Saturday, October 29, 2011

I've been appointed ...

... to a three-year term on the Alexandria (Va.) Commission on HIV/AIDS. When I got home from the partner/counsel retreat last night, I found the big envelope from the city clerk's office waiting for me in the mail. I have been involved with HIV activities since the eighties, when I volunteered at a clinic and then started and ran a church-based HIV food-service ministry.

Monday, October 24, 2011

My neighborhood is unique, just like all the others.

Descriptions of neighborhoods, at least in the D.C. area, seem to be written out of a manual of form paragraphs. Residents of any given neighborhood will gladly tell you that their neighborhood has the feel of a small town, as opposed to the soulless suburban sprawl of that other neighborhood across the tracks. Who would like to guess what the residents of that other neighborhood across the tracks say?

Never mind that if all neighborhoods are unique in the same way, none of them are unique at all. Never mind either that by "small town," people typically mean "theme-park version of a small town for transplants whose closest previous exposure to small-town life was growing up in Queens rather than Manhattan." For example, my neighborhood, despite its vaunted "small-town" feel, has big-city attractions such as a wide variety of good ethnic restaurants and a gay-themed art gallery, things for which people do not normally move from big cities to small towns.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Quote of the week

"It needs to be said that the era of capitalist accumulation, to adopt their lingo, has been the most prosperous time in the history of humankind. In the 800 years before 1820, income per head across the world was static and so was life expectancy. Life wasn't much more than a matter of choosing which noxious disease to die from. In the 200 years of industrial capitalism, income per head has risen by 800 per cent. Life expectancy has tripled and backbreaking work has declined, especially for children, who now do something unheard of in both the medieval era and Jerusalem, namely go to school.

* * *

"The thing to remember about the new Jerusalem is that we will never get there."

— Philip Collins, The Times of London

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Where the boys are

I've previously commented that in a subset of gay maledom, people want to self-identify as boys forever. Jung gave us a pertinent concept:
Puer aeternus. Latin for "eternal child," used in mythology to designate a child-god who is forever young; psychologically it refers to an older man whose emotional life has remained at an adolescent level, usually coupled with too great a dependence on the mother.

* * *

The puer's shadow is the senex (Latin for "old man"), associated with the god Apollo-disciplined, controlled, responsible, rational, ordered. Conversely, the shadow of the senex is the puer, related to Dionysus-unbounded instinct, disorder, intoxication, whimsy.
Between the puer and the senex, which sounds like the better fit to mainstream queerness, which favors the Dionysian over the Apollonian? This concept also explains many of us who have never fit in with the mainstream, particularly those of us who grew up being "old souls."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Religious right or P.C. left? Quotes 30 and 31

In this series of blog posts, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to read each quote and guess, before doing a Web search, whether someone in the religious right or the politically correct left said it.

The narrative of experiencing something “since childhood” implies that one’s experience is intransient, innate, fixed, possibly “hard-wired” and biological. This trope is usually substantiated by sex role evidence such as ” I never liked dolls and preferred to play with matchbox cars” or “until sex roles became more enforced as I grew near puberty I assumed I was not innately different from my male/female friends”. “I liked to hunt and fish and never understood or related to those conforming to the sex role demanded of females”. “I did not like being separated from girls and being considered “other” because of my biological status”. “I wanted princess things that the girls seemed so lucky to have”. “I was surprised and disquieted to discover myself different from other children due to my genitals”. Etc. This trope is called a testimonial. One’s feelings and experience, which anyone can relate to, is relayed to bolster one’s underlying assertion by using emotion rather than critical analysis. This is a deflection of critical thought.
Of course [sexual orientation]’s a choice–how could it not be? We make decisions (constrained choices, but choices nevertheless) about everything else in our lives–where we want to live, what we like to eat, how to dress. So we cannot make a decision about who we are lovers with? Of course we do.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Your body, your right to choose, but only when I so choose (2)

The radfem blog GenderTrender has taken a stab at explaining just what's so wrong about paying women for their eggs:
Co-producers even- in the generation of new knowlege”. Riggght. When no women agree to “partnering” with researchers unless they are paid $8,000, that is not a “partnership”. It is economic exploitation and unethical medical experimentation targeting the most vulnerable humans: impoverished females.
(Emphasis in the original.)

Now let's break this down. First, it may well be that no women agree unless they are paid $8,000, but how does that prove exploitation? Patent attorneys typically don't work unless they can get high salaries, so I guess that patent attorneys are cruelly exploited. The law of supply and demand cannot enter into either situation, since every right-thinking person knows that the law of supply and demand is a right-wing myth.

Second, the paragraph refers to "the most vulnerable humans: impoverished females." Yet again, we see that poor women are too stupid to make choices over their own bodies and particularly their own reproductive systems, so people of our social class, daahling, have to make those choices for them.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Quote of the week

"Muslims ... use circular logic to defend the Qur'an. They argue that the Qur'an is true because it is the Word of Allah, that it is the Word of Allah because it says so, and that we can rely on it because it is true. This is completely different from why the Bible is true." — Conservapedia article on circular reasoning (emphasis in the original)

Friday, October 14, 2011

This week's last acceptable prejudice

Out of the following groups, all of which I have seen advanced as the victims of the "last acceptable prejudice," which do you suppose to be the victims of the One True Last Acceptable Prejudice?

  • Catholics

  • Mormons

  • Christians in general

  • Irish-Americans

  • Italian-Americans

  • Southerners

  • The European-American working class

  • Fat people
People who want a gold medal in the oppression olympics, as well as people who complain about bigotry because they have been called on their own bigotry, often claim to be the victims of the last acceptable prejudice. The current last acceptable prejudice, thanks to the presidential campaign, is anti-Mormonism. You'd think that by now we'd have used up all of the last acceptable prejudices, but oddly, it doesn't work that way.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Your body, your right to choose, but only when I so choose

A recent article on Reason's Web site concerning inconsistent restrictions on women's freedom to sell their eggs reminds me of something that has long bothered me about the politically correct crowd. They make a stink about being pro-choice on abortion, but on just about every other issue — including whether women should make choices over their own bodies with regard to everything from pornography to home HIV test kids — theycan take an attitude that is paternalistic and anti-choice.

Do women have the right to make choices over their own bodies, and particularly their own reproductive systems, yes or no? If you answer, "It depends," explain what it depends on, and why. If you answer that minorities and poor people need special paternalism protection, especially if you are one of the middle- to upper-class white people who seem to dominate the P.C. crowd, you have the burden of explaining why they actually do need protection and why you don't just consider minorities and poor people too stupid to run their own lives without your guidance.

Today's vocabulary word: bigot

bigot, n. 1. one who calls me on my bigotry 2. one who disagrees with me on anything

Monday, October 10, 2011

Today's vocabulary word: cult

cult, n. a religion whose favor the mainstream media are not trying to curry

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Quote of the week

"The people behind Occupy Wall Street could follow suit if they wanted. Yes, they have every right to protest. Marches and sit-ins have played an honourable part in American history. The right of the people peaceably to assemble is enshrined in the first amendment. Nothing in the constitution says that you have to have a 12-point policy plan from McKinsey, or the permission of the New York police. If nothing else, these protests highlight the misery of millions during the present slump. But to bring about real change in a real democracy you also have to do real politics. It just takes work—and enough people who think like you." — The Economist

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Crystals, forgive me, for I have committed political incorrectness.

It seems that persons of political correctness are such special snowflakes (or just flakes) that it's an outrage even to ask them in polite terms to explain, rather than merely assert, their positions. They may say, "You just don't get it," or they may just groan and walk away; on the Internet, your question may never even make it out of the moderation queue alive. If their positions are so marvellously true, shouldn't they want to demonstrate that truth, so that we unwashed masses may behold the truth that shall set us free?

Changing the world, one retirement party at a time

Sometimes social progress can be an unintended consequence of other changes, although not at a pace that we might prefer. One example is a certain large law firm that, under its old leadership, had a socially conservative outlook. When the leading Bushite retired, new leadership modernized the outlook of the firm, which is now aggressively pursuing diversity. While the firm could not reasonably be expected to do a 180 overnight — at the last partners' retreat, someone asked what "LGBT" meant — I'm certainly willing to take that bit of progress.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Political correctness explained in one sentence

Today's New York Times quotes David Brin as writing, “A relentless addiction to indignation may be one of the chief drivers of obstinate dogmatism.” That sentence describes the P.C. crowd perfectly. If one thing defines politically correct people, whether left-wing or right-wing, even better than obstinate dogmatism, it's the constant lookout for things by which to be offended.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Where is our institutional memory?

In a previous blog post, I urged people to consult the LGBT community's institutional memory before advancing their "new" ideas. Since then, I have realized that I raised the question, "What institutional memory?" Upon considering and researching the matter, I have come to the conclusion that despite our community's skill at horizontally integrated groupthink, we have no effective way of transmitting our accumulated facts, concepts, experiences, and know-how to successive generations.

Groups defined by parentage can transmit their narratives from parent to child. Religious institutions can enroll children in Sunday school or its equivalent and adult converts in membership class. Neither is an option for the LGBT community. Some commenters point to that reason when they flatly deny the existence of a queer institutional memory.

To remedy that lack, some people have attempted to set up an institutional memory, such as the Queer Resources Directory. However, that site, in addition to its user-hostile interface, never reached critical mass and has not received an update in over two years.

Others have held themselves out as our institutional memory, but have done so in a self-serving manner to rewrite our history in their own image. For example, politically correct columnists often use weasel words, half-truths, and outright lies to give the credit to the wrong people and otherwise to advance their views of what our history should have been.

In another example, as part of my participation in a local service organization, I had to attend a consciousness raising to enlighten gay men about lesbian issues (since, of course, the reverse never ever has to happen). We had to sit through seemingly interminable lesbian self-congratulation as well as attacks on gay men that could have been taken from The Washington Times.

Finally, reliance on the Internet, while necessary, is not sufficient. Information on the Internet can be too diffuse, posted by the same self-serving people whom I noted above, or just plain wrong. Also, despite the wealth of LGBT-related information on Wikipedia, we should not rely on that source. In addition to Wikipedia's issues with quality control and with vandalism, that site's policies on verifiability and original research and its guidelines on notability ensure that that site will not be able to capture oral histories or any other information not already documented elsewhere.

In summary, we need a comprehensive, intellectually honest, readily accessible repository for information on where we have been and where we are going. Some people will never consult any sort of institutional memory, but it would be helpful to have one for those who will.

Quote of the week

"The problem with education isn’t money — we spend plenty — but quality." — Kathleen Parker, The Washington Post