Friday, September 25, 2009

Christianity and Sexuality: It’s Not 1970 Anymore

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #374, September 25, 2009)

This summer several branches of Christianity have been trying to determine policy concerning gay and lesbian people, either as church members wishing to have their unions blessed or as church members in partnered same-gender relationships wishing to serve as clergy. But I think there’s a flaw in how the issue is being addressed.

Episcopalians, Lutherans, Moravians, and other denominations seem to be approaching this issue from a binary perspective. There are the gays and lesbians over there, and there’s everyone else over here. What do we, the everyone else, do with them, the gays and lesbians?

I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but that’s so quaint. It’s so 1970. That was the “gay liberation” political mindset in the immediate aftermath of Stonewall.

That mindset, that 1970-style conception of the issue, no longer works.

An example: this column recently featured an interview with Buck Angel, a transsexual porn star. Buck was born female but always felt he was a man. After years of substance abuse and three suicide attempts, Buck got sober and got a counselor who recognized that Buck was a female-to-male transsexual. With the help of testosterone and years at the gym, Buck is very much the man he knows he was born to be.

If church governing bodies can’t agree on how to treat garden-variety gays and lesbians, what would they do when faced with someone like Buck Angel? What would they have said to him when he was a self-destructive teenager in a body of the wrong gender? What would they say to him now?

By the 1990s the gay and lesbian community had expanded its self-concept to GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender). And then to the mix can be added the leather/BDSM/fetish community with all its leather-family relationships, including Daddy/boy, Master/slave, Dominant/submissive, and so on.

What emerges is not an issue that can be addressed in binary terms of straight/gay or even in terms of a linear scale like Dr. Kinsey’s. I doubt it could even be expressed with x, y and z coordinates where the z coordinate leaps off the page.

Human sexuality truly is a rainbow with millions of possible hues and shadings. It’s not an issue that can be reduced to x versus y, and all attempts to reduce it to x versus y will lead nowhere.

If people’s horizons can be widened, however, perhaps our human sexual diversity will cease to be viewed as a problem, and instead will be seen as a rich and wonderful asset. Then people, and churches, can begin to deal effectively with things as they are today, rather than as they were in 1970.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Leather Life Interview/Andy Mangels: Leather & Sci-Fi

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #373, September 11, 2009)

Andy Mangels, a long-time leather activist, gay activist, and science-fiction writer and producer, will be one of the featured guests at Gaylaxicon 2009, a GLBT science-fiction convention, Oct. 9-11 at the Doubletree Hotel Minneapolis-Park Place.

You are a very busy, multitalented guy.

At the moment I’m working on a book, two magazine articles, and I’ve been working as a bartender at the local leather bar. It’s a way to keep my mind fresh and not get burnt out on any one thing.

Do you try to tie all your different projects together, or do you keep them separate?

There’s an incredible amount of crossover between the world of the fantastic, i.e. science fiction, fantasy and horror, and the world of fetish. People in the fetish world use their imagination in a way that enhances their sex life and their social life, whereas people who are fans of science fiction, fantasy or horror use their imagination to enhance their intellectual life. So when you get somebody who crosses over from one area to the other, they tend to be very interesting people.

What’s the attraction of leather for you?

It’s often said that our largest sex organ is our brain. In the science fiction field, I’m exercising my brain all the time in a way that makes me enjoy people with fantastic names, and interesting costumes, often who are battling each other or have feuds or are working for greater peace in the galaxy. There’s good and evil, there are all the same tropes that any kind of fiction, or even history, has. It’s just that they’re dressed up and put into a more exciting realm, whether that realm is a superhero setting or an outer-space galaxy or a world of fantasy—

Or a bunch of Tom of Finland guys.

Yeah. The leather realm is not far off from that. I can certainly say that in the leather community there are lots of fantastic costumes, and sometimes people battling each other. There’s a lot of political activism, so there are people who fight for the greater good.

What will you be doing at Gaylaxicon?

I expect I will be doing some panel presentations, perhaps a reading, autograph sessions. I’ll be available to meet and talk with people, and in the evenings hopefully I’ll get to go out and see some of the area’s night life, and leathermen and leatherwomen, and get to mix and mingle as much as I can.

(For Gaylaxicon 2009 information and online registration, visit <>. And check out Mangels’ site at <>.)

PHOTO: Andy Mangels