Sunday, January 31, 2016

Bernie Sanders had stood up for gay rights in 1972, tried to help Bill Clinton lift the military ban

German Lopez reports that Bernie Sanders stood up for ending sodomy laws and other anti-gay laws as far back as 1972, on Vox, article here.  Lopez notes that Sanders scolded a conservative Congressman for insulting say soldiers who had put their lives on a line with a speech about “homos” in the military back in 1995, shortly after Bill Clinton had been able to start “don’t ask, don’t tell”.  Lopez also notes that as late as 1996 (when it seemed to me many things were improving rapidly) about half of all Americas thought that homosexual acts should be illegal, and the belief may not have been as always predicated on religion as most of us think.  Those were the days when Oliver North bragged that he didn’t “ask” his employees about sexual orientation, and Laura Schlessinger called homosexuality a “biological error” while bragging “I am my kids’ mom”, and Joe Palka was talk radio’s main liberal.

I have been critical of Sanders on other grounds on other posts, about catering to people who want benefits without figuring out how to pay for them.

Note in the cardstack, how Vox handles the conservative argument that marriage “channels” heterosexual activity into providing relationships for raising children coming from the potential for procreation.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Regular use of HIV-prevention drug for negatives stirs medical controversy

The Washington Post, in an article by Ariana Eunjung Cha, reports on the wide use of a drug called PrEP, to prevent HIV infection by sexual activity among MSM  The story presents a particular graduate student in San Francisco, who looks a little older than he is in the pictures.  There is controversy over insurance coverage and pledges to use condoms.  There is also some medical controversy over whether NIV-negative people really should take some anti-retroviral drugs all the time. But, could HIV really be stopped with "one little pill" at last?
Generally, the side effects these days are much less than they were in the mid 1990s, when protease inhibitors were first widely used.

The same reporter has a story about HIV “sanctuaries” in the body remaining after the virus has become undetectable, particular some more obscure lymphatic cells.

Update: Sunday, Jan 31

The Washington Post followed up with an op-ed column by Richard Morgan about truvada, "The miracle AIDS drug people refuse to take".

Monday, January 25, 2016

Portugal's president nixes equal adoption rights for gay couples

In a blow to equality overseas, Portugal’s president Anabel Cavaco Silva has vetoed a law passed by Parliament giving married same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples.  Parliament could override by a 2/3 vote. Silva claims that Parliament has failed to show the law to be in the best interest of children.  ABC News has the story here.

Again, adoption is one way to break the artificial nexus between capacity for traditional sexual intercourse, and capacity to provide for other people.

I spent one night in Lisbon in April 2001, on top of the hill .  The view of the harbor from the plane is interesting.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture by Xosema, under CCSA 4.0 International License.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

TN: GOP lawmakers claim they can negate the Supreme Court on gay marriage, with some religious arrogance

State representatives of Mark Pody (R) and Senator Mae beaver (R) want to negate the Supreme Court opinion on Obergefell, with a bill, related in a story on ThinkProgess by Zack Ford.  It’s called the “Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act”, HB1412, SB1437, here,

The legislators are acting as if they Texas Governor Ted Abbott’s “constitutional amendment” (Book reviews, Jan. 15) were enacted and states could nullify Supreme Court opinions.

The legislators were also religiously arrogant, speaking of the “unsaved”.

Ultimately, though, inequality leads to situations where the unmarried’s lives can become bargaining chips when sacrifices are really needed.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

"Intersectionalism" vs. gay equality in Israel -- perspective published

James Kirchick has a story on “Tablet”, how “Intersectionalism makes you stupid”.  A gay-rights group in Israel had to weigh who heckled and shouted the loudest, on the overall issue of Zionism.  Kirchick also notes that Israel is the only country in the Middle East reasonably accommodating to gay equality (it allowed gays to serve in the military, almost openly, long before the US did).    But Israel also gets appropriate, I think, moral criticism from libertarians over taking property from Palestinians by force, without compensation. Imagine the moral quandary of a teen growing up in a West Bank settlement.

Kirchick also points out the vitriolic executions of gay people in Raqqa.  I think actor-singer Timo Descamps tweeted about this some time ago, as well as about another situation in Saudi Arabia.

The writer mentions the idea of “hierarchies of virtue” based on (intersectionalism’s)  “identity politics” as opposed to individual equality (before the law) and autonomy related to personal responsibility, as well as a disturbing idea of “pinkwashing” (playing homophobia against Islamophobia). What about the idea of “de-prioritizing” other groups.  And “Marginization” as the “accumulation of various traits”.  He also notes how the debate over gay marriage progressed to “protecting an institution” rather than protecting society from “disease ridden deviants” as from some on the right in the 1980s. Likewise, debates over gays in the military was dignified by the term “unit cohesion”.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Social meeting of free-speech group recalls mood over early debates on gays in the military

One more little story from the EFF party at Matty’s early Saturday evening (above Dupont Circle).
An individual who had been in the Army from the late 1980s through 1998, in infantry and then military intelligence, at Fort Bragg and then Fort Benning, did recall some controversy in the early days of the debate of Bill Clinton’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy and desire to lift the ban on gays in the military.

He actually took more note of the recent decision to open all combat jobs to women, based only on the individual soldier’s ability to do all the physical tasks require for the MOS, which a minority of women do fill (and which most gay men otherwise in the military would fill, and which transgender might fill). Female soldiers might make targets for enemy capture.

There was some tension over the idea of open gays in some units in 1993, he said, fueled by the remarks by Sam Nunn and Charles Moskos.  The issue tended to dissipate and be forgotten with time.
My own experience, as I have written in my books, was that there was a lot of tension in a civilian dormitory at William and Mary in the fall of 1961.  Men who didn’t show an interest in women were seen as a “threat” in dragging down the competitiveness of men around them.  This was less true in the dormitory environment at the University of Kansas from 1966-1968 (early), as notions over sexuality were already loosening a little.  By the time I went into the Army with Basic training in 1968 at Fort Jackson, there was essentially no tension, because of the preoccupation with an authoritarian environment.

Monday, January 18, 2016

"Equality House" (apparently in Kansas) poses question about "obligation to reproduce"

A group called Rainbow Equality House apparently bought some property in Topeka KS, across the street from Westboro Baptist Church, in 2013, according to this Salon story by Katie McDonough.

Someone on Facebook published a photo attributed to the group, which reads “Someone told me being gay is wrong because we can’t reproduce. I said, ‘well, then, let the gays adopt all the kids that the straights abandoned after reproducing.” I commented “Double edged because it implies that people who don’t have their own kids have an intrinsic obligation to help support other people’s children” (OPC).  Got one “like” so far to the comment.

Picture: 2006

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Washington DC Baptist church delays considering allowing same-sex marriage as new pastor takes over

The First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC has somewhat postponed its plan to present a symposium on same-sex marriage to its members and schedule a congregational vote.  (See earlier story Nov. 2, 2015).

This delay has happened because a new senior pastor, Julie Pennington-Russell started pastoral duties this morning, January 17, with a first sermon, “Making Joy”.   She will need some time to prepare to consider this issue, among many others.

Ironically, the sermon was based on a story about Jesus’s performing his first miracle at a wedding feast (John Chapter 2) where he turns water into wine.  The text does underscore how important the social and religious supports for marriage as a life-changing event was in the ancient world, and continues until this day.  One of the arguments against same-sex marriage in the recent past is that it is perceived as making (traditional and procreative) marriage less “important” or more peripheral to one’s identity, and therefore less interesting in the long run and less likely to happen.  (Maggie Gallagher wrote his way ten years ago.)

It is expected that the matter will be reconsidered by summer, and the current membership might pass it by a small majority if a vote were taken today.
Many LGBT community members were offended in the GOP debates by Red Cruz's linking "New York Values" to same-sex marriage, but Cruz claims Trump has said that himself.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Pope Francis and "Who am I to judge?"

The Catholic Reporter, in a story by Joshua J. McElwee, explains (Jan. 10) Pope Francis and his position on LGBT people, “Who am I to judge?” here.
Back in the 1980s, the Vatican had created controversy with a confusing diatribe trying to separate inclination or purpose from actual behavior, but calling the tendency the beginning of an “objective disorder”.  My own legacy essay on this matter (2006) is here; see note 6 especially.
Note the links in the story about “mercy”, as someone confounding to normal human “logic”.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

In eastern Europe, gay volunteers honored for work with Syrian refugees

Michael Lavers reports, in a Washington Blade story Jan. 12, “Slovenian newspaper honors gay man for refugee work”  The newspaper Delo honored Jure Poglagenn in Lubljana with Slovenian president Borut Paho.

Jure and a male partner worked with refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos, which sounds ironic.
But the work is not related directly to the issue of gay people in Russia and some African countries seeking asylum.

Last week, the Cato Institute held a forum on immigration (Issues blog, Jan. 6) and it was pointed out that federal law right now does not normally allow private interests to help out individual refugees overseas over the procedures of DHS.   There have sometimes been some “memorandum of understanding” documents that have allowed this in certain circumstances (like the Mariel Boat Lift from Cuba in 1970).  Churches could try to send volunteers overseas but this would not be practical for most people.

Update: January 14

"United We Dream" reports that 36 LGBGTQ organizations have called on President Obama to "stop raids, provide immediate relief to immigrants". I got an email about this today. 

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Gender dysphoria should not be considered determined in childhood (WSJ article)

Debrah Soh has an intriguing story on p. A11 of the Tuesday Wall Street Journal, “The Transgender Battle Line: Childhood” with the byline “Psychologists have learned how to treat adults with gender dysphoria, but how about 5-year olds?”

The idea that a somewhat conservative piece would be written about a strange idea of political correctness for children, does show how far we have traveled.

Soh says that sexual orientation is immutable, but gender identity may not be so.  I don’t think I’ve heard that before.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Natural mechanisms that make some women have more babies may make fewer men sire them; more on the Immutability Argument

In recent years, there have been some credible claims that sexual orientation (and gender identity, which is a different thing) has a biological basis.  Of course, this has been debated for years, back to the time of Chandler Burr’s 1996 book “A Separate Creation” (Hyperion).

For example, on Nov. 18, 2014, Nature World News has an article “Homosexuality is genetic, strongest evidence yet”.  The basic idea is that a gene (or set of genes) on the X chromosome might make women who carry it more fertile and likely to have more children (and bear them as healthy, without miscarriages).  The same genes might make some men less interested in women (but more satisfied by submissive behavior), or mighty in rarer cases affect gender identity.  Or they might affect personality in some basic way like “polarity”, the concept developed by Paul Rosenfels in the 1970s.

But a 2013 Slate article by Joseph Stern “Born this Way?” presents evidence that men with older brothers are somewhat more likely to be gay.  The article argues that this does not work out well for a lot of gay men, who may be born onto larger families that tend to be more religious and conservative.

The mechanism could be epigenetic, that prenatal influence on the limbic system of the developing brain (especially the hypothalamus) in some ways quasi-feminize it, although not the rest of the body.  But the same influences on a female child may make her more fertile as an adult.

There is a shocking lesson in the collective nature of biology and evolution.  With many animals, raning from social insects to wolves, not all members reproduce.  In some (lions) not all are allowed to survive.  Nature tends to favor reproduction by the most “successful” species.  But if a genetic system makes some women have more healthy babies, at the cost of some men siring fewer (or even no) children, the tribe as a whole may reproduce more and thrive, a net gain in population over generations.  It’s even more ironic:  the more fertile women are more likely to have second or third sons that turn out to be gay. But part of Nature’s trick seems to turn out strong and healthy additional sons who do things other than reproduce, creating other cultural tensions.  (None of this theory seems to apply to lesbians, which is a whole different discussion.)

So it's women who control a society's birthrate and population replacement. Patriarchial men (and authoritarian politicians like Vladimir Putin) don't like to admit it.  Back in the 1980s, conservative author George Gilder admitted as much when he spoke of "female sexual superiority" as essential in nature.

Of course, this raises issues of social specialization, which run counter to modern ideas of equality. The Catholic Church, with considerable difficulty and controversy, tries to utilized this with a celibate priesthood. Some Native American societies have treated gay men as having priestly or altruistic functions, to serve the reproductive aims of others.  No one would view Alan Turing, who practically saved western civilization from Nazi Germany himself, as subservient or “second class” (Benedict Cumberbatch plays him as personally quite assertive in “The Imitation Game”) – until the British government shamefully punished him and drove him to suicide in the early 1950s, only to make an official apology recently.

But, all this said, it is still wrong to use “immutability” (or “born that way”) as the sole moral basis for “gay equality”. The trouble is, many other behaviors are genetically or biologically influenced, and we don’t accept these actions.  Psychopathy may be partly genetic, and may have helped men survive in more primitive environments of the past.  But we can’t accept some psychopathic behavior today. Susceptibility to alcohol and drug addiction seems to be partly genetic, but we hold people responsible for what they do when they drive.

The right question to ask of “homophobes”, in my view, was “why is my personal life your business anyway”?  That’s the libertarian pose.  It’s true there was a serious “chain letter” argument made about public health in the mid 1980s, which fortunately did not hold political traction because it did not turn out to be correct.  The biggest reasons for prejudice against homosexuals – men particularly – seems like a real historical mystery. It’s very hard to articulate, and most younger gay men today have no clue as to what it was like in the 1950s and 1960 (before Stonewall, and long before AIDS).  But a big clue comes from Sam Nunn’s arguments in 1993, in the early days of the debate over Bill Clinton’s proposal to lift the ban on gays in the military.

The biggest problem seemed, in my own experience, was that my own presence in a somewhat intimate environment (a college dorm in 1961) reminded less secure men that they could fail physically to make it with women.  I seemed to be the alien observer, ready to judge who was the most fit and “desirable” to even have a lineage.  (It sounds like a private kind of fascism.) Kibitzing or gawking but not playing – not having skin in the game – is a moral no-no with a lot of people, even if it directly has little to do with the law.  Other straight men would rather see someone like me make it with women and even be potential romantic rivals, than be someone who can make them feel less adequate and who could send a signal to women not to be submissive to them. It’s a bit of a paradox.   One problem is that I would have to make a female want me and feel satisfied.  But to other straight men that would be a reassuring sight – that there is indeed someone for everyone.  Another instantiation of this whole line of thinking is the idea that you don’t allow sexuality to be expressed in any form (even fantasy or masturbation) until marriage.  So you have to make anything else not OK, and make examples of those who deviate.

Ironically, once I was in the Army (in 1968) all of this melted away because the authoritarian, regimented environment kept distractions at bay anyway.
Today, as a whole, young better educated heterosexual men are not as concerned about “the lives of others” as was the case in past generations.  But that’s mainly the case only in the West, where society is wealthier, and where people put more emphasis on their own “accomplishments” and put less psychological capital in future generations.  And that’s underneath a great deal of international tension today.

The biggest question, when characterizing the moral compass that should be expected of anyone, is where are the limits on personal autonomy?  Are people born into a world that automatically confers on them certain obligations that they don’t choose?  If so, then, as people are born with different biologically influenced propensities, everyone would face a unique pattern of “sacrifice” for a supposed common good, which could include sustainability.  Debates about equality would fall to the wayside.  But modern western liberalism (and libertarianism) support the idea of self-definition, in conjunction with harmlessness and “keeping promises”.  The “moral problem” (or “bad karma”) may be that practically all of us have dependencies on others who made sacrifices for us, and we can’t see these hidden sacrifices of the past now.  So, in principle, it sounds possible to expect anyone to place a priority on helping to raise the next generation of children (even for the childless) and to take care of others.  But this confounds the modern idea of choice and narrow idea of “personal responsibility”, even as it affects the meaning of marriage.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Carson's campaign chairman hints that repeal of "don't ask don't tell" could be undone if a conservative (Republican) is elected in 2016

It had to happen.  CNN (Ted Kopan) is reporting that Ben Carson’s campaign chairman Robert Dees is criticizing the “social engineering” that allowed gays to serve openly in the military (and now transgender troops), and allows women to take on all combat roles when individually qualified.
Intuitively, it would seem there is a practical danger that some GOP candidates could try to gain political capital by bringing up the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” or the more recent steps for transgender troops.  I would hate to see this lead to more partisanship (and the resulting lack of intellectual honestly) in the actions of gay leadership in calling, for example, for support and contributions.

Jimmy Kimmel even mentioned these remarks in his show Jan. 5.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Gay marriage ruling coming into supposed religious "freedom", to see others conform

Michelle Boorstein has a major piece in the Washington Post “2015 clarified the right to gay marriage; It opened a world of questions for religious objectors”   In print, Saturday morning, in the Metro Section., the story reads “Clashes over gay rights in the religious workplace: job protections for employees may depend on the role they fill – and perhaps where they live.”

Jeffrey Higgins was fired from his job as a part-time cantor at the Mother Seston Catholic Church in Germantown MD (in upper Montgomery County) after a priest learned about his legal marriage to Robert Higgins. But in Massachusetts, in a similar case, a state court told a Catholic school that it could not fire an employee for a gay marriage.

The reasoning behind the firing still sounds rather childish. The church maintains that the cantor sets an example, and that younger people will not take the teachings of the church regarding marriage seriously if they see his same-sex marriage.  It sounds a little like arguments that were used regarding “unit cohesion” for the military.  It also sounds as though the church believes a lot of men won’t marry and have children and raise them unless they believe everyone else has to.  Ponder that.  That’s what Russia’s Vladimir Putin believes.

Friday, January 01, 2016

The year ends where it starts, and a new one begins, in "The Town"

The year 2015 began, and ended in the Town Danceboutique.

I’ve tried to add more variety to “bar stories”, especially in other cities.  I know a favorite of some friends is the Abbey in West Hollywood (was there in 2012).  In NYC, it’s The Therapy (a long way from the Ninth Street Center).  In Palm Springs there are bars galore. In Philadelphia, I seem to miss Rittenhouse Square and find the nearby mainstream restaurants.  In Boston, I’ve lurked around Cambridge, avoiding Matt Damon’s Southland or “The Town” (the other town, pun),  Don’t forget the Boatslip in P-town.  In Baltimore, we lost the Hippo, and the Grand Central could do more. Perhaps the largest dances will be held at rented casinos in the Harbor. Charlotte, the Scorpio is a favorite.  In Dallas, the S-4 and the Roundup (aka Magnolia’s TP); the Old P disappeared in 1980. And I haven’t walked Castro Street since 2002.

At the 930 club, two blocks from the Town (on the other side of Atlantic Plumbing Landmark Theaters), the cell tower became a New Years decoration.

In the Town itself, it seemed as if this were the year of the doppelganger. I can understand wanting to look like Jesse Eisenberg (“Now You See Me 2”), except you are four inches too tall.  And Eisenberg got bumped by Mark Zuckerberg himself on SNL, remember.

 The decorations, on the upstairs ceiling especially, emphasized a black-and-white Hitchcock movie theme. There was a vaudeville show at 12:30 AM upstairs.

In the meantime, Kathy Griffin found her Anderson in New York City, apparently without incident.

Note well a Washington Post editorial Jan. 1: "A cause for celebration in the New Year: Momentum on Gay Rights".