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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Are Gays Really Just 1.6% of the U.S. Population?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal government’s watchdog for health statistics has just released a 2013 National Health Survey on its gay citizens, which it compiled by having the Census Bureau interview 33,557 adults between the ages of 18 and 64.  The actual report can be found at  The government began by asking respondents their sexual orientation.  Only 1.6% of those willing to be interviewed self-identified as gay, with another .7% announcing that they were bisexual.  This is the lowest estimate of the number of gays in the country produced in modern times and it’s caused quite a stir.  Homophobes were thrilled, with one blogger exclaiming, “The CDC is doing a service, because it has clearly de-bunked the ‘10% of the population’ claim that the gay-rights movement has routinely pushed,” and another stating that even this new number is too high: “This comes from the Obama machine, trying to normalize their perversions. . . . The real number is less than 1/10th of 1%.”  (Some people are never satisfied.)  Many rightwing commentators bloviated that if there are that few gays in the country they're seriously over-affecting the national scene, and have way too much political clout.  One asked, “Does every TV show have to have a gay character if there are so few of them around?”

I’ve explained before on this blog why the true number of gays and lesbians in the country is at least ten percent [click on these links: “How Many Homosexuals Are There in the World,” November 8, 2010 at and “Homosexuality: The Iceberg Theory,” April 25, 2010 at].  Must I now retreat from that claim, nibbling humble pie? 

Nope.  Ten percent or higher is still my number and this blog post explains why.

Getting accurate statistics about homosexual desire is an almost impossible task. The reasons are obvious: in most countries homosexuality is so buried that people will not answer questions truthfully about it, or, even if they do, they may not know the truth. I lied to myself until age 32 about whether I was a homosexual, and during that period I would certainly have answered “no” to a questionnaire on point, even though in reality I was always a homosexual. In a 1993 study questionnaires were mailed to thousands of American men asking about their sexual orientation. There was a large no-response rate, and those responding proudly declared they were very heterosexual. As a follow-up to the no-response questionnaires, the study leaders sent women with clipboards to ring doorbells and ask men the questions orally. Of the men willing to talk to the women, almost none said they were gay. So the study’s ultimate conclusion was that homosexuals made up only 1% of the population of the United States. This ridiculous nonsense was much derided by experts in statistical analysis and by gay people themselves.  At the 1993 "March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation" this was a popular button worn by marchers:


This new survey suffers from similar problems.  People and households were contacted and asked if they were willing to participate in the study, which was done face-to-face, with follow-up telephone interviews.  I believe that huge numbers of them lied about their sexual orientation, and here is a list of the reasons why:

1.  Married People.  Almost all of the married male/female couples said they were both straight.  Well . . . duh . . . of course they would!  If you’re gay and in a marriage with a person of the opposite sex you don’t suddenly come out to him/her when a government worker with a computer comes a-calling. You lie and avow complete heterosexuality.  But back in the days when I went on gay dating websites looking for love/lust, about half of the men who contacted me were married (at which point I refused to get involved).  I was once married to a woman myself and didn’t admit to her that I was a homosexual until I decided that even though it would break up our marriage it was the honorable thing to do [see “The Aging Gay Activist,” March 24, 2012 at, “I Married a Hippy,” April 14, 2010 at], and “Marijuana and Me,” July 11, 2010 at].

2.  Kids Under 18.  For the children in the home under 18 the parents revealed their sexual orientation and—wouldn’t you just know it?—there were almost no gay children.  But a fairly recent study of high school students in the Washington area had it that 15.3% of respondents identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual.  Hmm. 15.3%?  What will that number be when they get older?  At the magic age of 18 will they suddenly become so heterosexual that it will shrink to 2.3%?

3.  It’s the Federal Government at the Door!  In 2014 when everyone is suspicious of the government for overzealous information gathering and invasion of privacy, how many gay people want a federal record of their sexual orientation to go into the national data base?  You’d have to be very, very comfortable with both your sexual orientation and your place in the world before you answered truthfully.

4.  Self-Identification Often Comes Late.  Many gay people don’t come out, even to themselves, until fairly late in life.  As I said above, I was 32 before I finally admitted the truth, even though on some level I always knew but—embarrassed and confused—hid the answer deep inside.

Alfred Kinsey
The most reliable statistics on sexual orientation we have came from at time when the issue was so hidden that a private research study on all sexual issues (like masturbation, number of partners, fidelity to spouse, etc.), done anonymously, could get people to tell the truth.  In the late forties and early fifties, Dr. Alfred Kinsey and associates at Indiana University published ground-breaking studies of human sexuality in the male and female: Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953).  The most shocking chapters gave the world the first statistics on homosexuality, and surprised everyone by coming to the conclusion that more or less ten percent of those interviewed (and many thousands of subjects were interviewed) were predominantly homosexual for at least three years of their adult life.  Kinsey devised a scale by which to measure homosexual orientation; the scale goes from “zero” (totally heterosexual) to “six” (totally homosexual), with the numbers in between reflecting increasing homosexual desires. Someone who is truly bisexual would be a "three" on the Kinsey scale. The fives and sixes on Kinsey’s scale (predominantly and totally homosexual) total to around ten percent, which is where that oft-heard ten percent estimate of the number of homosexuals comes from. [This is only a rough description of Kinsey’s scale, which is actually more complicated than that, particularly for females, but it will do for this discussion.]  The Kinsey statistics have been attacked, but have stood the test of time.  The Kinsey scale:

0- Exclusively heterosexual with no homosexual
1- Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual
2- Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual
3- Equally heterosexual and homosexual
4- Predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual
5- Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual
6- Exclusively homosexual

I think the Kinsey scale is right in that people have very different attractions to homosexual behavior, but
I also think Kinsey got the percentages wrong. The number of gays is still underestimated.  Kinsey himself recognized the difficulties that bother me.

The first is that Kinsey only interviewed volunteers who were willing to talk about the most intimate aspects of their sex life. Granted that Kinsey found many such people, but they can hardly be representative of the whole population, particularly where the subject is as alarming as is the topic of homosexuality. My father was a student at Indiana University when Kinsey took his survey and was in fact one of the people Kinsey interviewed. Had I been in his place and one of Kinsey's assistants had asked me if I, Douglas Whaley, would be willing to grant an anonymous interview about my most private sexual thoughts, I would have stiff-armed the assistant immediately and fled the scene in absolute terror. In my own college days I was still caught in the throes of societal homophobia, and I was not even talking to myself about homosexual urges. I dare say this is true of many, perhaps most people who later admit the truth and “come out.” Indeed, in the 1940s a large percentage of those aware of their homosexual desires must have been most unwilling to be interviewed by Kinsey and his crew.  The Kinsey statistics have been attacked, but have stood the test of time; see the discussion in Wikipedia at  

Another difficulty with the Kinsey percentages lies in the definition of “homosexuality.” Even if Kinsey had a definition for the term (and he did), his subjects were not likely to appreciate it, and their own internalized homophobia would lead them so stretch everything they could into a heterosexual mold. My father, for example, believed that the excited recipient in an oral sexual encounter was not engaged in a homosexual act and could therefore truthfully answer “no” to the question of homosexual attractions. I hold that there are more people in the middle part of the Kinsey scale than anyone (even me) suspects. These people don't think of themselves as “homosexuals,” but they have some homosexual desires, and many of them on occasion act upon them. What they don't do is admit that this is happening. These people are the submerged portion of the iceberg. 

What we really need is a completely anonymous study where people truly believe that they can tell the truth about their sexual orientation without repercussions. Sociologists should try a large scale use of “clickers” on a representative group; that should prove illuminating [see “Clickers,” March 17, 2012 at]. Some headway has been made on the internet.  For a website finding that that with anonymous clicking the Kinsey scale increased the categories 5 and 6 to 16% of the population, see

Finally, okay, what if I’m wrong?  Let’s suppose that none of those things mentioned above skewered the results and that every one of the 2013 respondents both answered truthfully and were not wrong in their own self-assessment—and thus only 2.3% of the U.S. population is gay or bisexual. That would still amount to 7,222,000 people (almost 2 million more than the number of Jews in this country).  If these gay/bi folks were all living exclusively in the same state that state would be the thirteenth largest state in the country, bigger than 37 others.  Wouldn’t it be a mistake to discriminate against an entire state that large?  Does it then lessen the harm if the people are disseminated around the country? 

Let’s see if we can’t we agree on the following idea: the reasons for treating any minority the same as the majority shouldn’t depend on the number of people involved, but on the basic decency of granting fair treatment to all U.S. citizens.

Related Posts:

“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013 at

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Does the Bible Condemn Homosexuality and Gay Marriage?


In the battle over gay marriage (which I’m pleased to say is going very well, and, as I’ve predicted in Related Posts below, is highly likely to be over by the end of June 2015 when the Supreme Court next addresses the issue), there have been a spate of recent letters to The Columbus Dispatch explaining that the bible condemns homosexuality and calls for marriage to be celebrated solely between one man and one woman.  This post addresses those assertions.

1.  Is Homosexuality Condemned by the Bible?

Alas, yes it is.  There have been valiant attempts through the years to take each of the biblical passages doing this and explain them away, but in my opinion they fail to convince any objective reader, even one who has read these explanations carefully.  The most famous text-by-text discussion of how the biblical passages can be supposedly read not to make homosexuality sinful is the famous book by John Boswell “Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality” (1980).  It’s a scholarly work, much praised, and the copy I bought when it came out and heavily marked up just as my own adventures in gay activism began still sits on my shelves in an honored position. 

            a.  Sodom and Sin.  God’s destruction of the city of Sodom is often referenced by today’s Christians as demonstrating the sinfulness of homosexuality, but Boswell points out that homosexual acts are never specifically mentioned in the story except as possible threats to the visiting angels.  His major thesis and that of many scholars is that Sodom was destroyed for its inhospitality to visitors, a major sin in early days.  It’s certainly used that way by Jesus when he said to his disciples:

Whosever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet.  Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.

[Matt. 10:14-15].  Even if Boswell’s reading of the story is right, centuries of misreading have equated Sodom’s fate with homosexuality and an attempt to persuade devout Christians of the wrongness of their interpretation will be dismissed without investigation.

            b.  Other Old Testament Passages.  Leviticus states “Thou shall not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination” [18:22] and “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them” [20:13].  Those look difficult to refute, but Boswell is up to the task, explaining that they only forbid ritual impurities and not moral wrongs (comparing it to the prohibition of eating non-Kosher foods).  Since St. Paul later freed Christians from the necessity of observing Jewish ritual prohibitions, Boswell contends that these precepts fell by the wayside as well.  To bolster his views Boswell points out that the Old Testament praises “intense love relations between persons of the same gender . . . e.g., Saul and David, David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi.”  Once again this will be a hard sell to devout Christians.

            c.  Dumping the Old Testament.  Another common way of getting around Old Testament prohibitions against homosexuality is to point out that there are many, many prohibitions of things in the Old Testament that we no longer think of as sinful: eating certain foods, wearing certain colors or garments [Leviticus 19:19 “Neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.”], or bizarre notions of fairness like cutting off a woman’s hand because it touched the genitals of a man fighting with her husband:

When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets: Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.

[Deuteronomy 25:11, 12]  If these proscriptions no longer apply in the modern world, the thought goes, neither should supposed condemnations of homosexualty.

         d.  The New Testament.  As is often pointed out, Jesus said nothing about homosexuality (as he wandered about with male companions).  But Paul supposedly condemns homosexuality in three passages.  Boswell disposes of two them [1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10] as mistranslations of “licentious” that have nothing to do with gay sex, but Boswell has a more difficult task with this famous passage from Romans 1:

26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:  27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

Here’s what Boswell has to say about this:

[T]he persons Paul condemns are manifestly not homosexual: what he derogates are homosexual acts committed by apparently heterosexual persons.  The whole point of Romans 1, in fact, is to stigmatize persons who have rejected their calling, gotten off the true path they were once on.  It would completely undermine the thrust of the argument if the persons in question were not “naturally” inclined to the opposite sex in the same way they were “naturally” inclined to monotheism.  What caused the Romans to sin was not that they lacked what Paul considered proper inclinations but that they had them: they held the truth, but “in unrighteousness” (v. 18), because “they did not see fit to retain Him in their knowledge” (v. 28).

He finishes by stating that “Paul did not discuss gay persons but only homosexual acts committed by heterosexual persons.”

Out to the side of this last passage in the margin, the 1980 version of myself had written “GAK!”—the same gasp I always write on essay exams when the student has said something outrageously stupid.  What?  Boswell thinks it’s okay for the bible to condemn bisexuals?  Or maybe just those who are zeros on the Kinsey scale (completely heterosexual) who somehow go crazy one night and have a wild encounter with someone of the same sex?  Since I was fighting for the right of all people to express their sexual orientation in any responsible way, this was an unacceptable conclusion.  We now know that there are not distinct categories of “heterosexuals” and “homosexuals,” and Boswell should have known that in 1980 since Kinsey had made it perfectly clear back in 1948 [see Related Posts below].

Other writers have offered up different explanations to wish away what Romans 1 very clearly says [see, for example, the heartfelt exposition by a young gay preacher on Huffington Post at], but they all ring hollow to me.  If Paul (or for that matter the writers of the Old Testament) had thought his meaning was unclear—that there was any wiggle room so that homosexuality was all right in some circumstances—I’d bet a large amount of money that he’d have written much more on the topic to make it damned certain that he believed homosexuality was a major sin.


2.  Does the Bible Condemn Gay Marriage?

Well, the bible doesn’t actually say a word about gay marriage, though one suspects that its authors would have been appalled at the idea of Adam and Steve exchanging rings.  But the best response to the retort that it does condemn such unions comes from this letter to the editor printed in the Dispatch on June 25, 2014:

I must respond to the Friday letter “Gay marriage runs counter to God’s word” from Tom Duncan.  I am not sure what Bible he is reading, but “God’s word” defines marriage in additional ways. For instance, there are several stories of major characters in the Bible who engaged in polygamy (apparently sanctioned by God). There are several instances of such polygamous male figures also including any number of concubines. Deuteronomy 22:28-29 prescribes that a rapist must marry his victim and pay her father to compensate him for his loss. Genesis 38:6-10 spelled out a requirement that a widow who had not borne a son must marry her brother-in-law. These relics of the Old Testament are just as much a part of God’s word as the verses describing what is now being referred to as “traditional marriage.”

Can we stop taking our moral cues from an ancient, politically assembled collection of myths written by and for people far removed from the modern population?

Blacklick, Ohio



 3.  Conclusion.  When I say that the bible does condemn homosexuality and certainly has no support for gay marriage in it, I don’t worry a bit about that conclusion.  I’m an atheist, and what ancient writings have to say about a homosexuality that its authors didn’t understand is of no moment to me.  The bible was written by heterosexuals (90 percent of people on the planet are predominantly heterosexual), so of course it’s not going to treat gay people well.  At the time it was written it was “them against us” and procreation (which increased the size of our tribe versus their tribe) was important.  The earth has now been overpopulated so that concern is moot, and indeed a wise policy would promote homosexuality to keep births under control.

Many and perhaps even a majority of homosexuals have religious beliefs, and they very much want their religions and its holy books to support their lifestyle.  If those books don’t do that, they’ll either have to accept that unpleasant fact and move on, or try and torture the meaning of the books so that they say something other than what is plainly meant.  I understand that urge, but I’m a lawyer and I’m interested in facts over yearnings.  What is is. 

The answer is simple.  I say let’s stop constructing modern policy from ancient mistakes and get on with doing what’s right and fair based on what we know to be true.

Related Posts:
“The Aging Gay Rights Activist,” March 24, 2010
“Catholicism and Me (Part One),” March 13, 2010
“Catholicism and Me (Part Two),” April 18, 2010
“Homosexuality: The Iceberg Theory,” April 25, 2010
“How To Change Gay People Into Straight People,” September 20, 2010
“How Many Homosexuals Are There in the World?” November 8, 2010
“An Atheist Interviews God," May 20, 2011
“Creating the Bible: Water Into Wine,” April 7, 2013
“Gays Will Be Able To Marry in All States By July of 2016 (and Maybe 2015): A Prediction,”   February 14, 2014
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Friday, June 13, 2014

How To Get Rid of Your Student Loans


The answer is to elect more Democrats to Congress.  The Republicans have made it all but impossible to ever get rid of your student loans, particularly not in bankruptcy proceedings.  If you file for bankruptcy protection from your creditors, no matter how disastrous your financial situation is, you will emerge from the bankruptcy still owing every penny of student debt you incurred, and that debt will follow you to your grave.

It wasn’t always so.  I’m a law professor at The Ohio State University, and I’ll be teaching the course on bankruptcy there this coming fall semester.  Prior versions of the federal Bankruptcy Code allowed student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy where it was clear that there was no way the former student was going to be able to pay them off.  But in 2005 the Republican-controlled Congress pushed through major changes in the Bankruptcy Code, most of which were designed to screw consumers and reward banks.  Deceptively named “The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act” (BAPCPA), the statute made it difficult for many debtors to enter the usual bankruptcy proceeding in which the debtor surrenders all his/her nonexempt property and then is forgiven most outstanding debts, thus getting a fresh financial start.  Instead if the debtor shows any ability to repay those debts BAPCPA denies entry into that sort of bankruptcy and instead forces the debtor into a Chapter 13 plan, which consists of five years of debt repayment before there is a reduced discharge of some debts. 

Whichever version of bankruptcy consumer debtors enter, BAPCPA forbids the discharge of student loan debts unless paying those debts would “impose an undue hardship” on the debtor or his/her dependants [Bankruptcy Code §523(a)(8)].  The courts have construed “undue hardship” very strictly so that mere current inability to pay the debts is not enough to qualify.  Instead it must be obvious that the debtor will never be able to repay.  For example, in one case, Barrett v. Educational Credit Management Corp., 487 F.3d 353 (2007), the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals allowed Mr. Barrett to use “undue hardship” to discharge his student loans because he had Hodgkin’s disease, with lymph nodes in his neck, abdomen, lungs, and liver, and was in pain so great he couldn’t hold up a coffee cup.  This made him unemployable, and there was no hope of recovery.  But it is a rare bankrupt-seeking debtor who is “fortunate” enough to be struck so low as to meet this standard and thus discharge student loans.

Senator Elizabeth Warren
The Federal Reserve reports that unpaid student debt has doubled since 2007 to around $1.3 trillion, with 40 million Americans having student loan debt averaging almost $30,000.  The Democrats keep trying to change things, only to be met with a filibuster in the Senate that kills any hope of relief.  Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), herself a former teacher of bankruptcy law (and a friend of mine) for years now has decried the fact that the federal government bailed out the banks with TARP billions of dollars loaned at ALMOST NO INTEREST RATE while projected to make over $127 billion dollars in profit from student loans over the next ten years.  Just two days ago her bill to allow Americans with student debt to refinance at a lower rate was given a favorable vote in the Senate of 58-38 (with some minimum Republican support while all of the negative votes were Republican), but the bill nonetheless failed. Why?  Because 60 votes is needed to cut off a filibuster, and 58 votes won’t do it.  I’ve thundered before against the stupidity of having to have a “supermajority vote” that filibuster rules require (see “Related Posts” below), and here again that stupidity prevented badly needed progress on this issue.  As her recent (and terrific) autobiography, “A Fighting Chance,” demonstrates—the audio book, which she reads herself is particularly fascinating—Senator Warren worked for years to prevent Republicans from pushing through anti-consumer changes in the Bankruptcy Code, only to be overwhelmed finally in 2005 when BAPCPA was enacted.

Congress is now so deadlocked that legislative relief for student loan debt is not coming soon.  The Republicans have control of the House of Representatives and are hoping this fall’s election will give them a majority in the Senate (they need a gain of six seats).  If that happens then Congress will be able to pass legislation (though the filibuster in the Senate will now switch and aid Democrats in creating a roadblock), but that legislation will certainly not be pro-consumer.  It will be pro-banking lobby.

If you’ve not yet taken out any student loans, don’t do so unless you are certain you will be able to repay them.  Instead work part time during college and pay for your degree as you go.  If you must take out loans, get them from your parents, or take out loans that are not earmarked for student educational purposes (i.e., general loans), which would be dischargeable in bankruptcy.

And, if this is an issue you care deeply about, stop voting for Republicans for Congress.

Related Posts:
Killing the Filibuster and Letting the Majority Rule in the Senate,” December 31, 2013
“Elena Kagan and Me,” March 23, 2010 (about Elizabeth Warren)
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Saturday, May 31, 2014

My Husband, the Actor


When I married David Vargo last November I knew he was a fine actor and that he’d done much  professional work earlier in life.  But last month all of his things from Florida were finally brought to our home in Ohio and he’s been unpacking them.  As this happened I’ve asked him to particularly share theatrical memorabilia, and what a treasure trove that has produced!  This blog highlights some of his adventures on the stage.

David started early.  Here he is mugging on the stage in Oscar Wilde’s “Birthday of the Infanta” at a Florida Theater Convention in 1964 when he was only six:

[Click To Enlarge]

David starred in plays in both high school and college.  His reviews were terrific.  In 1978, when he was 20, he appeared as one of the leads in Broward Community College’s production of the musical “The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd.”  A review in the Hollywood FL Sun-Tattler was headed “David Vargo Gives Stunning Performance,” and in praising the entire show the reviewer had this to say:
           If laurels are, in fact, to be awarded for this show, the biggest wreath must go to David Vargo, who is almost certainly destined for a meteoric rise to the top, if pure talent is any indicator of imminent success.  His characterization of Cocky, the poignant, Chaplinesque anti-hero who always comes out the loser in the game of life, is stunning.  His song that ends the first act, “Who Can I Turn To?”, the anguished cry of a trapped, frustrated human reduced to little more than an animal, is shattering.
The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd

In his teens David had studied Shakespeare at the Magdalene College in Oxford, England (where he appeared in both “MacBeth” and “Midsummer Night’s Dream”), and in the early 1980s he went to NYC to enroll in the National Shakespeare Conservatory and concentrate on acting Shakespeare.  Following that he did a good deal of professional and semi-professional work with theater companies in Florida, where he had an Equity card.  He played a number of parts in the state play of Florida, “Cross and Sword,” an outdoor drama written by the famous Paul Green, working his way over a three year period up to the lead role. 

With the same company David did a large number of other shows, including singing the role of the Pirate King in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance.”

Returning to his native city of Fort Lauderdale he participated in a great many productions with the Public Theater, both acting and directing.

As Billis in "South Pacific"

Algernon, left, in "The Importance of Being Earnest"
And now David’s in Ohio and about to play the role of a lifetime: William Shakespeare himself! The production, entitled “Elizabeth Rex,” is opening this coming week, produced by Evolution Theatre Company at the Columbus Performing Arts Center.  Details can be found on ETO’s website at  In the play, William Shakespeare, on his deathbed, remembers a night when Queen Elizabeth commanded his company to perform for her while her lover, Lord Essex, was being executed by her own order.

With Peggy Reasoner and Mark Phillips Schwamberger

I trust the Ohio part of David’s theatrical career will be as rewarding as his past triumphs.  I’m very proud to be married to this amazing man.

Related Posts:
“Falling in Love, Turning 70, and Getting Married,” October 21, 2013
“Douglas and David Get Married,” December 20, 2013
“Some Lottery Winners Score $400 Million”—An April Fool’s Day Joke,” April 11, 2014

Friday, May 16, 2014

Satan in Oklahoma, Prayers in the Supreme Court: All Hell Breaks Loose

Oklahoma Statehouse
Some interesting things are coming together at the same time.  In Oklahoma there’s a push to erect a monument to Satan which would be erected right next to a display of the Ten Commandments on the State Capital grounds.  The latter was placed there in 2012, a donation from one of the legislators, and it immediately birthed a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union demanding it be removed because putting up the Ten Commandments violated the Constitution’s restriction against favoring one religion over another.  Ah, but is Satanism a real religion?  Apparently so, according to Wikipedia, and, indeed, a Satanist already won a Supreme Court case back in 2005 allowing him to practice his religion while in prison. 

If you’re shocked by the idea of a statue to Satan on public property, wait until you see the statue itself.  Here is a photo:

The Satanists are having the statue built in New York and also taking the precaution of making a mold so that it can be easily duplicated in the (likely) event the original is damaged by vandals. 

The Ten Commandments now on the Oklahoma
Statehouse grounds has some spelling issues.

If you’re still shocked, ask yourself if there’s any difference between erecting the Ten Commandments and the statue of Satan.  If your answer is that one is traditional and one not, know that the Constitution has no such escape clause: governments simply can’t favor one religion over another, not even old ones over new ones.  What they can (and should) do is stay out of the religion business entirely.  Take down the Ten Commandments and the Satanists would have to find another venue for their statue (say, for example, the Texas Statehouse lawn, which also has the Ten Commandments on display).

Jonathan Smith has written an amusing account of the whole incident, along with photos; see

Outside the U. S. Supreme Court

But wait, didn’t the United States Supreme Court just allow Christian prayers at the start of town meetings?  Yes, it did (shamefully), in a case called Town of Greece, New York. v. Galloway, handed down a week or so ago.  The Court (five conservatives in favor, four liberals dissenting) held that such prayers are allowed as long as the town is willing to let others lead opening prayers if they wish, including (gasp!) atheists, but noted that the small town involved mostly has only Christians churches in the local community.  The lawsuit was brought by a Jew and an atheist, who objected to being forced into the awkward position of enduring such prayers just as they were appearing before the town council hoping to persuade it to grant some petition or other they were urging.  What should they do during such prayers?  Bow their heads?  Join in?  Stand defiantly with heads erect (and how sympathetic would that make the town council to their subsequent pleas?).  Here is a sample of an actual prayer at a Greece town meeting (taken from the Record of the case):

Lord, God of all creation,.... We acknowledge the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. We draw strength ... from his resurrection at Easter. Jesus Christ, who took away the sins of the world, destroyed our death, through his dying and in his rising, he has restored our life. Blessed are you, who has raised up the Lord Jesus, you who will raise us, in our turn, and put us by His side.... Amen.

How would a Jew feel if forced to stand through such a prayer?  How about an atheist?  When I was heavily involved in gay rights in Columbus, Ohio, thirty years ago we had a Columbus City Council meeting in which the council was going to vote on whether to grant employment protection regardless of sexual orientation.  The issue was very contentious and the council chambers (and the balcony) were packed to the rafters, with about 2/3 of those present being churchgoers trucked in by bus from a small nearby city, and the other 1/3 supporters of the ordinance.  The chaplain began the meeting with a very long prayer that at one point said something like, “Preserve us, Our Lord God, from the godless hoards who would impose their evil ways on the good citizens of Columbus, and pervert our laws with sin.”  When he was done, Craig Covey, the President of Stonewall Columbus muttered to me, “I want to do a rebuttal to the prayer.”  One wonders whether the Supreme Court would have approved that sort of religious message at the start of a meeting addressing a thorny issue like this one.

Will Satanists now be allowed to offer a prayer at public meetings in Greece, New York?  Surely the answer is yes, although that will rankle as many citizens as will the satanic statue going up in Oklahoma.  [I should note that as an atheist I don’t believe in Satan any more than I do God, and would object to either being allowed a place in public deliberations.  My point is that atheists are definitely not Satanists.]

These issues won’t go away and will cause hell to break loose until the Court finally comes to the only sensible conclusion: the First Amendment’s Freedom of Religion means that the government must stay out of picking and choosing which religion to sponsor, and leave that up to the people themselves.
Related Posts:
"The Aging Gay Rights Activist," March 24, 2010
"Atheists, Christmas, and Public Prayers," December 9, 2011

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How To Have a Playreading at Your Home and Turn Your Friends Into Actors

Since I was in high school I’ve always used playreadings as my primary social event when gathering friends together.  Many people would love to try their hands at acting, and if they can easily read out loud and have a sense of fun, then I suggest you invite them over for a playreading in your house at a scheduled time and date.

Here are the steps I go through when I invite you for one of my playreadings:

1. Choose a Play.  The first time you do this, and for most of the subsequent times, choose a light comedy.  These playreadings are for fun only, and no one pretends that high art is expected to occur.  Instead the goal is lots of laughter.  After all, at my playreadings alcohol is served.  Years ago there was a great older woman named Kitty who was one of the regulars at what came to be called performances by “The Whaley Players.”  She was very good at playing her various parts even though she drank quite a bit.  As the reading reached near the end she’d start having trouble getting the lines right or even reading them at all, but Kitty handled that with aplomb—she simply made up what seemed appropriate, and frequently came up with lines better than the playwright’s. 

What play should you choose to start with?  Most can be found at the library either as a lone volume or in collections of plays.  Others will have to be ordered online—Amazon has a large collection at usually very cheap prices, just search by title—and then duplicate.  Here is a list of proven successes at playreadings:

“The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde.  Very funny, and with eight good roles (four men, four women—the actor playing the butler Lane can double and also play the servant in Act Two).  The text is available online at  

Act Three of "The Importance of Being Earnest"

“Arsenic and Old Lace” by Joseph Kesselring (3 women, six men—with some doubling in the small male roles).  Two elderly women compassionately murder their houseguests.

“The Foreigner” by Larry Shue (2 women, five men).  When an Englishman pretends not to speak English at all while staying at a Georgia Bed and Breakfast chaos ensues.

“Visit To a Small Planet” by Gore Vidal (2 women, four men).  An elegant visitor from outer space means to land in Manassas, Virgina, during the Civil War and witness the battle there, but accidentally ends up in 1951 and nearly causes total destruction of the planet.

“Mary, Mary” by Jean Kerr (2 women, 3 men).  When a man about to remarry is forced to work through tax returns with his ex-wife their old romance is rekindled, causing major complications.

Once you get into these affairs your friends will begin to suggest other plays.  As you move beyond comedies, you can try more serious fare such as plays that became famous movies (for example, “Doubt” or “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”—and with the friends who are very good at this the Whaley Players have done Shakespeare), or even musicals (letting the original cast album perform the songs while guest read the dialogue).
I should note that while some of these plays are English I tell my guests that no one is expected to perform with an English accent (though some do—my husband, David Vargo, is a former professional actor and he can do more or less any accent he needs to assume). 

2.  Assigning Roles.  Read the play yourself before you decide to have the playreading, and as you do so start casting it in your mind.  Remember that the guests are not going to be on the stage, but just reading the parts, so old people can play young ones, men can play women and vice versa, etc.  Some guests might want to read the play ahead of time, but I discourage that.  As I said above, this isn’t high art and I don’t want people working at their roles.  Often I don’t tell them what parts they’ll be reading until I hand them the scripts.  If someone refuses to come without knowing, then fine, let them read it ahead of time, but make sure they know this is will all be quite casual and the others reading it cold. 

3.  Other Issues. 

Royalties?  For these casual in-home fun events no royalties need be paid, though technically copying the plays on a copying machine for handing out to guests would violate the copyright laws. 
Timing?  Most plays can be read in two hours if the host gets right to it shortly after the guests arrive and doesn’t permit too long a break between acts.  After the play is done the evening can last for a good long time, as plot and other matters are rehashed.  
Food and Drink?  I always offer snacks to nibble on during the reading and make sure my guests are well-beveraged (featuring the Whaley martini and a full bar, plus soft drinks, coffee, etc.). 

Through the decades The Whaley Players have read hundreds of plays (for a description of one I organized at the home of now Senator Elizabeth Warren and her husband in 2000 where Elena Kagan was also a member of the cast, see Related Posts below).  At the end of each reading we applaud the performance and then I remind my guests that if there’s a part they’ve always wanted to play, let me know and we’ll try and set up another playreading starring them in that role.  After you’ve had a number of these playreadings you start to develop a stable of reliable people you can call on when you need cast members for the next one.

So, if this sounds like your sort of thing, I highly recommend you give playreadings a trial.  It can lead to hours and hours of great fun with good friends, many of whom will uncover talents they didn’t know they had.

Related Post:
“Elena Kagan and Me,” May 23, 2010

Friday, April 18, 2014

Just Published: My Novel “Corbin Milk,” a Thriller Detailing the Adventures of a Gay CIA Agent

After years of working on it, I’m proud to announce the publication of my thriller “Corbin Milk.”  The novel concerns the adventures of a gay CIA agent, a good-looking and very smart bodybuilder named Corbin Milk for whom the CIA finds the most interesting uses. I got the idea for writing this novel while reading an article in The Advocate, the news magazine of the gay community. The article concerned an anonymous Army captain who was riding slowly through the streets of Bagdad on a tank during the liberation of that city when he locked eyes with a handsome Iraqi man standing on the street. Though it could have gotten them both in major trouble with their respective communities, the two men had a great times thereafter on a number of occasions. Surely, I thought, the CIA would see possibilities in the fact that gay sex is very far off the radar in a heterosexual world. In that world men and women are constantly aware of sexual tensions between two straight people, no matter what the setting—even in church, for example. But that world is more or less blind to similar gay encounters.

The novel has been years in the making, and the whole experience surprised me in a number of ways.  First was how easily it flowed onto the page—more or less writing itself.  The second thing was that, while the novel is clearly a thriller about the exciting (I hope) life of a gay CIA agent in three different venues (a kingdom similar to Saudi Arabia, Amsterdam where Corbin seduces the head of the Russian version of the CIA, and the United States, where Corbin must battle a boss is making sexual moves), what amazed me was that a love story between Corbin and a man named George Yancy became a major part of the novel.  Who knew that I could write a romance about two people struck dumb with their attraction to one another?  This entanglement is particularly inconvenient for Corbin, since it interferes with and threatens to destroy his very successful CIA career.  The final thing was that I was unsatisfied with the ending for a number of years until suddenly last fall the obvious fix occurred to me.  As soon as I had that in place I was ready to publish.  (I should also mention that there's quite a bit of humor in this complicated tale.)

Initially a small publishing company was willing to publish “Corbin Milk,” which was exciting to think about given how hard it is to find a publisher for new novels in the 21st century, but then one of the two founders of the company had a major illness and the company called a halt to all projects.  Eventually I chose the self-publishing route, which has proved such a success for my first novel “Imaginary Friend” (an atheist thriller).  Thus “Corbin Milk” is now available on both and Kindle (I hope to shortly have it available for Apple’s iBook too).  The price is $11.84 for the paperback from Amazon and $2.99 on Kindle.  The cover was designed by my husband, himself a graphic artist, and here it is:

There’s no hard core sex in the novel, though there are scenes in which sex does occur.  Since I wanted the book to be accessible to straight readers as well as gays, I kept the sex to a very vanilla minimum, though I trust it will prove quite erotic in appropriate segments.  At one point Corbin must explore the gay leather world in Amsterdam, and that was major fun both to learn about and then insert into the book.  Experts in both the Netherlands and the leather world were very helpful, particularly the incredible Athena Lyons, once a big name in the straight leather community.

Various snippets of "Corbin Milk" have appeared in this blog (see "Related Posts" below).  “The Thunderbolt” describes how Corbin met George Yancy, the love of his life, at a party in D.C., “How To Change Gay People Into Straight People,” details George's attempts to become a heterosexual, and “Choose To Be Gay, Choose To Be Straight” reprints a segment of the novel in which a five year-old Corbin Milk discovers he is gay.  Finally there were two segments having minor sexual scenes; see “Fifty Shades of Leather: Corbin Milk in the BDSM World,” and "Seducing Straight Men" (which, to my surprise, has been a much-viewed post on this blog, averaging ten hits a day from all over the world).

Mata Hari
I have no knowledge how the actual CIA uses its gay agents, but they’re missing a major opportunity to get inside otherwise impenetrable foreign venues if they ignore how easily a gay sexual liaison might do the trick with no one aware of it other than the participants.  During the early part of the last century Mata Hari did similar things in the heterosexual world even though everyone was watching her (she had a night club act), but her adventures were so obvious that she ended up being executed.  Corbin Milk has a happier ending, and, indeed, he turns up as a minor character in my other published novel, “Imaginary Friend,” where he helps the beleaguered hero escape from his many troubles.
I’m quite proud of “Corbin Milk” and sorry to be done with exploring his and George Yancy’s adventures.  If you read the book, let me know what you think of the final result by writing me at
Oh, and of course thanks for buying this book which was such a pleasure to write.  Should you enjoy it please write a review on  Reviews really help sell a self-published book like this.
Related Posts:
“Frightening the Horses,” April 7, 2010
“Imaginary Friend,” June 22, 2010
“The Thunderbolt,” September 3, 2010
“Listen to Me Reading My Novel on the Radio,” December 11, 2012
“How To Change Gay People Into Straight People,” September 20, 2010
“Choose To Be Gay, Choose To Be Straight,” January 25, 2011
"Seducing Straight Men," March 3, 2011
Fifty Shades of Leather: Corbin Milk in the BDSM World,” December 26, 2012
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013