OutNow Magazine

This was the official website for OutNow Magazine, the magazine for the Gay and Lesbian community of the Peninsula and Silicon Valley. ​ The selected content below is from the site's 2004 May archived issue and its July 2004 calendar.


May 2004  Issue Feature Article

Contradictions for the Alienated

By Paul Varnell

Universities used to be storehouses of knowledge. That may still be true. But lately they seem to have become storehouses of facile ideologies and ponderous rhetoric. Take this announcement about a recent university conference, “The Media Queered.”

“Since the 1960s, queer people have become increasingly visible in the media. Queer identities

in community life and politics may rely in the 21st century on the prevailing media landscape. The para- doxes of visibility are many: spurring tolerance through harmful stereotyping, diminishing isolation at the cost of activism, trading assimilation for equality, converting radicalism into a market niche. A day-long sym- posium will explore visibility and its discontents.”


None of this seems very coherent. To the extent it is coherent it seems simply wrong.

To be sure, gays and lesbians have become ever more visible in the media—television, newspapers, films—the last 35 years. This is a good thing. It has helped promote familiarity and comfort with gays. But it is bizarre to think “our community life and politics” will be limited to (or by) what is presented in the media.

It can hardly limit our community life because we see real live gays and lesbians around us every day with a wide variety of identities and ways of living. And after all, the very limited range of gay identities the media pre- sented early on—a simpering Liberace, a bitter, sarcastic Paul Lynde—did not limit the wide range of personalities or identities actual gays and les- bians developed.

In fact, it was growing awareness of the wide range of real gays and les- bians that forced (or permitted) the media to expand beyond the limited identities (or stereotypes) they initially presented. We can expect that expan- sion to continue—as the media offer an ever-wider range of gay people.

And media visibility can hardly limit our politics because as more and more gays come out, public perception of gays will increasingly be based on their familiarity with and observations of actual gays they come in contact with and not be limited to the gay identities presented in the media.

All this should be obvious. But, typically, the academic deconstruc- tionist or so-called “critical theorist” makes two errors here. They get cause and effect exactly reversed, and they assume that representations of

the world (“the text”) are more important, more influential, than the world itself.

To use their own language, they “mistake the ontological priori- ty” and they wrongly “prioritize the text”—perhaps because acade- mics exist to some extent apart from the world and “texts” (repre- sentations) are what they know how to study. Or often not even

texts but theories about texts.

Paradoxes—about anything—are big in “critical theo-

ry.” They supposedly demonstrate that there are paradox- es or contradictions somehow inherent in the structure of the real world. But contradictions don’t exist in the structure of

reality. The world just is.

The supposed paradoxes or contradictions are the result of con-

fusions or inadequacies in people’s theories or concepts about the world. Quantum mechanics has not been reconciled with general relativity, but physicists don’t say the universe contains contradictions. They know the problem is with their theories.

You would think this increasing media visibility and public acceptance of gays would be welcomed. In fact, it could hardly be puzzling or exhibit “contradictions” except to people who assumed that American society was bad and feared the acceptance of gays and lesbians because that might reduce their sense of alienation from society. Consider:

• “Spurringtolerancethroughharmfulstereotyping.”Thisisnotparadox-

ical, it is simply wrong. The old presentations of Liberace or the gay char- acter who committed suicide or died of AIDS—or complete lesbian invisibility—those were the harmful stereotypes. But the implication of “The L Word” that lesbians might actually be attractive? How awful!

How oppressive! Or the fascist stereotype on “Queer Eye” that gay men might have style or a sense of humor? Oh, the horror, the horror.

• “Diminishing isolation at the cost of activism.” So we should preserve isolation in order to preserve activism? But what has all our activism been for if not to diminish the legal, social, psychological, and spiritual isola- tion gays and lesbians once faced. Nor need acceptance inhibit activism. This supposed "paradox" is based on a complete misunderstanding of human psychology.

• “Trading assimilation for equality.” Deconstructionist writing is general- ly turgid, but this is uncommonly opaque. In any case, the tacit assump- tion here is false. There is no trade-off between acceptance and equality. The full social and legal inclusion of gays in society is what equality means. Nor are gays likely to lose any inherent gay qualities in the process—if they are genuinely inherent and not merely artifacts of forced inequality.

• “Converting radicalism into a market niche.” Again activism and com- merce are neither contradictory nor mutually exclusive. The two realms are synergistic. In fact much of recent gay progress has been in the cor- porate and economic realm. Only someone with a uninformed, knee-jerk hostility to capitalism and business could resent this progress. ON

Some of Paul Varnell’s previous columns are posted at the Independent Gay Forum (www.indegayforum.org). His e-mail address is Pvarnell@aol.com.



Publisher’s Note: Over the years, I’ve been frustrated by the anti-con- sumerism, anti-advertising position of many people within the LGBT communi- ty. Unless newspapers and magazines serving our community are supported by some private benefactor, they (including OutNow) rely on advertising revenue to pay for the costs of producing their publications. Advertisers spend money for advertising with the desire and reasonable expectation of receiving response and sales from their ad.

So, a number of businesses—straight and gay—choose to “target” the LGBT community with some of their advertising dollars. Some individuals don’t like the idea of being “targeted” by advertising. I see this position as coming from the old victim model of the LGBT community. “Targeted” does not mean brain- washed. “Targeted” won’t work for a business if they’re not truly gay-friendly. And, the more advertising purchased, the more space a publication has to print articles about what’s going on in our community.

I am grateful for the realtors, restaurants, service and retail businesses that allow us to publish OutNow every month. I hope you share my view that these businesses are simply doing smart business by advertising to us. I also hope you’ll patronize the businesses in OutNow. They are truly the foundation for communi- cation within our community—communication that holds us together and informs us.


2004 July Calendar

t h e a t r e

 by Tom Stoppard
Continuing through July 11

by Chay Yew
July 14 – August 8


San Jose Repertory Theatre
Underpantsby Steve Martin
Continuing through July 18


Ask about “Out with A.C.T.” night.
The Good Body 
by Eve Ensler
Continuing through July 25


Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Ask about “LGBT Night Out”
Master Class 
by Terrance McNally
Continuing through July 18


California Theatre Center
Summer Repertory Season
by David Auburn
A Walk in the Woods by Lee Blessing
The Tempest by Wm. Shakespeare
Continuing through July 25


Theatre for the LGBT community 
Gay themes
Gay playwrights

Gay audiences

New Conservatory Theatre Center
Southern Baptist Sissies

by Del Shores
Continuing through July 11


Theatre Rhinoceros
Ask about “Straight Night Out”
at the Rhino

Awe About Eve

with Matthew Martin
Continuing through July 18

A Midsummer Night’s Madness

with P.A.Cooley
July 10

m u s i c & d a n c e

American Musical Theatre of San Jose
The Producers
July 6 – 25


42nd Street Moon


Opera San Jose
The Marriage of Figaro
Inaugural Season in the California Theatre


San Francisco Opera
La Boheme 
by Giacomo Puccini
The Cunning Little Vixen by Leos Janecek
Doktor Faust by Ferruccio Busoni
Continuing through July


Best of Broadway
Continuing through July 3


Symphony Silicon Valley
408.286.2600 x2

Independence Weekend Concert
July 4


Foothill Music Theatre

July 23 – August 15


a r t & m u s e u m s

Cantor Center for Visual Arts


San Jose Museum of Art
Jack Fulton: The Origins of Everything
Continuing through September 12


San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Pop! From San Francisco Collections
Continuing through September 19

c a l e n d a r
s u b m i s s i o n s

Deadline for August/September events: Monday, July 26
Please submit via e-mail to

or fax to 408.293.1858


s p e c i a l
e v e n t s

Loui Tucker Booksigning
Dancing with Cancer

At Santana Row, San Jose

Fundraiser for Bay Area Breast Cancer Network
July 11 • 2:00–5:00pm


Cinema San Pedro
Downtown San Jose
Outdoor Film Screenings
Bye Bye Birdie 
Wednesday, July 14 • 8pm

Wednesday, July 21 • 8pm

The Birds
Wednesday, July 28 • 8pm

The Thin Man 
Wednesday, August 4

Wednesday, August 11


Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation
BROADWAY...and all that jazz
August 2


Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center
Introduction to Surfing
July 10

Successful Public Speaking: Fear of Flying
July 12

“I Can’t Marry You” Fundraiser
July 17

Men’s Movie Night
Broken Hearts Club
July 20

Domestic Partner Rights 
(Assembly Bill 205)
July 29

Blue Moon Paddle at 
Pillar Point Harbor
July 31

Community BBQ
August 1

Kayak Safety Skills
August 7

DeFrank Family Group Celebration
August 8

Artistry of Belly Dancing
August 14

“Singing for Our Lives”
by Holly Near
August 22

Women’s Financial Planning
August 23


The Friends of Guadalupe River Park & Gardens

Mediterranean Climate Plants for Successful Gardening
Sunday, July 11 • 1:00–2:30pm
RSVP Required


California Native Plant Society
The Flowers of Mount Diablo
Friday, July 16 • 7:30pm


Miller Music in the Park
(Fiesta Rock)
July 15

(Roots Rock)
July 22

White Album Ensemble 
(Beatles Tribute Band)
July 29

ConFunkShun’s Micheal Cooper 
and Special Guest 
August 5

(Spanish Rock)
August 12

3 Days Grace 
(Alternative Rock)
August 19


Midlife Gay Men
Events of interest for
Midlife Gay Men


Fierce Words Tender
Women’s Open Mic at SisterSpirit Bookstore • The DeFrank Center