Saturday, November 30, 2013

University in Chicago holds an "Operation: Do Ask, Do Tell" symposium for LGBT veterans

For the record, I wanted to note that I found an account of a conference called “Operation: Do Ask, Do Tell” at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) which was held Oct. 20, 2012 (not 2013, at least in this account) in Chicago, to help LGBT veterans network, particular in areas of employment and benefits.  The link is here. The school is said to be “military friendly”. The conference emphasized services for trangender veterans.

 I recall a transgender Naval Intelligence agent appearing on Scott Peck's radio show in Washington DC in 1993;  she was forced to leave the uniformed service but got the same job as a civilian employee.  

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Metropolitan Memorial Methodist Church in Washington DC launches "Stop the Trials"

While driving in to a Thanksgiving service elsewhere this morning, I happened to pass the Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church on Nebraska Ave in far NW Washington DC, near Ward Circle and in the highest parts of the city.  I saw a sign with a rainbow and the words “Stop the trials”.  These refer to “trials” within the Methodist denomination for performing same-sex marriage or union ceremonies, or possibly regarding homosexual behavior among clergy itself.
This church is protesting the behavior of its denomination, which it says lags far behind society. Here is its explanation of “Stop the Trials”, link

Thursday, November 21, 2013

CDC hosts webcam on resurgence of HIV among young MSM for LGBT media outlets today

Today, I attended a webcam sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control, “Combatting a Resurgence of HIV Among Young Gay Men”.  I was specifically invited by email and phone call to the event, which I believe was held in New York City.  The webcam said it was for “credentialed journalists only”.  The URL is here. If is offline right now, but CDC says it will release a video.

The host was Thomas Roberts of MSNBC.  The panelists were Jeff Krehely of the Human Rights Campaign, Carl Siciliano (who works with homeless LGBT youth – the last name sounds like a chess opening), Daniel Driffin (from an African-American group) and Dr. Jonathan Mirmin from the CDC.
The session lasted 85 minutes. Toward the end, Mike Lavers of the Washington Blade asked if gay men could face an HIV-free future some day, and Mirmin said that this would be an “aspiration”.
CDC’s fact sheets for MSM, broken down in various categories, are here
HIV rates are increasing among gay men, especially under 25, but the rates seem to be increasing more rapidly among African Americans, and especially among the homeless or among those who were kicked out by their parents.  Siciliano gave an anecdote of a trans-gendered homeless person living with a man who expected unprotected sex in return for a place to live. 
Siciliano mentioned the Campaign for Youth Shelter and the Ali Forney Center.
When I lived in Dallas (1979=1988), there was an attempt to set up a “Safe Place” for homeless LGBT people, and some people at MCC Dallas did help organize the effort around 1980s with founders shares.  The idea came up after there was a request for shelter for LGBT refugees from Cuba in 1980.  Not very many people were prepared to offer them shelter, and some of the groups organizing the efforts seemed unaware of the sacrifice that could be required to house them.  This is a difficult cause to embrace from a personal perspective. But poverty among LGBT youth after expulsion by parents seems to be a public health problem of its own. The panel noted that rates of family rejection had actually increased in some states after they passed laws accepting gay marriage;  it seems to have increased in rural parts of upstate New York.  There was a suggestion that increase in equality in the law in middle and upper class communities has increased tensions in some lower income communities. 
It would be obvious that the politics and effectiveness of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) could affect the medication of low-income MSM when they are infected, but it’s also apparent that the medications and protease inhibitors have become very effective, with much fewer side effects today than in the past.
In my own social circles, I do not hear or learn of new cases of HIV among men today very often.  But in the 1980s I learned of it all the time; it was like living through a hurricane. 

Update: Nov. 27

The New York Times has a story on a CDC report on the rise of unprotected anal sex among MSM, who often say they select only other men who say they are negative, link here.  The CDC's Morbidity report Nov. 29 is here.  I remember reading a lot of these in print in the 1980s.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Lowballing the workplace used to be the unwelcome antidote to discrimination; it was about what "you don't do"

Looking back over the years, one of the most significant aspects of anti-gay “discrimination” as I experienced it, in my own unusual path, seems to be that it was predicated more on what I didn’t do than on what I did. 

Many adverse impacts resulted from the fact that I did not or would not perform acts (sexual intercourse with women) normally expected to produce children.  As an only child, I would not provide my parents, married for 45 years, a lineage into the future. 
That means I would, throughout the decades when privacy and being left alone were the issues (as well as public health), long before equality became the buzzword of today, experience some symptoms of second-class status, even though I often didn’t notice them.  Being single meant paying higher car insurance premiums, for example.
But being single also usually meant more discretionary income, and lower expenses, despite higher tax rates (the most obvious penalty for heterosexual “virginity”).  True, I paid real estate taxes to support schools for kids I did not have – but I didn’t object; education was important, and eventually the school systems would become an employer.  I paid health insurance premiums for maternity care I could not use (a preview of today’s debate over aspects of mandatory insurance under Obamacare) but employers paid most of the premium so I didn’t notice it.  Family coverage was much more expensive out-of-pocket that single coverage in most employer group plans.
Where I did notice it toward the end of my career was sometimes doing other people’s work (on salary, without more compensation), especially on call, when they were out for family reasons.  There may be social benefits to mandatory paid maternity and paternity leave (in addition to vacation) as is common in Europe, but that penalizes those who don’t marry and have children – indeed penalizes them for “inaction”.

Then, there was the issue of eldercare.  “Family responsibility” wasn’t always predicated on having children.

So while there is a great deal of attention to equal treatment of same-sex spouses (and of the children of same-sex couples), “equality” really has always owned a much bigger context than that. It’s not a nice feeling to be viewed as someone else’s insurance policy, or to “work for a discount” – although it also means being less likely to be laid off.  Lowballing was the underside of fighting discrimination in the old days. 
One other note: ENDA is said to have passed the Senate with a bigger margin than did the repeal of DADT, with more GOP support.  But the House seems unlikely to move.  Boehner is not known for courage in being willing to break the Hastert Rule (which isn't even legally binding anyway). 

Monday, November 11, 2013

At least six states,. in the south. balk at recogniziing same-sex marriage benefits in their National Guard units

At least six states are resisting pressures to recognize same-sex marriage for benefits for National Guard members, according to a story Monday by Richard A. Oppel, Jr. on p. A12 Monday, November 11, 2013, Veterans Day.  The states are Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and West Virginia.  National Guard troops can be federalized and deployed (they could even go on relief missions in the Philippines now) but these states insist that Guard units are state agencies, and state laws must be followed.  In Texas, same-sex spouses can go to a federal installation (Ft. Hood) for identification cards.  The link for the story is here

It would appear that in these cases, the couples would have had to get married previously in states that do recognize gay marriage. 

In the early and mid 1990s, Margarethe Cammermeyer was one of the leaders in lifting the military ban and then the DADT policy, and she had been a colonel with the Washington State National Guard.  

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Steve Grand performs at Town Discotheque in Washington DC

Saturday night, November 9, 2013, the Town Discotheque in Washington DC (at 8th and U Sts NW) presented Steve Grand, 23, whose “All American Boy” video went viral in the summer of 2013 (see the Drama blog, July 20, 2013).  Steve's website is here

Grand performed on a Moze electronic piano and sang downstairs starting at about 11:30 PM, after the drag show, and emphasized mostly 1970s songs.  He then performed on the stage upstairs at about 12:30 AM.  There were some technical difficulties upstairs.

One of the songs was “Stay with me:” I recall a song from around 1973 called “Dancing in the Moonlight”, which has nothing to do with Reid Ewing’s “In the Moonlight (Do Me”) for “Modern Family”. 

Afterwards, we got to meet him in person.

There was also a birthday cake on the downstairs stage.  Was this Steve’s birthday?  Curiously, Nov. 7 was “Reid Rainbow’s” birthday (25, car rental age) according to Wikipedia.  All Scorpio.   
The crowd was as dense as ever, since the event had some publicity.  It built up very quickly.

Because of the expected crowd, I used Metro.  When leaving, around 1:15 AM, I still found it impossible to find a cab in the area, despite DC’s recent change to forcing cabs to mark themselves as “for hire” or “on call”.  

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Hawaii may come full circle on gay marriage; Illinois bill to be signed Nov. 20

Back in the 1990s, the public perception was that the gay marriage “battle” had started in Hawii, where it percolated for a while, after Baehr and Dancel won a ruling from the state supreme court in 1993. Erik Eckholm has a story about the progress in Hawaii, about to reconsider legalization now, on p. A11 of the Saturday New York Times here.
Somehow, a line about “getting married” showed up in the 1965 movie  musical “Hawaii” on Michner’s novel.  Yet, early Hawaiian culture accepted some homosexuality and did not have a well developed institution of marriage.
The Hawaii case is said to have motivated the passage of DOMA in 1996. 
The Illinois gay marriage bill will be signed Nov. 20, Huffington story here

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Extremists in GOP lead to reaction from gay libertarians

The New York Times is reporting this morning that the Republican Party wants to consider relying more on primaries and less on state conventions to pick US Senate and gubernatorial candidates, hoping to find more moderate and electable (and less abrasive) candidates.   The story is by Jeremy Peters and Jonathan Martin, here.  It’s important to the LGBT voter because of the reported anti-gay attitudes of Cuccunelli and particularly the lieutenant governor candidate E. W. Jackson, who compared Planned Parenthood to the Ku Klux Klan and LGBT people to “pedophiles”.
Richard Sincere (from Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty) had written a piece about Jackson’s comments claiming that gays and lesbians have an “authorian, totalitarian spirit”, with the story about the article (to appear in a Fredericksburg paper) here.    It sounds as though Jackson thinks that anyone who supports something like universal health care is “authoritarian” or communist.  But the comment could have been motivated by something darker, the notion that “body fascism” seen in the attitude of some men in personal relationships (and an avoidance of complementarity) comports with an idea of wanting to see one’s own idea of virtue everywhere, a curious flip side of cultural fundamentalism.

Sincere’s reply focused on groups like GLIL, Log Cabin, and particularly Pink Pistols. 
Just this week, with Christie’s big win in New Jersey, it seems as if the GOP leadership may indeed go to war with its own ideological extremes.  Cruz could become a footnote.  Will both parties give up the gerrymandering that tends to put ideologically extreme candidates on tickets?  Even the credit rating agencies have talked about this. 

Oh, don’t forget the ENDA vote that may happen in the Senate today.  

Picture: Bizarre sky cloud color at dawn, as if on a Red Dwarf star planet.  

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Family Equality Council announces campaign to encourage same-sex couples to adopt foster children

The Family Equality Council has prepared a YouTube video about same-sex couples who adopt children, called “The Call”. There is also a campaign by “Allies for Adoption” to encourage LGBT couples to adopt foster children, to relieve a foster care crisis. The group says that there are 400,000 children in foster care in the US, among whom 100,000 are eligible for adoption and 23,000 might age out.  The press release (sent to my AOL email) says that same-sex couples who are raising children are four times as likely to have adopted children as heterosexual couples and six times as likely to have foster children.
The group says that only 6 states ban sexual-orientation discrimination in foster care, and only 19 (plus Washington DC) permit same-sex couples to adopt jointly and 13 allow second parents to join as adoptive parents.  

It’s a little hard to find a concrete link for the report on the group’s website, here. It has a flashy campaign to sign up volunteers, and seems to be a survey or petition and then asks for information.  
The picture comes from a Minneapolis bus stop, taken in 2003.   

Monday, November 04, 2013

ENDA clears key cloture vote in Senate

The proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, cleared a cloture vote today (Monday, November 4, 2013) 61-30, clearing the way for almost certain passage later this week.  The Huffington Post has a story and video here.
There are multiple proposed amendments to exclude religious organizations from being covered, including one by Toomey.  This gets to be sensitive in areas where churches are affiliated with large private universities or hospitals viewed as prominent in the community and as employers that should be diverse.
HRC has promoted the bill aggressively, encouraging members to join telephone campaigns. HRC’s account is here.
In my thinking, ending “don’t ask, don’t tell” for the uniformed military in 2011 makes ENDA easier to pass.  I recall seeing ENDA proposed in the spring of 1993.  

Update:  Nov. 7 

Senate will vote around 2 PM Thursday Nov. 7.

WJLA mentions that there is a military exception as well as religious.  Is this correct?  Why would there be a military exemption with DADT repealed?  Others are writing that exemptions don't exist with other laws (like for race -- religions sometimes).  Disparate impact is not supposed to be considered.

The bill passed Thursday 64-32.  

Sunday, November 03, 2013

"Obamacare": Is the individual mandate "fair" to LGBT people?

Here we go again.  Do the minimum requirements for individual policies in Obamacare force some individuals to “sacrifice” to pay for the problems of others?  Isn’t that a sore point and something a lot of us have a bone to pick with? The New York Times weighs in on Sunday morning November 3, 2013 with an editorial (p. 10, Review), on the problems of policies not being renewed after Dec. 31, “Policies not worth keeping: Planes with inadequate coverage will be canceled, but consumers won’t be left out in the cold”, link here.
OK, a relatively young single adult might face some issues.  Suppose I “imagine myself naked” at age 30 or so (much more pleasant than now at 70).  I could, as a gay male, resent paying for a woman’s maternity or pregnancy.  If I were a married man, I would feel it’s in my interest to share coverage. Although I escaped exposure to HIV (apparently), I certainly welcome coverage for it.  I don’t mind paying property taxes that largely go toward supporting public school systems, but after all, I got a public education myself and the school system was my major employer in the previous decade, so paying for someone else’s childbearing expenses might not seem so out of line by comparison.  And it probably doesn’t add much.

What about paying for mental health and substance abuse problems>  I do resent the drug addiction problem coverage.   On the mental health, I had a spate of psychiatric intervention myself as a young adult.  It arguably was the result of other people’s wrongdoing, but that is partly what insurance is for – to pay for harm done to you by others.  Auto insurance, for example, is often like that.

An interesting question arises if I had to pay for even more extended family benefits, which happens in Europe with mandatory paid family leave for parents (most of all in Sweden).  Population demographics and low birth rates in some populations helps explain the practice.  Yet, it’s not seen as that controversial over there.  It’s true that recognition of gay marriage and gay parents makes this more equitable now, and also sends a message that participation in raising the next generation ought to be expected.