Friday, December 26, 2014

Asylum granted to man from Guatemala, as Central American violence continues


A judge granted asylum to a man from Guatemala, after reports of gang repots and a long complicated history, transiting through Mexico.  The Washington Blade has a detailed story of the case of Milton Amezquita-Guzman, 27, who now has the support of at least one relative in Washington DC, according to the story, link here .
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The Blade story gives disturbing anecdotes of various other activities, such as transsexual sex workers along the border from Central America, some forced to participate in the drug trade.  During my years living in Dallas in the 1980s, I never heard anything about this.

Conditions in Guatemala are not said to be as dangerous as in El Salvador or Honduras.  Faith groups known to me in some detail have sponsored missions or engineering projects (or even youth trips) in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Belize.

Numerous cases of LGBT asylum have been reported in the press this year, but no one seems to have a clear handle on how this issue is playing out.  It sounds like a potential subject for a book or a documentary film, at least a POV on PBS.  There have been some documentaries about the enormous problems in Russia.

Asylum (for LGBT and other reasons) is a low-key issue in the press, compared to 1980 when calls went out for private sponsors for Cuban refugees (Dec. 18), especially in southern states.  As for policy, it is obviously very sensitive and gets little open discussion.

One "obvious" question could occur in many jurisdictions (including MD, DC and VA, where same-sex marriage is legal (very recently in VA), should someone marry a person from another country so that second person can stay in the country, if the person is otherwise not interested in a romantic relationship?  What if the immigrant has children?  There seem to be potentially major double-sided moral questions here that have hardly been looked at all in the LGBT community yet. 
          
Wikipedia attribution link for Central America map. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

DC is getting pricey for most LGBT residents, except the most politically connected


Mark Lee has a perspective in the Washington Blade, “D.C. Doesn’t Shine for Everyone”, here mainly because of the rapid rise in the cost of living. 

Rents in the best areas are a bit like Manhattan.  The First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC built an apartment building, the Drake, on 17th St, on its former parking lot – to pay for its new organ.  The apartments are cute in the way they are laid out, and have all modern amenities, and the building is very secure.  But a one bedroom, maybe 700 sq feet, is about $3000 a month.  In Arlington, you can rent a house typically for about $2500.  It’s common for younger professionals to rent a house with three or four roommates together. 

The gentrification of the U Street area, and the Navy Yard near Nationals Park, has driven up prices, and driven out low income people, leaving tensions and some street crime in many areas.  Northeast is next for re-development.  Condos are going up along New York Avenue, and around the area where the Eagle has moved.  The city could try to get the Olympics in 2024;  imagine what that means. 
  
Other cities:  places that don’t recognized gay marriage generally are much cheaper.  That should tell you something. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

FDA finally proposes lifting gay male blood donation ban -- for men abstinent for a year; couples don't count


The FDA has announced that it will allow MSM to donate blood (and probably organs or other issue posthumously) but only after at least one year of abstinence. 
  
NBC News has the story here.   The text of the FDA announcement is here
  
The main people who would be able to donate are probably elderly gay men who may be abstinent in practice.  The move is said to increase the blood supply by 4%, but the restriction to long term abstinence will reduce the benefit.
  
Apparently couples who can affirm they are monogamous for a year and test negative still would not be able to give.
   
Culture has changed, as openness to even organ donations is much stronger than when I was a young man.  Back in the late 1970s, a bank in Dallas enclosed “become a superdonor” literature in bank statements, as blood banks tried increase plasma supplies.


Update: Dec. 24

Christmas Eve, WJLA in Washington DC showed a disabled young woman "giving back" at a blood donation center.  I still wondered about this idea of volunteerism in an area of life and common "sacrifice" where "we" still aren't fully welcome. Back in the 90s, it would be embarrassing to have to "just say no" to corporate blood drives, to stay away from the bloodmobile.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Obama's deal on Cuba said to be good for LGBT people there, but remember the refugee crisis of 1980


The Washington Blade, in an article by Michael D. Lavers, reports that LGBT activists in Cuba welcome the improvement in relations between the US and Cuba, given President Obama’s deal to release some US Cuban prisoners in exchange for a hostage.  The story is here.  

Some conservatives have responded by suggesting that the deal could encourage more hostage taking of visitors to dictatorial countries.  Imagine a prominent LGBT visitor (maybe a journalist) being kidnapped while working in Russia.
  
Back in the latter part of 1980, there was an influx of Cuban refugees by boat to South Florida, and many were LGBT.  There was a lot of “pressure” in gay churches (such as Metropolitan Community Church of Dallas at the time, when Don Eastman was pastor) to personally sponsor and house refugees.  This has not happened in 2014 with the immigration and asylum “crisis”, which can include LGBT people from Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, etc., although there has been “underground” talk in some forums, such as at the DC LGBT Community Center.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A full Civil Rights bill for LGBT people?; IOC adds protection of LGBT people to Principle 6 of Olympic Charter


The New York Times has a feature story by Cheryl Gay Stroberg on proposals for a sweeping Civil Rights bill in the US for LGBT people, analogous to the 1964 Civil Rights Act for African Americans. HRC emailed the story Tuesday.
    
The article does give detailed accounts of pockets of discrimination despite the lifting of “don’t ask don’ tell” for gays in the military in 2011 (does not protect transgender), and the legalization of same-sex marriage in 35 states and Washington DC, as well as the beginnings of laws to outlaw reparative therapy for minors in a few states, and proposals to alter the blood donation ban for MSM.  In one case, credit was denied a female-to-male person after the name change because credit history under the new name did not exist.  In other, a fast food worker in South Dakota was asked to wear a “scarlet letter” saying he was gay at work. 
  
At the same time, Rock Santorum talks about running for president in 2016.  And his 2005 book is titled “It Takes a Family”. 

Update:

I see from the twitter feed of Timo Descamps that the International Olympic Committee has announced it will change Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter to protect LGBT athletes, link here

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Washington DC council passes bill banning reparative therapy for under 18


The City Council of Washington DC has passed a bill banning reparative or conversion therapy for those under 18, which would join New York and California as states which ban the practice.  A typical story, from the New Civil Rights Movement, is here.  

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) says it aims to eliminate all reparative therapy within the US within 5 years.


Some time back, Anderson Cooper on C360 had reported on the “Sissy Boy Experiment”
  
Two of three therapists that I had in the early 1960s practiced in DC, the other in Arlington.  It's amazing how little critical thinking there was in those days.  

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

GLIL gathers at old bar in DC, now serving food; curious story about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman mentioned


I did find a nice gathering of GLIL, the remnant from “Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty” (I don’t mean guilty remnant from “The Leftovers”) at Windows, the upstairs bar just below R St on 17th in Washington DC, about the Dupont Italian Kitchen.
  
The place actually serves hamburgers and fries on Monday and Tuesday nights.
   
We did have some conversations about Ferguson, and there was a feeling that the actual evidence that Brown was indeed very aggressive at first is overwhelming.  There was also an interpretation of Trayvon Martin that I have never heard, that he attacked George Zimmerman because he thought George, “following him around”, was a “gay rapist”, story here.  It’s true, that is how some men interpret being “watched”.  The film “OC87”, reviewed on the Movies blog Nov. 22, 2014;  OCD behavior can set up this kind of possibly deadly confrontation. 
    
The Level One (discussed Nov. 29) and Cobalt, across the street, appeared to be operating completely normally. 

Monday, December 01, 2014

World AIDS Day 2014


Vox Media honors World AIDS Day 2014 (theme) with an interesting perspective, that while HIV/AIDS deaths are declining worldwide, they are on the rise in Russia, story by German Lopez, here  One big reason, Russia is “notoriously anti-gay”.
  
I can recall, around 1984, the prognosis, that the number of cases doubled every six months.  A geometric progression in an epidemic like this couldn’t be tolerated very long.  That leveled off in the late 1980s and eventually declined.  And now many relatively affluent people do live (and go to work)for decades on medications, which gradually for most men have come to have fewer side effects, although they are expensive.  You don’t hear much discussion about the cost of protease inhibitors in the debate over Obamacare.
  
My own sense is that among younger men (under 30) whom I do know or recognize, most are still uninfected.
  
Vox has been reporting that the FDA may be close to lifting the blood donor ban, for men that will stop having sex, that is.

CNN offers a perspective by Barbara Lee and Kenneth Cole, with a little pitch by Prince Harry, here. 
  
And there may be more on a new vaccine soon.