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Extremist Makeover

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In 2001, David Bianco was at the pinnacle of his career in GLBT journalism. He was the founder of Q Syndicate, a content provider for gay media, and wrote, "Past Out," a widely distributed GLBT history column. He was also the author of, "Gay Essentials: Facts for Your Queer Brain."

With great irony, the man who made his living by revealing the glorious gay past was quietly reinventing his own personal history. He had allegedly given up sex with men and was rapidly moving towards Orthodox Judaism.

In September 2003, Bianco went public with his conversion in an interview with The Washington Blade. He denounced, "having all kinds of Internet hook-ups and doing the urban gay male lifestyle thing," and said he could no longer remain closeted about his metamorphose.

"It was increasingly odd to be supervising content for the gay media on a day-to-day basis when in my own life I was moving away from gay identity," Bianco said. Then he complained about the reaction he received from colleagues saying, "Nobody gets a parade for leaving the gay community..."

While his exit elicited no parade, Bianco did create a media circus -- changing his name to Benkof and appearing on the "Ricki Lake" show to oppose same-sex marriage. Basking in his beloved spotlight -- it seemed that Benkof was poised to become the right wing's latest star.

Then, he just fell off the radar for nearly five years.

Unfortunately, he could not bear anonymity in our celebrity culture and burst back on the scene this year -- using the California marriage decision to catapult him to newfound notoriety.

Benkof opened shop with a deceptively titled blog, "Gays Defend Marriage," and started a new column, "Fabulously Observant," in which he posed as a pro-gay activist who just happened to give up sex for religious reasons.

What the editors of GLBT publications who decided to run his column did not know was that Benkof had extreme beliefs. He says that his religion teaches him that, "when you engage in mishkav zachar (gay sex), you are inflicting harsh damage on your precious Jewish spirit. Mishkav zachar is such a horrible sin that you are commanded to submit to being killed (yehareg v'al yaavor) rather than committing it."

When his editors found out his nutty views and that he was moonlighting as a zealous opponent of GLBT rights, he was dropped like a BLT at a Seder.

Benkof came to the attention of GLBT rights organizations last month after he began placing defamatory op-eds in mainstream news publications. His columns were notable because they would ostensibly be about a topic, such as President Bush's record on AIDS, but the real intention was to smear gay people and make the GLBT community look perverse, untrustworthy, selfish and unworthy of basic human rights.

It was really a disgusting display of bigotry and self-loathing on the part of Benkof. He seemed bitter that he gave up sex and appeared to take his frustrations out on all gay people. His tirades were punctuated with hateful and unfounded statements like, "I have tons of data that shows how a significant subset of the gay community in America has always supported adult-child sex."

The truth is, not a single mainstream GLBT rights organization supports adult-child sex, or even mentions the topic, for that matter. Benkof flat our lied to slime the GLBT community. He seems to have an ax to grind and seethes with resentment that so many GLBT people have rich and satisfying lives.

When defending his views, Benkof would often throw irrational tantrums in online forums. He called me a "self-hating Jew" who was "spitting in the eye of G-d," and blasted blogger Pam Spaulding as a, "nasty bitch."

Still, Benkof was a difficult opponent because he's smart, has a knack for getting published and knew enough about gay history to hijack it. His brain was like a large computer hard drive stuffed with faulty software that contained quirks and bugs. With his prodigious output of anti-gay propaganda, he promised to be a problem for years to come.

But, again, in a blink, he was gone.

Out of nowhere, he announced this week that he was closing down his blog and getting out of the anti-gay marriage business, saying, "I no longer feel comfortable being allied with the people running the Prop. 8 campaign (the group trying to ban same-sex marriage in California), and the same-sex marriage movement in America in general."

The capricious Benkof is like a supernova of nonsense, he flares up and then he flames out. We can only imagine where the spotlight will lead this walking human tragedy next. Perhaps, the enterprising chameleon will start a reality show called "Extremist Makeover," where contestants with mutating morals change their names and search for new issues and identities to embrace.

I can't think of anyone more qualified for the job than Bianco/Benkof, or whomever he fancies himself today.

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