Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Spring 2002

Warren Allen Smith

Gossip from Across the Pond

by Warren Allen Smith

Sinclair Lewis, who in 1930 became America’s first Nobel Prize winner in literature, was a satirist of small-town life in Main Street, materialism in Babbitt, physicians in Arrowsmith, and the clergy in Elmer Gantry. Since his time, American freethinkers have never had the same kind of appealing spokesperson, nor have they fully appreciated his importance. Instead, their more noted leaders have focused on their own interest in academic philosophy, partly to cover up their inadequate knowledge of the humanities.

Sinclair Lewis: Rebel from Main Street, a new biography by Richard Lingeman, includes the following: “When a writer and editor named Warren Allen Smith sent him a questionnaire [in 1950] asking him to choose from several definitions of humanism the one most congenial to him, Lewis selected ‘naturalistic (scientific) humanism.’ To an earlier query about his religion, he contended that people raised without religious belief seemed as happy and as ethical as those who did have a faith.” Lewis was said to have been privately homophobic, turned off in London, for example, when he met Hugh Walpole and Lytton Strachey. Why he described lesbians and their “involuted love” in Ann Vickers is surprising, for from 1928 to 1942 Lewis was married to Dorothy Thompson and her affection for Christa Winsloe was, according to Lingeman, “erotic as well as emotional”.

AIDS activist Larry Kramer dies was the AP’s headline in a December 2001 story. However, news of Larry Kramer’s death was somewhat exaggerated, for he recovered from a twelve-hour liver-transplant operation on December 21. Kramer, a founder of ACT UP and the author of The Normal Heart (1985) and Faggots (1987), was recipient of the 1996 award in literature of the American Academy of Arts and Letters for the screenplay of D H Lawrence’s Women in Love (1969).

Discussing the notion of evil with the gay journalist and Catholic Andrew Sullivan in 1995, Kramer said, “I don’t believe in God, so we have to leave him out of it. But I didn’t think that the world was evil until the last few years. I’ve been unwilling to even think of that notion of evil. But I now think that the fact that this plague has been allowed to go on, that so many people have been allowed to die, is just evil.”

To Sullivan, who like Kramer is HIV-positive, he added that the government could do much more for people with AIDS but “we’re now on the third asshole in a row in the White House who simply doesn’t want to do anything about it”. Kramer’s long-time partner, Rodger McFarlane, might note that in 2002 Larry, now 66, could change the lament to “the fourth asshole in a row”.

A few hours before the end of Rudy Giuliani’s end of term as puritanical Mayor of New York City, two bars (the Cock and the Hole) celebrated with “backroom” parties (one called Black Sperm Night) that drew dozens of celebrants despite next to no publicity.

Commenting upon the fact that Giuliani was named Time’s Man of the Year, the gay nontheist and journalist Michael Musto observed, “So were Hitler and Stalin.”

As to whether three monotheists in the news have gay connections – John Walker Lindh, the American who was captured with the Taliban in Afghanistan; Muhammad Atta, who piloted the plane that smashed into Tower One of the World Trade Center; and Adolf Hitler, who is back in the news because of a new book by Lothar Machtan, The Hidden Hitler – the gay media have been somewhat reserved.

Lindh’s father separated from his wife and moved in with a male companion while John was growing up; and Atta, according to the Mideast expert Jamie Glazow of FrontPage, has written about Atta’s being one of the sexually repressed Arabs in a culture where men’s sodomizing of boys is seen as a social norm.

Machtan’s The Hidden Hitler stubbornly amasses trivial facts about Hitler’s alleged homosexuality, although documentation is admittedly next to impossible concerning der Führer, the theist whose Mein Kampf states: “I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Creator. By fighting off the Jews, I am doing the Lord’s work.”

Of more interest to the gay press has been Mark Bingham, the handsome gay rugby player who lost his life by foiling the hijackers of United Flight 93, causing it on September 11 to plough into the ground rather than into any buildings in the national capital or elsewhere.

Not generally publicized was Muhammad Atta’s will with eighteen stipulations, as reported by ABC News. He directed that no-one kiss his dead body; that no pregnant woman or unclean person should approach his body; that he did not want an unnecessary number of people to wash his body; that whoever washed him must wear gloves “so he won’t touch my genitals”; that women not go to his grave whatsoever; that he should lie on his right side; and that people who attend his funeral should sit at his grave for an hour “so that I will enjoy their company and slaughter animals and give the meat to the needy”. Now that he presumably is in Paradise, one wonders if his reward of 72 vestal virgins will be prohibited from touching him for eternity.

Paul Rudnick’s Rude Entertainment has received mixed reviews but had its audiences howling with laughter. The trio of one-act plays included one about a gay couple hoping to adopt a little girl who says she is from Slomakia, a country torn between the feuding “Turds” and “the Curtsies”. The diabolically nontheistic playwright was described in The Times as “politically incorrect and proud to show it”.

Bruce Villanch and other gay movie critics have strongly complained that the script of A Beautiful Mind, in which Russell Crowe plays the Princeton mathematician John Nash, fails to reveal that Nash was known to be bisexual and was once arrested on a morals charge in a Santa Monica, California, restroom.

Gregory Hemingway, the author Ernest’s youngest son, died of hypertension and heart disease five days after being arrested in Florida for sitting on a roadside curb, naked, trying to put on a dress and high heels. During the 1970s he had been a practicing physician, at some point had undergone a sex-change operation and was now known as Gloria, according to Reuters. She was found dead in a private cell of the Miami-Dade Women’s Detention Center.

When Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi was performed shortly before X-myth at the University of Northern Iowa in the Bible Belt, a Republican state senator complained that the stage paid for with tax dollars should not be used to perform something about “Jesus the king of queers”. The students, however, did perform the play, and when the head of the theater department was asked if he would allow a play that portrayed Muhammad in a way offensive to Muslims, or Gautama, or Abraham, Steve Taft responded, “I’d have to read the play. Then we’d see.”

“If God Hates Fags (I Hate God)” is one of the titles of a queercore rap combo known as Ninja Death Squad. Their CD is called Appreciate Our Art (Heartcore).

Admiral Chester W Nimitz Jr, son of the admiral who headed the World War Two Pacific Ocean operations, and his wife Joan were non-believers who in their late eighties were in deteriorating health. Together, they chose to take their own lives after a marriage of 62 years. One of the admiral’s sisters, a nun, was very unhappy about this, but Newsweek’s Anna Quindlen wrote a refreshingly positive editorial about euthanasia (February 4, 2002). The press, as usual, did not report that the Nimitzes were freethinkers.

Generally overlooked is that Leoš Janáček (1854 – 1928), the composer born in Hukvaldy, Czech Republic, was a nontheist. He is known for having developed a Czech folksong tradition, writing several operas, a mass, instrumental chamber pieces and song cycles. But, according to the Grove Dictionary of Music (2001), “Conventional religion meant little to him. As his wife recorded, he never went to church, never prayed and paid no attention to his children’s religious upbringing. The liturgical pieces of his student days are some of his dullest and least individual.”

Asked to define a humanist, the author of Oh! Calcutta, Kenneth Tynan (1927 – 1980), according to a recent biography, said, “A humanist is someone who remembers the faces of the people he spanks.”

A prostitute in V S Naipaul’s Half a Life, angry that her client was taking so long, pleaded, “Fuck like an Englishman.”

The eminent paleontologist and nontheist Stephen Jay Gould makes it all so clear: “We are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures; because the earth never froze entirely during an ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of a million years ago, has managed, so far, to survive by hook and by crook. We may yearn for a ‘higher’ answer – but none exists.”

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Created : Sunday, 2002-05-05 / Last updated : Wednesday, 2007-12-12
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