Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Washington DC businesses must brace for loss of late night Metro; gay men have new role models

Businesses are reportedly working with Uber and Lyft on the issue of late night transportation for customers and especially employees of businesses, especially bars and restaurants, once Metro closes at 12 midnight on weekends starting June 3.  But we haven’t heard any indication that Metro thinks it can replace the late train service with bus service.

Mayor Boswer is still trying to encourage rotating late night shutdowns only.

Business was very brisk Friday night at Town, even on a holiday weekend, the last weekend of late night service.  It seems that the under 21 college crowd is emulating the science stars of the world as rock stars.  There were a couple of “Jack Andraka” look-alikes, and one Taylor Wilson imitation (although about three inches too tall).  All the sudden, the roles models aren’t just athletes, movie stars, or conventional rock stars (or boy bands, as Justin Timberlake looks over the hill).  Or even founders of companies like Facebook.  Young men (or women) who discover cancer tests or build nuclear fusion reactors as teenagers are the new X-Men (or women), ready to play virtual “Mutants” just as themselves (without makeup) in the next X-Men Marvel Movie.
Remember, Anderson Cooper actually likes X-Men.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Gay Men's Chorus deliberately humiliated when trying to sing national anthem at San Diego Padres game

The San Diego Padres baseball team has been involved in a humiliating incident in which the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus was to sing the national anthem, but the voice was overrun with a female soloist in the control room.  Think Progress has a typical story here.

The incident happened Saturday, May 21, when hosting the Los Angeles Dodger at Petco Park. (The Padres won, 3-2.)  The Padres website at mlb  has an apology.  Major League Baseball, which says it enforces its non-discrimination policy for sexual orientation with players, will probably investigate/

 The All-Star game is to be held there this year.

The Padres blame a control room glitch.  Somehow, I think of Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction with Justin Timberlake at the Super Bowl in 2004.  Timberlake has not always been so virile since.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Petco by Nehrams2020.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Gay Republicans are mixed on Trump's likely nomination

Donald Trump attracted negative attention from the gay community most recently with his short list of Supreme Court nominees to replace Antonin Scalia, all social conservatives, or strict constructionists, or orginalists – take your pick.

But earlier the Washington Blade had run a piece by Lou Chibbaro, Jr., examining whether “Gay Republicans” will support Trump.

While numerous prominent people associated with Log Cabin said they would not, there is a group in Washington “Libertarians for Trump” which to me sounds like an oxymoron.

Gay people (and transgender) definitely have stayed off Trump’s short enemies’ list, which comprises mostly Muslims and immigrants through Mexico, cultural opposites.  Trump has experience with gay people in “The Apprentice”, a few of whom did very well in the competitions.

However, Trump has spoken against gay marriage (although maybe out of opportunism).  It’s not clear what he would say right now.
I have a concern that if he were Commander in Chief, he might try to roll back advances in the military (ending “don’t ask don’t tell” and integrating transgender troops), saying that with the enemies we have abroad, we don’t need the “distractions”.  Since DADT Repeal, the US military has not needed to make a major large deployment, keeping direct intervention on ISIL overseas limited and preferring to act secondarily to middle-Eastern and European troops.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Senate confirms first openly gay head of a US military service

A GOP Senate has confirmed the nomination of the first openly gay head of a US uniformed military service, Eric Fanning.  NBC News has a story by Halimah Abdullah and Courtney Kube.

NBC mentioned that it was as recently as September 2011 that “don’t ask don’t tell” was officially repealed.  But that would not technically have prevented someone from having a civilian position (although there could have been a perception of “conflict of interest”).  Fanning will have to deal with the tricky issue now of transgender integration.
The New York Times has an editorial Sunday May 22 on the appointment ("An openly gay man runs the Army"). It notes the uneventful course of things post-repeal, vs. previous emotional bartering about maimed veterans -- and the less acrimonious atmosphere for transgender troops. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Pentagon still slow on transgender military service

The Washington Post, in a story by Dan LaMothe on May 15, reports that the Pentagon is slow in preparing for allowing military service by openly transgender members.

The story is quite detailed, and even covers whether the military pays for sexual reassignment surgery, as well as many questions about uniform policy, relative to a member’s situation in undergoing reassignment. The story has a picture of an Air Force NCO, in a male uniform, and one cannot tell from the picture whether the individual is male-to-female or female-to-male (less common).
The political controversy over bathroom bills, especially in North Carolina (home of Fort Bragg and Camp Lejuene), where the state and DOJ are suing one another, does not help.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

While DOJ and NC sue each other over bathroom bills, commentators look for a big iceberg of discrimination underneath

Nick Halsam has a story explaining the special psychology of the “bathroom bills” today, getting into the physical shame issue.

But ABC has a different perspective, showing that the bathroom bill issue is the tip of an iceberg about a much more pervasive problem of social discrimination against transgender people, as much out of ideology as actual decency or safety.  It’s the “iceberg” idea that affects how much I follow an issue.

Friday night, the U Street area was as festive as usual, with no one very concerned yet about Metro’s upcoming closings at midnight weekends.  I had no trouble getting a cab on 9th St at 1 :30 AM.  But it’s unclear how well they can take up the slack next month, and whether Metro will provide some sort of bus service.  I’ve tweeted NBC4 (Tuss) and Jack Evans on the bus service supplement issue.
Pictures: Taste of Arlington, today (Ballston area). There was a severe blockage for a while for cars trying to leave the garage, so my parking garage suggestion for the U Street area could be tricky.  But it works so well in West Hollywood.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Baltimore's Grand Central seems lively enough for Maryland's film festival

I hadn’t been to the strip on Charles Street in Baltimore for a while, but Saturday night I visited the Grand Central Club after the Maryland Film Festival events.

The upstairs lounges (third floor) have been redecorated somewhat and now have some dancing, in addition to the main floor (rather small) on the first floor.  The crowd on the third floor did build up fairly early, possibly because of the nearby Filmfest.

But there has been very little progress on converting the Hippo, which closed in October, into a CVS yet.  The whole Hippo closing reflects not the issue of the riots and curfews (probably what people think), but instead the difficulties of a new owner's getting a liquor license if an established owner retires.
The free Circulator bus was very effective during the festival, an idea that may be necessary in Washington soon as Metro will no longer be open after midnight. The area of the City beyond North Avenue looks much better than it did a year ago after the riots.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

DC clubs could be challenged by ending of Metro service after midnight

Local gay businesses could face serious economic challenges due to the rather sudden implementation of Washington DC’s Metro Safe Track Plan (Issues Blog, May 5, 2016).  But much of my concern has more to do with the attitude of the businesses and political community to bars and restaurants, which often face renewal and legal restrictions.  As much as some of us would like to believe, Washington DC is not Manhattan (although it may cost almost as much to live there), and Georgetown-Dupont Circle-U Street are not Greenwich Village or Midtown.

The Washington Post story Saturday morning by Paul Duggan, Lori Aratani, and Robert McCartney (link wrote dismissively “And starting June 3, the system will shut down at midnight instead of 3 AM, on Saturdays and Sundays, limiting options for bar patrons and others.”  But on Saturday morning, the Post published online a perspective by Frederick Kunkle, “Party’s over: Metro’s Massive Rebuilding Will Put on Crimp on Nightlife.”

Last call on weekends in Washington is 3 AM, so presumably some patrons and bar employees are already used to getting home somehow without Metro. And, to its credit, some establishments have offered events earlier than in the past.  Town has offered square dances and bear nights earlier in the evening, partly to cover the gap caused by the closure of Remington’s and Eagle (the latter re-opened in NE).  The attitude of many people, however, is to stay out as late as possible, drink, and hope for the best.  There may be an expectation of crashing with a partner, but that behavior is much less common post-AIDS crisis (which is still out there, but much more so in minority communities now) than it had been in the early 80s.

Real estate development (especially new apartment buildings) and city restrictions have put a crimp on parking in the area, and little is done about it.  There are relatively few 24-hour garages.  The Dupont Circle and U-street areas each need a secure, multi-level, credit-card-operated 24-hour public garage.  Business owners should be trying to get them built. A possibility would be to use Union Station, or to encourage Metro to keep its Minnesota-Ave garage open and park free all night on weekends, provide more security (police patrols and cameras), and run a circulator service from Minnesota-Benning (the Eagle is nearby already) to U-street, and Dupont.  The Circulator could be privately owned.

I had thought that the midnight closing would be delayed until after the July 4 weekend (June 3 allows only four more weekends, counting today(, to allow more time for Capital Pride (which does start earlier) and the Independence Day celebrations.  Maybe Metro can be talked into doing that. Business owners have very little time and advance notice to plan for the loss of service.

I have used it Metro only once after midnight this year, and usually catch cabs after midnight.  Wiedefeld says that after midnight ridership has dropped on its own by 50% since 2010. (It was initiated in 1999, before the U Street corridor was expanded).  I have not yet learned to use Uber, and need to.  It’s hard to say if Uber can fill the gap for more affluent consumers, or if serving possibly intoxicated consumers becomes an issue (to stop DUI).  It can’t fill any gap for employees.  Cans were always easy to catch on 17th St near Dupont Circle, but were much more difficult on U-street until late in 2015.

Completely missing from the discussions are any mention of whether the late night weekend service could be simulated by surface busses running on the same routes.  City Council member Jack Evans is well known for working with the gay community and business owners, and should be a go-to person on this question.  It was Evans who broke the story to the media on March 30 of the upcoming massive rebuilding.

Will extended hours resume after one year when repairs are complete?  Don’t count on it.  It seems Metro is not designed for 24x7 use, and needs more time for scheduled maintenance.  It was designed originally for regular workforce commuters and mainstream monument tourists, not for nightlife. New York City has the advantage of much more redundancy of tracks and lines (especially on the west side of Manhattan).  I know West Fourth Street in the Village only too well.

The culture of city governments is an issue.  Washington’s situation is exacerbated by Congress and compromised home rule.  By way of comparison, Baltimore has lost at least one major bar (Hippo) partly because liquor licenses can’t be transferred, and the city’s reputation was tarnished by the riots, curfews, and inept administration.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Legal patchwork on "gender registration" by state is messy, often misreported even by politicians

I'll enclose Vox's explainer on transgender issues,  a card stack.

Vox says to me there is some question right now whether a transgender person really can change his or her gender legally on a birth certificate or drivers license, as McCrory claims, and Vox will check further. Look at the map on p. 4 of the Explainer. I know people in NC, especially UNC (tremendous music and film programs), but no one has brought this up.

The New York Times has an important editorial "Restoring bathroom sanity in North Carolina". NYT says that concern over heterosexual men in women's rooms is pandering to fear, and also mentions administration slowness in lifting the transgender ban in the military (so that it can benefit from the "Lady Valor" type of Seal) -- that could get derailed if Trump were elected in the fall.

Vox also recommends the National Center for Transgender Equality with its state-by-state legal guide online ("ID Documents Center") here.   Virginia allows the change on a driver's licence. And, by the way, some states got fussier on changing legal documents after 9/11.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Obama administration caught in the middle of the bathroom bill fight

The United States DOJ has warned North Carolina that its transgender bathroom bill probably violates civil rights laws as reported in a New York Times story by Eric Lichtblau and Richard Fauseet.

However, in Illinois, a conservative group sued the Obama administration claiming that the Education Department is forcing school districts to let students use bathrooms according to their proclaimed gender identity, story by Emma Brown  The complaint is rather graphic in how it is worded/

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Virginia Supreme Court recognizes legal concept of cohabitation for same-sex couples

The Virginia Supreme Court in Richmond has ruled that the Supreme Court Obergefell ruling on gay marriage means that unmarried gay couples are viewed as “cohabitants” in the same sense as unmarried heterosexual couples.

Tom Jackman has a story in the Washington Post Metro section today, Tuesday, May 3, here.

The ruling came about when a Fairfax County man wanted to stop alimony payments to his ex-wife when she moved in with a female partner.  The Virginia high court overturned local and state appellate court rulings that disregarded any legal status for same-sex cohabitants.

The article summarizes the history of the now defunct Marshall-Newman state constitutional amendment in 2006, which had attempt to bar legal recognition of all same-sex couples.