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.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Asylum issue discussed after film at HRC forum, but remarks were kept general and high-level


At an HRC screening of a film (sponsored by Reel Affirmations) on the anti-gay “propaganda law” in Russia (that is, “Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda” by Michael Lucas, there were people from the DC Lesbian and Gay Center and Spectrum present during the QA.

The discussion pointed out that the rules for asylum do allow someone who belongs to a stigmatized “social group” to apply, and that the person does not have to “prove” that he or she is gay. 
   
I discussed the issue privately afterwards.  A few asylees from Russia and possibly Africa are in Washington, as in some other cities (especially Chicago).   The DC Center says it needs more help, but its website doesn’t give specifics, and neither does Spectrum.

People on asylum typically would not be allowed to work in the US for at least six months, so, as someone said, they would need “connections” to support them.  However, in contrast to how the 1980 Cuban Refugee crisis was handled in southern states, there has been no plea to ask people to house them or support them.  At that time, it was presented as a “moral edge”.  Personal morality (“paying it forward” and the like) has been kept out of the discussion this time.

There are good reasons for this.  The government is not pressuring individual Americans to support refugees (as with the Central American crisis and migrant children), because that could indirectly encourage illegal immigration.  In some countries (like Israel) that would normally be OK now with gay immigrants, there is concern that someone could feign homosexuality to hide terrorism.  And, following the news, there can be public health risks, especially from some countries (and in the future there could be other health issues besides Ebola or, in this context, HIV). 
  
The Washington Blade, in a story by Michael K. Lavers, reports a horrific attempted street kidnapping of gay activist in Hondouras, but the young man escaped, story here

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Vatican experiences a "pastoral earthquake" on gay issues


The media is widely reporting a new stand on gay people from the Vatican synod, under the influence of the new Pope Francis but not directly written by him.  The new directive says that LGBT people often (as individuals) have unique gifts to offer Christian and Catholic faith.  (It’s pretty obvious that a lot of this is in music – organ and choir, and composition;  some of it is “the Alan Turing effect” in science and can be game-changing.)  The BBC story is here. Another account, in Huffington, is here. The Vatican did not endorse same-sex marriage and says, “don’t make too much of this” today. But others call this a "pastoral earthquake"/  

Vatican theology has always, in the past, suggested that all sexuality should occur only within the context of heterosexual marriage where there is openness to procreation.  The Vatican used to see this point as a social justice issue because it implied that everyone will share the “risks” of child rearing, and simply not opt out because it is expensive, burdensome, or presents unpredictable challenges (a child’s disability).  There is an idea that some “obligations” of societal “citizenship” are more likely to be carried out, or become more fulfilling and meaningful, if one knows that everyone else has to live up to the same expectation.  Previous Vatican theory (as does that of most “conservative” religions) had held that starting and keeping a family was one way a man experiences putting his life and purpose on line for others when he really has to.  (Of course, men did this when they were drafted into the military, often before they were old enough to be likely to have married even in the most optimal circumstances.)  Religious theology has usually made a lot of capping individual sovereignty, which affects those who are “different” (like me), both individually and as a result of policy.

Remember, marriage equality as we see it today is relatively new as a compelling issue (mostly within the past fifteen years).  "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the older military gay ban were compelling because they bore on the capacity of gay people to share the deeper responsibilities and hazards of civilization.  So were other kinds of discrimination, like in Scouting or with security clearances, and broader employment.  Back in the 1980s, the issue was privacy (and medical progress), especially in light of AIDS.  And before that, merely being left alone had been a big issue, although throughout the 1970s, after Stonewall, in most larger cities, things had gotten much better, but gays tended to live openly in "urban exile" away from the crimping socializing influence of much of family life. That's how I had experienced most of my adult life. 

Previous Vatican directives had been horrible. An earlier statement had been issued in 2005, as here  (in Italian). 

In 1986, Cardinal Ratzinger and now former Pope had written (in “The Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons”), in fact, “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech and action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs….Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is more or less a tendency toward an intrinsic moral evil and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder…The use of sexual behavior can be morally good [only in a marital relation framed by procreation]. A person engaging in homosexual behavior therefore acts immorally.”

Later Tuesday, CNN reported that the Vatican had "backtracked" on its comments, after protests from "conservative Catholics", here.
 
Picture: Volleyball at Northern VA gay pride, although the photo effect in the autumn sunlight makes the players look a bit like "The Leftovers"/  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fathers earn more than childless men. Does this apply to gay dads?


There is a story on CNN Money that fathers earn more than non-fathers, even within any age group. It’s titled “It Pays to Be a Dad”, and is by Tami Luhby, link here

The story didn’t focus on married men (as opposed to unmarried me) with kids. 

One question, of course, is “Why?”   Is being a father, a sign of “reproductive success”, itself a sign of greater competitiveness?  Or does having responsibility to provide for kids encourage men to play harder for the big bucks? Or does it have to do with discrimination against singles as less "responsible" (or less "driven")?   If so, it's discrimination against some men for what they don't do (engage in procreative sexual intercourse).  
      
For gay men, this used to be a question of “singles” vs. “married with kids”.  LLDEF, particularly, wrote pieces in the 90s that gay and single men (and women) worked “at a discount’, particularly in salaried environments, where people don’t get paid for overtime.  I often played this card, and that helps explain in part how I went 30 years without layoff. Whew!

Now there is a new wrinkle, gay dads (who have steadily increased in visibility since the 1990s) and gay dads in same-sex marriages.  I haven’t seen any data on how they (“gay dads”) fare compared to non-parent gays.  We’re seeing this play out with the “Will and Sonny” supercouple in the soap “Days of our Lives”, where Will, as a “writer”, is behaving aggressively in what he writes and publishes, and promotes it, sometimes in the name of his daughter.  
  
There’s also the talent premium.  The younger male gay community seems to have a higher-than-predicted portion of “super-stars”, in media and now in the sciences.  (Go here, .  That will also affect the results in the future. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Washington Blade holds 45th Anniversary Party, announces Foundation, recalls first issue, which had dealt even with blackmail


The Washington Blade held its 45th Anniversary party last Thursday Oct. 9 in Washington DC, on 14th Street, to found a Washington Blade Foundation for research on LGBT history and journalism.  The Facebook announcement was here , and a story about the new foundation is here
  
I was not able to attend because I had pre-purchased Kennedy Center tickets that day.

The print issue of the Blade featured a photocopy of the one page original issue of “The Gay Blade” in October 1969 (while I was in the Army at Ft. Eustis, and sometimes called a “blade” myself).  There was a story asking men to give blood in benefit to Mattachine, and a warning that police were recording license plates of cars parked near gay bars in Washington.  There was advice to call Frank Kameny on issues like blackmail, security clearances, and the military draft.  David Mixner’s book “Stranger Among Friends” had detailed an account where Mixner was “set up” by the FBI back in 1969. 

The Blade went through restructuring in 2009 and 2010 after its parent company, Windows Media, ceased operating.  It first called itself “DC Agenda” until it got back the legal right to use the “Washington Blade” trademark.  


Today, at Mount Olivet Methodist Church in Arlington VA, rev. Ed Walker mentioned the issue of gay equality as an example where moral progress in society depends on a lot more than “the greatest good for the greatest number”.  The church has not been quite as progressive on gay issues as some others until more recently.  
 
Vox has a story and a map showing in which states getting a same-sex marriage license (a matter of public record) technically can get someone fires, here

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sexual harassment scandal with Gay Republican candidate in Sam Diego spills over into other areas


Some unfortunate behavior and a bitter dispute is driving down the reputation of Gay Republicans – and Log Cabin has been around for years.
  
The candidate Carl DeMaio, openly gay GOP congressional candidate from San Diego, and former city council member, has been accused of sexual harassment by a campaign staffer, Todd Bosnich, according to a CNN news story by Chris Frates and Scott Zamost, link here

 Todd’s story becomes a bit lurid, and leads to a burglary of the campaign office, which Todd denies any connection with and which San Diego Police Department is so far silent on.

Other sources at the campaign say that Bosnich had plagiarized to produce campaign materials (San Diego source ) by taking material from the National Journal. 
  
It's all a shame.  The GOP could use some strong GLBT candidates who might bring understanding on social issues and perhaps some sensible moderation in issues like health insurance, national debt, immigration, and foreign and military policy. 
 
There's a very tangential story about a high school in New Jersey which cancelled its football season after some senior football players were reported assaulting freshmen as part of a hazing or initiation ritual.  The attacks, while sexual, were not about relationships or pleasure, but about establishing domination and social control.   Prosecutions might be possible.  Update:  CNN reports arrests of several of the high school students here.  
 
Wikipedia attribution link for picture of San Diego from Navy fighter. My last visits were in May 2012 and in Feb. 2002.  Second picture is the "bar" area on University Blvd, 2012 visit.