Wednesday, December 30, 2015

University of Kansas press publishes a history of Hoover's War on Gays

This evening, at a Barnes and Noble store at Tysons mall in Fairfax County, VA, I found a book by Douglas M. Charles, "Hoover’s War on Gays: Exposing the FBI’s ‘Sex Deviates’ Program", published by the University of Kansas Press in 2015.

The hardcover, at over 450 pages, is rather pricey ($30) and it will take some time before I can read it and review it on the Books blog.  But the prologue of the book explains that gay history probably has not accounted for the way the FBI was influenced by an intense animus towards homosexuals that did not start to loosen until the late 1960s, and then gradually.  The first chapter, “Was J. Edgar Hoover gay? Does it matter?” explains that there was not much attention to homosexuality at all until the late 19th century. The industrial revolution enabled people to congregate in cities, and for social polarization to develop.  But the degree of animus to a rational person today seems inexplicable, but part of the problems is the idea of living in a “zero sum game” world.  Another concept mentioned early is “essentialism”.  The Leopold and Loeb case in Chicago in the early 1920s may have contributed to hysteria (the play “Never the Sinner” by John Logan, which I saw in Minneapolis in early 2001.

The KU source is interesting;  I earned a MA in math from KU in 1968, right before going into the Army.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Obituary for Robert Spitzer recalls the history of the APA's dropping of homosexuality as a mental illness way back in 1973

The Washington Post printed an obituary (by Amy Argetsinger) for Robert Spitzer, 83, who passed away Christmas Day, and who had a transformative role in getting the American Psychiatric Associations’ dropping of homosexuality per se from the DSM as a mental illness.

The story of his involvement is checkered and complicated, as he at times expressed the personal belief that maybe it is an illness, and even participated in studies of “cure” which he later retracted.
There’s even more detail of the 1973 event in a 2002 story in “This American Life” by Ira Glass.

There is a lot of discussion of the work of Charles Socarides and Irving Bieber, whom I would read about intermittently over the decades. I recall seeing an article by Bieber in 1971, when I was in the middle of a workplace security clearance investigation, claiming that public acceptance of homosexuality would be divisive or disruptive to heterosexual society.  That reminds me of George Gilder’s idea of a “sexual constitution for our society” that reinforces the meaning and therefore the personal experience of marital (and procreative) sex.   The idea of “illness” could be tied to a view of reproduction as a basic biological requirement.

The idea of homosexuality as “illness” certainly weighed on my “being asked to leave” William and Mary in the fall of 1961, and my inpatient treatment at NIH in the latter part of 1962. Writer Tom Baker had a similar experience in 1963 but would actually graduate from WM, but has written and spoken about the College’s view of the “mental illness” model even more than perhaps I have.

In 1978, I asked a lawyer about the whole security clearance issue, and his response was, “it’s what’s in your mind”.  It stayed that way until 1995.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Gay characters start getting "powers" in superhero fiction

George Gene Gustines has an interesting piece in the Styles section of the New York Times on Thursday, “Coming out as gay superheroes”, called “diversity comes to superheroes” in print.

I could add a couple of observations.  A few months ago, someone made openly gay science fair winner Jack Andraka  into a comic book character on Twitter, as “N[anoman”, as part of Jack’s idea for using nanobots to cure cancer. He was portrayed as inside a space suit, somewhat like Matt Damon in “The Martian” (or perhaps the 60s movie "Fantastic Voyage").

And then there is actor Timo Descamps, who played a lovable bad boy Shane Lyons in “Judas Kiss” (Movies, June 4, 2011), but then comes back as a near superhero in the short “Lost Angel” (Movies, March 27, 2014), and the mystery feature “The Dark Place” (Dec. 2, 2014) where both he and his lover played by Blaise Embry aka Blaise Godbe Lipman seem to have unusual “powers” to outwit opponents.
Of course, the hypothetical idea of "super strength" or superpowers had become a metaphor for old forms of homophobia by the time I went to William and Mary in 1961.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Kentucky governor ends Kim Davis saga with simple executive order

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin (Republican) has issued an executive order saying that a county clerk’s name need no longer appear on a marriage license.

This would allow sex-same marriages in Kentucky to continue without complication.

The issue has had potentially serious conflict-of-interest issues for people in certain kinds of jobs where their personal names are applied to actions with political policy ramifications.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

First openly gay female US military officer to be killed in combat is honored

The first openly gay female US military officer to be killed in combat, USAF Major Adrianna Vorderbruggen, was honored tonight on NBC Nightly News.

She was one of six troops killed by a drive-by suicide bomber on a motorcycle in Afghanistan, the worst attack in 18 months.  The incident occurred one year shy of passing the law (in December 2010) that would mark the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

She is survived by her wife (since June 2012), Heather, and a son Jacob. The Daily Beast has a detailed story here.

Her spouse will get full benefits

Monday, December 21, 2015

FDA officially loosens ban on MSM donating blood

As expected, the FDA has formally loosened the rule on blood donations from MSM (men who have sex with men), allowing donations from men who test negative on all standard antigen and antibody tests and who will affirm they have not had sex with other males within the past twelve months.

Beth Mole has a typical story on Ars Technica here today.  The FDA sounds open to narrowing the abstinence period in the future if warranted by data.  Vox has some more details on the science here, and quotes the Fenway Institute. In general, the science doesn't support a deferral period for more than two months.
The blunt practical result will be that elderly gay men not in relationships will often be able to give blood, since they usually aren’t sought as sexual partners.
Since I had my Medicare physical recently, I can certainly look into this.
It's an unpleasant observation, but in Russia the idea that there is a more obligation to make your blood available to others has been articulated, and it adds to the anti-gay attitudes of the population.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The United States banned gays from immigration not so long ago

Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade has an attention-getting headline on the December 18, 2015 issue, “Remember when U.S. banned gays?”  The article is in response to the press coverage of Donald Trump’s bombastic proposals to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., after the Paris and San Bernadino attacks.

The article, "Trumps anti-Muslim ban recalls restrictions on gay, HIV-positive people", was posted online Dec 13.

The article discusses a 1952 law signed by President Truman, the “Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952” (The McCarran-Walter Act), which had excluded those with a “psychopathic personality”. That might have been an improvement over the Immigration Act of 1917, which had banned gay people. The Senate had decided in 1952 that the language was inclusive enough that homosexuality need not be mentioned.

Johnson discusses the case of Clive Michael Bouilier in the 1960s, a Canadian national.  His apparent admissions of “sodomy” figured into the case. In 1967, the Supreme Court decided that the 1952 law was broad enough to exclude him.

The explicit ban, although not much enforced, would not be repealed until 1990, under the George H. W. Bush administration (during the first Persion Guf War.  Johnson also discusses the HIV travel ban.

I really should have covered this important history in my first (1997) “Do Ask Do Tell” book, inasmuch as it bears on the history of sodomy laws, as well as the past bans of gays in the military.  But the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy did not come into being until 1993, after the ban on gay immigration ended.  I’ll cover this in some detail soon on my Wordpress DADT Notes blog.

This history is important as the nation faces immigration controversy not only for Middle-East refugees, but LGBT refugees from Russia and some African countries, seeking asylum, which has gone on quietly but attracted little public debate so far.  In 1980 there was a real issue with Cuban refugees, for which personal sponsors were sought (which hasn't happened this time much because of the bigger political climate).

As for Donald Trump, he has opposed gay marriage, but he had openly gay candidates on his "The Apprentice" NBC reality show living comfortably with others in his hotel suites during contests.  In one case, he acknowledged the discrimination one particular male candidate might have faced.

Friday, December 18, 2015

A note about "equality" v. "stability" and freedom (upcoming HRC video)

Tonight, the Arlington AGLA held a “Jazz” social at Kora’s in Crystal City in Arlington.

I’ll mention that HRC has been asking supporters to submit photos and videos that will support a video on this year’s progress on equality. This time , I don’t have anything “special”.

As I noted on another blog today, the concepts of “equality”, “stability” and “freedom” all create some inherent tensions.  Think of “liberty, equality, fraternity” of the French Revolution.

I don’t work on “equality” for an identifiable group of people by itself as a special goal, because, given my own narrative, I have a lot more to add in the areas of personal autonomy when challenged by external threats or pressures.  Equality wouldn’t mean much to me personally in a ruined world.

On the other hand, equality is important to keep one’s life from becoming someone else’s bargaining chip, and this applies to single people, too.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Supreme Court intervenes, may take major visitation rights case for lesbian parent

The Supreme Court stopped a court in Alabama from denying parental visitation rights to a lesbian who had been given adoption in Georgia, and then split off the relationship. It is widely reported in the media, as in this USA Story by Richard Wolf.

But the Supreme Court has yet to decide if it will formally take the appeal of a ruling of the Alabama Supreme Court.

The precedent could have allowed the denial of visitation rights to adoptive (but not necessarily  married) parents after a relationship ends.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

GOP candidates attend "Religious Liberty" conference hosted by vitriolic anti-gay pastor

At least three GOP presidential candidates (Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee) attended a “National Religious Liberties Conference” hosted by a fundamentalist pastor Kevin Swanson, from Colorado, who has reportedly advocated the death penalty for homosexual acts, much as in a lot of the Islamic world.  All three candidates remained silent, and apparently the pastor vented some of his rhetoric.

The Des Moines register has another story.
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund emailed the story this morning as part of its fund-raising campaign

Friday, December 11, 2015

The old "gays in the military" phrase from 1993 has been replaced

The number of Muslims in the US military is relatively small, but now the group gets attention that recalls the climate in 1993 when “gays in the military” was greeted by some with political shock. Thomas Gibbons-Neff as a Washington Post story “For Muslims in the U.S. Military, a Different U.S. than the One they Swore to Defend”.  There was the one big incident at Ford Hood in 2009.
As for more local news, AGLA held a Holiday Party (and huge raffle) Tuesday Freddie’s Beach Bar in Arlington (it’s pretty near the Pentagon) and the owner sported out his “drag show best” with an unusual blazer.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

How would Trump have reacted to AIDS reported in MSM back in the early 1980s?

Donald Trump’s proposal to “ban Muslims” from entering the country (at least temporarily) reminds me of a horrible peril that the gay male community faced in the early 1980s.  This was the time when AIDS cases were mounting (doubling every six months) and the causative agent (HIV) had not been publicly identified.

The far right wing in Texas (I lived in Dallas at the time) had a field trip.  The far right (the ilk of Paul Cameron and Gene Antonio) called for quarantining all gay men, in a few cases, extermination, rather like Hitler.  How you would identify someone in the closet was an unasked question, in this time of “do ask, don’t tell”.

So I can certainly imagine a Trump of the period supporting such a measure with a statement based on speculative theories about harm to the general public.

There was a speculative theory that said that gay men had incubated the AIDS epidemic within their relatively closed populations in the largest cities (New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, and later other cities like Dallas, Houston, Chicago) by the mechanics of a “chain letter”, amplifying the amount of virus in existence and giving it a greater probability of mutating into something that could then be spread more easily to the “general population”.  A group called “Dallas Doctors Against AIDS” had promulgated the view.

This “sci-fi horror” scenario would have been much less likely than speculated, because when viruses mutate, they usually don’t change transmission modes (if they did they would probably weaken and turn into something less lethal).  We saw similar fears about Ebola (which is much more transmissible) in 2014 with the quarantine issue.

Nevertheless, in early 1983, the Texas legislature considered (but rejected) strengthening the state’s sodomy law and banning gay men from most occupations (including hospital work and preparing good). This was ten years before the military ban would become a national public controversy with Clinton.

Trump’s proposal, which sounds like “lock up everybody because we are afraid of the few we can’t identify” brings back unpleasant memories, but we need to know our history.

People are afraid of what is “different” and not their own.  Trump is talking like Muslims are extraterrestrial aliens to be feared.  But I have felt I was put in that category in the past. Ironically, last Wednesday seems to have been the worst day for heterosexual family values ever.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Military gender-neutral policies for combat commensurate with ending DADT and transgender ban; larger gay clubs face increasing financial challenges

First, I’ll continue a topic from the last post.  The New York Times has an editorial Sunday regarding the opening of all military combat roles to women, link here.   The idea is that fitness for combat roles will be gender-neutral, and usually most men will meet the criteria more readily than most women.   The Times notes that resistance to the change is related to “sexism”, as we understand cultural addiction to gender roles in the past.  The article compares attitudes toward the role of women, in the unit cohesion context, to past concerns over the role of gay men with “don’t ask don’t tell”.

But Ben Carson, GOP candidate, claimed that the military is not the place for social experimentation, reacting to the recent lifting of the ban on transgender soldiers, NBC News story here. A darker side to his comment was a reference to apparently wanting to go back to the old “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for gays repealed in 2011.

I’ll change the subject now, and mention that I visited the Grand Central  in Baltimore Saturday night to see how it was doing, giving the closing of the Hippo.  The crowd was smaller than I expected, although I left before midnight.  This was apparently “ladies’ night”, but the Sappho floor on the third floor was not open when I was there.

There are could use a new disco, and there are stories that the Eagle will reopen in 2016.  A Baltimore gay paper also reports that the “Club” in Martinsburg W Va has closed with the property sold to a developer.

In this new world of more mixed culture, it may be harder to justify large clubs unless the properties have other uses during the workweek (or can be used for stage shows, movies, etc)  Large dances may have to rent space in hotels and casinos.
Update: December 14, 2015

Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post writes "Women in combat will put men at greater risk."

Thursday, December 03, 2015

NYTimes op-ed on Scalia reminds us of old-style thinking in past sodomy law litigation

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia tended to echo Vladimir Putin in his thinking about homosexuality, in that he saw no principled difference between “child molesters” and “homosexuals”, as if he were blind to the idea of consent (and the whole idea of age-of-consent laws).  That disturbing point is made by Richard A. Posner and Eric J. Segall in an op-ed, “Scalia’s Majoritarian Theocracy”, Thursday December 3, 2015, on p A35 of the New York Times, link here. The writers are discussing Scalia’s notorious dissent in the 2003 “Lawrence v. Texas” case.
There is discussion of Scalia’s idea that courts cannot overrule majoritarian votes concerning society’s past “moral opprobrium” on apparent homosexual behavior, or the desire of parents to keep the distraction of homosexual values away from their children, or of bosses to keep it away from customers.  None of this seemed rational or copacetic in all the decades that it had ruled legal thought (Bowes v. Hardwick).  It always seemed to me that people believed that if homosexuality were allowed to appear legitimate (as a “choice”), a lot of “marginal” men would decide not to marry and have children, and would not be able to fit into the reserves of supporting other family members with the required tender intimacies when necessary.  That’s certainly behind Russian thinking today.
But with gay marriage (Obergefell), this has been a three-way (not two way) debate on individualism.  It’s possible to argue that everyone should participate in raising kids and in caring for parents (filial responsibility) without concern that everyone experience conventional sexual intercourse capable of procreation.
It's also worthy of note today the media reports that all combat roles have been opened to women in the military. This is certainly going to lead to more objection to those who do not like to see gender bending.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

World AIDS Day: shocking report on rise in cases among young Asian men

Just before World AIDS Day. Alisa Tang released a report on AOL from Thailand that the number of HIV deaths among young men in Asia has doubled in the past ten years.
Still, HIV disease doesn’t come up in ordinary social conversation and among gay men much today in my experience, like it did in the 1980s and into the mid 1990s.  I’m not hearing anecdotal reports of cases in my own circles.
Food and Friends, where I had volunteered a bit in the 1990s when it was located near the Navy Yard, has expanded (with huge, well-orchestrated operations based in NE Washington DC on the holidays and pie sales), but seems to have a client base quite substantially made up of minorities, including many heterosexuals,  with HIV and malignancies from diverse causes (including drug use) other than the male sex.