Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for July, 2012

Local History Project: Portland, OR

Timothy Kincaid

July 27th, 2012

At the turn of the 20th century, “Indian lore” was quite the rage for boys. In an increasingly industrialized and urban society, the romanticized native American with his ability to move soundlessly through the forest and build shelter and transportation without tools was an idealized hero. And when Lord Baden-Powell’s scouting movement made its way to the States, a number of boys groups had already been created based around Indian themes. These groups – and the themes – were incorporated into the Boy Scouts of America. And as the Boy Scouts grew over the next century, it’s American Indian theme became prominent, seen as a significant part of the scouting tradition and influencing the names of the national divisions.

Meet Frankie Crow Flag. Frankie’s father was Blackfoot and his mother raised him to respect his heritage.

Native American culture is still active in the Pacific Northwest. And Frankie, who lived in Portland, Oregon, attended pow-wows, learned the dances, and kept traditional symbols in his home.

And, appropriately for a young Blackfoot boy, Frankie’s mother did not cut his hair. By six, it hung in a straight full sheet down his back.

Frankie was a bit shy and not the most masculine boy in town, but he was a boy and he wanted to do “boy things”. And he very very much wanted to join the Cub Scouts.

So, in the mid 80’s, Frankie’s mother took him to sign up and begin his scouting adventure. But for the Cub Scout Master, gender conformity and gender appearance far outweighed any ideals he may have had about Native American culture. He told Frankie’s mother that he wasn’t welcome in the Cub Scouts because “he looks like a little girl and it will confuse the other boys.”

I didn’t understand. At that age, the only time I felt different was when I tried to fit in.

A loss for both Frankie and the other little boys who could have learned about a culture different from their own.

Today Frankie lives in Los Angeles and is part of the exclusive team of servers at The Abbey, where no one has any trouble figuring out if he is a boy or a girl.

To participate in the Local History Project, please  email Timothy Kincaid (timothydkinla@yahoo.com) or Randy Potts (randyrpotts@gmail.com) and tell us your story in your own words.

Portland Mayor Cleared of Wrongdoing

Jim Burroway

June 23rd, 2009

Portland Mayor Sam Adams, the first openly gay mayor of a major American city, has been cleared of wrongdoing by Oregon Attorney General John Kroger. The Attorney General’s six-month investigation looked into charges that Adams broke the law by engaging in sexual relations with Beau Breedlove before Breedlove turned 18. Kroger concluded that Breedlove lacked credibility as a witness and that no other corroborating witnesses came forward. Investigators interviewed 57 witness as part of their investigation and concluded:

Here, there are serious questions about the credibility of Breedlove’s account, due to his prior inconsistent statements, the lack of corroborating witnesses or evidence, his attempt to gain personally from matters related to his involvement with Adams and his prior criminal record,” the report states.

“Accordingly, we have concluded there is insufficient evidence to charge, let alone convict, Adams with illegal sexual contact with a minor.”

The report questioned Breedlove’s credibility, saying that he had sought media attention as far back as December 2007. The report found that Breedlove has since benefited financially as a result of his story, citing the cover story on Breedlove in the May issue of Unzipped magazine.

The Attorney General’s report also looked into two other allegations of wrongdoing. One allegation surrounded the hiring of a Portland Mercuryreporter by Adams’ staff after that reporter contacted Adams about rumors of a relationship with Breedlove. The report found that there was no credible evidence that Adams hired the reporter to cover up the affair. The report also looked into an allegation of official misconduct for misuse of government resources, but found no evidence to support those charges either.

Adams still faces a recall effort. Nevada Senator John Ensign however, does not.

Sam Adams and the Double Standard: Part 2

This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Jim Burroway

January 24th, 2009

There’s a lot of confusion over Portland Mayor Sam Adams’ tryst with Beau Breedlove, the intern who Adams admitted to having a sexual relationship with. It’s time to bust some of these myths.

Myth: Because Breedlove was an intern, Adams abused his position of authority when he entered into a sexual relationship with Breedlove.

Fact: Beau Breedlove was a legislative intern in Eugene, not a Portland city intern. They met when Breedlove was interning in the Oregon House for state Rep. Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer). Adams did not hold a position of professional authority over Breedlove.

Myth: Breedlove was just a 17-year-old boy.

Fact: According to Adams’ admission, Breedlove was an 18-year-old man when they initiated their sexual affair. At eighteen, Breedlove was old enough to sign contracts, join the army and go to war, and be tried as an adult for any crimes he might feel like committing.

Breedlove, because he is a legal, consenting adult, bears equal responsibility for the affair. What’s more, he appears to have an affinity for older men. Mark Merkle, 39, was Breedlove’s boyfriend for two years until last August.

This was a man, not a boy. Yet we have all sorts of people — gay and straight, Democratic and Republican — screaming for Mayor Adam’s resignation because he lied about having had perfectly legal sex with a perfectly legal consenting adult.

Hold that thought while we look at another set of myths swirling around another politician of note:

Myth: Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) admitted to have had perfectly illegal sex with a prostitute.

Fact: Oh, sorry. That was true. Vitter broke the law, but he didn’t admit to it until the statute of limitations had passed.

Myth: Sen. Vitter apologized to the Republican caucus in the Senate, and received a standing ovation.

Fact: Oh yeah. That part’s true also. Even though Vitter broke the law — something that Adams has apparently not done — he got a standing ovation.

But hey, Vitter’s admission of having engaged in an illegal sex act did come in at number five of Time magazine’s top ten awkward moments.

Let’s re-cap: Illegal sex? Awkward. Legal sex? Give him the heave-ho.

And what about the lying part?

Let’s cross the political aisle and consider Bill Clinton. After all, he lied under oath about a sexual encounter with an intern who really was his subordinate. But Clinton defenders said, well yeah, what do you expect? After all, his sex life is private, they said. He didn’t want his wife to find out, they said. He was protecting his daughter, they said. Who wouldn’t lie under those circumstances, they said. Besides, it was all a political witch hunt, they said.

That rallying cry that went “When Clinton lied, nobody died”? Gee, why don’t I see a similar call for perspective here among progressives?

Adams didn’t lie under oath. Instead, he told a very stupid lie about a very private matter that was none of anyone’s business while running for political office. Goodness! That’s never happened before!

So let’s re-cap again. Lies about gay sex with a consenting adult you have no authority over? Even liberals will call for your resignation. Lies about straight sex under oath with an intern you actually have authority over? You not only get to stay in office, but when your term finally reaches its natural conclusion, you get to enjoy the highest approval ratings of any president in history.

Nice presidential library you got there, Bill.

Hundreds of people have rallied in front of city hall to support their beleaguered mayor. Another rally is scheduled for Tuesday at noon.

No Sex Please, We’re Gay

Guest Commentary

Jack Drescher, MD

January 23rd, 2009

Jack Drescher, MD, is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City. Dr. Drescher is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and presently serves as a Consultant to APA’s Committee on Public Affairs. He is past Chair of APA’s Committee on GLB Issues. Dr. Drescher is Author of Psychoanalytic Therapy and the Gay Man (The Analytic Press) and is Emeritus Editor of the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Mental Health.

The city of Portland, Oregon is being rocked by a political sex scandal. This one has many of the familiar ingredients of the genre: a sexual relationship between a politician and an intern, a newspaper ferreting out the story, a lying elected official and an ineffective cover up an affair, calls to come clean, a belated admission of culpability, and a sense that the public trust has once again been betrayed.

In this case, the sex involves Portland’s newly elected Mayor Sam Adams and an eighteen-year-old male intern. And the scandal is stirring debate in Portland’s LGBT community, pitting those who believe the Mayor should be forgiven his transgressions and those clamoring for his resignation.

Gay people calling for a gay politician’s head for having sex? This seems a far cry from the attitudes that prevailed within the fledgling gay liberation movement that emerged after the 1969 Stonewall riots.  In the 1970s, gay liberation was seen as a metaphor for other forms of liberation:  third world countries were to be liberated from colonial oppression; African-Americans and other people of color were to be liberated from white oppression; women were to be liberated from male domination; gays and lesbians were to be freed from heterosexual oppression.

At the time, freedom from heterosexual oppression was also taken to mean opposing conventional, heterosexual beliefs about what constituted acceptable forms of sexuality.  Gay writers like John Rechy idealized and glamorized the sexual outlaws who sexually engaged with anonymous and multiple partners.  It was a time when calling someone “promiscuous” could reasonably be interpreted as envy of that person’s sexual prowess.

This early movement called for decriminalizing all consensual sexual activities between adults.  Some would even argue for legalizing sexual activities between adults and minors.  Sexual liberation meant there could be no bad sex as long as the sex was voluntary.

How times have changed.  Today, the LGBT civil rights movement has shifted its focus from a radical sexual liberation to more conservative issues, like the right to marry, the right to raise children, the right to serve in the military, and access to health care.  The Stonewall’s bottle-throwing drag queens could never have imagined that the movement they fired up would one day bring us Log Cabin Republicans or openly gay evangelical Christians.

How did this happen?  Among other reasons, the sexual outlaws of the 1970s did not envision the devastation of the AIDS epidemic that emerged in the 1980s.   And although the gay liberation movement did not bring about a radical rethinking of acceptable forms of open sexual expression among the heterosexual majority, it did create what might be called a gay consciousness in the general culture.  The generations who came after the sexual liberationists would shape their gay and lesbian identities to suit their own needs.

Thus it appears that while those early sexual transgressors may have paved the way for Mayor Adams to win his election as an openly gay man, the cost of mainstream acceptance has required giving up the more outre elements of sexual liberation.  He should not be surprised if the LGBT community does not support him.  Today, there are millions of kids being raised by gay and lesbian parents.  And just like straight parents, they don’t want politicians coming on to their kids.

Sam Adams and the Double Standard

This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Jim Burroway

January 21st, 2009

In 2005, Sam Adams, then a Portland, Oregon, city councilman, met 17-year-old Beau Breedlove. Adams was 42 at the time. Adams admits now that after Breedlove turned 18, they had a brief romantic liaison. When news of the liaison hit the wires, prominent voices began calling for Adams’ resignation.

In 1992, Jerry Seinfeld, a comedian with a hit television series, met and began dating 17-year-old high school student Shoshanna Lonstein. Seinfeld was 38 at the time. The following year, Seinfeld hit number three in the Neilson ratings, and went to number one in 1994. Seinfeld and Lonstein broke up in 1997. He later met Jessica Sklar and began dating her — even though she had just returned from a three-week honeymoon in Italy when they met. Through it all, Americans voted with their remotes and Seinfeld continued to top the Neilson ratings.

The Portland Tribune thinks Adams should resign because:

We don’t believe the public makes much of a distinction when it comes to a man over 40 having sex with either a 17-year-old or an 18-year-old. And it makes no difference if the teenager is male or female – it’s sexual opportunism, pure and simple.

While we may question the wisdom of Adams taking up with someone so much younger than himself, it should not be the cause of scandal itself. But we know that in the double-standards which apply to gays and lesbians, this is scandalous. In fact, merely being gay is scandalous in many quarters — even in relatively liberal city of Los Angeles. But what Adams did is no more scandalous than the behavior of America’s most beloved comedian of the last decade.

The Portland Oregonian thinks Adams should resign because he lied about the affair:

Adams said this week that he lied because he did not think voters would believe him if he said that his relationship with Breedlove was not illegal. Perhaps he was right, but it was not renewed faith in the judgment of Portlanders that prompted the mayor to come clean with them. It was simply that he was being pressed by the Willamette Week newspaper, and the lie was not sustainable on any of several levels.

So now, Portlanders are left with a mayor whose election was built on a lie.

I hadn’t followed the election, so I don’t know to what extent the mayor’s election was “built on a lie.” Nevertheless, I’m very disappointed in his deplorable lie.

It was about as deplorable as the one President Bill Clinton told about his sexual affair — under oath! Should Adams resign? I seem to recall that Clinton didn’t resign. Not only that, but Clinton left office with a 73% approval rating — the highest of any departing president since polling began seventy years earlier.

But as we all know, a gay man’s affair with an 18-year-old is much, much worse than a straight man’s affair with a 17-year-old. And a lie told by a gay man about his affair is way worse than a lie told by a straight man — under oath! Straight men are forgivable — maybe even adorable in their failings. Gay men aren’t.

That is, if you accept the premise that double standards are acceptable.

Hang in there Mayor. Yes, I’m very disappointed in you. You screwed up (no pun intended) and that screw-up reflects badly on all of us (another double standard, yes, but there it is). But if you’re going to resign, save it for something really important.

I’m disappointed, Sam Adams

Timothy Kincaid

January 20th, 2009

Sam Adams is the newly elected mayor of Portland, Oregon. He is the first openly gay mayor of a major US city. He is also coming under public criticism for a lack of judgment.

In 2005, Sam met a young man with the unlikely name of Beau Breedlove. Beau was 17. The two became friendly and, after Beau turned 18 they had a brief romantic liaison. Sam was 42 and a city councilman.

Now I’m not faulting Sam for finding Beau alluring. Many a relationship has successfully weathered age disparity. And the attentions of a handsome young man can do wonders to the ego when you’ve crossed the 40 divide. And while 18 is awfully young, Beau was also an adult.

But Sam lied. He told the media, the voters, and anyone who would listen that their friendship was simply that of a mentor. And Adams won the election in November May by a landslide.

But surely the Monica Lewinsky scandal has shown us that we can forgive our politicians for their lustful peccadilloes… just don’t lie to us. You can offer “no comment”, you can demand the privacy of your personal life, you can imply that the media is simply prurient, you can “defend the honor of this aide and all aides against besmirchment and insinuation”, but don’t lie.

I’m disappointed in you, Sam Adams.

Gay Mayor Sworn In

Jim Burroway

January 3rd, 2009

Sam Adams, who was elected to replace Portland Oregon’s outgoing mayor Tom Potter, was sworn into office on New Years Day. About 40 people were present, including Adams’ partner Peter Zuckerman. Portland is now the largest U.S. city with an openly gay mayor.

Portland Elects Gay Mayor

Jim Burroway

May 21st, 2008

Portland mayor Sam AdamsPortland elected Sam Adams to be the city’s mayor yesterday, making Portland the largest city so far to elect an openly gay city executive. As of 11:33 PDT last night, he was leading his closest rival, businessman Sho Dozono by a margin of 58% to 34% with 77% of the votes counted.

“I’m running not to be a gay mayor, but a great mayor,” he said after giving his victory speech last night. “But I’m very cognizant, very aware that I’m the first openly gay mayor of a major American city. That’s a real honor”