Thursday, October 31, 2013

DC gay Halloween parties tamer than was High Heels; Virginia anti-marriage amendment challenged

I haven’t become delinquent in following the news. I know that there was hearing in a federal court in Harrisonburg, VA Wednesday to determine whether a lawsuit challenging Virginia’s Marshall-Newman amendment could be set up as a class action suit for all same-sex couples in Virginia.

On the “heels” of the 17th Street “High Heels Race”, the bars had their formal Halloween parties tonight (the third in a week).  I peaked in on Cobalt, but didn’t stay for the midnight costume contest because of Metro weeknight schedules. 

There was a small guy who had replaced his entire exterior with the painted spots of a cheetah.  It interesting to revere cats so much as to want to become a cat, although cats usually keep more body hair than we do.  That’s all right, a guy on the NBC Today show this morning had chest fur glued on, which will prove as destructive as having tattoos.

The rest of the costumes were less extreme than last weekend at Town.  Some were sports oriented, especially kickball (even more so at JR’s).  Some were collegiate.  You can put on the costume of a GWU graduate student, or medical student. 
Tonight, Jimmy Kimmel is in drag on ABC.  So was Billy Bush today on Access Hollywood.  Curiously, on “Days of our Lives”, Will and Sonny still look and act like men, even on Halloween. 
I wonder what the Abbey in West Hollywood will be like tonight.
Oh, by the way, pumpkins are orange.  I learned that in kindergarten.  It’s still true on the DC Metro.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Washington DC bars sponsor 27th High Heels Race tonight, mid-Halloween

Tonight the community held the 27th annual High Heels Race on 17th St. in Washington DC, between the Cobalt Dc and JR’s. 

For about two hours, the drag queens in costume milled around in the street, which could not even be crossed in the middle.  At 9 PM sharp, the ladies of the night raced down the street to the finish line. The crowd followed, rather like a Spanish procession on an Antnony Bourdain Parts Unknown. 

The restaurants were all packed and could not even be entered.  The only places left to eat were a Submarine shop and a McDonald’s. 

There were plenty of dopplegangers for the Carrie girl, who all looked a bit alike. But the rest of the costumes seemed almost ceremonial, Catholic, Orthodox, something you see on the continent. I was struck by the number of men in the crowd who were as tall as the ladies with just loafers on.

Major media outlets were in evidence, with fully equipped trucks from the local television stations. WJLA reported that the attendance was at least 10,000 to probably 15,000.  

The heels are very high.  The real men still are taller than the gals.   

Monday, October 28, 2013

Did social media bring about the end of DADT? Will it facilitate ENDA?

Randi Zuckerberg (sister of Mark Zuckerberg and CEO of Zuckerberg Media (link ) , pretty much accounts for why “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has had been doomed a few years ago, in her Time essay, “Post more baby photos: It’s time to stop pretending we can separate our personal life from our work life”, link here. You have to share now it seems.  There is no more private life?  Maybe there were good unintended consequences. 
It’s isn’t hard to imagine how the comments apply to the Boy Scouts issue, or to. In a broader sense, ENDA. And there’s another story here. Harry Reid is setting up a Senate vote on ENDA before Thanksgiving, Washington Blade story here.

That reminds me of the situation in Russia.  Is it illegal there to mention homosexuality on the Internet because presumably a minor could find it, and, in Putin’s way of thinking, decide not to have children?   

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Town DC holds largest Halloween costume contest ever

Saturday night, Oct. 26, 2013, the Town Discotheque did hold its Halloween Party dance upstairs, and it did appear to be the largest ever.  The upstairs dance floor was packed by 11:15.

This year, most people did have costumes.  I saw someone “impersonate” the Washington Nationals’s slugger Bryce Harper.  There was a pro tennis player (Federer?)  There was an angel, from the heavenly host, not necessarily immortal.

One of the more interesting was a jellyfish.  The guy didn’t know what the box jellyfish (off the coast of Australia) and why it is so dreaded.  But he got the point of being seen as “free fish”. There's something gross about the way a coelenterate lives and reproduces.   And, by the way, a jellyfish isn't a true "fish",  But neither is the "Blackfish" or orca.  
The costume contest on the upstairs stage was the largest ever, with an elaborate Miss Scarlet winning the applause vote.  The jellyfish did rather well.

I did notice someone from last year’s (Sandy-delayed) High Hells Race on the upstairs landing, perched above the dance floor for “forward observation”.  I think that the person was indeed JR’s Dave Perruzza, with a close up picture on this week’s “Metro Weekly” on p. 27, as well as the cover (where there is a metaphor of the movie “Carrie”).

This year, the High Heels Race is to be held Oct. 29, 2013 on 17th St near JR’s.    

Saturday, October 26, 2013

AIDSWalk 2013 in Washington DC held in cool dry weather this morning

I had my own misadventures this morning, almost losing  a camera and a smartphone at different times, but all is well now, as I did make the entire AIDS Walk Washington 2013 this year, all three miles, which run from Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Ave. down below Federal Center, where the commuter trains from Virginia are visible, and back.

We passed a demonstration against NSA Surveillance along the way.  I did see some unusual groups, such as one which sponsors volunteer service trips to Kenya.  That would sound risky now, and Uganda is next door.  (Last night, I went to a performance and Q-A of “God Loves Uganda”;  see the movies blog.)
A lot of walkers wore hats or jerseys for the Nationals, Redskins or Capitals, but I didn’t see any organized teams from professional sports franchises.

The weather was sunny and dry, and warmed up quickly from visible frost early this morning, to about 50 degrees during the march.  There were still plenty of shorts, and there was a “run” northbound on Pennsylvania Ave.  A year ago, during the same event, we were bracing for Hurriacne Sandy, and two years ago we had driving rain.
The event seems smaller than it did twenty years ago, when it was five miles and had more volunteers with signs like “Obey Me”. 

During the mid 1980’s I did volunteer as a “buddy” (or a “baby buddy”) with the Oak Lawn Counseling Center in Dallas, where I lived then.  In the 1990s, after I had returned to DC, I found the Whitman Walker Clinic a bit more bureaucratic. I also volunteered then with Food and Friends. The needs had changed considerably. They mostly centered on economically underprivileged communities.  By the late 1990’s it was common to hear that treatment with protease inhibitors was effective and had fewer side effects than previously.  You don’t hear HIV feared or talked about in the “white” gay may community like “you” once did, but CDC says that cases in younger men are returning. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Kuwait says it plays to ban gays with a "medical" test at entry. How?

The Washington Blade is reporting on a plan by Kuwait to test entrants into the country for homosexuality to “ban gays”, with the story link here.  The original Newsweek story is here

Of course, it is well established that one can test for HIV infection as a possible flawed surrogate marker for males, and it is possible to test for chromosomal “abnormalities”.  But there is no such thing as a medical blood or genetic test for sexual orientation.   So the story sounds ludicrous.  It’s possible to imagine a sci-fi scenario where the subject is given a pupilometric test to see how he or she responds to visual stimuli (such an idea is actual proposed in the 1974 thriller film “The Parallax View”).  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Details on anti-gay remarks from "Values Voter Summit": it seems to be about "the obligation to procreate"

The Washington Blade, in a detailed story by Chris Johnson on p. 15 of the October 18, 2013 issue, has covered the anti-gay speeches at last week’s “Values Voter Summit”, and apparently had provided an earlier link on Oct. 8, here. It's interesting that gay papers will reprint the "arguments" of the "enemy" -- but that's journalism.  So I analyze.  

The Oct. 8 story reports about Bryan Fischer, from the “American Family Association”, who compared male homosexual behavior to drug abuse.  But former GOP presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor, himself a Mormon, was critical of the tone of Fischer’s remarks. 
Representative Steve King (R-IA), conspicuous in the Tea Party’s attack on Obamacare and brinksmanship over the debt ceiling and government shutdown, claimed that LGBT advocates were deliberately trashing the institution of marriage.  What he neglected to say was that marriage law affects those who don’t even try to get marriage recognition, by demanding sacrifices for others.
The Tea Party is supposed to be dedicated to economic conservatism, even libertarianism.  But in practice, many in the Tea Party (like Michele Bachmann) are social conservatives, too.  (The late Andrew Breitbart had always said he was a social libertarian, however.) 
But the most provocative comments seem to come from the AFA’s (link).  Sandy Rios, as reported Oct. 18.   Rios said “In the homosexual life, especially with men, there are so many partners, there’s so much heartbreak and rejection. You think youth is worshipped in heterosexual sex? It is top of line. And they like young men, young virile men. When you get older, when you’re a gay man, there’s so much rejection, there’s heartache.”
Oh, I could toss this around as if I were a housecat chasing a ping pong ball.  If you’re not a swimmer or biker and have gone bald on the legs, you’re past peak, well into the late autumn of life.  At best, it’s time for the Brahms Fourth.  In fact, the right to “reject” has always been important to me because it can be “done” to me.  To me, feeling something is approval.  I don’t give away approval easily, as if that mattered.  But to some people it does, because of the example it sets.  All this came up in my “therapy” at NIH in the latter part of 1962.
Heterosexual men are indeed concerned about youth.  Rios seems to forget that “upward affiliation” (a term coined by George Gilder) occurs in straight relationships and courtship, too.  In fact, it seems like a moral challenge to keep passion going when partners have aged, when something unfortunate (perhaps medically, or by accident or even violence) has happened to one or both partners.   I’ve known of traditional marriages that fell apart after the wife could not reverse the weight gain after a first child.  Marriage is supposed to guarantee “aesthetic realism”, or develop that capacity. Actually, it’s the other way around.  Marriage happens because of that growth that must come first.  

Rios seems to be focusing on what drove anti-gay attitudes in the decades before the right wing had the “public health” and AIDS issues to bat around, as in the 1980s.  It wasn’t so much about commission as omission.  Rios (perhaps as would the Taliban) sees the gay world as a threat to initiation, intercourse and procreation, to the idea that every married couple should have a “birthright” or fundamental right to grandchildren – in an unequal world that as all some people “had”.   When I told the Dean of Men at William and Mary the day after Thanksgiving, when called into a sudden meeting, in 1961, that I viewed myself as a “latent homosexual” (a common word in the popular “mental health” literature at the time), the reaction must have been that, as an only child, I had just announce my own family’s eternal death sentence.  People often have seen procreation as a moral obligation even if it is to be avoided in the wrong circumstances.   They seemed to think I was setting a dangerous new example of verbal “nuclear” brinksmanship, at least inviting other "less competitive" men to evade the risks normally taken by others. .  

On Oct. 22, the Wall Street Journal offers a front page story about the Southern Baptist C onvention and Richard Land, "Evangelical leader preaces a pullback from politics, culture wars" here.
 Below, First Baptist Church in downtown Dallas, Nov. 2011.  I was there a few times in the 1980's when W A Criswell preached.
Construction of new FBC headquarters was going on next door during my 2011 visit:

Monday, October 21, 2013

AIDS-HIV "denial" has never helped gay men politically, or medically

The appeal of “AIDS denialism” or specifically “HIV denial” doesn’t go away completely, as evidenced from a court case I discuss on my main blog Aug. 16, 2013.
In the mid 1980s, much of the male gay community was reluctant to accept the science that seemed to show that a virus then called HTLV-III causes AIDS. 
There had been some subtle warnings that a severe health crisis was coming, even during my last year living in New York, 1978.  Rumors of clusters of contagious cancer had spread even then (and even out in the general population, as with Hodgkin’s Disease).  I moved to Dallas in early 1979. I first heard about Kaposi’s Sarcoma in a gay magazine called “This Week in Texas” on the day in February 1982 that I went to see “Making Love”.  It wasn’t until early 1983 that the epidemiology of AIDS really attracted attention, because the number of official cases was doubling so quickly, every six months.  An epidemic starting from almost one case and spreading geometrically would have to yield a novel explanation.  A novel virus was the most probable.
HTLV-3 was formally identified in the spring of 1984, and a test was available in 1985.  The gay community often argued “don’t take the test” out of very real political fears.  But it’s also arguable that the community was better off politically once a virus was identified and could be understood.
There were lots of conspiracy theories.  The New York Native, published by Charles Ortleb, indulged some of them, with reports about experiments at Plum Island, and the idea that ASFV, African Swine Fever Virus, could be the cause.  This was a dangerous idea, because ASFV is an arbovirus, spread by mosquitoes.  There were other theories, like that a bizarre fungus from Scandanavia was the cause, or that even some strange primitive bacteria (reportedly found in KS lesions) caused it. With a provocative article in a 1983 Discover issue, there were even ideas that prions ("infectious" proteins that destroy brain tissue by corrupting the surface geometry of certain proteins, in a domino fashion) could be responsible for AIDS (they do cause neurological disease).  
Before HTLV-3, to be renamed HIV, was identified and accepted, the religious right in Texas (and a group called “Dallas Doctors Against AIDS) proposed, in early 1983, a state law increasing the penalty for sodomy and imposing a military-style ban on gays in most occupations.  The right wing (supported by Paul Cameron and Gene Antonio) proposed that within the gay male community a deadly “chain letter” had formed which amplified the virus.  Were it to turn out to be spread by insects later (which it fortunately was not), it could then spread to the general population.  This was the “compelling state interest” that would have justified Sodomy laws from a “public health” viewpoint.   (The right wing also claimed that mutation alone could cause this, but probably not without its being an equally heterosexual disease in short order, and probably becoming less lethal.)  In fact, in the early 80’s, some writers speculated that other viruses would get amplified by the male gay community.  This has not happened, because transmission patterns of viruses are more different than we realize, and also because the behavior in the community did get more cautious -- yes, most of the Baths were closed, but condoms became much more popular..  But before HIV, Hepatitis B had been more common among MSM. It’s a lot less clear, though, with other bloodborn viruses, that there has been any particular affinity for the male gay community.  Some viruses seem spread by needles but not as easily by sex.  In 1984, I actually tried to correspond with DDAA, to the horror of the Dallas Gay Alliance (especially its president then Bill Nelson).  DDAA wrote back a letter with graphic arguments about the mechanics of both male sexual practices and ordinary heterosexual intercourse, trying to justify its draconian position.  Fortunately that bill died in committee in the late spring of 1983, but only after heavy lobbying by more moderate elements and by the medical community.   The story of HR 2138 is now largely forgotten Texas history – with implications for the entire community.
In 1988, I was evaluated to be a subject for the GP160 vaccine.  I was accepted but decided not to participate because of the time required from work.
Today, blood donation remains an issue.  I think the case of allowing MSM who test negative by all indicators and who have refrained from sex for some period (like 180 days) to donate blood or organs (post mortem) again is a strong one.  Other countries are starting to lift the ban on blood donations in certain circumstances.
Another argument supporting HTLV-3 as a cause was that a similar virus, HTLV-1, had already been found (in 1982) to cause a T-cell leukemia.
In general, trying to deny HIV as a cause does not help gay men.   That is not to say that some prosecutions for transmission may be wrong or that some pharmaceutical companies may not have behaved unethically at times.

Public health can always be affected unexpectedly by activity in certain communities.  Although avian influenza (“bird flu”) is very different from retroviral disease and much more contagious, it likewise has a public health lesson.  Here the problem is that agricultural practice in the developing world, where people live near the poultry they raise, seems to contribute to amplification and  (after mutation) subsequent global risk. Again, most viruses, if the mutate and spread to more people, become less lethal.  
Today, I don't hear about new cases of AIDS often, but there are reports that it is returning in some cities in younger gay men.  Fortunately, the protease inhibitors do work for maany, if not most, patients.  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

CA passes "modern family" law; NJ supreme court OK's gay marriage temporarily

California governor Jerry Brown has signed into law a measure that would allow a child to have more than two legal parents.  A typical story appears on Verdict here. The measure may help same-sex couples or allow “modern family” situations.  In the recent episodes of the NBC Soap “Days of our Lives”, it’s possible for Gabi’s baby to wind up with three legal daddies (Will, Sonny, and Nick) except that the soap is not set in California (apparently Ohio).
CNN has made the point that the two-parent nuclear family came into being with the advent of agriculture, and that society may have to accept other formulations.  Yet, most domestic child abuse happens from males who are not biological fathers of the minors. 
The state supreme court in New Jersey has ruled that same-sex couples can marry effective Oct. 21, since the state’s appeal (ordered by Governor Christie) is not likely to prevail, CNN story here. The latest news (as of early 10//21) is that the GOP governor now says he will not appeal again and that the ruling will stay.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Obama appoints architect of legal strategy for repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" to Cabinet post with Homeland Security

President Obama has nominated a former defense counsel Jeh Johnson, himself part African-American, to the cabinet post as Secretary of Homeland Security.

Johnson wrote many of the legal papers that the administration used in the gradual repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell”, starting with a law passed at the end of 2010 and requiring a certification process through September, 2011. 
Johnson has also worked on ways of bringing women into combat missions.

The Guardian story is here. It’s a little odd that the major US news sites don’t have this headline yet as of mid Friday afternoon.  Johnson must be confirmed by the Senate, and I hope he doesn't get questions about DADT. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

"Christian" schools still expel gay students even on the basis of rumors (Rolling Stone)

Rolling Stone had published an article about Michele Bachman and the “neutral” but in practice anti-gay attitude of her school district (Anoka MN) in early 2012, and the Oct. 2013 issue of “Rolling Stone” continues with a long story by Alex Morris on p. 74, “The Hidden War Against Gay Teens”, link here
It seems shocking that at a time when a number of states can pass gay marriage legislation (or get it through the courts), and when the military “don’t ask don’t tell” policy has been lifted, blatant discrimination still continues in smaller private schools, which receive public fund through grants called SSO’s (Student Scholarship Organizations).
Morris tells the stories of a couple teens in rural Georgia Christian schools.  In one case, just before his senior year, someone outed the student to both the administration and parents.  The school made no attempt to investigate, but simply told the student he either had to leave, or attend class and associate with no one.  This does recall some of the course of my own lost semester at William and Mary in the fall of 1961. This sounds like the perversions of DADT when it was policy for the military. 

The attitude of the school reminds one of Vladimir Putin and Russia's anti-gay speech law.  People living in this culture assume that they have a right to grandchildren, and that their kids have a moral responsibility to procreate physically.  In an unequal world, that's all some people have. 
There are other stories of people being outed on Facebook and then being expelled. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Social conservatives, with anti-gay agenda, meet in DC while Congress fights over debt ceiling, shutdown

Some of the conservative and Tea Party Republicans involved in the government closure and obstructing the debt ceiling deal may appear at a “conservative summit” sponsored by the Family Research Council in Washington DC this weekend. It is called the "Values Voter Summit". 

The conference emphasizes social conservatism, especially anti-gay and anti-abortion values.

CNN reported on the conference this morning, and USA Today has a story (website url) here. Ted Cruz spoke there, live on CNN, this morning.
The occurrence of the conference hints at the idea that at some point in the future, social issues like gay rights could even become fodder for future shtudowns.  Back in 2004, Rick Santorum tried to disrupt the Senate with proposals for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage when the Senate was trying to focus on an anti-terrorism bill.  

One speaker reportedly claimed that Matthew Shepard's savage death in Wyoming in 1998 had been the result of a drug deal gone bad.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Reparative therapy "advice" is conduct, not protected speech, court says

The California law that prohibits talk reparative therapy intended to change the sexual orientation of minors has been upheld by the Ninth Circuit, on the theory that the “talk” is really “conduct” and not “speech” (in the sense of the First Amendment). 
Paul Sherman and Robert McNamara argue that this sets a dangerous precedent in simply “giving advice” that could apply to other areas, in an op-ed in the New York Times, p. A25, Thursday, October 10, 2013, link (web url) here

The story seems like a curious contraposition to the situation in Russia with the law banning speech mentioning homosexuality in front of minors. 

Sunday, October 06, 2013

HRC National Dinner for 2013 in Washington DC is biggest ever, while the real world outside is the most troubled ever, too

The Human Rights Campaign National Dinner for 2013 was held Saturday October 5, 2013 at the Convention Center in Washington DC.  About 3,000 people attended.  The program, which ended with a performance by the girl band of Sara Bareilles. One of her numbers at the end of the show came, I believe, from the film "Unfinished Song"; her music sounds familiar from Sirius XM The Blend. . 
 The was one change.  Vice President Biden did not appear; instead President Obama spoke remotely about equal marriage rights and also referred to the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in 2011.


HRC president Chad Griffin was introduced with his mother.
Actress Jennifer Lopez appeared to receive an Ally for Equality Award.
Proposition 8 attorneys David Olson and David Boles, and plaintiffs Sandy Steer, Kris Perry, Jeff Zarillo and Paul Katami appeared.

DOMA plaintiff Edie Windsor and attorney Robert Kaplan appeared to receive the National Equality Award.



There were a few references to the government shutdown during the evening, with references to ability to enforce hate crimes laws and assist PWA’s.
I had a conversation with someone in the State Department (remember, one of the worst offenders with LGBT witch-hunts in the early 1950’s).  I asked whether it was problem to send openly LGBT employees to hostile countries, as in the middle East or Africa.  Personnel usually stay and work in embassies when traveling, and host countries are responsible for security – although we know what happened in Libya.  The US does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea, Iran, Syria, or Sudan, which would four of the worst countries, but Uganda sounds bad.  He has not heard of cases where countries have looked at the Facebook or other web activity of foreign visitors in order to find pretexts to arrest them, and the State Department has not been concerned about this (that could apply particularly to Russia, with the upcoming Winter Olympics); yet, he admitted, this concern could well develop in the near future.  Countries can well block websites and certain social media (as does China, which blocks my doaskdotell).  But most social media sites are available in many gay hostile countries.  I find my own doaskdotell site has been available in Russia and in the Middle East.

HRC held the usual aggressive auctions and put on the usual pleas for even more donations.  People used their smart phones to enter silent auctions, but a few items received no bids (that would embarass the vendors).  There was a raffle of a Lexus, 

The talk was always about equality in conceptual and abstract terms.  I often get the impression that gay leadership ignores the cultural war still going on in much of the world.  There seems to be a belief among some “conservative” ideologues that a key to reducing government is to pressure or even compel people to become more involved in taking care of one another very personally within the “natural family” and immediate local neighborhood and “church fellowship”, transcending the way modern liberal society views personal responsibility for others as something that starts with having children (through “doing it”).    Of course, there is obvious circularity in this social conservatism.  But it seems that many people in "religious" rural America don't experience "being left alone" personally the way we do. 

Thursday, October 03, 2013

HRC celebrates its tenth anniversary of owning its own building in Washington DC

Tonight, on Thursday, October 3, 2013, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) celebrated its tenth anniversary of ownership of its office building at the corner of 17th St and Rhode Island Ave NW in Washington DC. 

There were a few speakers, including former chair Elizabeth Birch.  There were full plate hors d’oeuvres (from Savory) and birthday cake.
HRC says that ownership rather than rental of its building space has saved it $11 million in ten years.
There was mention of the security problems at the Capitol today, but not of the debate going on about the government shutdown and debt ceiling.  One big advantage of being private – you stay open.

There were posters and photographs of the accomplishments of the past ten years, in the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell”, and same-sex marriage, including defeating the attempt (by Rick Santorum) to create a constitutional amendment barring recognition of same-sex marriage at the federal level in 2004, leading eventually to the repeal of much of DOMA by the Supreme Court this year, and the virtual progress in nullifying Proposition 8 in California, while more states recognize same-sex marriage.