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.