TIME LGBT

Smithsonian Expands Collection of LGBT Artifacts

National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
The facade of Smithsonian's National Museum of American History is lit up at dusk on June 4, 2013. John Greim—LightRocket /Getty Image

A donation from the TV show Will and Grace kicks off a wider effort to document the history of sexual orientation

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History announced Tuesday a significant expansion to its collection of artifacts documenting the history of America’s sexual minorities.

The expanded collection includes a donation of studio props from the television series Will and Grace, which debuted in 1998 with one of the first openly gay characters on primetime television. It also includes diplomatic passports from the first openly gay U.S. ambassador, David Huebner, and his husband, Duane McWaine, and a racquet that formerly belonged to transgender tennis player Renee Richards, who challenged a league-wide ban on transgendered players.

The museum said in a statement that the recent acquisitions mark a “long tradition of documenting the full breadth of the American experience and what it means to be an American. The LGBT narrative is an important part of that American story, and the Smithsonian has been documenting and collecting related objects for many years.”

 

TIME Culture

Game of Thrones Author Explains Why There’s No Gay Sex in His Books

George R.R. Martin
George R.R. Martin at the Season 3 premiere of HBO's "Game Of Thrones" on March 18, 2013 in Hollywood, Calif. Kevin Winter / Getty Images

"Will that change? It might."

There is plenty of sex — gay and straight — in the Game of Thrones TV show. It is HBO after all. But fans are curious as to why George R.R. Martin hasn’t included any gay sex scenes in his Song of Ice and Fire series upon which Game of Thrones is based.

The author addressed the issue at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in the U.K. on Monday night, according to the Guardian. Martin’s books are written through the viewpoints of various characters. None of the viewpoint characters are gay, so Martin hasn’t shown any gay sex scenes from their points of view. “A television show doesn’t have those limitations,” he said. “Will that change? It might. I’ve had letters from fans that want me to present particularly an explicit male sex scene — most of those letters come from women.”

“I’m not going to do it just for the sake of doing it,” he continued, “If the plot lends itself to that if one of my viewpoint characters is in a situation then I’m not going to shy away from it, but you can’t just insert things because everyone wants to see them. It is not a democracy. If it was a democracy, then Joffrey [the sadistic boy king] would have died much earlier than he did.”

[The Guardian]

TIME sexuality

An Open Letter to Robert Gates: The Boy Scouts Need to Accept Gay Adults

Pride Week 2014
A man with a peace flag roller skates alongside the Boy Scouts of America flag bearers in the New York City Pride Parade. Stacey Bramhall—Moment Editorial/Getty Images

On my 18th birthday, I must say goodbye to the organization that has shaped my youth.

I was just 4 years old when I went on my first camping trip with my older brother and his Cub Scouts pack. After that, I was hooked.

Scouting has been a constant part of my life since then. The Boy Scouts taught me everything from how to survive in the woods to the morals and values that shaped the person I am today. For that, and for the good times and friends I made through Scouting, I will always be grateful.

But today I have to say “goodbye.”

Today is my 18th birthday, a milestone on my path to becoming an adult and the day I am no longer eligible to be a Boy Scout because I am gay. Despite the Boy Scouts’ historic decision last year to open its ranks to gay youth, the Scouts still ban gay adults. And as of today, that means me.

In his first speech as the newly elected president of the Boy Scouts of America, former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that, although he supports allowing gay adults in Scouting, he will not take the leadership to make change.

Gates went on to argue that ending the ban on gay adults now could lead to the Boy Scouts’ ultimate demise. “And who would pay the price for destroying the Boy Scouts of America?” Gates asked. “We must always put the kids and their interests first.”

Except kids like me, it seems. Kids who have devoted their entire adolescence to Scouting, from Pinewood Derby to Eagle badge, only to be tossed out and told that we are predators.

In allowing the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay adults to continue—not because he believes it is the right thing to do, but because he is afraid of the possible consequences of enacting a fair policy—Mr. Gates is knowingly sacrificing thousands of devoted Scouts who happen to be gay. Scouts like me.

So today, I am hoping that you, Mr. Gates, will let me convince you to stop the sacrifices.

Mr. Gates, only you have the power and experience to bring an end to the unwarranted, unjust and un-Scout like ban on gay adults. Every day that you do nothing, more boys and parents struggle with their place in Scouting, in their communities and in their families.

Not long ago, Mr. Gates, you were instrumental in the repeal of the military’s ban on gay service members, telling the U.S. Senate in February 2010 that, “The question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change [to allow gay service members], but how we best prepare for it.”

Openly gay adults will eventually be allowed in Scouting, Mr. Gates. As support for equality continues to grow, Americans will soon demand it. The question before you, then, is not whether the ban should end, but how many more young people like me will be a victim of your failed leadership if you do nothing.

Pascal Tessier is the first known openly gay Eagle Scout. His story has appeared in such outlets as the Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post, NBC News, ABC News, TIME and more.

TIME Opinion

The Beta Marriage: How Millennials Approach ‘I Do’

10147785
Archive Holdings Inc.—Getty Images

We are a generation reared on technology and choice. Why wouldn’t we want to test a lifelong relationship first? How millennials are redefining "forever"

You could say I beta-tested my relationship.​

It began with a platform migration ​(a cross-country move) and a bandwidth challenge (cohabitation in a 450-sq.-ft. apartment). There was a false start (botched marriage proposal). Then, an emergency deglitching (couples therapy). We tried to take the product public before we were ready (I wrote about our relationship in Newsweek). And then, finally, we abandoned launch. There were simply too many bugs.

It’s a joke, kind of — except that when it comes to millennials and marriage, the beta test may be par for the course. And really, why wouldn’t it be? For a generation reared on technology, overwhelmed by choice, feedback and constant FOMO, isn’t testing a marriage, like we test a username, simply … well, logical?

The findings of a new survey certainly reveal so. In conjunction with a new television drama, Satisfaction, which premiered on USA Network last week, trend researchers asked 1,000 people about their attitudes toward marriage. They found all sorts of things: among them, that people cheat on the Internet (uh huh), that young people don’t think their relationships are like their parents’ (of course), and that everyone seems to have taken to the term uncoupling (yuck).

marriage

They also uncovered a surprising gem. Buried in the data was the revelation that almost half of millennials (43%, and higher among the youngest subset) said they would support a marriage model that involved a two-year trial — at which point the union could be either formalized or dissolved, no divorce or paperwork required. Thirty-three percent said they’d be open to trying what researchers dubbed the “real estate” approach — marriage licenses granted on a five-, seven-, 10- or 30-year ARM, after which the terms must be renegotiated. And 21% said they’d give the “presidential” method a try, whereby marriage vows last for four years but after eight you can elect to choose a new partner.

In total, nearly half of all of those surveyed, ages 18 to 49 — and 53% of millennials — thought marriage vows should be renewed, and nearly 40% said they believed the “till death do us part” vow should be abolished. In other words: Beta marriages! Unions you can test and deglitch, work out kinks or simply abandon course without consequence. “This is a generation that is used to this idea that everything is in beta, that life is a work in progress, so the idea of a beta marriage makes sense,” the study’s author, Melissa Lavigne-Delville, tells me. “It’s not that they’re entirely noncommittal, it’s just that they’re nimble and open to change.”

It’s not a new concept, entirely. In the 1970s, the anthropologist Margaret Mead predicted the growing popularity of “serial monogamy,” involving a string of monogamous marriages. Helen Fisher, the biological anthropologist, has advocated for much of the same: she believes humans aren’t meant to be together forever, but in short-term, monogamous relationships of three or four years. Stephanie Coontz, the author of Marriage: A History, has advised a marriage contract “reup” every five years — or before every major transition in life — “with a new set of vows that reflect what the couple has learned.”

More recently, Mexico City lawmakers proposed (unsuccessfully) a “renewable” marriage concept, whereby couples could simply renew or dissolve their unions after a period of two years. It’s not so unlike the setup described by a young writer in a Modern Love column in the New York Times last month, about how she overcomes “marriage anxiety” by renewing her vows with her husband every year like clockwork. “I think people are indeed trying to avoid failure,” says Andrew Cherlin, the author of The Marriage-Go-Round.

And, why wouldn’t they? The U.S. has the highest divorce rate in the Western world. The data show clearly that the longer we wait to get married the more successful our marriages will be. And it’s not like we can’t move in together in the meantime: the rate of unmarried cohabitation has risen 1,000% over the past four decades. Not all of our marriages will work, no — but when they do, they’ll work better than at any other time in history, say scholars. And when they don’t, why not simply avoid the hassle of a drawn-out divorce?

“Millennials aren’t scared of commitment — we’re just trying to do commitment more wisely,” says Cristen Conger, a 29-year-old unmarried but cohabitating podcast host in Atlanta. “We rigorously craft our social media and online dating profiles to maximize our chances of getting a first date, and ‘beta testing’ is just an extension of us trying to strategize for future romantic success.”

In an era where, according to the survey, 56% of women and men think a marriage can be successful even if it doesn’t last forever, that might just make sense. Scholars have observed for some time that attitudes toward divorce have become more favorable over the past decade. Millennials in particular are more likely to view divorce as a good solution to matrimonial strife, according to the sociologist Philip Cohen — and more likely to believe it should be easier to obtain.

And, of course, it’s easy to understand why. We’re cynical. We are a generation raised on a wedding industry that could fund a small nation, but marriages that end before the ink has dried. (As one 29-year-old survey respondent put it: “We don’t trust that institution.”) We are also less religious than any other generation, meaning we don’t enter (or stay) committed simply for God. We feel less bound to tradition as a whole (no bouquet tosses here).

And while we have among the highest standards when it comes to a partner — we want somebody who can be a best friend, a business partner, a soul mate — we are a generation that is overwhelmed by options, in everything from college and first jobs to who we should choose for a partner. “This is a generation who has not had to make as many long-term commitments as previous generations, so the idea of not having an out feels a little stringent,” says Lavigne-Delville. “Divorce has happened for a long time. Maybe we should rethink the rules.”

Indeed, at the end of the day, whatever you want to say about the hookup generation, or millennials’ inability to commit, the vast majority (69%, according to Pew) of millennials still want to get married. We simply need a little extra time to work out the kinks.

“Getting married is so much more weighted today, I get the impulse to want to test it,” says Hannah Seligson, the 31-year-old married author of A Little Bit Married, about 20-somethings and long-term unmarried relationships. At the same time, she adds, “I wonder if this is a false control study in a way. Yes, marriage terrifying, it’s probably the biggest leap of faith you’ll ever make. But you’ll never be able to peer into a crystal ball — or map it out on a spreadsheet.”

Bennett is a contributing columnist at TIME.com covering the intersection of gender, sexuality, business and pop culture. A former Newsweek senior writer and executive editor of Tumblr, she is also a contributing editor for Sheryl Sandberg’s women’s foundation, Lean In. You can follow her @jess7bennett.

TIME Singapore

Singapore Has Banned an Archie Comic for Depicting a Gay Wedding

In an installment of Life With Archie first published in 2012, the franchise tackled the issue of gay marriage head on — by putting it on the cover. The Hollywood Reporter

A recent crackdown on publications discussing homosexuality sheds light on Singapore's traditional moral values and notoriously restricted press

State media censors in Singapore have banned the sale of an Archie comic book for its frank presentation of gay marriage, a matter that remains socially taboo and legally verboten in Southeast Asia’s most developed state.

Singapore’s Media Development Authority (MDA) censored the comic book, first published in January 2012, earlier this year, but the ban is only just now coming to light — a week after another state agency removed three children’s books promoting tolerance of same-sex relationships from the national library’s shelves.

The third installment in Archie: The Married Life, one of several spinoff series in the multifarious Archie universe, features the wedding of Kevin Keller, a gay character whose creation in 2010 earned writer Dan Parent a GLAAD Media Award last year. (In the latest volume, Archie dies taking a bullet for Kevin, now a U.S. Senator.)

As critic Alyssa Rosenberg noted Wednesday in The Washington Post, the 75-year-old comic book franchise has in recent years adopted a distinctly political subtext, taking on issues of topical significance as they come: Kevin, a gay solider, was introduced as the Obama administration was deliberating the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; Archie’s interracial marriage made the cover in 2012.

Social progressivism isn’t really Singapore’s forte, though.

“[We]… found its content to be in breach of guidelines because of its depiction of the same sex marriage of two characters in the comic,” an MDA spokesperson said in a statement to TIME. “We thus informed the local distributor not to import or distribute the comic in retail outlets.”

In its guidelines for imported publications, the MDA prohibits comics and other illustrated material that depict or discuss “alternative lifestyles or deviant sexual practices,” listing homosexuality as an example of such (alongside “group sex and sadomasochism”).

Such stringent regulations are par for the course in Singapore, where social conservatism reigns supreme and strict curbs are placed on the dissemination of information. The country ranks 149th of the 179 countries listed in the 2013 Press Freedom Index — between Iraq and Vladimir Putin’s Russia — earning it the distinction of having the least free press of any developed economy in the world.

Concerning the recent purge of homosexual content, though, these restrictions may not be completely unwelcome. Sodomy, although rarely prosecuted, is criminalized as an act of “gross indecency,” and the majority of citizens, according to one survey, still take a “conservative approach” to marital and family matters. Indeed, the MDA claims to predicate its censorship decisions upon “public feedback or complaints,” and only turned its attention to the Archie comic after receiving a number of grievances.

TIME sexuality

Dear Black Women: White Gays Are Your Allies, So Don’t Push Us Away

We, too, know what it's like to be ostracized and pushed down.

In the earliest months of our relationship, my now-husband wanted me to understand something fundamental about his tastes, so he took me to a concert with acts I’d only vaguely heard of. I knew Queen Latifah, obviously, and was somewhat aware of Erykah Badu, but the rest of the lineup at the 2005 Sugar Water Festival, a short-lived summer showcase for black songstresses, were new to me.

Also new to me as a child of an upscale, white Long Island suburb: the composition of the audience. There were an overwhelming number of black women filling the vast Mandalay Bay Convention Center, which was unusual enough for a show on the Las Vegas Strip. But these women were accompanied, to my surprise, by more than a smattering of white men. Gay white men, that is. Very gay white men.

Those relationships fascinated me — and made a certain sense. It’s easy, once you start to imagine it, to see the natural connection between the two ostracized groups, both of which have translated that marginalization into defiant, self-affirming subcultures. My then new beau came of age in the urban nightclubs of Washington D.C., New York, and Tampa, all places where many white gay men found acceptance and common cultural cause with their oppressed black sisters who, in turn, flooded the scene, seeking places to revel away from so many predatory, demeaning straight men of all races.

Last week, that alliance came under attack by misguided University of Mississippi senior Sierra Mannie, who believed she was defending black women from cultural theft by launching an assault on white gays who, to her mind, behave too black. She zinged, “You are not a black woman, and you do not get to claim either blackness or womanhood. It is not yours. It is not for you.”

Others have already burned the piece down to its homo-ignorant nub, noting that Mannie writes cluelessly and obscenely about the nature and challenges of being gay. Her fire is fueled by some undeniably racist interactions, a supposed epidemic of white gay men who actually wish to be called by stereotypically black names and anoint themselves “strong black women.” It’s difficult to dispute that such behavior is weird and offensive, but it’s illogical to suggest all gay white men are “thieves” on that anecdotal basis alone.

Yet here’s what else Mannie overlooks in her full-frontal assault: White gay men as a group could be the truest friends black women can have in American society. No alliance is perfect, but this one has the potential, if nurtured properly, to reconfigure the stories of race and gender. White gay men — once intensely vilified but now able to harness our white male privilege for good, having learned what being on the outside is like — are a conduit through which black women can work against both countervailing forces that push them down.

Gay white men, in fact, pioneered a prototype for this. Not long ago, the biggest barrier for social acceptance for gays was heterosexual men. Then we co-opted them. At first, those old enough may recall, straight men refused even to speak to us, lest others perceive them as less than fully virile, if not gay themselves. Even those who deigned to be friendly did so at an arm’s length, claiming to be discomfited by irrepressible images of us — with them? — in sexual positions. Over time, this eroded. They liked our music. Straight women liked our clothes, our hair and our manscaping, and straight men will do just about anything to appeal to straight women. We were house-proud, fashion-forward, smart and funny, versed in both high and low culture. By the early 1990s, straight, urban men even accepted a hybrid moniker: the metrosexual.

Once those lines were blurred, once straight men not only accepted gay men but sought out our advice — remember “Queer Eye For the Straight Guy”? — men of all sexual orientations could see their similarities far outweighed their differences. Familiarity bred affinity, and affinity forced straight men to realize they had little to lose — and perhaps the admiration of straight women as a fringe benefit — by supporting full equality for gay people.

Our willingness to share our culture facilitated this detente. But “willingness” may be a strong word because it would have happened whether we were happy or angry about it. Mannie can bark at the gay white universe to lay off, but an appealing means of expression and art are the ultimate in open-source culture.

There is no question white gays have intrinsic advantages over black women in American society. Sure, we’ve taken our lumps, but black women certainly win the sweepstakes of oppression by a landslide. It is, in fact, this basic difference — race — that has enabled us to blitz through our civil rights movement in head-spinning fashion, while black women continue to face painful economic and political hurdles. Why did gay rights go from fantasy to entitlement in a blink of the historical eye, even as other oppressed minorities fend off efforts to deny them the ability to vote or obtain a decent education? Because so many of the gay men (and women) who came out were white and, thus, already embedded in the nation’s most powerful institutions.

But we’re here now, and we’re natural allies. The mutual fondness between so many black women and white gay men arises both from similar, if not shared, experience, but also a strikingly similar approach to coping with it. Some tropes emerged from black female culture and some from the gay world, but how or why is the stuff not of pundits or essayists, but of doctoral dissertations by social anthropologists. We aren’t going to get to the bottom of that on Twitter.

Still, cultural alliances like this are rare and should be treasured, not chastised. Black men didn’t have one. Neither did Jews or Native Americans. Arab Americans sure don’t. But through some fluke of cosmic association, black women have kindred spirits in white gay men. Don’t push us away.

Friess is an Ann Arbor, Mich.–based freelance writer and former senior writer covering technology for Politico, who teaches journalism at Michigan State University. You can follow him on Twitter @stevefriess.

TIME LGBT

CDC Survey Finds 1.6% of Adults Identify as Gay

Pride Week 2014
People carrying a giant rainbow flag in New York City's Pride Parade Stacey Bramhall—Moment Editorial/Getty Images

Another 0.7% identified as bisexual, and 1.1% said "something else" or didn't answer

Correction appended July 22.

For the first time in 57 years the Centers for Disease Control’s National Health Information Survey has surveyed adults on their sexual orientation, and the results published Tuesday show that 1.6% of adults aged 18 or over identified as gay, while another 0.7% identified as bisexual.

The figures were slightly lower than the findings from previous surveys, which had estimated that the LGBT population comprised 3.4 to 4% of the population.

An additional 1.1% of respondents identified as ‘‘something else,’’ stated ‘‘I don’t know the answer,’’ or refused to provide an answer.

The CDC said its statistics would help researchers to identify and address health disparities between gay and straight adults. The report identified elevated levels of smoking and drinking among respondents who identified as gay, as well as a higher likelihood of meeting federal fitness guidelines.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly attributed the data to the wrong source. The survey was undertaken by the Centers for Disease Control’s National Health Information Survey.

TIME sexuality

My Hellish Youth in Gay Conversion Therapy and How I Got Out

James Guay is Against SB1172
James Guay Mark Avery—Orange County Register

It was a painful process, but I also experienced freedom in knowing I had done my best to change before recognizing that it wasn’t possible.

Would I truly go to heaven, despite being gay?

This question haunted me growing up. My earliest and most influential childhood memory is being 4 years old and “accepting Jesus into my heart.” Did I truly know what that meant—or was I looking for love from my parents?

I was raised in a strict, fundamentalist Christian household in Los Angeles, where homosexuality was referred to as “an abomination to God, worthy of eternal damnation in hell.” At church, at school and at home, being gay was rarely acknowledged and, when it was mentioned, described with contempt as the worst sin—comparable to murder, rape and child molestation.

I didn’t want to experience the pain of eternity in hell. I didn’t want to be despised by everyone around me. And so, when I was 16, I went to weekly meetings with an “ex-gay” Christian psychologist who tried to change my sexual orientation.

The harmful practice of sexual orientation change efforts—also known as ex-gay, reparative or sexual conversion “therapy”—involves attempts by a therapist to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) clients. In fall 2012, California became the first state to ban licensed mental health practitioners from using this practice on minors; I testified in favor of the legislation. I wept when I heard the news that the bill had been signed into law. And I celebrated when the U.S. Supreme Court recently denied an appeal by anti-gay groups that sought to overturn the ban.

I was 9 years old when I recognized my attractions for the same gender. Praying to God every night and pleading with Him to take my feelings away didn’t work. Practically living, eating and breathing the Bible didn’t work. I tried repressing and denying who I was—but nothing changed inside of me. I was taught by my pastors, parents and peers to hate myself—and that worked.

My family attended Grace Community Church in Sun Valley. John MacArthur, head pastor for more than 40 years, has always had a strong anti-gay perspective. In a recent video, he tells parents to “alienate, isolate, not have a meal with and give over to Satan your homosexual adult children.”

I was bullied and harassed in middle school and at Los Angeles Baptist High School. I would stand on cliffs, fantasizing about killing myself. Fortunately, my fear of experiencing worse pain in hell for eternity kept me from actually committing suicide.

My saving grace was competitive gymnastics. I felt a sense of mastery over my body, whereas I wasn’t able to control my same-gendered attractions. I used the physical pain of gymnastics to numb the emotional pain.

When I was 16, my parents saw self-inflicted cuts on my arms. I confessed that I was struggling with same-sex attractions. They were concerned and wanted to help me change so that I could join them “in eternal life with God.” My dad found a Christian psychotherapy group practice that dealt with issues my church didn’t want to deal with, like satanic ritual abuse and homosexuality. I was so tormented that I begged my Dad to let me see the “ex-gay” psychologist after they had an argument over the fee.

For a year, I attended weekly individual therapy sessions where I was encouraged to blame my distant relationship with my father and over-involved relationship with my mother for my same-sex desires. I was also guided to “remember” an original wounding—in particular, sexual or physical abuse—that I had not experienced. The main cures were to build “healthy same-sex non-sexual friendships,” become more “masculine” and date girls.

Initially I felt better. I wasn’t alone. I even quit gymnastics for a few months to fully dedicate myself to changing my sexual orientation.

I also went with my dad to conferences put on by Exodus International, the nation’s largest ex-gay organization. At 16, I was the youngest participant among 300 others struggling with their sexual orientation and religious beliefs. In breakout groups, we learned about how to become more “manly.” We were told that if one walked, talked and sat different from others of our gender, this was evidence of dysfunction that could be altered to instill heterosexual desires.

And I read books and listened to audiotapes about how to have a “corrective and healing relationship with Jesus Christ.” These materials talked about how the “gay lifestyle” would create disease, depravity and misery. I was convinced that doing what I was told would change my attractions—and confused about why these methods supposedly worked for others but not for me.

I eventually realized that this “treatment” wasn’t working for me—or for others. It was a painful process, but I also experienced freedom in knowing I had done my best to change before recognizing that it wasn’t possible.

At 20, I attended my last ex-gay conference. Shortly thereafter, I fell in love with a man. My love for him felt natural. My experience was nothing like what I had been told about the evil and impossible nature of same-sex relationships.

In 1991, I attended my first Halloween in West Hollywood, a place I had been told was a gay ghetto of the worst kind of sinners. I discovered something quite different, and it opened my eyes to hopeful possibilities. I saw people smiling, dancing and celebrating their authentic selves. I saw couples and friends enjoying life. I wanted that, too.

My journey out of self-rejection was not easy. At the time, I was living with my parents. They eavesdropped on me and learned about my relationship. They gave me an ultimatum: If I broke up with my boyfriend and started seeing another Christian psychologist who specialized in sexual orientation change efforts, they would continue to support me while I tried out for the U.S. Gymnastics Olympic Team. If not, I would have to move out.

I moved out a week later, on Easter Sunday. It was an extremely painful departure. When I didn’t make the Olympic Team, I transferred to UC Berkeley to join their gymnastics team—one of the only college gymnastics teams at the time that was truly gay-friendly. I joined a gay support group and saw several therapists in my twenties. In my thirties, I began my long-term work with a psychotherapist who helped me to break through my residual shame and self-harming behaviors.

Psychology became my new spirituality. It helped me to make sense of what I endured in childhood. And it turned out to be my calling. Today, I have a psychotherapy practice in West Hollywood where I work with LGBTQ clients to help them recover from homophobic environments and experiences.

My own family found some peace. Throughout my adult life, my father apologized for kicking me out of their home for being gay. Two years ago, a week before he passed away, he told me that we would be reunited in heaven because of my childhood acceptance of Jesus. He had evolved. His admission was a final act of love and desire for connection.

I’m so relieved that California, and now New Jersey, have laws to protect LGBTQ youth from this dangerous practice. It means that fewer teenagers will be placed in the position that I was—a position of self-rejection and self-loathing. But sexual orientation change efforts are still being practiced across the United States, on both minors and adults. As someone who underwent this damaging “therapy,” I’m heartened by efforts like #BornPerfect, a new campaign that aims to bring about a nationwide end to the practice. That message—that we are all worthy no matter who we love—is one that every child should receive.

James Guay is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in West Hollywood, California. This piece originally appeared at Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Sex

The Strange Social Science of the Color Red

Women walking
Getty Images

There's plenty of research connecting the color with sex. Here's why

When it comes to sex and women, red is the first color you think of, right? Red lips, red lingerie, red dress. Studies show men perceive women who wear red on dating profiles as both sexier and more open to a sexual encounter.

Red, it seems, sends a very clear message—about sex. And now scientists add to the scarlet sex literature with this piece of data, which we reported on earlier, in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin – turns out it’s not just men, but women too who see women who dress in red as more overtly sexual and open to having sex. Not only that, women perceive other women who sport red clothing as sexual rivals (i.e. after their mates), which raises their competitive instincts and leads them to think negatively about their ability to maintain relationships and be loyal.

What? Does that mean every time I grab the red dress my female friends see me as a romantic threat who is about to move in on their partners? “I don’t think it’s the case that women who wear red are always advertising sexual interest,” says Adam Pazda, a social psychologist at University of Rochester who led the study. “But there is evidence that people make judgments about other people in general based on clothing. You can see how color might easily fit into that.”

MORE: The Science of Dating: Wear Red

Pazda says that studies have also shown that people who view pictures of female news anchors in loose or tight-fitting clothing perceived those wearing the form-fitting outfits as less competent, possibly some derivation of the idea that they were dressing for sex and therefore somehow less able to do their jobs.

One thing to remember about that study, and Pazda’s as well: You probably react differently to strangers you pass on the street than those you’re confronted with in a lab setting, where the questions the scientists are asking can’t help but be leading.

If someone sticks a picture of a news anchor wearing a loose top in front of you, asks you to rate her competence, you’re going to grasp at any possible clue to make your decision, because you have to make a decision, or a judgment. You have no other information on the anchor—you don’t know her, you don’t know her background, and you certainly don’t know her experience, which would be more reasonable measures of her competence. Instead, you’re making a snap judgment and for that, you tend to rely on your cultural experience.

And when it comes to the color red and women, that cultural background tells you that red equals sex. In Pazda’s study, he ran three experiments, one to test whether women perceived other women dressing in red as more sexually receptive than those clothed in the same outfit but in white; another to determine if that perception of being more open to sex implied sexual promiscuity, and a final experiment to test whether another color (green) and outfit changed the results.

Each participant was shown either the red-clothed image or the white- or green-clothed one, and then asked to rate, on a sliding scale, the woman’s openness to sexual encounters and her promiscuity. But since they knew nothing else about the women in the pictures. They couldn’t hear their voices, or watch their behaviors. With no other information to go on what were the participants basing their decisions on?

They were likely relying on deeply ingrained, and even unconscious biases connecting the color red to sex. “When we asked, ‘Is this person interested in sex,’ or how seductive or flirtatious is this person, they are drawing on whatever cues are available to make judgments about them,” says Pazda. “One of the only cues is using the dress or shirt color.”

That may only play a small part in people’s first impressions of others in real life, however, where they have facial expressions, behavior, conversations and other information on which to base their decision. Pazda admits that “people aren’t always making judgments about others automatically. But if we stop and make a judgment, color may influence how that judgment is processed.”

TIME Singapore

Singapore Provokes Outrage by Pulping Kids’ Books About Gay Families

Toddler plays with bubbles as participants wait to take part in the forming of a giant pink dot at the Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park in Singapore
A toddler plays with bubbles during the Pink Dot parade at the Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park in Singapore June 28, 2014. Edgar Su—Reuters

One of the books, the multi-award winning And Tango Makes Three, recounts the real life-inspired story of two male penguins raising a baby chick at New York's Central Park Zoo

The Singapore government has ordered the National Library Board (NLB) to remove from library shelves and destroy three children’s books that portray gay, lesbian or unconventional families.

The multi-award winning And Tango Makes Three recounts the real life-inspired story of two male penguins raising a baby chick at New York’s Central Park Zoo. The other two banned titles are The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption, which features a lesbian couple, and Who’s In My Family: All About Our Families, which describes unconventional parental set-ups.

The move has resulted in a torrent of opposition in mainstream and social media, the latter largely via the #FreeMyLibrary hashtag. An open letter criticizing the ban has also received more than 4,000 signatures.

“This is a very unfortunate step backwards,” Kirpal Singh, associate professor of English Literature at Singapore Management University, tells TIME. “While we try to balance the conservatives and liberal minded, do we remove anything or everything that gives offense, especially if this offense is quite problematic, quite complex?”

Homosexuality is a sensitive subject in ostensibly modern Singapore. Gay sex remains illegal but is rarely prosecuted, and an estimated 26,000 revelers thronged this year’s annual Pink Dot gay rights rally — one of the largest public gatherings of any sort seen in recent years. Nevertheless, society remains conservative.

According to a NLB statement, “We take a cautious approach, particularly in books and materials for children. NLB’s understanding of family is consistent with that of the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Ministry of Education.”

The ban was reportedly spurred by a complaint from a single library user who is also a member of the Facebook group “We Are Against Pinkdot in Singapore.”

The NLB boasts a collection of more than five million books and audio-visual materials, and a spokesperson told Channel News Asia that it acts on less than a third of the 20 or so removal requests received each year. (James Patterson’s Kill Me If You Can, which depicts incest, was the subject of a complaint but remains on the shelves.)

Naturally, gay rights activists are outraged. “This unfortunate decision sends a message of rejection to many loving families that do not conform to the narrow father-mother-children definition of family that it has adopted,” said Pink Dot spokesperson Paerin Choa by email. “Pink Dot believes that Singapore can be an inclusive home for its people in all their diversity, and that constructive dialogue should be the way forward for a truly embracing society.”

For Singh, the furor may at least have the positive side effect of prompting debate. “This may contribute to a more vital discussion for Singapore in terms of where we are and where we are not when it comes to values, freedoms and an open state for discourse,” he says.

While praising the NLB as an institution, acclaimed Singaporean author Alvin Pang writes: “This is a serious impoverishment of what books are and what knowledge means, and it can only harm our intellectual development and broader social discourse.”

Justin Richardson, co-author of And Tango Makes Three, would no doubt agree. “We wrote the book to help parents teach children about same-sex parent families,” he told the New York Times in 2007. “It’s no more an argument in favor of human gay relationships than it is a call for children to swallow their fish whole or sleep on rocks.”

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 46,423 other followers