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Posted By Subaltern Queer

Could Any of These Men Be Gay?

The CIA Can Help You Spot the Queer Ones!
Could Any of These Men Be Gay?

You might think "this has got to be some kind of joke" when I say that, in 1980, the CIA put out a memo to its agents titled "Homosexual Investigations," which gave instructions on how to identity a homosexual perp (that's police talk for 'perpetrator'). But it's quite real: here is the link to the official page:

What were the motivations for such investigations? While some partial motivations will emerge as we go along, it is hard not to think that it had something to do with the 1980 Democratic Party officially supporting the gay and lesbian communities.

While you may want to peruse the actual CIA document for yourself, what follows are some choice quotations along with a bit of commentary.

1. Let's start with the basics: "One of the most common mistakes made by the average person is the conviction that he can recognize a homosexual on sight. This is similar to recognizing a Communist. The subject has a mental or emotional problem rather than a physical one. There is no way to spot a homosexual." As you can see from the exclusivistic language, homosexual men are the subject of this treatise, rather than the LGBTQ+ community at large (which, to be fair to the CIA, did not exist as such at the time). The reason is, I think, rather clear. Male homosexuals were viewed by the CIA as threats to the established order in the same way that the Nazis saw male homosexuals as a threat to the Third Reich (more on this in another post). Did you notice that the comparison term is 'communist' (again, this is 1980--nine years before the fall of the USSR). The implication is clear: both male homosexuals and communists are threats to the American way of life. But the CIA is clearly right about gays and communists in one respect. Neither come pre-packaged with 'gay' or 'communist' on their foreheads. The CIA notes that "very few employees come to work wearing eye makeup or 'My Sin'." Glad we cleared that up!

2. "The homosexual has a problem. He may not consider himself 'queer', he may accept his psychological deviation from the normal, but he recognizes that society frowns on him." The document goes on to say that a homosexual "often uses the word 'problem' in discussing his own homosexuality or that of one of his friends." But I think this is, again, the CIA putting words in other people's mouths. Let's be quite clear about one thing: the 'problem'  that a homosexual poses is a clear and very real threat to white patriarchy. As a gay man, I do not 'fit' the stereotype of the true 'masculine' man and so the entire order--in which women and people of colour are subjugated--is put into question. A gay man is, in one important sense, as much as a threat as a communist to the American white patriarchal order.

3. "The homosexual is usually regarded as an above-average employee. His work habits are good, he is punctual, responsive to authority, cooperative, friendly, a credit to the organization." You can see the problem right away. Gays work hard, get along with others, and make the organization look good. No wonder their fellow employees hate them! When I taught at Wheaton College, I was clearly the most popular philosophy department member and I also published more than all of my philosophy colleagues combined. I simply had to be eliminated. No good deed goes unpunished.

4. "But our subject leads a Jekyll-Hyde existence . . . . He frequently uses a Post Office Box . . . . His telephone number is often unlisted . . . . His car (preferably foreign) is often reserved for weekends." One could simply note that homosexuals were far ahead of the curve. Most smart people got unlisted phone numbers ages ago. 1980 was the nadir of the American auto--they were junk back then. But notice the subtle CIA inference: gays drive foreign cars because they're unAmerican. In any case, this may explain why my first car was a BMW and, since then, I've driven VWs. There are a lot of gays in Germany--maybe driving a German car makes you gay. It could also have something to do with the fact that I always drive stick.

5. "Our subject is intimately acquainted with a life totally unknown to society in general. He has his own language, his own social customs and mores." I have to say that I wonder what this "life totally unknown" might be. It sounds so exciting--please, Dorothy, take me there with you and Toto! Alas, I think this other life may be the product of CIA hallucination. But the CIA has some very helpful instructions for the 'secret' language of the homosexual. We're told that 'gay' "is the most common term in the deviate's vocabulary." What could 'gay' possibly mean? Fortunately, the CIA clears up any confusion: '"gay' means homosexual." Oh, how interesting! 'Gay' is "used to describe people, places, (favorite hangouts), parties, and groups." So it's a multi-purpose term. Now, here's where things get more complicated. 'Bi' means "interested equally in homosexual and heterosexual activities." 'Straight' is "the opposite of gay." The CIA agent, though, knows exactly how to use these terms in investigative research. We're told: "The question 'Are you gay, straight, or bi?' has been used with marked success in interviews of suspected homosexuals." How someone responds to the question will indicate if the person is a deviate. Really? That question doesn't sound all that promising.

6. Here's another sure-fire way to find out if someone is a homosexual: "One of the recently popular introductory remarks is 'Aren't you Jack from the North?' "The other party is supposed to answer 'No, I'm Joe (or any other name) from the North." So that explains why I'm gay: I'm Canadian! Does that mean I only actually became gay when I was living in Germany (!) and took the oath of allegiance to Canada? After all, I did pledge my allegiance to the Queen. Maybe I got mixed up regarding which queen that was supposed to be. Of course, the CIA document goes on to make things considerably more complicated: because it tells us that one can substitute any name for Joe and any direction for North. "The word 'North' (or South, East, West Coast, etc.) is the code word. It means homosexual." Here I think the average CIA agent might get confused. If I say, 'no, I'm Bruce from Scotland' rather than 'no, I'm Bruce from the North' will the agent still 'get it'?

7. Homosexuals "are abnormal mentally and emotionally; their behavior patterns are, therefore, completely abnormal and unpredictable." To 'illustrate', the CIA tell us that homosexuals do not "fall into distinct categories of male and female. . . . Many homosexuals fall into both categories. It is not uncommon for two extremely effeminate (or extremely masculine) homosexuals to participate in sex relations with each other." Perhaps we need to get Judith Butler in to give a talk to the CIA, but their examination of the categories of male and female need some work.

8. "Landlords often encourage rentals to homosexuals since they are neat, generally quiet, interested in keeping their apartments in good condition, and dependable when it comes to finances." What's interesting about this sentence is that it appears in a paragraph about why it is difficult to 'detect' and 'prosecute' homosexuals. Why would the CIA be investigating people who they describe as neat, quiet, tidy, and financially stable? Again, this is 1980. Pennsylvania banned sexual orientation in public sector employment in 1975; Wisconsin became the first state to ban sexual orientation discrimination in both public and private sectors in 1982. Today, only twenty-three (23) of the fifty (50) states ban such discrimination. Illinois is one of those states, which is why Wheaton needed to acuse me of not being able to sign the doctrinal statement rather than the real reason of my homosexuality. In those twenty-seven states, you can openly and explicitly fire someone for 'acting' gay or even 'suspecting' someone of being gay.

9. The CIA likes Socrates! "To detect [the homosexual] it is vital that the investigator be inquisitive." Such questions include: "Are all of his references women?" and "Does a male reference have the same address as the employee?" Talk about really shrewd and cunning questions! You can see why the CIA is so good at its job.


Posted By Subaltern Queer

A few days ago, I received the following provocative email:

Dear List members

Apologies for cross posting, please find below details on a major international conference happening at St Patrick’s College Maynooth on the Future of Christian thinking.

Today, perhaps more than ever before, Christian thought faces unprecedented challenges; ranging from a denial of metaphysics, to previously unforeseen ethico-moral questions arising from contemporary science and ever-advancing technologies, to a full-blown economizing of the political, to name just some of the most obvious. Couple this with the fact that amongst Christian thinkers there is no real consensus on the meaning, definition and end of Christian thinking and the future of Christian thinking looks hazy, unclear and tenuous.

The theme of this conference seeks to think from out of these unprecedented challenges while, simultaneously, straining to look into a nebulous and unforeseen future. In order to do this, a vast array of many of the foremost thinkers engaged with Christian thought and beyond have been invited to speak on these issues. These thinkers are representative of many different schools, approaches and styles of Christian thought, across confessional divides. The vast array of thinkers invited is itself a testimony of the polyphonic vitality of Christian thought today and, together, the ever-pressing question of the future of Christian thinking will be pondered from within an intellectually polyphonic and ecumenical conversation and perspective.

Speakers include: Rowan Williams, David Bently Hart, Eleonore Stump, Robert George, Cyril O’Regan and more.

For more details including how to register please follow the link:

No one can deny that Christianity "faces unprecedented challenges." I was thrilled by the idea of a conference that includes "a vast array of many of the foremost thinkers engaged with Christian thought and beyond" who are "representative of many different schools, approaches and styles of Christian thought, across confessional divides."

So I decided to click on that link, which led me to the following poster:

The Future of Christian Thinking

Imagine my dismay when I discovered that the people who were to speak at the conference actually didn't constitute a 'vast array' and that they clearly did not 'represent many different schools, approaches and styles of Christian thought, across confessional divides'. Instead​, this sounded like a very insular gathering.

So I decided to contact Gaven Kerr, who had sent the email, and provide my 'candid' appraisal of the upcoming event:

Dear Professor Kerr,

As I look at the list of speakers invited for your conference listed on your website, it becomes crystal clear why the future of Christianity is so dim and unpromising. A number of these people are friends of mine! Yet you speak of a ‘vast array of thinkers’ who have been invited. To me this simply looks like the usual suspects, most of whom hold pretty similar views about many things. Who will be simply talking to themselves. And no one else will care.

They do not represent ‘many different schools, approaches and styles of Christian thought’. But I do get the point that the conversation will be polyphonic. However, in this case, polyphonic simply means “as long as you ‘blend’ in with what everyone else is saying then we’ll accept you into our little club.”

The future of Christianity is that many millions of people in the west no longer have any interest in that club and have long felt that no one in the club was interested in hearing their voices since they don’t blend into the ‘approved’ polyphony. Your conference only confirms that they’re right. One might say that your conference performs the future of Christianity.

But have a lovely club meeting. Perhaps you can come up with a secret handshake that signifies both solidarity and exclusivity. You can also rearrange the deck chairs as the club sinks.

Bruce Ellis Benson





Posted By Subaltern Queer

Creolization as Cultural Creativity

Improvising Jazz

At what point does jazz become 'jazz', rather than the blues or ragtime, out of which it clearly grew? To the extent that we can meaningfully speak of a 'beginning' of jazz, we must immediately acknowledge that it is improvised from the start out of two types of alterity—musical and ethnic. On the one hand, there are striking similarities between jazz and ethnic European music. On the other hand, jazz contains distinctly African-American and African elements, such as syncopation and call-and-response patterns. African music tends to negate precisely the regularity sought in European music—such aspects as steady pitch, timbre, vibrato, and directness of attack—as does jazz. More important for our concern here, jazz operates musically by way of alterity or heteronomy. Multiple voices in jazz do not necessarily produce a 'polyphony' based on harmonious counterpoint but a 'heterophony'. Although the ancient Greek term “heterophônia” literally meant the simultaneous performance of differing versions of a melody, in jazz heterophony is used more loosely to describe differing voices, dissonance, cross-rhythms, and multiple versions of melodies.

If improvisation takes place by using whatever is available, then what is on hand in the case of jazz are Black spirituals, ragtime, European folk music, and even opera. For instance, in an interview Louis Armstrong sings the beginning of “Serenade” from Romberg’s The Student Prince and then says: “That’s jazz. That’s the way I look at it. Anything you can express to the public is jazz.” The heterophony of jazz is due to its fundamental openness to heteronomy or alterity in which new improvisational possibilities are continually opening up. And the alterity within jazz is as much ethnic as musical. Although the history of jazz has usually been written in terms of black and white, there are at least three racial identities early on in jazz. It is this third category—Creoles of color or gens de couleur—that undermines the binary of racial opposition. Whereas Creoles musicians were often more familiar with the European musical tradition and thus better at reading music, Blacks were better at improvising. As Creoles and Blacks began to integrate (in the 1890’s), they began to influence one another musically, the result being a musical 'Creolization'. Creole culture serves as a metaphor for understanding the development of jazz. Musically, Creoles occupied a space somewhere between white European and African-American music—and that 'betweenness' helped open up a space for white musicians. While we think of improvisation in jazz as improvisation upon 'tunes', the improvisation on musical styles is both historically and ontologically prior—and key to understanding how jazz operates. Moreover, the development of jazz (including the improvisation upon tunes) is the story of continual improvisation upon itself.

Improvising Christianity

This sort of improvised beginning is remarkably similar to that of what we now call Christianity. Like the story of jazz, it’s hard to know exactly where to begin. Jesus appears in the midst of a heteronomous Judaism comprised of Sadducees, Pharisees, Herodians, and Essenes—all of whom took the Torah as their text but each with varying interpretations. Jesus himself takes no stand with any of these groups. Instead, demonstrating a keen knowledge of the Torah, he improvises upon the conventional readings of it. Of course, in so doing, Rabbi Jesus is continuing a long-established Jewish practice of textual improvisation. What distinguishes his improvisations is their radicality and the authority with which he speaks. Jesus’ voice does not merely join a polyphony of rabbinic voices but proves heterophonic. One of his constant refrains is “You have heard that it was said,” followed by “But I say unto you.” Even though Jesus qualifies these radical statements with the statement “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but fulfill” (Matt. 5:17), to his audience this would have sounded like a strange fulfillment indeed. And Jesus does not merely confine his improvising to the commandments of the Torah. He likewise appropriates its imagery for his own stories. The parable of the vineyard (Mark. 12:1-12), for example, is clearly based on the “song of the vineyard” in Isaiah 5:1-7. While there are important points of similarity, Jesus does not merely retell the same story. For Jesus’ version is primarily about himself. Thus, Jesus—a master improviser on Old Testament texts—inscribes a new reading within an old one, affirming both but transforming the old so that it can no longer be read in the same way. The improvisation that Jesus exemplifies could be described in terms of Derrida’s “iterability,” which he describes as “alterability of this same idealized in the singularity of the event, for instance, in this or that speech act. It entails the necessity of thinking at once both the rule and the event, concept and singularity.” The point of iterability is that citation is always at once repetition and transformation. In effect, Jesus repeats and alters. Such is the nature of improvisation.

The improvisatory interpretive practice exemplified by Jesus necessarily becomes part of the very fabric of Christianity as it grows. For, as Christ’s followers fulfilled the great commission of Matthew 28, the gospel spread to increasing wider and differing circles. Whereas Jesus had preached largely in the countryside and to peasant Jews, the fledging ekklêsia took Jerusalem as its center. With the conversions of Barnabas and Paul, the faith spread considerably wider. This expansion required a new interpretation of the faith and a new ethnic conception of who could be included in the ekklêsia. In effect, Paul served as the Christian 'Creole'—a Hellenized Jew, educated in the Torah, a Roman citizen, and a missionary to Greeks and Romans alike. It is this 'betweenness' of Paul and the conception of Christianity upon which he insists that makes it possible for many of us today to be included. In proclaiming that “there is no longer Jew or Greek” (Gal. 3:28), in effect Paul pushes for what has been recently called a “’kreolized’ identity—a revolutionary new cultural and social identity” (Fred Wei-han Ho, “’Jazz’, Kreolization and Revolutionary Music for the 21st Century,” in Sounding Off! Music as Subversion/Resistance/Revolution, 134). But this 'betweenness' is what made Christianity 'translatable' beyond narrow Jewish boundaries. As Lamin Sanneh puts it:

Christianity, from its origins, identified itself with the need to translate out of Aramaic and Hebrew, and from that position came to exert a dual force in its historical development. One was the resolve to relativize its Judaic roots . . . . The other was to destigmatize Gentile culture and adopt that culture as a natural extension of the life of the new religion (Translating the Message, 1).