"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Monday, May 31, 2010

Commentary Head-Spin

I've been reading a lot of the reporting and commentary on the DADT "compromise" passed by the House and -- someday, maybe -- by the Senate. Having spent yesterday being almost totally self-indulgent, my brain is just too relaxed to comment right now, but maybe later.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Berdache: An Introduction

A nice addendum to our ongoing discussions of sexuality and identity.

What was/is the American Indian berdache? Too often there is an attempt to use European categories to understand the berdache and thus to assume that they were homosexual. Undoubtedly, some were, but the role of the berdache was not a sexual one. Sometimes the berdache has been described as a transvestite or as a transgender people. Again, this is not a totally true image of who they were. Gender and sexuality in Indian cultures allowed a wide range of variation and the concept of the berdache simply shows that cultures exist which allow a great deal of freedom with regard to gender identity.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Weekend Off

I'm thinking about it.  It's been a hell of a week, and the news doesn't get any better -- just more twisted.

DADT is still not repealed, whatever you think the "compromise" says.

BP is still stonewalling on the oil spill, and now it turns out they have in all likelihood been criminally negligent as well.

The Republicans are still intent on filibustering anything that might actually help the country.

The chattering classes are all idiots.

I'm going to sit in the back yard and watch anime all weekend.  And read comics.

As a footnote, can you imagine the reaction if McDonald's ran a commercial like this here?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Stories from the Frontlines: A Love Letter to a G.I.

I've fallen behind on these this week, a combination of a bad deadline and an even worse intestinal bug.  (You can catch up here.  This is the last one.  It's sweet, poignant, and  . . .   well, read it yourself.

May 28, 2010
Letter to a G.I.

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

For the past month, we have sent you personal letters from those harmed by “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” With the votes in the House and the Senate Armed Services Committee, we are bringing our series to a close. The final letter we are sharing with you was written by a World War II soldier to another service member. It is a love letter penned on the occasion of their anniversary.

The letter, which follows below, was published in September 1961 by ONE Magazine – an early gay magazine based out of Los Angeles. In 2000, Bob Connelly, an adjunct professor of LGBT studies at American University, found a copy of the letter in the Library of Congress. He brought the letter to the attention of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network last month.

We sincerely thank Mr. Connelly for his research and the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives for granting permission for the letter to be republished.

Please accept this letter on the behalf of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members on active-duty, in the reserve and in the National Guard; those who have been discharged; and those who didn’t enlist because of the discriminatory law now being dismantled.

With great respect,
Former Specialist 4th Class Aubrey Sarvis
United States Army

The letter as published by ONE Magazine:

Dear Dave,

This is in memory of an anniversary – the anniversary of October 27th, 1943, when I first heard you singing in North Africa. That song brings memories of the happiest times I’ve ever known. Memories of a GI show troop – curtains made from barrage balloons – spotlights made from cocoa cans – rehearsals that ran late into the evenings – and a handsome boy with a wonderful tenor voice. Opening night at a theatre in Canastel – perhaps a bit too much muscatel, and someone who understood. Exciting days playing in the beautiful and stately Municipal Opera House in Oran – a misunderstanding – an understanding in the wings just before opening chorus.

Drinks at “Coq d’or” – dinner at the “Auberge” – a ring and promise given. The show 1st Armoured – muscatel, scotch, wine – someone who had to be carried from the truck and put to bed in his tent. A night of pouring rain and two very soaked GIs beneath a solitary tree on an African plain. A borrowed French convertible – a warm sulphur spring, the cool Mediterranean, and a picnic of “rations” and hot cokes. Two lieutenants who were smart enough to know the score, but not smart enough to realize that we wanted to be alone. A screwball piano player – competition – miserable days and lonely nights. The cold, windy night we crawled through the window of a GI theatre and fell asleep on a cot backstage, locked in each other’s arms – the shock when we awoke and realized that miraculously we hadn’t been discovered. A fast drive to a cliff above the sea – pictures taken, and a stop amid the purple grapes and cool leaves of a vineyard.

The happiness when told we were going home – and the misery when we learned that we would not be going together. Fond goodbyes on a secluded beach beneath the star-studded velvet of an African night, and the tears that would not be stopped as I stood atop the sea-wall and watched your convoy disappear over the horizon.

We vowed we’d be together again “back home,” but fate knew better – you never got there. And so, Dave, I hope that where ever you are these memories are as precious to you as they are to me.

Goodnight, sleep well my love.

Brian Keith

We're Back to "If"

The much ballyhooed "repeal" of DADT, seemingly accomplished yesterday by votes both in the House and in the Senate Armed Services Committee, is no such thing.

If you think I'm imagining things, read Adm. Mullen's take:

...Mullen called the "certification trigger" provided in the proposed amendment critical.

"The language in there right now preserves my prerogative - and I believe, my responsibility - to give the best military advice," he said. 

"That trigger is to certify whether we should move ahead with that change, even if the law were to repeal it," he told a reporter following the session."

I seem to remember Sec. Gates stressing that this study was not about "if" but "when."  Does anyone else remember that?  Like Sec. Gates and Adm. Mullen, for example?  And do we notice that it's now about military prerogatives?

Here's some amplification of that, from the DoD website.  I don't see much ambiguity here:

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday that he’s comfortable with proposed legislation that seeks to repeal the law that bans gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military because it includes “very clear language” that gives senior leaders the final say in whether it’s implemented.

Note again:  now it's "whether."

There's extensive commentary at Pam's House Blend this morning, and I don't see that it's to anyone's benefit for me to rehash it here.  See especially the post I linked above, and a round-up of reactions.  From Alexander Nicholson of Servicemembers United:

The second concession was allowing the president, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to decide together the date on which the new law, once passed, would actually take effect. The three are already public supporters of repeal and can be trusted to act in good faith. They may not certify the implementation plan as quickly as some repeal advocates would like (some have unrealistically suggested a matter of days or weeks after the working group issues its report), but I believe that they will within a reasonable amount of time.

I share Spaulding's reservations about the comment bolded:  I've seen no evidence that the president or the Pentagon are acting in good faith on repeal, and in light of Adm. Mullen's remarks about who will exercise ultimate decision-making authority over whether -- not when, but whether -- the ban is actually lifted,  I think both her concerns and mine are fully justified.

Mullen has come out again in favor of repeal, but I'm getting a disconnect between these various reports that does not comfort me in the least.

Look for updates as I have time today.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Well, They Managed To Kill It (Updated)

Starts to look like it, anyway.  From Kerry Eleveld at The Advocate a solid analysis:

So how did we get where we are? The White House and Gates seemingly didn’t want a vote this year. Activists wouldn’t let up. Murphy, Levin, and Lieberman put in a heroic effort to salvage repeal. And in my estimation, when Levin was one vote away in the Senate committee, White House officials realized the repeal train was leaving without them and not hopping aboard was a no-win situation. If it passed, they would get no credit; if it failed by one vote, activists would castigate them for withholding support.

This compromise could still fail, and make no mistake, the deal was brokered by the White House, which then treated it as the redheaded stepchild it never wanted in the first place. But the outcome — win or lose — now has the administration's fingerprints on it, even though its refrain since Monday morning has been that Congress was forcing its hand.

Sadly, the best-case scenario — passage — will do nothing to stop the discharges in the near term. It is a critical step that removes the first roadblock to changing the policy at some indefinite point in the future. Passing the measure would not immediately repeal the law — instead the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy will continue until the DOD study is completed and Gates, Mullen, and Obama certify that repeal can proceed.

No matter what happens during the votes Thursday and Friday, the White House will deserve credit only after the law is repealed and replaced with a nondiscrimination policy. And if Congress votes to cede authority over the policy to the administration, President Obama will be uniquely empowered to issue an executive order that guarantees all Americans the opportunity to serve their country with integrity and honor.

1)  Like hell he's going to issue an executive order.

2)  Executive orders can be repealed by later executives.

And as far as I'm concerned, no matter what happens during the votes, the White House deserves no credit at all.

I've written my congressional delegation that the "compromise" (read "sellout") is unacceptable and should be ignored in favor of full repeal, including a non-discrimination policy and a firm timeline for implementation.

Gods, am I pissed!


Watch Chris Matthews nail Joe Solmonese to the wall on this:

And here's a post from Autumn Sandeen that brings in the real feeling in the gay community.

Update II:

John McCain remains incoherent.  As quoted by Joe Jervis:

"This 'Don't ask, don't tell' issue, they're going to try to jam that through without even trying to figure out what the impact on battle effectiveness would be," McCain said on Arizona's KBLU radio. "We have to be careful to make any changes to it, because we're in two wars," McCain said. The Arizona Republican, who's fending off a conservative primary challenger in his reelection bid, also asserted that the push forward with this deal is driven by fears that Democrats might lose the votes to repeal the policy in this fall's elections. "One of the reasons they're trying to jam it through is that they think that after the November elections, they may not have the votes," he said.

There seems no longer to be any point of contact between reality and John McCain. 

Update III:

And an excellent post by Autumn Sandeen that hits most of the points that I think need to be hit:

Now, we are asked to wait a little longer for sexual orientation discrimination within our nation's military to end -- and we're only given a process for it to end, and not a guarantee that it will actually end. In the meantime, lesbian gay, and bisexual servicemembers are still to be discharged because of sexual orientation. We in the LGBT community are apparently expected to be satiated with compromises that don't fulfill the promise of our President regarding Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- the President promised he would be our "fierce advocate."

There are laudatory editorials in both NYT and WaPo (although WaPo does note that the "compromise" is "not optimum") that miss the point:  Congress and the Administration have become so dysfunctional that all they can offer is process.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sex and Identity

Extraordinarily intelligent post from Jim Burroway on Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, as a response to Autumn Sandeen's post noting that Chimgalanga identifies as a woman.  Burroway quite rightly notes that by Western standards, that would make Chimbalanga "transgender," but that we are not dealing with a Western couple.

I agree wholeheartedly with Autumn’s point that this story does say a lot about the LGBT community and media. But I also think that Autumn’s position, as admirable and fully correct as it is from a Western point of view, says more about the construction of sexuality and gender in Western society than it does about how people in other cultures actually see themselves.

As I said, we have avoided describing Tiwonge and Steven as a “gay” couple, but we’ve also avoided describing Tiwonge as intersex, transgender or transsexual, and for good reason. None of these terms may describe Tiwonge very well because they speak to a Western, Euro-centric understanding of sexuality and gender, and not an African one.

Sandeen makes some good points, but as Burroway points out, her assumptions may not be quite on target.   It's the old problem -- assuming that our frame of reference is everyone's frame of reference.  For anyone who has any familiarity with other cultures at all, it's an obvious fallacy.  (Hell, if you're paying attention, you can figure it out from reading manga -- the Japanese have very different ideas than we do about a lot of things.)

At any rate, read both posts -- they intersect very nicely with a lot I've written about cultural identity.


Interesting article from WaPo, more for what it implies than what it says:

In her police mug shot, the doe-eyed cartoon heroine with the bowl haircut has a black eye, battered lip and bloody nose. 

Dora the Explorer's alleged crime? "Illegal Border Crossing Resisting Arrest."

Dora the Explorer is a children's cartoon character of indeterminate origins who speaks English and Spanish and teaches children the alphabet and Spanish phrases on Nickelodeon who has gotten dragged into the immigration debate, mostly because of this image (created, by the way, before Arizona passed its "everyone's an illegal" law).

The interesting points about the article are that it keeps mentioning that this image is being used by those supporting the Arizona police-state law, but never quotes any of them.  The people it does quote couldn't care less about where Dora came from or how she got here.

Something to keep in mind for the next teapot:  most people could care less.


Most people could care less -- except those who suddenly don't have workers.  This is priceless.

Doncha just love it when a plan comes together?  Pearce is a real bone-head.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

AWOL Again

I was sick all day Thursday, and dragging my skinny little behind yesterday, so no commentary.  Not that the news is in any way different.

And of course, now I'm really behind on everything.

But, still. . . .

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Stories from the Frontlines: Former Army Sgt. Darren Manzella

May 19, 2010Darren Manzella

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

It was spring 2004. I had just arrived in Baghdad. We’d been there all but four days. Then it happened. It was an ambush. It ended with my good friend shot dead. I was overwhelmed by emotions of anger and sadness, but also confusion.

At that moment, my perspective on life changed; I wondered, what if I had been killed in action and had never come to terms with who I truly was and, even worse, never had the chance to share it with my loved ones? There comes a point when acceptance is your only salvation—my return from Iraq was my moment.

I served two tours of duty in the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as a Soldier in the United States Army. I was promoted to sergeant, was a team leader of a medical squad, and conducted over 100 12-hour patrols in the streets of Baghdad, treating wounds and evacuating casualties of sniper fire and roadside bombs. I applied for Officer Candidate School under the recommendation of two generals in my chain of command. But, today, instead of protecting my fellow Americans, I sit working in a university development office because I was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).

When I came out, the first people I told were comrades, with whom I had just spent 12 months in Baghdad. To be honest, I was scared of their rejection more than the mortar and rocket attacks, ambushes, or roadside explosives. But, they showed immense understanding of what I had been going through and offered unconditional support. The response from my brothers and sisters in arms proved that the military is a family—no matter if you are man, woman, black, white, transgender, gay, or straight. What truly matters is whether you can trust the person next to you. And how can trust be built around a lie?

One day, I received an email from a Soldier I had never met; it said I was being investigated under DADT and that I would be stripped of my rank and pay and eventually discharged. I tried to ignore it, but the emails continued and became more derogatory. Soon, I began receiving similar phone calls at work.

Unsure of who to trust, on edge every second, and losing more and more sleep each night, I approached my supervisor. I was a Soldier who lived by all seven of the Army values, including honesty. I refused to have someone else end my career. He offered a sympathetic ear before reporting me to the legal department.

After an investigation into my statements and the harassment, I was told I was an exceptional Soldier and to “drive on” with my work. It was a great a relief to break the silence. My colleagues suddenly understood why I had always been so detached and began asking me to join them in activities outside of work.

Later that year my division deployed again and I served the entirety of the deployment as an openly gay Soldier. I no longer had to lie if someone asked if I were married or had a girlfriend, I didn’t have to write my emails in “code.” I no longer feared being “outed.” I finally was able to be honest.

After arriving in Iraq for the second deployment I was promoted once again and served my division as the medical liaison officer in Kuwait. It was there that I participated in an interview with Leslie Stahl for 60 Minutes with the focus being on a out gay Soldier working in a combat zone.

I gave voice to the tens of thousands of men and women who serve everyday under the fear of DADT. The interview also ended my career. I was honorably discharged on June 10, 2008.

While I sit in a safe and comfortable civilian office, former comrades and friends continue to serve, leaving their families for a third, fourth, or even fifth deployment. Why am I not able to stand in the place of my battle buddy who has left his wife three times to deploy and missed the birth of his new born child? Why are exceptions being made to enlist individuals with subpar mental and physical standards? And why are serious convicted felons granted waivers to serve while I was pushed out the door?

Mr. President, last year you restored my hope that this discriminatory law will be repealed, but I must admit that my spirit has been shaken because DADT still exists. Every day, we lose dedicated and capable service members while other Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Coastguardsmen sacrifice more than their share. My experience demonstrates what matters most is competence, trust and ability. Why then should we wait another year or another decade to do what is right?

Former Sergeant Darren Manzella
United States Army

Looking-Glass Doctrines

Via Andrew Sullivan, this story on the Catholic hierarchy's latest exercise of "moral guidance":

A nun and administrator at a Catholic hospital in Phoenix has been reassigned and rebuked by the local bishop for agreeing that a severely ill woman needed an abortion to survive.

Sister Margaret McBride was on an ethics committee that included doctors that consulted with a young woman who was 11 weeks pregnant late last year, The Arizona Republic newspaper reported on its website Saturday. The woman was suffering from a life-threatening condition that likely would have caused her death if she hadn't had the abortion at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center.

Sullivan's comment is apt:

Funny how quickly they can act if a woman is deemed to have in good conscience saved a life, and how slowly they move when a man rapes a child

I'm continually appalled by the incoherence of the Church's moral teachings.  That's the only word I can think of to describe it -- there really doesn't seem to be a consistent foundation for the hierarchy's pronouncements on various aspects of "morality" (quite aside from the rather primitive idea of what constitutes moral behavior).  Is it any wonder that the Church finds its authority eroding?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Affirmative Action in Beauty Pageants?

You've got to be kidding me!  I've been seeing commentaries all over the place about a post by Daniel Pipes (I'm not going to link to it directly, because Pipes is an idiot) about Rima Fakih winning the "Miss U.S.A" title, including this one from David Weigel at WaPo, all centering on  this comment by Pipes:

They are all attractive, but this surprising frequency of Muslims winning beauty pageants makes me suspect an odd form of affirmative action.

I clenched my teeth and went to Pipes' post.  He's noting five Muslim women who have won beauty pageants in the U.S., England and France in the past five years.  Assuming these are annual events, that means that out of fifteen possible winners, five were Muslim.  (He includes pictures of the winners, and they are all, indeed, attractive.)

Without getting into a whole thing about our changing concept of beauty (remember when Barbra Streisand hit the scene, nose and all?  And how shocked people were that she was actually gorgeous?), let me just point out one thing:  it's sad to see people whose racism is so ingrained that they aren't even aware of it.  (Think Progress has a summary of the right-wing freakouts.)

I think there's one very obvious reason she won:

She's magnificent -- and that's me saying that. If she were a guy, I'd be slobbering all over my keyboard.

Second thoughts:  I am going to link to Pipes' post so you can see him falling all over himself to cover his ass now that the firestorm has started.  I'm not convinced.

And Portugal Makes Eight

We're falling farther behind.  If even a country that is 90% Catholic can deal with equal marriage rights, what's our problem?

Maybe it's our "fierce advocate."  Ya think?  (Yes, I know there's more to it than him, but do you seriously think that if he got behind repeal of DOMA, it wouldn't happen?)

Stories from the Frontlines: A Mother in the Closet

This one's right on target -- it's not just the servicemembers who are hurt by DADT.

May 18, 2010

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President and First Lady Obama,

I have been a mom for over a quarter of a century, but I remember each of my children’s births with such joy.  I remember my son’s birth.  We had picked a boy’s name and a girl’s name, deciding to wait and see.  My labor was easy.  As the baby was born, the doctor exclaimed that he was a boy! He was doing so well that we brought him home to meet his big sister that very morning.

From the start our son was easygoing and peaceful.  He grew to be curious, mischievous, active and strong.  He was skiing as soon as he could walk.  Our son was fearless, whether he was skiing, skating, riding a bike, or climbing up a rock face.  He excelled in team sports as well as individual sports, several times placing in the top ten in U.S. and World competitions.

As a young adolescent, however, he struggled in school.  He didn’t fit in.  We assumed it was because he was gifted and bored with the assignments.  As he went on to high school, his struggles continued.  He dropped out, completing his GED on his own, and moved on to college without a clear direction.

During those difficult times, he would come to me late at night, and we would talk things over.  As a mom, I treasured those long conversations, happy I could be there for him, and despite his struggles, very proud of the young man he was becoming.  One night, perhaps a decade ago, he wanted to talk.  On this night, my son said, “Mom, I’m gay.”  I immediately told him that no matter what, I loved him. (Later, when he came out to his dad, his father’s reaction was just the same.)

With this knowledge came a new responsibility to honor his right to be in control of who knew and who didn’t.  And so began a new phase of our lives: living in the closet.

Our son pondered what to do with his life.  One day he came home and announced he had joined the military.  He was flush with excitement, fully aware of the risk he was undertaking, but, at the same time, so determined to serve.  He excelled in Basic Training.  He trained for his job and enjoyed his work as an enlisted man.  He deployed abroad.  He grew up in front of our eyes.

The officers above him recognized his drive and his ability, and helped him to get into a military program that sent him back to finish college and then commissioned him as an officer.  He is well on his way to becoming a military pilot.  Not long from now, he’ll earn his wings.

This baby, this boy, this man makes his Mom so proud.  But as I think about his life forced in the closet from this “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” it makes waiting for repeal another day that much harder.

Mom’s have lots of dreams when they have babies.  All of you moms know what I am talking about.  What if your child had to live a lie; had to remain alone through their best and brightest years?  My dream for my son is that the United States of America would wake up and realize that times have changed, that people who happen to be gay or lesbian are really just like the rest of us, with the same aspirations, the same needs, and the same goals.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” throws more than just service people into the closet; it throws moms, dads, siblings, grandparents, godparents, friends and loved ones in there as well.

As a mom, my heart breaks for all the gay and lesbian “kids” in the military, and for all the special people in their lives who live with us in the closet.

I dream of actually being able to write to the President, my senators and representatives in the Congress, and actually signing my name, something I can’t do now due to the risk of outing my son.

I dream of the day when my son won’t have to live in fear, even as he works to keep the rest of us from living in fear.

And yes, as a mom, I dream of my son getting married to the man of his dreams.  I dream they will have all the rights that my husband and I do.  I dream that my son won’t have to wait through his entire military career to find love.  We all yearn for love.

Today, even in the closet, I dare to dream.

A mother in the closet

Monday, May 17, 2010

Stories from the Frontlines: Former Army Sgt. Shonda Garrison

May 17, 2010Shonda Garrison

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,

I am a proud Army veteran of the first Gulf War. You won't find anyone who loves this country more. I get chills and teary eyes, every time I hear the Pledge of Allegiance or The Star Spangled Banner. I've been known to call a business when I see them flying a tattered flag to let them know that if that's all the pride they have in the American flag, they should just take it down. I am also a proud lesbian.

I joined the military in 1989, before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was enacted and when there was an outright ban on gays and lesbians in the military. I did not realize at the time that I was a lesbian, but later, when I did come to terms with my being gay, I never tried to hide it, but I did not flaunt it either.

My sexual orientation was a non-issue. I was a hard charging soldier, promoted long before my peers. I am sure there was talk behind my back about me being a lesbian, but no one ever seemed to care. I was a good friend, soldier, and leader; everyone I encountered could have cared less about what happened in my private life. After DADT was passed, I started to hear stories about people being discharged. I struggled with this every day, always fearful that I would be next.

Eventually, the stress of constant fear that I could lose my job no matter how hard I worked or how well I performed, became too much. I knew from the stories of others that even serving to the very best of my ability could cost me my job. I knew that an anonymous tip—by someone who was jealous of my success, angry with me because of a disagreement, or mad because I rebuffed a sexual advance—could trigger a demoralizing, demeaning investigation under DADT. And if I was not willing to lie, I knew an investigation could lead to my discharge.

I was lucky, though. I did not get kicked out, but that does not mean that DADT didn’t affect me. The uncertainty and fear of knowing that anyone with a grudge could end my career, and the sadness in realizing that at any time my country could callously discard me for no other reason than the fact that I was gay, pressured me to give up the career I loved. I chose not to reenlist.

There are days when it is hard for me not to walk into the nearest recruiting station and sign back up. I watch what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan and it's hard for me to think about not being there with the men and women I served with in the first Gulf War. I have to remind myself why I chose not to reenlist. Defending our country in uniform is one of the greatest privileges and responsibilities of being an American. Many people do not appreciate that; many take our freedoms for granted; and many do not choose to serve. We cannot afford to lose those who want to serve, who have the necessary skills and work ethic, and who would risk their lives for their comrades and their country.

Mr. President, in your State of the Union Address, you said that the American people are not quitters. I did not quit on my country during the first Gulf War and I would serve again if called. There are at least 66,000 gays and lesbians serving right now who do not want to quit, either. Mr. President, please don’t quit on them. Please do everything in your power to end DADT this year. We are counting on you.

Former Sgt. Shonda Garrison
United States Army

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I < 3 Frank Rich

Today's "Must Read".

It's even more noteworthy that someone in the corporate media is actually calling the anti-gay religious nutcases on their lying and hypocrisy.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Stories from the Frontlines: A Soldier Returning to Baghdad

OK -- this one hurts.  Read the note at the end.

May 14, 2010
President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

I am writing to you from a kitchen in the state of Washington. The love of my life is in the other room. It has been eight months since I saw him last and I cherish every moment we spend together. Next week, my mid-tour leave will be over and I will return to Iraq and finish my second deployment. I don’t know when I’ll see my partner again.

When serving in a war zone, you learn quite a bit about yourself and what’s important to you. I’ve had the chance to work on a close and personal level with the people of Iraq, and in doing so, I have realized more than ever that the freedoms we enjoy as Americans should not be taken for granted – we must protect them at all costs. These freedoms are essential to the very foundation of our society. Yet so many men and women who fight for these freedoms aren’t allotted their own. Our freedom to love and be loved by whomever we choose. The freedom to live of a life of truth and dignity.

Recently I was informed that the military was investigating me for violating the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. Another service member had apparently “outed” me. At first I felt free: I didn’t have to lie anymore. But after that initial sense of relief, I’m left knowing just how little the Pentagon and the United States government think of me.

Mr. President, my unit is extremely undermanned. We’re working around the clock in Baghdad. My commander informed me that the Army cannot afford to lose me. I was told that they would prepare my discharge paperwork, “stick it in a Manila envelope, and keep it in a desk -- for now.”

One moment they wanted to throw me out and the next they are hiding evidence to keep me in.

My comrades now know that I am gay, and they do not treat me any differently. Work runs as smoothly as ever, and frankly the only difference I see -- besides my pending job loss -- is that I am free of the burden of having to constantly watch my words and ensure my lies are believable.

Having this out in the open makes things a bit less stressful. But it’s also clear the Army is only keeping me around until they are done with me. After I have served my two deployments -- and only a year shy of separating from the military honorably -- I suspect they will kick me to the street.

It’s bad enough that there is a law that denies tens of thousands of service members from serving with integrity, but it’s even worse when such a law is carried out with such inconsistency, without any warning of when it might come down.

If my suspicions are true, my discharge will move forward after my deployment. I am good enough to serve in war, but not at peace? I will never be at peace until this law is repealed – and neither will my partner. In fact, he won’t even be informed if I am killed in action. That might be the hardest part for us both.

Mr. President, when you took office I remember watching your inauguration knowing that history was being made. I remember feeling like this weight was being lifted off of my shoulders. I truly believed in you, and I still do.

But, Mr. President, please keep your promise to me.

Please do everything in your power to help Congress repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year. Our government called upon us to fight for our country. So many of us answered the call; we did not delay. We were sent world’s away to defend your freedoms. Mr. President, won’t you fight for mine?

With deep respect,
A soldier returning to Baghdad

(The writer is currently serving and unable to identify himself publicly.)

Food for Thought, Part III

From Andrew Sullivan, this observation:

The Conservative Party in Britain now has eleven openly gay members of parliament and nine more in a glass closet. Compare that with zero for the Republicans and three for the Democrats, and no-one in the upper reaches of the Obama administration. One of the new Tories is an open lesbian. Two gay Tories are ministers - and both friends of mine. No one seems to be terrified of acknowledging this or reporting it - in fact, the party is deeply proud of this new diversity.

Taking this in the context of Obama's maneuvering to avoid action on gay issues, the Republicans in Congress, at the bidding of their religious nut overlords, threatening to derail any presidential appointment or legislation that involves anyone or anything openly gay, and what I see is a country led by a bunch of frightened children.

Update:  Umm -- make that spoiled, frightened children.  See this for a summary of the points of agreement between two parties on the opposite ends of the political spectrum.  That's the groundplan for the new British government.

Stories from the Frontlines: Former Air Force SSgt. David Hall

May 13, 2010David Hall

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,

It has been almost eight years since I was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Every day another American patriot who volunteered to serve our country is discharged under this unjust law. Now is the time for you to show the leadership expected from our Commander-in-Chief and work with Congress to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year. How many more careers will be ruined before we see repeal?

I was fortunate to grow up as an Air Force brat. My dad and stepdad both retired from the Air Force after serving 20 years. It only made sense that I would eventually follow their footsteps and serve as well. I didn’t realize I was gay when I joined the Air Force in March 1996 and never gave any thought to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

There was nothing I enjoyed more than wearing the uniform and was very proud to be serving my country. I did everything right to ensure I had a successful career in the Air Force. I loaded missiles on F-15’s at Langley AFB where I received Airman of the Quarter, Load Crew of the Quarter, and was even handpicked for a no-notice deployment to Kuwait when I was deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Southern Watch. At Elmendorf AFB, I was selected to work at the Weapons Standardization Section where I trained and evaluated load crews on loading bombs and missiles on F-15E aircraft. I was promoted to SSgt on my first try and graduated as a distinguished graduate from Airman Leadership School.

After reenlisting for another four years I decided to apply for Air Force ROTC and was selected under the Professional Officer Course – Early Release Program. I was discharged from active duty in August 2001 and signed my ROTC contract the next day. One of the proudest moments of my life was when I received my pilot slot. I was so excited; not only was I going to be an officer in the Air Force but I also had the chance to be a pilot. All my hard work was paying off.

But everything changed a few months later. A cadet went to my commanders and told them I was gay and dating a fellow cadet. During the investigation that followed I made no comment to the JAG officer conducting the investigation. I was eventually called into my commander’s office and disenrolled from ROTC in August 2002. I received a piece of paper saying I was no longer fit for military duty due to “homosexual conduct.” You can’t even imagine how that feels. Almost 8 years later, I still remember wearing my flight suit for the last time and handing my ID card to the NCO who was trying not to cry.

Mr. President – I assure you I am fit for military duty and so are the 66,000 lesbian and gay service members currently serving. Please keep your promise and stop discharging patriotic Americans. I did my part; now, sir, please do yours!

Former SSgt. David Hall
United States Air Force

The PC Left and Satire

Like the rabid right, they just don't get it.  Read the comments over at AmericaBlog Gay about the video I posted here.  Fortunately, most of us get it, but there are some, apparently, who just can't see the obvious satire.

There are, indeed, people who seem to make a career out of being offended.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Gay Actors

I keep running into all the flap about the piece by Ramin Setoodeh saying that gay actors can't be believable in straight roles.  So I read his piece.  Then I read this piece with Marc Peyser of Newsweek, Dustin Lance Black, and Jarrett Barrios of GLAAD.  I read Kristin Chenoweth's rebuttal.  Then I read Aaron Sorkin's piece on the controversy.

OK -- for starters, Setoodeh's article is this mushy mish-mash (and try saying that five times real fast) that seems to be about nothing so much as Setoodeh.  He targets Sean Hayes in particular, noting that he just couldn't "believe" him in a straight role.  Apparently, everyone else in the audience could.  I think Setoodeh gives himself away with this:

For all the beefy bravado that Rock Hudson projects on-screen, Pillow Talk dissolves into a farce when you know the likes of his true bedmates. (Just rewatch the scene where he's wading around in a bubble bath by himself.)

I'm taking that as pure Setoodeh, and not saying much about Rock Hudson, particularly since from all reports, Hudson was a total top, and could be a fairly rough one.   Setoodeh's thrust seems to be that if an audience knows an actor is gay, they're not going to believe him in a "straight" role.  I wonder how that logic extends to all the straight actors who have played "gay" roles -- did Setoodeh believe them?

Sorkin comes up with the core:

An actor, no matter which sex they're attracted to, can't "play" gay or "play" straight. Gay and straight aren't actable things. You can act effeminate and you can act macho (though macho usually ends up reading as gay), but an actor can't play gay or straight anymore than they can play Catholic. The most disturbing thing to me about this episode is that the theater critic for Newsweek didn't know that. Of COURSE gay actors can play straight characters -- it's impossible to believe that Mr. Setoodeh would prefer if Ian McKellen would stop doing King Lear.

One of the first things I had beaten into my head as an acting student (yes, I was once an acting student) is that you play a person.  It's a person that you create from the clues given you by the playwright, but it's a person.

I suspect that Setoodeh is among the few who is going to let his knowledge of an actor's personal life color his perception of the actor's performance.  Aside from that, I don't see much in his essay that makes much sense.  It's basically garbage.

(Note:  to borrow a leaf from Setoodeh's own book, read this article by Brett Berk at Vanity Fair:  apparently, Setoodeh doesn't like it if anyone comes across as "too gay," whether they do or not.)

'Nuff said?

It's Military Day at Hunter at Random

 OK, this is funny --

Too many gay bloggers are sitting there asking if it's offensive.  We've gotten too conditioned to the idea that anything straights do about us is offensive in some way -- take it as the worst part of identity politics, this reflexive defensiveness about "outsiders" referencing us in any way that doesn't reek of solemnity for the justice of our cause.  My advice to them:  get over yourselves.  If you want to be accepted, you've got to be accepting.

I think it's hysterical, and I think there's something deeper here:  these are young guys who are being pretty uninhibited about being open to gays and serving with gays, and who are relaxed enough and comfortable enough with themselves that they can engage in something like this.  And it's a total send-up of the anti-gay talking points.  I have hope for the future.

Sure it's offensive -- the ones who should be offended are Elaine Donnelley, Sec. Gates, Chairman Mullen, and the president, because it shows them up for the horses' asses they are.

And I want to know where these guys learned some of these moves.

Stories from the Frontlines: Chief Hospital Corpsman Brian K. Humbles, USN (Ret.)

May 12, 2010Brian Humbles

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,

A “sexual predator” -- that’s what someone in the military called me after 22 years of faithful service.

It was September, 2005. I remember the moment I received notice from the Navy Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) that I was under investigation and I couldn’t figure out why.

Not long before that day, I was conducting medical exams on two sailors who were being open about their sexual orientation. The rules were clear. If a service member comes “out” to a medical professional or even a chaplain, we were required to report it.

Instead of alerting their command, I made the choice to caution them about the risks of being too open. As a bisexual man myself, I knew the fear they experienced under the law of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

I knew the “ins and outs” of serving silently – even while deployed to Afghanistan. The law, frankly, is a scary thing. The fear of being “outed” – of losing your job – can sometimes be too much to handle.

My good faith efforts in counseling these two young men on their sexual orientation resulted in accusations of molestation. In the course of the investigation, under intense pressure from an NCIS agent and a desire to be truthful, I admitted to being bisexual.

Fortunately, it didn’t take long for NCIS to conclude its investigation and find the accusations by the two men to be without merit. The authorities governing medical ethics at the hospital also launched an independent investigation and concluded the charges were unfounded. And finally, an Article 32 hearing exonerated me of any wrong doing.

Everyone thought the case was closed. I thought the case was closed. But it wasn’t.

The Staff Judge Advocate (SJA) on base, acting without authority, continued her own investigation and convinced the ranking Admiral that regulations mandated that he move to administratively separate me with an “Other Than Honorable” discharge; a move that would result in the loss of my 20+ year retirement.

Acting without the proper authority, she even went over the Admiral’s head and appealed to the Navy’s personnel office, telling them I was taking “sexual liberties” with patients, which she knew was not true.

I wanted to serve my country. Now, I was fighting to not be humiliated by it. At the SJA’s encouragement, the command initiated discharge proceedings. I knew I’d be discharged but my retirement and my livelihood was also on the line.

In the middle of opening statements at my discharge hearing, a fellow service member who also sat on the Administrative Separation Board, lashed out and called me a “sexual predator.” While she was removed from the board, the damage was done.

After a strong push by my faithful defense team, the board ruled that I could keep my retirement benefits and be discharged honorably.

I served for 22 years and wanted only to fulfill the remainder of my time. A promise I made to my country.

The criminal investigation by NCIS took all but six months. But one person -- a JAG officer -- spent the next eighteen months and countless man hours attempting to have me discharged with a reduction in rank and no retirement, all because I was gay.

Sir, those two years were frankly, mental hell, all because one person felt I shouldn’t be in the Navy, a service I loved and still love today.

Mr. President, the men and women in the armed forces need your leadership now. Repeal this law, this year. Help stop the pain of so many people who are currently facing discharge hearings. Help them keep their honor. Help them keep their integrity.

With great respect,
Brian K. Humbles
Chief Hospital Corpsman
Surface Warfare/Fleet Marine Forces
United States Navy (RET)

Stories from the Frontlines: Former Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason Knight, USN

May 11, 2010Jason Knight

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

It was five months before the September 11th attacks when I found myself outside a military recruiters office signing up for the U.S. Navy. I could no longer afford college. And things in my personal life weren’t going according to plan. I wanted to experience life outside of southeastern Pennsylvania. I enlisted on a random Friday in April of 2001 and left for boot camp the following Monday. I was a recruiter's dream candidate.

My first tour of duty was the prestigious Ceremonial Guard in Washington, D.C., where I represented our country at official White House ceremonies and during state and military funerals at Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

In my two-year period, I was present at more than 1500 military funerals as part of the Firing Party rendering the 21-gun salute. It was here that I learned what truly serving our great nation really meant, and the ultimate price we all swore to pay, if fate was so. Standing on the berm, across the river from a burning Pentagon on September 11th only solidified my desire to serve.

My desire to serve my country continued while I completed my training as a Hebrew Linguist and began working in the field at Fort Gordon, Georgia. But I was also struggling with my own self discoveries.

In 2004, I filed paperwork annulling my marriage because I realized that I was gay. Keeping with the Navy's core values of honesty and integrity, and very much naive to the severity of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” I provided the military with copies along with a written statement to my commander, which subsequently resulted in my discharge under the law.

I was ousted from the service I loved, facing a recoupment of $13,000 sign-on bonus I received, and ushered to the gate. I felt shunned, broken and confused.

After a year of recovery, I received a letter recalling me back to service. While I didn't understand why, I had an overwhelming sense of joy to return to the service I so loved.

I was sent to Kuwait for a year with the U.S. Navy Customs Battalion Romeo in 2006 where I continued to garner accolades for my service and even upped in rank, all while serving completely open. My immediate commanders and colleges were aware that I had been discharged once under DADT and knew that I was gay, yet they supported me because I was a great sailor.

After the March 2007 comments by General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he expressed his personal views of homosexuality as "immoral," I decided to express my own personal feelings in a letter to the editor. This resulted in my second discharge under DADT, but I was willing to accept it.

Mr. President, “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” must be repealed. This law forces good people to lie, evade and mislead their fellow comrades and commanders and goes against the very core values of the military service in which we serve. It forces undue stress in the lives of those that must hide.

With a military stretched thin between two wars, now is the time to stop discharging men and women who valiantly serve our nation, many who are in mission critical jobs. Repeal “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” now.

Very Respectfully,
Jason Daniel Knight
Former Petty Officer 2nd Class, U. S. Navy

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What Digby Said

Read this.

Also read this post by Amanda Marcotte -- it's the one that Digby quotes.

I'm pretty much in the same boat that Marcotte's in.  I'm so horrified by the spill and its consequences that I can't think of anything to say.  And the realization that it's the result of business as usual makes it even worse.

As a card-carrying Pagan (just joking -- we're not nearly that well organized), I'm even more devastated.  We understand stewardship in a way that Christians don't seem to.  I should probably change that to "Christianists" -- I think any real Christians must realize that, by the tenets of their own faith, the world is under our care.  And I think that's absolutely the right word -- "care".  I recall the officer of whatever association of evangelical Christians is it -- and there's got to be a reason I can't remember his name or the name of the organization -- who called for a new emphasis on the environment and helping the poor and less emphasis on the so-called "social issues," and the immediate calls for his dismissal from the leaders of the Christianist movement.  That told me a lot about these people and their relation to Christianity. 

It goes back to what I've been saying for a while -- the teabaggers, the Christianists, the "drill, baby, drill" crowd, the Wall Street moguls, and yes, the Taliban and, I think, anyone who insists that their way is the only way because it's all about them, are small, frightened people who have never grown up enough to realize that the universe is a place of wonder and beauty and that we share it with every other living thing.  And without those other living things, if we wipe them out, if we see them merely as something put there for our use and not as a part of the intricate web that we are pleased to call "Creation," then we really have lost our souls.

Maybe that explains the popularity of zombies.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Congress is the New President

WTF?  Is there anyone in Washington who places any value at all on the Constitution?  Now the administration is caving on Miranda.

The Obama administration said Sunday it would seek a law allowing investigators to interrogate terrorism suspects without informing them of their rights, as Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. flatly asserted that the defendant in the Times Square bombing attempt was trained by the Taliban in Pakistan.

Look, we know by now that conservatives wet their pants every time someone brown says "Boo!" and can't wait to give terrorists whatever they want.  I had thought "radical liberals" were made of sterner stuff.  But apparently all you need to do is say "Taliban" or "al Qaeda" to get anyone in D.C. to dirty themselves.
You do realize that this is all coming out of our brave, Real Americans (TM) being scared shitless by two completely inept, failed attempts at terror attacks.  And do you think that Miranda is going to be waived for a blond?

I know there are people in this country who have their heads screwed on straight, but they don't seem to make the news.

Rekers Redux

I spent a couple of minutes catching up on the comments at this post at Bilerico, which I linked to over the weekend.  It's worse than I thought.  In addition to the court's comments in In the Matter of the Adoption of John and James Doe, which I noted in my comment, another reader came up with a citation from Hunter vs. Arkansas, in which Rekers was found even more wanting as an expert witness.  And another commenter found a report titled The Christian World View of the Family that is frightening -- callous, pompous, smug, and downright cruel.  Pure Dominionist "take over the world" thinking.

It seems Rekers not only identified himself as a "child psychologist" to Jo-Vanni, he's actually been practicing some of this hokum on poor kids.  He should be arrested on charges of child endangerment.

I still think he's a seriously f**ked up person and should be taken out of circulation.  I do feel sorry for him, but then I feel sorry for lots of people who probably don't deserve it.  But the idea that people are routinely calling this charlatan to service as an expert witness on anything involving children is unbelievable.

Stories from the Frontlines: Former Sgt. Tracey Cooper-Harris, US Army

##Tracey Harris

May 10, 2010

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,

My name is Tracey Cooper-Harris. I served in the Army for 12 years, reaching the rank of Sergeant. As a soldier and a non-commissioned officer (NCO), I performed my duties with honor and distinction. I was lauded by my peers and superiors for going above and beyond the status quo to complete the mission.

And, I am gay.

I lived in constant fear serving under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I was always looking over my shoulder, censoring what I said and keeping as much physical distance as possible between my military life and my personal life.

Even with this vigilance, I was found out by some male “friends” at my first duty assignment. I was just 19 years old. The deal was simple: Perform sexual favors and my secret was safe.

I had a choice: report these men for “sexual harassment/cohesion” and end my military career or submit to their demands.

Despite the military’s “zero tolerance” policy on sexual harassment, it doesn’t apply to those forced in the closet under DADT. I was sexually blackmailed and just a teenager.

At that time, as well as other times during my military service, I had seen friends discharged under DADT who were in similar situations. My friends were discharged, while their perpetrators were given a slap on the wrist.

The signal from command was clear: being gay was a far more serious offense in the military than sexually harassing a fellow service member. I ultimately chose what I believed was the best decision for me at the time. I let these men have their way with me in exchange for their silence.

I am not proud of what I did, but I loved my job too much to let it destroy my career before it had even started.

My decision didn’t come without consequences. I was eventually diagnosed with an STD which could potentially lead to cervical cancer later in life.

I, frankly, am still ashamed of what I had to do to stay in the Army. I wasn’t discharged under DADT, but left because of it. I continue to attend counseling sessions provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs for what I went through. The memories still come back to haunt me some 16 years later.

I don't want to see other service members go through what I went through. And unfortunately, this will continue to happen as long as DADT is law.

As long as a recruit or military member meets or exceeds the criteria for military service, let them serve. A bullet doesn’t discriminate because of a person’s race, gender identity, sex, religion, or sexual orientation, so why does the U.S. military continue to do so?

The time to repeal DADT is long overdue. Please, Mr. President, do the right thing.

Respectfully yours,
Former Sgt. Tracey L. Cooper-Harris
United States Army

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Rachel Does It Again: Must Watch

One of the great things about Rachel Maddow is that when the chips are down, she doesn't pull any punches, and she delivers it all gracefully, clearly, and honestly:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Via Pam's House Blend.

Some further thoughts on this, tying together a couple of strands over the past few days. First, here's the comment I left at PHB:

"I love that Dr. Rekers says "I am not gay and never have been." It's almost believable...Yup, almost believable."

We're perhaps a little too ready to scoff at those such as Larry Craig, Ted Haggard, and George Rekers who, when caught in these sorts of scandals, start off by saying "I'm not gay." Frankly, I'm inclined to agree with them: if we take it that "gay" is an identity as much as an indication of same-sex attraction (and I don't see how we can do otherwise, if we stop to think about it for a moment), then they're not "gay." They don't identify with us. Whether they should or not is up for grabs: they haven't been part of our culture (and "gay," like so many other designations, is largely a cultural definition, at least in its foundation) and they don't want to be part of our culture. (Whether we want them here or not is moot -- I know a fair number of gay men who I wish weren't, and many of them display the same kind of internalized homophobia we see in those like Rekers. It's just that they haven't devoted their lives to trashing us in any public, organized way -- they do it on a personal level while somehow functioning as part of our community.)

Does Rekers deserve our sympathy and understanding? Sure -- I think anyone does when they've been that damaged by the world. Does he deserve our forgiveness? No -- not yet, and maybe never. To do that, he'd have to do a complete turn-around, which means he'd have to ask himself some hard questions, and I don't think he has it in him to do that. From what I've seen, I don't think he's man enough: given his reactions to being found out, I take it that he knows he's been a hypocrite, but instead of facing up to it, he's trying to dodge it.

At least he's not blaming "Julien."

That also ties in to this post at The Bilerico Project by Rev. Jonathan Edwards:

So the question is: what do you do with people who are betraying their own kind? History has some rather painful answers to that question, none of which are off the table in my book. However, today I was watching Stephen Colbert's lampoon of Rekers and every time his picture popped onto the screen, all I could think about was the scared, wounded and scarred little 14-year-old boy trapped inside of him and how terrified he must be. And how it must feel to look back over a life - he doesn't have that much time left, being in ill-health - not only wasted, but spent actively hurting the very people who might have loved you. And I felt compassion.

Compassion, yes. Maybe it's just me, but I think that anyone who has been that hurt by the world they live in deserves at least that. (Yes, I also see the frightened, wounded fourteen-year-old.) But, as I said in the response at PHB, forgiveness is a little harder.

(I also left a comment at that post that expands on this a bit.)

I'm left with something I've thought for a long time: those of us who manage to survive adolescence and actually grow into being who we are are damned tough. And pretty damned independent. Rekers, Haggard, et al. don't seem to be that tough or that strong, and so -- for me at least -- deserve our sympathy. (I don't know what it is about me, but when I see someone who's not as strong as I am, my first impulse is to help them. I admire those who are stronger -- but I'm not afraid of them. I'm obviously a misfit.) And probably our empathy. But while I can, to a certain extent, identify with them -- yes, I was fourteen and liked boys, once upon a time -- I don't want to be them. I'm very happy being me.

(Be sure to check out the coverage of this scandal at Joe.My.God. He's been on top of it from the beginning.)

Update: One thing that I'm very pleased to see happening in this case is the calls for support for Jo-Vanni Roman, the boy in question, from Andy Towle, Dan Savage, and Joe Jervis. Jervis is actually doing something, and I'm very happy that he has the contacts to do that. And Savage is right -- where are HRC and the other "advocacy" groups in this? Note the loud -- very loud -- silence. Is it because we're dealing with another male hooker? As Savage points out, Mike Jones got a good dose of being ignored by the gay organizations after he outed Ted Haggard. We seem to see yet another instance here of the on-the-ground activists acting where our "national leadership" is just too damned afraid. Let's talk again about who gets thrown under the bus by who.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Stores from the Frontlines: Clifton Truman Daniel

May 7, 2010Truman Family

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Tomorrow, my family and I will mark the 126th anniversary of my grandfather President Harry Truman’s birthday. There are many reasons we celebrate his life and contributions to our nation, but in particular we are proud of his decision to desegregate the U.S. Armed Forces in July 1948, which paved the way for future civil rights advancements.

It was not easy. He faced fierce opposition from inside and outside the military. Many, including Army Chief of Staff Gen. Omar Bradley, argued that mixing black and white soldiers would destroy the Army.

My grandfather, however, was appalled that African-American service members had been beaten and lynched upon their return home from fighting in World War II. They had risked their lives to defend our nation, but were denied the full rights and responsibilities of American citizenship. Implementation of his order to desegregate wasn’t easy, but it made our military stronger and our nation a brighter beacon of democracy.

There are strong parallels between the desegregation of the military and the debate over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the law that mandates the firing of a service member based solely on his or her sexual orientation. Opponents argue that allowing openly gay and lesbian service members to serve alongside their heterosexual comrades will endanger discipline and morale.

While I have no idea where my grandfather would stand on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I do know that he admired service and sacrifice. An estimated 66,000 gay and lesbian Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Coastguardsmen are willingly risking their lives to defend our nation, despite being treated as second class citizens.

I would hope that my grandfather would want his openly gay great-granddaughter and others like her to have the opportunity to serve the country they love with dignity and integrity.

Mr. President, as you have said many times, including in your State of the Union Address earlier this year, ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is the right thing to do. This year is the right time to do it.

I commend you for your commitment and hope the example of my grandfather, Harry Truman, will help you lead with the same courage and conviction to ensure the "equality of treatment and opportunity for all who serve our nation’s defense.”

Clifton Truman Daniel

A Recommendation

Barbara O'Brien, known to at least part of the world at large as "Maja," has recently posted a string of marvelously acerbic (and mordantly funny) posts on a range of topics at Mahablog.  It seems to be a little shift in tone for her -- maybe she's getting as fed up as I am.  Add her to your bookmarks.

There was a time,

not so long ago, when it would have been the other way around:

If this guy is has even a snowball's chance of being elected, Alabama is going to be the next Arizona.

In the great race for the title "Alabama of the 21st Century," I guess Arizona won.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

That Explains My Red-Neck Cousins

New study on the human genetic inheritance:  Neanderthals are alive and well, thank you.

We have met Neanderthal and he is us — at least a little.
The most detailed look yet at the Neanderthal genome helps answer one of the most debated questions in anthropology: Did Neanderthals and modern humans mate?

The answer is yes, there is at least some cave man biology in most of us. Between 1 percent and 4 percent of g

I like this bit:

Erik Trinkaus, an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis, who has long argued that Neanderthals contributed to the human genome, welcomed the study, commenting that now researchers "can get on to other things than who was having sex with who in the Pleistocene."

Of course, there are always those who worry about who is having sex with who.  They haven't quite figured out that it's none of their business.  (And no, that's not aimed at Joe Jervis.)

Cafeteria Constitutionalism

That's what we seem to have on the right.  They're screaming about mirandizing the Times Square (failed) bomber.  Digby lays it out clearly.

There are those of us in  this country who regard the Constitution as pretty near sacred.  It's not perfect, if you follow the writers over at Balkinization at all -- and yes, some of their arguments make sense -- but I'm not ready to call for a constitutional convention.  Certainly not in this climate.  (Do you really want to see the Bill of Rights tossed out?)  But we've got Duncan Hunter (R-Pol Pot) calling for the deportation of American citizens because their parents were here illegally, John McCain (R-Desperate) expressing a fundamental lack of confidence in our judicial system (in spite of its record on suspected terrorists, far superior to that of military tribunals), and every mouthpiece on the right wanting to do away with Miranda (which wouldn't make any difference -- the issue would just come up again and the precedent would have a new name, that's all).

These people really don't seem to like America very much.

Go read Digby.  That should make it clear.

Mmm -- read this one, too.  It's even better.

Stories from the Frontlines: Former Army Staff Sergeant Anthony Moll

May 6, 2010Anthony Moll

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

My name is Anthony Moll and I am a bisexual veteran.

I served for eight years under the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that has failed our nation. I left the service just 10 weeks ago, and I can now say: this is the time, Mr. President, to push ahead and end this law.

The Senate Armed Services Committee is just a couple weeks away from holding a key vote on including repeal in the Defense budget. The vote will be close. Please, do whatever you can.

I have been proud to serve my country since joining the Army shortly after the attacks on September 11, 2001. My proudest moment was raising my hand and volunteering to serve our country in its time of need.

When I enlisted in 2002, I knew what DADT said, but nothing could prepare me for what it meant.

I had never been closeted about my sexual orientation so joining meant not only keeping quiet, but also being asked to lie to those whom already knew. While my leaders were instilling the values of honesty and integrity in me, the law in place was forcing me to do the opposite.

I knew that despite serving with distinction as a military police officer protecting fellow soldiers and their families from harm, I could face expulsion. During my service I was hand-picked as a Phoenix Raven, an Air Force program in which only a handful of soldiers are asked to participate.

While serving as a handler in the military’s working dog program, I worked with the Secret Service in detecting explosives – working to protect you.

In 2008, I was recognized as my installation’s Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year and Joint Service Member of the Year. Despite this distinction, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law treated me as a second-class citizen.

While I excelled at every turn, this law forced me to be dishonest with my peers, my friends and my community. Our nation’s heroes should not be forced to carry the burden of serving in silence when we need our troops keenly focused on their missions.

In the meantime, I'm not sitting on the sidelines. I am now working at the Human Rights Campaign on its efforts to repeal DADT now. But advocacy alone won't change the status quo.

Mr. President, tell Congress to move on repeal. Please allow my brothers and sisters-in-arms to live up to the Army values of respect, honor and integrity. Don’t let another life be ruined by a failed policy that hurts our nation as well as our heroes.

Mr. President, lift the ban.

Former Staff Sergeant Anthony Moll
United States Army

Race and Intelligence Again -- Farther Afield

I finally broke down an e-mailed Andrew Sullivan (although I'd rather snipe at him from the safety of my own blog) about the series of posts he's been running on Race and Intelligence -- sparked by the latest reader comments.  Since I doubt he'll publish it, here's the e-mail, with a short version of my thoughts on the whole "controversy."

Dear Andrew Sullivan:

I've been following your posts on "Race and Intelligence," and regarding the latest comments on the e-mail concerning "the genetic basis of intelligence" by the Harvard law student, I see that the controversy continues on the same -- and to my mind, quite mistaken -- terms.  It all seems to have gotten tied up in various causes celebres -- racism, freedom of speech, and the like -- and has very little to do with what she actually said.

I've not seen any comments on this flap that focus on what the real flaw in the e-mail was:  it's not that she was expressing an unpopular viewpoint, or even treading on politically incorrect territory, but that she assumed that she knew that she was talking about (as do both her supporters and critics) without, apparently, ever examining her assumptions, which I think must be a fatal flaw in someone who plans on making a career out of dissecting formal arguments.  Her question is legitimate, but sadly uninformed.  (And I suspect if she had even the most rudimentary knowledge of genetics and how it works, she wouldn't have bothered to ask the question to begin with.)

Until she has, and can express, a clear idea of what she means by "race" and by "intelligence," she, like most non-scientists who tackle this issue (which as far as I can see is a non-issue to anyone who doesn't have an agenda), should keep mum.

"Race" is a fairly fluid concept, and, while it has some use as a descriptive term for taxonomists, in larger discussions it essentially no longer has any meaning.  In ordinary parlance, it's purely a social construct.  One need only remember that in the U.S., a person with a black ancestor has routinely been considered "black," no matter the relative proportion of black to white ancestry.  (And I'm deliberately not using the word "genes" here -- the genetic difference between human races is so small as to be unmeasurable. After all, we're not very far, genetically speaking, from chimpanzees.  How far can we be from each other?)  To pose a question of genetic inheritance based on cultural definitions is to construct a fundamentally flawed question.

Talking about "intelligence" and genetics in the same breath is asking for trouble.  The genetic basis of intelligence, like the genetic basis of just about anything (especially behaviors), is a set of potentials and nothing more.  These potentials are subject to environmental influences that start when the egg is fertilized -- why does anyone think that doctors place such stress on proper nutrition for expectant mothers?  Because the womb is an environment.  The problem here is that, while our Harvard 3L is talking about the expression of intelligence (test scores, one assumes, or other measures of performance), she is casting it in terms of heritability.  We're talking about a behavior here, not eye color, and human behavior, even for those areas that are "biologically determined," is way too complex to cast in such simplistic terms.

I don't fault her for asking the question.  I'm not going to impute an agenda or ideology as a foundation here -- it's the kind of air-headed "what if?" that one finds in students, which is a good enough excuse, and to start hurling charges of racism based on something like this is, at best, revealing of a lack of clear thought in her critics.  I'm not even sure I fault her for saying it without having a clear idea of what she was talking about -- she's asking a question, and it's a student's question, but that's one way we learn.  (And yes, I'm one of those who thinks we should be allowed to ask any question that occurs to us.)  I do think, however, that the only adult response is "Back up and define your terms."  That seems to have been eclipsed by the politics of those involved.

Next teapot.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

There's Only So Much You Can Polish a Turd

Case in point, Duncan Hunter

"Would you support deportation of natural born American citizens that are the children of illegal aliens?" a man in the audience asked.

"I would have to, yes," Hunter said.

He continued:  "You can look and say, 'You're a mean guy. That's a mean thing to do. That's not a humanitarian thing to do.' We simply cannot afford what we're doing right now."

"We just can't afford it anymore," Hunter said. "That's it. And we're not being mean. We're just saying it takes more than walking across the border to become an American citizen. It's within our souls."

Dear Stupid:  It's not that it's not humanitarian (although I think the last thing any one will accuse Hunter of is humanitarian impulses).  It's that it's unconstitutional.

And what's this "within our souls" bullshit?

Stories from the Frontlinse: Some Thoughts

I hope you are reading these, and more important, forwarding them to others, especially those who don't think DADT is their issue.

Some of them are heartbreaking; they are all about broken dreams.  Not just their dreams, but ours, any of us who dream of living in a country where all are, in fact, equal before the law and where we are all valued for what we contribute, not for what someone else thinks we should be.

In fact, forward them to your congresscritters.  They're the ones who need to read them.

Stories From the Frontlines: Former 1st Lt. Laura Slattery, US Army

May 5, 2010Laura Slattery

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,

I may be stating perhaps an obvious truism: Love is confusing. As a friend and, later in life, a chaplain, I have counseled many as they tried to navigate the toughest of love‘s questions: Is this the person I should marry? Is this infatuation or love, and how can I know the difference? Should I take the relationship to the next level? The first time I fell in love, it was just as confusing. I knew I was in love, but with a woman. It was a severe test for me. I had never been in a same-sex relationship and didn‘t see myself as gay. Yet the fact remained — I was in love. Adding to the confusion, and the fear of the whole experience (love can be scary enough on its own!), was the fact that I had just graduated from West Point and was serving as a Second Lieutenant (2LT) at Schofield Barracks. I had gone to West Point, to a large degree, because of the code of honor. Integrity has always been, of all the values, the one I hold most dear. My mother had graduated from UCLA and I remember clearly the day she told me how disappointed she was when she saw some of her students buying and selling papers they had written. At that moment I thought: Nope, that is not going to happen to me. I am going to a school that matches my desire and need for honesty and integrity. So there I was – in love with a woman – and a brand new 2LT on a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The easiest thing for me to do -- and the course of action I tried -- was to encourage myself to run from love. I also considered confiding in others, but given the horror stories of investigations and removals from duty, I decided against it. The thought of the shame of being interrogated and kicked out of the Service for something I wasn‘t even sure I was (a lesbian!), was too much to bear. In the short three years that I was on active duty, I was Airborne and Air Assault (first female Distinguished Honor Graduate). During the First Gulf War, I volunteered to go to Iraq. Due to the needs of the Army, however, I remained in the Pacific – working in the 25th Infantry Division. The values of physical work, integrity, service and team building made the Army an almost ideal place for me. I may have continued serving if I had felt more a part of the team. I was well-liked and had friends, but not being able to share the biggest struggle in my life (and the biggest joy) with my peers and military friends prevented me from really forming the kind of friendships that one needs to feel as an integral part of a team. It’s the warmth and support of a team that is truly needed for real “unit cohesion” among the officer corps and with the troops. It is necessary to continue to risk life and limb for each other. In the end we risked everything not only for our country, but for our country personified in and by our buddies, members of that integral team. Not feeling that, I resigned my commission in September of 1991. If I can be so bold, Mr. President: we need to help soldiers, and all people really, develop healthy understandings of what it is to be human, divorced from antiquated stereotypes about gender and gender roles. “Macho” has no place in the modern professional Army; put downs and negative comparisons to the feminine are also hurtful to the Esprit de Corps of the Forces. I know that you have based your Administration on creating a culture of respect for difference, of developing your version of “unit cohesion” based on the values of inclusion and diversity, not in spite of them. This is the direction that the military needs to go, and it can start by repealing DADT now.

Former First Lieutenant Laura Slattery
United States Army

Letters from the Front Lines: SSgt. Anthony Loverde, USAF

I missed posting this one yesterday, so it's catch-up time.

May 4, 2010Anthony Loverde

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,

They called me “vapor” --

As a little boy, I always had an interest in serving in the U.S. military. Both my grandfathers served in the Korean conflict, an uncle in Vietnam and I soon became the first of my generation to serve, followed by my brother and a few of my cousins.

After entering the Air Force in February of 2001, I eventually was promoted to Staff Sergeant. Although successful in my job as a Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory (PMEL) technician, I was still coming to terms of being a gay man.

I struggled with my faith that told me it was a sin. I couldn‘t talk to the Chaplain Corps because I had read about gays being discharged after coming out to a chaplain. And so, I continued to internalize my struggle with accepting myself, my faith and how I must live under “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

As my separation date approached, many of my supervisors offered career-counseling. They all said the same thing: “Tony, you need to consider re-enlisting. You are the kind of Airman that the USAF needs to retain. You have a bright future in the Air Force and it would be a great loss to see you leave.”

They often times would ask why I wanted to leave, and I always replied: “I don‘t like wearing hats.”

Eventually, I changed my mind and was able to better manage living under DADT. I applied for cross training into C-130 Loadmaster and was accepted. I figured the high ops-tempo; frequent deployments and lack of down time would make for a great environment to keep me so busy that I just wouldn‘t have time to be gay.

I thought it was a brilliant plan.

As a distinguished graduate from Loadmaster training, I quickly established myself as a top-notch troop with the 37th Airlift Squadron at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. Within four months of my arrival, I had completed my upgrade training and was mission ready. I deployed to Ali Al Salem, Kuwait, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

But deployment can take its toll. I couldn’t lie to my fellow troops -- my friends -- anymore. I delayed coming out as to not compromise our mission and waited until we returned to Germany. At first, I ended up avoiding them as much as possible.

They nicknamed me “vapor” -- as soon as we hit the ground, I would disappear.

I didn‘t avoid them because I didn‘t like them, I avoided them because I respected them enough to not have to lie and burden them with my secret.

When I arrived in Germany, I sent an email to my First Sergeant to tell him I wanted to speak with my commander about being gay and not wanting to abide by DADT any longer. My commander said I served honorably and they would be there to support me in my transition back to civilian life.

Each one of my past supervisors from the ranks of E7 to E9 wrote character reference letters that requested my retention. My commander and First Sergeant said my character, performance and honorable service was not at question…it was merely a legal matter.

Upon my discharge, I was hired by global contractor KBR to fill a technical position in Iraq and later in Bagram, Afghanistan. I was once again working with the same Airmen I had worked for on active duty, but this time openly gay. No one had a problem.

I continue to work side by side with members of our military – each of them knowing me as a gay man -- and it has caused no impact on the mission. My contracting job for the Department of Defense now is the same job I performed when I was in uniform.

Mr. President, we need you to help repeal this law – this year -- so that my comrades continue to work in a force that retains the best and brightest based on performance rather than sexual orientation. Our men and women in the military deserve better. Listen to them, and, please, sir, do not turn your back on us.

Very Respectfully,
Former SSgt. Anthony Loverde
United States Air Force