New book 2007: Gay Travels in the Muslim World, Edited by Michael Luongo (ch. 10 by GlobalGayz owner Richard Ammon)
See books reviews: Gay City News and Philadelphia Gay News
5th November 2007
Gay teenagers are homecoming couple
by Maryam Omidi
A gay couple have made school history in the United States by being the first-ever elected homecoming prince and prince. Brandon Raphael and Kiernan Gatewood, both 16, wore sashes proudly proclaiming their royalty as they rode through the city of Davis, California, in the school’s annual homecoming parade. According to the Sacramento Bee, "They stood in the back of a pick-up truck, arm-in-arm, smiling warmly despite the rain." The couple, who have been dating for four months, were elected in a write-in ballot election at Davis Senior High School in a city renowned for its liberal leanings.
"[Davis] is a liberal town," said Raphael. "Go 10 miles in any other direction and you’ll get some other feeling." The election is particularly significant because students chose their own candidates in a secret ballot. "The students voted for who they wanted to win," said student Charlotte Haar. The absence of the usual chorus of disapproval that accompanies such developments has equally surprised people. "I thought our (school) administration would have more to say about it," said Raphael.
Lae-San Seto, advocacy coordinator for the San Francisco-based Gay-Straight Alliance Network, agrees that such milestones usually spark controversy within communities. According to Seto, "It’s a sign that gay people are getting recognised everywhere and are considered vital members of the school community and are able to participate in school events in the same full way that their straight fellow students are able to." Principal Michael Cawley, who declined to comment on the election, only said that he hoped the issue would remain "low-key".
Most students have been celebrating their friends’ momentous victory for days. "I think it’s just such a good thing for our school," said Chandler Fox, co-president of the campus Gay-Straight Alliance. "Just knowing that the other kids recognise them as a couple and would vote for a gay couple to be prince and prince of homecoming. … I don’t know, I just think it’s awesome. I want people to know about it so maybe it can happen at another school."
November 5, 2007
Study: Same-Sex Couples Becoming More Visible In All Parts Of Country
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
New York City – Gay and lesbian couples have become more visible in all areas of the country but the biggest increase is in areas of the country considered the most conservative according to a study issued Monday. The report, prepared by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, is based on recently released data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. It shows that the number of same-sex couples in the US has quadrupled since 1990 – growing at a rate 21 times that of the population. Increases, the report says, have been the most dramatic in the Midwest, Mountain, and Southern states.
The Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy advances law and public policy through independent research and scholarship. "Clearly, more same-sex couples are willing to openly identify themselves as such on government surveys," said Gary Gates, Senior Research Fellow at the Williams Institute and author of the study. A combination of growing social acceptance and migration to the South and West means that same-sex couples are becoming increasingly visible in the most politically and socially conservative parts of the country," Gates said.
Conservative regions where George Bush Sr’s support in the 1992 Presidential election exceeded his national vote average all had above average increases in same-sex couples since 1990, the report shows. Conversely, regions where Bill Clinton’s support was above his national vote average all had increases of same-sex couples below the national average. The Williams Institute study also found that state recognition of same-sex couples was inversely related to increases in the number of same-sex couples reporting their relationship. From 2000 to 2006, states that created formal recognition of same-sex couples had below average increases while states that prohibited marriage between two people of the same sex experienced above average increases in same-sex couples. States that brought voter referendums about marriage equality experienced even higher increases.
"The fact that same-sex couples are becoming more visible in areas where legal recognitions are scarce shows that campaigns against gay rights might have a limited shelf life," said Gates. "As gay and lesbian people come out, we know that their neighbors and friends become more supportive of their rights." Utah typifies this demographic pattern, said Gates.
In rankings of states by their concentration of same-sex couples, the study finds that Utah is the biggest mover from a ranking of 38th in 1990 to 14th in 2006. Gates also noted that the study provides implications for the political picture as the US prepares for the 2008 elections. "It may very well be that these changes in the number of same-sex couples offer a ‘leading indicator’ to assess which historically conservative states are destined to become more ‘purple’ in upcoming elections," he said. "If so, keep an eye on Utah. Salt Lake City has passed legislation to formally recognize same-sex couples and BYU no longer considers being gay to be a violation of its honor code. Perhaps most notable, the state now has three openly gay officials in its state legislature. That’s one more than in the US Congress."
Other findings from the study include:
– East South Central states of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee saw a combined increase in same-sex couples of 863% from 1990 to 2006.
– Mountain states of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Montana, Utah, Nevada, and Idaho had an increase of 698%.
– Same-sex couple increases were 55 times larger than population increases in the Upper Midwest (Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin)
– Three cities (among the 50 largest) showed decreases in same-sex couples from 2000 to 2006: Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Detroit. In all three cases the cities lost same-sex couples while surrounding counties showed large gains.
6th November 2007
CBS to make news programme for US gay network
by Gemma Pritchard
American LGBT cable channel Logo is planning to screen a half-hour weekly news programme by CBS News. "CBS News on Logo" will premiere next Monday evening. The news broadcast stems from a two-year partnership between the MTV Networks channel and CBS News. CBS News had been producing three-minute bulletins that aired daily on Logo, which will now be replaced by the half-hour news programme.
According to Reuters, Logo president and president of MTV Networks Music Group Entertainment Brina Graden said on Monday that Logo had got to the point where it had the distribution and roster of advertisers to take things to another level. "It seemed like there was enough news to sustain that (half-hour) format and then some, and that the audience had a concentrated interest," a year out from the 2008 general elections, Graden said.
He also didn’t rule out further news programming if the new format is successful. The new show will focus on LGBT issues including the 2008 election, HIV/AIDs and entertainment, sports and science news. The newscast will be available on Logo as well as streamed at 365gay.com, a Logo-owned Website.
"The opportunity here is that the same team that’s been effectively doing a whole new project will have a week to work on it now," John Frazee, a senior VP at CBS News, told the Hollywood Reporter.
Logo is owned by Viacom’s MTV. Targeting programming aimed at the LGBT community, it launched in June 2005.
November 7, 2007
Gay Muslims Find Freedom, of a Sort, in the U.S.
by Neil Macfarquhar
San Francisco – About 15 people marched alongside the Muslim float in this city’s notoriously fleshy Gay Pride Parade earlier this year, with various men carrying the flags of Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine and Turkey and even Iran’s old imperial banner. While other floats featured men dancing in leather Speedos or women with scant duct tape over their nipples, many Muslims were disguised behind big sunglasses, fezzes or kaffiyehs wrapped around their heads. Even as they reveled in newfound freedom compared with the Muslim world, they remained closeted, worried about being ostracized at the mosque or at their local falafel stand.
“They’re afraid of the rest of the community here,” said Ayman, a stocky 31-year-old from Jordan, who won asylum in the United States last year on the basis of his sexuality. “It’s such a big wrong in the Koran that it is impossible to be accepted.” For gay Muslims, change may come via a nascent body of scholarship in minority Muslim communities where the reassessment of sacred texts used to damn homosexuality is gaining momentum. In traditional seats of Islamic learning, like Egypt and Iran, punishment against blatant homosexual activity, not to mention against trying to establish a gay rights movement, can be severe. These governments are prone to label homosexuality a Western phenomenon, as happened in September when Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, spoke at Columbia University. But far more leeway to dissect the topic exists in places where gay rights are more protected.
As a rule, gay Muslim activists lacked the scholarly grounding needed to scrutinize time-honored teachings. But that is changing, activists say, partly because no rigid clerical hierarchy exists in the West to bar such research. Nonetheless, gaining acceptance remains such a hurdle that Muslims in the United States hesitate. Imam Daayiee Abdullah, 53, a black convert to Islam, was expelled from a Saudi-financed seminary in Virginia after the school found out he is gay. His effort to organize a gay masjid, or mosque, in Washington failed largely out of fear, he said. “You have these individuals who say that they would blow up a masjid if it was a gay masjid,” he said. Mr. Abdullah and other scholars argue that there is no uncontested record of the Prophet Muhammad addressing homosexuality and that examples of punishment would surely exist had he been hostile.
Mirroring the feminist school of Islam, gay advocates pursue a holistic interpretation that emphasizes accepting everyone as equally God’s creation. Most Koranic verses treating same-sex relations are ambiguous, said Omid Safi, an Islamic studies professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “They are talking about an ‘abomination,’” Professor Safi said, “but what an abomination is remains open to interpretation.” Since the primary Koranic verses used to condemn homosexuality also suggest male rape, the progressive reading is that the verses revile using sex as domination, said Scott Kugle, an American convert and university professor who specializes in the topic. The arguments are not entirely modern; some are drawn from a medieval scholar in Andalusia, once a seat of enlightened Muslim governance, he said.
The classical attitude toward lesbians is even murkier, Mr. Kugle added, because sex was defined as penetration. Hostility is rooted in the Koranic story of Lot, which parallels the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah. At Al-Tawhid Mosque in San Francisco, the imam, Hassan al-Jalal, a Yemeni with a short beard, printed a sheaf of Koranic verses that he said condemned homosexuals. “This is the main sin in Islam,” Mr. Jalal said, describing how the town housing Lot’s tribe was lifted high into the sky and then dropped, killing all in the town before they were buried under what is now the Dead Sea. “He sent the flood to clean the earth from AIDS. There were no doctors at that time, but God knew they had a virus.”
All sects mandate capital punishment, he argued, although others differ. “Sunni, Shiite, they all agree that they have to be killed. But who does it? Not me or you, only by law.” Muslim clerics reject being gay as biologically coded and advise anyone with homosexual stirrings to avoid temptation. They see America as rife with it given practices like open gym showers. The hostility pushes some gay Muslims to interpret for themselves or to withdraw from the faith. For Rafique, a 56-year-old Southeast Asian Muslim in San Francisco, resolution came through a combination of medieval mystic poetry and individual spiritual efforts endorsed by Sufi Muslim traditions. Renowned poets wrote odes glorifying handsome boys. Some were interpreted as metaphors about loving God, but some were paeans to gay sex. Rafique and others argue that homosexuality became criminalized only under European colonialism.
“From the 10th to the 14th century, Muslim society used to be a far richer mix of the legal, the rational and the mystic,” said Rafique, an anthropologist. “They looked at sexuality as one aspect of life’s many possibilities, and they saw in it the hope for spiritual insight. I came across this stuff, and it helped me reconcile the two.”
Some mosques with a Sufi orientation extend a rare welcome to gay Muslims. Ayman, the parade organizer, said his previous life in Jordan was marked by fear. Arrested at 17 after a sexual encounter in a public building, he said the police wrote “manyak,” a homosexual slur, into his file. He denied being gay, but the word resurfaced whenever the police stopped him. He worried that one day it would happen around a relative. He is convinced that a 22-year-old gay friend who died after a fall from an apartment building was the victim of an “honor” killing meant to clean the family’s reputation. “I still feel like I’m a Muslim; I don’t accept that anyone insults the faith,” said Ayman, who avoids attending mosque. “When I read what it says in the Koran, then I fear Judgment Day.”
A 26-year-old from Saudi Arabia who took the first name Liam after rejecting his faith said that as a teenager he fought his homosexuality by becoming a religious zealot. He eventually accepted his sexuality while at college in Colorado, but moved to the Bay Area because gay life in the kingdom was too depressing. But a 39-year-old burly, bearded computer consultant who left Saudi Arabia to live in the United States said the cosmopolitan city of Jidda had a thriving gay underground. In other Arab states, he said, it is rare to find men who are both religious and gay, but the high numbers in Jidda made them relax somewhat. “They don’t care about sex and alcohol, but they do avoid pork,” he said.
The consultant, trying to reconcile being gay and Muslim, divides his sins into the redeemable and those warranting hellfire. “Anal sex for either a man or woman is wrong, so when I really think about it, I tell myself not to have sex,” he said, describing a failed four-year experiment with celibacy. “I live with what I am doing, but I don’t want to live in a double standard, I don’t want to go through life unhappy.”
November 8, 2007
House Approves Broad Protections for Gay Workers
by David M. Herszenhorn
Washington, Nov. 7 – The House on Wednesday approved a bill granting broad protections against discrimination in the workplace for gay men, lesbians and bisexuals, a measure that supporters praised as the most important civil rights legislation since the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 but that opponents said would result in unnecessary lawsuits. The bill, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, is the latest version of legislation that Democrats have pursued since 1974. Representatives Edward I. Koch and Bella Abzug of New York then sought to protect gay men and lesbians with a measure they introduced on the fifth anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, the brawl between gay men and police officers at a bar in Greenwich Village that is widely viewed as the start of the American gay rights movement. “On this proud day of the 110th Congress, we will chart a new direction for civil rights,” said Representative Kathy Castor, a Florida Democrat and a gay rights advocate, in a speech before the vote. “On this proud day, the Congress will act to ensure that all Americans are granted equal rights in the work place.”
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat and a longtime supporter of gay rights legislation, said he would move swiftly to introduce a similar measure in the Senate. Some Senate Republicans said that, if worded carefully, it would have a good chance of passing, perhaps early next year. Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, has said that she would be the lead co-sponsor of the Senate bill. Ms. Collins, in a statement, said that the House vote “provides important momentum” and that “there is growing support in the Senate for strengthening federal laws to protect American workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation.”
President Bush threatened to veto an earlier version of the bill, but a White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, said the administration would need to review recent changes before making a final decision. Few Democrats expect Mr. Bush to change his mind. The House bill would make it illegal for an employer “to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to the compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment of the individual, because of such individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation.”
While 19 states and Washington, D.C., have laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation, and many cities offer similar protections, federal law offers no such shield, though it does bar discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, sex, age, disability and pregnancy. In the House on Wednesday, 35 Republicans joined 200 Democrats voting for the bill, which was approved 235 to 184, perhaps reflecting polls showing that a plurality of Americans believe homosexuality should be accepted as an alternative lifestyle, though a majority still oppose same-sex marriage. Voting against the bill were 25 Democrats and 159 Republicans.
Among the Democrats opposed, many said the bill should have also outlawed discrimination based on gender identity. And while the Democrats fell far short of the 280 votes that would be needed to override a presidential veto, many of them, including the majority leader, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, spoke about the vote in exuberant tones, calling it “historic” and “momentous.” For more than 30 years, outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation has been a cause of liberal Democrats, who have fought many partisan battles with Republicans but have always come up short. In 1996, the Senate came within one vote of passing a bill; the House did not vote on the bill that year. The twist this year is that the measure has emerged as an example of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pragmatism in trying to make headway on leading issues by granting concessions, even at the risk of angering her party’s base.
To ensure passage of the bill, Ms. Pelosi and other Democrats, including Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who is openly gay, removed language granting protections to transsexual and transgender individuals by barring discrimination based on sexual identity, a move that infuriated gay rights groups. The Democrats also carved out a blanket exemption for religious groups, drawing the ire of civil liberties advocates who argued that church-run hospitals, for instance, should not be permitted to discriminate against gay employees. The civil liberties groups wanted a narrow exemption for religious employers. On the House floor, Ms. Pelosi acknowledged challenges. “History teaches us that progress on civil rights is never easy,” she said. “It is often marked by small and difficult steps.”
Ms. Pelosi did maintain the support of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay rights group in the country, even though it was disappointed that gender identity protections were not included in the bill. “Today’s vote in the House sends a powerful message about equality to the country, and it’s a significant step forward for our community,” said Joe Solmonese, the group’s president. Others were not so upbeat. “What should have been one of the most triumphant days in our movement’s history is not,” said Matt Foreman, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “It’s one of very mixed reactions.”
But many longtime supporters of the legislation cheered its passage. “It’s wonderful,” said Mr. Koch, a former mayor of New York City. “Even though it is a vote that was delayed too long.” Much of the debate Wednesday was taken up by Republicans complaining, somewhat oddly, that they could not hold a vote on a Democratic amendment to restore gender identity language. Democrats suggested that these Republicans were not hoping to protect transsexuals from discrimination but to restore provisions to the bill that would have made it easier to rally opposition.
Representative Doc Hastings of Washington, who led the Republican effort to get a vote on the amendment, said he opposed the overall bill in part because many states already had similar laws and because he viewed it as intrusive. “I do not think it is the place of the federal government to legislate how each and every place of business operates,” Mr. Hastings said. Other opponents said the law would result in spurious lawsuits.
“It would be impossible for employers to operate a business without having to worry about being accused of discriminating against someone based on their ‘perceived’ sexual orientation,” said Representative Ginny Brown-Waite, Republican of Florida, who raised two fingers on each hand to flash quotation marks over her head as she said “perceived.”
Mr. Kennedy, who is chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, issued a statement praising the House vote. He could introduce a measure identical to the House bill or a new version, which might restore language about gender identity.
9th November 2007
Gay candidates victorious in elections across the US
by Tony Grew
An organisation dedicated to increasing the number of openly LGBT elected officials at all levels in the United States has announced that dozens of openly gay and lesbian candidates running in municipal and state legislative races across the country won their elections this week. According to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, of the record 71 candidates endorsed by the group in 2007, at least 31 won their races on Tuesday, while 10 were elected earlier this year. At least three more endorsed candidates received enough votes to advance to runoff elections. 71 supported candidates is a new record for the Victory Fund in an odd-numbered year ie: a year in which there are no scheduled federal elections.
At last month’s Labour party conference a campaign fund was announced, Dorothy’s List, which will support LGBT candidates standing to represent the party in Parliament. The US the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund supports candidates from across the political divide. Victory Fund president and CEO Chuck Wolfe said the growing number of out candidates demonstrates the American gay community’s increasing involvement in electoral politics.
"This is the path to change. We are not content to sit on the sidelines and hope that others do the right thing for our community. We will step up and lead the fight for a more equal and fair America, and we will win," Wolfe said.
The Victory Fund expects to endorse more than 100 candidates in 2008. Six US states still have no openly LGBT elected officials at any level of government: Alaska, Louisiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, South Carolina and West Virginia. Tennessee came off the list this year when Keith Durbin was elected to the Nashville City Council. Since its founding in 1991, the Victory Fund has helped to grow the number of out officials from 49 to more than 380.
Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The Yogyakarta Principles address a broad range of human rights standards and their application to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity
12th November 2007
UN Commissioner backs LGBT rights
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has spoken of her support for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people. Louise Arbour made her comments after an historic meeting at the UN last week. The event, held in parallel with the session of the third committee of the UN General Assembly, discussed the Yogyakarta Principles. Named after the Indonesian city where they were adopted, the principles were introduced by 29 international human rights experts at a UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva in March 2007. They refer to the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity and address issues such as rape and gender-based violence, extra-judicial executions, torture and medical abuses, repressions of free speech and discrimination in the public services.
Ms Arbour said in a statement: "Next year we will celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – an occasion that provides an ideal opportunity to recall the core human rights principles of equality, universality and non-discrimination. Human rights principles, by definition, apply to all of us, simply by virtue of having been born human. Just as it would be unthinkable to exclude some from their protection on the basis of race, religion, or social status, so too must we reject any attempt to do so on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Yogyakarta Principles are a timely reminder of these basic tenets. Excluding lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons from equal protection violates international human rights law as well as the common standards of humanity that define us all "And, in my view, respect for cultural diversity is insufficient to justify the existence of laws that violate the fundamental right to life, security and privacy by criminalizing harmless private relations between consenting adults. As such, I wish to reiterate the firm commitment of my Office to promote and protect the human rights of all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity."
Last week’s event brought together non-governmental organisations, UN representatives and state delegates, and was an initiative co-sponsored by Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. The Yogyakarta Principles call for action from the UN human rights system, national human rights institutions, non-governmental organisations, and others. Last year 54 states called for the UN Human Rights Council to act against egregious violations of the rights of LGBT people.
American Bar Association Creates Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: Will address bias in legal profession, justice system and society
Chicago, November 9, 2007 – A newly created American Bar Association Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity will work to eliminate bias and discrimination against persons of differing sexual orientations and gender identities in the legal profession, the justice system and society.
“The ABA’s commitment to equality of opportunity is reflected in many policies opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in many contexts, including employment, housing, public accommodations, legal education, and child custody, adoption and foster care decisions,” said ABA President William H. Neukom of Seattle. “Although much progress has been made to reduce bias in this area, numerous studies demonstrate that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people continue to face pervasive discrimination within the legal profession, as they do in many other walks of life.”
Neukom noted that last February the association amended its Goal IX, which was adopted in 1991 and promotes full and equal participation in the legal profession by minorities, women and persons with disabilities, to include persons of differing sexual orientations and gender identities. He said the new commission will be the vehicle to implement the amendment.
“The commission’s creation recognizes that diversity in the legal profession is beneficial for all lawyers, just as it is in the larger community,” said Jeffrey G. Gibson of San Francisco, appointed to chair the new commission.
Members are Pamela C. Enslen of Kalamazoo, Mich.; Courtney G. Joslin of Davis, Calif.; Jeffrey E. M. Joyner, Patrick McGlone, David Remes, Paul M. Smith and Melvin White, all of Washington, D.C.; E. John Krumholtz of Arlington, Va.; Jennifer Levi of Easthampton, Mass.; Shannon Minter and Therese M. Stewart, both of San Francisco, Calif.; and Abby R. Rubenfeld of Nashville, Tenn. Mark D. Agrast of Washington, D.C., a past member of the ABA Board of Governors and past chair of the ABA Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, is a special advisor to the commission.
The commission’s first meeting will be Nov. 30 through Dec. 1 in Washington, D.C. With more than 413,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.
November 9, 2007
Born To Be Gay
by: Rick Nauert, Ph.D., Senior News Editor: Reviewed by: John M. Grohol, Psy.D.
Psych Central – For years scientists have debated if sexual orientation is determined by nature or nurture. New evidence suggests genetics is a significant factor for whether an individual is homosexual or heterosexual. The findings emanate from a Canadian study of the brains of healthy, right-handed, 18- to 35-year-old homosexual and heterosexual men using structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). The research, conducted by Dr. Sandra Witelson, a neuroscientist at McMaster University was a follow-up of a ten-year old study that demonstrated there is a higher proportion of left-handers in the homosexual population than in the general population – a result replicated in subsequent studies which is now accepted as fact. Handedness is a sign of how the brain is organized to represent different aspects of intelligence. Language, for example, is usually on the left – music on the right.
In other research, Witelson and research associate Debra Kigar, had found that left-handers have a larger region of the posterior corpus callosum – the thick band of nerve fibres connecting the two hemispheres of the brain – than right handers. This raised the hypothesis for the current study – whether the anatomy of the brain of the sub-group of right-handed homosexual men is similar to that of left-handers. They found that the posterior part of the corpus callosum is larger in homosexual than heterosexual men. The size of the corpus callosum is largely inherited suggesting a genetic factor in sexual orientation, said Witelson “Our results do not mean that heredity is destiny but they do indicate that environment is not the only player in the field,” she said.
While this is not a litmus test for sexual orientation, Witelson said this finding could prove to be one additional valuable piece of information for physicians and individuals who are trying to determine their sexual orientation. “Sometimes people aren’t sure of their sexual orientation.” The researchers also undertook a correlational analysis which included size of the corpus callosum, and test scores scores on language, visual spatial and finger dexterity tests. “By using all these variables, we were able to predict sexual orientation in 95 per cent of the cases,” she said.
14th November 2007
Gay Congressman endorses Hillary for President
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
Barney Frank, the only out gay man in the US House of Representatives, has said he is backing Senator Hillary Clinton in her bid for the White House. The 67-year-old, who has represented the 4th District of Massachusetts since 1981, will serve as an economic adviser to Senator Clinton during the campaign. The former First Lady continues to lead the Democrat field for the Presidential nomination ahead of the first primary elections in January. "Based on my work with her on issues involving discrimination, I am convinced that Hillary Clinton is the candidate best equipped to pass laws that will treat all Americans with dignity, fairness, and equality, no matter who they are or who they love," said Congressman Frank.
An outsider in Congress, Harvard-educated Frank has a sharp tongue and is consistently voted one of the funniest members of the House. He was appointed chairman of the powerful Financial Services Committee in January. "Barney has devoted his life to championing economic fairness and civil rights and expanding opportunity for all Americans," said Senator Clinton. "I’m delighted he’ll take a leadership role in our campaign."
Representative Frank commented in 1996 that he is used to being in the minority, being a left-handed, Jewish homosexual. He came out in 1987, and his political opponents have tried to smear and unseat him on many occasions. Many opponents thought he was politically dead after a rent boy scandal in 1990. Attempts to expel him failed – the House voted 408-18 to reprimand him instead. The people of his district stuck with him through the scandal – he won re-election in 1990 with 66 percent of the vote. In 2006 he ran unopposed.
In 1998, he founded the National Stonewall Democrats, a gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Democratic pressure group. He has been a vocal and articulate defender of LGBT rights but faced recent criticism for removing protections for trans people from a bill to protect LGBT people from employment discrimination, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, to ensure it passed the House.
16th November 2007
New York leader wants gay marriage within two years
by Joe Roberts
The Governor of New York has said that he wants a Democrat controlled state Senate to legalise gay marriage as one of it’s priorities in 2009. Eliot Spitzer made his remarks on Wednesday at a fund-raising event for the Senate Democratic Committee in Greenwich village, where guests had paid up to $10,000 to attend. A witness told The New York Post that Governor Spitzer said: "One of the first things we’re going to do when [Senate Minority Leader] Malcolm Smith is [majority] leader is gay marriage."
His words were met with applause, the witness added, by the crowd of Senators, Democratic activists and lobbyists, who were assembled in the library of the West 13th Street home of the creator of HBO’s prison drama Oz Tom Fantana. Unlike many of the Governor’s speeches, no recording was made of the event. Another witness, an elected official, reported that while he couldn’t remember the exact words of the Governor, he had indicated that he would follow the State assembly’s Lead of passing the first ever gay-marriage bill.
Gay marriage is still a highly contentious issue in New York. A May survey by Siena College found that while 43 percent of New Yorkers are in favour of it, 47 percent are still against. Spitzer’s spokeswoman, Christine Anderson, denied the Governor had said gay marriage would be a top priority. The cheers, she added, had been for his mention of the Assembly passing a gay-marriage bill.
John McArdle, spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, told The New York Post: "This is Governor Spitzer promoting another divisive issue and it indicates that his priorities are all wrong." Spitzer repeatedly endorsed gay marriage during his election campaign last autumn but had said that it’s adoption wasn’t a top priority.
29th November 2007
US hate crimes bill in "serious jeopardy"
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
American gay rights campaigners have warned that there could be less than a week to save a new bill before Congress that extends federal hate crime laws to LGBT people. In April the proposed new federal law, that would grant protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the United States, was named after the murdered gay teenager who brought the issue of hate crimes into the American consciousness. Matthew Shepard was beaten and left for dead, tied to a fence in freezing Wyoming in 1998. He was the victim of a hate crime, targeted because he was gay, and his story has inspired Senators from both sides to try to bring forward new laws.
The proposed legislation will strengthen the ability of federal, state and local governments to investigate and prosecute hate crimes based on race, religion, colour, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability and gender identity. It would also enable the US Justice Department to assist in the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes. The bill will also provide grants to help state and local governments meet the extraordinary expenses involved in hate crime cases. According to the FBI, sexual orientation bias motivated 14% of such crimes in 2005. However, last month a White House spokesman reiterated that President Bush will veto the hate crimes legislation. In September the US Senate voted 60 to 39 to allow the new legislation to move forward. It was approved by a "voice vote" as an amendment to a military finance measure.
Leading gay organisation Human Rights Campaign said in a statement: "Senate leadership employed a commonplace strategy with this bill. They calculated that the only chance of a Matthew Shepard Act surviving Bush’s veto pen was if it were attached to a ‘must-pass’ Department of Defence bill. But now that House and Senate are reconciling their versions of the defence bill, it is under attack from anti-gay conservatives against hate crimes legislation, as well as progressive, pro-equality lawmakers who oppose some of the bill’s provisions for the war in Iraq."
In May the House of Representatives passed a companion bill, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (LLEHCPA) with a bipartisan margin of 237 to 180. Twenty-six state Attorneys General as well as 230 law enforcement, civil rights, civic and religious organisations support the Matthew Shepard Act and the LLEHCPA.
30th November 2007
Iraq and Afghanistan vets organise against gay ban
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
A group of young Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, veterans of the broader American "war on terrorism" and their active duty allies and supporters was launched today in the US. Servicemembers United was formed to aggressively educate both the public and policymakers about the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" issue and to give a stronger voice to the majority of servicemen and women who support strengthening the US Armed Forces by repealing the discriminatory law.
"This is a new era for the United States military and a turning point in the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ rejection movement" said Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United. "It’s time to move beyond partisan politics and antiquated assumptions and allow the military to have access to the talent it desperately needs today." Nicholson is a former human intelligence collector and Arabic speaker who was honourably but involuntarily discharged because of the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" law, immediately after September 11th 2001.
Jarrod Chlapowski, the organisation’s deputy director and a former Korean linguist, who served along the De-Militarised Zone in Korea, summed up why the new organisation’s mission is so important: "I served openly for five years in the United States Army and not one of my peers or superiors moved to have me separated," Chlapowski said. "In fact, I was well respected in my units, and some of the heterosexual men and women I served with have even become involved with us in movement to educate the public about the reality of gay men and women in the modern military."
The "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" law was passed in 1993, in part, because the US Congress believed that the presence of a known gay man or woman in a military unit would negatively affect the order and discipline of that unit. Since 1993, more than 12,000 services personnel have been involuntarily discharged because of the law, including more than 800 critical intelligence personnel, and between 35,000 and 56,000 have declined re-enlistment.
Today is the 14th anniversary of the signing of that law.
Since Monday, the Human Rights Campaign have been posting answers from the leading Democratic presidential candidates to the question: "If you are elected President, what concrete steps would you take to overturn ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?’" Their answers can found on www.hrcbackstory.org where one is being posted a day.
It stands in contrast to leading Republican candidates who all spoke in favour of keeping the policy during a CNN/YouTube debate on Wednesday night. 55 percent of Americans support repealing the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy according to a recent Harris poll.In a Zogby poll of soldiers returning from Iraq in December 2006, 73 percent said that they felt "comfortable … in the presence of gays." Only 37 percent opposed scrapping the policy.
Stephen Vossler, a Servicemembers United supporter, is a straight veteran who left the military in 2006. He said: "I served with openly gay men and women the entire time I was in the military, and I am a better man for having done so. Even though I had never met a gay person before I joined the Army, in my personal opinion none of the predictions about problems with unit cohesion and morale came true when they came out to us. I want people to know that I’m proud to serve beside anyone who is motivated, capable, and who has my back in combat, whether they are gay or not."
Proposed alternative legislation was introduced to the US Congress this spring. The Military Readiness Enhancement Act would introduce a policy of non-discrimination. It currently has 137 sponsors. "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy prohibits gays, lesbians or bisexuals revealing their sexuality, or talking about any gay relationship, while serving in the US armed forces. Today activists will mark the 14th anniversary of the ban by hosting a three-day tribute, 12,000 Flags for 12,000 Patriots, on the National Mall in Washington DC. The events recognise the 12,000 men and women kicked out of the military since the signing of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."
December 2, 2007
In a Progressive State, a City Where Gay Life Hangs by a Thread
Project Wow, a no-frills drop-in center, provides some scarce refuge for Newark’s gay, lesbian and transgender people.
From left, Dynasty Mitchell, Kira Henry and Tyrone Simpson.
by Andrew Jacobs
Newark, Nov. 30 – To live in Newark often means grappling with unrelenting poverty, the anesthetizing lure of drugs, murderous gangs, a lack of decent jobs. But for gay men, lesbians and transgender people, there are additional obstacles that are seldom acknowledged: gay bashings, H.I.V., open hostility from many religious leaders and sometimes callous treatment by the police. When venturing outside his Central Ward neighborhood, Tyrone Simpson, 19, stays on main thoroughfares and steers clear of the men in gang colors looking for easy quarry. Dynasty Mitchell, 21, an aspiring poet who works at a supermarket, has learned to blend in by stretching a do-rag over his head and adopting a thuggish gait in public. “If you’re not prepared to fight, you’re not going to survive in Newark,” said Mr. Simpson, who is unabashedly gay.
New Jersey has become a national beacon for gay equality. It boasts some of the toughest anti-discrimination laws in the country, and recent legislation makes it one of only three states that recognize same-sex civil unions. Gay marriage, some say, is just around the corner. Across the state, same-sex couples and their children have become integrated into suburban life. But here in the state’s largest city, gay men and lesbians might as well live on another planet. “You wouldn’t know that Greenwich Village is 10 miles away,” said James Credle, 62, a Vietnam veteran who is working with about a dozen other activists to revive the Newark Pride Alliance, a group established three years ago after a 15-year-old lesbian, Sakia Gunn, was stabbed to death by a man who, the police said, was infuriated that she had rejected his advances. “People here feel like we don’t deserve to be alive.For us, it’s about survival,” Mr. Credle said, “and all this talk of gay marriage is just a luxury.”
Project Wow draws a few dozen young people each night, mostly for the camaraderie and shelter.
The city has no gay community center, no gay pride parade, no established gay organizations; there are nobars devoted exclusivelyto gay or lesbian clientele. “Newark is like one big closet,” said Ron Saleh, a consultant to the John Edwards presidential campaign, who moved here two years ago. “And there’s nothing going on for gay people. It’s like a desert.” There are, however, a few hints of change. In June, Mayor Cory A. Booker became the first public official to embrace the issue by hoisting a rainbow flag over City Hall in recognition of Gay Pride Month. Yesterday, Gov. Jon S. Corzine was expected to attend a World AIDS Day event here. Last year, voters elected Dana Rone to the Municipal Council; she became the city’s first openly lesbian official when a newspaper, after her inauguration, reported on her sexual orientation. And while many gay men and lesbians complain that they have been ridiculed and intimidated by the police, Garry F. McCarthy, the city’s police director, has begun requiring sensitivity training for all members of the force as part of biannual sessions that focus on sexual harassment. Even those steps have met with resistance. When he presided over the raising of the rainbow flag, Mayor Booker said, he was stunned by the flood of angry phone calls to his office. “There’s a lot of silent pain in the city of Newark, and perpetrators of this pain — those who promote the bigotry and the alienation — must be confronted,” he said. For a handful of gay activists in the city, the schoolyard shooting of four young people in August was a measure of that pain, if not of bigotry. They have been pressing law enforcement officials to investigate the shootings as a possible bias crime. Mr. Credle, an organizer of Newark Pride Alliance, said that one of the teenagers arrested after the killings attended the same high school as three of the victims and may have thought they were gay because they hung around an openly gay crowd. The police have said the killings were carried out during a robbery, but the Essex County prosecutor, Paula T. Dow, said investigators were still working to establish a motive.
James Harvey, the father of Dashon Harvey, one of the three who died in the schoolyard shootings, dismissed the suggestions that antigay bias played a role. “That’s so baloney, I don’t even want to give it a thought,” he said. “I’m just trying to get over my son being buried and gone from me.” In some ways, the lack of a vibrant, organized gay community mirrors many other aspects of civic life in Newark, a city stunted by poverty and lacking the kind of comfortable middle class found in cities of similar size.
“We are an underdeveloped community in every area, so it is no surprise” that homophobia persists, said Ms. Rone.
Many churches in the city remain openly hostile to homosexuality.
Gary Paul Wright, executive director of the African American Office of Gay Concerns, a group that provides education and counseling on H.I.V. and AIDS, said his five-year effort to dispense AIDS educational material at local churches had been universally thwarted. “There’s a whole lot of preaching about homosexuality and sin,” said Mr. Wright. “It really hurts and it makes me mad, but it also reinforces the stigma associated with H.I.V. and AIDS, which makes our job that much harder.” Such institutional antipathy drives many people into lives marked by secrecy. Some turn to the Internet for connections. One site that is popular among black and Hispanic men here, Adam4Adam.com, has more than 500 active members in Newark; on a recent night, nearly 200 of them were online. Not everyone feels the need to stay in the closet. June Dowell-Burton, 38, a social work student at the Newark campus of Rutgers University, said her neighbors did not seem bothered that she and her partner shared an apartment, a car and grocery shopping forays. “We don’t hide anything, and no one seems to mind,” she said.
Sharrieff Baker and his partner, Edwin Rosario, who own a house in the North Ward, said they had a very different experience when one of their tenants found out they were a couple. Last month, they said, the tenant tore up a shared bathroom, called them “faggots” and threatened to blow up their house. When they called 911, they said, Vincent Cordi, the responding police officer, appeared unconcerned and agreed only reluctantly to take their complaint. Back at the station house, they said, Officer Cordi sniggered with co-workers as he typed up the paperwork, at one point blurting out, “How do you spell ‘faggot’ ?” When they returned home that day, they were attacked by the tenant in the hallway, they said; Officer Cordi responded to their 911 call and arrested all three men. Mr. Baker, who lost a front tooth in the skirmish, was charged with aggravated assault, as was the tenant; they both spent the weekend in jail. Mr. Rosario was not charged. Neither Officer Cordi nor officials in the Police Department responded to requests for comment.
Mr. Baker, who has filed a complaint with the internal affairs department, said he was especially angered by the Police Department’s refusal to designate the incident antigay. Newark, unlike many cities its size, does not compile data on antigay violence. The day after he filed the complaint, Mr. Baker said, his car was towed from in front of his home. He suggested it was an act of vengeance; the police said it was removed for street cleaning. Mr. Baker, 32, a real estate broker who moved to Newark from Jersey City last year, said that because of the incident, he and Mr. Rosario, a schoolteacher, want to move away. “I came here because I wanted to be part of Newark’s renaissance, but now I’m afraid even in my own house,” he said.
The Booker administration’s efforts to help establish a gay community center have been largely hamstrung by what veteran gay activists acknowledge are internal disagreements. Then there is the apathy. When Laquetta Nelson tried to start a Newark chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, she gave up after a few months. “In the end, no one came to the meetings,” she said. For now, the only refuge for gay people is in a nondescript building on the outskirts of downtown. Project Wow, as it is called, is a no-frills drop-in center run by the North Jersey Community Research Initiative, an organization that devotes most of its resources to research on AIDS drugs and free medical care. Project Wow draws a few dozen young people each night who come for counseling and H.I.V. prevention advice but mostly for the camaraderie and shelter from the city’s unsympathetic streets.
Alex Williams, Project Wow’s director, asked that the center’s location not be printed, noting that 15 of the center’s employees and clients had been attacked on their way to or from the building in the last six months. Sitting in the lounge at the center, Tariq Pickens, 23, recalled how he and a friend dressed in drag were ambushed on the street by a group of men and women three years ago. During a few hellish moments, he said, they were slashed, punched, robbed and doused with lighter fluid, although the fuel failed to ignite. “I’ve had so many friends killed, beaten, raped, I can’t even count,” he said. Kira Henry, too, has felt fear. Ms. Henry, 20, who is transgender, is taking a cooking class. When she walks to school in the morning, she said, she tries to look straight ahead and meet the inevitable taunts and catcalls with a forced smile. But when the bottles and bricks fly, she said, she knows how to fight — or sprint in six-inch heels. “If you beat me up or shoot me,” she said, “I’m still going to be me.”
Like many of Project Wow’s clients, Willie Harden, 20, is homeless and jobless. He is also effectively orphaned, although his mother, a drug addict, is reputed to be somewhere in Jersey City. Since aging out of foster care two years ago, Mr. Harden has lived at a series of shelters, the latest being Covenant House. He said he tried to hide his sexuality from strangers. The last thing he needed, he said, was more ridicule, or an uninvited beating. “It’s hard living a double life,” he said. “It sounds crazy, but one day I’d like to walk down the street holding my boyfriend’s hand with nobody saying one bad word.”
December 2, 2007
Last call: Why the gay bars of Boston are disappearing, and what it says about the future of city life
by Robert David Sullivan
The First Thing I ever did to identify myself as a gay man – before coming out to a friend or relative, before putting a rainbow-flag pin on my jacket – was to walk into a gay bar. This was not so unusual in the early 1990s, when few gay men identified as such before they left high school. Some of us needed to walk around the block four or five times before finally pushing open a dimly lit, unmarked door. At the time, there were plenty of dimly lit doors in Boston. The Napoleon Club was a piano bar near Park Square that attracted theater students and older men who left big tips on small glasses of red wine. A few blocks away, Luxor was a video bar for younger guys; nearby were Buddies (all ages) and Chaps, a dance club where dressing conservatively meant keeping your shirt on. In other parts of town, there were Sporters, a friendly Beacon Hill dive, and Playland, a Combat Zone bar known for its sketchy clientele, banged-up piano, and year-round Christmas lights. In all, there were 16 gay bars in Boston and Cambridge, according to Pink Pages directories from 1993 and 1994.
Today, that number has been cut to less than half. None of the bars I’ve mentioned are still in business, and most of the city’s seven remaining gay-every-night bars have sparse customers for most of the week. (Lesbian bars were never numerous to begin with.) The gay population may have political clout and the right to marry in Massachusetts, but it has fewer and fewer public spaces to call its own. The disappearance of places like Buddies and Chaps may sound like a problem limited to gay men, but it is part of a much larger trend reshaping American cities. As gay bars vanish, so go bookstores, diners, and all kinds of spaces that once allowed "blissful public congregation," as sociologist Ray Oldenburg described their function in his 1989 book "The Great Good Place."
In New York, the Jewish deli – a staple of the city’s identity – has all but vanished. In the Boston area, many of Harvard Square’s bookstores, Kenmore Square’s student eateries, and myriad other places that guaranteed a diverse urban experience have closed their doors, replaced by a far more uniform lineup of bank branches, chain stores, and upscale restaurants. This change is a serious challenge to the city, which has historically been defined by the breadth and variety of its street-level experience – and the wide diversity of people it threw together. "City air makes free," a saying that dates to medieval times, was a favorite of urban-studies pioneer Jane Jacobs. But as a wide range of gay bars dwindles to a handful of survivors – and the city’s diners, indie bookstores, and dive bars yield to high rents and shifting patterns of commerce – that air is becoming the province of an increasingly narrow set of people.
Oldenburg calls public gathering spots a "third place" where we can temporarily step out of our household and workplace roles. Besides taverns, he cites drugstores (the kind with soda fountains), pool halls, and barber shops as examples. But if you were a gay man in the late 20th century, the place with all the qualities of an ideal third space was the gay bar. For many closeted gays, bars were the only places where they could safely be themselves. They were also a nexus for political organizing and charitable work, they promoted safer-sex education after the onset of AIDS, and they served as a welcome mat for gay newcomers to a city. "When I was in college, I’d go out to a few different bars with my friends every week," says gay novelist Wayne Hoffman, who came to Boston in the late ’80s and now lives in New York. "It was a chance for us to socialize off campus, meet new people – including new boyfriends – and figure out how we fit into the larger gay world. The bars opened up a whole world of possibilities for me."
For decades gay bars kept a low profile (unmarked doors, blackened windows), and were often run by mobsters or underworld figures, since more respectable businessmen weren’t crazy about the prospect of frequent police raids. The general population was either unaware of them or saw them as sinister. But in 1969, New York police raided the Stonewall Inn, a rather boisterous Greenwich Village bar, and the gay patrons unexpectedly fought back. The resulting riot helped to turn bars into flag-bearers for gay culture, and "Stonewall" itself began to be used in the names of gay and lesbian political organizations (the Stonewall Democrats, for example) as shorthand for "don’t push us around." When gays moved out of the shadows during the ’70s, then began settling in certain areas of major cities (like the South End in Boston), gay bars evolved. Some became respected neighborhood institutions, offering meeting space to social groups, sponsoring softball teams and arts festivals, distributing condoms and health information, and buying ads in local newspapers. By the mid-1980s, they were a major force in turning Gay Pride holidays into citywide celebrations, sponsoring eye-catching parade floats and raucous block parties.
But at the same time, larger trends in American life were massing that would soon sweep these bars away. One was the rising price of urban real estate. Gay bars traditionally appeared in marginal neighborhoods, or in predominately gay neighborhoods, with cheap rents and accommodating (or indifferent) neighbors. As those areas have progressively been developed with high-end housing, bars have struggled to pay their rent, and neighborhood groups have been increasingly hostile toward anything that creates noise or attracts idlers. The same forces have stripped such neighborhoods of other iconic businesses, such as fringe theaters and free and low-admission art spaces.
Meanwhile, the gay population is becoming more dispersed. As gay men feel more comfortable coming out to family, neighbors, and co-workers, they may also feel more comfortable living in small cities or towns rather than in the "gay ghettos" of large cities. As a result, it’s much harder for a neighborhood gay bar to attract a steady clientele. Perhaps the most important change, however, is the Internet. When Internet access became widespread in the mid-1990s, gay chat rooms on America Online and other subscription services quickly attracted a crowd. More elaborate sites such as Gay.com quickly followed, usurping gay bars’ most important function: a place for men to meet each other.
At the time of the Stonewall riots, "gay people had to go out to a bar to meet other gay men," at least if they didn’t want to go to more dangerous cruising areas such as parks and men’s rooms, says Michael Bronski, Dartmouth College professor and author of "The Pleasure Principle: Sex, Backlash, and the Struggle for Gay Freedom." There are several gay chat sites where a month’s membership can cost as little as the price of one cocktail at Club Cafe – and on a recent Saturday night, one of them listed nearly 600 Boston-area members online. The site claims 600,000 members nationwide. As a result of these changes, there are stories of gay bars closing all over the country. Since the early ’90s, New York has lost its two biggest leather bars (the Spike and the Lure), as well as piano bars (the Five Oaks and Pegasus) and martini lounges (the popular but short-lived Hell). In Laguna Beach, Calif., the first city in America to elect an openly gay mayor, one of the two biggest gay bars closed this spring, and the other has been purchased by a developer who wants to tear it down. And the oldest gay bar in Pittsburgh (ironically, the setting for the TV series "Queer as Folk") closed earlier this year, after Carnegie Mellon University purchased its building.
Gay bars are just one kind of business struggling to survive in what is, to use the phrase popularized by Chris Anderson in his book of the same name, the age of "the long tail." That phrase refers to an economy in which the Internet can make even low-demand products profitable. Until the Internet, large cities offered the closest thing to a long tail economy. Thanks to Cambridge’s concentration of intellectual shoppers, for instance, Harvard Square had stores full of the most obscure books, magazines, and records you could think of buying. The students in Kenmore Square kept cheap eateries, music clubs, and record stores alive; the South End’s gay population once supported not just bars, but also inexpensive card-and-gift shops (such as Tommy Tish), a sex-toy shop with the feel of an old-fashioned general store (the Marquis de Sade), and a gay bookstore. Now the classic example of a long tail business is online retailer Amazon.com, which stocks close to a million book titles – including more gay novels and intellectual books than any local store could offer. As long tail businesses migrate to the Internet, cities like Boston are being skinned alive.
Businesses like bookstores, video stores, and gay bars can no longer afford to occupy valuable real estate when their goods or services are more easily and cheaply delivered electronically. As these businesses disappear from Boston streets, they’re usually replaced by more profitable land uses, such as office towers and high-end restaurants. The result is a variant of the "tragedy of the commons": Hotels, condo complexes, and other upscale businesses market themselves as part of a vibrant city, but they can also make it more difficult to maintain that vibrancy. (The ground floors of new office and housing buildings are often reserved for retail use, but CVS and other chain stores usually snap up the space.) These high-end businesses attract new residents and consumers to urban neighborhoods, but when they aren’t balanced by other types of economic activity, the result can be a sterile streetscape rather than a diverse ecosystem.
This development would have disappointed William H. Whyte, the sociologist who may be rivaled only by Jane Jacobs in the cogency and passion of his arguments for active city life. Albert LaFarge, editor of "The Essential William H. Whyte," says that the ideal urban neighborhood from Whyte’s point of view is fueled by "the intensity and unpredictability of different people using the same space for their own reasons, and often contradictory ones, but all respecting the goals of vibrancy and function." If a place like the South End accommodates fewer and fewer of these reasons for a person to be there, says LaFarge, it not longer meets the definition of a successful urban neighborhood. Gay neighborhoods in New York and San Francisco are reportedly undergoing the same transformation as in the South End, but there is at least one exception to this trend. In Philadelphia, the city has encouraged the development of its "Gayborhood," a nine-block part of downtown, by adding rainbow flags to street signs, and the city’s tourism board has an aggressive campaign targeted at gay travelers. Jeff Guaracino of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. says that the Gayborhood provides "a very good economic return for the city. Businesses are making a profit there."
Making a profit, of course, isn’t always the same as serving a community’s needs. Gay bars seem to be doing well in resort areas such as Palm Springs and Provincetown, but they’re more vacation party spots than true third spaces for locals. The fate of the Jewish delicatessen in New York is a reminder that "theme park" gay bars would be no substitute for what we’ve lost in Boston. Thousands of delis have disappeared from New York since the 1930s. Many of the dozen or so survivors seem to be thriving, but the tourist-oriented Carnegie and Stage delis, with their long lines and rapid turnover of tables, don’t bear much resemblance to the classic model. At a panel discussion called "Jewish Cuisine and the Evolution of the Jewish Deli," held this summer and reported on by The New York Times, food historian Joel Denker described the delis of the ’50s and ’60s as having "this sort of yeasty combination of intellectuals, writers, and leftists, sitting together over tea and cottage cheese and fruit, talking about the issues of the day." Sitting and talking for hours at a time. Sadly, that’s not considered an efficient use of space during today’s supposed revival of city life.
Boston’s gay community is adapting to its scaled-down bar scene, but there’s still a sense of something missing. There are probably more spiritual groups, youth programs, and health resources than ever in the gay community, but none of them really fit the definition of a third space where one can drop in and hang out. "There was a whole group of friends who I would only ever see at the Napoleon Club," says Rick Park, a Boston-based actor, "and when it closed, they all disappeared." You can see the change for the worse in the city’s annual Gay Pride celebration. Years ago, the highlights of the parade were the outrageous parade floats, featuring drag queens and go-go boys, sponsored by gay bars. Now those delightfully pointless displays are outnumbered by contingents of waving employees from banks and utility companies in matching T-shirts. It’s a positive development that so many people are out at work, to be sure, but the parade has become a lot less fun for gay and straight spectators alike.
A few weeks ago I attended a panel discussion sponsored by the History Project, which maintains archives on Boston’s gay and lesbian history. A lesbian of a certain age, reflecting on the changes in the gay community since the Stonewall rebellion, said with rueful irony that "life may be easier now, but it might have been more exciting then." That sounded a little bit like Red Sox fans complaining that they liked watching the team more when it was laboring under an 86-year curse. But I knew what she was talking about. So does Abe Rybeck, artistic director of the gay-themed Theater Offensive. He no longer considers himself a bar regular – there’s too much to do running a theater company and participating in other activities – but he says that he would feel their disappearance.
"I went to Fritz to watch a World Series game this year," he says, "and it was fun to be in a room with a bunch of gay men enjoying a sports event in the way gay men would. In their minds, they were all going home with Jacoby Ellsbury. I was glad I could watch the game with my people."
Robert David Sullivan is the managing editor of CommonWealth magazine and primary writer of the blog Beyond Red & Blue (atmassinc.org). The History Project (historyproject.org), which maintains archives on Boston’s gay and lesbian history, provided much of the information in this article.
7th December 2007
Gays will continue the fight for hate crimes protection
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
LGBT rights groups in the United States have expressed their disappointment that new hate crimes legislation will not be passed by the US Senate. The Matthew Shepard Act would have extended federal grants to local law enforcement agencies in order to more thoroughly investigate and prosecute domestic terror crimes that target individuals based on disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity. Under existing hate crimes laws, such grants are routinely provided to local agencies for similar crimes which target victims based on race, colour, national origin or religion. However, the hate crimes provisions had been attached to a defence spending bill, and it has now been dropped by the Senate because it could not attract enough support.
Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT rights organisation, had led efforts to get the legislation passed. In May the US House of Representatives passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act with a strong bipartisan vote of 237-180. The Senate approved the nearly-identical Matthew Shepard Act as an amendment to the Department of Defence Authorisation bill on a voice vote.
"Today’s decision is deeply disappointing, especially given the historic passage of hate crimes legislation through both Houses of Congress this year," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "After more than ten years and several successful bipartisan votes, it is heartbreaking to fall short this close to the finish line. However, we are not giving up on efforts to find another legislative vehicle, in the second half of this Congress, to move the Matthew Shepard Act."
Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said: "We are deeply angered and disappointed by the decision to strip hate crimes provisions from the defence authorisation bill since we’d been assured by congressional leaders that attaching the provisions to the larger bill was the only way to avoid a Presidential veto."
President Bush had indicated he would use his veto to block any attempt to extend federal hate crimes laws to LGBT people.
"We call on the Senate to immediately advance a stand-alone version of hate crimes that matches the version passed by the House earlier this year and send it to the President’s desk," said Mr Forerman. "When the President vetoes the bill, as he has repeatedly promised to do, everyone will see just how subservient this administration is to America’s anti-gay industry. Force his hand, for goodness sake, rather than hiding us away."
National Stonewall Democrats issued the following statement: "Democrats in both the US House and Senate support passage of the Matthew Shepard Act. The Democratic leadership, which guided this legislation to successful passage in their respective chambers, are now burdened with a moral obligation to see their work completed. If the National Defence Authorisation Act is not the appropriate vehicle for passage, then we encourage the Democratic leadership to work with our community to find the most expedient way to place this legislation on the President’s desk within this Congress."
Research has proven that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the US are disproportionately affected by hate violence. LGB people are more likely to be victims of hate-motivated physical assaults than other minorities, including African Americans, Jews and Muslims. According to the FBI, 14 percent of hate crime victims in 2005 were victims of crimes motivated by hatred of lesbian, gay or bisexual people. Moreover, reports produced by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (1984 –1993) and the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programmes (1994 –present) have documented more than 35,000 anti-LGBT crimes over the last 22 years.
A 2007 poll conducted by Peter Hart Research associates found that three out of four Americans supported the expansion of federal hate crimes law to include crimes based on disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity. Support cut across partisan, ethnic and religious lines. 74% of African Americans support the legislation along with 74% of Whites and 72% of Latinas/os. 63% of Evangelical Christians support the legislation according to the poll, as do 56% of Republican men.
14th December 2007
Top brass speak out against US military gay ban
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
28 retired, high-ranking American military leaders have signed a letter calling for the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." In the years since the policy was enacted, over 12,000 men and women have been discharged from the US military under the policy. The letter marks the single largest number of Generals and Admirals from the US Armed Forces to come out against the ban on openly LGB service personnel at one time. "We support the recent comments of former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General John Shalikashvili, who has concluded that repealing the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy would not harm, and would indeed help, our armed forces," the letter states.
The opinions of Flag Officers have played a critical role in shaping the policy on gay service. President Bill Clinton chose not to fully lift the gay ban because key military leaders opposed ending it. But now a significant number of General Officers are coming forward to acknowledge their opposition to the ban. Some political leaders and academic experts said in 1993 that the military would not be ready to allow openly gay service until society and the military had developed a more tolerant attitude toward homosexuality.
A December 2006 Zogby poll of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan found that 73 percent of soldiers reported being "comfortable in the presence of gays," and only 37 percent oppose repealing the policy. A May 2007 CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll showed that 79 percent of Americans believe that gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military.
December 17, 2007
Third Of Homeless Young New Yorkers Gay
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
New York City – A new study says there are at least 3,800 people under the age of 25 living on the streets of New York and that almost 30 percent are gay, lesbian or bisexual. The study, by the Empire State Coalition of Youth and Family Services, has been turned over to City Council, which paid for it. Nearly half of all homeless young people were Black, about 25 percent were Latino the study said. Those numbers would be proportionate to Black and Latino populations in New York. But the high number of gays on the streets is about three times the estimated percentage of New York’s LGBT community.
The survey found that while many homeless youth went to city shelters 42 percent slept on the streets, subways or in empty buildings. Some, the study said, turned to prostitution trying to find a "trick" to spend the night with. The study was based on surveys of 1,000 young people taken last summer. The results confirm a warning issued last January by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Coalition for the Homeless which said gay, lesbian and transgender youth make up at least 20 percent – possibly as much as 40 percent – of the total number of homeless and runaway youth across the country.
The two national advocacy groups accused the federal government of neglecting what they described as an epidemic. The NGLTF/Coaltion for the Homeless report cited incidents nationwide of anti-gay harassment at homeless shelters and recommended that some shelter space be set aside solely for gay youth. They also said any organization seeking public funding to serve homeless youth should be required to prove its staff would treat gay and lesbian young people competently and fairly.
The January report said that roughly one-fourth of gay and lesbian teens are kicked out of their homes after their parents learn of their sexual orientation. The report also said many gay youths experienced physical violence during the process of coming out. Once homeless, the report says, these young people are more vulnerable than their peers to problems of mental health, substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases.