Friday, May 30, 2014

Lawyers speak about asylum for LGBT people at QA in Washington for a documentary on immigration

At the QA of a showing of “Documented” by Jose Antonio Vargas (reviewed tonight in the Movies blog), I was able to ask about the issue of asylum for LGBT people from countries hostile to homosexuals.  Three immigration lawyers were present at the QA, at the West End Cinema in Washington DC, besides Mr. Vargas.

One lawyer pointed out that there are two scenarios:  one is where the person is in the US and asks for asylum before a visa expires, and another is where someone goes to a US consulate overseas and asks for asylum.  With gay issues, it is harder to prove you are likely to be persecuted to US authorities than it is to authorities of many other western countries (like Canada), so some of the other countries may receive more requests.

However another attorney said that asylum did not depend on having a sponsor or someone to support you.  The attorney did recall the circumstances in 1980 with Cuban refugees, where there did seem to be an usual reason to require sponsorship, and many of the requests were made in southern cities, from Florida all the way to Houston and especially Dallas. 

The meeting that I had said was to be held at the DC Community Center tonight had actually been held May 30, 2013.  So I guess this gathering at the West End amounted to that meeting!

Regarding the "refugiados cubaos" of 1980, the Metro in Washington displayed an interesting ad sign last night.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

"The Tribe": video clubs in the upper Appalachian South

Cities vary as to how their “club scene” comes off.  My favorite places around the country are probably The Saloon in Minneapolis, the Roundup (even though I’m not a CW person) and the Station 4 in Dallas, and probably the Scorpio in Charlotte.  In NYC, “Therapy” (in Hell’s Kitchen) works best for me.  Smaller towns have some interesting spots, like the Lodge near Hagerstown MD (on top of the Blue Ridge).

The Tribe in Nashville, TN, (link ) on the narrow Church St, is easy to find (the straight bars are at the other end of that street, nearer the funky ATT skyscraper), and looks generous in space when you walk in, with various bars and lounges.  But it is video only, no dance floor apparent, and rather repetitious music. (The old Boom on the East Bank in Minneapolis comes to mind.)   The valet parking is quite efficient.   Apparently bars close early in TN, at 1 AM.  I think a relatively early last call with after hours for dancing is still a good idea.  (It was like that in Minneapolis until the last call was extended to 2 AM in 2003.)

The name of the bar reminds me of the Cleveland Indians baseball team, and of Charles Murray’s idea of eusociality.  The bar owns another property in Louisville, KY (I know someone in Evansville, but have only passed through Louisville once that I can recall.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

PA, OR get decisions overturning gay marriage bans

A federal judge has struck down Pennsylvania's gay marriage ban, with New York Times story here  "We are a better people than our laws represent", he said.  Scribd has a PDF of the opinion here. This makes gay marriage legal in all northeastern states.  Jones did not issue a stay.  Marriage license applications could begin immediately, but require a 72 hour wait.

In 2004, PA Senator Rick Santorum had tried to propose a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, on CSPAN, while Feinstein complained that no work had been done on a terrorism bill.

In Oregon, a federal district judge overturned a ban on Monday, but there is concern that the National Organization for Marriage can try to force an appeal, link.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Should homophobic speech be "tolerated"? That question can lead to a curious moral paradox (like a gambit in chess)

The Care2 website has an interesting perspective by Steve Williams, “Why we don’t have to tolerate anti-LGBT intolerance, link here.  I found it on Facebook and tweeted it myself.  I also got an email link to a piece in Chronicle Review by Suzanna Danuta Walters, "An Incomplete Rainbow", link here
It’s true, that in the US and most modern western countries, public homophobic speech is becoming almost as unacceptable as racism, and a Donald Sterling-type event can happen. Various performers and sports figures have been forced to apologize or threatened with loss of business for insensitive remarks. One reason right now that this is so sensitive is that rabid anti-gay measures, both in terms of laws and vigilantism, are occurring in much of the Third World and, most unfortunately and shamefully, in Russia.  In practically all countries that have passed laws like this, other major instability or aggression has occurred in other areas, as in Nigeria and Russia.  There is definitely a connection.  The Pew Research Center has noted that homosexuality is becoming a proxy for a new divide between western and more collectivized (and usually authoritarian) cultures.  And it could soon create an asylum and refugee crisis that can challenge individuals in the west to pitch in and provide “radical hospitality” and support (this is an evolving possibility; we saw it with the Cuban refugees in 1980).

There is, however, a certain authoritarianism within some of the “gay establishment”.  And it covers a particular irony.  This concerns loyalty to the idea that sexual orientation is immutable.  It is true, it is like no other issue: controversial for reasons people can’t explain, and yet so invisible.  It seems like a plug-in, independent variable (or a “linearly independent component of a vector space”), that can occur randomly in any combination with any other personality and cognition-related traits. 

Immutability would not be a relevant observation about something that can lead someone to harm others.  A biological inclination for alcoholism (and probably a lot of drug absue) is probably genetic and immutable, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be treated.  But that’s partly because when people are intoxicated, they harm others (particularly when driving).  I’m personally lucky in that regard.  I didn’t inherit any particular susceptibility to alcohol and drugs, or to obesity or diabetes.  So sometimes I’m not real empathetic.

Yet, we often hear anti-gay speakers going out of the way to insist that homosexuality is chosen.  I remember someone telling me that over dinner in Dallas in 1983, between games of a chess doubleheader in a club-sponsored match.  (We had drawn the first game.  I had “come out” during dinner.  In the second game, after dinner, he got an early advantage and then blundered, probably from distraction, and allowed me to checkmate him quickly with a knight sacrifice.) 

Why is this such a big deal?  I think that male homosexuals, when open, used to make a lot of male heterosexuals aware of their own shortcomings and that they can fail physically.  We seem to them like the referees as to who is the fittest to have a long lineage.  And for some people, with limited opportunity in an increasingly individualistic culture, that’s all they have. (It's relevant that I am an only child, so I stopped my parents from having an indefinite biological legacy.)  I think that what is going on overseas has a lot to do with this.  There’s an accompanying irony, body fascism (or lookism) that is certainly common in the male gay community.  It’s a curious reflection of values, originating in smaller, often tribal cultures that really needed most or all men to look and act like “men” to protect the clan.  So the freedom to “be oneself” and follow one’s own sexual values, can invoke the freedom to hold personal attitudes about others that are still prejudicial, and to refuse to relate to others when perhaps openness is needed.  It is indeed a moral paradox.
So the moral logic would be, if it is part of nature, it doesn't affect how others (straight men) see themselves in their own relationships.  If it is a choice, it comes across as a way to step on other people's toes intentionally, and make them feel less secure.  One time, back in the early 1970s, a coworker, whom I always beat at chess, had gained a lot of weight suddenly after getting married.  He said, "I don't notice men's bods.  I notice girls' bodies." (He said, girls, not women.)  You can see where he was coming from.   

Sunday, May 18, 2014

TownDC does major construction (outdoor patio?), making opening drag show very packed

In Washington DC, in the U Street Corridor, the Town Danceboutique ("Town-DC") is doing some new construction,  The coat check has been moved into what used to be a lower level lounge area, so that (according to what I was told last night), a new outdoor area can be built in a lot that faces the Florida Ave. side.  Outdoor areas are popular now, since smoking is banned indoors in establishments in most large cities.  The Station 4 in Dallas has a huge outdoor dance area, for example.  (And, no, I don't want to notice who smokes.)

As a result, the downstairs area was super-crowded last night, and it was almost impossible to move.

So the upstairs dance floor opened earlier than usual and filled up quickly.  At around midnight, there was line, apparently to meet Ben DeLaCreme from RuPaul's Drag Race.

Still, the drag show downstairs had some real moments.  Lena (I think it was) revealed all at one point. There was a birthday lineup, and this week most of the people with birthdays were women.

EC Eagle's Twitter feed suggests an opening in the new space on Benning Road NE late summer or earky Fall (link). .  When a club loses a lease, it seems like it is an enormous challenge to get going again.  A lot of links on the web are old and talk about the cllosed NY Avenue location, even Yelp.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Despite diversity and non-discrimination policies, top companies don't put openly gay people on top -- the "pink ceiling"

A column called "The Upshot" in the New York Times today reports that there is not one openly gay person as the CEO of any of the top 1000 companies in the US, link here.  It's called the "pink ceiling".

It's certainly true that openly gay people have established themselves in major businesses and media companies.  Look at Facebook co-founded Chris Hughes, CNN journalists Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon, and the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald.  And Hollywood is certainly listening to the idea.  On ABC's "Revenge" the bi-sexual character Nolan Ross is said to have created a competitor of Facebook, and is one of the drama's strongest and uniquely drawn characters.

Back in the 1970's, the "closet" was actually seen as part of a life strategy.  Double lives were the norm.  At the Ninth Street Center in New York, the guru Paul Rosenfels said to me one time there was no reason to aspire to be "president of your company".  Times really have changed. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

4th Circuit judges seem divided on Virginia gay marriage ban

A panel of judges at the Fourth Circuit seemed sharply divided today in oral arguments on the matter of whether Virginia’s Marshall-Newman amendment and total ban on legal recognition of same-sex relationships is constitutional.  The story by Robert Barnes is here.. 

One of the judges, Gregory, said that “the essence of marriage is the freedom to marry the person they choose”.  To say that marriage serves a higher collective purpose is the thinking of a totalitarian state, he reportedly said, as if to make a veiled allusion especially to Russia’s Vladimir Putin.  The idea that anti-gay laws are associated with totalitarian states and religious fundamentalism may be starting to reach even more conservative jurists.

The idea of marriage as a fundamental right (perhaps subject to due process jurisprudence as well as equal protection) is interesting. My own “Our Fundamental Rights” booklet (1998) does not list marriage as a fundamental right, but does list parenthood.   

Also, late May 13 the Washington Blade reports that a federal judge has struck down Idaho's ban on same-sex marriage, link.

Picture, Pocatello (Wikipedia link), only visit was in 1990.

Update: May 16

A county judge in Arkansas struck down the states' ban on gay marriage, and refused to stay it for appeal (USA Today story here.)
Later information indicates that the Arkansas state supreme court stayed the implementation of the ruling. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hippo in Baltimore has gay prom; NFL team drafts openly gay player; more on the past of DADT

The Hippo in Baltimore, MS held a “senior prom” Saturday night.  The dance floor was reasonably full by the time I arrived, at 11:30 PM, possibly with the help of the Maryland Film Festival in the area.

The music during the evening featured an unusually percussive form of hip-hop. 

A man, wondering about by Sunfish cap (a souvenir from my submarine visit in Norfolk in May 1993 when I was preparing to write on the debate on gays in the military) spoke to me mentioning that he was in the Army at Fort Meade and had a boyfriend in the Navy.  He wouldn’t have said that three years ago, probably.  He thanked me for my Army service in 1968-1970 (which had started at Fort Jackson).  I did say that I think that ordinary Americans have more to fear from terrorists and cyvercriminals than the NSA.

Late Saturday, the media announced the 7th round draft pick in the NFL by the Saint Louis Rams of openly gay player Michael Sam, the first draft in history. 

Friday, May 09, 2014

Vox hire of a "gay conservative" writer stirs controversy in other media

Here we go with more controversy over politically incorrect, or perhaps antagonistic, speech in the gay community, with the protests over Vox Media and Ezra Klein’s hiring of Brandon Ambrosino, as in this piece in The American Prospect, here. AmericaBlog called him “Falwell loving” in this piece.

Or try this critique on Media Matters, here. His having gone to Liberty University certainly affected his views.  His idea of “post equality” may ring for me in a certain psychological sense  -- because it causes new demands to be made on people who had previously led double and separate lives.  But, as the article points out, it’s hardly an accurate characterization of America as a whole today.

It’s even more ironic right now for me to read this, because Monday I made a quasi-business trip to Lynchburg, not over Falwell, but to report on a homeland security issue (see Issue blog, May 6).  I saw Falwell’s name all over town, but I rather chuckled whenever I saw it.

I still remember a silly sermon that Falwell gave in Irving, TX in 1983 (when I was living in Dallas) where he linked “Herpes and AIDS” as if they were the same thing.

Friday, the New York Times has an important story by Kirk Johnson on the progress of the Boy Scouts: “Compromise on Scouts pleases no one, Scouts are learning”, link here.  The story is set near Seattle. Dismissals of gay leaders continue, but Scouts say they don’t “ask” and don’t listen to rumors.  

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Vox media reports LGBT people make up to 40% of the homeless, more likely to go to jail

Vox Media offers a shocking report, that LGBT people are 20%-40% of the homeless population and are more likely to go to jail, by German Lopez, link here. And that means hear in the United States, not Russia or Africa.

I do find the story rather shocking, and my own personal observation is that I'm not sure I believe it,

But the numbers are based on a study from the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, which I regularly support, link here.

There is also a report from Columbia University Law school here, "Federal Policy Recommendations for Addressing Criminalization of LGBT People and People Living with HIV",  This might seem surprising in view of Lawrence v. Texas, the end of DADT in the military, and so much progress in marriage.
I can say that in the gay male community, higher income gays have relatively little social contact with those of lower income, much as in the general population.  This trend seems to have increased since the 1990s. 

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Explaining the anti-gay views of Rick Santorum and his ilk (and the confusion over "right to privacy")

ThinkProgress has a recent story on Rick Santorum’s painful retreat on his long standing opposition to gay marriage, here.   Remember that in the summer of 2004, he tried to hijack the Senate’s attention for a federal constitutional amendment banning recognition of gay marriage.

Wikipedia has an entry on Santorum’s views on homosexuality (link).  Santorum sometimes has said he has nothing against homosexual orientation but considers homosexual acts to be wrong (a common variation of Vatican teachings).  But he has also disagreed with “Lawrence v. Texas” (2003) and said that he believes that the “right to privacy” in the UN constitution (as imputed from other more explicitly stated rights, as in the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment) does not cover all adult private adult consensual acts. 

That’s interesting to me personally, because the sixth chapter of my first (“Do Ask, Do Tell I” book) is titled “A Right to Privacy Amendment”, which I proposed as “Amendment 28” in twelve parts.  Until the ear of social media as we know them today, I had been used to the idea of a “quasi-double-life” and the somewhat “separate but (un)equal” lives with people in traditionally married couples (usually with kids). I had my own world.  But all the debate on the military gay ban, the whole history of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to its repeal, and the rapid evolution of same-sex marriage, and emphasis on equality (rather than “just privacy”) in most western countries and now many states in the US has changed all this. (HIV had created an enormous privacy threat in the 1980s.)

But Santorum was talking in circles (as does the Church).  What he objects to (as do Russia, Nigeria, Uganda, and the like) is not so much homosexual acts as “gay culture”, and the challenge it poses not just to political authority but to supposedly stabilizing (and gender-based) social structures. (Really, that was the case with the US military, too.)  It’s important to recognize that Santorum and some of the more credible of his ilk do have a “theory” of sustainability.  Santorum has said that homosexuality is “antithetical” to the traditional family and its ability to provide nurturance (and “life value”) to dependent or less competitive individuals (so that the government doesn’t have to).  Evangelical Protestant conservatives (Mero, Carlson, Scott Lively) say pretty much the same thing (the matter of a celibate – abstinent -- priesthood is tricky.)  They do envision a certain “socializing” process that they think everyone should negotiate – most of all those of us who are “different” so we can’t “cheat” the system or make others uncomfortable.  I can see how this can become appealing when I have to contemplate how external threats (whether natural or because of “enemies”) could force me into interdependence with other people and personal interactions that I would not normally have “chosen” or “consented to”.  The socialization starts with proficiency in gender-appropriate chores, and moves to learning to feel some reward in providing for the real needs of other people, first on a short term basis.  But the emotional reward won’t hold for most people without a lifelong relationship of one’s own – traditional marriage with children, and the ability to “maintain passion” (I could be more explicit) as the partners age and face physical challenges that would diminish their attractiveness or draw from the viewpoint of original fantasy.   That “sustainable passion” is a critical component of the entire “system”, and it can be easily undermined.  Part of the subversion simply comes from some heterosexual men having to deal with the belief that they can be sex objects, too, or that others can judge their own fitness on somewhat arbitrary, fantasy-related criteria.  I recall how therapists would say (back in the 60s) that I wanted to “step on their toes”, and they wouldn’t recognize that others had stepped on mine first.  But I can see how my “fantasy material” and “inner life” could be interpreted in a troubling way by others, and raise questions about my own psychological integrity.  One of the most important aspects of my own “situation” is that I do remain aloof and resistance to showing affection (or giving it any significance) to those with whom I can find certain kinds of “fault”.

An important part of "Santorianism" is that those "in command" must be absolutely faithful sexually in order to avoid corruption; otherwise they become self-serving, lose credibility and everything falls apart (and it usually does, at least in the Catholic Church).  But this view also helps explain why "immutability" has become such an important argument.  If homosexuality is a given fact of human nature, then the "tender little baby" part of heterosexual stability just has to deal with it.  But if it can be "chosen", then gay people might be seen as being deliberately and knowingly destructive (the "stepping on toes" argument) of the emotional commitments of others.  Surprisingly (or perhaps not) the gay establishment seems to go along with this view.  I don't.

It seems that this idea says that patriarchal and fertile family heads will "nurture" someone like me but I am supposed to recognize my dependence on them and remain quiet and subservient, so they can get it up when the going gets tough.  No, that's not a very acceptable idea.

Furthermore, it's not so much a matter that my private behavior or speech about the behavior harms others.  It's more that if society and the legal system looks at it as OK, then the course of heterosexual marriage seems less remarkable and less interesting to "them".  Therefore, it will tend to break down, as will other social ties that take care of people.  That is how "they" seem to see it. It's an irony that the virtue of other men, insofar as I can perceive it visually, is actually important to me personally, and that corresponds to what we usually see as wanting "religious morality" to be applied to everyone. 
Once certain political or religious leaders make homosexuality an issue, it grabs attention, as a proxy for deeper problems, about balancing individualism with the need to share the long-term needs and future of the group, in a somewhat concentric fashion (starting with some sort of family unit).  Anti-gay social conservatives see actual physical intercourse in marriage, at least symbolically capable of procreation (with all its responsibilities and need to spread risk0-sharing), as essential to the socialization of everyone.   

Thursday, May 01, 2014

HRC hosts booksigning for Kate Fagan and "The Reappearing Act"; meantime, gay big league players soothe controversy but a few owenrs' behaviors attracts attention

This evening, I attended a booksigning party at the Human Rights Campaign at Rhode Island Ave. and 17th St. NW in Washington DC, for author Katie Fagan, for her new book “The Reappearing Act: Coming out as Gay on a College Basketball Team Led by Born-Again Christians”, published by Skyhorse.  Kate is a columnist for ESPN.
The audience was mostly women, and the conversation tended to focus on the intricate internal politics of college sports. The author said that there only about 80 job openings a year in college basketball and relatively few go to women. She also indicated that at southern schools (especially in Texas) open lesbians who worked on university coaching staffs had been fired and had no legal protection. 
I brought up the question of big league sports.  That’s especially timely on the race issue this week in the NBA because of the Donald Sterling situation.  On sexual orientation, all major league sports franchises have been developing clauses to end discrimination based on sexual orientation (for links, see the posting here Feb. 25).  The audience indicated that the NFL might be easier to accept gay players than MLB because all NFL players have gone to college.  Baseball, by comparison, requires less physical contact in the sport itself and is more focused on individual performance (especially in pitching and batting).  But it is true that many player come from conservative cultures (like in the Caribbean) and have less education.  It was mentioned that Bryce Harper went to the Nationals with just a GED.  But some players do have degrees and are articulate and well educated  and came through college baseball (Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman and Tim Lincecum).  Like the military, professional teams have to develop cohesion, in an environment where players are often traded and can become free agents.  MLB teams seem more open to “gay nights” at stadiums than the NFL so far, but they have much longer schedules.   

I bought a copy of the book, and gave here a business card for my DADT book.  It was a little pricey in hardcover ($25). I will read it and review it soon.  She mentioned during the reading that finding a publisher interested in women's sports was difficult, but she didn't mention self-publishing. 

Another NBA owner, Richard DeVos, attracted attention for mildly anti-gay remarks (especially about asking for "favors" with gay marriage). CNN has called attention to his behavior in relation to the Sterling case (story). . 

Today I wrote a post on my International Issues blog about the “Dear Russia: It’s Not Okay” campaign on YouTube, with display of a video by Timo Descamps, and some more horrific news from Uganda.