Thursday, October 30, 2014

Apple CEO Tim Cook discusses his own sexuality in an essay

Apple CEO Tim Cook has an essay in Businessweek where he discusses the fact that he is gay, and his own perspective on his role in gay equality, link here. Of course, he sets a tremendous example and is right now probably the most visible gay executive in the US, maybe the world.

Just this past Sunday, I encountered an Apple store in Grand Central Station in NYC.  
According to CNN, 91% of Fortune 500 companies do have anti-discrimination policies with respect to sexual orientation.  Yet, 53% of LGBT workers still “hide” at work, especially in conservative states.

We have come a long way.  But I remember back in the early 1980s, whenever the television cameras came into Metropolitan Community Church of Dallas on Reagan St, there was a section where no one would be photographed.  One time, at a post-pride party in Lee Park on Dallas (on Turtle Creek), I appeared on camera, and a consultant at work the next day said he was surprised to see me there.  Some people would react to learning this by bragging about “feeding their babies” and even taking second jobs selling cars to do so.  The cultural disconnect then was profound, and it had so much to do with procreation. 

Back in 1973, the Ninth Street Center in New York City, in its own journal, called homosexuality "civilization's secret".  No politician would mention it publicly then.  True.  Nixon had Watergate on his mind.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

High Heels Race in Washington DC (17th Annual) is packed!

The gay community and tavern guild in Washington DC held the 17th Annual High Heels Race on 17th Street, between Q and T St. NW.
As with last year, the public was not allowed to cross 17th Street without going to one end or the other of the route – that is, except for people in drag (and they had to register at one of the clubs).  This is like “The Rocky Picture Horror Show” (which I saw on stage once in Minneapolis), in that you are “forced” to go into drag!

The “parade” lasted two hours but consisted mostly of drag queens running around on the space.  The only place where you could get dinner quickly was the MacDonalds, which was full but served us very efficiently.  The Subway shop ran out of bread, and Annie’s and the Trio, among others, were packed full, just as in pride. 

The race started promptly at 9 PM, and lasted about 45 seconds.  The parade that followed out of the area below Q Street (about at the location of the new Drake Apartments behind the First Baptist Church) was rather long.


WJLA was present.  The weather was warm (in the 70s) and dry. 

Effectively, this is a small Halloween week pride event.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pentagon still bans transgendered from military, and the public hardly notices: more about culture than privacy or cohesion?

Sandyha Somashekhar has an important front page story in the Washington Post on Tuesday reminding us that transgendered people are still banned from military service, link here. And in August the Post had reported a story on a study by Checkpoint reporting that over 15000 transgendered people served covertly in the military, here and that it would not be difficult to lift the ban.  The story mentioned issues with Selective Service registration, which still requires that only men register.
Transgendered people can be “heterosexual” or “gay” after sexual reassignment surgery;  all combinations have occurred.  The “other” Scott Peck interviewed a now-female in 1993 who had been forced to leave the Navy after 15 years but continued in exactly the same job in intelligence, as a GS without a uniform.  Remember, intelligence services didn’t officially end their bans even on LGBT civilians until 1996, after an XO from President Clinton (who spoke at HRC Saturday night).
The different attitude toward “trans” as opposed to “gay” seems to reflect a cultural attitude and not much more.  Some of our mentality now seems to practically revere the “masculine gay” (look at the popularity of all the main characters in the movie “Judas Kiss” – even Shane – but their demeanor is always gender-conforming).  How many of us are ready to see Mort in “Transparent” (TV, Oct. 6) as a hero?  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Bars in NYC seem to be scanning DL/passport bar codes as patrons enter; troubling questions about security, quarantine, surveillance, privacy

Going to a small dance bar in New York City Saturday night, I was surprised when the doorman actually scanned the barcode on my Virginia driver’s license (mandatory age verification) as I went in. 
I wondered if this was a new state or city requirement.  I can see how it could help provide security for the bar, leaving evidence for law enforcement if there were to be some kind of incident.  But it could backfire.  Suppose someone has come back from West Africa and then later is identified with Ebola, or that something like this happens in the future with some other pandemic (SARS, bird flu, etc).  That was a huge controversy in NYC this past weekend considering the case of (heterosexual) Dr. Craig Spencer.  The point is that the government could use the automated records (from the scans) to check every place the person could have visited.  The establishment could risk mandatory closure, possibly for an extended period, possibly putting it out of business.

One question that obviously comes up, too, is surveillance -- the NSA, Snowden stuff.  It wasn't too many decades ago that this practice would have created enormous privacy issues for people, when governments raided gay bars and (as in the early 1970s) the Mafia protected them.  Or when governments took down license plates in parking lots, especially looking for military members or even people with clearances.  The Internet age seemed to blow away all the old privacy concerns, except that some people, as I have noted, have become more concerned about being photographed by others in the past three or four years again. 
Nobody likes to talk about security, of course, even given these very dangerous times.  There have been very few incidents over the years, as in Atlanta and Seattle.  The worst in history happened in New Orleans in January 1973, when I was “coming out” and this was the first thing I heard about.
Back in the 1990s, when the world was not perceived as so hostile, the Tracks disco sometimes screened for weapons when people entered.  (It did have one minor incident that I recall someone at MCCDC telling me about.)  The Navy Yard area (in Washington) then was low income, a situation that persisted when the Velvet Nations replaced it. Around 2004-2005, sometimes panhandlers would “approach” to “protect” your car when parking.  Once, in late 2004, I drove past a holdup in progress about four blocks from the club.  I told the management when I entered and the manager immediately called DC police, who then conferred with me by phone a couple times, but I never testified.   

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Bill Clinton speaks at HRC Dinner in Washington

Former president Bill Clinton addressed the Human Rights Campaign dinner Saturday night in Washington DC.  Towerload has a major excerpt from his speech for HRC International here. 

This year, I was not in attendance, as other plans conflicted – musical concerts in New York.  I actually was close to where Clinton's Harlem office is Sunday.   I can get to something this big about once every other year.  The event is less expensive for Federal Club members.  
Above is a comment from Clinton on gays in the military from 2008. Remember Clinton originated the "Don't Pursue" appendix to the 1993 "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"/ 

Clinton probably picked the vegan meal, which the dinner offers. Portebello tastes good.

The Washington Post reports ("Party Diary" by Helena Andrews) that several other celebrities were present, including Eric Holder, Yeardley Smith, and Sir John and David Furnish, link here

In 2001, I met Independent Governor Jesse Ventura at the HRC Dinner in Minneapolis three weeks after 9/11.  I remember his saying “it is safe to fly”.  You're supposed to go to these things in formal attire, but I never do that;  a normal suit and tie is the "best" I will do.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

"Freedom to Work" reports on anti-gay discrimination at ExxonMobil after merger

A group called Freedom to Work is fighting little-covered discrimination against LGBT employees, as outlined in this story here. The most visible complaint seems to be against Exxon, which apparently removed protections for LGBT workers from Mobil when they merged.
I do remember the Mobil building when I lived in Dallas (near Stemmons and Inwood, as I recall).  I had a job interview with ARCO in 1983, but did not get hired.  
I held XOM stock myself for many years, before my financial advisor sold it (without asking). 

The most significant “wage” discrimination is the tendency for single or childless people to “work for a discount”, doing more on-call work in salaried positions without compensation, which works both ways.  It tends to lowball the compensation market for everyone.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Could Ebola present an existential "political" threat to gay (and straight) clubs? Trace the parallel history with HIV 30 years ago; it's chilling

So, will Ebola cause a particular crisis for LGBT people, particularly gay men?

Of course, it’s tempting to draw parallels to HIV and AIDS, in several areas. Let’s plow through it.
The most immediate relevant immediate medical fact is that Ebola remains transmissible in sperm for several months after a person recovers.  It is very obvious that this concern would apply to homosexual and heterosexual sex alike.  There is no way that Ebola could ever be a “gay disease” and speculative right-wing arguments articulated in the 1980s (especially in a group of politicians promoting very anti-gay legislation in Texas) about “amplification” make no sense here.  It’s a good question (even for heterosexually married men) whether condoms offer enough protection during this period. If anything, we're learning that novel epidemics can arise in many different communities around the world and blow up for a lot of different reasons.  
There is another context, though, in which all of this is important to much of the gay community.  I could relate my own perspective.  From 1975 through 1983, I went through a period where I “brought men home” and sometimes went to the baths.  Since early spring 1983, I’ve “tricked” (in the conventional sense of what that usually means) only once, and that was in Minnesota in August 1999.  My last visit to a bathhouse was in March 1983 at the Club in Dallas.  (My first had been at the Club in New York in early 1975.)  As we know, in early summer 1984, the San Francisco Health Department closed the baths (I remember being at an Oak Lawn Softball Association party in Dallas when this was announced), and other cities followed suit very quickly.  As a business, the bathhouse industry was destroyed.  We learned to live without it.  In its place, some “quasi hotels” opened that were much simpler facilities which had private rooms and official (non enforced) policies of not having sex on the premises.  I have visited one of these only once, in the 1990s.  And sometimes “private party clubs” have formed, as there were well known in DC in the 1990s.
A lot of written about the transmission of Ebola, being related only to direct contact with body fluids.  Ebola is much more transmissible than HIV, which, as noted, explains why it cannot ever be a “gay disease”.  There is speculative discussion as to whether it could become airborne (see my Issue blog Oct. 16), and even, because of some unusual microbiology of infection, whether much longer incubation periods than have been reported are possible with very minimal exposures.   This latter discussion may help explain the draconian measures taken against some people with very minimal risk of exposure, especially in Ohio.  Again, the official line is that someone cannot transmit Ebola until there are significant symptoms that would keep the person out of the public anyway.  Some seem not so sure, and health officials are notifying hundreds of people (with apparently no risk and only the most incidental contact of being on the same airliner or business) and these people may be grounded. 
The usual concept that is relevant is called “social distancing”.  That idea has been applied mainly to airborne diseases, especially influenza and SARS/MERS.  This could become important. Clubs facilitate some intimate contact, especially discos (“dirty dancing”) in the gay community and “straight” community alike.   It is quite plausible to imagine health departments wanting to pull dance licenses on clubs “to protect health”.  This bears analogy to the closing of the baths three decades ago.  Many clubs would not survive such a measure, as customers would find no reason to find.  In fact, most clubs (outside a few cities like New York and San Francisco where there are many “fern” bars with no dancing) need to offer a climate where some intimacy happens and encouraged – intimacy which is known (after three decades of experience) not to be particularly risky with respect to HIV but which could turn out to be dangerous with Ebola or, more likely, a different airborne pandemic to happen in the future.  Clubs could also face arbitrary closure if an employee or even possibly a customer were identified with Ebola right after being on the premises (unlikely, we think, but not impossible).  Already, some insurance companies are pondering how to underwrite such “business interruption” and it seems so capricious when managed by governments and health departments.  We already know from experience that once clubs are closed (and lose liquor or dancing permits), they often find enormous political resistance to reopening, partly because many members of the public (saying they are concerned about noise and traffic) have “moral” objections to bars and dance halls to begin with.
There has been little coverage of this possibility in the gay press so far.  As with AIDS three decades ago, the gay press could rightly fear that it could provoke adverse behavior by politicians by merely talking about it, but this time, with an Internet, the circumstances are more nuanced, and it is independent bloggers who might wind up in the position of saying “I told you so.”  The Dallas Voice this morning does have a brief story of a candlelight vigil for the two Dallas nurses with Ebola, here. The mainstream gay press continues the stories on gay marriage, benefits, and overseas persecution as if it were business as usual.   And of course it must.  Back in the 1980s, there were some in the Dallas Gay Alliace who thought my "objectivity" was simply putting ideas in the heads of "enemies" that they could not have come up with on their own.