Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ethiopia to pass anti-gay law; Indian Supreme Court refuses to overthrow sodomy law; Zimbabwe joins anti-gay rhetoric, attacks the childless

Ethiopia is preparing to pass a law making homosexual behavior "non-pardonable", according to an Associated Press story appearing Saturday in the Washington Post, link here.

And in Foreign Affairs, March-April 2014, Ira Trivedi, on p. 21, writes about a ruling by the Supreme Court in India overruling a lower court ruling decriminalizing homosexual relations, link   As with Africa, although not as severely, British colonialism helped set up anti-gay cultural attitudes in Indida.

Update: May 31

The Washington Blade is now reporting vehmenet anti-gay rhetoric from Zimbabwe predient Robert Mugabe, to arrest those who don't have children (link) and also saying that gays and lesbians don't have human rights because they do "unhuman things".  (So do many other animals; that's biological fact.)   On the jailing people for infertility, it's hard to imagine how politicians feel so free to say things that would seem to just be making fools of themselves. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Gay couples marry for 24 hours in Michigan; CNN publishes detailed historical timeline of same-sex marriage issue

Gay couples in four counties in Michigan were able to marry for about 24 hours this past weekend, after US District Judge Bernard Friedman declared that Michigan’s referendum-mandated ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.  An appeals court stayed the ruling pending appeal, Michigan Live story here

Part of the case results from a suit by April De Boer and Jayne Rowse, who can’t jointly adopt kids in Michigan.

CNN has a comprehensive timeline of the same-sex marriage battle in the United States, which will be very useful as a detailed factual reference, here.

I do recall the debate in Hawaii that became lively as early as 1994. At the time, it wasn't as critical to me as gays in the military. 

Update: May 28

US Attorney General Eric Holder says that same-sex couples married in Michigan during the window period will get federal benefits.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

NY Times article explores bisexuality study

Benoit Denizet-Lewis has a long article March 20 in the New York Times, “A scientific quest to prove bisexuality exists”, link here
Bisexuality was not supposed to be as common in men and women, as Kinsey fives and sixers rule the roost.  The study in the article made use of pupilometrics, which could become quite invasive (mentioned in the 1974 film “The Parallax View”).
Clive Barker explored bisexuality enough in his colossal 1991 novel “Imajica”, and there are renewed rumors of a movie.
The character Nolan Ross (wiki) in ABC’s Revenge is said to be bisexual – and perhaps proves that Asperger’s can triumph.  Nolan, despite his quirkiness, is said to have a strong sense of morality, and seems capable in all practical situations, flying a drone in the air or with water rescues, and getting out of trouble in many episodes.   

Pictures:  Dominions from Clive Barker's novel.  

Friday, March 21, 2014

Despite 2011 repeal of DADT, transgendered still banned from military service by administrative rules; Palm Center recommends lifting ban

I actually did not cover the issue of transgendered people in the military in all the years I wrote about “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the military gay ban, but Metro Weekly reports that administrative rules still prohibit transgendered individuals from serving in the military, although the rules are not required by Congress.
Justin Snow reports on a study commissioned by the University of California at Santa Barbara Palm Center, recommending that the Obama administration could lift this ban on its own and follow the examples of other militaries, link here.

There are been a few stories.  Bradley Manning claims to be transgendered, but back in 1993, Scott Peck’s radio program in Washington interviewed a naval intelligence officer who left the military after fifteen years as a man, for a gender change.  She was able to get a similar job as a civilian.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Arkansas high school senior turns tables on school after pulling his yearbook profile because he's gay

Taylor Ellis, a high school senior at Sheridan High School in Sheridan, Arkansas, “disowned” the school after it pulled his profile form his yearbook after he came out as gay in the profile.  CNN featured the story today here.   Sheridan is about 30 miles south of Little Rock.
The school district claims it cannot let itself be manipulated by special groups. 
But even in a conservative southern state, Ellis has gotten a lot of support, according to the story. 

Slate has an even stronger story here

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Hot Springs (nearby).  I’ve driven past it once, in October 1979.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Town Danceboutique celebrates Velvet Nation, which was an interim reincarnation of Tracks. displaced by baseball and now soccer

Saturday night, Town Danceboutique (which I have sometimes incorrectly called “Town Discotheque” although I’ve seen others spell the name that way) held its celebration of “Velvet Nation”, which was the club that had preceded it from the late 1990s until 2006, in the Navy Yard area on Half Street.  The club was torn down for condos and office building real estate development, and was near where the Washington Nationals Baseball Stadium is now.  A soccer stadium is planned for the area (and everybody on Facebook wants it).  As with much of gentrifying Washington, substandard housing was torn down, and poor people were displaced. 
The club had a large entranceway and a downstairs dance floor, which had good viewing from two sides, with a small stage.  At midnight, the club would open the larger dancefloor, which had a large balcony for viewing. 

The Wet (with nude dancers) was also in the neighborhood at the time, and at one time the Lost and Found had been one of Washington’s most popular bars (liked by the late Frank Kameny, who always said “Georgetown is not Washington’s answer to Greenwich Village).  There was usually plenty of street parking, but pandhandlers would approach and demand money to “protect your car”.  In September 2004, I saw a gun being pulled on someone on the street a couple blocks away as I drove past looking to park.  I immediately called police when I got out of sight, and was later told that there was an arrest. 
The club was substantial, maybe not quite as complete as Tracks, which it had replaced. 
The party at Town was packed, and while patrons wore green a lot for St. Patrick’s Day, the d├ęcor upstairs, mostly on the ceiling, was multicolored, trying to recreate the mood at Velvet.  There were black and white pictures of the club flashed on the screen behind the bars, but they were dusky.
The music bordered on hip hop, and did not inspire intimacy that much.  It seems that patrons really prefer 70s and 80s music, and I don’t know why clubs don’t play it more often.
The weather was mild, about 55 degrees outside, and this morning, St. Patrick’s Day, there is 6 inches of snow. 

There is a lot of new condo construction near Town and 930 Club now. So far the businesses don’t seem to be affected. I still think that all the businesses should get together and build a 24-hour, smartphone pay garage (similar to what West Hollywood has, next to the library).  
I’ve also noticed long lines to get into Nellie’s on U Street whenever I’m in the area on Saturday night.

It seems difficult to get a cab (“Taxi for Hire”) after 1 AM in the area.  It is relatively easy on 17th Street near Dupont Circle, on the other hand.  Does someone know why? 

Friday, March 14, 2014

More "affordable" housing being developed with emphasis on LGBT seniors, especially couples

Gradually, more affordable apartment buildings are being constructed to appeal to gays and lesbians, especially couples, in retirement, according an article in the New York Times Thursday, March 13, 2014, in a special retirement insert, by Michael Winerip, link here

In the past there have been problems with some gay couples not being told by rental agents about apartments that were available.  This used to be a problem with major co-op buildings also.
Conversely, it would be illegal to discriminate against non-gay applicants, but developers have advertised the buildings with gay media and at community forums.

The story featured the John C. Anderson apartments in Philadelphia, but mentioned other projects in New York and San Francisco.

In many cases there are maximum income limits that are permitted.

On the other hand, many conventional apartments require continuous income and some don’t consider accumulated wealth or savings.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Clubs get stingier about admitting people who may appear intoxicated

In recent years, most bars and discos (especially smaller establishments), both gay and straight, have become fussier about admitting patrons who appear to be intoxicated or who may have created issues in the past.  Of course, much of this concern has to do with the possible liability for serving alcohol to an intoxicated person.  Sometimes this leads to exclusion of persons who are not drunk.

This happened recently at one place in February, when the doorman said “Not tonight.”  I thought he meant I looked old enough that I didn’t need my ID, but legally he is supposed to see it. “You’ve been drinking somewhere else.”  Well, I had one beer somewhere else at least 90 minutes before.  Blood alcohol should have been about zero.  A typical male clears about one drink per hour through the liver.

This had happened a couple times in 2002 in Minneapolis, at one smaller establishment, the second time a weekeday evening when I had not been anywhere and had nothing at all.  Yet the doorman said I was “stumbling.”  On another occasion, in October 2001 (shortly after 9/11), I was removed from the Gay Nineties club in Minneapolis after walking down the steps to the main floor, still only on the first beer.  It never happened again.  
Of course, it’s possible to imagine other interpretations of such incidents.  Maybe it’s better not to go into a particular place on a particular night.

Back in 2007, when I was still working as a substitute teacher, I saw someone in a bar whom I knew could only be 16 because I had been able to see DOB’s on class rosters.  Police are supposed to have cracked down on fake-id rings, but recent news reports (just today on NBC4 in Washington) indicate that new technology is making them a problem again.  I did tell the establishment at the next visit.

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a scene like that in the Miramax film “54” in 1998 (about Studio 54) where someone has to be cute enough to get in.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Media coverage of African gays stranded in western countries (US, Canada, UK) increases, maybe leading to new calls for volunteer action

Gay people, mainly men, now living in the United States and Canada (and obviously other countries like the UK) from African countries punishing homosexuality are likely to seek asylum and resist returning home.  Furthermore, some political people in these countries will certainly seek asylum.  Pamela Constable has a major story in the Washington Post Metro Section on Tuesday March 11, 2014, link here.  There seems to be one case in northern Virginia.  
The Washington Blade has a number of similar stories, such as here by Michael K. Levers.   The media is now reporting a scattered collection of cases of people in various cities, including the DC area, Chicago, New York, probably Dallas and Minneapolis, and Toronto.  Silicon Valley companies employing skilled immigrants may start running into this issue.  The bulk of the cases now seem to involve Nigeria, but there is mention of Sierra Leone and Liberia as well as, of course, Uganda. 
Recent laws seem to be inciting mob rule, especially in Nigeria (just as been reported in Russia).
The Blade reports protests at the Nigerian embassy on March 7, and a non-committal position from the State Department.  Curiously, there are some pro-gay efforts in countries like Botswana. 
Human Rights First has a position paper encouraging the US to strengthen its asylum capabilities, here

It’s natural to wonder how much this crisis will filter down into the gay communities and friends in the West, urging individuals to assist or house refugees personally.  That sort of plea happened in 1980 with the Cuban refugees.  In that case, the people were already here in the US, particularly in southern states.   That could become the case now, although the reports of persons in the US and other western countries with visas that would expire are scattered.   There could develop a situation where the ability of people to stay (or enter the country, depending on circumstances) could depend on readiness of individuals to step up.   The gay community is more diffuse now than it was in 1980, where people tended to funnel in a few places – in Dallas, it was the local Metropolitan Community Church in Oak Lawn on Reagan to get urgent information (and this was before AIDS was widely known).  It’s unclear how involved more progressive mainstream churches will get in this issue.   

This conference on Asylum Support in Chicago as taped on March 6, runs over an hour, and looks important. 

I cannot yet predict reliably how I could respond to this, but I'll have more details on my upcoming plans on my main blog soon.  This issue will probably escalate in public attention at home quickly.  

Sunday, March 09, 2014

New book "Gays in the military" presents a photographic record

Photographer Vincent Cianni has a new book "Gays in the Military", available on Amazon April 30, 2014.  In the Sunday New York Times he has a collection of black and white photographs from the book, with the link here.

I'm not sure I get the point of the tattoos on the hairy calves in the first photo.

Some of the photos are published on pages 6-7 of the Review section of the Sunday New York Times.

The online interview has an interview of Cianni by Nathaniel Frank (author of "Unfriendly Fire", review on the Book Reviews blog, March 11, 2009). Cianni explains how he came into a space where he saw the military ban as an important issue;  he had always been opposed to most military action and to the idea of military service as an important aspect of society.

Monday, March 03, 2014

"Trail Life" splits off Boy Scouts in order to have gay exclusion policy

Some parents who are unhappy with the Boy Scouts decision to admit open gay scouts (but not adult counselors) have formed their own group, Trail Life USA.  Norman Merchant has an AP story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune here. The story gives the narrative of a family near Fort Worth, TX, where a teenager has to face trying to become an Eagle Scout or, under pressure from his fundamentalist father, join the anti-gay group.  The article has a picture that shows members giving what looks like a Nazi salute. Trail Life’s own Membership Standard makes interesting reading, link here.  Ponder the personal sacrifice involved in the idea that any sexuality outside of traditional marriage is wrong, or the idea that membership is inclusive of those who do not violate this standard or encourage others to violate it (doesn’t that sound like Putin’s “non-traditional sexual relations).  Some of this is about eventual openness to parenthood – with having your own children if at all possible.  Remember, though, some of this ideology is strictly faith-based, the idea of accepting a religious teaching out of a “scripture” without having to rationalize it with full intellect. 
Of course, libertarian principles suggest that parents have the right to do this, but it can put their kids in a horrible position later in life.  Parents are sometimes used to the idea that they can bring up their sons to be part of a patriarchy, and that idea may even seem essential to their own marriages. 
Disney will stop supporting the BSA because of the remaining ban on gay adult scout leaders.  

Sunday, March 02, 2014

"Purple" party at Arlington's Beach Bar for Mardi Gras; more on vulnerability, poverty and homophobia

I checked out the “Purple Party”, introducing Mardi Gras, at Freddie’s Beach Bar in south Arlington Saturday, to find out what that means.  The interior, with a lot of woodwork reminding one of a ship, was bathed in blue light from ceiling globes, and the karaoke stage used a gorgeous backdrop of a color that ranged from pink to blue to violet depending on light and viewing angle.  It looked otherworldly.
One bartender did karaoke, and I noticed that one entire arm was completely covered in dark tattoo, and this was real; it didn’t even look like a tattoo sleeve often worn by actors in Hollywood or sold as novelties in southern California.  To me, this seems like male desecration.  

A male couple later did several numbers.  

One female singer echoed the music of “Grease”.

To return to the "international news" for a moment:
There have been more reports about the gay baiting by politicians in poorer countries.  The president of Uganda has been quoted as saying there is something inherently wrong with men who aren’t interested in women – as if a concern over men not interested in having children (as in Russia) and then he turns around and says that gays are heterosexual mercenaries.  It seems that a key common element of all this attitude is the vulnerable lives that people lead in poorer countries, and the same with poor people (often racial minorities) in the US and west.  Vulnerability denies people the ability to choose intimate partners on their own terms and forces intimacy on them, making them believe others are scoping them.  There's no question that these concerns feed into national or homeland security, terrorism and even the "doomsday prepper" mentality.