Saturday, December 29, 2007

Town DC fills in disco gap left by Velvet Nations

Note: I finally took a picture of the Town DC Club (Jan. 8). The rest of the posting follows as I wrote it in December.

Last night, I visited Town DC, the new gay disco in Cardozo, at 8th and U Sts NW in Washington DC, near Nellie’s and a few blocks from the Lincoln Theater, where Reel Affirmations as had its LGBT film festivals in October each year. It is near Howard University and considered to be located in the rapidly re-gentrifying (and now expensive) Shaw area. (Metropolitan Community Church is about a half mile away.) It is nearest the U-Street/Cardozo Metro stop and the African-American Civil War Memorial. There is some concern that Metro train service after midnight on weekends may be terminated some time in 2008. There is on-site secured parking for a fee, and on-street parking in the area, especially as one goes north above V and W Streets.

Town DC fills a void left by the closing of the Velvet Nations club in July 2005, which hosted a large gay disco party every Saturday night. That club was closed because of real estate, office and condominium development in the half mile or so north of the new Washington Nationals baseball stadium along the Anacostia River. The development is itself controversial since low income residents have been driven out of the area, often to Prince Georges County. The gay press has reported a lot on the displacement of many clubs. The Town seems to be the first major business that has re-emerged, and its ownership derives from the ownership of the Nation, which had promised that it would aggressively seek a new property when it was forced to close.

The Club hopefully represents a new trend, of modern, clean upscale clubs in previously rundown areas that are now being rapidly re-developed with renovated or new or renovated residences and offices, as is true of U-street. (The subprime crisis could slow down this redevelopment in many cities.) There is no reason in principle why the Club could not have been established near the new stadium (depending on the complicated and politicized DC zoning rules). There are two levels. The lower level has a small drag show stage in a “bullpen” with an elevated deck to the left. The upper level has a full-sized dance floor. Both levels have bars, with Disney-like Cinerama landscape videos (of the Oregon coast) unfolding behind them. The club opens Friday and Saturday nights, with Friday admitting 18-20 (no alcohol). Both evening have two 45-minute drag shows around 9:30 and 11, some of them with Miss Lena Lett. At the 9:30 show last night, the performers engaged the audiences with jokes, and invited the dancers (headed upstairs) to preview themselves. She invited one GW student, “Ben” up to the stage and stuck a tip under his shirt, when he said he needed $50000 for tuition. She missed an opportunity for a joke here: “Ben” is the “victim” (??) in the recent gay short horror film “Bugcrush” from Strand that is all the rage on Logo. (Remember Willard?)

The biggest drag show stage that I am familiar with is the Gay 90s in Minneapolis. The nearby Saloon has a wide-angle dance floor with three elevated platforms that would the dance hall to wide-screen filming some day.

Pictures: MCC Atlanta in the Pride Parade 2004; Howard University Hospital, and Lincoln Theater, in Washington, both near the Club.

Update: July 12, 2008

Last night, Town had a raffle for Washington Nationals tickets. Yes, the dancers worked the crowd to sell them, and one guy, still in sports shirt, "got it" on the stage. But nobody seemed to be interested in looking up how the Nats were doing Friday with cell phone Internet. Despite their decimation with injuries, they won their most lopsided victory of the season last night 10-0 against the Astros. The Nats did have a "gay day" on June 23 in an interleague game that the Nats lost to the Los Angeles Angels, 3-2.

Friday, December 21, 2007

ING gets top rating from HRC Equality Index

ING, a global financial services company headquartered in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, with US operations in Atlanta (also Minneapolis and Hartford) received the top rating from HRC's Equality Index for the second year in a row.

The Corporate Equality index rates 519 large companies a year on how well they treat GLBT employees, on "like non-discrimination policies, diversity training and benefits for domestic partners and transgender employees." The press release is here.

In the United States, ING has grown by acquiring a number of other insurance companies, including ReliaStar in Minneapolis (in 2000), which itself had acquired USLICO Corporation in Arlington, VA in 1995. USLICO had been built around United Services Life, which had specialized in selling life insurance to military officers. USL had always been a major competitor of USAA, a large insurance company in Texas selling many different kinds of insurance military personnel.

I was working for USLICO as an individual contributor computer programmer when it was acquired in 1995. At the same time, the debate about the military ban (the 1993 military "don't ask don't tell" policy) was going on, and I was making plans for my book. I applied for and received a new position within the company in Minneapolis starting in September 1997. I left the company (with a retirement and layoff at the same time during downsizings related to economic turbulence in 2001) at the end of 2001. This all is visible on my resume site.

I visited Amsterdam on my on vacations twice, in 1999 and 2001, but never did visit the worldwide headquarters. The futuristic "House" that headquarters the company can be viewed here. The upside-down design resembles that of the well known Nemo Museum downtown, which I have visited. When you land at Schipol in the morning after flying into the time zones from the states (missing the night in the summer) and head for the double decker blue and yellow Dutch trains, you see ING Orange and lions everywhere (no, it looks different from the MGM lion).

First Picture: where I worked in Arlington until 1997. Second picture: Atlanta Pride, 2004 (ING-US is headquartered in suburban Atlanta). Third picture: Ads at Metro Center in Washington DC Feb. 2008

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Foreign Service: resignation over partner safety

Although the military gay ban is the most obvious example of discrimination in specialized employment now, other areas remain. The Washington Blade, on p 1 Dec. 14, 2007 carried a story "Gay ambassador retires in protest: Guest criticizes Rice, claims State Dept. rules put partner in danger," by Lou Cbibbaro Jr., link here. The US Ambassador to Romania Michael Guest resigned over concerns about his partner's treatment. He claimed that pets get better treatment than gay partners. The government, of course, is answering by simply interpreting the laws as passed by Congress very literally. Culturally, there is a tendency for people to believe that both members of a same-sex couple are self-sufficient and do not need benefits; but in fact many heterosexual couples start out that way until having children.

Romania, as a country, has undergone enormous changes since the fall of Communism, now being perceived as a major location for making films ("Cold Mountain") and a source of important culture, especially folk music. Ciacescu was one of the most brutal dictators during Communist times, leaving behind orphaned children who still demand attention from international adoption efforts. Ambassadorship to the country is obviously an important function. The language is a Romance language similar to Italian.

Chibbaro has covered Guest's job in Romania before, such as in the Blade on July 2, 2004, with "Gay ambassador assailed by Romanian newspaper: Gay, State Department, Romanian president praise Michael Guest," link here.

One of the most obvious areas of concern for GLBT people is security clearances. Frank Kameny has reported on radio talk shows (as Scott Peck 's in 1993) that the situation for civilians has been much better since about 1990, and especially after the first Persian Gulf War. President Clinton addressed the issue with an Executive Order in 1995. One situation that could occur is if, with a same-sex couple, one member was active in the Armed Forces, and the other was a civilian with a compartmentalized security clearance, where openness is essential. This has been one of the most serious holes in the DADT policy from a national security perspective. It sounds like the stuff of novels (such as a manuscript of mine, right here on my own hard drive, and backed up, of course).

Picture: Nellie's, a sports bar at 9th and U St. NW Washington, site of the Reel Affirmations parties and of an SLDN Army-Navy game party on Dec 1 (when the flags were on the Mall).

Saturday, December 15, 2007

CBS 60 Minutes to cover "don't ask don't tell" Dec 17

CBS 60 Minutes is scheduled to air a report on the military's "don't ask don't tell" policy on Sunday Dec 18 at 7 PM EST. The CBS schedule for Sunday Dec 18 does not appear to have an NFL football game that would delay the start of "60 Minutes" as often happens. The main link for the show is this.

There is a preview 2 minute "Reporter's Notebook" segment by Leslie Stahl on the CBS website now. The story is "Military Soft On Don't Ask, Don't Tell? 60 Minutes: Is Military More Tolerant Of Gay Members In Wartime?" and the link, which the visitor can watch right now, is here.

SLDN plans to have a gathering in Washington DC to view the event, at the Duplex Diner, at 2004 18th St. NW., near U St.

Update: Dec. 16

The program did indeed hit pretty hard. One gay soldier has pictures from a vacation of his intimacy with his lover in his Army personnel files, but because his commander badly needs his skills (as a medic), his required "investigation" said "no evidence of homosexual conduct." Congressman Duncan Hunter said that the policy is necessary because one cannot force soldiers with moral or religious objections to bond to gays. Stahl asked why this didn't apply in 1948 with blacks, and the interview stalled. Other militaries in NATO accept open gays, and the British Navy now allows sailors to march in Gay Pride parades in uniform. Hunter seems to feel that other countries do not fulfill the role of the United States in military operations, an idea that could insult NATO allies. A lesbian who had left the Air Force and become a commercial airline pilot pointed out that the AF had thrown away two million dollars training her. (That could bring up the recoupment issue.) The example set by Sparta (ancient Greece) was mentioned, any supposedly Spartan culture was very homoerotic. Of course, neither Spartan or for that matter Athenian society would be emulated today.

Update: Dec 26

I created a related posting on my "retirement blog" that deals with the loss of retirement benefits if a servicemember is forced out under DADT. Included is another SLDN story, back from 2002 at Fort Bragg, NC, about the Army selectively keeping people who "violate" DADT.

Update: January 8, 2008

Andrea Stone has a story in US Today, Jan. 7 (published on AOL Jan. 8), "Many troops openly gay, group says," link here. Even though Sgt. Darren Manzella outed himself on CBS 60 Minutes in December 2007, he has heard nothing at his command. The story reports a growing list of soldiers who have told other soldiers or their commanders (while deployed) but who have not been discharged. A poll of about 50000 on AOL showed 75% accepting the idea of gays serving openly in the military, and 71% believing that "don't ask don't tell" is a failure.

Update: July 12, 2008

SLDN reports that Darren Mazella has indeed been discharged under "Don't Ask Don't Tell," in the aftermath of his December 2007 "self-outing" on CBS "60 Minutes." The press release story is here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Gay teachers: age, theory and practice (mine, at least)

“Veterans” of gay civil rights history remember the Briggs Initiative in California in 1978. That would have banned gays from teaching jobs in a manner a bit like today’s “don’t ask don’t tell” for the military. Voters turned it down, and the then governor Ronald Reagan even rejected it. Other initiatives have sometimes been tried in other states, such as in Washington in 1986 or (by implication) Oregon in 1992. As an aside, it’s well to note that Florida’s ban on gay adoptions harkens back to the backlash started by Anita Bryant back in 1977.

Today, sometimes gay teachers cause stirs when they attract public attention, as with marriage ceremonies. The net affect of all of this could be to make school board curriculum battles over including balanced education on sexual orientation (such as a recent struggle in Montgomery County, MD) moot point. There is so much on the Internet that kids may find (sometimes written by teachers on their own dime) that they will get the information anyway. Safer to get it in the classroom in a supervised setting. The established media have long been forcing the issue, now with stage productions of Christopher Marlowe's controversial "Edward II" which many high school seniors will want to read for "book reports."

In 2006, I squared off on the question of gay issues in high school curricula in a book “Teenage Sexuality” (edited by Ken R. Wells) in Greenhaven Press ‘s “Opposing Viewpoints” series, discussion here. I supported the idea of formal instruction on both ethical and pragmatic grounds, and presented my account of the “culture wars” examined on these blogs. I was opposed by Linda P. Harvey, who said some pretty horrible things about people with “homosexual feelings” around children. (She’s right in saying that homosexuals sometimes seem to place a disproportionate effort on looking after themselves instead of others and dependents.)

Where this all leads is a zigzag of non-linear thinking. In the middle 1990s, I decided to become very public in tackling the military “don’t ask don’t tell,” using by own story which has its ironies. After my 2001 “forced retirement” I became more aware of career switcher programs and of the demand for teachers. At this point, I had to consider a number of practical realities.

For one thing, I could spend a lot of money on licensure certification and not get a job because of the “political climate” (especially in Virginia) in conjunction with the attention that I attract. So the “threat” of discrimination compounds the issue: I have to behave like my own insurance company here. Second, disadvantaged students are likely not to respect me as an authority figure because their social culture tells them they don’t have to (if the legal system says that I am not fully “equal” because I can be kept out of the military, marriage, and sometimes parenting responsibilities). That is exactly what I encountered as a sub. Ironically, good students are likely to respect me more in most cases. But the demand is on the needy end.

There is an additional complication, that in one case some material I had written (a fictitious scenario set up as a screenplay) caused a lot of issues when it was found by search engines and taken out of context (with respect to other materials “around it”), the “implicit content” problem that we are having to deal with on the Internet. One point that I raised in that writing is still unclear: if the government can make an issue of “forced intimacy” with its DADT policy for the military, is there a potential legal issue if an “open” homosexual gives intimate care to a disabled student without “legal consent”? That point, when I raised it, was disturbing to school officials.

There is another practical problem, as I outlined on my main blog Tuesday (Dec 11) and have discussed before. I spent decades living in a “separate world” that did not require attention to children. (In fact, on one assignment I was actually ambushed when I got there to find that it was “child care”). All in all, I have no desire, at age 64, to become an AARP-HRC poster man and fight the circumstances just to prove that I personally can overcome the discrimination. I don't get the benefit of the doubt.

Had I never entered the public debate (on DADT and then COPA) and kept a low profile, could I have made the switch comfortably? I don't know. The political climate would still have become an issue, as well as my years of "urban exile," and I would have had to depend on organized lobbyists to fight for my rights, an anathema to me.

Were I of college age, however, I would feel completely differently about this. I would have no discomfort at all as a gay man in education with responsibilities for younger students if the culture I lived in placed me in circumstances where I had these responsibilities and I acclimated to them. I still must live with the old chestnuts (as Dick Cheney once called them) of earlier, differently challenged generations.

First picture: bus stop in Minneapolis; singles sought for adoption and foster care.
Second picture: My Praxis results in Math. (159, passing in VA)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Huckabee -- a real danger for GLBT people?

The Washington Post has an editorial about Mike Huckabee, "HIV Clueless, What Mike Huckabee hasn't learned" on p A20 of today's Dec. 11 paper, link here.

In literature exams you support things with quotes, and that idea applies here. Huckabee once said "f the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague. . . . It is difficult to understand the public policy towards AIDS. It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents."

And, Oh (like in a Dick and Jane reader) he would say it in a more kind and gentle way today: "when we didn't know as much as we do now about AIDS, we were acting more out of political correctness than we were about the normal public health protocols that we would have acted -- as we have recently, for example, with avian flu. . . . There was also the case of Kimberly Bergalis, who testified before Congress in 1991. She had contracted AIDS from her dentist." Yes, I recall how the Right tossed around the phrases "the dental chain" and "the food chain."

The Post goes on to point out that the Bergalis incident came out later, in 1992, after Magic Johnson had identified himself as positive, and that it was an aberration.

In the mid 1980s, when I was living in Dallas, fearmongers like Paul Cameron and Gene Antonio -- and the notorious "Dallas Doctors Against AIDS" who tried to push for a draconian strengthening then of pre-Bowers Texas sodomy laws -- would speculate about the idea of HIV mutating and becoming casually contagious. By that reasoning, gay men had, through a "Direct Current" "chain letter", "amplified" a previously unknown virus. Of course, it didn't take gay men to amplify it in Africa, and if it changed contagion it would probably change character and become a much less lethal disease (most viruses become less virulent as they spread) and, along the way, become a common STD for heterosexuals -- moving both ways.

The CDC and federal officials were pretty circumspect in allaying rumors in the 1980s (with the exception of a infamous Fauci editorial in 1983 when he ran at the mouth about the possibility of household transmission, well before HTLV-III was identified -- all documented in Randy Shilts 's "And the Band Played On"). Somewhere in all of this, a major gay magazine (The Advocate) had a fictitious picture of a vigorous looking young man behind a barbed-wire quarantine fence, and New York Native editor Charles Ortleb ran scary editorials, like "exposing Mathilda Krim." By about 1986, gay activists may have had good reason to scream "Don't take the test!"

Of course, what's going to be tough now is reconciling this with all the scare talk about TB and Avian influenza, different beasts in epidemiology. We isolate people with drug resistant TB against their will -- even though in practice TB is actually very hard to transmit (HIV positive persons are more susceptible). And we speculate that avian influenza (bird flu) will become transmissible among humans, given enough time for random mutations in H5N1 (or H7N3 as in the movie "Pandemic"). In practice, the likelihood of a real "mega-disaster" like this seems slight, because viruses typically become less lethal as they spread and adapt to their hosts (although we don't know what really happened with the 1918 flu).

All of this has to be understood, of course, in a background where we have long understood that certain infections (HIV, Hepatitis B and C) are transmitted only by direct blood contact, and others start out as airborne. (Eloba is a bit of a mystery, with all of the speculations about suddenly airborn "Ebola Reston" in 1989 from Preston's Hot Zone). Some, like MRSA (the latest scare in schools) seem to require skin contact. This morning, the Post also had a story by Rob Stein (p A01) about an unusual adenovirus, "Virus Starts Like a Cold But Can Turn Into a Killer," here. The planet is a dangerous place, and yet in practice "History Channel" catastrophic changes in things like this are extremely rare.

In the mid 1990s, I knew a middle aged man who said he was HIV positive and still had normal T-cell counts, despite the fact that his lover had died of AIDS back in 1982, fourteen years earlier. Even now, with the slow efforts on vaccine trials, there is so much about the virus that remains a mystery. We're not sure that it necessarily is always fatal for everyone. Some people seem to resist it.

As for Huckabee, it is not comforting that he is making gains in Iowa and South Carolina. Giuliani will probably give everyone a fair shake, being open to lifting the gay ban. Huckabee could force things backwards.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

HRC hosts conference with SLDN this morning on how to end DADT

This morning, the Human Rights Campaign held a community forum on efforts to end "don't ask don't tell" in its first floor public meeting room. The meeting was moved to 9 AM so that everyone could go to the Army-Navy game party at Nellie's sports bar at noon (9th and U NW Washington, also the site for the parties from the Reel Affirmations festival this year -- I reminded then that Joe Steffan -- an early plaintiff against the ban -- had sung the National Anthem at the Army Navy game when he was a midshipman at the Naval Academy in the 1980s). There were about forty people present.

There were several speakers from HRC, SLDN, Log Cabin Republicans, and gay veterans groups. The general impression left was that the Marty Meehan bill to repeal DADT has a good chance to be passed eventually, but will take intense effort, possibly for several years. Even with the success of the 2006 mid term elections, Democratic support for lifting the ban will not be sufficient without some help from more "progressive" Republicans. Media accounts -- especially in military papers -- tend to spin the issue as one of concern to "gay activists" and that dilutes support from mainstream America. Congressmen need to know about support for lifting the ban in their own specific districts. Members of Congress tend to fear controversy (especially the angry kind that they remember from 1993) as undermining practical re-election prospects.

The military ban is, in a practical political sense, a bit different from other gay rights issues in that right now there does not seem to be a lot of organized effort to oppose attempts to lift the ban, whereas there has been intense organized lobbying from evangelicals and "conservatives" and "pro family lobbies" to oppose gay marriage and sometimes even gay civil unions (and gay adoptions).

One can differ with this assessment, however, if one looks at a longer view of history and of interconnected issues. Imagine how the debate could go if the draft were reinstated, which may not be probable (Bush has practically instituted a "backdoor draft" with Guards and Reserves), but some strong national service program is likely, and the capability of gays to work in conditions of "forced intimacy" -- especially overseas in primitive conditions with authoritarian or religious (like Muslim) societies could come back again as an ugly (and as I said from the audience, "malignant") argument that can spread to civilian areas. I did make this point from the audience.

In fact, the speakers did note that, while the presidential candidates right now are definitely split on this issue along partisan lines, once there are nominees they will have to move toward the center and may be less able to get away with superficial and embarrassing answers to questions on the ban like those given by Republican candidates in front of Anderson Cooper at CNN's YouTube debates in Florida this week. In particular, while the GOP says it would be dangerous to change the policy during "war time" in is during war that discharges drop rapidly. It seems that the "presence of gays" is detrimental to unit cohesion in peacetime but not so much in combat deployments. It also seems that the skill levels of the British and Israeli militaries, which have lifted their bans, are inconsequential.

Sharra E. Greer, Esq., from SLDN talked about the free speech issues for servicemembers, and these are laid out in SLDN's "Survival Guide." Generally, servicemembers must be out of uniform and be very clear that they are speaking for themselves, and must not disclose their own personal sexuality. The Internet (with search engines enabling commanders to find self-outings by servicemembers on line) has led to many discharges. Also, members of some foreign militaries (especially Britain) have been told not to discuss the American "don't ask don't tell" publicly because of what are perceived to be adverse political risks in international coalitions deployed overseas. That's interesting.

Greer mentioned the two cases in the First and Ninth Circuits, again challenging the constitutionality of DADT, despite the losses at the appellate levels in the 1990s (it would normally take one win in an appeals court to get a hearing before the Supreme Court). She indicated that the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision on sodomy laws (in the civilian world) may change the constitutional landscape. It should be noted, however, that the Lawrence ruling does not by itself overturn UCMJ 125, which is still legally in effect (SLDN reference).

Later today, I went down to the Mall to see the 12000 Flags. They are all in one area immediately east of 14th street. In daylight, they are easy to see from the Smithsonian Metro Station (I could not see them at night at all). I had used up my disk space on my preferred camera, so I used the single-use camera that will have to be developed. I asked a few visitors posing for pictures among the flags if they knew what the flags meant, and they didn't, so I told them. They had thought this was a 9/11 exhibit.

Update: 12/02

There was a brief Chaplain's service on the Mall Sunday Morning, as the gathering fought off a little sleet from a winter storm that had drifted farther south than predicted, but well before the heavy rains due that afternoon with the warm front. I got the flag pictures on the diskette digital camera, though without sun.

In 1993, early in the debates on the ban spawned by Clinton's proposal, I happened to attend a service at the Naval Academy chapel, and a female chaplain gave a sermon called "Come and See" (based on doubting Thomas, as I remember). In 1968, while in Army Basic, I met the base chaplain and got to play the organ for a couple of services in April (right after the King assassination). Funny how these long memories come back.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Military DADT: Today is 14th anniversary of its passage in Congress: DC weekend to urge Congressional push for repeal

Today the events "commemorating" the notorious Nov. 30, 1993 Defense Authorization Act that codified "don't ask don't tell" into law began in Washington DC. The August 2, 2007 entry in this blog has a link to the text of the law.

Volunteers planted flags on the National Mall. I traveled to the Smithsonian Metro Stop just after dark and could not find them, but would be told later in the evening that many had blown away and most were near 14th Street, on the Monument side of the Mall, West of the Smithsonian Metro stop.

I then went to the reception at the Helix Bar near Logan and Thomas Circles.

Human Rights Campaign has a major story "Event on National Mall Highlights Cost of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:
12,000 Flags for 12,000 Patriots" Event Calls Attention to Discriminatory Policy’s Harm to National Security", with pictures of the flags here.

HRC also has a major story " Twenty-eight New Military Generals and Admirals Call for Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Military Leaders Say Repealing Policy Banning Gays and Lesbians from Military Service Would Be Beneficial". The link contains the text of the letter, and the names and ranks of the field grade officers.

The New York Times story is by Thom Shanker and Patrick Healy from Nov. 30 (should appear Dec 1 in print), "A New Push to Roll Back ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’", link here.

SLDN's fact sheet on Marty Meehan's bill HR 1246 for repeal is here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Quasi-mandatory socialization and gays: what families want: "emotional karma"

We often hear a lot of whining about “secular humanism” (maybe not as much as we used to) and a desire to see simple standards of right and wrong, based on faith, and expressive of the idea that individuals are not themselves the ultimate judges of themselves or of others – that some sort of self-surrender (to faith) is necessary for “Grace” to work. The surrender is emotional in nature, and so are the ties that generally are supposed to bind families into social units. The practical (and secular) moral concern is that sacrifices and responsibilities within families are not shared, when many people won’t even make, let alone keep, traditional marriage commitments. This quickly funnels into the view that homosexuality (as experienced) is sinful, and, even through desertion, detrimental to the vitality of a stable family unit. That’s not the same problem at all, but the complexities ought to be looked at in detail. And, yes, properly constructed, I think gay marriage (if recognized and paired with filial responsibility) could actually make burdens within families fall more justly. The underlying problem is: just how much should individuals be socialized to put the emotional needs of others (especially family members) ahead of their own expressive interests, even before they have kids or enter committed relationships? One could call this concept "emotional karma".

One process that is common in the gay male community is upward affiliation. The person is turned on by another man who is more competitive or “better” than he is. George Gilder wrote about this in the 1980s in his somewhat forgotten book, Men and Marriage (in what he characterized as the “perils of androgyny”.) Fortunately, by no means everyone in the community acts this way, or many people would never find partners. But it provokes discussion of a difficult moral dilemma.

The person becomes emotional only when around a more “powerful” person or when experiencing his own sense of aesthetics in art. It seems to reject commonly understood gender complementarity, although at deeper levels it expresses psychological polarity. This all may be associated with what Rosenfels calls an unbalanced feminine personality, and may serve some good purposes. The life model is to be his own person and be individually productive and attract persons who would value his “truth-seeking” and love out of extreme voluntary selectivity. When there is sufficient freedom and resources, a life like this can be interpersonally successful without biological family in the usual sense.

However, he disdains emotion for “ordinary” people. If someone in a position of public trust behaves this way and then refuses to come down off his emotional high horse to meet the needs of others, big time harm can occur. Sometimes, even when there is a productive outcome, the sexual interests have developed in a complicated reaction to one’s own sense of competitive shame in the conventional world of heterosexual values. One develops the idea that one can pass judgment on the “masculinity” or others and one might (as a psychological defense) take sadistic pleasure in seeing other males made aware of their own shortcomings. There is a paradox in that this process reinforces the idea that some males are more “competitive” than others and that a pecking order is necessary in the moral order of things, even (again a paradox) a necessary inequality that goes with freedom (to the indignation of some). A body of “literature” deep within the world of adult gay magazines and websites deals quite candidly with “shame,” the desire to be free from the “responsibility” of “initiation” (intercourse), the “lose it all” message boards (not really related to transgenderism) and the notion that this “shame” can become contagious even to straight men (so no wonder they perceive a threat). In extreme cases, if such a person becomes something like a head of state in an uncontrollable political climate, totalitarianism or eugenics could occur.

Families try to get around this problem by socializing boys who see themselves as “different” and by forcing them to find some genuine emotional satisfaction in carrying out normal responsibilities for others in the family – sharing chores (especially gender-related chores that connect to expectations of meeting the parental responsibilities that the child would then experience in his or her own adult life), respecting and experiencing the body of the family unit. Many times they will try to create situations to force the boy to show responsiveness even when there is no objective need. They try to instill the idea that one should be accountable to other people before becoming too public about one’s differences.

In adulthood, curiously, interests of “political correctness” may inspire efforts to make the boy-man demonstrate that even though he is “different” or “less competitive” he can still be a “role model” for disadvantaged young people of a newer generation. Again, that seems to make things safer, to make the person give up his own judgmental sensitivity and empathize with others in ways he would not have accepted or that society would not have wanted from him before. The underlying theme is getting the person, if he is not socialized by his own marriage and family, to accept subservience to the institutionalized sexual intercourse of others. Priests are supposed to do that, it used to be that abstinence was the price of difference. When someone persists in self-expression without giving in somewhere to this, he can easily make enemies and be perceived as daring other people who have less.

Mandatory emotional socialization probably doesn’t make gay boys straight, but it might make them more able to respond emotionally to other adults in need, beyond those who can provide the obvious turn-on (hence solving the “bad karma” problems); it may also reduce the appeal of idealistic "fantasy". It may enable someone to maintain "interest" in a parter for a lifetime ("in sickness and in health", etc) unconditionally, with heart, and therefore enable the person to share hardships of others even-handedly and flexibly. For some men, it may integrate the process of "protecting" others into the personality, a reassurance that families and community seems to need. The loose term for this forty years ago was "aesthetic realism," not much used today. Mandatory socialization comports with the older (but not as often articulated today) idea that family responsibility for blood pre-exists and don’t just fall on the shoulders of those who make babies. The non-conformist wonders why he can be left alone, and others say he has no right to be; putatively he has no rights to his own expression until he proves his efforts can take care of or “protect” others in the family (or tribe or community) in need. The childless may well bear disproportionate responsibility for eldercare in the coming world of longer lives and fewer kids. And this sort of responsibility goes beyond financial (filial responsibility laws will eventually become hot topic); it suggests an obligation to maintain emotional connection and social position that is “protective” of others in the family. If this idea comes back and develops legal traction, it could well reinforce the belief that one really needs to have children in order to carry out responsibilities for others that go beyond personal choice. That possibility maintains the idea that social policy should encourage as many adults as possible to get and stay married and have children, whatever the competitive pressures men (and women) perceived before marriage or outside of it, and that to do so, cultural distractions should be discouraged. If you look up to other men too much, so the "reasoning" goes, that means you don't like yourself enough to want a biological legacy of your own, and have therefore renounced your rights to public respect.

A shorthand for this in my experience: I started out by valuing my ability to select and feel for those who are "good". But it seems that the world demands that I also empathize and lift up those who would not be good without my effort, or else we get back to that "forbidden fruit" or "knowledge of good and evil" problem.

Indeed, older “prohibitionist” ideas (as Andrew Sullivan characterized them in the 90s) about homosexuality and any sexual “noncomfority” can be understood as a logical “double take”; if you eliminate lifestyle options as allowable, you are left with the notion that conventional marriage is the only viable life pursuit and therefore (paradoxically) one doesn’t “fall in love” just to meet social expectations. You could say that it is (or was) a proxy way to make procreation (or otherwise assigned responsibility for members of the next generation) a "requirement" for first-class citizenship, whatever one's innate capabilities. Likewise, in the more modern debate, traditional marriage is a way to institutionalize a new relationship as a privileged “blood relationship” so that it can be favored and produce mandatory pressures on others. Of course, this view leads to tribalism and often to economic injustice among groups; hyperindividualism, however, leads to many people who depend on family and collective identity stranded.

We need to take heed of what is happening.

An August 12, 2005 letter by me to The Washington Blade “Gay marriage may teach gays some ‘family values’" appears here.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Redux on immutability of sexual orientation

How much does the “sexual orientation is immutable” argument buy, both politically and ethically?

It’s always seemed like punting to me when the Left argues that.

Science has established that a lot of things are in large part genetically or biologically mediated. What do we do about them?

A susceptibility to drug and alcohol addition may be inherited. Now, I personally think that laws making drug use a crime should be repealed, and I buy the idea that these prohibitionist laws just create an incentive for crime. But you can’t deny that for some jobs drug testing or policies prohibiting use are necessary. Obesity may be largely genetically determined (the “thrifty” gene that leads to so much type II diabetes when native populations are given western diets), and it should never be a “crime” to consume junk food, but you can’t deny that social pressure to control weight is appropriate.

Other medical or psychiatric situations might have a biological basis. A good example might be anorexia nervosa. In all of these, traumatic for the families and people, treatment is consuming and expensive and leaves one to ponder the relative severity of the issue and Vatican-like pronouncements that some people must learn to bear some of their own burdens (to "know God") because the problems of others (say autism) are even more severe.

How does sexual orientation compare to these? It’s probably more complicated. The American Psychiatric Association had essentially delisted it as an issue in 1973, at least from an individual's point of view. In the early to mid nineties, author Chandler Burr stirred up debate with his Atlantic article on homosexuality and biology, which he followed with his controversial book from Hyperion/Disney, A Separate Creation, and various research reports (even in Scientific American) followed. Generally, modern biological science supports the idea that it is not very mutable, and less can be “done” about it (than for the other issues above), whatever the ex-gay movement claims. The more appropriate question is, compared to so many other problems, why has homosexuality for so much of history been viewed as a crime, until things started to change about four decades ago. Why does it stir up so much vehement ostracism in some people?

There are a number of factors. People often need relatively simple and straightforward and “absolute” moral codes (often those promoted by religion) to believe in. A “refusal to procreate” sounds like disrespect for human life, extending the arguments against abortion. But it goes deeper than that.

A more important factor seems to relate to the practical demands for intergenerational family responsibilities, mixing in with a need to count on “loyalty to blood.” These responsibilities don’t get created just by conceiving children; in fact, children can help carry these out. Many people depend on family to give them a sense of identity and depend on the loyalty of others. When that is taken away from them, their survival can be at stake. On the other hand, “family” is easy for politicians, demagogues, and men seeking any kind of wealth or power to exploit when they don’t pay their dues.

Homosexual expression offends some people because it comes across to them as a deliberate attempt to avoid sharing the emotional risk (and sometimes random biological risks) and collective identity of normal family life, including the responsibility for and accountability to others than goes with procreation and gender complementarity. Sometimes marginal heterosexual men feel that the presence of male homosexual "values" in the culture around them has been set up to humiliate them and threaten their "performance." The emotional shell providing by the entire set of moral beliefs surrounding marriage (including abstinence before and consummation after and lifelong active sexual commitment “in sickness and in health”) makes carrying out family responsibility much more transparent for many people. Indeed, once family responsibility is expected because of karma or circumstances, it seems a lot easier to fight for other family members if one has one's own children, at least out of one's own adult relationships. (That might justify gay adoption.) Of course, there are obvious questions. What about contraception for heterosexuals? The Vatican opposed that, but the Supreme Court started to recognizing that as part of the right of privacy in the 60s.

The fundamental right of sexual privacy was finally recognized, in effect, for gay people (or for homosexual behavior, whatever your semantics) in 2003 with Lawrence v. Texas. That’s a good thing, but there are continuing pressures, towards more social interdependence, that can undermine it. It’s not so much privacy any more in this Internet age as it is expressiveness; the private intimate choices that people make express public values that become known and impact others. We come back to realizing that human behavior is much like the Mandelbrot Set in complex variables in math; diversity buds off, and is very necessary. But the freedom to follow one's own path of difference seems to be coming under increasing threat again as families feel the pressures of harder times and look to make more people share their burdens.

Immutability arguments generally don't work "morally" when applied to destructive behaviors (the drugs and alcohol model); biological inclinations for destructive behaviors are "treated." One can lay aside the "religious right" arguments of the 1980s regarding male behavior and AIDS, and still say that one cannot "treat" an immutable "condition" that prevents some one from otherwise carrying out an expected activity (biological reproduction). That makes homosexuality sound like a "disability" -- this "benign" view was seen as a "moral" justification for keeping gays out of the military in the pre-DADT days (the 1981 policy). It sounds insulting, of course. I agree, I'm appalled by such thinking, even as I must restate it for the record. That's why I think one has to come back to the moral debates about fundamental rights and the responsibilities (some of which have "collective" aspects) that go with these rights.

Update: Dec 1, 2007. The Washington Blade has a stimulating editorial today by Kevin Naff, "Gay rights 101: We must do a better job of educating allies about the discrimination we face," here.

Picture: A polling place for the off-year 2007 elections in Virginia.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

ENDA: need to watch public "telling"

The text of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), HR 2015, as passed by the House of Representatives, may be found here.

I note that the word “gender identity” appears in the text, and apparently (according to previous media stories) this was removed in the version passed by the House.

I also notice the phrase “actual or perceived sexual orientation.”

One concern in some specific areas could be public speech. The First Amendment protects individuals from actions by their government for protected speech, but it does not prohibit actions by private entities for such (as with the Boy Scouts case).

I would be important in some circumstances to protect an individual who has stated homosexual orientation in a public forum, including the Internet (especially on a site [ blog, social networking site, or more conventional website] that is completely open to the public and not whitelisted, and that is searchable). One can see how the issue could come up, for example, with public school teachers, who are supposed to be protected by the First Amendment for off-campus speech (until the speech presents a danger or security hazard), but the Internet is tending to blend off and on campus speech for practical purposes.

Of course, speech on the Internet may constitute "telling" for members of the military, under the current 1993 DADT law.

In general, employers are tending to expect associates to refrain from public speech (even from “home”) that, if found by clients, would call into question the ability of the client to do his/her job or meet the clients needs. One would need to craft ENDA to define sexual orientation as not constituting a quality that affects the ability to do a job for a client.

A distant related story on ABCNEWS tonight by Andrea Stone is "Gay Rights Group Boycotts Wal-Mart; Wal-Mart Comes Under Fire for its Refusal to Offer Domestic Partner Benefits", link here. ENDA would probably not require the offering of domestic partner benefits, but would ban discrimination in assigning work or in assigning overtime or oncall hours (out of "heterosexism", sometimes single people are expected to be on-call more, and ENDA could affect that).

Monday, November 19, 2007

BSA with anti-gay policy in the news again in Philadelphia

Well, maybe this is not exactly the plot of the 1940 classic "The Philadelphia Story."

The Boy Scouts of America, and its policy of excluding persons who do not have religious faith or practice homosexual conduct, is back in the news again as BSA chapters try to use public facilities for free or for below-market rent. Dafna Linzer has a story on page A3 to the Monday Nov. 19, 2007 Washington Post, "Philadelphia Gives Boy Scouts Ultimatum: City Solicitor Tells Branch to Renounce Its Ban on Gays or Lose Rent Subsidy." The story is here.

It is well known that the Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the Boy Scouts, as a "private" organization, could establish any criteria they wanted for membership. The case was "Boy Scouts of America et al v. Dale," (James Dale) Findlaw opinion copy here. Public accommodations would be a different matter, as would employment, maybe (below). Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty (GLIL) actually wrote am amicus brief supporting the BSA on libertarian grounds in 2000. I actually reviewed some of the drafts. Here is George Will's column from March 26, 2000, pB07, The Washington Post, here (PDF). There is a summary of the brief on Findlaw here.

Apparently a local chapter tried to skirt BSA rules and ran into objections by the national organization.

The issue of BSA employment practices is mentioned. It is not absolutely clear if this refers to "civilian" employees of the organization, who might be treated differently from scout masters by the anti-gay policy (in a manner analogous to comparing uniformed members of the Armed Forces to civilian DOD employees, sometimes with security clearances). The BSA sometimes appeared a job fairs in Dallas (it is located in Irving, not too far from Texas Stadium, DFW Airport and Highway 183) for computer programmers in the 1980s. The news story indicated that the local BSA chapter had a "don't ask don't tell" policy for employees, and implies that this was not satisfactory to the national organization.

I have never personally considered employment (even as a technician) with a religious or political organization or organization with a specific "moral" agenda (for example Focus of the Family in Colorado Springs). These have always been on my personal "off limits" list. Apparently these organizations would be exempted by the version of ENDA that passed the House.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

DADT: LCR and SLDN plan flag display on national mall

The Log Cabin Republicans and SLDN plan some events in Washington at the end of November regarding the push to end "don't ask don't tell". These include
the planting of one flag on the National Mall in Washington for each GLBT servicember discharged under "don't ask don't tell" since the policy began, to be on display from Nov. 30 until Dec. 2. There will also be a community conference at the HRC Center on 17th St and Rhode Island Ave in Washington Sat. Dec 1 at 1 PM and a community happy hour at the Bar Helix at 1430 Rhode Island Ave NW in Washington.

Log Cabin Republicans has a secure website with more information about these events here (including a form for donations) at the link.

I have a coordinate posting on "don't ask don't tell" today on my main blog here.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

House passes ENDA without transgender protections; Bush is likely to veto if Senate agrees

There are widespread media reports this morning (Nov. 8) that the House of Representatives has passed (235-184) a version of ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a version that would not protect transgendered individuals, an omission that has outraged many and that does not seem to make "moral" sense.

The bill exempts religious organizations and the US military (for uniformed members; it would apparently protect civilians). The bill might correct some arcane legal risks that might exist in civilian areas (like teaching) where persons might be compelled to work in conditions of involuntary forced intimacy with non-intact same sex persons.

Conservatives have claimed that the bill is an invitation for trial lawyers. It still has to pass the Senate in form. Rumors have it that President Bush would veto the bill.

Had a bill like this been passed before, some years back, I might have decided to become a teacher after retirement. As it is, I am unwilling to make the financial investment in degrees and course work to do a career switch, as I have discussed on other blogs.

The bill would not require disparate impact provisions. It's difficult, in an intellectual way (and without equal "good faith" marriage rights), to predict how the discrimination concept would play out in workplace situations where GLBT and "traditionally married" workers have different personal aims and consume resources (and benefits) differently, an issue already well known in eliminating discrimination based on gender, but even more complicated potentially.

The AP story "House OKs Bill Protecting Gay Workers" by Andrew MIGA appears on AOL now here.

I wrote about this issue on this blog on Oct. 1 (q.v.)

Update: Nov 9.

The Washington Blade's Nov. 9 story "House passes ENDA in ‘historic’ vote: Outcome leaves many gay activists disappointed over lack of trans protections By Lou Chibbaro, Jr.," is here.

The Falls Church News-Press, a local newspaper in Northern Va., has (in the Nov. 8-14 2007 issue) a national commentary "HRC's Broken Promises" in a column called "Anything But Straight" by Wayne Besen, here. (The author's book is "Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Lies and Scandals Behind the Ex-Gay Myth"). At one point, he writes, for individualistic people who think that Human Rights Campaign has no right to speak for them or to ask for "more than you can afford" at dinners, "Well, the truth is, they do speak for you, by virtue of the fact that they are the largest membership organization and have a $30 million dollar budget. That afford them a unique platform and by claiming their voice is irrelevant, it only hurts the status of the entire GLBT cause on Capitol Hill." But then he goes on to analyze their flip-flop and rationalizations (the probable veto, etc) on the entire trans-gender mess.

The whole "moral" problem is that it is a compromise, and starts to lose principle. Second class status is still just that.

Picture: LGBT Pride in Atlanta, June, 2004.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Gay men earn less than straight married men in many occupations (story)

On Business page D2 of The Washington Post (Nov. 1, 2007), there is a brief story by Vickie Elmer “Working: Gay Gap” reporting on 2004 salary data from the Census Burea’s Current Population Survey, and from the University of New Hampshire. The story reports that gay men in male couples earn 23% less than married heterosexual couples, and less even than unmarried heterosexual couples. The disparity varies widely with occupation, does not seem to exist in health care or medicine, or the arts (and even some sales), but is common in more conventional “competitive” businesses like manufacturing and maintenance.

The report suggests discriminatory attitudes in some kinds or industries, but it could be that gay men sometimes self-select themselves out of certain areas. In some cases, married men with children are likely to behave more “competitively” (even to the point of doing things that are manipulative but not particularly expressive) in order to provide competitive advantages to their own “flesh and blood.”

The story is here.

Update: Dec. 20, 2007

The Washington Blade has an important story by Joshua Lynsen, "D.C.-area gay couples earn less than married counterparts: New statistics ‘defy stereotypes’ about same-sex partners", link here. However, in some cases, women in same-sex partnerships may earn more than conventionally married women who have bridged career interruptions to bear children.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Idaho Sen. Larry Craig not afraid to fight for "liberal" constitutional values

Idaho Senator Larry Craig, in what seems a bit of irony to some, will make a constitutional appeal, to the effect that Minnesota’s disorderly conduct law is an unconstitutional intrusion on the first amendment. The AP story is here:

What’s interesting is that a conservative, “family values” Senator from Mormon country is getting a quick education in all of the ACLU’s “classical liberalism” when it comes to free speech and freedom from government intrusion into privacy. It’s also interesting that, as a whole (although there are pockets of exception) Minnesota is a very blue state (I could sat that “Blue Giant” stars have short half-lives in astronomy!), and staying ice-locked cuts both ways when it comes to privacy. Arlington County, VA, a blue “oasis” (not green) in a Red Giant state has similar political culture issues. The airport police thought they were doing a good deed in bringing him down. There was certainly no security profiling here.

Barack Obama has drawn fire for enlisting the support of an “ex-gay” African American gospel singer. One account is Chris Crain’s (on his “Citizen Crain” blog), article “Obama’s ex-gay sideshow semi-resolved”, here. (I still recall Crain's March 2004 editorial on gay marriage, "Piddle, Twiddle and Resolve" when he was Washington Blade editor).

Update: Oct. 31, 2007

CNN and the AP today carried a story " Church ordered to pay $10.9 million for funeral protest" here.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

DADT: Military services accidentally advertise on gay website

The military’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy now has led to a major media embarrassment as the services had to withdraw over 8000 ads for military jobs on GLEE, a networking site for gay and lesbian professionals. Some of the jobs were for civilian jobs, however, which legally are not supposed to be covered by the DADT policy. The advertising came about as the military desperately looks for linguists and medical personnel to serve in uniform.

The story is by Andrea Stone on page 1 of the Thursday, Oct. 18, 2007 USA Today.

Even though the policy, as written in the 1993 law, is supposed to cover “jobs” in the uniformed Armed Forces (in theory this might include the Public Health Service), there is a psychological and perhaps indirect legal fallout into other areas. In the past it was difficult even for civilian gays to get security clearances (at least above Secret), and this started to improve substantially around 1990 (during the first Bush administration), as Dr. Frank Kameny told radio talk show host Scott Peck in a Sunday night broadcast in 1993. I transferred away from a division of a company that dealt with the military to one that did not (directly) in 1997 to avoid a "conflict of interest" when working on my book. Fire departments used to object to gays (because of the “intimacy”), as did police departments in states with sodomy laws (which were overturned by the Supreme Court in 2003, Lawrence v. Texas). There have been attempts to ban gay teachers (California in 1978 with the Briggs Initiative, and again with a less known initiative in Oregon in 1986). Even now, the DADT law, in my opinion (because of arguments centered on the “forced intimacy” concept), could create legal questions if open gays give custodial care to same sex incapacitated people (such as severely disable kids in school systems) without consent; this became an issue when I was a substitute teacher.

Update: Oct. 24, 2007

Oprah Winfrey did a show today called "Gays Around the World," review here.

Update: Oct. 26, 2007

See The Washington Post editorial today, p A20, "Don't Ask: The military cruises a gay Internet site for employees, albeit briefly," here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Rhode Island: can it divorce a same-sex marriage from Massachusetts?

The Washington Times, in a story by Cheryl Wetzstein, p. 3, Wednesday October 10, 2007, is reporting “R.I. lesbians sue to get a ‘divorce’: Massachusetts union at issue.” Rhode Island’s state supreme court is hearing arguments as to whether it must recognize a same-sex marriage in another state (neighboring Massachusetts) in order to terminate the marriage. Would doing so effectively mean that Rhode Island recognizes same-sex marriage itself?

An amicus brief has been filed in another state (Oklahoma) with a similar case.

Of course, in some people’s minds, this recalls the Full Faith and Credit clause, which was at issue even in 1996 when President Clinton signed the “Defense of Marriage Act.” Even some libertarians have supported a federalist approach to gay marriage, allowing states to experiment with it on their own without obligating other states to follow suit.

Picture: disaster response (no relation to the story)

Friday, October 05, 2007

"In sickness and in health": what about those who don't sign on to this? It's not just GLBT folk. But do we all share family responsibility?

In the current debate about “culture war” issues, it’s valuable, to me at least, to lean back and figure out what really goes on in the minds of other people who don’t experience life or relationships the way I do. And I particularly want to unravel the “romantic” idea of the family, marriage, and the whole social infrastructure.

When most people marry (and I start this with traditional heterosexual marriage), they feel they passed through a major gateway in life. They sense a “before and after.” After all, what do they say at the altar? “In sickness and in health, till death do us part.” That’s a profound commitment. “You” are going to spend the rest of your life with this person, sharing the same bed, every night, essentially. The welfare of that marital partner, and of the children you have, and to some extent other relatives around the family, will always be your highest priority in life. Many families carry this to the fullest, creating the “family bed” with young children and attachment parenting. Soap operas love to capitalize on these kinds of emotions, as if there were nothing else. (As in “Days of our Lives”, “family conquers all”.)

The demand for fidelity “no matter what” is quite absolute. It asks for more than faithfulness; it expects both partners to remain sexually interested in one another no matter what, as both age, over many decades. The visitor is encouraged to use imagination as to what “sickness and health” can entail, as well as what is expected of the marital partners, especially men. As for the perils, there is war, for starters. All kinds of diseases with the obvious consequences for appearance. I don’t want to use language that is too graphic on a public page like this. Modern liberal individualistic society answers with progressiveness: personal responsibility (smoking, STD prevention, diet, etc) and saner public policy (don’t get involved with dead-end wars like Iraq) can prevent these perils. But not every misfortune can be prevented, and people are living longer, meaning marriages can last longer if the culture supports them or if they are psychologically committed enough.

Back in 1992, Barbara Bush (first lady for the first president Bush) told ABC 20/20 just before the Republican Convention, “you don’t have to be married ….but if you do choose to have children, they have to be the highest priority in your life.” But the moral calculus doesn’t seem that straightforward any more.

Now, we have a substantial population of individuals, including many GLBT folk and some others, who do not want to sign on to this kind of life. (I’ll get back to gay marriage.) They want there lives to be expressive of themselves, and not a reflection of others around them. And the experience is that many families feel that the “expressions” of non-family people create a distraction that make it difficult for families to function.

Gay people (among "singletons"), of course, create perhaps the most obvious distraction. The “moral” objection (beyond simple obedience to supposedly authoritative religious texts) comes down to the idea that it is not “fair” that we experience sexuality without incurring the same risk of family responsibility, through openness to procreation (a very Vatican concept). That argument obviously “begs a question.” Isn’t having kids it’s own reward? Don’t people have kids because they want the experience of raising them, of feeling proud of them when they are grown, of having a biological lineage? I certainly will take personal responsibility for the fact that I did not.

Philip Longman (“The Empty Cradle”, 2004) and other critics of our declining birthrates in western countries have pointed out that we make it just too difficult and expensive to raise kids. But even that practicality seems to miss another major point. People often “change” as they marry, and the creation and nurturance of a biological lineage becomes part of who they perceive themselves to be. It goes beyond the execution of a “choice” in the normal sense of libertarian responsibility for one’s own actions. In a way, it creates an odd parallel to gay arguments that sexual orientation is immutable and not chosen. It accepts the idea that people have a sense of what they must do with their lives, and one's own "chosen" family responsibility can sometimes make demands on others.

In this regard, marriage becomes an umbrella not only to raise kids but to give meaning and shelter to other family members when they need it, particularly the elderly and the less able. Conservative and even libertarian political theory says that this is better than expecting government to take this responsibility and have an excuse to intrude. But, then, to work, it seems to many people, marriage needs the emotional shelter of all of the concepts of social support and focus built around it: the legal recognition and preferential benefits (not always so preferential with the "marriage penalty" in the tax code), the ideas of public morality centering around abstinence outside of marriage, social notions of virginity, consummation and "blessed event". This emotional carapace tries to incorporate childless people in a family, include them in obligations, and create a common interest and identity that outlasts the merit of its individual members. Marital sexual intercourse (and the ability of women to "tame" men, as George Gilder wrote in "Men and Marriage") rules a lot more than just the couple and its own kids. A couple often sees the appearance of grandchildren (hopefully from every child) as evidence of the success of the marriage.

It’s clear to me that many people do make my sexual orientation their business, or its expression: they certainly did so in the past (my 1961 William and Mary expulsion, discussed often in the blogs). In the 1980s, some more extreme conservatives tried to make arguments that people like me were endangering everyone with AIDS; but that concern as a practical matter never was credible, and the public health aspects came to be seen as manageable. Now, post Y2K and 9/11, the concerns are much more existential. "Social conservatives" obviously believe that my expressive existence disrupts their world and the support structures that they believe in. A libertarian sees this need for social supports as an “admission” of weakness; after all, freedom depends on adults taking care of themselves and creating their own lives. Many women have become and want to be economically independent, seeming to mitigate the economic and social complementarity of supporting families. But a more "collective thinking" person sees gender and sexual complementarity (raising kids) simply as social reality and as a component of public morality.

There is, indeed, something about male homosexuality that can pose certain disturbing questions and paradoxes if one chooses to follow them. If one enjoys "upward affiliation", idealization and “submission” and did not have enough self-confidence to beget one’s own children, what does that mean about others who may be less competitive? Is the homosexual setting himself up as the “judge” of who among men is “best” and therefore the best ancestor? I honestly think many people react to the social phenomenon as if that is how they felt. They see threats, but what they forget is that there are (compared to the lessons of history) no aggressive intentions behind these “threats”. The other side, of course, is that some homosexuals simply want to enjoy relationships for their own creative potential within psychological polarity.

Recently, the media has reported that a number of single straight men have announced that they don’t want their own children, and have undergone vasectomies. Wouldn’t this raise a similar level of resentment of indignation in some people?

What seems underneath this is not just sexual orientation or sexual practice, but the attention it brings upon the self-worth and social cohesion of people in groups, many families. In specialized settings, the military knows this well, and we have the controversy over the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for gays in the military. It is the “telling” that seems so challenging and disruptive.

Yet, we have developed an open society, and people are “telling” (now, often enough, in social networks on the Internet). The media has, for decades, parade before us images of who is “desirable” and who is competitive. Production codes of the past made these seem less intrusive. Today, the images seem to frame self-worth for many people, even when presenting favorable role models. Families find themselves having to cut out media, focusing on dinner hours, “family home evenings,” social interactions among family members for their own developmental benefits, and now new information that suggests that fast moving images on televisions and computer games are bad for very young children, who need to be sheltered from them by families.

This all leads back to the question of what “moral standards” really should be expected of people who are “different” and who eschew more “normal” means to socialization through the heterosexual family. This may be true of many GLBT people, or it may happen for other reasons (Asperger’s). It is becoming more acute as people live longer, and the adult childless may find themselves having to take care of aging parents without the social combativeness it takes to raise one’s own children. It’s likely that some states will start enforcing filial responsibility laws, making this problem even more real.

Many people (even relatively “normal” heterosexuals) operate out of a modality where they do their own life’s work first, and attract the people they want. That works, and they maintain a psychological balance between “work” and family that protects them from undue pressure set by the public examples of others. Others are less able to do this, and very dependent on all the meaning that the activities in the family bring. They expect everyone to accept the idea of experiencing life through the family as a social unit ("family first").

Is it morally appropriate to expect everyone to accept some kind of mandatory socialization, to prove that he or she can support others besides the self, even without having one’s own children? Should everyone accept the idea that he or she should prove that his or her "work" produces visible advances in the lives of specific others with real needs? Eldercare can affect everyone, and the pattern of need seems to suggest that many more people need to be involved in child care than just those who intentionally have children. Yet the social changes of the past thirty years have driven many people away from such responsibility, which it seems needs to be shared much more fairly, and which can provide culture shocks when it is suddenly expected, especially from someone without the "benefits" of having built his or her own family.

If this is all so (and this is certainly the tone of a lot of conservative papers railing against same sex marriage – it defeats the “sex” as the driver of commitment, mind you) , it sounds like an argument for gay marriage, not against it. A small minority of people do form same-sex couples that can conform to the “in sickness and health” expectation. It's hardly supportable that their activities present a numerical or even conceptual threat to traditional marriage and families -- the empire building in "Days" shows that straights can make a mess of things on their own. Events of the past few years are teaching us that individuals may have to accept more interdependence: the family is the most stable source of cooperation, and making gays (and sometimes practically)legally second class citizens certainly does not encourage them to participate in community preservation. The argument for including same-sex couples in the institution of marriage (regardless of what others believe was "meant to be" before) becomes more credible if we accept the idea that filial responsibility can be expected of everyone. But at the same time, traditional couples need to be more confident in their own relationships even when the outside world provides more distractions.

Monday, October 01, 2007

ENDA for, now, keeps protections for trans-gender on the table for discussion

There have been numerous emails today to the effect that Nancy Pelosi was considering dropping protections for trans-gendered individuals in a bill that could be sent to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. However, a story this evening says that she has postponed such action, and that a discussion on the broadest practical Employment Non-Discrimination Act will continue. The "Advocate News" story is here.

ENDA was advanced in 1993, sometime after President Clinton opened discussions on lifting the military gay ban, resulting in the "don't ask don't tell" policy. In this regard, I recall that Scott Peck, in his 1993 Washington DC radio talk show, had a guest who had served in the Navy for fifteen years before changing his gender to female. I have long been concerned that the military ban (and the legal logic that supposedly justifies it at the appellate level) can cause problems for gays in other civilian areas, like law enforcement or teaching, where forced intimacy on the job might occur.

ENDA would not be as strong as other employment protection laws because it would not allow consideration for disparate impact.

Update: Oct. 18, 2007

Shailagh Murray has an article today on p A23 of The Washington Post, "Quandary Over Gay Rights Bill: Is It Better to Protect Some or None?" here.
The House Education and Labor Committee is supposed to consider this bill today, and it looks like we're back to protecting sexual orientation but not gender identity, which has surprisingly become more contentious. The HRC is walking a tightrope on this one, as it seems it must. Actually, protecting gay civilians but not gays in the Armed Forces raises similar ethical questions (because military discrimination can indirectly cause discrimination in civilian areas like security clearances, law enforcement, fire departments, teaching, etc. as it has in the past and sometimes does today in unusual circumstances).

Update: Oct. 26, 2007

The latest on this issue is that it is still stalled and unclear on trans-gender inclusion. Gay City News has a detailed story by Paul Schindler, "ENDA Stalls In Congress, For This Week At Least", here.

A story by Lou Chibbaro, Jr. in the Oct. 26 The Washington Blade (National News section) "Advisers urge Bush to veto ENDA; Frank fears Dems will bump bill to ’09; Kennedy to introduce Senate version" is here. The thrust of the argument made to Bush is that somehow ENDA supports gay marriage, which is a ridiculous claim.

Update: Oct. 31, 2007

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has a story "Bill To Ban Sexual Orientation Bias Gains Some Traction", by Bill Leonard, here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

MD: state supreme court upholds law banning gay marriage

On Tuesday Sept. 18 the Maryland state supreme court in Annapolis, by a 4-3 vote, upheld a state law passed in 1973 limiting marriage to one man and one woman. The court claimed that the law served a compelling state interesting providing a sheltering environment to raising children. The court also added that there was nothing in the Maryland constitution that would prohibit the general assembly from authorizing gay marriage or civil unions through the normal political process.

One dissenting judge indicated that he felt that gays and lesbians should be a suspect class, and that marriage laws indirectly add to discrimination against gays and lesbians, who are indirectly forced to subsidize the marital sexual relationships of others through deferential taxes or sacrifices. Culturally conservative opponents of gay marriage argue that traditional marriage needs to provide institutional protection and deferential privilege to married people in order to make raising children (and taking care of other family members) a realistic opportunity for most "average" people.

These states allow civil unions or domestic partnerships: California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

Lisa Rein and Mary Otto have a detailed story on page A1 print of The Washington Post, Wed, Sept. 19, 2007, here. The story title is "Md. Ban on Gay Marriage Is Upheld: Law Does Not Deny Basic Rights, Is Not Biased, Court Rules."

On Aug. 31 there was a posting on this blog about an Iowa district court overruling its ban on same-sex marriage, and that ruling is under appeal.

As an aside, a politician in Germany wants to give all marriages an "expiration date" of wedding day + seven years. They can "renew" the marriage each seven years. "Till death do us part ... in sickness and in health" goes away. Imagine what Maggie Gallagher will write about this proposal.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Again, a statistic on the number of gay couples

Here we go again. On Saturday, Sept. 15, 2007, on p A2, The Washington Times presented a story “Gay households under 1% in the US: Census data stable for years” by Cheryl Wetzstein. A survey of about three million addresses indicates that 0.7% are headed by same-sex couples.

The citation can be seen as a bit of a play on semantics. There are many more one-person households of gay singles than there are gay couples. And there are many households, including many legally heterosexually married people, with adults (especially men) who lead double lives, and there are many adults who will not classify themselves as gay who nevertheless attempt gay encounters. (Just look at the recent news.)

In another sense, the report seems a bit self-defeating. If gay couples are so infrequent statistically, why would recognizing same-sex “marriage” threaten real “marriage”? (The Washington Times always puts the word “marriage” in quotes after the adjective “gay” or “same-sex”.) Certainly, even if every state (even Virginia, which would have to overturn its Marshall-Newman Amendment) accepted gay marriage, the overwhelming majority of marriages, over 99% (and including those with children), would still be opposite-sexed. We all have read the arguments – based on institutionalism. But these arguments at least question the judgment of the adult individual to direct the course of his or her own life.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Details story; reiterate administrative rules under DADT that supposedly prohibit witch-hints

The October 2007 issue of Details has, besides a mandatory picture of Brad Pitt on the cover (Daniel Radcliffe a couple months ago) and story, a great article by Melba Newsome (with photographs by Dan Frobes) in “dossier: The Military’s New Gay Games: Desperate for more troops, the U.S. is hedging on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” on p 122, print. The story starts with a US Navy petty officer who was cashiered out just before his enlistment would have ended, and then he gets a recall letter for deployment. There is the suitable technicality (perhaps ‘queen for a day”) to let him back in. In his 1992 Villard book, “Honor Bound: A Gay Naval Midshipman Fights for the Right to Serve his Country,” (this book has been out of print for some time) Joseph Steffan reports similar incidents during the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War, under the “Old Ban” from 1981, before the Clinton “don’t ask don’t tell” was codified into law at the end of 1993 after a year of angry debate. Media has often reported that major scarce skills, especially in language translation in Iraq and Afghanistan, have been lost because of the ban.

Details has always been a bit iconoclastic. Back in 1998, a syndicated columnist from Britain almost got a review of my first book published in it, but she reported then that Details was too “hetero.” It doesn’t seem so today. Metrosexual, perhaps. The beauty of the male seems to be an important theme in all of the clothing and accoutrement ads.

This is a good place to reiterate one point about the 1994 administrative regulations implemented by the Pentagon in February of that year. One should go to the Stanford Law School site “Don’t” and follow the links after “statutes and regulations.” The "don't pursue" -- Clinton's words in 1993 -- were supposed to be part of this. In general the regulations say the investigations under “don’t ask don’t tell” should be started only after credible information of violation. Many activities that are personal or “private” in nature (even if they are incidentally public) are not supposed to trigger investigations. These include, being in a gay bar or gay parade in civilian clothes when on pass, or providing professional services to GLBT clients if one is in the Reserves or Guard, or even having a clothed picture of a same-sex partner at one’s desk, or naming a same-sex partner as a beneficiary on a life insurance policy. Nevertheless, for almost fifteen years, individual military commands seem to violate these rules and get away with it. Any servicemember caught in an investigation should immediately seek legal help, as from Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). This is not a do-it-yourself matter.