Thursday, March 27, 2008

"Details" has article on dads with gay offspring (sons): my "moral" retrospect

The April 2008 issue of Details has a story on p 112, “Would you really be Okay with a Gay Kid?” by David Hochman. It’s online here.
That’s the issue with Ryan Seacrest on front. You know, Ryan the guy whose career is to develop pop stars, just starting with American Idol. (He says that on ABC Nightline.) Sorry, I missed the earlier Details issue with clean-cut ("Troy Bolton") Zac Efron – who, until he turned 20, was (corresponding to Daniel Radcliffe in Britain) apparently America’s wealthiest teen.

In 1998, a British writer approached me with the possibility of an article on gays in the military in Details. It didn’t go through, because, as she said, Details had now become too much of a “hetero” magazine. Nevertheless, look at all the models – they look like they came off the disco floor at the Town DC or the Saloon in Minneapolis. So, it’s interesting to see Details have a piece about male gay teens.

The Details article points out a basic hypocrisy and double-standard: society expects people to be open and accepting about how other people are, but it seems no “dad” wants this for “his” boy. Ah ha.

I do recall the extreme pressure I felt, especially during grade school and middle school years, to learn to do “manly” things. I had my interests in bookishness and piano, but I felt the constant pressure to conform to the expectations of others to perform as a man. This came from both parents and peers, and, before high school (when things got much “better”), teachers.

Most of us know the parameters of this. One of the most traumatic days happened at around age 9 or so when I had to play “football.” I faced constant pressure from my father about the way I performed certain manual tasks, about the importance of manual labor. It seems that many gay teens experience the "moral pressure" that will not permit them to live their own lives and find a legitimate place in the world (even as future adults) without meeting prerequisite demands driven by the familial needs of others ("mandatory family responsibility").

Yes, I get it, and maybe most visitors do at this point. All of this pressure seemed to have a moral basis. But the “moral” thinking of not just my parents but of the whole generation they came from itself is bifurcated.

On one level, I get the idea that it was important for me to learn to “carry my weight” and "pay my dues" if I was going to grow up to be an adult whose choices were respected. Many kids experience the other side of this: they wonder why they have to pass Algebra I when they think they know what they want. I wondered why I was being forced to do these manual things that really didn’t matter, just to prove that I could do them if I had to. I resented it. But today, it makes a certain moral sense. Once I was out in the adult world and working, I encountered lots of areas, in the workplace and in society in general, where people were concerned about who performed, who could be counted on in a pinch when hardship loomed, who had really earned what he had. These concerns came from both the far right and far left.

Yes, it is a “moral” issue how well we individually share the burdens of the world around us. When I came of age, this concern was particularly expressed in the controversy over the Vietnam era draft, student deferment, and the nasty idea that some people were less “essential” and could be used as cannon fodder to make things better for others. As a moral concern, all of this became very real to me, and it remains so today. We do hear this talked about today in discussions about the “backdoor draft” in Iraq, and discussions about national service. And the media is constantly presenting us with the real sacrifices people have to make to care for disabled and elderly parents, and reinforces the idea of sharing burdens as a moral issue. Yet, our politicians and even our pastors don’t really talk about morality this way. They used to, back in the 50s and early 60s when I would come of age. But they don’t today, and I think this is very perplexing. No politician can run on talking about personal morality this way (not even the Republicans).

But, as I said, this whole issue of growing up to carry your weight bifurcates. Often, although not always, parents perceive the future biological loyalty of their children, even as adults, as part of the “bargain” of an active, stable monogamous marriage. They have been raised to believe that lineage is essentially a “birthright” that becomes available with marriage. (That’s the point of the 1955 classic film and “best picture” “Marty.”) Obviously, my father, particularly, as well as teachers, were concerned that I would not grow up to be a competent or "competitive" potential husband and father. (Intensifying this was the fact that I was an only child.) I will use a bit of “inductive reasoning” from my own experience. A gay child, especially a son, will not be able to provide this kind of biologically continuity (unless he forces himself to anyway, or develops some “alternative strategy”). And it gets to be more than just the issue of grandchildren – because all societies have always had a significant number of individuals (even men) who did not reproduce. (That’s true in many mammalian communities.) But the issue gets beyond that of reproduction itself. It has to do with the “emotional solidarity” (soap opera style, with all that pampering) of a blood and extended family. The visibility of gays, and the idea that male homosexuality is totally socially acceptable, comports with “utilitarianism,” objectivism and radical individualism, which leads to the logical consequence that, even within a family, individuals should fend for themselves and become less dependent on the emotional complementarity of family life. It should come as no surprise that this is very threatening to many people. There’s even another question: if people become devalued because of their own lack of self-sufficiency (as often expected by the modern world), then shouldn’t someone be devalued if he doesn’t want to reproduce? Existentialism gets dangerous here --- but existentialism goes beyond reason, they say. There’s also the point that many of the “threats” to our way of life could force us to become more interdependent again, and make the emotional life of the family paramount again.

In many families, parents make enormous changes within themselves to raise kids, and understandably they think that the “socialization” they undergo (as pass on to their kids through chores and media-free family rituals) should pass on to their kids. To such parents, the integrity and permanence of this socializing process is as morally compelling as the more obvious “moral” problems where people as individuals don’t take responsibility for their own actions.

So, where does this leave us? Different strokes for different folks? Well, that’s an underlying principle of individualism, and its pretty effective in helping break up old-fashioned power structures and patterns of institutionalized discrimination. Within families, however, it means many people are much more left to themselves, and in such a world, where “the family for its own sake” is less valuable emotionally, more (though my no means all) marriages will fail, and certain kinds of individuals can get set adrift – cheated (they feel) and abandoned, they become today’s criminals.

Biology leaves us with a conundrum. It’s a fact – even within any family, people are born “wired” differently. Some are more sociable than others. Some are extroverted, fewer are introverted. Some are independent and “content oriented” and depend less on external socialization. That’s biological reality, and it is true of higher mammals in general. Morality is constructed out of social, political, and sometimes religious concepts. Personal sovereignty and personal responsibility are major precepts in today’s society. That is hard on some people. For those who are “wired differently” (the “nature v. nurture” problem) society generally intervenes when the wiring leads to harmful behavior (like substance abuse). When the wiring simply leads to emotional distance and diffidence and disinclination to make emotional commitments in a conventional manner, society has much less warrant to intervene, perhaps no warrant. That does not sit well with many people and it makes things tougher for some families. But that seems to be how it is.

Sometimes one has to be blunt. The historical prohibition against (particularly male) homosexuality seems to have developed, with the aid of religion, as a socially convenient (if intellectually less than honest or rational) way to encourage "waverers" or less competitive men to procreate or (in sharing family responsibility) support those who do procreate without disrupting the family "emotional unit cohesion" that has always been thought necessary. Over about four decades this perspective has changed, making today's previously unforseeable debates on gay marriage, gay adoption and gays in the military (all relevant to equal participation in meeting common needs) interesting and relevant, while leaving more individuals on their own in a world of asymmetric dangers (including STD's) and opportunities.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Disappointing results from HIV vaccine trials

There is a disappointing story about AIDS vaccine trials in the Washington Post, March 21, 2008, front page, “Vaccine Failure is Setback in AIDS Fight: Test subjects may have been put at extra risk of contacting HIV,” link here.

The vaccines apparently were based on three viral proteins that were supposed to stimulate cell-mediate immunity. For mysterious reasons, they seem to have stimulated the ability of certain people to become infected. The vaccines themselves (STEP and Phambili) could not have caused HIV infection.

The story relates to the failure of two major field studies, one comprising active gay men, the other including many heterosexual women.

I volunteered to be examined for the GP160 vaccine in 1988, but did not join the NIH study because if required too much weekday time when I was steadily employed. I did have a thorough physical (including ECG) and prior exposure to histoplasmosis was found.

We do have to keep trying!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Law college in Texas offers streaming video of speakers on whether gay marriage can co-exist with "conservatism"

On Feb. 15, 2008 the South Texas College of Law in Houston held a symposium “Is gay marriage conservative?” It ran for about six hours. There is another blogger reference, here.

There is a summary by another blogger, here. You can find the links for the streaming videos and abstracts there.

The speakers were Charles Murray, Dale Carpenter, David Frum, Gerard Bradley, Jesse Choper, Johnathon Rauch, Robert Nagel, Teresa Stanton Collett, Adam Gershowitz, Jeff Rensberger.

I’m going to comment on the streaming videos that I have watched. The video seems to work only in Internet Explorer (not Mozilla) in Windows Media Player. In aggregate, these videos could be packaged and shown in a film festival as an event.

Many of the presentations hinge on various forms of “convervatism” where “Burkeanism” (based on Irish philosopher Edmund Burke) is seen as a pragmatic, centralist version of conservatism.

Robert Nagel: "Marriage and Practical Knowledge"

Mr. Nagel (about 15 minutes) discusses the notion of rationalism (often the source of arguments concerning same sex marriage) as “incomplete” when compared to knowledge obtained from practical experience. Nagel discussed the idea that gender complementarity may be essential to marriage as a societal institution, and that acceptance of gay marriage could result in the private notion of “two kinds of marriage.

Jonathan Rauch: Not Whether but How: Gay Marriage and the Revival of Burkean Conservatism. Mr. Rauch (23:06), author of a famous book presenting gay marriage as a “win-win” proposition, takes the position that the gradual acceptance of gay marriage is already happening and is inevitable. Rauch talked about the tension between “egalitarianism” and “communitarian values.”

Dale Carpenter: The Traditionalist Case. Mr. Carpenter (38 min) presented a detailed analysis, where Burkean conservatism was in the middle, and discussed both arguments for an against recognizing same sex marriage incrementally, including the total break with a known tradition. (I add here, once, Rev. Schuler at the Crystal Cathedral in Anaheim CA justified “tradition” as a defining concept of morality and social institutions.) He mentioned the abstract nature of the debate and the "long cherished" nature of heterosexual marriage. He also indicated that homosexuality has been thought to involved a lack of "connectedness" and "responsibility", particularly in the way people become role models for children, although this may not be an accurate perception. However, attempts to deny gay marriage forever run into contradictions. A significant fraction of gay couples (more for women) raise children, and in most states people don’t want to take the children away. And people don’t want to go back to sodomy laws. Furthermore, most of anti-homosexual bias was based on myth and ignorance before modern science. Furthermore, children of same-sex couples should not be discriminated against. In time, there is some pressure to accept recognition of gay marriage. Nevertheless, gay marriage is recognized in several western countries, civil union in several more, and is recognized in several American states. In Sweden, where strong civil unions are recognized, heterosexual marriage has increased, divorce has lowered, birth rates are up, and more gays are in relationships – the “win-win” result.

He gave these states in the US as recognizing gay civil unions: NH, CT, NJ, OR, CA, WA with only MA recognizing "gay marriage." Internationally, Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, and South Africa recognize gay marriage; Britain, France, Germany, and Scandanavian countries (and I think Belgium) recognize gay "civil unions."

David Frum: Same-sex Marriage: Unconservative in Purpose, in Application, and in Result. Frum (15 min) takes head-on whether gay marriage could ever be “conservative” in the middleground case. He says that it could not because it is advanced for ideological reasons, more related to egalitarianism than to the experience of marriage. He says that marriage would become “genderless” for everyone. He notes that arguments about gay marriage would have been unimaginable a generation ago, and once granted, few gays might want to “use it” (perhaps true).

Gerard Bradley: (law professor) (19 min) discussed the lexical distinction between “optimal settings” for marriage and the proper role of the law. He recognized the idea of the “optimal setting” for raising children and even the idea that some parents see the “moral instruction” of their children extending into adulthood as a legitimate extension of the sexuality of their own marriage. However, he felt that the usual arguments for denying gay marriage claimed assertions that need to be proved. Conservatism demands that the law be neutral and not try to manipulate behavior into optimality. Bradley also noted that when gay couples have children, it is usually by choice, not accident (except when custody is carried over from a previous heterosexual marriage).

Charles Murray: The Libertarian Salvation of a Conservative Institution
Murray (18 min) reveres marriage as an institution that perpetuates culture and raises the next generation. Gay marriage, he says, would be a simulacrum. He runs through the idea of looking at marriage as a neutral contract and handling it with normal contract law. He believes that much of marriage law in many states already do this, yet marriages often fail. But he believes that heterosexuals themselves have managed to muck up their own marriages, and should not blame homosexuals for distracting them. Murray offers the ("libertarian") idea that a second heterosexual marriage for those past reproductive age does not need government recognition as "marriage."

Jesse Choper (19 min) indicated that he is an independent, and cast the question in terms of a conservative reason not to ban gay marriage. He discussed the powers of the federal government from a constitutional perspective, even giving a whimsical idea that Congress could ban the interstate travel of couples who were not "married." He got into a discussion of fundamental rights, whether marriage is incorporated into a "right of privacy" and took a libertarian position that offense to tradition and feeling were not a good enough reason to ban recognition of what seems now like a legitimate right.

Teresa Stanton Collett, (20 min) from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN (where I took some Unix classes while working for ReliaStar) spoke about marriage as defined by the possibility of conceiving children, and as the primary way to connect men to the children they father and to protect the mothers while they are raising children, a duty that is especially important for lesser income women. She talks about both expecting too much and too little of marriage (including permanency); she made light of "pre-nuptials" as indicating the lack of ability of many heterosexuals to accept lifelong commitment. She admitted that marriage-like arrangements could have a socializing or taming effects on gays (men, especially) also.

The speakers only got to in very tangential fashion the issue that bothers me: that those who do not form heterosexual unions modeled for producing children (or compete to be able to do so) become second class citizens (even when not wanting to "marry" or procreate at all), often asked to sacrifice to meet the needs of those who do. The libertarian arguments of harmlessness, non-aggression and non-intervention run up against a practical reality, as I noted before: many married couples believe they need the "preferential" social approbation to make lifelong monogamous and active (heterosexual, biological gender-driven) marriage a good deal psychologically, and they need the filial loyalty of their adult children (including lineage) to make it work, too.

Adam Gershowitz and Jeff Rensberger introduced other candidates.

Picture: "The thieving magpie" from the National Zoo.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Metro Weekly interviews "Cold War" undercover spy against gays and left-wing elements during Vietnam era

The Metro Weekly, for March 13, 2008, has, on p. 25, a story by Will O'Bryan "Inside Man", about Butch Merritt, whom the government hired to spy on left-wing activities and on some elements of the gay community around 1970 (the Gay Liberation Front, etc.) In the interview he indicates that he got himself classified 4-F with a letter from a doctor as a "homosexual." He admits being told this was not a respectable thing to do. However Randy Shilts notes that the Army tried hard not to reject recruits or draftees for homosexuality in the Vietnam period, and in fact the Army had stopped "asking" for a while around 1966. (The movie "Before Stonewall" (1996) demonstrates the issue of trying to get out of the draft this way.) I actually went from 4-F through 1-Y to 1-A to avoid the "stigma" from my 1961 William and Mary expulsion for homosexuality and actually served in the Army as a "draftee" from 1968-1970.

The direct link to the Metro Weekly interview ("Inside Man: Butch Merritt was a leading spy in America's homegrown cold war against homosexuals") is here.

The book by David Mixner, Stranger Among Friends (1996) details Mixner's own being set up by an FBI "sting" or undercover domestic spy investigation in 1969, when closet-case J Edgar Hoover (with Roy Cohn -- as in Tony Kushner's "Angels in America") was still in power.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Erwartung: when that intercom buzzes, and a guest is coming to dinner

I remember, when living in a renovated apartment building in lower Manhattan in the mid and late 1970s, that we had an internal intercom system. Later, in another highrise in Minneapolis, it was phone operated. But I can remember the “excitement” of expecting a “date” back in the 70s. When the intercom buzzed, you had about 45 seconds left before “he” would appear.

I remember, with some nostalgia, how it was then: the “take homes”, the dates, the brunches, the Fire Island weekend trips (or even Mt. Washington, New Hampshire). Infatuation, “falling in love,” seeing the world through the eyes of some sort of relationship with the person. Yes, it gets into the talk groups (and chats today). But it was for me, and for him. It was surplus. It wasn’t for “society.” Nobody cared if society “recognized” the “relationship” or would regard it as “marriage.” We just wanted to be left alone to “lead our lives.”

For heterosexual couples it seems like it started out very much the same. When couples fall in love (even if its Belle and Shawn on DOOL) it’s about them, first.

But, with conventional heterosexual dating, you look down the turnpike, and through all the can’t-see-through mountain tunnels. You get married and have kids (hopefully in that order). You have to think about more than yourselves: you think about your progeny, but you probably have a lot of pressure to think about other blood family members, especially parents, as they age, or sometimes siblings if they have illnesses. You come to see the social supports for you marriage as vital. It’s part of what you experience as you both age (and bad things can really happen – “in sickness and in health”, etc.), so that you will stay not only “faithful” but also “interested.”

The problem is that, while you do, as an “old married couple” accept the responsibilities of your marriage, you also create potential “liabilities” or responsibilities for others, particularly in the blood family. In time, you need to know that you can count on support, both from your blood family and from the legal and social system.

But it didn’t start out that way. Originally, it was “this is my life” and “this is my lover’s life.” Soon the two became one, sort of, and then the “lives of others” could be affected. You grew into this because of the way society handles marriage. Because the obligations expand and affect others, as I’ve noted, society tries to regulate and limit intercourse, or at least procreation, to marriage.

For a couple decades, gay men, particularly, lived in their separate dominion, even battling down AIDS. In the 1990s it all changed, as issues like gays in the military and gay marriage came to the public debate, and as the Internet quickly “democratized” the debate. One fact is that childless adults can be affected by the needs of family members – created (and met) indirectly by conventional families having children. Another is that childless adults often do function as parents, a fact more visible now with the gay adoption debate in some states.

There is plenty of practical reason that gay couples would want legal recognition, and from our expanding appreciation of the need for “social connectedness” it sounds like a win-win proposition. But, some traditional couples in “conservative” cultures have developed the notion that they need to reserve the perks of “marriage” for themselves as part of their “Song of Solomon” experience.

There is a more subtle problem, however. As I noted, gay relationships start out as an experience, hopefully “psychologically creative,” for the participants. However, the outside work looks askance and attaches a derogatory meaning to the idea of “submission” or upward affiliation. The “outside” sees in that process an expression of judgment about other men, which the individual person (as a male homosexual) escapes himself through the affiliation but which applies to others, relating to their ability to have families. Unchecked, they feel, that can (in the world of “logical consequences”) set a dangerous trend for society as a whole, undermining democracy and inviting authoritarian systems based on “rank and yank” ideas. Radical individualism, paradoxically, can turn on itself. History has shown this before, they say.

But nobody is conscious of these things when the intercom buzzes.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

ENDA and blogs; what about salesmen who pamper the "conventional" world?

Just a quick note about the “philosophy” of ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act, as a bill.) Many jobs, even outside of the religious areas (as exempted in ENDA) require selling to people or manipulating them, and sometimes “schmoozing” or pampering the socially supported “values” of some conventionally married people.

There may be some gay individuals, especially older gay individuals who lived a “separate life” for decades, who find the idea of behaving this way offputting, to say the least. Why should I support the values of someone else that I did not “live up to” myself (procreation, and the idea that parenthood gives you adult validity as a person). I didn’t experience that, so it is hard for me to pander to someone that did. Okay, someone like Philip Longman says, I am too “self-absorbed” to have a family and have children. Okay. James McNight, in his 1993 book "Gay Issues in the Workplace," had used the term "heterosexism."

Then, there is the idea that employers are now trolling the Internet to do “background investigations.” You can imagine where I can go with this (first of all, in the military). I’ve covered this on other blogs. But you can imagine this blossoming into “don’t ask don’t tell” in most civilian occupations (teachers, for example).

It will take a lot of thought to make ENDA work.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

WJLA reports gunfire aimed at MCC in Washington DC

Washington DC television station WJLA (ABC) reported today two recent disturbing incidents where gunfire has been aimed at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington DC, in the Shaw neighborhood. This is a congregation that largely ministers to and is run by gays and lesbians.

The link for the story appeared around 4 PM today (March 11) and is here. It is expected that the Washington Blade will have much more detail on Friday. A nearby art gallery, apparently sporting a rainbow flag, also received random fire. No one has been injured in any of the incidents, some damage has occurred from the vandalism.

The link for MCC-DC is here. The link for the Fellowship headquarted in Los Angeles is here.

I attended MCCDC in the 1990s. I played piano at a few services. The current building was completed in 1992. The pastor then was Rev. Larry Uhrig, who wrote a famous advertisement column, “There Is No Better Half” in the Washington Blade in the early 1990s. He died of AIDS in 1993. Rev. Candace Shultis was elected pastor in 1995 (story). Shultis had served in the Marine Corps. The Church web site indicates that it is in transition for a new pastor.

The news story and police investigation suggest that this is a “hate crime,” but as a whole the pattern of violence in Washington DC and other cities has not necessarily targeted the gay community. Other communities have been involved, however.

Washington DC has been plagued by violent incidents in or near night clubs, as in Adams Morgan, along Wisconsin Avenue, and on the U-Street corridor; but none of these have involved gay clubs. A few “straight” clubs have been forced to close for this reason. A number of businesses from the SE part of the City have been displaced by real estate development associated with the Nationals Stadium, and few have re-opened, partly because of neighborhood zoning opposition. Around the nation, violence directed at gay clubs used to occur in the 1960s and 1970s, as with a tragic fire in New Orleans in 1973, but had become less common by the mid 1970s. However, other major tragedies have sometimes occurred, as with the assassination of George Moscone and Harvey Milk in San Francisco in 1978, subject of a book (“The Mayor of Castro Street”) by the late Randy Shilts, and to become a motion picture (dir. Bryan Singer) in 2009.

Update: March 12:

I posted a comment about the disturbing Netherlands-Britain deportation case involving a gay teen from Iran on my International Issues blog, here.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sgt. Darren Manzella in Metro Weekly, at SLDN benefit

I wasn't able to make the March 8 SLDN Annual Dinner at the National Building Museum in Washington DC yesterday, but the major speaker was Darren Manzella, and the DC Metro Weekly has a featured interview with him, March 6, 2008, at this link. The interview is called "In & Out" and is conducted by Will O'Bryan. "In & Out" was the name of a gay-themed comedy about a movie star who has played in a movie about gays in the military; the "real" film was released in 1997 by Paramount. (I did attend a reception at the National Building last year for a film event at the nearby Landmark Theater.)

Darren Manzella was featured on the CBS show "60 Minutes" on December 16, 2007. I have a posting about this show started on Dec. 15 and updated Dec. 16. Manzella "came out" but the Pentagon has refused to find official evidence of "homosexual conduct." That is partly because his health care skills are so indispensable. Nevertheless, under "don't ask don't tell" linguists and translators have been lost, and in the era of the Internet, the whole concept has unraveled.

The interview stresses the importance of military opportunity for many people. It can provide an opportunity to pay off student loans. The military GI bill is important, but many consider it inadequate for today's world, and there are bills to improve it, for example this entry on my issues blog.

The interview takes the position that the classical military arguments about servicemember "privacy" and about unit cohesion are a bit of a canard. Many younger servicemembers of this generation don't perceive it as an issue. Yet, back in 1993 the military used to argue that it must train the "least educated and least tolerant" younger members of society.

Note: Here is the link for the SLDN lobby day March 7, 2008 (and Capitol rally).

Update: March 16

Chris Johnson has a detailed report on SLDN lobby day in the March 14 issue of The Washington Blade, p 8, link here. SLDN also held a rally March 14. (I attended a comparable rally in 2007). There is a general impression that Marty Meehan's bill in the House to lift the ban has little chance this year (in the 110th Congress) because there is no comparable bill in the Senate yet. Go here for detailed links (link in Feb 2008) on the legislation in the House.

SLDN has a blog entry itself ("UNITE: An Evening in Pictures") on its Annual Dinner on March 8, 2008, here.

Kathi Wescott has an entry on the same blog about the forum held on March 12 at Georgetown University in Washington DC, "Military Preparedness: The Foreign Perspective," link here. See Feb. 22 entry on this blog about the Michael D. Palm Center (formerly CSSM) in Santa Barbara, CA, which has done a lot of research on assimilating gays in foreign militaries. Also, the Rand Corporation gave a lot of details (particularly about Israel) in its 1993 study commissioned by the Clinton Administration in the early days of the fight with Congress that led to "don't ask don't tell."

Update: March 23, 2008

Will O'Bryan of Metro Weeky (March 20) has a story (p. 10) on the Georgetown University forum, "Do Tell: American allies extol their gay-inclusive militaries," link here.

Friday, March 07, 2008

ABC Nightline does story on transgendered Microsoft executive

ABC "Nightline" on March 6, 2008 did a story on Microsoft executive Megan Wallent, who spent eleven years as Michael before deciding to go through the gender reassignment process medically. She showed an employee id card of herself as Michael back from 1996.

The story is by Neal Karlinsky and Alyssa Litoff; the title is "Transgender Executive: 'Just a Different Person Now Than I Was Then'; Wife, Kids, and Co-Workers Cope With One Man's Decision to Become a Woman," and the link is here.

Wallent was a key person in the development and maintenance of Internet Explorer over many years, from the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington.

In 1993, radio talk show host Scott Peck (author of "All American Boy," and a gay man who was son of a Marine colonel and who was outed by the debate in Congress over lifting the ban on gays in the military) interviewed a woman who had served as a man in the Navy as a Petty Officer, and then left and had a gender change. She still had a civilian job in Naval intelligence, with duties approximately the same as when in uniform.

In both cases, the individuals had been married to women and had children. It is not clear what happens to the legal status of a relationship after one partner has a gender change and the relationship becomes a same-sex union, if there was a legal marriage before. That probably depends on the state and would be tricky issue.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

NY courts sometimes recognize out-of-state gay marriages

The New York Times, on p. C13 in print in the New York Report today, Thursday, March 6 2008, ran a story by Anemona Hartocollis, "It's not state law, but gay marriage gains recognition in New York courts." The Times online story is called "Gay Marriage Gains Notice in State Court," and the link is here.

The story indicates that some New York state courts are recognizing gay marriages performed in other jurisdictions, particularly Canada. A Manhattan court heard a divorce proceeding for two women married in Canada and raising two young children.

In 2006, the New York state supreme court had refused to follow Massachusetts and recognize gay marriage. Only Massachusetts recognizes gay marriage, but the measure is before state supreme courts in California and Connecticut. New Jersey has legislated a civil union law that practically grants marital rights in responsibilities in all but terminology, and the Maryland legislature is considering the same. The Virginia electorate passed a very strong anti-same-sex marriage and anti-civil-union state constitutional amendment (Marshall-Newman) in the 2006 election, ironically as part of the "Virginia Bill of Rights".

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

California Students' Civil Rights Act (SB 777) stirs up controversy

Cal Thomas has a somewhat strident commentary “’Coming out’ in K-12” on o p A15 pf the Wednesday March 5, 2006 Washington Times, link here.
He talks about the California Student Civil Rights Act SB 777, which he believes overrides the rights of parents by, shall we say, imposing “secular” gender values on public school students. Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (“no more movies”) signed it last September.

A rather complete link about the law is to be found here.

A group called “Exodus Mandate” (like) has been pretty vocal, distributing literature claiming that the law mandates “that public school children be indoctrinated to accept as normal the homosexual lifestyle and other forms of sexual deviancy.” And a site called “California Exodus” heads with “why Christians must rescue their children from California’s public schools,” here. Here, one can see what they are playing on. Parents, especially those for whom the socialization of blood family is an emotional priority (the “soap opera” syndrome), perceive the “outcomes” of their children as an intrinsic part of their marital experience.

I contributed an essay on student education about sexual orientation
to the "Opposing Viewpoints Series"; my discussion is here.

I wrote about this issue for the Maryland schools Feb. 4 2008 on this blog.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

VA: House of Delegates turns down allowing local governments to offer domestic partner benefits

The Arlington News section of the Northern Virginia Sun Gazette has a disappointing story Feb. 29, 2008 "Domestic-Partners Benefits Proposal Dies Again" by Scott McCaffrey, link here. This refers to a measure in the Virginia General Assembly House of Delegates to pass a measure to allow local governments to self-fund health-care benefits for same-sex partners or other persons beyond immediate family members.

The County Board had approved the idea in 1997, but a state judge then ruled that the General Assembly would have to approve the measure.