Monday, May 31, 2010

Troubling Questions About Aaron Vargas

20/20 recently did a story about Aaron Vargas [pictured], who shot to death a man named Darrell McNeill who had allegedly sexually abused Vargas since he was eleven.

Vargas did not go to the police [although other alleged victims did] but went out to McNeill's trailer and shot him dead. No matter how heinous McNeill's acts, he would not have gotten the death penalty for them, but that's what he got from Vargas. [Vargas claimed that he was afraid McNeill would molest his young daughter.]

However, let me say upfront that I have little sympathy for pedophiles. I am tired of the confusion they cause in that some people mistake men who molest little boys for gay men, who are only attracted to adult males.

But here's where this case gets interesting. Vargas and McNeill apparently continued the sexual relationship long after Vargas became an adult.

A psychologist -- Dr. Michael Welner, I believe -- interviewed on the show seemed to have very little knowledge of this sort of thing, but suggested that Vargas was somehow under McNeill's sadistic control or something along those lines which is why he continued to have sex with him. Maybe.

I don't know. Maybe this is true. On the other hand I think people tend to have sex with other people they're presumably not attracted to for some kind of gain -- monetary or something.

In other words, I think 20/20 only touched the surface on this story. There's a whole lot more going on here that the program didn't reveal. The motive seems to be cut and dry: Vargas killed the man who molested him for years. Yet why now? What was the true reason behind his sudden actions?

Reporter Chris Cuomo asked Vargas about the adult sex he had with McNeill and what that might indicate about someone, and Vargas responded that you might think that someone who did that was "'a fag." [So right away we know what Vargas thinks of gay people. And sadly, maybe of himself? Self-hatred 101 anyone?] Cuomo immediately said/corrected him: "they might think you were gay." Italics mine.

One might also wonder why it was necessary to murder McNeill to supposedly keep him away from Vargas' daughter [assuming he had any interest in molesting her in the first place]? It seems Vargas could just tell the guy to stay the hell away from his home and his daughter -- I mean he had the gumption to shoot him [in front of his wife] -- and tell the child's mother to lock the door if she saw him coming.

Again let me make it clear it's not that I have sympathy for McNeill, but more that the 20/20 program raised so many red flags and other issues. Many of the citizens of Fort Bragg rallied around Vargas but I got the sensation that it wasn't so much they were glad he'd killed a molester, but that they might as well have been cheering that he'd killed a "fag," that to these conservative people there was little difference between the two. The shame for Vargas and for other boys abused isn't so much that they were victims but that they "indulged" in homoerotic activities.

That's another problem I have with predators like McNeill. They are not "gay men" but they like sex with males. But they are not part of the Out and Proud Healthy, Accepting Gay Community, but rather are closeted hypocrites who victimize children who can't defend themselves. McNeill portrayed himself as a married heterosexual pillar of the community, while he had sex with men and boys. Was it more about power than anything else? Untouched by gay liberation these sad, pathetic creatures fuck up their own lives as well as others. One man reported that his younger brother committed suicide due to McNeill's actions, or at least that was what he felt had happened.

I've no doubt that some of the boys McNeill allegedly molested were born gay. But their first homoerotic experience was not a healthy, positive, mutual one, but one of rape and molestation. One man interviewed on the program who claimed to be McNeill's victim was such a positive portrait of self-loathing that it was hard to look at him. [I wanted to say to this guy, okay, being molested by a man doesn't make you, or mean that, you're gay, but if you are gay, it's okay! Not okay to be molested, of course, but okay to be gay.] It may be possible that some heterosexual victims of male-male child abuse can become confused about their orientation -- maybe -- but I've no doubt that some gay victims may find it impossible to ever feel good about being gay.

I can't quite bring myself to cheer for Aaron Vargas, however, not only because he circumvented the justice system and prevented some of his fellow victims from getting the closure they may have gotten by seeing McNeill on trial and facing his accusers, but because I have this nagging doubt that it wasn't [or at least wasn't just] his alleged molestation that drove Vargas to murder McNeill. There's something else going on here.

We may get the answers someday, but we probably won't get them from 20/20 -- or Aaron Vargas.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Of Newsweek and Gay Actors


A recent article in Newsweek has some [professional] gay activists and gay actors upset, and I can't blame them.

The article claims that straight actors can play gay but gay actors have a problem playing it straight.

According to the author, a Ramin Setoodeh, this is even a problem when the actor is non-stereotypical. He thinks that because the audience knows the actor is gay, they won't or can't accept him in straight, especially romantic, roles.

The latter point may have some validity to it, but it seems to me that if an actor is really good in his or her role, the audience will forget that they're acting and accept them in the part.

Another point the Newsweek author misses, incredibly, is that actors act. It may be impossible for some stereotypical gay guys to act butch on stage or on camera, but I have seen cases where even a "queen" can act very masculine when called for. I have met actors off-stage who were very butch in a play but rather femme in real life as well as vice versa. I remember even Harvey Fierstein played a straight gangster in a movie and was marvelous and completely convincing. That's why it's called acting.

Rock Hudson certainly had no trouble loving up the ladies in his movies and while he may not have been a great actor, he came off as convincingly "hetero." In fact, it annoys the hell out of me whenever someone -- gay or straight -- suggests that there's no chemistry between a leading man and a lady [or the other way around] because one of them is gay. Often you have two straight actors playing lovers and there's still no chemistry. Some people think the two actors have to be screwing off-screen before they can be believable as a couple. The truth is that a lot has to depend on such factors as basic acting ability, how realistic a couple they make in the first place [65-year-old guy and babe of 20?), and an intangible rapport between the two actors that may or may not show up on camera.

I don't know anything about Ramin Setoodeh. Don't know if he's straight or gay, or if he's gay whether he's Out and Proud or some self-hating homo, all I know is that with his ill-advised Newsweek column he's taken a giant step backward.

With its shrinking readership, let's hope Newsweek doesn't influence producers who were thinking of hiring a gay actor for an important straight role -- including a romantic lead -- and now may think twice about it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Sad Good-bye to Harry

I met Harry Weider (pictured), who died last month, at a party and was immediately taken with him. Harry was a Gay, Jewish, Disabled Dwarf, and he fought for rights for all of those groups. Life gave him a lot of issues to deal with, and he dealt with them with intelligence, humor, and tenacity. He was a very sweet and likable man. He was active in ACT UP, which fought for the rights of AIDS patients, served on community boards, and was always an advocate for the disabled and gay people.

In his late fifties, Harry had just started getting into opera. Knowing I was into opera and had written one tome on the subject, he emailed me a few times on the subject in general and on specific operas that he was planning to see. His always lively e-letters were always intelligent and opinionated in the right way. We also discussed the best places to go have a drink, as not every bar was comfortable for a man who had trouble walking and sitting. [Apparently he had a hearing impairment as well, which I was completely unaware of. I assume he was able to read lips.]

He frequently asked me to meet him for a drink, but unfortunately, the timing was always off. I hope he didn't think I was blowing him off, because I thought he was a genuinely fascinating person and wanted to know him better. Reading various tributes to him I realize that there was a lot I didn't know about him, a lot I didn't get the chance to appreciate.

I got a message from Harry via Facebook a few months ago, importuning me to sign up so that I could look at his "stories and photos." Well, I signed up, went to his profile, and discovered that there was nothing there but his name and photograph. The next time I saw Harry I said, "I only signed up for that thing because you wanted me to see your stories and pictures and there was nothing there." Harry laughed and said, "That's because I haven't put anything on there yet!"

Some of the tributes I read about him by fellow board members and politicians with whom he crossed swords focus -- in my opinion, too much perhaps -- on his feistiness, albeit affectionately, but he was also a good-natured man with a great sense of humor and warm personality.

Harry was leaving one of the frequent meetings he attended when he was struck and killed by a cab. He died on a Thursday. His funeral was on the very next day, which unfortunately meant that he was buried before many of his friends and acquaintances even knew of his death. I know there are a great many people who would have loved to have been able to pay their last respects to him, although a great many people did attend.

He is survived by his mother, a Holocaust survivor. My heart goes out to her.

So, I'll have a drink to Harry's memory tonight. And hope that wherever he is, he's givin' 'em hell and having fun.

You can read more about Harry here.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Gay and Running for Office?-- Bring Out the Girlfriend!

Well, I at least find this amusing.

In Philadelphia two people are running for the House in a heavily gay district that is known as the "gayborhood."

One of them is a lady named Babette Josephs. The other is a man named Gregg [more on that spelling later] Kravitz, who is pictured.

Ms. Josephs claims that Kravitz told her he was gay.

Gay. Not bisexual. Not straight. But gay.

[Okay, let's get to the spelling of that name. I know I am always railing against stereotyping and the like, but whenever I see a guy who spells his name with two consonants at the end -- you know, Ronn instead of Ron, Donn instead of Donn, or Gregg instead of Greg -- I always think: gay. No offense, but I find it kind of, well "queeny."]

Anyway Since Gregg with two "g"s told Ms. Josephs that he was gay, the lady was a bit surprised when he showed up with a young lady in tow, and introduced her as his girlfriend -- not gal pal or female friend, but someone he is dating.

Now -- just when he's running for office -- Gregg with two "g"s has suddenly become "bisexual."

See, Gregg wants to have his cake and eat it too. He can reach out and touch more heterosexual voters by producing the girlfriend -- see , guys, sure I'm queer and all that, but -- wink, wink -- I'm really a reg'lar fella, I got a girlfriend, see --ain't she a babe -- I'm not a total --- sshhh -- fag, I dig chicks just like you do.

But Gregg can also appeal to LGBT voters by claiming to be bisexual, and if you doubt or question or dare to say that a bi guy with a girlfriend is not exactly on the same planet as a homosexual man who can't even get married, you'll just be called "biphobic."

So Gregg-- whatever he may be [but keep those two gs in mind] -- is a fairly clever fellow.

But I feel not clever enough to fool Babs. I mean, Babette.

Ms. Josephs seems to feel that Gregg is actually a straight guy, cynically saying he's gay, then bi [so he can be seen in public with his girlfriend] to get LGBT votes.

But let's remember, he spells his name with two gs.