Monday, March 26, 2007

Assembly on West Capitol Lawn to challenge "don't ask don't tell"

Servicemembers' Legal Defense Network (SLDN) sponsored an assembly today (Monday, March 26, 2007) on the West Capitol Lawn in Washington. There were a number of speakers, including Barney Frank (D-MA), and Dr. Franklin E. Kameny, who made the comment that supporting "don't ask don't tell" amounted to treason as defined in the Constitution and deserved a "hang 'em high" (a bit of tongue and cheek). Another highly ranked military officer spoke against General Pace's comments of a couple of weeks ago, indicating that the General had insulted all most of our allies, who accept gays and lesbians in their armed forces. One female Naval officer recounted a story that she had visited the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, and had left the building and was at a bus stop when the AA plane crashed into it.

SLDN's link on the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which was reintroduced Feb 28, 2007, and would repeal the 1993 "don't ask don't tell" law, is here.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Till death do us part, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health

One of the most telling observations about the culture wars, at least in the gay marriage debate, comes from the commitment that a couple makes when marrying (or, if not legally recognized, a holy union or civil union). The two partners commit themselves not just to faithfulness but to a full emotional partnership that can challenge the deepest sense of each self – maintaining the interest that would share a bed. That kind of promise seems not to be for everyone, as to people outside of the relationship (or who do not have a similar relationship of their own) it seems to involve a lot of emotional indulgence and pampering. It’s a kind of personal insurance, not just of one’s life, but of that life’s meaning, at least to a loved one, and others in a close-in family network. It says that one will matter, regardless of external injustice or other calamities, including many disfiguring illnesses, beyond one’s control.

Social conservatives are that all of this is possible when one has grown up, accepted the gender complementarity that makes one open to rearing children and taking care of and giving deference to kinfolk in all sorts of ways. The Wissenschaft of all this, however, is that complementarity can be purely psychological, in terms of polarities, and does not require difference in biological gender, always. The questions become adaptive. Society needs to rear children, and maintain the belief that something is special about it for everyone.

Modern individualism encourages one to “be one’s own person” before even having a mate. The end result can be that some people may not believe they need mates at all, until suddenly they “fall in love,” unpredictably. Many people get along quite well without the personal emotional backup, even if they are, as Jonathan Rauch writes, “accidents waiting to happen.”

Some men may grow up to feel that they are not “competitive” enough in conventional ways of looking at things to find any special meaning in creating their own biological legacy, and in being “tamed” by a woman in order to do so. In some cases, they may believe they can “feel out” who really is competitive, and let their lives express their own judgments. “Gay male culture” seems to represent this kind of expression. “Straight” men may resent the idea that other men can snicker at them and “pass judgment”.

The “traditional” heterosexual world used to be quite protective of men who would at least try to become parents, even if the “outside” world was ready to take economic advantage of them and of the families that they raise. Any cultural expression that suggests or insinuates (even just by supporting certain kinds of media icons) that all men should be judged, even in romantic settings, by global norms, and that some men need not reproduce at all, or even be bonded to anyone at all, becomes quite threatening. It seems morally better, in this view, to create a world where practically every man becomes a father and is expected to assert himself in his own local domain as a role model and authority figure, no matter how abused his family may be by the “exploitation” of the outside world. The emotional complementarity of the marital relationhip, indispensable in this view, helps the adult develop the special interpersonal communication needed to raise a child or care for less intact people.

Married adults (especially those who remain monogamous for life) as a statistical rule, outlive other people. This makes sense, because they do have the emotional backup, which encompasses children (yes, babies), parents, and other kinfolk. The unquestioned support is a more important reason for cultural intolerance (of gay people or "behavior" or "lifestyles") than religious precepts themselves. Sometimes they (family-centered people) will not tolerate distraction or competition from ideas that would penetrate this emotional "cocoon". Sometimes they will interfere with the lives of those who do not want to be part of it, and demand sacrifice, deference, or at least silence from non-conformity.

As readers know, I have been very concerned about the possibilities that the unmarried will subsidize the married, and that the childless will subsidize families. For example, it isn’t a good idea that people get married just because of the social perks. That could undermine the love or bonded relationship of a particular marriage. Of course, there are some answers to this. One is that a person ought to develop the interpersonal capacities to be raise a family in a marital relationship; that observation becomes a moral issue. That claim certainly tests the limits of our notion of individual sovereignty, since many people, in a modern, technological culture feel that they do better when free on their own, although external calamtieis could force them back into socialization and dependency to survive. Another, as discussed by Maggie Gallagher in The Washington Times, March 24, 2007 in discussing David Blankenhorn ‘s book “The Future of Marriage” is that marriage, “as the crucial institution that connects Eros and generativity” and as part of the “common greater good” it supersedes individual rights and thinking about it in terms of individual “sacrifices”. Applied to me, this kind of thinking would ignore the possibility of immutable sexual orientation and insinuate that I, perhaps being overly precoccupied with my own needs while growing up, should be pressured into socializing into a "normal" interest in parenthood in a structured and pampered sexual institution; the needs of society justify compromising my own self-expression. Another way of putting it is to say that someone like me should be pressured to get out of my world of permanent adolescent fantasy, so that as a whole people will feel inclined to attach their most deep-seated activities to establishing and keeping families. If all of this is so, it’s dangerous to put it in the hands of politicians and preachers. Furthermore, from the point of view of moral thinking, that does not itself exclude recgonizing same-sex marriage.

This comes down to a tug between interdependence and independence, and every civilization must deal with this balance. A society that forces people to remain locally interdependent, in the nuclear family whenever possible, may be better able to handle certain hardships and threats. On the other hand, it may not be able to advance. A society always needs new truths from independent thinkers who do not play by the book. There is no escaping that at some point you wind up with a world where people have to be able to account for themselves, regardless of family.

Picture: Former president James Garfield at the Lion's Gate, in front of the U.S. Capitol

Coordinated blogger entry.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Blood donation ban on gay men is questioned

Today, WJLA (Channel 7) reported a critical shortage of donate blood in the Washington DC area, to the point that elective surgeries were being postponed. I have O negative blood. I am legally excluded from donating blood because I have had a proscribed sexual act since 1977, according to FDA regulations. I do believe that my antibody (Elisa, Western Blot) and antigen tests for HIV would be negative if done today.

There is a bit of bad karma about this. In January, 1998, I received some donated blood at the University of Minnesota hospital in Minneapolis after a six-hour surgery to repair an acetabular fracture (hip and pelvis) sustained from a fall on a wet floor in a convenience store. I recovered completely.

There is a story by Bob Roehr in the Bay Area Reporter, "FDA inches toward easing gay blood donation ban," at this link, March 15, 2007. The proposal is to replace the ban with a twelve month deferral. There is a new technology called the OraQuick test.

Here is a link to my earlier discussion of the blood donation ban (dated 2000).

Update: 4/4/2007

Joyce Howard Price has a story in The Washington Times: "Breakthrough makes all blood types universal." A new process that could be commercially available in about three years would "convert" Types A, B, and AB blood into type O, the universal donor type. Such a development would help alleviate blood shortages, and it could reduce long range pressure to lift the "ban" on previously active gay male blood donors. The story is here.

Picture (unrelated): student free speech demonstration at Supreme Court March 19, 2007.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Evangelical Baptist seminarian says that in utero treatment to reverse homosexual orientation would comport with the Bible

Another uproar has surfaced today, over comments by Reev. Albert Mohler, Jr. of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary of Louisville, KY. He suggests that it would be acceptable according to Biblical principles to intervene medically in the womb and change sexual orientation before the baby is born to heterosexual.

The pastor was willing to concede, as in the play and film "Twilight of the Golds" that it might be possible to prove that homosexuality was genetic or biological. Such a possibility was explored in detail by Chandler Burr's 1996 book "A Separate Creation," published by Hyperion, a Disney company, a book whose publication caused a backlash against Disney at the time.

In recent times there has been more medical evidence that hormonal influences in utero might influence future sexual interest and drive and personality specialization. There is some evidence that males after the firstborn may sometimes be more likely to be gay, and that to some extent homosexuality appears much more in some families than in others. Other ideas may have to do with "brain wiring" and "pruning" that occurs in adolescence.

The article is here.
The visitor may need an AOL subscription or memnership to view the content. AOL, among news providers, tends to have a larger portion of socially controversial headline stories on its website. The AP article is by David Crary and is called "Furor over Baptist's 'Gay Baby' Article".

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Out of the mouths of babes, and a Marine Corps general

“Water is gay,” a teenager jokes in class, playing with words and concepts.
He refers to the ability of water (acting as a prism) to refract light into rainbows, the colors in the correct sequence of the spectrum, with a rainbow after a storm (or even for Noah after the Flood), and even a secondary rainbow with the colors reversed. (And., by the way, the colors in NBC's Peacock are not in the correct sequence). That is because in water the atoms have an obtuse bonding angle, as every honors chemistry student (or, later, organic chemistry student) knows. Otherwise, there would be no life, we would not be here, because life (and carbon-based compounds) would not multiply. So in a sense, ironically, water is straight, too. Life is, then, a miracle. The rainbow coalition, of course, deals with a lot more than sexual orientation, but when you see the rainbow on a car bumper, that's often the first connection. And then all of the moral questions about individualism v. the group come to mind. At least, one likes to see students connect the dots between mathematics, chemistry, and political controversies (at least in metaphor).

The morality card (as some people see it) got played yesterday as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps General Peter Pace, told Congress (and the Chicago Tribune, news story March 12, 2007 by Aamer Madhani, link here , (may need online subscription)), in response to Meehan’s bill (to lift "don't ask don't tell" regarding gays in the military), that he had been brought up to believe that homosexual conduct (as adultery) is morally wrong. This certainly ignited emotion, that could backfire in a time when so many members of the religious right are getting caught in their own scandals. In 1993, much of the debate over gays in the military had focused on “unit cohesion” rather than moral notions, although as I drilled into the topic for my first book, the moral concerns became manifest. In fact, Senator Strom Thurmond had made a comment like this (that homosexuality wasn't "natural") at a hearing at a Norfolk Naval Base in the spring of 1993, a hearing at which Lt. Tracy Thorne had testified. The NBC Today show led off with this story on Tuesday, March 13. Remember that during the 1993 debates, the Marine Corps didn't want married men to enlist either (they didn't want gays, they didn't want straights.)

There is another moral context, however, that makes this comment harmful, or a bit slanderous. That is, the General is suggesting that gay people (gay men, especially) can't share the burden of defending freedom, which can't be taken for granted, or, for that matter, of carrying on the next generation by raising children (serving as role models for them). If so, gay people are second class citizens (like the former slaves) whose interests can be expropriated at a whim to meed the needs of those with families.

This comments through the Chicago Tribune occurred in a backdrop of other public reports. Senator Hillary Clinton has publicly called for a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell,” and polls in California have suggested that younger voters are much more sympathetic to gay marriage.

Update: 3/14

There are more media reports of drops in gay discharges because of war needs in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Washington Post, Ann Scott Tyson, p A3, "Sharp Drop in Gays Discharged from Military Tied to War Need," March 14, 2007, at this link.

The Washington Post has a scathing editorial on Pace remarks and in DADT in general, March 14, here. "The Right to Serve: Gen. Pace denounces gays and lesbians who are defending their country."

There is also a article from Pauline Jelinek, "No Apology From. Gen. Pace on Gay Stance," March 14, The Washington Post, from the AP, here. Pace reportedly mediated his remarks by saying that he should have emphasized military needs first, but he would not apologize per se for stating her personal opinions on morality.

Here is the text that I sent to nbc4connected: at

It is not appropriate that the personal moral views of the nation's top military officer (General Pace) should set policy. The "don't ask don't tell" controversy (regarding gays in the military) is important because it reflects the reality that freedom cannot be taken for granted and that sharing in freedom's defense is in some sense an obligation of fully equal citizenship. Resumption of the draft or of some sort of semi-compulsory national service has become a real possibility. What would General Pace say about gays if the draft is resumed? He is inviting legal second class citizenship status for homosexuals, beyond what we know today with the marriage issue.

I am not aware that it was read, but I did not watch the entire broadcast.

On March 17, 2007 two male contestants on NBC's "It's Academic" from one high school proudly announced that they were Eagle Scouts. That did call to mind for me the James Dale controversy. The two young men immediately answered a question about Andy Warhol correctly.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"Just for authority": Polarities in redux

Since my “pseudo-retirement” from mainframe information technology at the end of 2001, I have tested a number of employment scenarios. In some of these (including debt collection, substitute teaching, and at least in a couple of interviews related to life insurance agents) I have been challenged to put on the act of an “authority figure.” In a few substitute teaching assignments, I was criticized for failing to impose a sense of authority and discipline on the less mature students. This has also happened in a couple of family-related scenarios. Actually, the details of a few of these incidents are quite disturbing, and probably wouldn’t be appropriate in a public space, even from me. Other people will take advantage of someone presumed to be in charge when that person is unwilling to do things “just for authority” – a concept that I resented as a boy.

People often express the sentiment that “going to bat for someone” is a proof of that person’s deserved loyalty. The idea of acting assertively for the “protection” (or perhaps just plain pampering) of other family members seems to many people an important component of family values and solidarity. A person who draws attention to himself and therefore possibility draws unwanted or dangerous attention to his family, or a person who fails to protect his family, is seen as rejecting even himself and the most important reason he can exist – to provide for other people. Soap operas thrive on this kind of psychology, with “Days of our Lives” being the worst offender. It’s easy to cross a Schwarzchild Radius with this kind of thinking – and maintain that if a person had “faith” he would prove it by acting publicly when others need him to. This is very tough pressure to deal with. It is not OK with me to "pretend", for the sake of political correctness or the comfort of others (maybe with various masquerades of dress or action), to play "A Most Dangerous Game" according to the rules of conventional masculinity for which I am not equipped to compete. I do realize that the willingness to "compete" this way (according to the rules of family or social heirarchy) may be seen as a necessary prerequisite to being heard from as an individual. That is, I would be expected to pretend to perform as a pseudo-father "role model" in front of kids and compete "like a man" when I really don't (and when it really matters to me who really does "compete") in order to make others more comfortable with themselves. And I would be expected to drop my own personal value system in order to show "openness to new life" and to forming the emotional attachment patterns automatically followed in "The Lives of Others." (Though nobody actually became a parent in that movie.) I.E., I am not morally worthy to propagate my own ideas until I go to bat for "you" first. Nope. Yes, this does sound like a loop of "Just say No!" Won't fly.(Essay).

It’s easy to connect this (authority problem) to homosexuality, at least in men. A gay male may be perceived as rejecting his own biology or lineage, since he presumably doesn’t want to continue it with procreation, a development that could cause profound sense of loss to parents, especially in small families. Instead, the gay male is presumed to express the sin of “the knowledge of good and evil” since he claims he knows what is “beautiful” in his own kind, and it is not necessarily his own bloodline. If that kind of self-expression is socially acceptable, some people (depending on individual family circumstances) will feel that the emotional rewards for marrying, attachment parenting, and remaining faithful just don't justify the commitment required to raise the next generation; the supposed basis for a reasonably free society, with the family at the center, could unravel in the struggle between rationalism and emotion, between "brains and heart" (not just "brains and brawn"). Yet, in this country, we generally don't believe that inherited blood relationships justify royalty or political power.

Of course, modern psychologists (like Paul Rosenfels) have a paradigm to explain all of this: character specialization (polarities) and a description of human interactions that sees truth seeking and the domain mechanism (usually perceived socially as authority) as equal but opposite and necessary activities, not always connected to biological gender. They don’t even need to be connected to sexual orientation. In the movie “Zodiac” director David Fincher casts actor Jake Gyllenhaal as a heterosexual man (the cartoonist Robert Graysmith) with kids who finds truth seeking (doing his own investigation his own way) more important than “controlling” his family or advancing in a conventional sense.

The other side of the coin is the belief of family members (or of members of a union, or of any socially cohesive group of people with common needs) that they are entitled to demand the loyalty (call it “solidarity” or "watching your back") of individuals who might otherwise (like me) draw attention to themselves with unusual candor, or who might not want to fight publicly for their causes just because of their needs. People who perform in life well on their own terms do not need to depend on others to bow down to their needs and pamper them. “It’s hard out here for a p—p,” isn’t it. Donald Trump always says “losing is a b___” and that you can’t have it both ways. But family does need to be there for people, if only to keep government away.

Correlated blog entry: The Most Dangerous Game: Brains v. Brawn aka Individual Sovereignty v. Public Morality