Monday, November 10, 2008

Phi Kappa Tau 5k

I'm pretty stoked because my time for the PKT 5k race I ran on Saturday was a big improvement on my previous time: According to the results list ran the course in 22:57!

Friday, October 24, 2008

The ever-expanding acronym LGBT/LGBTQ/LGBTQQIAA is a manifestation of the impossibility of discretizing the many dimensional continuum of human sexuality. In its longest forms, it is certainly cumbersome, but in its shorter forms it is certainly very recognizable as something more inclusive than "gay": We do not all need to be boxed together, but sometimes we do need a rallying cry to be free. However much one dislikes the acronym, one can hardly envisage setting up an LGBT group that did not have some combination and permutation of the people it was supposed to include.

It is also, however a statement inseperable from its history and within that aesthetic is unsurprising that it has grown. It has grown because many people over time have disagreed with the status quo, and have been disheartened by remaining prejudices within LGBT society: race, class, age, mysogyny, prejudice against transgender people etc. The growth of the acronym is a reflection of its users understanding of these prejudices and a consequential affirmation of inclusivity. It would be churlish and counterproductive to condemn people for attempting to be inclusive! Labels such as "politically correct" denigrate the utterly laudible actions of those who are sufficiently analytical to try to care about the way they talk.

Nonetheless, those who do perpetually extend the acronym are misguided: there will never be a satisfactory acronym or label that describes the sexuality of everyone since any label that affirms who it includes must do so by omitting those who it excludes. We can rid ourselves of the question of who to include by understanding the fundamental principle at stake: that discrimination for any irrelevant reason whatsoever is unjustifiable. I would contend that the labels we choose ought to communicate this truth as fully as possible. Metaphors like "Spectrum", liberating statements like "Out" are far better than boxes like "LGBTQQIAAS".

Sunday, October 12, 2008

In an ideal world....

I've heard this phrase a great deal recently. "In an ideal world.." in my experience is a phrase all too often used to dismiss perfectly sensible and practical solutions for society's ills and to subsequently propose whatever ill-conceived compromise the speaker has in mind. When we're spending a budget, there may not be a solution that satisfies all the constraints, and then of course a debate has to take place to prioritize those constraints.

But the quality of debate is NOT a constrained quantity: we can debate at as high or low level as we like! And that means we should keep in mind ideals at all times. Deconstruction of "truth", "deception" and "religion" may make pleasant poetry, but in politics there are real effects and real consequences that cannot be excised by application of inverted commas. Rather than form an opinion and then cherry-pick evidence that appears to support it, one should look for evidence and then form an opinion. Not idealistic at all, this is a strategy that seems to me to be quite mundane.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

How John McCain Could Secure My Vote

An interesting point made by Republican supporters about Democrats is that “you’re never going to vote for John McCain anyway, so why should he care what you think?” This challenges those of us who are inclined to consider carefully our endorsement to coherently answer the (admittedly weaker) question Under what circumstances might I vote for a Republican presidential candidate?

If we are to be persuaded to vote for Mr McCain, or some future Republican candidate, we would naturally wish to be assured that they had a 'reasonable' stance on LGBT issues. A seemingly universal, and perennial, admission by LGBT Republicans is the judgement that LGBT rights issues are subservient to other issues, be they the war or the economy or whatever. We ought to question, then, presupposing that he is not a homophobe, whether Mr McCain is doing all he can within the confines of Republican ideology to support these issues, or if he is not, that there is an overriding justification for this.

In this spirit, allow me to propose two compromise positions that seem to me to be consistent with Republican values (by which I mean conservative and broadly libertarian values):

First, since there is excellent bipartisan evidence that DADT is harming the effectiveness of the military and its ability to recruit and train LGBT personnel, it would seem to be entirely consistent with McCain’s emphasis of military effectiveness to repeal DADT.

Second, on the subject of LGBT marriage, any number of compromises might be possible even within the Republican ticket: for instance, recognizing that the realities of California and Idaho (for example) are rather different, it would be consistent with the principles of small government and state supremacy to endorse the states’ right to decide for themselves; alternatively, recognizing that objections to LGBT marriage are may be recast as religious objections to the nomenclature, he might propose a federal definition of civil partnership and propose marriage as an (excluded to LGBT people) special case of this. Such compromise positions are intellectually problematic – they continue to discriminate even as they acknowledge the existence of value in LGBT relationships – but if indeed other issues are more pressing then such a compromise might well be acceptable.

In point of fact, if the various other issues are indeed so pressing, then any sort of statement that McCain acknowledges the contribution of LGBT people to society but that the time is not appropriate might well be persuasive. Tellingly, however, no such statement, nor either of the above suggestions, is a part of the McCain platform.

In fact the strongest argument that Mr Mcain is not a homophobe would appear to be that his Campaign Chief of Staff is, so it is alleged, openly gay. The fallacy of this argument ought to be manifest, but in case it is not, allow me to explain: my boss is a homophobe, and he is nonetheless content to employ me (an openly gay man). Somewhat conveniently, and rather unfortunately for me, I am a demonstration of this logical fallacy.

So why then are proposals like these, that are perfectly compatible with Republican views, not on a Republican platform that advertises itself as being “for change”? In order to explain this, I introduce a scientific (i.e. falsifiable) hypothesis:

NO LGBT issue will EVER be on a Republican Presidential ticket UNLESS and UNTIL LGBT Republicans are able to VISIBLY clinch an election for the Republican platform.

This claim is made from the experiences of many minority groups within many democracies and draws upon a common phenomenon: political access will change precisely nothing without political power. This was true for the Clinton administration, where despite LGBT people having considerable influence in setting policy, the lack of a grassroots LGBT movement meant that there was no political power to achieve that administrations goal of opening up the military. To take a second example, contemplate why, for that matter, did Boris Johnson (the Mayor of London) – a conservative – attend London Pride?

The ramification for Gay Republicans of this principle is this: you shall forever be repeating the mantra “there are more important issues” until you are able to use your voice specifically as LGBT Republicans to elect candidates. Having LGBT people within the Republican party will never be enough to bring LGBT issues onto the Republican ticket in any form beneficial for LGBT people. If you really do disagree with the Democrats, and if you’re not prepared to defer your freedom perpetually, then you must build your own political power.

Of course, the LGBT Democrats are a lot further along this road and there is a useful corollary for the Obama campaign: this will be a close election. If LGBT freedom is to be a concern of an Obama administration, it is essential that the LGBT Democrat vote is there and vocal in the swing states. Neither "I don't do politics" nor "I preferred Hilary" nor "I'm still deciding" is enough: this election is a unique opportunity to build considerable power for LGBT reform. We must not waste it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Abercrombie & Fitch Challenge

I ran the A&F challenge 5k yesterday in Columbus, OH. Complete race results are here. I did pretty well, coming in 187th place, with a time of 25'25" and an average pace of 8'11". The event was very well organized, with really good food afterwards, cool t-shirts and a very flat course. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Whoever reads this, I think you're beautiful

Found on the back of an advertisement for an exhibition at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, England: "Whoever reads this, I think your beautiful" [sic]

What a wonderful sentiment.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Thoughts on Cleveland Pride

Families planning to sail on the Goodtime III pleasure cruiser that is docked at Voinovich park might have initially had some apprehension after they boarded upon seeing that their principal view was of the 20th Annual Pride celebration. If they did look closer, they would have seen a crowd only a little more remarkable than those at any of the festivals in Ohio. Children, couples, friends, lovers, parents, pets and churches were interspersed with the odd drag queen or leather person, and even Foucault might have felt uncharitable in deconstructing the notion of an LGBT community of Cleveland. A very poignant image for me was of my friend Matt’s friend Michael carrying a child–an image of love and an empowering metaphor for the role of LGBT people in nurturing the future of our wider society.

Predictably the Parade was the (bloodless) battleground of a theological battle between the many Cleveland churches that embrace LGBT people and a small number of placard-bearing protesters. The ripostes were humorous and dignified; the marching band drowned out the microphone. How best to deal with them nonetheless provoked some debate: my friend Brandon was of the opinion that these people were attempting to provoke a fight and were best ignored. Perhaps there is some merit to the repudiation of homosexuality as a no-man’s land in the the internal politics of the church, but perhaps we are better if we welcome the protesters as humans, showing them the love they fail to reciprocate. The rights of freedom of speech and association that they enjoy are shared guarantees, even if we have had to fight to claim them and they have not, that allow us to be there in the first place.

Inside the festival, there were many interesting booths of the usual local and national organizations. Sadly absent was a Case Western Reserve booth (the LGBT Provost’s group did march in the parade), but for those who are interested, there’s plenty of groups to get involved with. Sexual health campaigners were encouragingly omnipresent although I wish the organizers had been more sensitive that to place Flex, a bathhouse, next to the AIDS campaign of Greater Cleveland.

Other people I talked to: I’ll now be going to the ACLU brown bag lunches on Wednesdays on Chester. I spoke with a representative from the Human Rights Campaign and offered to volunteer. I took a leaflet for my mom from PFLAG. I also offered to volunteer at the LGBT Center, who never got back to me last year. I’ve actually been looking for a while to volunteer somewhere but haven’t really found the right outlet yet. Perhaps these groups could do more to encourage volunteers. There were many other worthwhile groups, including musical, outdoors and athletic groups (softball and volleyball but alas, not rugby or snowboarding).

A minor peeve: I regret that groups like the HRC in trying to attract support for legislation like ENDA (which would prevent LGB but not T people from discrimination in employment on the basis of their orientation) lack the ambition for something more intellectually consistent. Such a bill would prevent discrimination against anyone–straight people too–for any reason irrelevant to their employment. The lady we spoke to unconvincingly reiterated Politics Is The Art of The Possible, but it is hard to see how this could not enjoy more widespread support than the more limited ENDA. It would moreover resist the distasteful and essentially discriminatory exercise of compartmentalizing subgroups of the community and then arguing separately on the rights that they ought, or ought not, enjoy.

It would have been churlish of me to have attempted to have argued this extensively at Pride even if I wish they might have more rigour in their sales pitch, so I did not, and signed up. I got a stylish bracelet with the Equals sign for my trouble. Matt got an equally stylish bag.

For one day a year we get to see that LGBT people cover the entire cross section of society and not merely those we see in bars. I heard the sharing of stories yesterday of discomfort within people’s families (I’m not immune to this either) about their orientation; I saw an evanescent vision yesterday of less conformist society. With the weight of Kant and Rousseau, Pride challenges us: Dare to know; Dare to be free.