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    Like a little child

    Posted by Sean at 21:44, November 12th, 2007

    Eric posted yesterday about a case in southeastern Pennsylvania in which a newly married couple with problems asked successfully to have the marriage invalidated in court:

    In a York County case, a Common Pleas Court judge invalidated a 10-month marriage, finding that a friend of the bride’s who officiated at the wedding didn’t have the power to do so under Pennsylvania law even though he had been ordained online by the Universal Life Church. The judge ruled the friend didn’t qualify as a minister under state law because he had no regular congregation or place of worship.

    By 1885, Pennsylvania had clearly developed two types of marriage licenses. The first required a “minister of the gospel, justice of the peace, or alderman” to officiate. The other let a couple solemnize the marriage themselves (a self-uniting license) and register it with the county.
    Little changed until the legislature amended the law in 1953. While the law still allowed for both types of licenses, a reference to religious ceremonies was added to language describing who could obtain a self-uniting license. The law remains in effect.

    Since the commonwealth government is not the United States congress, I assume it has more leeway to limit freedom of religion; why it would want to do so in this context is beyond me, though. If you succeed in getting a marriage license, it seems to me, you’ve passed such requirements as the government deems fit. (Pennsylvania doesn’t even require a blood test, IIRC from hetero friends who have taken the plunge.) Who officiates, since legal marriage doesn’t require anyone to certify that you’re entering into the union mindedly or that you’re not likely to split up.

    Eric seems to feel the same; I like his idea for a new denomination, too:

    I think the sudden firestorm is grounded in the fact that ordinations can now be obtained online. Big effing deal. What makes one form of communication between humans more suspect than another? Suppose a religious-minded blogger decided to form the Divine Church of the Holy Blog, and decided upon a common set of beliefs, based on articulable principles known and understood and agreed to by all interested joiners. Why wouldn’t their congregation (“Holy Blogroll”) and place of abode be just as valid as any other? What business is it of the government to decide?

    I’ve been thinking about what makes a religion “legitimate” from a different angle over the last week or so, since a friend with whom I went to church growing up contacted me for the first time after a dozen or so years. I posted about this last week. Some consider the Worldwide Church of God a cult; others think it was a genuine Christian sect that got carried away on certain doctrinal points and was poisoned by a cabal of amoral leaders at the very top. (I’m speaking of the church up to about ten years ago; it’s now made numerous doctrinal changes that have brought it into line with mainstream evangelical Protestantism. I think. There’s something about converting to atheism that lessens your attention to theological points, so I may be overstating the case.) I think that this site does a real service in giving former members a place to read up on the inside dirt and share horror stories. The church was supposed to be the center of your life, and it’s perfectly understandable that many people who took that to heart have had real difficulties adjusting since leaving it.

    I do wish, though, that the people who posted were a bit more given to recalling that they freely chose to get involved with the WCG, in countries in which freedom of religion is protected. There’s a page that has a long, long, long list of bullet points for which the ministry ought to apologize—ways the enforcement of church doctrine and culture played havoc with people’s lives. Okay, point taken. But no one was forced at gunpoint to keep attending church, or to refuse to take her children to the doctor, or to fork over twenty percent of his gross income per year to church headquarters. Ministers are responsible for the destructive untruths they peddled, but they can’t be blamed for the unusual eagerness of many members to believe them. Much of the WCG membership comprised, in my experience, people who felt like misfits and were bad at running their own lives. My parents frequently had discussions with friends who were positively relieved to outsource their decision-making about jobs and marriage and childrearing to their pastors and church elders, even when the advice they were given flouted all logic and sense. With the exception of people who were brought up in the church and had been prevented by devout parents from ever knowing any other way of living, I find it difficult to view church teaching as something that was done to sympathetic, pure-of-heart dupes. Being weak-minded may help explain why you’re acting like a ninny, but it doesn’t excuse it.

    The couple in the York County case, similarly, was presumably aware of the difference between an experienced pastor of an established religion and a friend who obtained an ad hoc ordination as a clergyman. It’s ridiculous for them to argue now that they should be legally able to pretend it never happened just because they discovered too late that they weren’t compatible. I hope Eric’s right and that the current decision is “eminently reversible.”

    Added on 15 November: Blogger Ironwolf, who was brought up in the same church as I was, has posted about yet another lectern-thumper who wants us to know we’re all doomed. The specifics of how we’re going to fry aren’t all that interesting–social collapse, big-scary-nightmare empires established by the most populous Asian countries, nuclear holocaust–no one seems to bring much imagination to these things. (Just once, can’t one of these doomsayers jazz things up by predicting that the Satan will launch the End Times from, like, a village in Surinam?) I point it out only to give an indication of the sort of talk that was common coin at church services and among my parents and their friends when I was growing up.


    ノン気

    Posted by Sean at 22:46, September 24th, 2007

    Gay Patriot West takes Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to task for claiming that there are no homosexuals in Iran. Well, he’s more taking gay and liberal groups to task for not calling BS:

    Yesterday, we had a lesbian claiming she had a little crush on this man who, even she acknowledged, would “probably have [her] killed” because he was so forthright in “calling out the horrors of the Bush Administration.” [Yeah, you know, if there’s anything it’s hard to find on the world stage, it’s a head of state who’s willing to score cheap political points off President Bush.–SRK]

    As bad as those on the gay left claim this Administration to be, it doesn’t execute gay people. Yes, we should fault the president and his team for failing to repeal the pernicious Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell Policy preventing gays from serving openly in the military and should take the president to task for endorsing the Federal Marriage Amendment. But, there is a world of difference between opposing gay marriage and open service of gays in the military and murdering gay citizens as matter of state policy.

    It’s amazing that some people on the gay left are so caught up with their hatred of Bush, that they refuse (or, are otherwise slow) to condemn the leader of a nation whose government does just that — murder its own gay and lesbian citizens.

    A good rule of thumb is that anyone from anywhere at all who says his country doesn’t have homosexuals doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Since I’ve been living in Tokyo, I’ve met guys from Bhutan, Kyrgyzstan, and Nigeria out at the bars–all just as up on Britney’s new single and this season’s Prada as any fag in the Castro. One of the most annoying skeeves my friends and I currently run into is from–I’m not making this up–Papua freakin’ New Guinea. And as for Iran…ha! I can’t count the number of Iranian guys who’ve hit on me since I’ve been living in Tokyo.

    Now, yes, we can get into the usual tiresome identity-politics discussion of what exactly constitutes a homosexual. (And I might note that when I first arrived in Japan, people told me they didn’t have gays here, either, which has to be just about the most clueless thing I’ve ever heard.) But the men I’ve met from developing countries have mostly said something on the order of, “Well, sure, I’m married and have children. I have to be. My country is not America. Don’t get me wrong–I respect my wife, and I love my kids–but you don’t know how lucky you are to be able to have a partner.”

    BTW, I know it’s pointless to get exercised over this sort of thing, but why do people insist on being so idiotic?

    Protesters also assembled at Columbia. Dozens stood near the lecture hall where Ahmadinejad was scheduled to speak, linking arms and singing traditional Jewish folk songs about peace and brotherhood, while nearby a two-person band played “You Are My Sunshine.”

    “You Are My Sunshine”? An allusion to Silverlake Life, maybe? But surely that would be way to esoteric for even a gay-friendly lefty audience to pick up on, especially when most of them were probably in second grade back then? Odd.

    Added later: I should have known Eric would have posted about this already:

    I’m not holding my breath either. Feminists who once condemned the veil now allow that it might be “liberating,” and gay activists in Berkeley dismissivly compared the systematic murder and torture of Palestinian gays to what “happens in every western society, including in San Francisco.” And what about the treatment of the murdered Pim Fortuyn?

    Maybe because I’m friends with a lot of Brits and Europeans, I still hear Fortuyn referred to pretty frequently. But Eric’s right that the gay left sure as hell hasn’t seized on the opportunity to hold him up as an example of how tragically gays can be persecuted.

    Added on 26 September: Naturally, one of Columbia’s gay groups has gotten into the act (via Eric). Andrew Sullivan reports:

    “We stand in solidarity with our peers in Iran, but we do not presume to speak for them. We cannot possibly claim to understand the multiple and diverse experiences of living with same-sex desires in Iran. Our cultural values and experiences are distinct, but the stakes are one and the same: the essential human right to express our desires freely. Moreover, we would like to strongly caution media and campus organizations against the use of such words as “gay”, “lesbian”, or “homosexual” to describe people in Iran who engage in same-sex practices and feel same-sex desire. The construction of sexual orientation as a social and political identity and all of the vocabulary therein is a Western cultural idiom. As such, scholars of sexuality in the Middle East generally use the terms “same-sex practices” and “same-sex desire” in recognition of the inadequacy of Western terminology. President Ahmadinejad’s presence on campus has provided an impetus for us all to examine a number of issues, but most relevant to our concerns are the complexities of how sexual identity is constructed and understood in different parts of the world.”

    Ahmadinejad was right, you see? There are no gays in Iran. Just ask the Queer Studies Department.

    Having spent my entire adult life toggling (not always successfully) back and forth between American English and Japanese, I’ll certainly agree that you have to be exceedingly careful when using words from one language and culture to describe abstractions in another.

    It’s the tone that’s grating: We Westerners, with our inadequate terminology and our resistance to examining deep “issues” unless a thugocrat shows up to give a lecture, just can’t understand how complex all those people from other cultures are. But if that’s the case, where does the CQA get off calling anyone in Iran its “peer”? The relationship between their sexual identity and their “same-sex practices” isn’t like ours, after all.

    Added on 1 October: Eric has still more reaction to the subject-changing debate that’s resulted from Ahmadinejad’s remarks:

    I’m sure that a good defense of the author’s thesis could be made too. In theory, I might be willing to venture such a defense, but I’m not about to take my cue from a murdering tyrant who believes in executing homosexuals — whether “homosexuals like in your country” or homosexuals like in his country.

    It’s a legitimate topic, but I think it’s rather unsettling to have to parse a murderer’s words and judge their theoretical meaning according to the trends of the latest Post Modernist jargon.

    Yeah, at least when the post-structuralist brigade was lining up to explain away Paul de Man’s pro-Nazi writings, it wasn’t discussing someone who’d actually presided over a murderous government.


    You scumbag, you maggot

    Posted by Sean at 23:55, March 7th, 2007

    For the first time in a dozen years, I woke up this morning wondering whether I was a faggot.

    See, Eric is trying to figure out what Ann Coulter’s explanation of her remark at CPAP would mean if applied consistently:

    At any event, it would seem that Ann Coulter is urging upon us the following, very novel definition of “faggot.”

    • Correct usage: a) a schoolboy who is considered by another schoolboy to be “weak or timid” and b) pretty much every Democratic politician — male or female, specifically including Hillary Clinton. (Um, does Bubba know?)

    • Incorrect usage: any homosexual.

    While I guess I should be glad that Ann Coulter has taken it upon herself to unburden homosexuals from the yoke of this rather unpleasant word (as well as change the word’s gender), there’s that stubborn common-sense part of me that just doesn’t quite understand.

    There was a time not that long ago when calling a heterosexual man a faggot was the worst insult you could bestow on him. It was considerably worse than calling him a “wuss,” and that’s because not all wusses are homosexuals. According to the popular stereotype prevalent at the time, however, all homosexuals were wusses. So, if you called someone a faggot, it carried extra weight.

    Now we are told it no longer does, because the word “faggot” does not carry the imputation of homosexuality. It only means “wuss” — and the “wuss” factor is completely detached from the gay factor.

    Hmm. Maybe I’m not the best judge, but I don’t think I mince or flounce or anything. And I think I’m good at facing problems squarely and doing what needs to be done about them. Does that mean I’m a homosexual non-faggot? I’m pretty sure that fantasizing about Bobby Cannavale makes me a homo; could the specific things I fantasize about doing with Bobby Cannavale push me back over the line into faggotry? Will I become a faggot again if I wear purple three days in a row (no difficult feat given my closet)? Does it matter whether it’s plum or lilac?

    This is all very disorienting, so to speak. Next thing you know, someone’s going to tell me I’m not actually a bitch.

    I never figured Coulter was anti-gay*. I have friends who’ve seen her out having drinks or dinner with prominent artfags, for one thing. And for another…well, generally speaking, a lot of loudmouthed, high-strung, unmarried urban professional women are fag hags. I’m pretty sure she’s against gay marriage and abolishing the DADT policy in the military, but those are specific policy positions, not overarching attitudes. Not that I gave it much thought.

    Now, of course, it’s suddenly become impossible to open a browser without encountering a solemn discussion of what exactly Coulter meant when she mentioned John Edwards and the word faggot in close proximity to each other. Her explanation strikes me as sincere. “You can’t understand the joke I was trying to make without bearing in mind that I operate at the developmental level of a second-grader” sounds about right, doesn’t it?

    So while I think she’s wrong about the way the word is used in contemporary American English by adults, I wasn’t particularly offended. I agree with Connie that fetishizing words is a bad idea, and I think it’s especially bad in this case. The last thing we need as gays is to look yet again as if we were easily-bruised creatures who need to be protected from hurt by big, strong, kind-hearted straight people. (See, for example, that letter a bunch of conservatives wrote in protest, as posted by Michael: “Coulter’s vicious word choice tells the world she care little about the feelings of a large group that often feels marginalized and despised.” Even conservatives are bleating about marginalization now? Ick. And people wonder why I cling to the designation “small-l libertarian”!)

    * We’re still allowed to use gay to mean “homosexual,” right? Or are we now to be treated to a revival of the pseudo-Mencken mewling that it’s some kind of crime against English expression that you have to find other ways to talk about the gamesome and happy-go-lucky nowadays?


    Run-up

    Posted by Sean at 03:37, November 4th, 2006

    Since I’ve already cast my vote, I can settle in to enjoying the frantic final week before the election with no pressure.

    For US Senate, I ultimately decided on Casey. I know, I know: The power elite among the Democrats are traitors who want to promulgate the Culture of Death and you can’t expect the GOP to be perfect and anyway I’m just throwing a fit because Santorum won’t let me marry my dog.

    I really did have serious misgivings when I was filling out my absentee ballot, but they’re dissipating. To find out why, consider Peggy Noonan’s latest column (via Michael). I like Noonan very much. Her writing style isn’t showy, but she has a distinctive voice–careful and sober and considered. It’s a voice that makes her love of America come across very movingly, especially when she talks about the textures of daily life or personal interactions.

    Unfortunately, it’s a voice that also betrays her when she says stupid things. There’s nothing worse than saying something way-ass dumb while making it clear that you’re thinking real hard about it:

    Rick Santorum’s career (two Senate terms, before that two in the House) suggests he has thought a great deal about the balance, and concluded that in our time the national is the local. Federal power is everywhere; so are the national media. (The biggest political change since JFK’s day is something he, 50 years ago, noted: the increasing nationalization of everything.) And so he has spoken for, and stood for, the rights of the unborn, the needs of the poor, welfare reform when it was controversial, tax law to help the family; against forcing the nation to accept a redefining of marriage it does not desire, for religious freedom here and abroad, for the helpless in Africa and elsewhere. It is all, in its way, so personal. And so national. He has breached the gap with private action: He not only talks about reform of federal law toward the disadvantaged, he hires people in trouble and trains them in his offices.

    One thing that’s really starting to get on my nerves: Can we please stop referring to politicians who are publicly opposed to gay marriage as if they were being brave and taking a political risk? Such a stance may get you into hot water at certain cocktail parties and rubber-chicken dinners, but voters have demonstrated in state after state that they concur with it.

    Anyway, the things Noonan discusses–Santorum’s prankish sense of humor, his genuine gratitude at the support he gets, his concern for the Casey family as human beings, his personal efforts to help individuals in straitened circumstances become self-sufficient–are all wonderful. They speak well of the man. But we’re not voting for a church choir director.

    Santorum genuinely does seem to voice his beliefs more candidly than most senators; but then, who wouldn’t look like a straight-shooter next to Arlen Specter? Speaking of Specter, Jacob Sullum hasn’t forgotten that Santorum supported him in the last primary against challenger Pat Toomey (an odd choice for someone who’s restoring principledness to the GOP). Additionally…

    I realize social conservatives are a big part of NR’s audience, but Miller offers economic conservatives, the other major component of Frank Meyer’s grand fusion, little reason to root for Santorum, aside from the fact that he supported welfare reform (so did Bill Clinton) and “has served as a leader” on Social Security, which seems to mean he favors Bush-style baby steps toward “personal” (not “private”) retirement accounts. On the down side, he opposed NAFTA, supported steel tariffs, and considers Bush’s immigration reforms “too lax.”

    And Sullum didn’t even mention the $20 million-ish in federal money Santorum scored for farmland preservation in the commonwealth.

    My point here isn’t that Santorum is a closet social democrat, or even that he’s been a bad senator on balance. My point is just that going off the deep end and portraying him as an implacable opponent of federal waste and mission creep is ridiculous. He plays the game just like his ninety-nine colleagues, and it’s condescending for opinion-shapers to cherry-pick his record in the hopes of convincing us otherwise.


    Orange Appled

    Posted by Sean at 22:54, November 1st, 2006

    Wonderful. This is just what I wanted to hear:

    Stephen Viscusi, 46, of Manhattan, said the divide has made dating even more fraught. Mr. Viscusi, who is gay and a Republican, said he has been rejected by Democratic suitors once they learn his political views. [from this NYT article–SRK]

    (Gee, I think it’s even worse for them than for 40-something single neocon Jewish women in NYC.)

    I know for a fact that I would have had more sex, and maybe a long-term relationship by now, if the social arena was not so polarized. Spirited argument is sexy to me (think William Powell and Myrna Loy), and a marriage with someone who disagrees with me on various issues sounds energizing and playful and always interesting. (I would insert a link to Mary Matalin and James Carville here, but I think Carville is just too weird.) But most people don’t feel that way anymore, at least not liberals. Champions of diversity, they want lovers and friends just like themselves.

    It’s probably as good a time as any to mention that Atsushi and I are no longer a couple. Though it’s not something I’m eager to discuss, I’ll say that we’re still friends, there was no animosity, the long-distance thing was hard on both of us, it’s very unfortunate but we’re fine, et c. My buddies have been doing a great job of making sure I don’t spend these few months sitting on the floor of my darkened apartment drinking Laphroaig from the bottle and listening to Dusty in Memphis.

    Anyway, one of Atsushi’s many wonderful qualities is that he knows how to argue. He’s perfectly willing to discuss sticky topics such as World War II and hold his ground, while giving you an honest hearing and without being an asshole. Most other Japanese gay guys I know are…well, Japanese: they just avoid unpleasant subjects, including politics. Most American gay guys here assume, when politics comes up, that I’m a Democrat. And most other foreign gay guys put any right-ish tendencies down to my being the usual simple-minded, unworldly Yank.

    Eric links to the Kesher Talk post above and adds:

    I’ve noticed this for years, and it seems to have gotten worse. You’d think that none of these liberal activists knew that about half the country voted for Bush, and the other half for Kerry.

    Like many people, Judith notices that Republicans don’t behave this way towards Democrat friends. I think the reason is that Republicans are very accustomed to keeping their mouths shut, to not telling friends and coworkers how they voted. In some cases, their very livelihood depends on being “in the closet.”

    Have things really gotten that bad in New York and Philadelphia? I only spend a few days a year home, so I have no real way to judge. The friends I visit tend to be those with whom I’ve been debating politics since those 3 a.m. conversations in college, so nothing about my policy positions is news to them; and we still have good, rousing arguments. When politics comes up in a conversation with someone I’ve just met, I generally say what I think as firmly but genially as possible, and that’s that. Sometimes I’ll have to answer a bewildered follow-up question (“How the hell could you not be in favor of gay marriage?!”), but the discussion usually remains respectful.

    That said, it really is true sometimes that people will practically refuse to believe that I’m not a lefty fellow-traveler. The probability that a random urban gay guy who works in educational publishing is a liberal is very high, so I don’t mind the initial assumption that I am. What’s irksome is the half-hour of incredulity–expressed through lots of hamming, mugging, and double-takes–I have to work through to convince people that, you know, I really am right-libertarian on most issues and tend to vote Republican. No one likes being told what he thinks, especially by people who purport to be open-minded.

    Added on 3 November: Eric is trying to decide which senatorial candidate to vote for. I don’t envy him.

    Ooh, and, I almost forgot about this old but very good post from Megan McArdle:

    When the Q&A came around, unsurprisingly, the majority of the questioners turned out to be Democrats. And every single one of their questions started off something like this:

    “I think that one of the major problems we face, as Democrats, is that our policies are all about nuance and deep intellectual focus on maximizing the welfare of the public at large, while Republicans are a pack of venal liars who want to kill poor people and minorities. The American public seems to be far too stupid to understand the subtle genius of our ideas. How do we, as Democrats, overcome that?”

    The answer, from the Democrats on the dais, generally went something like this.

    “While the rest of the American public may not actually be drooling lackwits who should herded into camps for their own protection, they are clearly struck insensible by the blinding power of our intellects. As their voting record demonstrates, they are constitutionally incapable of comprehending the overwhelming superiority of the Democratic platform on the merits. We will have to make sure that this election cycle we speak very slowly, and clearly, and make our visuals on very large sheets of construction paper with pictures of puppies. We may also consider lying, since after all, the shameless mendacity of the Republicans is the only reason anyone ever votes for them.”

    Now, is all this embarassing self-congratulation because Democrats are inherently arrogant bastards, crude elitists out of touch with the simple, homespun virtues of the common man? Or because losers need to lie to themselves in order to salve their egos? I’ve heard both explanations from Republicans who need to get out more.

    What is true is that Democrats, right now, have more ability to insulate themselves from being confronted with the views of the other side. Geographically, they can isolate themselves into coastal cities, which is why I never met any Republicans except my grandparents until I went to business school. And informationally, provided that they don’t watch Fox news, don’t subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, and keep the radio tuned to NPR, they can keep from ever hearing if the other side has a good argument.

    She was writing specifically about the Howard Dean phenomenon, such as it was at that point; but her points are certainly still relevant.


    The ring

    Posted by Sean at 00:51, October 24th, 2006

    Sigh.

    I realize this site has turned into GoReadClassicalValues.com, but I happen to think that Bill Quick is absolutely wrong about the point Eric makes here. That Eric didn’t digress from his discussion to flesh out yet again why he doesn’t support the push for gay marriage does not mean that his statement has “no logical support whatsoever.”

    Eric clarifies what he meant:

    I agree with Bill that “percentages do not constitute logical refutation,” and I did not mean to imply that just because 70% of the public disfavors same sex marriage, that this means they are not bigoted. However, if opposition to same sex marriage is defined as bigotry, then it flows that they (and most of the leaders of both parties) are. I just don’t think that, considering all the circumstances, opposition to same sex marriage constitutes bigotry, and I’d say that even if only 20% of the country opposed it. I try to reserve the “bigot” label for people who want to do things like call me names, beat me up, put me in prison, or kill me.

    I’m not sure that bigot has to be reserved for people who express their beliefs through confrontation; intolerance can be expressed by quietly cutting people socially or declining to employ them or the like. But I’m also not sure that Bill Quick has been following the gay marriage argument as it’s developed over the last ten years.

    It used to be that you had Andrew Sullivan and, for a few occasional paragraphs, Bruce Bawer arguing in favor of marriage or civil unions of some kind in the not-too-distant future, and you had the case in Hawaii, and that was pretty much it. At that point, most arguments from the opposition were confined to “gays don’t actually fall in love and care for each other” and “most gay couplings are transient.” Those arguments were, I think, often based on bigotry: people who didn’t like gays much to begin with were all too willing to take Friday night in the Castro as representative of all gay life everywhere, pronounce us all sub-adult, and not dig any deeper before considering the issue closed.

    But things really have moved on in the intervening decade or so. Skeptics began discussing how a legal change in the definition of marriage could affect the choices of straight couples who planned to have children. The most sound thinkers among gay advocates (Dale Carpenter and Jonathan Rauch, notably) deliberated over the same issues and often made good counter-arguments; but at the same time, the pro-gay side was frequently stuck in a “we DO TOO love our partners!” mode that the debate had moved beyond. And “self-esteem,” that all but infallible indicator that malarkey is on the menu, was frequently invoked.

    I realize that I haven’t proved that, say, Maggie Gallagher and Stanley Kurtz aren’t bigoted against homosexuals. But even if we could prove they were, does that mean much in policy terms? We’re still left with the fact that they’ve taken the time to research and construct arguments for their positions, and that those arguments have to be answered on their own terms. I’d much rather see gays and those who sympathize with us keep at that than prolong the (already seemingly interminable) back-and-forth over who’s a bigot.


    I said, “In these shoes? / I doubt you’d survive”

    Posted by Sean at 05:20, October 21st, 2006

    An old friend sent me a link to this column from the St. Paul Pioneer Press. I agree with her that the angle it takes is interesting:

    In every movement to right a perceived social wrong, a fringe element with no apparent social upside (who hence emphasize their differences from the traditional) becomes the image of the enemy to supporters of the status quo. In this case, these are the leather- and tutu-clad lads who wind up in defense-of-marriage literature and DVDs. Only after a movement has gained some visibility, some credibility and some respectability do suit-and-tie supporters, people invested in society with something material to lose, risk identifying with it.

    Here’s where the paradox of rising expectations kicks in. Even as overt public discrimination against same-sex couples grows smaller, the inequities of law loom larger. The Williams Institute study suggests same-sex couples are more at ease declaring their relationships. They do so, however, with expectations of expanding their participation in society on equal terms with heterosexuals. Taking a risk, they are impatient with barriers to fulfillment of expectations of equality.

    Of course, that still begs the question of what “equality” looks like, and I don’t think that Westover’s seeming conclusion that it requires the legalization of gay marriage follows very well from his own argument. Nevertheless, one useful thing he does is to consider the push for SSM in the larger context of the American entitlement mentality and how interest groups jockey for government goodies. (Reading some opponents of gay marriage, you could get the impression that decent Americans were all self-effacingly going about their business when all of a sudden the fags and dykes burst in and introduced self-centeredness into public policy debates.) Anyway, it’s worth a read if you’re not heartily sick of the subject already.

    *******

    Speaking of tired subjects, music today is apparently tuneless, witless, and derivative. This is the opinion of Sting, which is pretty rich, considering the upscale adult-contemporary crap he’s shoveled at the public on most of his releases over the last ten years. Boring and pretentious–not exactly a winning combination.

    I guess I don’t buy a whole lot of new music by musicians I don’t already like, either, anymore. I was pleasantly surprised that Cassie‘s album lived up to the hype–though “Me & U” is getting the seriously-overplayed treatment here in Japan at the moment. The new Janet is okay, but the last week or two has been mostly a Full-Figured British Diva moment in my household: Alison, Kirsty, and some Gabrielle.


    She thinks she’s Brenda Starr

    Posted by Sean at 04:08, October 20th, 2006

    I hesitate to link yet another post of Eric’s, lest it appear that he has ties to The Scourge of International Homoism, Expats in Japan chapter; but as usual, he has one of the more sane takes on a topic that everyone’s nattering about at the moment:

    I think that most American voters (even the 70% who oppose gay marriage) take a dim view of persecuting homosexuals by invading their privacy. Homosexual witch hunts should have died with McCarthy, and the reasoning behind reviving them in the current political context is so convoluted that it would make sense only to a bigot.

    I’m not saying that the Republican Party is free of bigotry, because it isn’t. But if the activists keep this stuff up and ordinary voters find out about it (I’m not sure whether they have) pretty soon someone’s going to ask which party has more bigots.

    Ann Althouse makes sense, too:

    I think aggressive characters like our “lefty blogger” think that uncovering gay Republicans will disgust social conservatives and change their voting behavior. […] But, honestly, I think these creepy, gleeful efforts at outing will only make social conservatives more conservative, and they will continue to look to the Republican party to serve their needs.

    The truly bizarre contention one occasionally hears is that somehow this will all contribute to making it easier for gays to come out of the closet. The more gays outed, the more out gays there are, and the less isolated and fringe-y we seem…or something. The problem, besides the ethical infraction of invading people’s privacy, is that the tone is all wrong. The petty vindictiveness on display is of a kind that most people associate more with a junior high school girls’ locker room than with adults making serious arguments about social policy. It gives social conservatives more reason to think of gays as suffering from arrested development and poisons the atmosphere for gays thinking about whether now would be a good time to come out. Brill.


    Everybody out

    Posted by Sean at 05:27, October 10th, 2006

    Joe and I disagree over outing, but his approach is measured and thoughtful, and he’s capable of discussing the issue without going into hysterics of the those-bitches-deserve-to-FRYYYYYYYY! variety.

    This is how he’s put it most recently:

    Similarly, it’s time we all stop buying in to the “straight person assumption” and with it the whole notion of “outing” as a violation of privacy. Let’s recognize that the damage done by a life lived in the closet is harmful to all of us.

    Joe approvingly links to Louis Bayard, who wrote this in Salon.com:

    But I do believe that every man or woman who courts public office must be held to some public standard of honesty–of coherence.

    The decision to come out is personal. So is the decision to run for office. Why should the second choice be privileged over the first? Why should homosexuality be privileged over heterosexuality? Why should a same-sex partner (Foley has apparently had one for many years) be any less a subject of discussion than a wife or husband?

    Perhaps I’m just too cynical; or perhaps that second paragraph is really as bafflingly illogical as I think it is. Politicians tend to trot out their families while campaigning because they help their image and make them more electable; mouthy, socially inept wives and bratty children have been the bane of campaign managers for generations. Being openly gay is still a great way to make yourself unelectable in many districts. If both partners agree to keep their relationship secret (or at least not to make an issue of it) or an unattached gay candidate just doesn’t discuss his or her dating habits, I can’t see where the lack of “coherence” is.

    Besides, if we move from theory to practice, we need to decide who has the power to determine who deserves to be outed; and as is so often the case, those most eager to play Enforcer are those whom we can least trust to exercise prudence. It’s all very well to say that being a practicing homosexual while supporting anti-gay policies is hypocritical, but it simply isn’t true that all of us can agree on what’s “anti-gay.” I’ve been out for a decade, but I’m against hate crimes laws and gay marriage as it’s currently being campaigned for, and I just do not concede that that’s hypocritical.

    Do gays in powerful positions who live closeted lives hurt the rest of us–I mean, in some intrinsic sense by not contributing to the visibility of gays as ordinary citizens? You can make a case that they do. But there are lots of private decisions that hurt other people. Parents who don’t teach their children manners cause harm to the children themselves and, conceivably, to everyone who encounters them for the rest of their lives; even so, we don’t take kids away from their parents unless there’s serious and immediate harm being done. It’s a plain fact of life that we can’t always intervene in people’s lives to stop them from doing things we disapprove of. We can only shun them or try to persuade them to change their behavior.

    Added later: Eric has another post about the outing angle, to which Connie has added a comment. Surprise! I think they’re both worth reading. Eric:

    For those who didn’t grow up in a gay ghetto, sodomy laws existed until fairly recently in a number of states, and while they weren’t enforced, they reflect a tradition which was once mainstream. To deny this is to deny reality as well as history. Times were changing gradually, but the “old guard” still exists, and it fought hard to keep the sodomy laws in the minority of states which still had them. For the most part, this old guard has to content itself by spearheading opposition to same sex marriage.

    While that’s what leads gay activists to denounce opposition to same sex marriage as “bigotry,” the fact that 70% of the public (including the leadership of the Democratic Party) also think the country is not ready for same sex marriage seems to receive less attention.

    However, admitting opposition to same sex marriage, mainstream though it is, is these days an easier way to be called a bigot than voicing opposition to affirmative action.

    The result of all this is that homosexuality remains the sensitive topic it has always been. A new taboo has quickly arisen to replace an old taboo.

    Too many gays and supporters of gays take an approach to “debate” that involves deliberately raising homosexuality as an issue and then flipping out on people who actually say what they deeply believe and feel about it. One would think the hazards of such an approach would be obvious: people who feel baited tend to tune out and assume their interlocutors are incapable of winning an argument without stacking the deck. I sometimes wonder whether there are people who remain closeted simply because the effort to demonstrate that they don’t have the approve-of-me-or-else attitude that the public faces of gayness so often project is just too exhausting.

    Added still later: This via Michael:

    Middlebury College is this year for the first time giving students who identify themselves as gay in the admissions process an “attribute” — the same flagging of an application that members of ethnic minority groups, athletes, alumni children and others receive, according to Shawn Rae Passalacqua, assistant director of admissions at Middlebury. His announcement surprised many of those who attended the session, and who said that they had never heard of a college having such a policy. (Officials of the Point Foundation, a group that provides scholarships to gay students, especially those denied financial support from their families, said that they had never heard of such a policy.)

    Passalacqua said that gay students bring “a unique quality” to the college, which he said tries hard not “to be too homogeneous.” Of 6,200 applications last year, 5 students noted their gay identities in their application essays and another 50-plus applicants cited their membership in gay-straight alliances. Passalacaqua said that Middlebury admissions officers were also likely to look favorably and give an admissions tip to “straight allies” of gay students — not just out of support for that view, but because a college benefits from having people who are “bridge builders.”

    Yeah, because, you know, if there’s one place in America it’s difficult to find gay youths, it’s the hoity-toity universities and liberal arts colleges. As Michael says, “In my opinion, [a measure such as this] will do nothing more than lend credence to the cries of the far Right that we’re demanding special treatment.” He was too diplomatic to point out the disgusting condescension involved in talking about gay students as the spice that gets stirred in with the Normal People to keep the place from being too homogeneous. Or in giving points to straight students who play the “some of my best friends are gay!” card. (The scholarship, on the other hand, strikes me as a nice idea.)


    Reflection without introspection

    Posted by Sean at 21:53, September 18th, 2006

    Former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey’s memoir is excerpted in this week’s New York magazine.

    I was prepared to warm to the guy. However self-serving his initial reasons for coming out as he did may have been, McGreevey’s had nearly two years to do some hard thinking since then; and there’s nothing we Americans like more than a redemption story. Also, I’m not really worried about whether, in general, McGreevey will do good work for the causes that employ him from here on; it seems almost certain that he will.

    But a good portion of the gay press has been touting him as a potentially worthy and worthwhile public representative for our interests. My sense–and I’m just going by the New York excerpt here–is still that we can do better. This is how McGreevey describes the beginning of his affair with then-aide Golan Cipel (or alleged affair, since Cipel denies that anything beyond sexual harassment by McGreevey ever happened between them):

    It was wrong to do. I wasn’t an ordinary citizen anymore. There were state troopers parked outside. My wife was in the hospital. And he was my employee. But I took Golan by the hand and led him upstairs to my bed.

    My core group of supporters still felt [when the scandal was about to break because of Cipel’s threatened lawsuit] I should serve out my term, but not run for reelection. I wasn’t convinced that was penance enough for my transgressions. What I did was not just foolish, but unforgivable. Hiring a lover on state payroll, no matter the gender, was wrong. I needed to take my punishment—and to begin my healing out of the fishbowl of politics.

    Having sex with state troopers outside? Hot!

    Uh, I mean, the logic of that first paragraph eludes me. I can see the point about its being a betrayal of voters’ trust to court scandal just when you’ve ascended to the job they elected you to do. I’m not sure whether cheating on your unwitting wife is worse when she’s in the hospital, but her having just borne your child would certainly make it more difficult to leave you if she decided to do so. And no, one should not be propositioning employees, who may not feel in a position to refuse without repercussions.

    It remains difficult to shake the feeling that McGreevey sees his coming out as a way to spin potential political and legal lemons into lemonade–a convenient opportunity to start a less pained and stressed-out life but not a moral or ethical necessity. He has an interesting way of using the word integrated to refer to “not feeding different people different lies to get what you want from each of them,” but one is left wondering whether he thinks that approach is good and right or just eats up less space on his BlackBerry. And as for his “punishment,” well…the gay political machine may not get you into the White House, but it’s powerful enough in liberal circles in the Mid-Atlantic to be a good place for a soft landing from the governorship of New Jersey. Especially if the alternative is a costly sexual harassment suit.

    Homosexuality isn’t a club, and the guy is clearly as gay as the rest of us. We own him now. I’m just not sure why we’re exhorted to be proud of him.

    Added on 20 September: Joe has, if anything, more apserity to direct at McGreevey’s public grandstanding than I did. He begins by quoting an AP story:

    AP:

    Once publicly opposed to gay marriage, former New Jersey Governor James E. McGreevey now says he spoke out against the idea as a way to keep his homosexuality hidden.

    “I did not want to be identified as being gay, and it was the safe place to be,” McGreevey said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press. “I wanted to embrace the antagonist. I wanted to be against it. That’s the absurdity.”

    No, the absurdity is the fame, fortune and acceptance he’s getting for his despicable, craven, cowardly and profoundly immoral behavior.

    I disagree with Joe that McGreevey is a good example of justifiable outing. There’s no evidence that he expected to use his power to circumvent the law against gay marriage he supported. The man went so far as to marry two women, after all.

    I do find the use of the word absurd very interesting, implying as it does that McGreevey’s conduct was irrational. Poor thing, he wasn’t quite thinking clearly, et c. (Chris at Gay Orbit seems as aghast as Joe, but he also implicitly labels McGreevey’s actions “crazy.”) In fact, opposing gay marriage was an eminently sensible, reasonable, even inevitable move for someone who’d made the conscious decision to place his highest priority on fulfilling his lust for political power. McGreevey himself acknowledges as much later in the article, saying, “I was proud to be against gay marriage because that’s where I thought a majority of New Jerseyans were. That’s successful politics.” One wonders whether this joker has any deep convictions at all.