Thursday, January 29, 2015

Nigerian anti-gay law leads to arrests of people for attending "gay" events

In a northern city in Nigeria, Kano, up to twelve people were arrested for attending a supposed same-sex marriage ceremony, according to a Nigerian news source that called the story “Caught in the act”, link here.
That is, merely attending the ceremony could lead to arrest.  The story also says that the “Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act” signed by Goodluck Jonathan, actually prohibits gay bars and homosexual organizations as well 
The person holding the gathering  claimed that this was a “birthday party”.  Was this raid the result of the country’s law, or because of Shariah law in the North?   The brutal raids of Boko Haram would not be too far away.
I have run into people from Nigeria in church services in the DC area, often brightly dressed.  While they are aware of the horrific attacks in the north by BH, and indicate that these don’t get enough attention when compared to ISIS, they generally have little or no awareness of the anti-gay laws.

This sort of thing has to be a problem for companies or charities needing to place people overseas in developing countries with very conservative social norms.
Curiously, in the 1980s, Nigeria had been the site of several churches in the UFMCC.  

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

LDS Church supports LGBT protections "in guard mode"; Lass Bass and husband appear on TV, recall 'Nsync days

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Mormon Church, now says it supports legal protections for the rights of LGBT people, with the caveat that legal protections don’t step on “religious freedom” – essentially, apply to religious employers.  USA Today has a typical story here.  It’s less clear how it would see a case like Hobby Lobby, where the religious beliefs of an employer of a for-profit company affects the employer’s benefits policies.
A draft of the statement is here
Nevertheless, the turnaround in the attitude of the Mormon Church is quite remarkable, and seems sudden. 

In another matter, Lance Bass and husband Michael Turchin appeared today on Access Hollywood, and their reporting is discussed on Entertainment Online, here.  Bass is from Mississippi, and was a performer in ‘Nsync.  I attended a PopOdyssey concert in the Metrodome in June, 2001, the Sunday night as Minneapolis gay pride ended. Chavez sang at the Dec. 20 wedding, and the couple apparently intends to adopt and raise children.  (See earlier posting on Bass, Aug. 4, 2012).  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Alabama faces same-sex marriage while "Selma"plays

The latest news from “Alabama the Beautiful” is that same-sex marriages are on hold, as per the judge Callie Grandade, who had ruled the state’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional.  The Reuters and Yahoo story is here

I drove a rent car through the state last May, particularly visiting Auburn, Montgomery, Selma, Tuscaloosa, Birmingham (site of the 1963 church bombing), and Huntsville.  I came back through the state from Tupelo, MS.  The state looked backward economically to me, even compared to Mississippi, and especially compared to Georgia.
Here’s a Vox article on the conduct of police in Alabama toward more recent student protests, link
This was the state that gave us George Wallace (as in the movie “Selma”), a "Democrat".  An Army buddy back in 1969 said “he wasn’t a candyass”. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Russian convicted of violating propaganda law for running LGBT youth site; a little club news

A judge in Russia has convicted someone of violating the country’s anti-gay propaganda law for running a website for LGBT youth, the “Children 404 Project”, which still has a page in Russian on Facebook, here. On the Internet, "404" usually means "not found". 
Yelena Klimova was fined about $780.  The judge refused to postpone the trial despite the apparent non-availability of the defendant’s attorney.  Michael Lavers has a story on the Washington Blade Friday here
The main result of the law still seems to be the indirect condoning of vigilante violence, and the closing of clubs because of harassment.   The Blade results some people seeking asylum (previous stories) and it isn’t yet clear how dependent asylum processing might become on sponsorship, in the future, as the idea is rarely discussed openly.
A question remains, can an “out” LGBT person safely visit Russia?  It appears that social media pages and websites of westerners are readily available in Russia (there appears to be less attempt to block them than in China) and I wonder if they could be used to detain visitors who might try to visit for legitimate tourism.  Yet, a lot of heterosexual business people with no ties to the LGBT community find Russia “hip”, even given economic problems recently and Putin’s aggression in the Ukraine.
I still think that the main reason for Russia’s attitude has to do with the low birth rate, and a notion young adults will find having children burdensome unless everyone has to do it.
On the local club front, I’m trying to find out when the new DC Eagle will open, since its Twitter feed shows a lot of construction progress,  The website says that after a previous move years ago, it opened at a new location without missing a beat.  Not this time.  (Update:  A new story in the Blade Jan. 26 says that new DC mayor Muriel Bowser spoke at a private "soft opening";  the grand opening has yet to be announced, link..) 
While in Philadelphia last week, I found a small place called UBar, SE of City Hall, during happy hour.   

Update:  Feb. 5

The DC Eagle says it is open Thurs-Sat.  It mentions a shoe dress code but does not yet mention a leather code.  But it is common for many leather bars to require leather for at least one weekend night a week.  For example, that was true in Minneapolis when I lived there.  It would be helpful if the website provided parking and transit information. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Russia did enforce anti-gay propaganda law on Crimea, presumably would do so in any territory Putin annexes

Although not widely reported in the main media, The Advocate reported in May 2014 that, after Russia annexed Crimea, taking it by force from Ukraine, Russia imposed its “anti-gay propaganda law” on the population in the province, story by Daniel Reynolds, link here.
Authorities canceled a gay pride parade in Sevastapol and apparently closed gay bars in the area.
I don’t see the Adovcate on newsstands the way I used to, in print.  It had a little feature “20 celebrities that aged horribly.” 
It's pretty horrible to lose your rights because of a foreign conquest based on "ethnic nationalism". (Ukraine had not exactly been like the Netherlands.)  But look at the 1930s.  
Picture:  near HQ of Breaking Glass Pictures and TLA  (downtown Philadelphia) which release a lot of LGBT indie films. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

President Obama's statement about LGBT marriage equality and civil rights: Bill Clinton had started the presidential discussion in 1992 campaign

Again, President Obama broke new ground in his State of the Union (SOTU) address by maintaining that marriage equality for LGBT people is a civil rights issue.  He also implied that protecting LGBT people, as with many other people, from targeted violence would be a national security issue, an idea that has a disturbing undertone in the era of asymmetry.  He may have had recent reports from Britain on targeted ISIS acts against gays (in Syria or Iraq) in mind (not much in the news but widely reported in social media).
I don’t recall a president’s mentioning “gay rights” until Bill Clinton, as a candidate, did so at the 1992 Democratic convention, setting up the debate over gays in the military that started even before his inauguration (partly because of the stories at the time about Keith Meinhold and Joe Steffan).
Back in 2004, on my “doaskdotell” site, I opined an “Editorial” (a term that seems an overreach today) called “Gay marriage and family responsibility”.  My biggest concern that the implications of supporting children or elderly parents don’t always wait for procreative sexual intercourse to happen.  “Personal responsibility” has become a much broader concept. For years, there has grown an unhealthful disincentive to delay having children or not have them at all.  
In fact, as I recall all those desperate anti-marriage-equality essays over a decade ago (by Maggie Gallagher and others).  They seem to suggest that “traditional marriage” would thrive only in a restrictive social context that made committed marital intimacy “meaningful”.  

Monday, January 19, 2015

Major Washington DC Baptist church again fields a question on inclusiveness

Sunday morning, at a congregational breakfast at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC, consultant John Wimberly was asked about inclusiveness.  Apparently a few years back the Church did not vote a LGBT inclusiveness measure when it had came up.
Wimberly said that a church should follow its own conscience first.  However, the practical world suggests that the biggest source of new members, the 35-44 age group or “Gen X”, has changed in attitude tremendously in one generation;  furthermore the highly educated workforce in Washington and around the Dupont Circle area is among the most socially liberal in the nation.  He also said that his own interpretation of Christian theology was that the Bible is neutral on sexual orientation as if is understood in the modern world and does not consider adult homosexual relations wrong on their face.
The First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC is affiliated with both American and Southern Baptist Conventions, and is located very near the "17th Street Strip" in Washington's "gay" neighborhood.   17th St, between P and R Street, is "Frank Kameny Way" (Wiki).  I grew up in this church, which opened its current sanctuary on Christmas Day 1955.  The Church has operated since 1802.  Dr. Edward Pruden was pastor from the 1940s to the 1960s, and (raised in Richmond) was wat ahead of his time on race, and his book "Interpreters Needed" (1951) had examined why a "Christian" country Germany could become vulnerable to Nazism.

In the morning presentation, Dr. Wimberly mentioned President Truman's order integrating the military in 1948 (as in the HBO film "Truman", 1996) as a precursor to civil rights;  he did not specifically mention the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" under Obama in 2010-2011, but that was a rather obvious inference in context. 
Even the Vatican, as in more recent statements, seems to recognize biological differences but seems to believe it is appropriate to ask for more disproportionate “sacrifices” from some people to support the reproductive activity and future generations of everyone else.  Faith, at some point, seems to be about something more than equality as we discuss it in political contexts.  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

New York Times summarizes the arguments for marriage equality before SCOTUS, but glosses over one point

The editorial in the New York Times Saturday, Jan. 17, 2014, “The justices and marriage equality” (link) covers two important points.

One is that Justice Scalia, in “Lawrence v. Texas” had reasoned, in his dissent it states lost the ability to express abstract moral condemnation for homosexual conduct through sodomy laws, they would have no basis for denying marriage licenses to  couples “exercising the liberty protected by the Constitution.”  And the NYT writes “Precisely” (in a separate one-word paragraph).

Then the NYT mentions the “responsible procreation” argument, limiting it to encouraging stable marriages for children “accidentally” conceived by heterosexual encounters.
That seems to cut the argument short.  The practical effect of “traditional marriage bias” has been to provide some coercive support.  There is no logical way to provide extra support to married people without expecting unmarried people to help pay for it.  Before marriage, this effectively forced homosexuals (except those who “passed” and married in the “my husband’s not gay” world) to help support heterosexuals.  Another way to see it is the “anti-schizoid” idea.  It takes a certain self-giving and psychological risk to enter a “in sickness and in health” intimate relationship, and even more, presumably, when complementarity is required.  But the social support for marriage, and coercive pressure on the unmarried, was viewed by many as providing an environment that made it easier for married couples could remain loyal.  It’s easier if “everyone else has to do it” and other alternatives aren’t morally permissible. Today, this somehow sounds like Vladimir Putin’s concern about low birth rates in Russia.

Had I had the opportunity to enter a single life-long marriage to a same-sex partner “till death due us part” could I really have done so and kept it? 
My whole adult life, I perceived a cultural and economic battle between “families” and “individuals”.  Now it is a three-way fight.  

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"Conflict of interest" in self-publishing of "anti-gay" book by Atlanta official; other events in DC (especially in the "leather" community)

I went to the Arlington Gay Alliance Brunch at Freddie’s Beach Bar today and run into some news.
One of the items was a Metro Weekly story about the firing of Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran for poor “personal judgment” after issuing a self-published book “Who Told You that You Were Naked?” It is on Amazon with a publisher listed as “3G Publishing”  (why do I suddenly think of “Big G” calisthenics in Army Basic in 1968?).   The book makes statements, predicated on supposed “evangelical Christianity”, critical of homosexual behavior.  Of course, religious conservatives are talking about this as a “freedom of speech “ issue, and drawing ironic analogies to the Charlie Hebdo controversy in France, as with this article.  The New York Times has a factual story by Richard Fausset here. There was a question of following procedures before issuing a book.  I see this as more like the “conflict of interest” in my own history in the 1990s (explained on a Wordpress “DADTNotes” blog posting Feb. 4, 2014, here). 

The “Metro Weekly”, a Washington DC gay paper, had detailed coverage of the “Mid Atlantic Leather Weekend”  (MLK Day) at a hotel in Washington, with a lot of explanation of various fetishes and practices.  I’ll let the writers here speak for themselves, link here.   This isn’t my cup of tea.  But one wonders if “The Saint” in NYC will ever resume its annual parties in March if it looks for another venue;  it could sell a DVD or independent film (like at Outfest) on the events in the past;  I find this video.  

The Eagle in Washington DC had a print ad saying “it isn’t far away” but it still doesn’t appear to be open yet, not even in time for this event, despite the fact that its website says it was taking job applications in late September.  It would be nice to see it finally open and be successful in Northeast DC, which (following U Street) seems to be the next big area for gentrification and real estate development.  

Friday, January 16, 2015

Supreme Court will hear gay marriage case in 2 parts, groundbreaking decision by end of June, arguments in late April

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the cases in the Sixth Circuit, where the appeals court upheld state bans on gay marriage.
According to the Washington Blade, story by Chris Johnson, the Court will allow up to 90 minutes of oral arguments on one question (whether the 14th Amendment requires a state to license same-sex marriage) and 60 minutes more on the recognition of out-of-state marriages, under Full Faith and Credit, link here. Is this a due process (incorporation clause) case, or an equal protection case (more likely)? 
There are two deadlines for briefs, March 27 and April 27.  Oral arguments will happen immediately, with a decision in late June.  The downside is that a “wrong decision” could invite many “red” states to invalidate gay marriage, even though many states in the coastal and northern parts of the country might keep it.  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Funeral service for lesbian in marital relationship suddenly cancelled by church venue in Colorado

A funeral service in Lakewood CO of a lesbian (Vanessa Collier) was cancelled right before the beginning when the venue, New Hope Ministries, objected to a video containing images of Collier’s kissing her wife. WJLA-7 in Washington carried the news story here
The idea of disrupting a funeral (like the Westboro Baptist Church) or cancelling one over the political of social interpretation of someone’s life is particularly disturbing, but it does happen.  I have wondered how someone’s life should be remembered publicly if the end is somehow unusually ugly because of a political agenda or grievance and the person was somehow problematic in the eyes of some. 
Wikipedia attribution link for USAFA image in Colorado Springs;  I visited the grounds in 1973.  

Monday, January 12, 2015

TLC's "My Husband's Not Gay" stirs controversy but seems to have aired only once

I missed the TLC one-hour documentary “My Husband’s Not Gay”, and apparently right now there is no way to see it, and TLC seems not to have plans to show it again, as far as we know.  It was to be a series, and was downgraded to a docu-special.  It could be shown as an independent film and made viewable on Amazon Prime or Netflix. But the very concept seems offensive to many people.  This almost sounds like “The Interview” in reverse. 
The film was apparently shot in Salt Lake City and centers around Mormon families where the husband admits to some same-sex attractions but also claims interest in women – bisexuality.  To appease the LDS faith (which is slowly becoming more tolerant, at last) the men say they will deny same-sex feeling and be devoted to their wives and have children and raise them in marriage.
Of course, there is a lot of controversy about the film.  The one minute trailer shows men engaging in double-talk.  “I’m attracted to me but I’m not attracted to – men”. 
MSNBC has a twelve minute panel discussion on “Out There” with Judy Gold, Husdon Taylor, and Carmen Carrera.
The Rubin Report has a 9-minute video here.
Think Progress has a long article by Zazk Ford, saying that the special is worth watching, here
There follows a long discussion of immutability. 
ABC News also has a video for Nightline, 7 minutes, here (from Fusion with Elysia Menendez).   The husband says that his marriage is like “being on a diet” where he gives up fantasies of men when with his wife.  50% of "Mixed-orientaiton marriages" end in divorce. 
Meredith Vieira presented the issue on her syndicated show Monday January 12 and interviewed on of the Mormon husbands in the film. is reported to have a petition against showing the film.

It seems that the pressure on gay or bisexual men to marry and procreate anyway really is intended to make heterosexual men feel righteous and comfortable in their own marriages, knowing nobody "gets out of things", as my Mother used to phrase it.  

If it becomes available online legally, I’ll watch it and review it as a film or TV episode. 

Wikipedia attribution link for Salt Lake downtown

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Demonstration in DC today to end conversion therapy for gender identity

As I returned from a Health Fair in DC and then the Newseum today, I ran into a young woman on the Metro who had marched in a demonstration from Mt Vernon Square to the Justice Department, with signs “End Conversion Therapy Now” and “Justice for Leelah”.  This was the case of Josh Acorn (aka Leelah) discussed here Jan. 2. 
The DC City Council has banned reparative therapy for minors for sexual orientation with a bill, but I don’t know it this would cover gender identity, too.  

Friday, January 09, 2015

Fifth Circuit sounds likely to support gay marriage; no word yet from Supreme Court on whether to make a national decision in 2015

The Washington Blade (Chris Johnson) reports that the 5th Circuit in New Orleans is likely to vote 2-1 against state gay marriage bans in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.  A critical argument seems to be that states often extend what are already federal benefits, rather than just invent benefits on their own.  
The Blade also reports comments by GOP presidential hopeful Marc Rubio (FL) that federal courts shouldn’t have jurisdiction over state gay marriage cases.
“Freedom To Marry” has a very detailed account of how the arguments in New Orleans went today, here. The site has details and photographs of individual cases in each of the three states.
The Supreme Court has not yet announced any decision to hear gay marriage cases (like from the Sixth Circuit), although it could make an announcement next week, link here

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Recalling a 2014 obituary, Fred Phelps, and a curious lesson

I noticed, in a review of events of 2014, the story of the death of Fred Phelps, who had founded the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka KS, in the New York Times, written up by Michael Paulson, on March 21, 2014, here.  The biography of the man, and the way what seemed like righteousness and charisma when he was younger (with marital fertility) turned into a kind of hate that was so addictive, is curious.  One of his daughters had said he was addicted to his own hatred, as his “church” staged disruptive demonstrations all over the country.
I can recall looking at his website (“God Hates F___”)  on a computer in a bar, the Saloon in Minneapolis, out of morbid curiosity, round 2001, but never looking at it at home.
Curiously, we defended his legal right to free speech, and let the population absorb it – by ignoring it.  It’s an odd irony to remember this story given what happened in France Wednesday.
Also it’s interesting that the family did not hold a public funeral.  The character “EJ” on the soap “Days of our Lives” did not get one when he was murdered (in fiction) either.  The absence of a ceremony itself says something.
I shot a picture of the Westboro Baptist Church, on a residential street in Topeka, from a rental car in July 2006 on a long weekend trip.  By coincidence, I attended the University of Kansas in nearby Lawrence 1966-1968 and earned an MA in Mathematics.  

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Supreme Court may decide Friday whether to take 6th Circuit gay marriage, effectively ruling for the entire country

The Supreme Court will meet on Friday, Jan. 9, to decide whether to accept gay marriage cases from the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati, indicating that there “is no fundamental right to marriage” while gay marriage bans remain in effect in that circuit.  If the court takes the case, oral arguments are likely in March and a decision in June.  That could mean that any state in other circuits where appeals courts have rules in favor of gay marriage might be able to ban it again.
On Friday, the Fifth Circuit will also consider gay marriage bans in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana.  The Fifth Circuit had supported the Texas sodomy law back in 1985.
Gay couples began to marry in Florida Monday.  Only a few years ago, gay couples were prevented from adopting in Florida. Chris Johnson covers Florida in the Blade here. 
The summary story by Robert Barnes leads off the Washington Post today, January 6.  
Yet, from my perspective, anti-marriage equality in the past created a rough equivalence between permanent bachelorhood, childlessness and homosexuality.  Those raising “families with children” were seen as taking on more responsibility that I took, sometimes justifying sacrifice from me or my being their “backup”.  That came to become “second class citizenship”.  

Friday, January 02, 2015

Gender identity, sexual orientation, "fixing society", and resilience

The media have given a lot of coverage to the suicide in Ohio of Josh Acorn, who wanted to be known as Leelah, and believed she was a girl from birth.  The media has also covered her note at death, as in this CNN story by Ashley Fantz here.  The media has noted that she had more support from school and the outside community than from her immediate family.

I understand her wanting this to “mean something” and to “fix society”.  And I can certainly support most of the proposals, from banning “reparative therapy” for minors (just as with sexual orientation), to lifting the ban in the military.  We have the life history of Navy Seal Kristin Beck, who, however lived out her career as a male first before making the change after retiring.  Still, Kristin would be able to do most jobs in the military even now.  (The end of “don’t ask don’t tell” left the transgender ban in place.)  On the other hand, the personal story of Bradley aka Chelsea Manning is certainly troubling.

But there is more to my reaction, which comes more from the perspective as a “conventional”, even “conservative” gay man.  It is true, sexual orientation is a separate issue from gender identity, but the reaction of society, at least during the years that I was growing up, was rather similar.  (This idea comes up in Kristin Beck’s “Warrior Princess” book, on the Books blog, Dec. 4, 2014.) It was hostile.  In “those days”, there was a presumption that gender conformity was about sharing the common risks in a family or community.  Someone who didn’t confirm was seen as leaving the burdens to others or endangering others.  That was the mentality when we had a male-only military draft, even if everybody knew there were lots of gays in the military even then.  In fact, claiming homosexuality to get out of the draft was seen as “cowardly.”
To “fix society”, you have to fully accept the principle that allowing someone to be himself or herself is more important than getting the person to “fit in” to what others in the family or large community may need (perhaps with good reason) him or her to be prepared to do. Not everyone accepts this idea, even though now even social conservatives understand this is the cornerstone of “democratic capitalism” which a lot of the world doesn’t have.  In fact, “individual sovereignty” is a major distinction between “secular” western values as they have evolved, and more authoritarian cultures (religious or not, ranging from Russia and China to radical Islam) much of the world. 
I did have serious problems in my own young adulthood, centering around the William and Mary Expulsion on 1961, and the “reparative therapy” (so to speak) at NIH in the fall of 1962.  I managed to come to a “separate peace”(almost as author John Knowles calls it) and lead a productive life, working as an individual contributor in information technology, where “sociology” mattered less than in the rest of the world.  But I lived a double life, a pretense of “separate but equal”, in a kind of urban exile, no longer feasible in the age of Facebook. 
Today, in retirement, I am in some ways less “sheltered” myself, and have to contemplate how I would live if the world around me was taken away by force.  (9/11 had something to do with this process.)  If I did not fit in and find I had anything to offer, I wouldn’t want to be around anymore.  And I wouldn’t want to use religion or the conventional idea of heaven as a reassuring emotional crutch.  (How I see the afterlife is another manner, as in my Dec. 31 posting on my main blog.)  Yet, I can see how taking one’s own life in trying circumstances could still be viewed as cowardly or arrogant. 
After Tyler Clementi’s suicide in 2010 after the hidden snooping incident from his roommate at Rutgers, and apparently after Tyler’s inability to get the university to take it seriously (this seems unclear), there were reports of notes whose contents have never been made public.  One can imagine what they might have said. But again, it seemed like there was arrogance in the final act, of not wanting to the world have anything to do with him, that it wasn’t good enough if thus could happen.  I certainly know the feeling.  Some forensic psychologists call this a need for “resilience”, to do one’s part in facing adversity that isn’t always one’s own to choose.  Had Tyler seen this through, he might have been a friend now, maybe even among that group of young musicians I know in New York City today.  This was a terrible loss. 

Thursday, January 01, 2015

2015 starts, for me at least, "On the Town"

I kept it simple New Years Eve and did “the same thing” once again.  I went to the Town Danceboutique, getting there by Metro about 11 PM.  There had been a lot of controversy over Uber premium pricing, and I knew cabs would be difficult.  And the Metro closed at 2 AM.  Actually, the crowd thinned out fairly quickly after midnight.

But for me, 2014 ended in the same place it had started. 
This time there was no drag show when I got there, dancing on two levels. Upstairs, a couple of revelers were making fun of the Washington Redskins and their name situation and 4-12 season. 

There’s a tremendous amount of apartment and condo construction near the club and near the companion 930 club (for artists’ concerts and events), which is gradually claiming all the spare parking lots.  But so far none of the buildings seem to affect the clubs.  Maybe U Street isn’t quite as expensive as 17th Street, where a new apartment building. The Drake, seems to want $1875 a month for the smallest studio.