News

For Those Who Need to Know: Anti-Gay Site Posts Details on Fisting

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Oct 30, 2009

An anti-gay blog has posted information on the hows and whys of fisting as part of an attack against GLBT youth advocate Kevin Jennings.

Anti-gay pundits have continued to hammer at the appointment of Jennings as assistant deputy secretary of eduction whose oversight includes the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools. Among other attempts to smear Jennings, anti-gay extremists have sought to portray Jennings as a supporter of pedophilia by forging tenuous links between him and supposedly pro-NAMBLA individuals and entities. NAMBLA is the North American Man-Boy Love Association, which promotes the decriminalization of sex between adults and minors; Jennings has never voiced suport or approval for the organization, but he did offer words of praise to gay equality pioneer Harry Hay, who in 1983 opined that, "the relationship with an older man is precisely what thirteen-, fourteen-, and fifteen-year-old kids need more than anything else in the world."

Moreover, anti-gay pundits, including commentators at Fox News, accused Jennings of doing nothing more than two decades ago when he learned that a student at the Massachusetts school where he taught at the time was having gay sex with an older man. However, that student--now a grown man--stepped forward to correct the false news stories by pointing out two facts: at the time of his conversation with Jennings, the man had been 16 years old, the legal age of consent in Massachusetts; moreover, the man said, he had not actually had sexual contact with the older individual about whom he told Jennings.

The Huffington Post noted in an Oct. 5 article that Fox News had quietly posted a notice of correction online regarding some of the false claims it had broadcast about Jennings. Other anti-gay blogs and news sites, howebver, did not follow suit.

Anti-gay activists have continued to hurl accusations at Jennings, faulting him for the so-called "Fistgate" affair in which a Massachusetts resident, Scott Whiteman, surreptitiously taped what was supposed to have been a safe venue for students to receive factual information about sexuality and safer sex in 2000. The recording was broadcast, and the episode continues to be used by anti-gay groups as "evidence" that gays have a program to "corrupt" children.

The meeting was facilitated by three employees of the Massachusetts Department of Education; Jennings was not present, but he is faulted for the incident because the GLBT youth advocacy organization he founded, the Gay Lesbian Straight Education NEtwork (GLSEN) sponsored the panel discussion, which took p[lace at Tufts University, as part of its tenth "Teach Out!" program. Jennings had also delivered an address to panel attendees, according to anti-gay blogs.

The anti-gay blog Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, which is headed up by longtime GLBT foe Peter LaBarbera, posted excerpts from Whiteman's 2000 affidavit, in which Whiteman sought to have charges brought against the three Massachusetts state employees who facilitated the panel discussion. The posting noted that, "Homosexual activists ended up suing Whiteman and [MassResistance leader Brian] Camenker [who incited Whiteman to make the recording]... incredibly citing the 'privacy' rights of the students in the 'Queer Sex & Sexuality' workshop."

Though the posting did not offer a rationale for why students attending what was meant to be a safe and factual panel discussion in a welcoming venue free of hostility and judgment were not entitled to privacy, it did purport to contain explicit information about fisting--a sexual practice in which an individual's hand is inserted into an orifice (anal or vaginal) or a receptive partner. At one point, a facilitator explained that fisting was not done with a closed fist; an illustration accompanying the posting shows a closed fist, however, which is surmounted by the letters M.A.F.I.A.

The discussion covered other topics as well, including definitions of sexual contact and questions relating to oral sex, and the affidavit clearly indicates that the teenagers present at the panel discussion were sexually experienced, as they offered their own opinions about sexual practices and etiquette.

The LaBarbera-authored posting that contained the excerpt from Whiteman's affidavit asserted that Jennings "should have been banned from working with schoolchildren because of it (and for allowing a "youth" panel on "queer sex" in the first place). That is, if liberal educationists and the media truly cared as much about kids as they do about advancing trendy agendas. Instead, Jennings has been promoted to one of the highest positions in the world of education."

LaBarbera and Camenker were both in Maine earlier this week, as part of a press conference organized by Maine Grassroots Coalition, an anti-gay group headed by equality opponent Paul Madore, seeking to convince voters to support a ballot initiative that would rescind the right of Maine's gay and lesbian families to wed. Among other accusations, LaBarbera said that the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force operated from "one of the most radical sexual agendas ever conceived," suggesting that the group sought to repeal laws banning prostitution and public sex.

Those claims were soundly rejected by the Task Force's national field director, Dan Hawes, who called LaBarbera's assertions "just ridiculous."

The official organization promoting the passage of the repeal of gay rights in MAine, Stand for Marriage MAine, was quick to distance itself from LaBarbera, Camenker, and the Maine Grassroots Coalition, with Stand for Marriage Maine spokesperson Scott Fish saying, "We disavow anything said today as being in any way connected to the Stand for Marriage Maine campaign.... Whatever was said today was simply the words of the people speaking at the press conference."

The illicitly made recording of the March 25, 2000 panel is still available at the Web site of Camenker's group MassResistance, which opposes LGBT equality, including marriage and family equality. Text at the site reads, "Have you wondered what homosexual activists do when they are alone with kids in the tax-funded "gay clubs" in schools and other activities? It's not pretty. In fact, it's very disgusting. Now you can hear for yourself."

The Web site's text boasts that the group distributed copies of the recording widely. "When we revealed this to the world a few months later it made national news. It was reported in all the Boston media--radio, TV and newspapers--and several national networks. FOX News came to Boston from New York to report on it. We made sure that each member of the Massachusetts Legislature was given a copy of the tape."

The mainstream media, however, has been supportive of Jennings, and the president has stood by him. The Baltimore Sun published an Oct. 23 op-ed praising Obama for refusing to take the bait, and acknowledging Jennings' contributions to school safety.

Stated the op-ed, "President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have shown leadership by not giving in to anti-gay extremists.

"They know that Kevin Jennings, assistant deputy secretary for education, who heads up the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, is the right person for the job."

The op-ed noted Jennings' unparalleled qualifications for the post, stating, "For more than a decade, he was teacher and later a principal. He has been recognized for his excellence, earning awards from the prestigious National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National Education Association. These organizations have both released statements in support of Jennings."

The article recollected Jennings' founding of GLSEN. "In 1990, he founded the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN). He and the organization have created innovative programs to combat homophobia in our schools and the violence that flows from it."

The op-ed pointed out that a number of lawmakers had fallen in line behind the attempt to oust Jennings by loudly proclaiming spurious accusations against him. "Recently, 53 Republican members of Congress sent a disingenuous letter to Obama urging him to fire Jennings. It's clear from that letter their main objection is Jennings is gay," the op-ed continues.

"They accuse him of 'pushing a pro-homosexual agenda in America's schools.' Actually, GLSEN's mission, as it states on its Web site, www.glsen.org, is to see that 'every member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.'"

The Sun's op-ed noted that the lawmakers' letter repeated the baseless claims against Jennings in the matter of the student who had spoken with him. "The most disgusting element in the letter is the smear that Jennings 'ignored the sexual abuse of a child' when a '15-year-old' told Jennings he had an affair with an older man.

"The 'child' was actually 16, the legal age of consent in Massachusetts. Further, the 16-year-old in question, who is now 38, told CNN he never actually had any relations with an older man.

"So let's be clear," the op-ed added. "Republicans are out to get Jennings because of who he is. They want to revive their pet wedge issue. They are using Jennings to score points against Obama and to energize their right-wing base.

"Their campaign is reprehensible."

The op-ed went on to cite the progress that GLSEN has made in combating anti-gay sentiment in America's public school, but noted that there was more to be done: in particular, the op-ed recalled that this year alone, two 11-year-old boys had killed themselves because they suffered so much at the hands of their classmates, who tormented them because they perceived the boys to be gay.

Noted the op-ed, "Jennings has been a leader against bullying of every stripe in our schools, against violence from whatever corner, against drug use wherever it crops up."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


Comments

  • BB, 2009-10-31 13:03:56

    People who intrude sex of any sort into elementary schools are interferring with parental rights and have no business in positions of power. Schools are not the place for any of this crap and Jennings needs to go.


  • Thad, 2009-10-31 15:03:44

    Excuse me? Who’s introducing sex into elementary schools? I think not Kevin Jennings, who’s working for safer schools. Who is?


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