Which flabbergasted me. Okay, it didn’t completely bewilder me, but several of them insisted that they didn’t have any problem with gay people at all, no sirree, but they just wanted to make certain no one mistook them for a queer person. And I’m always confused when people exhibit that much self-delusion.
Because here’s the thing: if you didn’t have a problem with queer people, it wouldn’t bother you if some people concluded that you were one of us. And feeling a need to be defensive about your sexuality and lack of bigotry means you are bothered.
People will assume all sorts of things about you no matter what you do. When I was in my thirties, for instance, I went through of phase of wearing unusually colored beach pants, and many of them looked tie-dyed. People who saw me wearing them sometimes assumed that I was a Grateful Dead fan—especially if I was wearing the rainbow-colored pair. Which was mostly just confusing, because I was so much not a Dead fan that I usually didn’t understand for the first several sentences of the conversation when some stranger tried to strike up a conversation. But while I’m not and never have been a Deadhead, it didn’t offend me that people sometimes thought I was. It never occurred to me that I should get a button made that said, “Not a Deadhead” nor did I ever think I should stop wearing my rainbow shirts or tie-dyed clothes.
We’ve probably all met straight men who refuse to wear pink. I’ve seen men get apoplectic if their son or another boy of their acquaintance even picks up a pink object, for goodness sake! Which is really hilarious given that just a bit over a hundred years ago pink was considered a very masculine color—ironically because magenta pigment was newly invented and very expensive to manufacture. It’s also hilarious because colors don’t have gender.
Pink isn’t my favorite color, that would be purple. But I’ve known a few straight men who also shy away from purple. It’s true that many people can’t tell lavendar from pink, and many shades of purple blend into the pinkish, but it’s kind of sad that guys who are most likely to insist that they are absolutely confident in their masculinity are the most likely to fear being caught wearing pink or many shades of purple.Of course, that is part of the power of the pussy hat as a political symbol regarding women’s rights. Misogynist prigs are exactly the sorts of men who would feel skeeved out wearing pink. While we’re on the subject, can I just say that the jerks who try to make some sort of argument about how women can’t be upset about rape culture if they’re going to go around wearing a “vagina hat” are utter morons? I mean, I understand that the kind of person who thinks that a pink knit hat with cat ears on it (which is where the pussy comes in) is supposed to be a vagina has never actually look at a vagina.
Yes, I include the married politicians who have made those comments in that category. Remember, these are the same kind of guys who think that tampons are sex toys, that menstrual bleeding is somehow voluntary, and that a woman who isn’t enjoying being raped can’t get pregnant from the act. Their understanding of the anatomy of their spouses is clearly lacking. They may have had sex with their spouse (and possibly other women), but they must be the kind of guy who doesn’t like to look at that part of the body.If you truly do like rainbows, just frikkin’ wear a rainbow. Don’t worry about what other people think. And if you’re actually making the meme or posting the comment on the anonymous site because you’re trying to “four dimensional chess” your way to that give the rainbow back to god argument, stop being a prick. We’re going to wear what we want, whether it is rainbows, pink hats with kitty cat ears, or two-tone purple broad-brimmed hats if we want. And we’re not going to stop doing it because some of you think that we’re making it difficult for you to wear the same colors.
And why do I have a new two-toned purple hat? Because if you’re under doctor’s orders to wear a sun-shading hat all the time so as to reduce the chances of getting another skin cancer, you might as well wear a colorful hat. Life is two short to wear boring browns and muddy greens!
Ed Sheeran singing Rainbow Connection with Kermit the Frog on Red Nose Day 2015:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
But there are a few things to talk about on this year’s finalist ballot and the new rules. Mike Glyer at File 770 does some number sifting in an attempt at Measuring the Rabid Puppies Effect on the 2017 Hugo Ballot. David Gerrold, science fiction author (including perhaps most famously the Star Trek Original Series script, “The Trouble with Tribbles”) and 2015 World Con Guest of Honor sums up a lot of my throughs in a post of Facebook, part of which I excerpt here:
“My seat-of-the-pants analysis (I could be wrong) is that the Hugos are in the process of recovering from the 2015 assault, precisely because the Worldcon attendees and supporters see themselves as a community.
There’s a thought buried in that above paragraph — that communities unite to protect themselves when they perceive they are under attack. This works well when the attack is real, such as Pearl Harbor. But it can also have negative effects when hate-mongers such as Bryan Fischer and Pat Robertson (both of whom were in fine form this week) invent a scapegoat (LGBT people) for unwarranted attacks in an attempt to unite the community around their own agendas.
So while those who have a long history of participation in Worldcons will see this unity as a good thing — those who identify themselves as the aggrieved outsiders will see it as more evidence that the establishment is shutting them out.
Myself, I see it as a collision of two narratives — one that is based on 75 years of mostly healthy traditions, and one that is based on a fascist perception of how the world works.
Most important, however, is that most of this year’s ballot suggests that we are seeing a return to the previous traditions of nominations based on excellence. Most of the nominations are well-deserved, and my congratulations to the finalists.”
I would characterize the two narratives as:
- one thinks that a better tomorrow includes the notion that Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations is a good thing, and
- the other that thinks the world was a better place when the heroes were alway white men and women only appeared in stories for the two purposes of being rescued by the hero and being his reward for a job well done.
But Gerrold’s wording works well, too.
Anyway, because of the drubbing they received the last two years and the rules change, one of the puppy groups essentially folded up shop. The other, realizing that the rules made it nearly impossible for them to take over entire categories, went with a more limited ticket this year. As mentioned in one of the links above, this resulted in them naming about 7% of the nominees, and a few of their picks are complete piles of steaming meadow muffins. Which means in every category we have four or more excellent choices to evaluate and choose from. Not everyone sees this year’s ballot as good news. One puppy apologist tries to claim that this year’s balloting numbers proves that the Hugos have driven off half the fandom (here’s a Do Not Link to his post if you want to read it). Now this is a person who claims that we’ve been telling Christian and conservative fans that they aren’t welcome. Whereas all that has happened is that more than a token number of people of color and an occassion LGBT person has made it onto the ballot.
Anyway, his reasoning is dubious on a mathematical level. First, he shows that the number of nominating ballots dropped by between 42-46% in some categories, and that sounds dire. Until you remember that the number of nominators surged last year way above the usual number precisely because after news got out about how the puppies had piddled on the ballot in 2015, a bit more than 2300 fans who had not previously been voters bought supporting memberships and voted in 2015. The overwhelming majority of those new voters resoundingly voted No Award in the categories the puppies had taken over. Fewer of those fans returned to nominate in 2016 for variety of reasons, but not all of them, by any means. Again, the majority handed the puppies a resounding rebuke and we passed two rules changes that made the bloc voting scheme less likely to succeed.
Statistical analysis of the nominating and voting in 2015 and 2016 showed that the number of puppy voters was probably no more than about 250 people those two years. That many people nominating in lockstep could take over the entirety of some down ballot categories, but it couldn’t win. The larger of the two puppy groups gave up this year—not posting recommendations, not writing their angry blog posts, and generally not bringing a lot of attention to the cause. Their 250 people could not account for more than a fraction of the 1600 nominator drop that happened this year. Most of those 1600 who didn’t participate are from that group of fans who joined for the explicit purpose of opposing the puppies, and now believe that the rule changes and so forth have taken care of the problem.
Analysis of the partial numbers we have from this year’s nominations indicates that the remaining puppy voters number between 65 and 80 people. That’s a 68% drop-off in their group, a far more significant number, I think.
There have always been fewer nominators than voters. Nominating (filling in five blanks in each category) is harding work than voting (choosing from a small list of finalists in each category). And in order to vote or nominate you must purchased at least a supporting membership to WorldCon. A lot of fans don’t have the extra money laying around to buy a membership to a WorldCon that they aren’t attending. So you have to be pretty devoted to the ideas of sci fi/fantasy and/or feel a certain amount of sentiment toward the Hugo Awards themselves to participate year in and year out. Folks who normally don’t spend those funds on that felt something we loved was under assault, and we shifted our priorities a bit to make a stand.
The puppies whipped up some reactionary anger by referring to certain past winners as being motivated by nothing more than Political Correctness, and spinning a very distorted narrative that some of their favorite authors weren’t winning because of an anti-conservative or anti-christian agenda. And angry desire to give the middle finger to so-called PC elites might motivate people to spend some money and do some copy-and-pasting once or twice, but it’s hard to sustain that anger.
I love science fiction and fantasy. I think of it as a literature of hope and imagination. Even dystopian sf, in my opinion, touches on that hope for a better tomorrow even while it portrays a dire future. I am not the only fan, by any means, who was drawn to the literature because I felt like an outsider who didn’t belong in the present. Sf/f has always attracted outcasts of all sorts, which is why many more fans (not just the people of color, the women, and the queers) felt it was worth defending. I know that at least some of the puppies feel as if they are outcasts, though their argument is difficult to back up with facts. White male authors still make up a disproportionately overwhelming majority of the published works, and usually a majority of the nominees for these sorts of awards. They aren’t in any danger of being excluded. I’ve voted for books and stories in the past written by people I knew I disagreed with politically, because the story was good. It isn’t the political views of the author (and not usually of the story, though some of the examples in 2015 were so heavy handed with hitting the reader over the head with politics and religion that I started to wonder if it wasn’t supposed to be a parody).
I want sf/f to be welcoming, yes. But not so welcoming that people who have literally called for the extermination of writers who include queer characters in stories to feel welcome. Or call an author who happens to be African a savage. I do have my limits.
See, I want the awards to recognize cool stuff written by people who really love telling stories. I like it when the ballot includes stories and authors I’ve not previously heard of. I like it even better when those stories make me want to read more by that person in the future. I don’t want “inclusive” stories or “diverse” stories for the sake of diversity, I want stories that look like the real world, where women and men and trans people and people of color and people of many different religions and people of no religion and people of different abilities are all included. Not to meet a quota, but because that’s how the real world is now! Yeah, as a queer man I’m happy when I see queer characters in a story, but it isn’t enough on its own to make me vote for it.
Fischer is described over on Rational Wiki as someone who “makes even the most cuckoo-bananas conservative talk radio pundits seem sane and reasonable in comparison.” He’s always going on about gay people (and how gays and nazis are the same thing) and gay sex (and how hyper masculine aggressive gay sex is destroying everything). Besides making him sound like a kook, it also proves that he thinks about gay sex a whole lot more than most gay people do. Hmmmm, where have we seen that phenomenon before?There are so many things wrong with this assertion that it’s hard to know where to begin. First of all, he quotes from the end of the story of Noah in the old testament to justify his claim that queers have stolen god’s invention. I’m going to quote a bit of that: “13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” That’s god talking to Noah, and please note what god himself says: the rainbow is a sign of a covenant between god and the entire planet. A moment later he emphasizes that it is a sign of a covenant between him and all living creatures of every kind. Gay people are part of the planet. Gay people are a kind of living creature.
So, if you believe (as Fischer frequently claims to) that the bible is the inerrant word of god and literally true in every word, well, that means that queers have just as much a claim on the rainbow as any inhabitant of the earth or god himself. I’m just quoting god from Fischer’s holy book, here!
Lots of people had fun with Fischer’s tweet. Part of what cracked me up about it is that this is one of the sections of the Bible that got me in trouble when I was a kid, because I kept having questions that my Sunday School teachers and other church leaders couldn’t answer. Such as, how did all of the land species that live only in Australia get to Noah’s boat? Seriously, did a bunch of kangaroos and koalas and so forth build a mini ark and cross the ocean to get to the Arabian Pennisula? And if they did have a way to survive crosses the Pacific and Indian Oceans, why did they need to get on Noah’s ark to begin with? How did they get to Noah’s ark? And how big was this ark, really, because just assembling every species of, say, feline is going to require a very big boat. And then how are you going to keep all those big cats away from the pairs of the 20+ species of deer?
But let’s get back to the rainbow. The sorts of Christians who insist that every word in the Bible is literally true absolutely despise the notion of evolution. And one of their favorite arguments against evolution back when I was a kid, was to look at the complexity of the eyeball: you have the lens and receptors and tiny muscles to adjust the lens in order to change focus and so on and so on, and just a beautiful perfect organ for focusing and interpreting light could not possible have evolved by chance! Seriously, they think that’s an argument the undoes all of science. Anyway, when making this argument they get very insistent that god design the eyeballs of humans (and every other species on the planet that sees the way we do) and they have all had them since god created the world in a famous six-day run, right? Here’s the problem: the very same laws of physics that allow that lens in the front of those perfectly designed eyeballs to focus images on the retina? They are also what make rainbows appear when there is sunlight shining through an atmosphere littered with tiny water droplets. If god didn’t tweak the laws of physics to allow rainbows to appear in the clouds until after Noah’s flood, then none of the characters in the Bible who lived before Noah could have had the power of sight. They would have all had these perfect organs for seeing in their heads that didn’t work at all.
And they had to be able to see because sight is mentioned in several of the Bible stories before Noah. Also, god is supposed to have created humans in his image and we still are supposed to be in his image (Jesus affirmed that in the same story in which he endorsed paying your taxes), so that means we’ve always had these eyeballs, which were apparently useless appendages until after Noah’s flood.
And I’ve completely skipped over the parts of this story in which god admits he’s very forgetful and prone to rash, unwise decisions. He says he put the rainbow in the sky to remind him from time to time that he’s promised never again to destroy the world with a flood. So god needs to leave himself post-its, “Don’t commit mass genocide.” And the whole flood story begins with god realizing that he should have never created humans to begin with, because all of them are dirty rotten scoundrels. Then god reconsiders and decides that maybe Noah, his sons, and his daughters-in-law might be worth keeping around. But only them! Everyone else has got to go! And how does this supposedly all-powerful, all-knowing, wise and loving god decides to get rid of the scoundrels? Does he unleash a plague that would only infect humans, so that all of them die off and leave the planet to the birds and animals and plants? No, he takes out the dirty rotten people by wiping out every living thing on the surface of the earth. Wipe out billions of innocent mice and puppies and so forth to get rid of a few thousand or maybe millions of humans. That sounds like a plan that a smart omnipotent being would cook up, right?
When I brought up these inconsistencies as a kid, the adults would usually try to handwave about god’s plan, and us poor mortals not understanding. As I entered my teens and got better about pointing out the problems with that, they would talk about symbolism and poetic language. Which of course completely contradicts the notion that ever word is literally true. Then I would usually be admonished for being obstinate and willfully difficult and wasting time on trivial technical questions.
But complaining about who gets to use the rainbow as a symbol of hope isn’t wasting time being obstinate over trivial things?
Queers aren’t the first people to latch onto the rainbow as a symbol of diversity, freedom, resistance to oppression, and so on. There are several reasons for this. Just because the International Cooperative Movement (since 1921), or the Peace Movement (since 1961), or the Rainbow Coalition (since the mid-sixties), or the LGBT community (since 1978) and so on use the rainbow as symbols doesn’t do anything to the rainbows that appear in the sky after a storm. Those rainbows that god talked about in the book of Genesis are still there. We haven’t taken them away. According to Fischer’s religion’s own holy book, the rainbow is given as a symbol to every living creature on the earth. It even literally says “every kind” of creature. If you think you have the right to tell any of us that the rainbow isn’t ours, well, then you just don’t understand the real meaning of rainbows or love or dreams…
Muppet Movie – The Rainbow Connection:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
Oh, straightsplaining again! Hurrah! Thank you, so much, anonymous straight person, for explaining homophobia to me. How foolish of me to think that my 50+ years of surviving the slings and arrows of homophobia gave me any understanding of it.
Okay, let me clarify a few things:
Fact the First: you are correct, not every gay man is a sissy. Bully for you for being so open-minded!
Fact the Second: there are actual studies that show that, while not all queer men are sissies, at least 75% of boys who exhibit the characteristics causing them to be labeled “sissy” during childhood grow up to come out as queer.
Fact the Third: no matter what their actual sexual orientation, every boy who ever lived in our society who exhibits any of those gender-nonconforming behaviors was bullied because of them.
So, whether you believe that Shirvell is a closet case or not, my assertion that homophobic bullying is part of the root of his insanely over the top obsessively vicious homophobic campaign against that college student is still valid. You’re barely technically correct that we don’t know Shirvell’s orientation for certain (though I’m 99.99999% certain that he is queer of one sort or another). But the sheer level of sissy behavior one sees in any of the video interviews Shirvell gave back when he was defending his campaign tells me that he wasn’t just bullied occasionally as a child, but quite viciously and continuously. And we know from many studies that enduring that kind of bullying is one of the sources of adulthood excessive homophobic attitudes and behavior.
While we’re on the topic of those studies: those studies also show that the more virulent an adult man‘s homophobic attitudes and opinions are, the more likely it is that their body will exhibit involuntary arousal at the sight of scantily clad men. In other others, the more homophobic, the more likely that they are a self-loathing closet case. Add that to the study above, and it’s possible that my 99.99999% assessment is too low.
Fact the Fourth: I was a sissy. My childhood bullies included not just my classmates, but many of the adults in my life: family members, some teachers, and many adults at church. Yes, during my early teen years I was verbally homophobic. In my later teen years the only reason I wasn’t was not because I had become enlightened, but rather because as I had given in to my hormones a number of times, I wasn’t willing to be a hypocrit. But I was still convinced that I was going to go to hell for giving in to those feelings. So I understand Shirvell’s situation.
I do feel sorry for Shirvell the child. I know he had a horrible experience, even though I don’t know all the details. However, he’s an adult, now. He’s been exposed to information about sexual orientation, including the medical studies that it is not a choice (and therefore, since part of the theological definition of sin is being a willful disobedience, that means homosexuality cannot be a sin). He’s had more than enough time to start coming to terms with his childhood trauma and at least make the decision not to be the kind of bully that made his childhood hell. He has very emphatically chosen not to do so. Shirvell the adult deserves not one iota of sympathy. Not one.
Fact the Fifth: Please understand, I’m not stereotyping Andrew Shirvell as a gay man, I’m stereotyping him as a self-hating closet case—and he’s given us so, so much ammunition. It’s not just about the way he prances or speaks, it’s what he says as he’s ranting about the imagined sexual depravities of the targets of his homophobic rants—he simply sounds like he spends an inordinate amount of time imagining queer sex.
And there isn’t a plausible heterosexual explanation for that.
Note: Comments on this entire blog have always been moderated. Specific commenters have been whitelisted, but everyone else’s comments sit in a queue until I approve them. And I don’t see any point in approving comments that are insulting, or obviously coming from sock puppets or—such as the comment alluded to here—indicate the person isn’t interested in listening.
After serving one term, Kozachenko stepped out of the public eye, though not out of the activist life entirely. After meeting her life partner, Mary Ann Geiger, and having a son, Kozachenko retreated more fully into private life and her place in queer history went virtually ignored for decades.
In “The First Openly Gay Person to Win an Election in America Was Not Harvey Milk,” a 2015 piece for Bloomberg politics, Steve Friess explored the factors that contributed to Kozachenko’s diminished place in the history of gay liberation: geography, misogyny, timing, messaging. When asked why the groundbreaking gay journalist Randy Shilts referred to Harvey Milk as “the first openly gay elected official in the nation,” for example, Kozachenko “figures there was little fuss at the time because it was just liberal, small-city Ann Arbor.”
“I don’t think I was brave,” Kozachenko told Friess, “because I was in a college town where it was cool to be who I was. On the other hand, I stepped up and did what I felt needed to be done at the time. Maybe that’s the whole story, that ordinary people can do something that then other people later can look back on and feel really good that they did this.” #HavePrideInHistory #KathyKozachenko (at Ann Arbor, Michigan)
(Reposted from LGBT HISTORY ARCHIVES IG: @lgbt_history.)
Is it weird for me to think this is a cool coincidence one day after I write about a much more recent openly gay person at the University of Michigan?
My specific tasks for March were:
- At this point it’s time to just pack everything, so pack! We’ve been packing. There are boxes stacked everywhere.
- Get the new living situation sorted. We’ve contacted a number of property managers, but haven’t gotten a place nailed down.
- Make reasonable progress on writing/editing knowing that the above is going to eat up most of our available time.I got a small amount done, but not much.
- Disconnect from the internet at least one night each week. I managed to do this every week!
- Write at least two blog posts about things I like. I gave myself a lower number for this month because I figured with the packing and trying to find a new place I wouldn’t have as much time to write or blog. I still managed to beat this number by writing four posts about things I like!
My overall goals for the year, where I’m trying to follow the idea of replacing bad habits with better ones:
Don’t get mad, get busy. My tasks are: write about about things I love; listen to music and audiobooks more and podcasts less; spend at least half of my lunch break writing; set specific monthly writing/editing goals in each check-in; write at least one blog post a month about organizations we can donate to that are fighting the good fight.
I did fairly well on this one.
Reduce, pack, and prioritize. We now officially know that we have to find a new place to live this year. We have lots of stuff to go through and decide what to discard and what to pack.
Packing, hauling, getting rid of stuff continued apace. My hubby found a great charity to ship a lot of our books to. That helps me feel better about getting rid of them.
Take care of us. My initial tasks are related to some specific medical things that aren’t urgent, but need to be dealt with. I am going to remain vague on the details of this one.
My husband had his surgery and I tried to play nurse. He’s recovering, and it’s a great relief to get this taken care of before the move!
Submit and publish. Initial task was to organize how I’m going to find calls for submission and set reasonable targets for the novel revision/finalization.
I worked on three submissions. Got one done. I’m frankly amazed at the amount of progress I did make this time given everything else.
Finally, my specific tasks for March are:
- Pack and move!
- Pack and move.
- Squeeze some writing time in somehow.
- Remember to have fun at NorWesCon (whether we attend the whole weekend or not).
- Write at least two blog posts about things I like.
It’s kind of pathetic.
I keep half expecting Schock to eventually come out and try to claim that the pressure of the closet unbalanced his mental health and all of his wrongdoing was the result. Or maybe just to claim that the FBI’s investigation into his financial wrongdoings was all some sort of homophobic plot. Which, given that Schock on at least one occasion gave a speech in the House of Representatives chambers in which he insisted that it should be legal for employers to fire people just because they think they might be gay, landlords to evict or refuse to rent to people they suspect are gay, and so on.
Once he’s convicted I hope he gets a long sentence.
He’s not the only homophobe formerly employed by the government in the news this week: Former Michigan Asst AG Andrew Shirvell Loses Law License for Anti-Gay Attack on UM Student Chris Armstrong. Shirvell’s story is weird. Back in 2010 Chris Armstrong, was elected student body president at the University of Michigan. Armstrong was the first openly-gay person elected to that office. Shirvell, meanwhile, worked as an assistant attorney general in Michigan. The minute Shirvell saw a news story about Armstrong’s election, he logged onto Facebook and created a page called Chris Armstrong Watch and posted a bunch of barely coherent anti-gay rants. Facebook suspended the page as a violation of community guidelines, so Shirvell created is one blog (which for a long time had as a banner a picture of Armstrong with an image of a gay pride flag with a swastika superimposed on it and the word RESIGN scrawled across Armstrong’s face).
But it wasn’t just hundred s of anti-gay blog posts. Shirvell spent nearly every night parked in his car across the street from a house where Armstrong and several other students lived, taking pictures of everyone who came in and out of the house. He posted the pictures (and when he could the names) of each one, writing about what sorts of lewd sexual depravities he assumed had to be going on inside the house. On one occasion when Armstrong and his housemates hat a party, Shirvell drove around the block for hours, taking pictures and trying to get proof that they were serving underaged people alcohol. We know he drove around the block for hours because a) he blogged about it extensively, b) he called the police at 1:30 and tried to get the partiers arrested for disturbing the peace and in his official statement to the police told them he had been driving around the block for hours, and c) several of the neighbors had called in the suspicious car circling the neighborhood. And just to be clear, Shirvell didn’t live nearby!When Armstrong attended various gay student alliance events and similar public activities, Shirvell was there with homophobic banners. When Armstrong got a summer intership with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Shirvell called Pelosi’s office and ranted at staffers about why Armstrong should be fired. Most of this during Armstrong’s senior year at college. Shirvell was eventually fired from his job as an assistant Attorney General not for the hate speech and protesting, but because he had done some of the harassment when he was supposed to be working, used his state-owned work computer for some of it, conducted some of the harassment in a way that implied he was acting as a state official, and then lied about it to internal investigators. He tried to sue the state because he claimed all of the activity was protected under the first amendment (the judge found that the reason for firing was for specific conduct and not for stating his anti-gay opinions).
Armstrong eventually sued Shirvell for harassment, stalking, and related things asking for legal fees and $25,000 in damages. The jury awarded $4.5million in damages. On Shirvell’s appeal, that judgement was reduced to $3.5million, but otherwise all findings of the jury were upheld by the appeals court. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Shirvell’s appeals. It’s unlikely that Armstrong will ever get the money, but the principle at least has been upheld that a government employee can’t harass a queer kid (Armstrong was 21 years old for most of this, but he was a college student, for goodness sake!).
No one has ever been able to get a reasonable explanation from Shirvell for why Armstrong of all people became the target of his fierce and vitriolic obsession. Even under oath on trial (where acting as his own lawyer, he questioned himself for two hours, and then under cross-examination was forced to admit everything he had just testified about Armstrong and the situation was a lie)! Sure, Shirvell was a University of Michigan alumnus (he graduated 8 years before Armstrong became student body president), so you can argue that his initial interest was simply because he followed news about his former school, but the obsessive behavior against someone he otherwise didn’t know was really over-the-top.
The reason he can’t explain himself is that that there isn’t a rational explanation. There is, sadly, a very understandable irrational one. Shirvell is a 36-year-old man who has never been married and never been known to date a woman. In video appearances he doesn’t merely ping a lot of people’s gaydar, it’s like a mega-super-gay four-alarm alert. Shirvell is a self-loathing closet case. And I’m hardly the first person to realize this.
Shirvell had been involved in a few public anti-gay activities before the Armstrong case (my favorite was the campaign to get a local pizza parlor to stop putting a rainbow flag in its window during Pride Month), and his rants then were a bit crazy. He appears to have been raised in a conservative Catholic family (he attended private Catholic schools for his primary grades and high school, and got his jurisdoctorate at a Catholic law school—in fact the University of Michigan is the only public school he ever attended). In interviews Shirvell comes across as not just mildly effeminate, but very prissy. I have no doubt that he was bullied throughout his childhood. So Shirvell’s spent his entire life desperately trying to prove to people that he’s straight. He hid himself and denied his feelings and subjected himself to the torture of the closet his entire life. He’s likely never had even a clandestine romantic relationship!
…And then he sees that news story about an openly gay student being elected student president at his alma mater. He sees the smiling pictures of a young man who isn’t hiding those feelings, isn’t suffering alone in the closet, isn’t loathing himself. Shirvell sees that this good-looking, happy-looking young queer man isn’t merely being tolerated by his family and fellow students, but he’s well-liked and even celebrated! No wonder Shirvell over-reacted. Shirvell has been a powder keg of self-hatred and insanity just waiting to explode. So far he’s destroyed his own reputation, gotten himself saddled with an impossible financial obligation, and now even lost his law license because his actions weren’t just creepy and crazy, they constituted legal misconduct.Some would argue we should feel sorry for Andrew Shirvell. But honestly, the number of times during the trial that Armstrong said if Shirvell would just apologize he would drop the case represent only a fraction of the opportunities that Shirvell had to get off this particular crazy train. At this point he has no one to blame but himself.