Thursday, May 21, 2015

Boy Scouts head says that ban on gay adult leaders is unsustainable

Dr. Robert Gates, president of the Boy Scouts of America, has told the BSA that its current organizational ban on gay adult scout leaders is unsustainable.  The Scouting News Room has the PDF for his remarks here. There is a summary story in Vox Media by Margarita Noriega here
The BSA recently allowed local troops to decide whether to admit openly gay scouts.  This was surprisingly difficult despite the repeal of the example-setting military “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011. The Supreme Court had upheld the BSA's constitutional right to a ban based on its status as a private group back in 2000. 
Just as with the military, the notion that the presence of gay men in a culture dependent on “unit cohesion” undermines this motivation at a psychological level, has receded with younger adults who have grown up in a more individualistic culture.  For me, this whole line of thinking had started in a college dorm at William and Mary in 1961.  Overtime, it experienced increasing difficulty renting public facilities. 
I was a Cub Scout for one year, at age 8.  I couldn’t stand it!  But I remember the tasks.  Like tie your necktie.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

No, conservatives, other societies have recognized same-sex marriage in history

Trevor Burns has a Washington Post article, “Conservatives say marriage has always been between a man and a woman.  They’re wrong”, May 13, link here
The article notes that some West African societies have allowed lesbian marriages, and even allowed the “female husband” to keep custody of biological children from the wife (sired by biological men).
It also notes that some native-American societies have allowed same-sex marriages when both work roles are represented. 
Burns notes that it seems odd to appeal to historical tradition to maintain an established notion of opposite-sex-only marriage.  Yet the book “The Great Divide” by William Gairdner (Book reviews, May 14) notes that conservatives believe that moral notions are deeply rooted in tradition and not always subject to intellectual parsing.  Even the Supreme Court has said this in the past (“Bowers v. Hardwick”, 1986, well before “Lawrence v. Texas” (2003).
It also seems evident that practically all societies still tie marriage in some way to raising children and to group survival.    The changes in women’s roles in more recent decades have made gender roles much less critical than in the past, to the point that in a few cases, outstanding soldiers or male athletes have then declared themselves to be transgendered women.

Many older societies have also recognized eunuchs or asexual people as have priesthood functions. 
Richard Sincere had posted this link as a tweet a few days ago.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Casa Ruby Community Center has opened a home for LGBT youth in Washington DC

The Casa Ruby Community Center is starting to move some residents into a new home in the Columbia Heights section of Washington DC.  Lou Chibbaro, Jr. has a detailed story in the Washington Blade this weekend here. The Center’s slogan is “We are everyone’s home” or “Somos la casa de todas”.  The City Paper has a 2013 article on the life of trans activist Ruby Corado, by Jenny Rogers, here
The group appears to have an affiliation with the DC Center also (which is helping Reel Affirmations with the 2015 film festival the last weekend of August 2015.

 Above: brunch at Freddie's Beach Bar in Arlington VA with the AGLA today; that's me. Note the Nationals cap. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Employers start saying same-sex couples who can marry must do so in order to continue spousal benefits

Some employers have told associates with same-sex partners on corporate health plans that they must wed in order to keep benefits, if they live in states where same-sex marriage has become legal (37 of them now).  That’s the gist of a front page Wall Street Journal article by Rachel Emmo Silverman, here.  A good question occurs if the marriage occurred in another state but the employer’s state has been forced to recognize it, or if the employee lives in a different state from where he or she works.  Delta and Verizon were mentioned.  In some cases, employers are dropping spousal coverage for spouses who could get coverage elsewhere.
I’ve started reading the book “The Great Divide” by William Gairdner, and I peeked (or "sneak-previewed") at his chapter on “Homosexuality and Gay Marriage” and his comparison chart on the “Modern Liberal View” against the “Conservative View”.   In general, he spends a lot more space on the “conservative” position but he claims to be writing in subjunctive mood. One problem is conflating “homophobia” with opposition to gay marriage per se.  It’s one thing to want to be left alone by the state, and by your employer, parents, and others when you’re an adult.  It’s another to demand the “privilege” of benefits in marriage.  But these issues come together. If you don’t have equal rights, sometimes you wind up being expected to make sacrifices for others who are more privileged.  Arguments against gay marriage do have a lot to do with willingness to accept the risks and responsibilities of procreation (as well as some men wanting some primacy for penetrative intercourse itself).  But it’s no longer a two-sided argument. Commitment in gay marriage still involves giving up adolescent fantasies and staying with a partner when hardships or challenges – even to sexual attractiveness – inevitably arrive. Gairdner also makes an interesting claim that all "sex" really involves the potential for reproduction, and that homosexuality is really just "homosensuality" (still the same thing to the human brain) and he rehearses the usual conservative arguments against depending on immutability.  He also poohs the "altruism" argument, which would seem to neglect the growing issue with eldercare.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

FDA issues guidelines for lifting MSM blood donation ban; one year abstinence standard

The Food and Drug Administration has announced it will lift the absolute ban on MSM (men who have sex with men, since 1977) from blood donations.  These are non-binding recommendations and appear to apply only to blood and blood products (like stem cells for marrow transplants), not to organ donations.  The Washington Post has a Scribd PDF link here. (Note: the Embed code doesn’t work, don’t know why).

The recommendations require abstinence from anal or oral sex with other men for one year.  The recommendations are not different for monogamous, even married, male couples.  The FDA notes that married couples may be less likely to use condoms.  There is also controversy, still, over the effectiveness of condoms.

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund has a press release, critical of the FDA release, noting that any HIV would manifest in an antigen test within at most 60 days.  (That reminds me of the discussions of the maximum possible incubation period for Ebola last year – 21 days, or more like 42?)
I have not learned of any HIV cases among my own cohort of friends or people that I circulate with.  On a practical level, spread among “educated” gay men seems to be much less today than it was in the 1980s.  Behavior does seem to be much more cautious, among men that I talk to.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

"Upward affiliation" and moral dualism; a hidden part of the marriage and parenting equality debate

The most obvious gay news today may well be bill in Texas, which could be mimicked in other states, to pre-empt a coming Supreme Court decision on “states’ rights” and gay marriage which, it would seem, social conservatives expect to go against “them”.  The constitutional legalities of this is a topic for another day.  It sounds rather silly, and like an uncoerced confession.  
It still seems rather important to me, at least, to lay out how I have processed my own sexuality and how I have processed the reactions of others to it, and how that blossomed to  how I view coercive efforts in other areas.  For purely logical reasons, depending on immutability for political battles has never seemed like a good idea to me.  The truth is more nuanced.  

As the very first sentence of my first DADT book notes, my erotic interests, during teen years, seem to develop on their own, which follows the idea of immutability. But there was a particular context that is disturbing.  By grade school, I was “weaker” than other boys my age, and behind in coordination (I didn’t learn to swim, and my only report card D was in  tumbling unit in PE in 11th grade). I also developed a compulsive tendency for attention-getting by interrupting in class.
Why I fell behind physically isn’t clear. My birthday is in July and I started first grade at 6, so I may have been younger than most boys.  Malcolm Gladwell might make a lot of that.  But, by the time I was in ninth grade, my skills in, say, playing back yard softball were about par with boys three or four years younger, and that isn’t so good. 

I had measles in June 1950, before second grade, but comment report cards show some mild concerns about development in first grade.  Second grade went well, but my third grade teacher was all over me about my physical backwardness.  During third grade, I started piano, and it may well be that my brain was pruning what it wouldn’t need prematurely to focus on what I was good at.  This would be something similar to mild autism, or Asperger’s.  That doesn’t always affect physical motor development, but it sounds reasonable that it sometimes does. 

But I developed a behavior pattern that psychologists sometimes call “upward affiliation”.  There was a 50s-style myth that you couldn’t be male and smart at the same time, so I admired young men who were “both at the same time” and, following the cultural values of the time, believed them to be “morally” superior, or virtuous.  This took on the aspects of an almost religious belief. 
No question, in my case, my own values started to affect by “automatic” sexual response to what I would see in others.  Then I would develop the tendency to monitor others “privately” to reassure myself that they lived up to “standards”.

I knew that the culture expected men to provide for women (after giving them future babies).  The idea of “no sex except in marriage” (“SIBM” as in the Army) seemed to set up a double standard.  But during the period after my William and Mary Expulsion (1961) and NIH stay (1962) it became more apparent that religious Christian standards of sexual morality were designed to make marital sex exciting and keep marriages together as people aged and were challenged in various ways.  
I also picked up on the idea that my “upward affiliation” disturbed or at least perturbed others.  It had the potential, when expressed (as in the closed environment in a dorm, or later at NIH, and today on the Internet) to lead others who were less “physically gifted” to believe they were somehow morally “unworthy” for marriage and procreation.  This could become more disturbing to some people than the more usual competition that leads to jealousy.  At least, this is the message I was getting from people, who saw me as psychologically sadistic at times.  Yet, I remained attached and “addicted” to my own moral beliefs, which presented a certain dualism. 

I was preoccupied enough with my own ideas that I simply didn’t even think about the idea of having a family myself, or raising my own biological progeny to adulthood.   From observation, I certainly see what that means to other people today.  I also see the risks.  A child can grow up to create the next Facebook test, or vaccine or cancer test, or a child can be profoundly disabled and needy.  A lot of luck is involved as well as good parenting.  I made my own separate peace and lived in my own world, where marriage and lineage were a private afterthought. 
So I had no desire for intercourse with women, even when I tried dating.  I could interpret this in terms of my physical backwardness.  Had I been more competitive myself physically, I probably would have viewed all this differently, and become interested in having a family.  Then I would have my own children today, and a biological extension of myself until the Sun becomes a red giant.  As an only child, that means my parents’ lineage “dies” too. 

Still, I could have married and had children, and maintained an “upward affiliation” for men at the same time.  We all know that his happens a lot.  That could have led to a situation where I could have exposed a potential wife to HIV in the 1980s, even leading to infection at birth.  I never did become infected.  I was attractive than usual and less active than usual, and moved out of NYC in 1979.  Still, I was active enough in Dallas through 1983 that I could have been infected.  I just wasn’t.  Or do I have a gene that offers some unusual resistance to HIV?  That’s possible, a kind of reverse Darwinism. 

There used to be a stereotype that gay men were effeminate and “weak”, an idea that gradually died in the 1970s, after Stonewall, as gay men, at least in the large cities, became more visible. In fact, I found when competing in physical events (like the Oak Lawn Softball Association in Dallas in the 1980s, or hiking with Adventuring in DC) that I was behind most adult gay men, too, physically.  I remember a moment in December 1990 when on a hike up a 3800-foot ridge in West Virginia on an Adventuring hike that I fell behind on the 1500-foot climb and a stray dog met me and escorted me up! *  We all know that even transgendered people who start as men can be physically competitive (like Bruce Jenner, or “Lady Valor”, Kristin Beck (Movies, Sept. 4, 2014), well before they change genders. 

Does this refute immutability?  No, it refines it.  It also adds fuel to arguments about “fairness”, and concerns that someone like me can ride on someone else’s sacrifice. 

Fast forward decades later, when am a self-published author and blogger leveraging my story on the web behind the scenes.  I face a certain coercion and disruption from some people, who want me to become silent, follow them, but, guess what, pimp their causes and, even more, take turns caring for their troubled children.  And, I was caught in this situation, of having to protect my own mother, and “take care” of people.  Yes, I am supposed to do that despite not having the experience of having my own family.  It's certainly true that, as a singleton now, I'm not as flexible in taking advantage of life-extending medical care, should that be necessary, if I haven't built the real world social network from family (ironically less could be done in these situations when I was growing up, so I didn't internalize the idea of using a marital relationship that way, as would be necessary today). That really puts a lot of twists in the gay marriage and gay adoption debates. It also means that some measures, like that suddenly announced in Texas, show a self-serving moral circularity. 

I sometimes also get confronted, somewhat coercively, with the idea that I should become personally involved with others in a way to make others “all right” (including pimping narrow causes based on "need").  Complicating the moral assessment is the fact that at the end of 2010 I benefited from inheriting most of an estate.  I certainly buy the idea that, in the grand scheme of things, I should be able to provide for other people. But I want to do by making my own creative work successful, not by pimping other people’s causes and needs. 

There is something, though, about the whole upward affiliation issue, the whole “he can do better than that” idea.   Yes, liberty seems to demand the right to control your own relationships, to reject others without question, and to define the course you will take before taking on a family. But “body fascism” is allowed to be OK, because if reinforces some moral beliefs that are quite addictive (like religion), we can all find ourselves drifting back toward real fascism.  Around the world, our enemies know this. 

I guess the next time someone who doesn’t appeal to me wants to dance, while I’m gawking at a disco, I should remember this.  

Update: May 13

The Dallas Morning News has a detailed story of the legislation proposed in Texas, here, by Robert Garrett. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Club Hippo disco in Baltimore appears to be setting up to close before the end of 2015, to be replaced by a CVS store

A local Baltimore paper “Baltimore Brew” reports (in a story May 9 by Edward Gunts) that the Club Hippo, the disco club at N. Charles and Eager Streets in Baltimore, is likely to close because the owner. Chuck Bowers, is negotiating a sale of the property for a CVS store.  I first heard about this in an "accidental" conversation before watching a film at the Maryland Film Festival at the Walters Art Museum today.  Note that there are many detailed comments on this news story online.
After the film, I went to the Hippo and then the Grand Central and bartenders at both places knew about the story.  At the Hippo, I was told that the Hippo would probably close in less than six months, but should be open until the fall.  It will be open during Baltimore Pride (later this year than in previous years, July 25-26).  I was told that negotiations had been going on for over a year and that this business matter has nothing to do with the Baltimore riots.  But apparently it had stayed under wraps until yesterday.
Business in bars in Baltimore were hurt badly by the curfew last weekend, especially when the mayor kept it Saturday night, May 2. I was told that they had closed at 9 PM and didn’t really try to have earlier events.  Some businesses may be able to collect on business interruption insurance but I don’t know if these establishments were covered.
The Hippo has a sports bar (Orioles and Ravens please), karaoke room (used on many nights) and disco floor with a sunken disco.  It has been open since 1972, and was remodeled in the 80s.  My own impression, from occasional visits, is that business, at least late on Saturday nights, has been down a bit since maybe around 2009.  It used to be much more packed, especially during the 1990s. 
It might be possible for a new business owner to pick up the license and open a similar club somewhere else in the general area.
The gay bar business can be a difficult one.  When bars lose leases, they often have trouble getting liquor licenses for new locations (especially in Washington DC, 40 miles away).  A few decades back, they had difficult relations with police and syndicates in many cities (the so-called “mafia bar” in New York in the early 70s, and the attempt of a NYC mayor in the 1960s to close most gay bars before the 1964-1965 Worlds Fair).  In Dallas, until 1981, they had to deal with police harassment and false arrests for “public lewdness”.  Reading between the lines, owners may feel more concerned about security, given the unprecedented nature of some global politics today.
Neighborhoods also change, as LGBT people are more spread out than they used to be. There was a club-restaurant, the French Quarter, in Old Town Alexandria VA (and another club, the Metro, which has some gay events) in the 1990s, but it closed some time before 2000.  That area could use a club. 
But let’s hope something works out, at least another similar disco club in a nearby location.  Baltimore, though, as we know, is going through unusually difficult times with the relations between the administration and underprivileged people in the city.

Update: May 11
The Baltimore Sun has a story on the closing this fall here