Viewpoint: Never on Sunday with Grappa

By Michelle E. Brown

The abundance of misinformation bantered about by opponents of LGBT rights never ceases to amaze me. One would think in this day and age with Google, Bing and all the other search engines, folks would get their facts straight (maybe that's the problem). Let me restate that: that they'd get their facts correct before spewing their inaccurate "hate speak" in public places.

Case in point: At the recent town hall "Is Gay the New Black?" one learned panelist announced that homosexuality started with the Greeks and Romans and was not recorded in any other culture.

What?!

It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke: "These two Romans were sitting around the bath reading Aristotle. One passed the book to the other when they reached the chapter on wrestling and said, 'Hey man, want to try this?' and, in the course of a spirited but manly struggle, found his penis in the other's (fill in your personal orifice preference)." The rest, as they say, is history.

Although the Greeks and Romans certainly influenced culture, sorry dear Greco/Roman friends, you just can't take full responsibility for "founding" the gay lifestyle.

Same-sex relationships have been recorded throughout history. Anthropologists Stephen Murray and Will Roscoe reported that African women in Lesotho engaged in socially sanctioned, long-term, erotic relationships called "motsoalle." There were even reports of young male warriors in northern Congo routinely taking on young male lovers, between the ages of 12 and 20, who helped with household tasks and participated in sex.

Native American culture has long told of "Two Spirit" individuals. Records say these individuals were typically recognized early in life and given a choice by the parents to follow that path. (Imagine that!)

Homosexuality in China was noted as early as 600 BCE. It was known as the "the cut sleeve," "the southern custom," or - my personal favorite - "the pleasures of the bitten peach."

In the South Pacific, especially in Papua New Guinea, same-sex relationships were an integral part of the culture until the middle of the last century.

Even among many Middle Eastern Muslim cultures, homosexual practices were and remain widespread and thinly veiled. On NPR, not while reading Plato or Homer, I learned of the "baccha/dancing boy" - beautiful boys who danced for and served men. There is also a reference to this in the book "Three Cups of Tea."

Even the foundational work of Hindu law mentions a third sex that engaged in non-traditional gender expression.

Trust me, I didn't spend the day in the library, knee-deep in historical reference material, I learned this at workshops, in my casual reading, on NPR and by an easy Google search. You would think opponents to equal rights would invest the time needed to do a Google search before they opened their mouths and inserted their foot on public panels.

The other topic that sticks in my "craw" (I'm not quite sure what that is, but my mother used to say it) is the topic of LGBT discrimination in the workplace.

Let me say this once and for all the ill-informed haters: Yes, Dorothy, we can be fired just for being gay and we don't have to come prancing into work in our rainbow tutus and flannel shirts. If I put my family photos on my desk and explain that the beautiful woman in the photos is my partner; if I ask about health care benefits for my family; even if I am all dressed up in my power suit, pumps and in full make up and you ask me if I am gay and I truthfully answer "yes" as a gay person, I can be fired! Please, for the love of god and all that is holy, get that through your thick skull!

"Is gay the new black?" No, baby, it's the old black - a world where the inequalities segregation, discrimination, hate crimes and bans on interracial marriage were seen as so egregious that a movement grew and changed America. But we still have a long way to go "'til victory is won."

Well, enough of my rant. Time to order a pizza, put in the "Zorba the Greek" DVD, toss back a shot of ouzo and shout "Opa!" Damn, it's a wonderful life.

Michelle E. Brown is a metro Detroit-based writer and activist. She lives with her partner in Southfield. You can find her at http://www.michelleelizabethbrown.com.
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