenced by Henry James, Evelyn Waugh, E.M. Forster and F. Scott Fitzgerald, are a set of theme and variations: hidden histories, young men's rites of passage, the compulsion of desire, the fragility and perplexity of gay love and romance.

The Stranger's Child (2011) – the title comes from Tennyson's In Memoriam – is Hollinghurst's fifth novel, and his first since The Line Of Beauty. The Stranger’s Child is a book about memory and its failings presented over an almost century-long sweep of changing social, sexual and cultural attitudes. Just-published reviews have been glowing:

Bloody-hell, this is good! . . . Punctuated by abrupt and jagged turns of fate, skillfully redolent of life lived forwards, this story is fabulously involving and rich. It’s also very funny, in a dry and forgiving way. The silky precision of its prose . . . is matched by the mimetic completeness of its fictional world. This is an exercise in realism of a dazzlingly high order: it really does seem to be observed rather than imagined. The touches of extraneous detail are unobtrusive, concrete and exact. It is an extraordinary achievement.” — Sam Leith, The Spectator (UK)

Synopsis: The Stranger's Child is a century-spanning saga about a love triangle that continues across generations. In 1913, George Sawle brings charming, handsome Cecil Valance to his family’s modest home outside London for a summer weekend. George is enthralled by his Cambridge schoolmate, and soon his sixteen-year-old sister, Daphne, is equally besotted by Cecil, as she thrives on the stories he tells about the country estate he is heir to. But the poem that Cecil writes in Daphne’s autograph album will change their lives forever; after Cecil is killed in WW I and his reputation burnished, the poem will be recited by every schoolchild in England. This poem, supposedly written to a girl, is actually addressed to a boy and contains a hidden text within it, a forbidden love. Over time, a tragic love story is spun, even as secrets lie buried, until decades later an ambitious biographer threatens to unearth them.

In the nearly hundred years of time spanned by this novel, even the word for homosexual is referenced with historical accuracy. In the section that takes place in 1913, the word “sodomite” is used, true to the period. Next, the word “bugger” (very much a Bloomsbury word) comes into play in the section set in the 1920s – and so on through the term “queer,” and finally “gay.”

The Stranger’s Child was published in June in Britain and will be available is now available in the U.S. in October.

Here’s the first 10 minutes of the BBC mini-series. There’s already a temptation scene (a generous dash of shirtless male flesh) at the 5:15 mark, followed by several awkward moments dishing with the sister, who takes it upon herself to set up her gay male house guest with a date, in this case a black man. Fairly typical of British writers, who seem obsessed with relationships that portray intrigues of race and class distinctions. What you can’t discern from the mini-series is the craft with which Hollinghurst writes. Read one of his books.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Eric Alva

Staff Sgt. Eric Fidelis Alva was the first American to be wounded in war in Iraq, and he was a gay Marine. On March 21, 2003 Alva stepped on a land mine, sustaining heavy injuries to his leg and arm. The injuries were so severe that his leg couldn't be saved and was amputated.  After Alva was medically discharged, he was awarded a Purple Heart medal, a combat military decoration  awarded to members of the armed forces who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy.

On February 28, 2007, Alva joined over 100 members of the House of Representatives to introduce legislation that would repeal the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy against gays in the military. Three and one half years later the policy was repealed, on September 20, 2011. Alva told Congress, "I'm an American who fought for his country. Who'd have ever guessed the first American wounded was a gay Marine?"

Alva, a native of San Antonio, Texas, joined the marines at age 19 and was a member of the 3rd Battalion of the 7th Marines. Serving in the military was Alva’s dream. In 1990, the 5-ft-1-in-tall Alva enlisted in the Marine Corps. He made it through the rigors of boot camp and went on to serve for 13 years. In 2000, he was promoted to Staff Sergeant.

"I come from a family of servicemen. My dad, Fidelis, is a Vietnam vet. My grandfather, also named Fidelis, was a World War II and Korean War veteran. I was named after them, so that explains why my middle name is Fidelis. Fidelis means faithful.”

In 2003, Alva received the Heroes and Heritage Award from La Raza. People magazine honored him with the Heroes Among Us Award (2004). He received the Patriot Award from the city of San Antonio (2004), and the Public Citizen Award from the National Association of Social Workers (2008).

Joe Solmonese (L), President of the Human Rights Campaign, embraces Alva (R) during the singing of "God Bless America" after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi signed legislation repealing the military policy at the U.S. Capitol December 21, 2010 in Washington, DC. The bill was signed by President Barack Obama the next day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Steven Davies

English Cricketer Steven Davies is the first professional cricketer to come out as gay. "I was nervous about coming out. Who wouldn’t be? But it’s something I’ve lived with, for a long time."

Davies (born in 1986 in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire) came out at age 24. He has played for England and the county team of Surrey as a stylish and aggressive left-handed wicket-keeper-batsman.
Davies came out to his family 5 years prior to his February, 2011, newspaper interview in which he made the reveal public. His teammates already knew he was gay and now hope that other gay players will have the courage to come out.

Steven received congratulations from present and former county and international team-mates and captains for becoming the first English cricketer to announce his homosexuality during his career.  Vikram Solanki, the chairman of the Professional Cricketers' Association who was Davies's captain for his five seasons at Worcestershire until the latter's move to Surrey last summer, added: "Steve has the full support of all his colleagues in cricket. Many of those he plays with and against have known about this for some time and none of them regards it as anything other than an entirely personal matter."

From India Ian Bell and coach Andy Flower spoke on behalf of the England squad. "We knew before the Ashes series," said Bell. "That didn't change anything for us. He is a very popular guy in our team. We're all with him, and the more cricket he can play for England the better. He is a good mate of mine and that doesn't change absolutely anything." Flower, the first person to whom Davies opened up ahead of the Ashes tour, added: "I would like to make it clear that Steve is first and foremost a very talented cricketer and a valued member of the England set-up. Steve has had and will continue to have the full support of English cricket.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Josh Seefried

Josh Seefried is a co-director of OutServe,  a network of gay, lesbian and bisexual actively-serving military personnel. OutServe launched publicly on July 26, 2010, when Seefried was then known as JD Smith, to protect his identity before the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Seefried is  a 2009 graduate of the US Air Force Academy who serves as co-director of OutServe along with civilian Ty Walrod. There are over 4,000 members and 42 chapters worldwide. OutServe includes personnel from the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, both commissioned officers and enlisted personnel.

The first annual OutServe Armed Forces Leadership Summit was held in Las Vegas, Nevada, last weekend (October 13-16) at the New York-New York Hotel and Casino. The organization recently launched a print magazine, which debuted on the day of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Here is the text of the press release delivered by Seefried on September 20, 2011, the official repeal date of DADT:

My name is Josh Seefried. I am a gay first lieutenant in the United States Air Force, and for the past two years I have been known as “JD Smith.”

Under that pseudonym, I cofounded the organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) troops known as OutServe. Using hidden Facebook groups and emails I helped connect more than 4,000 LGBT troops currently serving around the globe, including in Afghanistan and Iraq. At the risk of being fired, using my assumed name I interfaced with media, the Pentagon, and the White House in regard to the policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell."

For nearly two decades, "don't ask, don't tell" forced gay and lesbian troops to lie about who they were in order to serve in the military. Gay troops like me had to worry every single day about losing the careers we loved. That misbegotten era of our military's history is now over. President Obama signed the legislation to repeal DADT last December, and two months ago he and the Pentagon certified that the military was ready for the repeal to take effect. Today, DADT officially died.

Now I and thousands of other gay and lesbian troops can walk into our units free from fear of losing our jobs, our integrity restored. For most of us, the repeal of DADT has been Y2K all over: something hyped, but nothing more. Most soldiers probably knew the date of Sept. 20 more for the season premiere of Glee than for the date DADT finally died. The hype built around the repeal of DADT has created a situation in which there will be many gay troops who are scared to come out of the closet, a fear built upon decades of slandering gay soldiers. We were painted as soldiers who would put fellow soldiers and this nation at risk. Instead of honoring the courageous actions of troops who were gay and lesbian, we were being fired, investigated, and told we did not deserve to be part of this team. Any contribution offered by a gay soldier was overshadowed by his or her sexuality.

Opponents of repeal have long insisted that allowing gays to serve openly would be a disaster to our military, but those days are now over, and leadership from the top has firmly proclaimed that every soldier is to be treated with respect. Now that this policy has ended, leadership is also directly needed from gay troops. Over the past two years of building OutServe I have received thousands of emails from gay and lesbian troops and their families and friends. I will never forget one of the very first messages I received. It was from the friend of a gay soldier who had killed himself just a few months prior. He told me, “JD, thank you for all you are doing to connect gay servicemembers. Maybe if OutServe had existed a few months ago, my friend may not have killed himself.” This message emphasizes the challenges that lie ahead for the military. The challenge now becomes fostering a culture of respect and dignity among the ranks.

This is why I chose to come out on Day 1 after the policy changed. I chose to come out publicly for the thousands of gay military members who have been told they are a risk if they serve in the military openly and honestly. People may say what I'm doing is attention-seeking or not befitting a military officer, but that very mentality shows the prejudice we still harbor when it comes to sexual orientation. Sexual orientation within the military is no longer a political issue; it should be regarded no differently from race, religion, or even something as simple as hair color. The more we show that we are human like everyone else, the more this stigma goes away. This is why for the past few months I have collected the stories of currently serving gay military members. Using their real identities, they relate their experiences under DADT and their hopes for the future. In a few weeks I will be releasing this project, which will share the stories of gay military members using their real names and stories for the first time. I remember reading a book during my time at the Air Force Academy about a gay Air Force officer that inspired me to serve under DADT. I hope this book will do the same for others.

If gay soldiers choose not to come out, we remain invisible, we remain a myth—invisible soldiers with no family, friends, or fellow soldiers who care for them, no chance of holding a high position in military leadership. That invisible picture destroys the hopes of the thousands of gay and lesbian youth who desire to serve their country someday, and erodes the hopes of the currently serving gay service member who believes he would not be respected if he came out. That is the new challenge that lies ahead.

Gay soldiers should find the courage to come out. Even if some members in the unit react negatively, it starts a discussion. Once you start a dialogue, you break down the walls of prejudice. It is up to us currently serving gay soldiers to show leadership, come out, and break down those walls. If we are unwilling to be honest about ourselves to our units, future generations will never experience a future truly free from prejudice.

There also will be future challenges for the military. For the first time since the integration of African-American troops into the U.S. military, there will be inequality among the ranks. Under DADT, it was assumed everyone in the military was straight, and inequality was thus invisible. However, now military members who are gay or lesbian will be treated differently from their heterosexual counterparts. Gay relationships and marriages will not be recognized, and straight service members will witness their gay friends being treated differently. Commanders will be placed in a position where they can't allow gay service members to receive assignments that allow them to remain with the person they love, and people in straight marriages will be paid higher military salaries than those in gay marriages. This will be challenging, and we must react professionally and trust that our leadership will take care of us.

I feel privileged and honored to serve during this time in our nation’s history. This change in policy has not only made our military stronger, it's made America stronger. I’m proud to serve in the United States Air Force and proud of the fact that gay service members can now do their job with their integrity intact.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Zachary Quinto

Zachary Quinto, the actor best known for playing Sylar on NBC’s "Heroes" and Spock in the J.J. Abrams reboot of “Star Trek”, has publicly acknowledged that he is gay. Quinto, 34, mentioned his sexual orientation in a New York Magazine article that did not make a fuss out of the reveal. There is added bravery to the timing of his declaration, given that a film in which he plays a major starring role will open nationwide on Friday of this week (October 21).

During a conversation about this film, “Margin Call” (co-starring Kevin Spacey, hmmmm....), and his recent role in a New York production of “Angels in America,” he told the magazine, “Doing that play made me realize how fortunate I am to have been born when I was born and to not have to witness the decimation of an entire generation of amazingly talented and otherwise vital men. And at the same time, as a gay man, it made me feel there’s still so much work to be done.”

His comments was quickly picked up by other media outlets. Quinto followed up on the coverage by tweeting his own statement on the subject, which was posted on his blog (see below). In it, he noted that he was motivated to come out by the death of Jamey Rodemeyer, the 14-year-old Buffalo teen who took his own life last month after being bullied because of his sexual orientation.

“In light of Jamey’s death, it became clear to me in an instant that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality,” he wrote. “Our society needs to recognize the unstoppable momentum toward unequivocal civil equality for every gay lesbian bisexual and transgendered citizen of this country.”
Here is the complete blog post:

when i found out that jamey rodemeyer killed himself - i felt deeply troubled.  but when i found out that jamey rodemeyer had made an "it gets better" video only months before taking his own life - i felt indescribable despair.  i also made an "it gets better" video last year - in the wake of the senseless and tragic gay teen suicides that were sweeping the nation at the time.  but in light of jamey’s death - it became clear to me in an instant that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it - is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality.  our society needs to recognize the unstoppable momentum toward unequivocal civil equality for every gay lesbian bisexual and transgendered citizen of this country.  gay kids need to stop killing themselves because they are made to feel worthless by cruel and relentless bullying.  parents need to teach their children principles of respect and acceptance.  we are witnessing an enormous shift of collective consciousness throughout the world.  we are at the precipice of great transformation within our culture and government.  i believe in the power of intention to change the landscape of our society - and it is my intention to live an authentic life of compassion and integrity and action.  jamey rodemeyer’s life changed mine.  and while his death only makes me wish that i had done this sooner - i am eternally grateful to him for being the catalyst for change within me.  now i can only hope to serve as the same catalyst for even one other person in this world.  that - i believe - is all that we can ask of ourselves and of each other.

Note to self: I wonder if Quinto's action might influence his co-star Spacey to own up to Hollywood's worst kept secret? 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Alex Ross

Author and music critic Alex Ross, who lives in NYC’s Chelsea neighborhood, has been married to actor/director Jonathan Lisecki since 2005. While a student at Harvard, Ross (born 1968) was a DJ for the underground rock department of the university’s radio station WHRB. From 1992-96 he was a classical music critic for the New York Times.

In 2007 he published a critically acclaimed book on 20th-century classical music, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, the culmination of 10 years’ worth of research, and the following year he was named a 2008 MacArthur Foundation Fellow (popularly known as a “genius” grant). The MacArthur Foundation cited Mr. Ross for "offering both highly specialized and casual readers new ways of thinking about the music of the past and its place in our future."

Presently he is a classical music critic for The New Yorker magazine.

Photo below: Ross at home in Chelsea, NYC. 

He characterizes his writing as somewhere between “pure, objective ‘did the soprano sing slightly flat?’ kind of criticism, and something more like music appreciation or writing with a slightly educational aspect to it. The whole point,” he explained, is “not to be too in-your-face or condescending.”

Ross started writing freelance reviews for Fanfare, a classical music magazine, which paid him $2 for each review. He was subsequently published in The New Republic magazine and then hired by the New York Times. His first articles for The New Yorker were annual pieces about rock musicians, until the magazine hired him in 1996 as classical music critic. He writes scathingly against the elitism of classical music audiences and performances.

Check out his excellent blog on music:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Douglas Wilson

The Defense Department's assistant secretary for public affairs, Douglas Wilson is the first openly gay man to serve in that position. His duties include being a principal adviser to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on public information and community relations. He was instrumental in implementing last month’s repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Wilson had a direct role in bringing about the repeal of DADT because he served on the executive committee for the Repeal Implementation Team.

Some quotes from Wilson that appeared in a July interview in Advocate magazine. He talks about an "outreach session" at Fort Hood, conducted as part of research on the repeal's effects:

I never believed that repeal of DADT was not going to happen. When I was at Ft. Hood we visited a tank crew. The purpose of that visit was to show how close quarters were in tanks, and how difficult it would be for gay and straight troops to serve together.

After we viewed the cramped tank interior, the four-man crew lined up in front of it, and I said, “You all have served together several years.” And they said, “Yes, we’ve been together a long time.” I continued, “What happens if ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is repealed and one of you told the others that he was gay? What would you do?”

And person by person they gave surprising answers. The first soldier said, “Well, my brother’s gay, so it doesn’t matter.” The second said, “Well, you know, I had so many high school friends who are gay. It doesn’t matter.” To each of them, it didn’t matter. And the last one said, “What does matters is that if this thing is burning, I want someone to be able to pull me out, and I don’t care what his sexual orientation is.”

That’s when I knew repeal would happen.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Steve McQueen

"In my own mind, I'm not sure that acting is something for a grown man to be doing."
– Steve McQueen

His father abandoned him and his mother was an alcoholic prostitute who seduced him sexually; so did some of her “johns”. A gang member practically from the day he could walk, he bounced back and forth between his mother and grandparents and seemed set for a career as a petty thief and vandal (arson was among his specialties), before ending up in a California reformatory, where he was gang raped. Upon release, he enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 17. Since he was already a fan of bikes and fast cars, he enjoyed his duties as a mechanic and tank driver, but continued to have trouble with authority figures. After three years of military service he drifted around the the Caribbean. In a bordello in Santo Domingo, he hired himself out as a sex object and porn performer. Those early years would lead to McQueen's future problems with authority and relationships.

Gravitating to New York City, he hustled on the streets of Times Square to support his two loves: acting and motorcycles. A little later, in a borrowed tux, he became a "gentleman for rent," the boy toy of rich, aging women, two of whom were Joan Crawford and Lana Turner. When stardom finally came, the abused became the abuser, and sex was his weapon of choice. "The last thing I want is to fall in love with a broad," he said. The string of seductions that followed earned him an almost mythical status as a pansexual Love Machine. His A-list conquests included Jacqueline Bissett, Faye Dunaway, Lauren Hutton, Sharon Tate, Mamie Van Doren, Tuesday Weld, Natalie Wood, and Marilyn Monroe. He married one of them, Ali MacGraw, for whom he abandoned the mother of his two children (and wife of sixteen years), Filipino-born actress Neile Adams.

Publicly, he insisted that he loathed homosexuals (nice try!), yet he often went to bed with them, favoring bikers and race car drivers. To admit to any of this would have meant the end of his acting career. Nevertheless, he had a tumultuous sexual relationship with James Dean, and a longer love/hate affair with Paul Newman. Other sexual relations developed with Peter Lawford, Montgomery Clift, Sal Mineo, Rock Hudson, Chuck Connors, and George Peppard.

By all accounts McQueen was a difficult, prickly individual. He abused drugs, drank to excess, smoked three packs a day and was riddled with self-destructive urges . He landed bit parts in stage dramas and TV episodes, and his role on Dead or Alive made him a bona fide TV star. This led to the film role in The Magnificent Seven, and the rest is a lightning fast trajectory into Hollywood superstardom. Like his onscreen characters, McQueen went his own way and pretty much did what he wanted. He turned down the film Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid because he refused second billing to Paul Newman. He was an independent, sexy movie star whose sense of “cool” defined the era.

In his heyday, with a salary of $5 million a movie, Steve McQueen was the highest paid actor in the world. If you want to see him at his best, watch Love with the Proper Stranger (1963) or The Getaway (1972). In the former he is sexy and appealing; in the latter he is sexy, tough and violent (his costar was future wife Ali MacGraw). McQueen was a good actor and a true cinema icon.

McQueen lived life at top speed, like the machines he raced so famously. Always difficult on film sets, he became a diva, firing crew on a whim. In the end fewer scripts came his way, because he had burned too many bridges. He was well on his way out in Hollywood when he contracted cancer. His early death at age 50 in 1980 remains a source of speculation, all of it explored in a biography by celebrity chronicler Darwin Porter: Steve McQueen, King of Cool: Tales of a Lurid Life. Others were shocked by the sex and violence in this book; I was shocked to learn that he was a staunch Republican and evangelical Christian.

His actor grandson, Steven R. McQueen (Vampire Diaries), is doing his best to follow in the footsteps of his iconic Hollywood relative (finger at right).

Steve McQueen, as sexy as his car, is shown here with one of his signature muscle cars, a 1956 Jaguar XKSS Le Mans racer. Only 16 were produced. This Jaguar was powered by a straight six engine with triple Webers, packing 250 horsepower. It was said to be brain-meltingly loud at 6,000 RPM, and also very pretty – like its owner.

The film Bullitt (1968) contains one of the most influential car chase sequences in movie history. Screeching through the streets of San Francisco, McQueen, in a 1968 green Ford Mustang GT390 Fastback, chases a 1968 black Dodge Charger R/T 440 Magnum. When McQueen, an accomplished race car driver, overshot a turn and smoked the tires (around the 1:10 mark), it was decided to replace him with a stunt driver. The Mustang’s interior rear view mirror gives clues as to who is behind the wheel. When the mirror is up (visible) McQueen is behind the wheel, and when it is down (not visible) stuntman Ekins is driving. It took more than three weeks to shoot the footage that took up less than ten minutes of screen time in the final edit.

Other than acting, McQueen's great love was fast cars and motorcycles. He filmed a spectacular motorcycle jump in the 1963 film, The Great Escape. Worth checking out. Here he's riding with one hand behind his back.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Knut Magnus Enckell

Finnish painter and designer Magnus Enckell (1870-1925) was a gay male whose works reveal strong homoerotic overtones. In an original mixture of classical mythology and modern avant-garde, Enckell's paintings of naked boys and men are openly erotic and sensual. The masculine nakedness in his paintings is never innocent, and the poses are quite uninhibited for the time period. Nonetheless, his figures combine sensuality with a certain spirituality.

Painting at left: Narcissus 1897

Enckell’s 1907 fresco above the altar in the Tampere cathedral portrays the Resurrection – among the figures of souls rising at the call of Christ are two men walking hand in hand (Enckell was himself the son of a vicar).

After his formal painting instruction in Helsinki, Enckell studied in Paris for three years in the last years of the nineteenth century. He went on to become the leading figure of the generation of Finnish Symbolist artists of the early twentieth century, a movement that rejected Realism.

When he died in Stockholm at the age of 55, his funeral was a national event; his body was interred in his home town of Hamina, in eastern Finland.


Golden Age

Man with a Swan


Monday, October 10, 2011

Frank Israel

Gay Architect to the Stars

After traveling to Italy and working on the East Coast, Frank Israel (1945-1996) moved to Los Angeles in 1979. He taught at the School of Architecture at the University of California at Los Angeles and designed sets for Paramount movies (“Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and “Night Games”), private houses for a number of prominent gay and straight Hollywood figures and offices for independent film production companies. One of the "Santa Monica" architects, he was responsible for the Art Pavilion in Beverly Hills (1991) and the Fine Arts Facility at the University of California at Riverside (1994 - see photo at right). Among the private homes he designed were those of Robert Altman, Joel Grey, and talent agent Howard Goldberg and partner Jim Bean (photo at end of post).

The 1991 Goldberg-Bean residence ((2029 Castilian Dr. in West Hollywood) was a landmark re-design of a ranch house as a series of pavilions linked by a long, blue curvilinear wall. Each of the pavilions faces toward a specific view of downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, or Santa Monica. He used unusual materials: lead coated copper panels, mustard-yellow pigmented stucco, and fir plywood with redwood battens against concrete block walls.

The Eames Office (photo at right) at 901 Washington Blvd. in Venice Beach was used by Charles and Ray Eames from 1943 until Ray's death in 1988, when the building required extensive earthquake proofing. The husband and wife designers worked for decades from this renovated garage, and their enduring classic "Eames chair" was designed in this office. The building still stands after extensive remodeling of the interior and facade by Frank Israel. The street name, however, has been changed, so the current address is 901 Abbot Kinney Boulevard.

In 1979, he also designed the first of a kind of building in which he would excel, offices for independent movie production companies. These included the headquarters for Propaganda Films, designed in 1988, and for Limelight Productions and Virgin Records, both designed in 1991.

Once diagnosed with HIV, Israel worked hard to be imaginative and distinctive. He took greater risks in the profession and began educating people about living with AIDS. He is survived by his long-time companion, Thomas Haase.

1991 Goldberg-Bean residence in West Hollywood

Saturday, October 8, 2011

James Merrill

Gay Poet and Philanthropist (1926-1995)

Born on March 3, 1926, James Merrill lived a life of privilege as the son of the co-founder of the Merrill Lynch investment firm. Merrill learned German and French from his Prussian nanny, and his parent’s fabulous 50-room mansion in the Hamptons boasted interiors that resembled a European palace. He had the money to go where he wanted, study where he wanted, and meet the best people. He lived modestly, even though he had great income from trust funds. He became a philanthropist and created several private foundations.

One of the most admired of American poets, Mr. Merrill was known for the elegance of his writing, his moral sensibility and his ability to transform moments of autobiography into deeply meaningful poetry. He once described his poetry as "chronicles of love and loss." Many consider him the heir to W. H. Auden.

Merrill attended Lawrenceville School and later Amherst College (graduating summa cum laude), where his professor Kimon Friar became his lover. Friar published Merrill’s “The Black Swan” in 1946 in Athens, Greece, which was to become important to Merrill and his partner of more than four decades, David Jackson (on left in photo), also a writer. For 20 years Jackson and Merrill divided their time between Stonington, Connecticut and Greece. From 1979 they spent part of each year at Jackson's home in Key West, Florida.

Though Merrill was wealthy his entire life, he understood the plight of many artists and founded the Ingram Merrill Foundation in 1956, a permanent endowment created for writers and painters.

He won every major literary award, including the Pulitzer Prize. As Merrill matured, the polished and taut brilliance of his early work gave way to a more informal, relaxed style. Already established in the 1970s among the finest poets of his generation, Merrill made a surprising detour when he began incorporating occult messages into his work. The result, a 560-page apocalyptic epic published in 1982 as “The Changing Light at Sandover”, documents two decades of messages dictated from otherworldly spirits during Ouija board séances hosted by Merrill and his partner David Jackson.

Merrill served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1979 until his death, and he contributed generously to literary causes, the arts, and public television. While vacationing in Arizona, Merrill died at the age of 68 on February 6, 1995, from a heart attack.

James Merrill's poem "Clearing the Title" is about this house at 702 Elizabeth Street in Key West, Florida, where he resided seasonally with partner David Jackson.

This modest Key West structure was a far cry from the house Merrill grew up in. The Orchard, still standing on Hill Street in South Hampton, was a 250-foot long house with a 70-foot-long music room with 18-foot ceilings and an Aeolian pipe organ with gilded pipes (visible at left in the photo is the bench and organ console, covered with a velvet cloth and bowl; click image to enlarge).

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Paul Oetken, Federal Judge

U.S. Senate Confirms First Openly Gay Federal Judge

Paul Oetken (shown at left in photo) was confirmed July 18, 2011, as the first openly gay man to serve on the federal bench. One of the notable things about the action was that it occurred in an unremarkable fashion, without a word of objection on the Senate floor. When the vote tally of 80-13 was read out, there was no cheer or reaction of any kind. Senators continued their conversations as if nothing unusual had happened. The nominee’s sexual orientation did not create controversy of any kind; he was confirmed based on his moderate politics and pro-business record. Oetken is a corporate lawyer with Cablevision. On January 26, 2011, President Barack Obama nominated Oetken to serve on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, one of the key federal trial courts in the nation.

“As the first openly gay man to be confirmed as a federal judge,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) Said, “he is a symbol of how much we have achieved as a country in just the last few decades. And importantly, he will give hope to many talented young lawyers who until now thought their paths might be limited because of their sexual orientation. Paul Oetken is living proof to all those young lawyers that it really does get better” (in reference to the “It Gets Better” campaign). Paul Oetken is the first openly gay man to go through an Article III confirmation process in this country, which makes this moment historic.

Just before the vote ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley (Iowa), gave a brief speech in support of Oetkin, mentioning the nominee’s Iowa roots but nothing about his homosexuality. He recited Oetkin’s credentials, including his Yale Law degree and Supreme Court clerkship. “I support this nomination and congratulate him on his professional accomplishments,” Grassley said. To his credit, that is all Grassley thought relevant.

Many closeted gay men have served as judges since the beginning of the Republic. And a lesbian, Deborah Batts, has been a federal judge since 1994. But when Batts went before the Judiciary Committee, her homosexuality was left unmentioned in the confirmation hearings.

Oetkin, by contrast, downplayed nothing about his sexual orientation: his work with Lambda Legal and the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project, or his co-authorship of a Supreme Court amicus brief opposing an anti-gay law. At his confirmation hearing, he introduced Grassley to his partner, Makky Pratayot (shown at right in photo above). They live together in Manhattan.