Friday, May 29, 2015
I can recall a radio interview with George McGovern back in early 1972, when, for all his “liberalism”, the South Dakota senator warned that campaigning on “legalization of marijuana” and “legalization of marriage between homosexuals” could “dive the Democrats to defeat”.
Now, the unexpectedly quickly progress of acceptance gay marriage (along with the numbers of gay parents and same-sex couples raising kids) in most western countries and many states, after any judicial prodding at all under equal protection, triangulates the cultural war. There are three points in equilibrium, not just two sides.
It used to be that homosexuality, especially in men, was viewed as a proxy for character-related failure of gender socialization, and for the ability to participate “properly” as a member of the community rather than following one’s own ends. That sort of idea fueled many conservative arguments against even tolerating homosexuality in the past, which had peaked in the late 1950s under McCarthyism and then roared back for a couple of years in the 80s because of AIDS in some areas of the country.
Writers like George Gilder (“Men and Marriage”, 1986, and the earlier “Sexual Suicide”, 1973) had argued that most men only find real purpose in life when they become fathers within marriage. Pornography, certainly more conspicuous in the straight world than gay (just look at Times Square in the early 70s) was viewed as evidence of character short-circuiting. But there were only two sides to the issue then.
With the acceptance of not only gay marriage but of same-sex headed families (which have always existed) there’s a new expectation on the horizon. A man can marry another man and they can spend the rest of their lives together. They can be expected to remain passionate, even as they age and become less “attractive”, or, more seriously, if misfortune falls one of them. With the end of DADT, the possibility that one serves openly and then returns as a wounded or maimed veteran, and stays with a partner, and even continues raising children, increases. I know that, early in life, my presence in closer quarters was seen as distracting to the self-confidence of heterosexual men.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Zack Ford has an interesting piece on ThinkProgress, about GOP presidential hopeful Marc Ribio, paraphrased as “If we don’t stop gay rights, soon the teachings of the Catholic Church will be ‘hate speech’”, link here.
There is a lot of double talk in his arguments, as if he were chasing quantum theory and all its contradictions. But it is true, the Vatican teachings, taken literally, insist that all sexuality be directed to intercourse in marriage that is open to procreation. The effect of the theology is to penalize those who don’t participate in heterosexual sexual intercourse, unless they are nuns or priests. It’s a strange irony.
Yet, in the grand scheme of things, yes, reproduction is an important biological function. People who have children usually have longer life expectancies. As one Washington Times columnist (female) in a private email once wrote to me, “Reproduction rules.”
Monday, May 25, 2015
Maryland bill with sweeping discrimination protections becomes law June 3 even without a GOP governor's signature
A sweeping anti-discrimination bill protecting LGBT people in specified areas will become law Wednesday June 3, 2015, even without Republican governor Larry Hogan’s signature, according to a Washington Post article this morning by Josh Hicks, link here.
The law prevents discrimination in fertility treatments regardless of sexual orientation, and allows gender changes on birth certificates.
Sunday afternoon, quite a few people made their way to the TownDC Patio on U Street along the Green Line after the Nationals’ baseball victory that afternoon (4-1). The Patio had a fog machine that cooled outdoor patrons and actually created real rainbows if viewed from certain angles.
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Memorial Day weekend in Washington DC always marks DC Black Pride, which precedes the usual Capital Pride in June. Its website and links is here.
Friday night, the Cobalt in DC held a small “Rich White Ladies” stage show upstairs around midnight. Something interesting: an iPhone can cut through the mist to the stage, but a Canon Power Shot cannot.
The crowd volume was pretty normal for what I remember on Friday nights, even if I haven’t been there as often lately. Dancing takes place on both levels.
Yesterday was a "crazy day" for me; it was time to "decompress".
It’s also noteworthy that Friday, Ireland became the first country where a same-sex marriage referendum passed, Blade story here. The margin of victory was quite large. Here's an analysis on how "individualism" contributed to the big "win", by James Peron in Huffington, link.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Update: October 8
The Hippo closed after the last dance October 3.
Update: May 11
The Baltimore Sun has a story on the closing this fall here.
Update: October 8
The Hippo closed after the last dance October 3.
Friday, May 08, 2015
The school board for Fairfax County Public Schools voted 10-1 Thursday night, at a stormy meeting, to include gender identity in its list of protected categories for students and employees, which presumably will include teachers and subs.
Fairfax County is a large “urban county” (population over 800000) in Virginia immediately southwest of Washington DC, separated from DC by Arlington County and the City of Alexandria. Fairfax City, in the middle of the county, is separate. In Virginia, incorporated cities are always separate from the counties that surround them, but Virginia may be the only state that has a format called “urban county” (for Arlington and Fairfax) which seems to offer some financial benefits.
The FCPS board said it will work on logistics for how to handle potential locker room and lavatory issues.
The Washington Blade has a story by Lou Chibbaro, Jr. here.
I worked as a substitute teacher in Fairfax County from 2004 to 2007. I also worked in Arlington County. I did encounter some issues, and they are widely discussed on other blogs (especially the “BillBoushka” blog July 25 and July 27, 2007 entries). As far as I know, there was no explicit protection for sexual orientation when I was working. There were some unsettling problems about personal “off duty” Internet speech.
I did vet the idea of taking university courses and getting a regular teacher’s license (for math) in the middle 2000’s anyway. I talked to GWU about its MeD program once, and a man who had taught high school English in FCPS told me that he was gay and that he was asked not to “tell” when he started teaching in 1989. Times have changed. And he DADT concept applied outside the military.
Tuesday, May 05, 2015
Huckabee attacks SCOTUS, gay marriage in presidential announcement, right after talking about national EMP threat
Mike Huckabee sounded almost off-the-wall announcing his GOP candidacy from Arkansas today, with some rather alarming statements.
Yes, he “threatened” the Supreme Court on the gay marriage case, and I doubt that SCOTUS, even the conservative members, will be very impressed. Chris Johnson has a story in the Washington Blade here.
But there’s more. I was tuned on to CNN around 11:45 AM EDT when Huckabee was on the air, and just before his remark on gay marriage (and religious freedom), he talked about Iran (yes, appropriate), and then warned that the US was not ready for the possibility of an electromagnetic pulse attack (EMP) which could send it back to the 19th Century (see my Books blog on this, for example the novel “One Second After”, reviewed there on July 20, 2012). He also talked about cyber terror as a threat to the power grid and our way of life. Talking about gay marriage immediately after these remarks, as if the supposed “self-indulgence” of renouncing complementarity had something to do with national security, was indeed startling. I tweeted this immediately.
Roscoe Bartlett, from MD, has made similar remarks about the EMP threat.
What does Log Cabin Republicans think of Hucakbee?
Remember the movie “I Heart Huckabees”? Roger Ebert rather liked it.
Monday, May 04, 2015
Established Baptist church near White House reports on LGBT group at congregational meeting; some activists not ready to dialogue if we "win" on marriage
Sunday, at a congregational meeting of the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC, there was a brief verbal report of a meeting of an LGBT neighborhood support group. There weren’t any details, but the congregation is obviously dealing with the enormous change in social values that have occurred over the past few decades, leading to disagreements and making it difficult for any pastor to stay a long time. On all kinds of issues, leading back, for instance, to the days of US involvement in the Vietnam War, there has developed a wide range of opinions throughout the membership of the church, and a wide diversity of experience of religion itself – whether it is very personal (as with me), or is dictated by others. For example, I believe that support for same-sex marriage would probably be around 50% now.
That morning, a visiting pastor had given a stunning sermon on sacrifice and military service (my issues blog), although he did not mention the repealed DADT specifically.
The long term pastor, Edward Pruden, from the 1940s through the 1960s, raised in Richmond, was well known for progressive views on race and civil rights even in the early 1950s. More than once he commented on racial integration in the military under Truman as necessary (progressive in 1948), and had offered theories as to how a Christian nation like Germany got fooled by Nazism.
I grew up in this church, which belongs to both American and Southern conventions, as well as several other affiliations. The church, like many downtown churches, has experienced dwindling membership, but has prospered from real estate holdings and the construction of a modern mainstream-market rental apartment building, the Drake.
I thought I would relay a Washington Blade article by Mark Lee, “Some gays and lesbians aren’t ready to win”, here retweeted by Richard Sincere (GLIL) yesterday. Note the remarks about Bruce Jenner’s “conservatism” and the invitation of Ted Cruz to meet with business owners from Fire Island, NY (which I haven’t visited in a long time, as is also the case for me with P-town).
Sunday, May 03, 2015
Town DC does a new version of its "Crack" drag satire show/ DC seems normal while Baltimore curfew continues
Saturday night, I did return to the Town Dance Boutique in Washington DC and saw a good part of another version (see June 4, 2012) of the show “Orange Is the New Crack”, a parody of the Netflix TV series (“Orange Is the New Black” on the TV blog, Dec. 29, 2013).
In addition to the prison orange and some South Sea costumes, the show offered unusual stage props, with a barbed wire fence and search lights around it, and they stayed up during the dance afterward.
The crowd was about average or slightly bigger for a warm-weather Saturday. Outdoors, it was a perfect 70 degrees on the patio.
Could the Town stage provide enough room for a piano concert? Or would that defer to the 930 Club nearby?
I didn’t see any real evidence that people had come down from Baltimore because of the curfews there. That cannot be good. Until 8PM or so, we had some forlorn hope that the curfew there would be lifted. Why punish the entire city for problems in a few areas?