Thursday, August 27, 2015

Perpetrator in Roanoke station shootings reported to be gay in Washington Post

This is not pretty news, but a story in the Washington Post, front page, on Thursday August 27, 2015 by Peter Hemann, Paul Duggan, and L. Alexander, “’Vester Lee Flanagan was a man with a lot of anger, ‘station manager says”, reports that Flanagan (aka public name Bryce Williams) had complained about “shunned” for being gay, and that his sexual orientation had been confirmed by a “cousin”, link here
Breitbart (a conservative site) mentions the alleged homophobia here.

But I am not aware of this having been said in any other public gun homicide incidents in the past two decades. 
In any case, the face is not familiar to me personally.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

DHS seizes "Rentboy" site in New York

Here’s a disturbing story, from Reason (Scott Shackford), about the shutdown and civil asset forfeiture from the site “Rentboy.  The DHS civil complaint is here and is predicated solely on New York State prostitution laws. There is no possible connection to terrorism. 

The incident reminds one of the Megaupload seizure. 
I tried the site myself and got a Timeout error from Chrome.
Reason points out the financial incentive for the law enforcement agencies (including NYPD) to do the seizure.  It also points out that in many cities or rural areas gay men are not open or comfortable enough to find other partners in open society the same way heterosexuals would.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Revisiting the Tyler Clementi tragedy of 2010

I wanted to make a few notes about the tragic Tyler Clementi suicide in September 2010, and surrounding circumstances. 

There are a couple of ways in which his narrative seems to relate to my own experience.  One is that I had a “roommate issue” at the College of William and Mary in the fall of 1961, which would lead to my “expulsion” for admitting homosexuality to the Dean right after Thanksgiving weekend.  I’ve covered the details before many times in the blogs (and especially in the first of my three DADT books).  The circumstances for my experience were different because the historical time period was different.  This was the height of the Cold War (almost), and there was a feeling that “non-conforming” people had to be brought into line for the good of everyone.  I don’t consider my roommate’s boorish behavior malicious, because it was common for the times.  But the incident actually had culminated with the Dean calling my parents away from a weekend trip, and then “telling” them when they returned to campus and had to “take me out of school”.  Family attitude definitely mattered. (And I am an only child.)

In fact, had Clementi been born three or four years later, the same kind of incident probably couldn’t have happened at Rutgers. 

I do remember September 2010 well, as my mother was entering her final decline and would soon pass away (in December).  I made a couple of major Sunday day trips, including one to Penn State Sept. 19 (over an unrelated issue, not even concerned with the football team’s scandal) and then to the Spruce Knob area of West Virginia Sept. 26.

I definitely can relate to the bullying issue, and to a component of my own personality that has no tolerance for the idea of promoting victimhood.  To me, it seems shameful.  I also don’t relate to being forced to go along with someone else’s “agenda” in life and living a life other than my own. 

 The rule of law and social stability is necessary to prevent these things, and social instability (partly related to inequality) can undermine that, leading to coercion and the pressure from “enemies”.  I can relate to the idea that it could be shameful to live under those circumstances. I have reached the age 72 without this actually happening, but it has certainly been “threatened”.  I am considered not to “see people as people” and “like people” well enough to have “real relationships”, other than fantasy, with them.  A victim, I believe, helps pay for the sins of the attacker.  Enemies and “terrorists” know this, as do political movements that take over territory by force (by bullying).  So, I can imagine being in the position of a “Job”, with everything taken away by force, and thrown at the mercy of “God”.  It hasn’t happened to me, but it happens to others.  I can understand the view that only Grace (or its equivalent in any religious faith, including Islam) can save someone.  Otherwise, there is only death, sometimes.  Even so, suicide itself is shameful.  There are times when one has to deal with the hand one is dealt, no matter how harsh.  Everyone faces different challenges.  So it is not morally appropriate to name an organization after someone who took his own life.
News reports indicated some private letters from Clementi which were never made public, and probably never will be.  I had thought that his death might have been a way of showing contempt for what had happened, to see that others were punished (which would make it cowardly).  Again, I don’t think Mr. Ravi acted with malice.  I think he misjudged how seriously his actions would be taken.  I think the prosecution in New Jersey was overblown and a lighter sentence was appropriate.
But going back over the literature, it does seem that Clementi’s motives really had to deal with acceptance (or fear of rejection) by his own family members (after “finding out”), and not over contempt for Ravi or for “life” or for “society”.  Wikipedia even indicates that here.  Two important accounts in the New Yorker by Ian Parker and New York Times by Kate Zernike bear this out, if read closely.

This is a horrible tragedy, where impulsive events got out of control and led to consequences far worse than normally could have been foreseen.  Dr. Phil often talks about teens “not seeing around corners”.  But the same was true, relative to a different set of values, with my own expulsion in 1961.  Later a therapist said “You don’t see the consequences of the things you say and do”, but that was in part due to the circular reasoning in the minds of others.

I can remember that in the earlier days of the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for the military, Charles Moskos had sometimes talked about similar “privacy” issues in college dorms (at his own Northwestern University in Chicago).  Moskos’s own views on this aspect of the issue changed quickly after 9/11, however.  Times are changing, and this is no longer perceived as an issue for most college students today as it had been.
I know at least one other gay mid-20s grad student (I think in med school now), whom I will not identify, with music (violin) talents similar to Clementi’s.  Thankfully, his whole college experience went well (with multiple talents) as far as I know.  We lost a real talent with Clementi, whether he had stayed with music or not.  It was an improbable tragedy, but this happens. 
Picture: Rutgers campus, 2011, my visit.  I had lived in Piscataway during much of 1974. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

NY Times Opinionator challenges overuse of immutability, "born this way" argument

I’ll pass along the “Opinionator” column in the New York Times by John Corvino, “Gay rights and the race analogy”, link here.  There are other analogies, like age and religion. 
A Facebook friend passed this along a little while ago. I gave his post a “Like” and I wrote as a comment, “Immutability has (at best) always sounded like a lazy argument, often misleading.”

Corvino presents several examples, involving wedding cakes, birthday parties, and other stuff, and shows how “logically” many commonly accepted arguments for “gay rights” (sold by organizations who have to raise a lot of money) break down.  I like his comparison of counts of Confederate and rainbow flags, and mention of Jim Crow laws of the past. I'd recommend Kevin Willmott's 2004 indie mockumentary film, "C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America". 
My own case, as I’ve often written here, is definitely mixed. The more you look into my own life narrative, the more troubling paradoxes and ironies you find.
But just carrying a placard that says “born this way” in a pride parade seems intellectually lazy.  It may raise money and get converts. But it won’t always work, even morally.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Gay couples quickly learning about the marriage penalty in tax code

The Wall Street Journal, in a Weekend Investor column on p. D7, has an interesting refresher “tax report” column by Laura Saunders, “Another reason not to marry”, link here
The Ninth Circuit in California continued to allow separate deductions for pricey homes from two gay men in a “domestic partnership” preceding marriage.  Saunders goes on to point out that with two partners of about equal earnings (and both ample), the law still discourages “marriage” which now will apply to gay couples, too.
So public policy could simply recognize no relationship except “marriage” as “family” not that gays have won it. 


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Bill Nye, the Science Guy: some homosexuality seems to occur naturally in many mammals, doesn't necessarily undermine a species's reproductive success

Here is a video (published recently) where “Bill Nye the Science Guy” is asked whether homosexuality contradicts the interest of a species (human or animal) by diverting sex away from reproduction (the whole Vatican thing).  The questioner asks if homosexuality comes from instinct, or from “personal whim”?

Nye mentions the book “The Naked Ape” (Desmond Morris, 1967) which he hasn’t read in years.  But he says that gay men often marry and have children anyway, and some degree of bisexuality seems common in individuals of other mamma species, especially primates (like bonobos).  It seems to occur on its own in nature.  It may happen in cetaceans.

Homosexuality in nature seems to supplement reproduction rather than undermine it, by (in some cultures), offering other social structures and possibly encouraging familial altruism (support from members who did not personally reproduce), which many social mammals need (where relatively few males reproduce).  Paul Rosenfels used to articulate similar ideas at the Ninth Street Center in the 1970s. 
One problem is that “sex only within marriage” is (or was, in past decades) put on a high social pedestal to support having and raising children within intact families.  But, as a logical consequence, a prohibitionary policy (as Andrew Sullivan had described it back in the 90s in books like “Virtually Normal”) individuals could be punished for suspected private behaviors merely for violating a defined exclusionary social norm, so those who did fall within the norm felt better about themselves and remained passionate in marriage. 


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

US Navy Seals, Army Rangers show women (a select few) can pass their rigorous physical training

The US Navy is reporting that it will accept women into its Seals program, just after the Army announced that two women had completed an Army Ranger program that only 40% of males pass.  CNN has known details on both stories here.  Both services would require that women pass the same physical performance standards as men. It was not clear how quickly women would actually be deployed in combat missions, but that sounds inevitable.  Women will be very valuable in intelligence gathering in some conflict zones if they can serve in these units. 
There was no discussion of the sexual orientation of anyone in the program, but the report is interesting because it supports the idea that someday a transgender soldier will probably be able to pass one of these programs.  Kristin Beck (“Lady Valor”)  had changed to female after serving in Seals as a male. 

The prescient 1997 film “G. I. Jane” (directed by Ridley Scott, Hollywood Pictures/Disney) portrayed a female (Demi Moore) as passing Navy Seal training. I had seen the movie then at the Mall of America just after moving to Minneapolis.