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    She looks like she washes with Comet

    Posted by Sean at 06:11, May 25th, 2006

    Apparently, someone is a hypocritical bitch who needs to stop criticizing others for slamming people without substantiation. I just which I could figure out whether it’s Wynken, Blynken, or Nod. Since Michael’s a friend and we haven’t gotten into a good argument lately, I will say that he’d make a better case for himself if he produced at least one example of Gay Patriot’s coming down on the side of spinmeistering and partisanship rather than principle.

    The issue beneath the sniping is an interesting one. What brought it all on was the announcement that Patrick Guerriero is leaving Log Cabin Republicans. I’ve often wondered just what LCR’s priorities are in practice, as opposed to on its mission statement; and I’ve disagreed with choices it’s made. (Not that it should be laboring to satisfy a non-member such as me.) But prioritizing among principles when real life requires compromise isn’t an easy thing, and I don’t know that harshing on people who make a good-faith effort but don’t get it right is always the best response.

    I don’t think it’s unfair to ask the guys at Gay Patriot, “Look, just how far would you be willing to go in sacrificing gay issues for the sake of party loyalty?” I go to Gay Patriot infrequently, but I generally read up on everything posted since my last visit, and I don’t think I’ve really seen that addressed. It’s not an unreasonable question, especially since the blog’s original proprietor was only too happy to use the novelty of his gayness + conservatism to seek attention when he started out.

    I’ve met plenty of gays who style themselves independents but are, on principles and issues, pretty much conservative down the line. They fear that, despite the “big tent” rhetoric, being a Republican in practical terms means buying into a culture of Red State reverse-snobbery and constantly conceding that now is not the time–close election coming up, social fabric still recovering from the 60s, more important to deal with Social Security, et c.–to push for explicitly gay-friendly policy. The war made the last presidential election a no-brainer for most of them, but there are plenty of future elections to worry about. (When I left New York for Tokyo, I re-registered at my parents’ address in Pennsylvania, so I’ll be able to join in the Santorum-Casey fun this year.) LCR made serious misjudgments two years ago in the run-up to the election. If its new leadership proves to be more savvy and consistent, who knows? It might get existing gay Republicans interested again and help reassure those who’ve balked at joining up until now.

    He’s a walker in the rain / He’s a dancer in the dark

    Posted by Sean at 05:23, May 24th, 2006

    Ross of Romeo Mike’s Gumption says this after an extensive explanation of why he doesn’t support same-sex marriage:

    It’s because of these kinds of people who shout the loudest for gay marriage that I’m so suspicious of it. They demand that they deserve “equal” respect, but look at them. Apparently for some, respect’s not earned, just demanded through vile, childish narcissism.

    He’s not speaking in the abstract: There’s a link to comments on the blog of a gay Catholic Australian blogger after he appeared on a television show to discuss his position against SSM. If you’re at all familiar with these types of, uh, discussions, you probably don’t need to click through to know what you’ll find there.

    Anyway, I know I’ve banged this gong plenty already, but I will never, ever get used to this stuff. When will people get it through their heads that you can’t coerce people into approving of you? You can, possibly, coerce them into postures of approval, temporarily, through political machinations. But the current climate indicates that–and can you blame them?–they’re not going to sit still for it for long.

    From my perspective as a resident of Japan, one of the saddest things about idiot gay-lefty rhetoric is the way its campus proponents manage to infect foreign students with it. Then they bring it back here and are thrown off balance when it doesn’t square with reality, often on more basic levels than that of the SSM debate. A close American friend recently described how a rather clingy Japanese employee, having been essentially disowned by his father after coming out, asked him for advice about how to fix things. My friend is a patient, gentlemanly guy and responded on the order of, “Well, I can tell you what I would do, but I’m from a different culture, and the way I see my choices is different.”

    I wish I were more patient and gentlemanly myself. When asked similar questions, I’ve generally responded along the lines of “Why didn’t you think about this before coming out to him?” Western-style individualism doesn’t, after all, guarantee that you’ll get everything you want; it just allows you to prioritize things for yourself–as opposed to having them prioritized for you by the clan, village, or state–and go after what’s at the top of your list without impediment. I can empathize with the belief that candidly coming out to your parents is preferable to a lifetime of question-dodging and waffling, but if you decide to do so without preparing mentally to deal with the worst-case scenario, you’re asking for trouble. I’m not defending parents who disown their children for being gay, only making what should be the common-sense point that you can’t control other people’s behavior, let alone their feelings. Having the backbone to follow through on your beliefs even if you’re despised for them is part of being a free citizen.

    And likewise with relationships themselves. Positions of the “if you don’t respect us as mature, centered adults, we’ll hold our breath until we turn blue” variety are incoherent. They’re also counter-productive. In external terms, whininess is a PR disaster. In internal terms, signalling to young gay people just getting their lives in order that it’s okay to blame all their problems on the failure of straight society to confer “dignity” on them stunts their growth. Adult resilience is attained by confronting obstacles and testing your own strength in the course of overcoming them. Until SSM advocates learn to focus on practical obstacles to keeping relationships together and learn to keep a lid on the self-pity, they’re not helping anyone except anti-gays on the far right.

    On the ground

    Posted by Sean at 10:42, May 23rd, 2006

    There were a bunch of books I’d wanted to pick up in the City–yes, you can order on Amazon, and I do, but it’s not the same as the delicious feeling of wandering through a bookstore with loads of shelves of books you can touch–but the books got crowded out by bookish conversations with the college crew. Not that that was a bad thing. I enjoyed it. But it meant that I confronted the airport with very little to read on the plane and was looking for something heftier to supplement the magazines I’d picked up.

    Well, airport newsstands being what they are, there was nothing remotely interesting but Mary Cheney’s new memoir Now It’s My Turn . So I picked it up and figured that for once I’d read the book everyone’s talking about while everyone’s talking about it.

    One thing that’s struck me as weird: Am I the only one who’s noticed the similarity in title with Nancy Reagan’s My Turn ? Maybe I really have just missed it, but I’ve been waiting and waiting for people interviewing Cheney to ask her, “So, when you were writing your memoir of being a member of an executive branch Republican’s immediate family who had to undergo a lot of public speculation you thought crossed a line or two, you chose a title that echoed that of Nancy Reagan’s book. Was that intentional?” Isn’t that an obvious question, especially considering the implied vengefulness of the phrasing?

    Cheney, of course, doesn’t have fun, gossipy stuff like borrowed couture, scheduling by astrological counseling, and chilly parent-child relationships to talk about (or to give readers the wicked fun of watching her carefully avoid). Her strength is that she comes across as genuine, thoughtful, unassuming, and centered. Her book is a good corrective to the image of gays–especially lesbians–as grim, humorless, squallingly resentful of parents, and inclined toward groupthink.

    Gay Patriot West thinks It’s My Turn may be the most important book addressing a gay topic in the last few years. I think he may be right–though he doesn’t put it this way–in the sense that Cheney focuses not really on policy points (I found her a bit squishy in the way she presented her reasoning on the issues myself) but on the ways contact with reasonable gay people can affect people’s thinking. And, to a lesser extent, on the ways gay political figures work out the compromises they have to make when competing issues come into play. (Instapundit’s newest podcast features an interview with Cheney, BTW.)

    The weakest aspect of the book, in my view, was the depiction of the nuts and bolts of political campaigning. Politics junkies have heard most of it before. And if you have any queeny friends who work in event planning, they probably had more amusing venue-related emergencies over the last weekend than Cheney dredges up over two national campaigns lasting months each. That’s a credit to her in the sense that it may simply mean the campaign staff knew what it was doing, but as reading it gets kind of samey.

    Then again, this is the sort of book that was probably targeted at conservatives who want an insider look at household life with Lynne and Dick Cheney and may be curious about Mary’s lesbianism. In that sense, the mild tone, PG-rated expression, and family-oriented subject matter were probably a wise choice in addition to probably being the way she genuinely experienced the campaigns.


    Posted by Sean at 06:30, May 22nd, 2006

    So my friends Jon and Margaret are married now. Jon was the one I lived with here in the City when I was in grad school; he’s visited me in Japan a few times. Of course, you have a special relationship with each of your friends, but Jon and I did a lot of the sort of talking-about-your-hopes-for-yourself stuff you do in college and immediately afterward. Seeing him get together with Margaret–who not only got everyone’s approval but has become a trusted friend in her own right–has been wonderful over the last few years. Now they’re all official and stuff.

    Of course, with my usual absent-mindedness, I had to go and make things exciting for myself. I bought a new formal shirt last week and figured I’d pick up a new tie at the same time. I could’ve sworn the one I bought at Isetan was the one I’d just tried out. But apparently not. At 16:45 on Saturday, getting ready for the 18:00 wedding, I realized that even when I lengthened it all the way, my tie was too short. (Is a size 15 really that big even for Japan? Doesn’t matter in any case now.) Luckily, I used to live in Murray Hill, so I know I could shoot down from my hotel on 49th to Brooks Brothers a few blocks away and be back in twenty minutes if I kind of jogged it.

    But you know how it is when you’re in a hurry: Life gets a sense of mischief. So I get on the elevator from the 15th floor, and there are two women around my parents’ age already aboard. The buttons for the 9th, 8th, and 7th floors are pressed. One of the women smiles gaily and says, “Sorry–I’m a little preoccupied because my daughter’s getting married today, and we just kept pressing the wrong button until we finally managed to hit 7!” The sort of thing that would have been adorable during any other five-minute period of the weekend. I managed to smile back and wish Mother of Bride the best through my teeth, and we descended (very slowly) lobbyward.

    When I got to the shop, the guys in formalwear were merciless. “Cutting it a little close, huh, buddy?” Yeah, no kidding. To the point that as an insurance policy, I got a pre-tied number, too. Men in the audience will know this, but bow ties don’t necessarily come in standard sizes–the gourd-like bulges that you fold to make the bow are off a little from tie to tie, so it can take a few tries before you get a new one to look right. I didn’t have time for a few tries.

    I did, however, manage to get to the ceremony on time and with all parts where they were supposed to be. I didn’t even flag and start falling asleep during the reception, despite the evening hour and flowing alcohol. And the dancing.

    Between the wedding and the rest of the walking (we must have crossed the park four times yesterday) and the eating out and drinking, I certainly hope I can sleep on the plane back home to Tokyo today. Luckily, I’m still on Japan time, so I was wide awake at 5 a.m. I didn’t…this is how busy I was…have a chance to go to the bookstore even once, so I may be at the mercy of Hudson News for in-flight material when I get to JFK. Oh, or I could pop down to Grand Central in the time before my ride comes, I guess.

    Hope everyone else has a good Monday.

    With a twist

    Posted by Sean at 13:31, May 19th, 2006

    There have been a few comments over the last few days that I want to respond to, but life is interfering. I just got into New York for my friend’s wedding and am refreshing myself with a Bloody Mary in the hotel lobby while I wait to check in. It would be a perfect opportunity to snatch some time to post, but I’m feeling, you know, just a bit out of it. (I’m also mildly worried that I forgot to pack all components of my dinner jacket. I’m good at that kind of screw-up. I also once left my bag of souvenir green tea–about two dozen sachets for the various homefolks–sitting in the middle of my tatami room when I left for Narita Airport.) I’m kind of hoping not to get over my jet lag, since I have to fly back on Monday; the problem, of course, is that the danger hours for sleepiness when you go Tokyo > NY are around 7:00 or 8:00 p.m.–exactly when I want to be alert so I can enjoy quality time with my friends who are gathering. I see a series of desperate naps in my near future.

    Brokeback Mountain was the in-flight movie, BTW. While I’d kind of resisted seeing it (though a friend had basically convinced me to go this coming week when I get back to Tokyo), I figured, hey, I can spare two of my twelve hours in this fuselage. I liked it much more than I’d expected. I never thought I’d live to see the day when I said this, but I thought Jake Gyllenhaal was just as convincing as Heath Ledger. I didn’t think the movie revealed many fresh angles on the short story, but the one moment that did move me in a big, bad way was at the end when Ennis fastens the button on the shirt. There are few things more tender, sexy, and intimate than buttoning your man into his shirt. It’s like you’re putting on his armature before you send him out into the great, wide world. (For straight women, too, I’d assume?) I thought the moment was beautifully handled.

    Okay, before I start getting truly incoherent, I’m going to sign off for a while. Post-shower and nap, I may be in better condition to make a point about something or other.

    Once a queen, always a queen, says Welfare Queen

    Posted by Sean at 09:54, May 17th, 2006

    So that remark by John Stossel in the last week or so has drawn the predictable response (via the Washington Blade ):

    Promoting his new book “Myths, Lies & Downright Stupidity,” Mr. Stossel said: “There are these groups like Exodus International that says, ‘We can fix you. If you just pray, if you turn your life over to Jesus, we can make you straight.’ And I’ve talked to lots of people who supposedly were cured, and they were not.”

    “John Stossel’s assertion that homosexuals cannot change is an affront to the thousands of individuals, like me, who have experienced it,” said Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International.

    Mr. Chambers, who describes himself as a former homosexual, called Mr. Stossel’s remarks a “mischaracterization of our views and oversimplification of this issue.”

    Well, there are plenty of affronts to go around, there, Mr. Chambers. Plenty of us gays aren’t too happy about having it implied that our lives are about promiscuity, addiction, and bitchy exploitation.

    At Ex-Gay Watch, Mike Airhart has a fuller transcript of Stossel’s remarks, which are more carefully qualified than the soundbyte above would make them appear. Also at XGW, Daniel Gonzales has a post that indicates why it’s so difficult to take ex-gay advocates at their word on the efficacy of their programs. Melissa Fryear, who apparently spoke at a Love Won Out conference, defended her assertion that thousands of men and women have overcome homosexuality as follows [excerpted, of course]:

    One, organizations like Exodus International have been in existence for several decades. Currently, for example, there are over 125 member ministries throughout the world. Each of these individual ministries have participants ranging in number of a dozen to hundreds. Given the longevity of Exodus and its breadth of referral ministries, again, thousands of men and women have participated and overcome their struggle with homosexuality.

    In addition to Christian organizations, secular organizations and secular therapists such as Masters and Johnson and the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) have also been working for decades with thousands of men and women seeking to overcome their same-sex attraction. The therapists and clinicians associated with NARTH alone, for example, have seen over 1,000 clients since its inception.

    Finally, while you and/or your readers may not hold to a biblical worldview, as Christians our biblical witness of former homosexuals dates back to the first century. 1 Corinthians 6:11 states, “And such were some of you…” referencing men and women who once lived homosexually. Needless to say, in the millennia following, many have followed in those same footsteps.

    An XGW commenter named Joe Brummer responds with a point that should be obvious to anyone with so much as a modicum of understanding of statistics (about halfway down the thread): “She states in her email how she came up with the numbers, but then explains only how people have signed on to the programs. While millions of people sign on to weight watchers, a much smaller number stick with the program and actually succeed. I see this as the same.” Exactly. Plenty of organizations exist long-term without being able to offer strong evidence, let alone proof, that they’re helping people to achieve their aims. Zen Buddhism has been trying to help people attain enlightenment for far longer than Exodus has been around, but I’m guessing that Fryear would not take that as an indication that it’s actually doing so (even if its adherents claim to be satisfied with the results).

    And that last paragraph has to be one of the most astonishing displays of disingenuous PR-maneuvering I’ve ever seen…and remember, darlings, I follow Japanese politics. Who on Earth would listen to a statement that “thousands of people have made that decision [to leave the practice of homosexuality]” and assume that it included everyone in the last two millennia? There is simply no way to take that as a good-faith statement made in the expectation that its auditors would understand what was being omitted. If we’re going to be consistent in our math and it’s just a few thousand people since AD 1 we’re talking about, that’s a handful a year worldwide. Not exactly encouraging (assuming your idea of “encouraging” is the possibility that you can leave homosexuality behind).

    And yes, I know: Gay activists massage statistics all the time, too. It’s just as wrong when they do it. My point is that this quackery is bad no matter who does it, and it frustrates the search for the truth. As things stand now, no one appears to have reliable data. The figures that are offered always rely on testimonials, which are notoriously unreliable when used by themselves.

    To judge from the commentators whose tone suggests the lowest level of axe-grinding, it’s at least possible for a tiny percentage of highly-motivated people to change their behavior long-term. Whether that’s just a behavioral adaptation or an actual change in sexual orientation as experienced by the subject is probably impossible to prove. And perhaps it doesn’t matter much to those who succeed in learning to function as heterosexuals if their goal is getting behavior that they consider sinful or sick under control. But it matters if “reparative” therapists and ex-gay support programs are going to make flat statements of the “Change is possible” variety. I’m not much moved by arguments predicated on the idea that selling people false hope is okay if it’s for a worthy cause.

    Far from home

    Posted by Sean at 05:56, May 14th, 2006

    The Washington Blade has an op-ed by an American who’s living in the Netherlands with his Dutch partner:

    I’d like to come home to live in America. No, let me be clearer. I’d like to be able to live in America. But I cannot.

    Even though I am a native-born U.S. citizen who lived in America until I was 42 years old, I have been exiled by U.S. law. I am a “love exile.” Because I am gay, I am a second-class U.S. citizen, lacking the basic right to live in America together with my non-U.S. partner.

    The use of “second-class citizen” in the context of the gay marriage debate makes me curl up at the edges. I do think it’s more apt in this case.

    The problem is two-fold: (a) We who are abroad are politically invisible, and (b) a lot of Americans simply do not believe that it is difficult to bring someone to live in America. Even my well-informed friends in the U.S. will say to me, “But you can marry in Massachusetts!”

    That is irrelevant, because immigration is a federal issue. Or, “Surely Rik can get a green card!” or “There are so many foreigners here, I’m sure you can find a way for Rik.” But we can’t.

    Moreover, current U.S. policy is causing a massive brain drain. Thousands of our best-educated and experienced professional people are leaving the U.S. as love exiles, and we are taking our U.S. earned qualifications with us.

    “Massive” may be an overstatement, but the number of gays taking their credentials and productivity abroad to be with their partners is certainly considerable. (People really do seem to be blown away by how difficult it is for a highly-qualified foreigner to get a green card.) In East Asia, the issues are somewhat different from in Europe; here, what makes things easier is just that there are a lot of jobs for foreigners. It’s certainly not the presence of partnership rights. But if the pull factors are often different, the results are often the same.

    Of course, immigration is a complex issue (something you could easily forget listening to people bellow past each other over the last several weeks). If nothing else, Robert Bragar’s story (website for his advocacy group here) is a good corrective to the idea that gay unions are all “transient.” You don’t leave a comfortable life and career trajectory to spend the rest of your days in an unknown country for someone who just happens to be a good lay.

    Lame duck

    Posted by Sean at 05:01, May 14th, 2006

    Okay, Jun’ichiro Koizumi isn’t technically a lame duck because he’s leaving his post as head of state by choice, but anyway….

    The news outlets here, naturally, have been keeping close watch on how things are developing within the LDP, given that Prime Minister Koizumi plans to step down in September. Most of the updates are pretty boring, so I haven’t been commenting on them. The Yomiuri has a nice summary of things to date up today, though:

    Even members of the Mori faction, headed by former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, which has managed to maintain a semblance of unity, are having difficulty reaching a consensus on fielding one candidate in the election, indicating that the influence of the faction on their membership is declining.

    At a press conference Friday, LDP General Council Chairman Fumio Kyuma said it was no longer in agreement with the recent trend for factions to choose candidates or take members’ opinions into consideration to field a single candidate, referring to the failure of the Mori faction, the largest in the party, to reach an agreement on fielding a single candidate.

    Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe and former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda of the Mori faction are seen as increasingly likely to run in the LDP presidential election, which could signal a split of the faction. But the Mori faction may not be the only faction that will have two candidates competing for the top LDP post.

    Oddly, the article doesn’t mention that Koizumi himself was once a member of the Mori faction; his relationship with his former mentor has been strained at times. (Mori ticked the Prime Minister off by commenting against the perceived rashness of his threat to dissolve the lower house last year over Japan Post privatization.) Koizumi has been signaling that he wants factional string-pulling to be kept to a minimum in the selection of the next party leader:

    “It’s no longer easy to unify (a factional candidate). The old LDP is gone,” Koizumi told reporters Tuesday night. “There is no way to stop them if they wish to run.”

    The comment was widely viewed as a move to keep former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori in check as Mori was moving to select a candidate who will have the unanimous support of his faction.

    Both Abe and Fukuda are members of the Mori faction, to which Koizumi once belonged.

    Mori had apparently wanted to avoid rivalry between Abe and Fukuda as it could split his faction, and thus chip away his clout.

    Whatever you may think of Koizumi’s policies, the man has charisma; few other politicians gunning for the LDP presidency and prime ministership do (though I’ve always liked Fukuda and was disappointed two years ago when scandal forced him to resign as Chief Cabinet Secretary). Many of Koizumi’s brash promises of reform have been abandoned for the sake of political maneuvering, and those that have gone through have usually been watered down. There’s a lot of political time between now and September, and whether Koizumi’s approach will live on after him remains to be seen.


    Posted by Sean at 04:40, May 14th, 2006

    A well-intended proposal was introduced by some concerned citizens yesterday:

    The annual number of persons who commit suicide having topped 30000 for seven years running, some non-profit organizations and families of suicides began on 13 May to collect signatures on a petition seeking the institution of a society-wide suicide prevention law, provisionally called “The Fundamental Measure Against Suicide.” Signatures were collected in seven places nationwide: Akita, Tokyo, Kanagawa, Kyoto, Osaka, Fukuoka, and Saga.

    The plan is to collect 30000 signatures, to match the annual number of suicides, and to submit the proposal to both houses of the Diet next month. Supporters plan to work on Diet members of both ruling and opposition parties to get the fundamental law enacted through the legislative process.

    Tokyo wants to decrease the number of suicides by at least 5000 annually by 2015, and the proposed law would make suicide prevention a federal responsibility.

    Given the Dr. Phil-ization of American culture, this may be hard for some of my compatriots to register, but psychotherapy is seriously underdeveloped in Japan. There are any number of reasons for that. Japanese people learn from a young age to brazen their way through sadness and depression without letting them show. Let alone talking about them directly. Let alone talking about them directly with someone who’s not a family member or teacher. Of course, people will admit to feeling kind of blue or being in a bad mood every now and then, but people aren’t taught to identify signs of serious trouble in either themselves or others.

    Could some kind of federal initiative help with that? Possibly on that last point, in the sense of providing education and maybe more trained counselors in known pressure cookers such as schools. (I don’t know that simply bringing more attention to the issue would help much; Japanese citizens are already plenty aware that they have a high rate of suicide, not all of which can be attributed to noble attempts to save the family or company honor after some massive screw-up happens.) For people to feel okay about seeking help, acculturation probably needs to change at the household and neighborhood level, and those sorts of shifts don’t play to the federal government’s strengths.

    Okinawa governor relents (a bit) on Futenma relocation

    Posted by Sean at 23:27, May 11th, 2006

    The governor of Okinawa has caved, at least provisionally:

    Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine on Thursday gave broad agreement to a government plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station to Camp Schwab’s coastal area as part of plans to realign U.S. bases in Japan.

    Inamine, however, stressed he had yet to fully approve the government plan, saying, “There is no change in the basic stance.” He then said, “I’d like to make efforts to incorporate the prefecture’s concerns in the discussion process with the central government,” indicating the prefecture would again ask the central government to build a temporary heliport at Camp Schwab as a measure to alleviate the dangers connected with the Futenma base until the relocation is completed.

    Inamine initially opposed the government plan, but changed his position as he judged that it would be better to push the prefecture’s demand for government subsidies and development programs ahead of Cabinet approval, sources said.

    Of course: nothing like subsidies to motivate you to play ball, huh? Okinawa being Japan’s least-rich prefecture, it has particular incentive to be pragmatic.