Sexual orientation, altruism, and epigenetics: Is this a ruse for “second class citizenship”?

Recently, the “Gay Tribal Elder” Don Kilhefner aired a Ted video by James O’Keefe, “Homosexuality: It’s about survival, not sex.”

The talk at first attempts to explain why homosexuality persists in practically all populations at a consistent level (roughly 3-10%) despite the obviously low reproduction by gay people, and in the face (especially in the past, and today in authoritarian cultures) of discrimination and persecution.

The general explanation is that sexual orientation (and probably gender identity, which is at odds with biological gender (transgender or even gender fluidity) much less frequently than homosexuality) is directly related to turning genes on and off with chemical messengers, largely generated when the bay is still in the mother’s womb.  This is called epigenetics.  It is this process which favors the development of homosexuality in a population of humans and other social mammals.

If you look at the natural world, with social carnivores (and perhaps many primates like bonobo chimps, and maybe some whales and dolphins), it seems to be common that not all of the males reproduce or get their genes propagated.  There is often an “alpha male” dominance (lion prides, wolf packs).  This might sound like a Machiavellian “survival of the fittest”, which seems offensive to consider today (remember the debates on eugenics early in the last century and where that led).  But there may be another reason:  in animal social groups or extended families, the survival of the tribe as a whole is enhanced if some adult members specialize in altruistic behaviors for the rest of the members of the group rather than in propagating their own genes.  A similar model also applies, as O’Keefe argues, with social insects, like bees and ants.  This raises another question in my mind, about distributed consciousness capable of transcending and surviving an individual member’s own mortality;  that’s an idea I’ll come back to again in a future post.   O’Keefe argues that in most of these animals, chemical messengers turn on and off various genes, influencing future behavior.  In a matriarchal ant colony, a queen can determine the “personalities” of individual workers (warrior or forager) by selecting their food when the young are still larval.

So it is in human families.  When a mother has several children (especially several sons), the brains of later born (younger) kids are likely to get different chemical stimulation in utero.  Part of the reason is to prevent overpopulation (too many mouths to feed, although on the frontier you needed a lot of kids for labor in the past).  But the other reasons is to provide altruistic backup for family members who do bear the kids and future generations. It does seem true, later born sons are more likely to be gay.  And sometimes among identical twins there is discordance, which suggests an epigenetic influence.

My own case is unusual, as I am an only child.  Indeed, my own college expulsion in 1961 after admitting “latent homosexuality” to a college dean (after prodding) now sounds motivated by the idea that I was announcing a “death penalty” for my parents’ hope of a future lineage, which might matter in religious or spiritual matters (again, I’ll cover later).

I was also an example of the “sissy boy” syndrome. While that expression was a popular myth in the 1950s and Vietnam-draft 1960s, in general it does not turn out to be true of the gay male community as a whole, when you talk about cis gay men (not trans).  Gay men, for example, can play professional sports, an idea that the big leagues must embrace. (Baseball will probably have a trans relief pitcher some day, but that’s another matter.) What seems remarkable in retrospect is that, at least in cis gay men, sexual orientation (attraction) is linearly independent from all other physical expressions of what we perceive as “masculinity”.  That’s really apparent on most gay disco dance floors, where lean masculinity seems to be celebrated. (Milo Yiannopoulos is dead right about this.)

As my own adult life unfolded, independence became a paramount value for me, particularly as an answer to otherwise possibly clinging to people.  For long stretches of years, I lived in other cities far away from my parents and their social groups, and developed my own “real world” contact groups, long before social media.  That seemed to be what an adult was supposed to do.  I did, necessarily, have a double life, until after retirement, where work and personal relationships and personal cultural expression (even publications and books) were separate.  That became normal.  Publicly recognizable personal accomplishment, whether winning chess games from masters or publishing books on issues like gays in the military, became a primary virtue;  family, having or adopting and raising children, became viewed as an afterthought.  I viewed the rest of the “straight world” this way.  When I was working, I thought everyone felt this way, particularly for my own lens of “upward affiliation” in personal relationships.  I got a taste of “otherwise” at the Ninth Street Center in the 1970s, but I really didn’t have to come to grips with this until my own mother’s heart disease and decline, as well as the “social” values that were pushed on me in retirement, where salesmanship (even outright and aggressive hucksterism), rather than content production, became the new expectation.  Manipulation, driven by tribalism, seemed to replace individualized truth-seeking.

O’Keefe’s video seems to imply that gay people (equates to non-procreative) are expected to stay around home to be the backup for the rest of the family when things happen. Indeed, this was often the case in previous generations especially for spinster women (not so much gay men). With there being fewer children today, the childless (as I found out the hard way) are more likely to become involved in their parents’ eldercare for years.  In some families, childless people wind up raising siblings’ children after family tragedies (like in “Raising Helen” or the series “Summerland”), sometimes as a condition of a will.  Many states have filial responsibility laws that, while rarely enforced (with a notorious 2012 situation in Pennsylvania) can undermine the independence of childless people.

Likewise, in the workplace, in many areas with salaried (non-union) people, childless people sometimes wound up doing the unpaid overtime for their coworkers who took family or maternity leave (DADT-1 reference).  This happened to me sometimes in the 1990s, and has contributed to the movement today for paid family leave (or at least parental leave). I was the person with the disposable income would could be leaned on for sacrifice.   Sometimes I was feared as someone who, with fewer responsibilities, could work for less (“gays at a discount” was a common insult in the 1990s) and lowball the salaries of others.  That sort of thinking at one time had even affected the thinking of the military draft, when John Kennedy wanted to allow marriage and fatherhood deferments (dashed by the Johnson buildup in 1965, although student deferments remained until 1969).

So I have to see O’Keefe’s views, at least in my own life, as a call for second-class citizenship.  But that may not be the case for people who necessarily experience life through surviving as a group or tribe together.  Many tribal societies (most notably in the Muslim world) are ferociously anti-gay and want every adult to share in the responsibility of having children (as do some evangelical Christians, for example).  O’Keefe shows that these ideas, however religiously driven, don’t promote the long term welfare of the group.  Biological immutability seems relevant.

On the other hand, the whole idea of marriage equality, in my own perspective, has been about “equality” for those like me who remain topological singletons.

(Posted: Saturday, September 23, 2017. At 12 noon EDT)

States get ranked by how they deal with underprivileged kids

I received an email this morning from Wallethub discussing the statistics about underprivileged children in the 50 states.   The information relates to August as Child Support Awareness Month.

The best link summarizing the findings is here, ranking the States by the proportion of underprivileged children.

The state with the worst record in this regard seems to be Mississippi (last visited by me in 2014). The District of Columbia (Washington) regarded as a state, comes out badly. The states that came out best seemed to be New Jersey and New Hampshire. In the table provided, having fewer points is better.

Some key statistics:

  • “Mississippi has the highest child food-insecurity rate, 26.3 percent, which is 2.8 times higher than in North Dakota, the state with the lowest at 9.4 percent.
  • Mississippi has the most infant deaths (per 1,000 live births), nine, which is 2.3 times more than in New Hampshire, the state with the fewest at four.
  • Alaska has the highest share of children in foster care, 1.41 percent, which is 5.6 times higher than in Virginia, the state with the lowest at 0.25 percent.
  • Mississippi has the highest share of children in households with incomes below poverty level in the past 12 months, 31.8 percent, which is 2.7 times higher than in New Hampshire, the state with the lowest at 11.8 percent.
  • Nevada has the highest share of uninsured children aged 0 to 17, 13.0 percent, which is 8.7 times higher than in Massachusetts, the state with the lowest at 1.5 percent.
  • Massachusetts has the highest share of maltreated children, 2.22 percent, which is 16 times higher than in Pennsylvania, the state with the lowest at 0.14 percent.

I’ve recently covered on this blog several topics that are particular significant to “freedom”, at least my own. Some of these include the downstream liability-Backpage issue (which also affects kids, above, indirectly at least), the net neutrality issue, immigration and hosting, and specifically, in the last couple of days, North Korea. It is not possible to cover the details of some of these matters every day on one blog, as the events break too fast. Yes, I’m very concerned about the general idea of “shared responsibility”, because (ironically) we all bear te consequences of things as individuals when the outside world knocks on the door with aggression or demands. I my own situation, I guess I am in some danger of winding up as a metaphorical Scarlet O’Hara (“Gone with the Wind”) and it’s hardly clear I have the personal resilience for it. Coercion matters, in a way that impacts making good choices and “personal responsibility”. Stay tuned.

(Posted: Wednesday, August 9, 2017 at 8 PM EDT)

Personal aesthetics can shape an identity before sexuality does: the debate over privatization of marriage

There were two developments during my own childhood and adolescence that established “who I am”.  They seem intrinsic and deep-rooted, and set up a paradox that affects everything else  These evolutions deal with music and sexuality.

I started taking piano in third grade, in February 1952, when we got a Kimball console piano.  That’s gone, and now replaced by a (much lighter and more portable) 88-key Casio, which hooks to Sibelius (on the MacBook) for composition and really is pretty good as to tone and dynamics and pedal.  In fact, I need to up my skills in using these tools to really make my compositions interesting to professionals.

I don’t remember “why” I wanted to take piano.  But once I started, it seems to install my identity.  I don’t have a specific past-life recollection, but it seemed to make my existence indefinite, preceding my birth and even conception (in 1942).

I started composing around age 12, leaving to a series of works of increasing complexity as I’ve documented on my “media reviews” blog (here).  My esthetic relation to music was one of submission to a certain experience of feeling.  I progressed quickly up through high school, winning some awards in festival concerts.

I had an old RCA record player in the basement, that tracked heavy (at 10 grams).  Slowly I accumulated some mono records of major works.  By 10th grade or so, I became conscious of the “chills and fever” effect of the way some romantic works ended, particularly piano concertos and symphonies.    The formula for a big cyclic work in a minor key was to end in the Picardy major with a triumphant “big tune”.  I think the first work that introduced this experience to me was Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto, Op. 18, in C Minor. (Today, I like the more subtle Third, Op. 30) better.)  I learned a few of the Op. 32 Preludes, including the triumphant D-flat Major prelude that concludes the set. The other work that introduced me to this experience at first was Grieg’s A Minor Piano Concerto.

I remember much better my relation to music as a young adult, starting about the time of the William and Mary Expulsion (well documented in my books) in 1961.  I attempted a couple large works, including a Third Sonata which I started over the winter 1961-1962 before reentering college at GWU.  I more or less have an “acceptable” manuscript in pieces (a lot of it in Sibelius) today, as I have spent more time on it in the past two years (on the Finale).

During that “terrible” hiatus at home after the Expulsion, I did get a recording of Bruno Walter’s performance of the 3-movement form of Anton Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony. I’ve discussed completion versions, especially Letocart’s, elsewhere, but one interesting detail was that the first side split the Scherzo in the middle of what Letocart calls the “Hallelujah” theme. The record player cartridge and stylus had deteriorated, leading to inner-groove distortion of that theme.  I could not earn my own money yet, and my father resisted spending money on music when I couldn’t and needed to pay for college. Nevertheless, it got fixed, and I had a VM stereo in the fall of 1962.  Getting used to multiple speakers and then stereo (with all the problems of inferior players and record wear back then) provided a new level or aesthetic “submission”, especially with a few Mahler Symphonies and then Beethoven’s Ninth.  Throughout most of my working adult life, I collected records, then cassettes, and then CD’s, and still do buy CD’s of emerging artists.   But in recent years, like everyone else, I’ve gotten used to playing classical music on YouTube or from the Cloud.  But the conclusion of the Bruckner Ninth would create a personal irony (as demonstrated in a short film that Letocart provides) which I would in outlining the conclusion to my own Sonata.

One aspect of this whole experience was that “aesthetic submission” provided what seemed like access to real feeling, and made relationships (dating, courtship, marriage, parenthood) seem like an afterthought, a totally privatized experience, with “different stroke for different folks”. I can link all this up to the Polarity Theory of Pail Rosenfels and the Ninth Street Center, which, as a “subjective feminine”, I’ve already discussed elsewhere.

But the other big “development” that filled in my identity would be sexuality, particularly homosexuality. I started “noticing” men gradually, but I was quite aware of my sensitivity on these matters of proper male body image probably by age 12 or so.  There would be a few small incidents over the years that would reinforce this impression.  But at age 18, in August 1961, when I was with a particular companion to whom I felt attracted, I felt extreme arousal.  I don’t want to be graphic here (I’ll stay in PG-13 territory) but the event was transformative for me.  The other person did not “respond” but I would have gone through with it if he had.   I found that experience of “getting excited by …” could happen in certain other situations that ordinarily imply losing or submission Later, as I was in my adult life in the 1973-1975, becoming fully “human” with that “true” first experience became quite a preoccupation but it would happen. I would of course gradually learn about heterosexual passion intellectually, but my father’s prediction that “one day blue eyes will confuse you” seemed irrelevant to defining me, beside the point.

What seems remarkable about the sexuality is that it was stimulated, ironically, by conservative values.  I was attracted to young men who “had it all”  I saw undisturbed maleness as a “virtue” with almost religious passion.  I viewed the prospect of what could happen to young men’s bodies in war, or from disease, or eventual aging, as desecration.  I actually viewed with contempt the rare male (in those days who make a spectacle of gender bending or today’s “gender fluidity”. I needed to believe in my idol to be able to experience sexual pleasure at all, even in a fantasy mode.  This counteracts the practical need for emotional resilience needed in marriage, where a partner needs to remain intimate even if the other person has a physical calamity, whether from war, terror, crime, disease, or just growing old. This pattern also undermines getting personal satisfaction out of interacting with cognitively distant people in need, as through intense volunteerism.

Therefore, I tended to look at people very critically. An close connection with someone who had “issues” could not be emotionally important to me.  This seems to bear on areas that Milo Yiannopoulos, in particular, has taken up in his tirades about, for example. “fat shaming”   Complicating the picture is that I grew up in (in practical terms) a racially segregated society.  My ideas of “desirability” for erotic “upward affiliation” pertained much more readily to white males than any other (“people of color”).

This has a bearing on any sense of belonging today.  It’s much easier to find real meaning in helping others if you “belong” to groups, and it’s easier to “belong” if you go through the socialization of courtship and conventional marriage and becoming a biological parent first.  Becoming a parent upends upward affiliation, and makes the experience of having others depend on you real and valuable,, But you have to be open to intimacy (“the family bed”) under mutable circumstances and sometimes externally imposed hardships.  I was not.  It sounds a little cowardly of me.  One eternal consequence is that I have no lineage, and, as an only child, neither do my parents; it dead-ends with me.

There were other factors that indeed rounded out my sense of identity. I had a certain fascination with “abstract geography” and a sense of elevation and place (as when I took up hiking later in my teen years) as a grounding in science.  I also relished the mathematical abstractions of competitive chess, as if that were an oxymoron;  chess games seemed to map to “real” team sports.  (The map is probably cleaner to American football than to baseball or even European soccer, because in NFL football, the defense can score points.)  That led me to one experience of group affiliation, rooting for a baseball team, who were the various incarnations of the Washington Senators (Twins, Rangers, Expos, Nats), with that horrible 18-game losing streak in the summer of 1959 (and that blown 7-run lead in the bottom of the ninth in Boston in `1961, right after high school graduation).  I would skip out on Tribunals but “take one for the team” a little bit when I was finally drafted, after graduate school, in 1968.  I would make a sacrifice, incurring slight hearing loss and tinnitus in the right ear from my experience on the rifle range at Fort Jackson. Even today, as shown on a recent Sinclair News Channel 8 discussion (“Government Matters”) it’s not clear that the “need” for conscription (probably gender neutral) can’t come back (and in my mind this always had a bearing on “don’t ask don’t tell”).

The whole conscription and student deferment issue was the moral issue of my own coming of age. In my own mind, it connected to the idea of “station in life” (as intrinsic and not necessarily equal to everyone else’s) and “right-sizing”.  Grades were my currency during my youth, which was actually an eventful, rich time. But I had to succeed in school to have a legitimate and honorable place in the world and not simply become a fungible sacrifice for someone else’s tribal agenda.

Alyssa Rosenberg today, in the Washington Post, relates how overt “submission” to art and sexual imagery attracts terrorists as “idol worship” and apostasy, in her column “Why terrorists attack concert halls” concerning the Manchester attack on May 22 (and earlier attacks, especially Paris).  Ii think you could add comments about alienation of certain young men who feel wired into brotherhood and tribal behavior. Along these lines, look at a recent column by David Brooks on how democratic capitalism (so good for me) has failed “them” and made me seem like an enemy to them.

On Vox, Sean Illing takes up these issues with an interview with Stanford professor Robert Sapolsky, “Behave: The Biology of Humans at our Worst and Best”.

(Posted: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at 2:30 PM EDT)

On “Solutions Sunday”: “Step outside of your own comfort zone”: Does that capacity really start with families?

This Sunday morning, CNN referred today as a “Solutions Sunday”, where people were encouraged to have Sunday dinner in a home with people of another race besides your own.  Republican Senator James Lankford on Oklahoma was one of the hosts.  Lankford said “Step outside your comfort zone and invite someone into your circle”.  Maybe your inner sanctum.

Despite living in an “inherited” trust house, I really haven’t been in the “business” of having guests at home, because I’m so busy with personal projects.  Events these days are nearly always in facilities.  So there’s nothing unusual about great diversity in public spaces, but I have to admit that at home it sounds a bit novel.

When I lived in New York City, and sometimes before in New Jersey, I did sometimes have house parties or events, and I have had a few house guests over the years, mostly related in the past to college, chess clubs, or people in the LGBT community (not just “tricks”, although that happened a little in the 1970s).  I’ve stayed with people , but very little since probably the 1970s. The largest event I ever held in my own space was an “Understanding” meeting (I think it was Wednesday, May 19) with about 25 people crowded into my own little studio apartment in the Cast Iron Building on E 11th St.

But it is very hard to help people without openness to letting it be personal if it need be (countering the “mind your own business” society), and for older adults, that’s often frankly easier when “you” have had and raised “your” own kids first.

I get a lot of pressure from others these days to become more open to “gratuitous” socializing and even dating, in my own home court, partly so that I don’t (at 73) remain “an accident waiting to happen” (to quote Jonathan Rauch in his mid 1990s book “Gay Marriage”).  Yes, I prefer to remain individually productive and get recognized for my content (but not just with hyperbolic phrases like “esteemed author”).  But it seems people see a continuum bridging fixing inequality in an economic or politic sense, and the way people actually make social and intimate “choices”.

Maybe nowhere is that idea so stark as in the issue of assisting refugees and asylum seekers, all over the world, but most of all in Europe, and then Canada, with the most comprehensive private sponsorship program in the world.

The New York Times has a booklet-length story today by Jodi Kantor and Katrin Eimhorn, “Canadians Adopted Refugee Families for a Year;  Then Came Month 13”.  Refugee families were supposed to be cut loose from dependence on the private groups (usually of 5 people or 5 families, associated with various faith-based and sometimes secular groups) for rent and many other expenses.  (In the US, where there is no private sponsorship as such, refugee families get some benefits, but generally depend on congregational offerings for some of the rent, almost always in commercially run apartments;  in the US you have about 20 families in a congregation assisting one refugee family instead of just five as in Canada).  What’s interesting about the story is that in Canada, many of the refugees did not speak English and had few job skills, and needed intensive personal attention from sponsors.  In the US, generally, most of the refugees allowed in have male providers with considerable job skills and can speak English.  “Blame Canada”, as in “Southpark“?  The country seems to produce outstanding citizens.  Look how well they do in Hollywood.

The New York Times missive bares some comparison to how the Mariel boatlift was handled in 1980, where churches asked people to put up refugees (often LGBT) in their own homes, very suddenly, mainly in southern cities.  But it turned out that many refugees would need constant attention as many did not speak English and had no skills.  Very few found “sponsors” on the spur of the moment.

Asylum seekers, as I have covered here, face a different situation, as they (usually) have already been in the country legally because of school or job skills.  (That doesn’t include those put in detention and the border, and are generally released only if there are relatives who know them.)  Canada’s reputation of relative generosity (especially relative to Trump) has led to some US asylum seekers crossing into Canada, especially Manitoba.

I’ve covered more details on my own situation on another blog, here.

(Posted: Monday, March 27, 2017 at 12:15 AM EDT)

Bannon’s ideas actually mirror mine, at the personal level (but I don’t believe in crusades)

There have been several columns about Stephen Bannon’s values.  For example, Fareed Zakaria wrote on Feb. 9, “Stephen Bannon’s words and actions don’t add up.”

On Jan. 10, David Brooks wrote about Bannon’s idea of “humane capitalism” as connected to faith.

Lester Feder has a similar piece on BuzzFeed “This s how Steve Bannon sees the entire world.” (Nov. 15).

Bannon’s views on how this maps to the economic system were demonstrated in his 2010 film “Generation Zero” (review).

We could say that Bannon is critical of “casino capitalism” or perhaps “extreme capitalism” (like in David Callahan’s 2004 book “The Cheating Culture”) or even “shareholder capitalism” as Nancy Pelosi would compare to “stakeholder capitalism” – but also as compared to fake capitalism, or statist capitalism in modern post-Communist (of sorts) Russia and China.  Maybe Singapore would appeal to him.

Bannon also maps this back to individual morality.  As people (baby boomer-born) have reasserted individualism (in concert with the Civil Rights movement and Stonewall soon to follow in the 1960s), sometimes people don’t see how their self-expression and lifestyle “choice” is tied to the unseen sacrifices of others, often in a family and community context. Bannon, a former Naval officer during Carter’s Iran hostage crisis, sometimes has been critical about the lack of military service among most Americans in positions of influence (but remember Charles Moskos’s talk about needing the draft again right after 9/11);  “freedom is not free” but always contextual.

I can see in my own life,  my actions and values have meaning in the social contexts believed by others, and vice versa.  It’s all too easy to “rationalize” any value system with logic alone (look at “body fascism”),  so people often look to systems of faith and scripture for guidance.  With moderate versions of Abrahamic faiths, we usually get moral values (somewhat centered on the family, which becomes more flexible) commensurate with “humane capitalism”, compared even to what raw libertarianism or Ayn Rand’s objectivism can offer.  Libertarianism, though, would recognize “The Golden Rule”.

I find myself driven to some internal contradiction (a mental “internal server error”), which I can resolve only if I become more willing to offer “a hand up” in an interpersonal way and taking more risk than I have been willing to accept in the past.

But Bannon’s ideas go beyond personal values and beyond policy in the usual sense, to encompass ideas of holy crusades or wars, which I cannot accept.  I don’t get the connection.  I do understand that some of the Islamic world hates us, partly because of our interventionism in their lands, and partly because of the modernism of each of us as individuals.  Look at Francis Stead Sellers and David A. Farenthold, “Why even let ‘em in?

(Posted: Monday, February 13, 2017 at 10 PM EST)

Can the English language coin a single word to mean “traditional marriage”? Maybe “complementation”?

A few years ago, before the Supreme Court rulings in Obergefell and earlier on DOMA,  the conservative newspaper “The Washington Times” habitually would use parentheses to express sarcasm, that is, gay “marriage”.

Indeed, the legal fight was sometimes more about absolute gender-neutral equality in state-supported benefits for adult couples (which really could have been done with “civil unions”). It was about allowing monopoly of the use of the word “marriage” to imply that traditional initiatory and procreation-friendly sexual intercourse was available to the relationship and normatively practiced.  This was a battle over the cultural significance of biological sexual intercourse itself. It was a battle over sexism, from the viewpoint of some areas of LGBT and feminist communities, and about allowing the continuation of the potential for male domain.

We should remember that the “civil union” idea didn’t play well with some forces on the right, as with the Marshall-Newman amendment to Virginia’s constitution, in 2006, short-lived, thankfully.

It’s useful, to me at least, to recall what “being married” meant for men back in “the good old days”, so to speak.  It “normatively” meant (beyond “one man and one woman”) that a man had courted a woman, perhaps with some degree of irrationality (even conservative writer George Gilder used to boast about this), had proven that he could “perform”, but also proven he could become a provider and protector of the potential wife and children.  Like corn snow in the early spring, that idea was stubborn to melt away, even was women made more advances in their careers and gradually approached men in earnings, and took pokes at the glass ceiling, which Hillary Clinton herself could not shatter completely. I recall, way back in 1957 when I was a teen, seeing a “Ladies Home Journal” (why did I look at that) article asking, who did you want to have a college degree, you, or your husband?  We have come a long way, baby.

But you simply can’t do away with the fact that sometimes gender matters.  (Milo, on Breitbart, says this all the time and is quick to say that, ironically, is why he is gay and the world’s most “dangerous faggot”.)  Most men are leaner, taller and stronger than most women, just not in every case.  Men don’t play professional baseball or football (although I think that transgender players in MLB are inevitable – particularly for pitchers, and we could see female and trans managers and coaches).  Men can’t give birth to children.  Women do need to take some time off for maternity (and occasionally maternity can require a lot of attention for an entire pregnancy)  In individual cases, women can serve in special forces in the military, but the overwhelming majority are men.  It’s important to note another biological paradox:  gay men usually have the same strength and physical ability as straight men (I’m the exception).  Sexual orientation is itself a “plug and play” trait or (in Microsoft-speak) “property” that is amazingly independent of everything else in terms of physical or athletic ability, and mental or psychological traits of cognition, character, mental stability and most other capabilities.  In fact, most gay men can produce children if they decide they want to. Gender identity, by comparison, gets complicated.

So, can we coin another word for the English language.  Remember that in French, the translation of “girl” is “la jeune fille” (two words).  But “traditional marriage” or “traditionally married” sounds too much like a mouthful of syllables and words.  The “property” that characterizes traditional marriage s a favorite Vatican term, “complementarity”.  (Note that the sixth letter is an “e”; this is not about “it’s free”).  You could say that complementarity can be a property that a marriage does or does not possess (rather like saying a particle has a charge or spin in physics).

In English, you can typically make a noun from an individual occurrence of an action expressed by a verb with the “ation” suffix.  That is, “to decline” becomes “declination” (as happened to me in 2001 with a particular insurance application).  I guess you could say that a property implies the likelihood that an object will execute a particular verb, that is, the partners in a traditional marriage with “complement” one another physically. So the grammatically derived word to coin is “complementation.”

So, let’s call a traditional marriage instance a “complementation” if we need a distinct word for our psychological vocabulary.

The social conservative (like Rick Santorum or Anthony Scalia) views “complementation” as an important step for most men to fit into a community, and be able to reach out to other people “as people”.  “Complementation” does provide the best environment for having and raising children – the next generation – without undue influence from the state.  But times have indeed changed.  One of the most important parts of a relationship is “psychological mating”, which Paul Rosenfels wrote about in the 1970s with his theory on polarity. When I was of college age, I did not have a legitimate opportunity to consider whether I could spend the rest of my life with another contemporary young man.  It may sound like a long shot, but it’s sort of an alternative universe question in my own narrative  But today, people with my disposition can consider this.  The relationship of Will and Sonny on “Days of our Lives” (until Will is murdered by a badass character) is instructive.  Will did produce a baby in a single encounter with Gabby, and in an emergency situation on the run from criminals, Sonny stepped up and delivered Gabby’s baby in the woods.  There seems no question that Will and Sonny would have been fit parents to raise the little girl. What seems much more of a challenge is for an older person to make such a bonding, based partly on another person’s need, and on living out some kind of personal fantastic vision.

(Posted: Wednesday, December 28, 2016 at 6:45 PM EST)

Guest post, “Four Simple Tips to Turn Men into Better Husbands in 2017”, by Drexel Gilbert

Guest post by Drexel Gilbert, “Four Simple Tips to Turn Men into Better Husbands in 2017

The romance doesn’t drain out of a relationship overnight.

It’s a slow trickle over time.

“Counselors will tell you that the leaks in a marriage or love relationship are a hazard of daily life,” says Drexel Gilbert, author of 30 Days to Better Love: A Guide for Men (www.drexelgilbert.com).

“Careers, children, bills and a variety of daily responsibilities add to the problem, one drip at a time.”

But, she says, men who haven’t given as much attention to the relationship as they should can reignite the romance through simple and inexpensive actions.

“You don’t have to plan a European getaway to let your wife know how special she is to you,” Gilbert says.

Instead, she suggests:

• Give her flowers every day for a month. Women love to receive flowers even if some of them insist they don’t, Gilbert says. It needn’t always be a bouquet. It can be a single flower. It can be a flower picked from your own garden. “In a pinch, it can even be a daisy you draw on a piece of paper and leave with a sweet note on the kitchen counter,” Gilbert says.
• Sit beside her. If you’re sitting in an easy chair while your wife is on the sofa it’s time to make a move, Gilbert says. Sit beside her as you watch television, entertain guests, read, talk or listen to music. “A psychologist once told me that a couple’s physical distance implies the level of their emotional distance,” she says. “He also said that couples who routinely sit beside each other are likely to be more affectionate in their relationship.”
• Talk to her. This one is exceptionally easy – or at least should be in theory. In reality, while a lot of talking goes on in relationships, it’s often about the kids, bills, chores, careers or car repairs. Gilbert suggests making a conscious effort to have more meaningful conversations. Watch a movie together and talk about why you did or didn’t like it. After church, talk about the sermon and how it might apply to your lives. As you drive down the road, turn off the radio and ask her opinion about something that’s important to you. “And the second part of that is really listen to what she has to say,” Gilbert says.
• Be a gentleman. “Somewhere along the way in the struggle for equality and the battle for respect in the workplace, we forgot that it’s still all right for men to be courteous to women,” Gilbert says. Open the car door for her. Hold her chair at the restaurant. Stand up when she goes to the ladies’ room and stand up again when she comes back. Hold the umbrella over her head even if it means you get wet.

“Putting the romance back into a relationship is not rocket science, but it does take effort,” Gilbert says. “You’ve got to try. If you’re planning any New Year’s resolutions, this would be the perfect one.”

About Drexel Gilbert

Drexel Gilbert, author of “30 Days to Better Love: A Guide for Men” , has more than 30 years of experience working as a journalist, TV news anchor, newsroom manager and public speaker. She also is author of five children’s books. She and her husband, Wesley, live in Pensacola, Fla.

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My own reaction:

This would be more ambiguous with same-sex couples, especially male couples with younger men.  I’m thinking of an intimate scene in the middle of the film “The Dark Place” (distantly related to a Henry James story and Benjamin Britten opera), a mystery film with rather charismatic young adult male gay characters (although the story could work with a straight couple, too).  The more assertive character actually starts the scene by asking, “Do you love me?” and the other guy says, “Why would you wonder if I do?”

(Posted: Tuesday, December 20, 2016 at 11:45 PM EST)

Donald Trump’s authoritarian values (and the values of his quasi-“deplorable” followers)

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There are a lot of articles in the media today characterizing Donald Trump as an existential threat to democracy that respects individualism as we know it now.  Here is a sample.

Who Goes Trump?” by James Kirchick, Tablet   This piece characterizes many Trump supporters as actually well-off, but psychologically insecure, of questionable character, uneasy about the legitimacy of their own prosperity and particularly needing authoritarian values to be imposed on them and others to give their lives meaning.  A significant danger is that other people in the administration, who “support” Trump, would not constrain him from dangerous or impulsive conduct, because they share similar values.

The Dangerous Acceptance of Donald Trump”,  by Adam Gopnik, the New Yorker.

The Conservative Case for Voting for Clinton”,  by David Frum, The Atlantic

America and the Abyss”,  by Andrew Sullivan, New York.   This is one of the darkest pieces, put in terms of voting for fascism.

Is this scaremongering by the ‘elite left” (or by “progressive” or “compassionate” conservatives)?  Some people I talk to in person, who I don’t think would fit into Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” seem to think so.

Amanda Taub of Vox Media explains Trump’s appeal to people who believe in authoritarian social values (which are not always connected to one party or another but have tended to migrate to the Republican Party because of the party’s suborn (sometimes religion-driven) resistance to some gender and race related social changes.  Authoritarianism is associated with a need for “strongman” leaders who can use threats to “bargain’ for their constituents, and who see violence as inevitable in a dangerous world. Authoritarianism usually values conformity and obedience to creativity and “dependent” independence.

Let me walk back a few impressions.  First, my recollection of Trump’s behavior in conducting the “Boardroom” in “The Apprentice” is generally positive.  He nearly always made appropriate comments, however sharp-tongued he was, in deciding who to fire in a particular episode of “rank and yank.”  The people he hired seemed to be responsible young adults and even role models.  (That includes Omarosa Manigault, as well as Troy McClain, who survived a public leg-waxing “for the team” and whom Trump put through college.) He did have LGBT contestants on his series (living in the hotel with other contestants, quasi military style), but I don’t recall if an LGBT person won an “apprenticeship”.

So at first when I heard, maybe in early 2015, that he was serious about running for president, I thought this was a good thing.  He had said that he supported solving the health care issues once and for all, even if he wanted to get rid of Obamacare.  He seemed fine with Social Security and Medicare.  I felt he could be “safer” than some of the conventionally Santorum-like Republicans.

So I was disturbed at many of Trump’s most boorish proposals. Some of them seem to disregard due process and the rule of law (which Trump says he wants).  I won’t re-elaborate here, as do the articles above.

Trump does come across as someone with narcissistic personality disorder.  He seems unwilling not to get his way.  He sounds like the evil side of someone like Shane Lyons in the movie “Judas Kiss”.  (In the movie, Shane displays the homosexual equivalent of Trump’s heterosexual musings and attractions, someone who always gets what he wants – “Danny”.)

I have to share a certain commonality with Trump of my own.  Just as Trump pretends “only I can make the country great” by manipulating everyone into submission. I pretend that I am unique in the ability o keep tabs online of all “knowledge”, keeping everyone else “honest”.  The “ethics” of this is something I’ll cover again later.  I also share Trump’s aversion to elevating or honoring victimhood, to making weakness “all right” in personal interactions.  Like Trump, I feel that “victims” really pay for the crimes of their perpetrators, which sounds like a moral paradox but unavoidable logically driven fact.   (Trump said of John McCain, “He’s a war hero who was captured. I like war heroes who weren’t captured.” That is, there are no victims.)

So I do share Trump’s appreciation for the unprecedented asymmetric nature of externally-driven threats that ordinary American civilians can face, from “enemies”.  I understand his leverage of that “Russian roulette” scene from “The Deer Hunter“.

I am also concerned that the “asymmetry” argument could be used to justify new controls on some kinds of “gratuitous” speech, but I’ll get into that later.

Trump does appeal to people who relate to the world by their hierarchal relations with others, where manipulating others to get them to behave a certain way (like buy from you) is seen as a critical life skill, apart from the validity of the product or service or belief or goal being addressed.  Trump appeals to people who value “power” (or “right”) rather than “truth”. People of this persuasion typically believe that families and communities must be cohesive and must discipline and “right-size” their own members, who will then share in the fate of the entire community.   Trump (with Pence) is more likely to appeal to certain segments of the Christian evangelical community (despite his own behavior) who accept the idea of proselytizing, or to people who like to sell to others (“always be closing”) and manipulate others for their own sakes, but who may not have an intellectually deep or analytical grasp of their world (and may not respect modern science as opposed to their local “street sense”).

I ran into many people with this world-view after my “retirement” from I.T. post 9/11 at the end of 2001. In many job interviews for more people-oriented positions, I found some employers to be surprisingly concerned about my diffidence concerning any interest in directly manipulating others or getting them to respect me “just for authority” (as I used to say to my father).  One interviewer became particularly unnerved and defensive in front of me when I asked the normal “rational” questions about the credibility of what he (actually a husband-wife team)  wanted to sell and how he wanted to manipulate potential consumers.  Trump’s values seem all too common with a lot of “average Joe’s”.

The pity is that many of Trump’s concerns about national security are actually well founded.  But there are constructive solutions to these problems he could talk about without race baiting. He needs only to ask Peter Thiel.

I might be supporting him if he really solved the problems without resorting to strong-armed tactics and vitriol.

(Posted: Friday, November 4, 2016 at 11:45 PM EDT)

Freedom does not preclude duty

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I’ve written a few posts recently on things one could be made to do or has some kind of duty to do: on subjects like military conscription, national service, community service requirements for donation, the idea that people could be expected to become parents, conservative Vatican ideas of sexual morality, and, previously, filial responsibility laws.

So do I believe in freedom?  Or in duty?  Maybe I believe in both.

I’m most of all concerned about the moral dilemmas faced by those of us who are “different”, most of all in areas like sexuality and gender identity.  I don’t believe that we automatically are entitled to special treatment from “identity politics” just for being “born different”, because that could mean others make unwilling sacrifices for us.

“Unwilling”.  That reminds me, that one of my own mother’s favorite adverbs was “willingly.” That modifier seems to connect the idea of free choice – and expressing our identities with our choices – with duty, and dealing with things when others knock on the door.

Roughly speaking, there are two ways a lot of us go wrong in life.  We impose ourselves on people who don’t want us in their lives.  That one is pretty familiar.  Women often say no to the advances of aggressive, hereditarily passionate men.  That’s the most familiar moral environment for a lot of people – women are supposed to tame men into family life.  But the other side of the coin in more subtle.  We avoid people who need us, and keep on with our own pursuits.  After all, it takes a strong individual to go into an adult relationship, right?  The idea of being accomplished first certainly comports with the emancipation from rigid gender roles of the past – in western society.

I get challenged a lot to play ball (even adversarially) with other people, after I try to make my own work and own voice heard.  Sometimes this gets as far as saying I need to have my own personal stake in the world – my own kids – to validate being heard.  Indeed, with my own skin in the game, I wouldn’t have to be so vocal about sharing other people’s moral hazards.

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It’s a lot easier to “play ball” if “you” are socialized in a conventional way – starting with having the “natural” or even “biological” drive to have children – something I don’t have.  That’s how it was during my own coming of age – the social changes of recent decades give new opportunities for some “non-conforming” people to get started with families that I didn’t have, but it was important to start with a relationship that seemed satisfying even if the resilience of the relationship would inevitably be challenged over the years – by time, accidents, disease.   So I compensate(d) with self-expression.  That sounds like good advice for the individual – do your own work, write a good novel, become accomplished with piano, or astronomy (finding aliens), or medicine (new cancer tests or cures), or building your own fusion reactors, or something monumental.  But the sad reality is most of the world is dependent on seeing people do mundane jobs and raise kids, often in accordance with gender and “natural roles”.  We who make ourselves above this risk become seen as parasites.  If you lose what you have to people who feel you leave them a world with nothing to lose, you don’t get it back, and it gets pretty ugly.

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So the way you have to deal with this is to make the lives of others who actually need “you” more valuable to “you”.  That’s a very personal matter, something coercive and likely to be refused in many specific challenges.  It sounds like it would be easier for people who got started off on the right foot in marital relationships — except that we see so many moral problems for people who pretend to be married but still claim the raw egos of undisciplined singletons.

There’s a line in the film “Judas Kiss” where charismatic bad-boy Shane Lyons tells young filmmaker Danny, “most people walk in the direction they’re heading.”  Or, most people head in the direction they’re walking.   When someone (like me) doesn’t seem to have enough of his own skin in the game, people look at the derivative – the direction I’m headed, the rate of change, and the windage (maybe with parametric equations).

For me, “feelings” had that kind of alarming derivative.  I learned I could “feel” from the thrilling climaxes of some classical music – not from the groupie experience of pop or gospel praise songs (and all their repetition).  I found I could become aroused around seemingly “powerful” young men with all the “right” trappings (which could get pretty arbitrary, even race-tinged).  I could even become excited by losing an arm-wrestling match.  I wanted the “freedom” to pursue the expressive potential of my own identity – became very focused on the logistics of my own needs (especially with my “Second Coming” when I moved into the City in the 1970s)   I succeeded at this for the most part.  But people seemed very concerned what this “meant”.  There seemed to be excitement in staging shame (which used to be an idea in occasional gay porn publications).  There seems to be an idea that not everyone is going to make it, and so if you go down, you might as well eroticize it.  That sounds like an idea that would encourage Fascism – the disgust with losers (listen to Donald Trump).  But it sounds understandable – even if ironic.  After all, 20+ years after winning WWII, we were willing to send our “losers” as cannon fodder to the Vietnam era draft, and some of us actually rationalized the whole system with its deferments and privileges.

We’ve gotten used to seeing policy questions in terms of which groups have taken unfair advantage of other groups, and solving things politically (or with armed conflict, sometimes).  Individuals can only be socialized when they start out within the groups (families) into which they are born.  With freedom, they can move out into new settings.  But if we want to sustain freedom, we have to value all lives, and sometimes we really have to answer when the door knocks.

(Published: Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016 at 11:45 PM EDT)

Non traditional families and singles can (often) adopt children; should they be expected to?

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Should same-sex couples adopt?  It seems likely settled, in historic turnaround, that they can, in all 50 states, after a decision turning down Mississippi’s anti-same-sex-couple adoption law this spring, with opinion shown in this Huffington article.  I’ll add an article supporting the idea that children raised in homes of stable gay couples do as well as anyone.

I must prefix the rest of this by noting that the DC Center for the LGBT Community in Washington plans an information forum in November 2016 on adoption and foster care.  It may be intended mainly for couples, but there is a suggestion that all are welcome.

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There’s no question that suitability of a parent depends on the character of the parent.  It’s pretty easy to imagine Alan Turing as an ideal father figure because he had such unusual integrity and charisma, even though he never tried that role.  As a single “straight” man. Edward Snowden comes across the same way to me, because of focus on a moral ideal.

When I was working on my first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book in the 1990s, I was surprised to find out how far the subject of gay parents had advanced (when compared to the debate on gay marriage, which was just then livening up in Hawaii). I read a book “Getting Simon: Two Gay  Doctors’ Journey into Fatherhood” by Kenneth Morgen, about how determined a Maryland gay couple was to raise a son.

But I want to come at this question through a back door.  Should non-traditional parents adopt children?  That means not just same-sex couples but singles as well.  It also includes ancillary questions like offering foster care, or even overseas sponsorship.

That would seem to depend on the overall level of need, about which evidence online is quite variable and inconsistent.

But if the need is great, that could imply a moral obligation for those who are able to consider adoption.

Adults seem to vary widely on whether they want children.  Some couples struggle with fertilization and it is their narratives that sometimes gives valuable clues to the need, as in some cases couples don’t find that there are that many “suitable children” to adopt.  A poster at Babycenter notes this real-world experience of many (traditional) couples.

But other sources point to the need for adoptive families for non-white children, or children with special needs.  And then consider this blog post.

I recall my last year living in Minneapolis, 2003, where I would see seats or signs at bus stops indicating a need for single people to adopt or offer foster care.

There is also a lot of tension on the Internet over whether all capable adults should be prepared to raise children, or if there is something wrong with not “wanting” them.  There’s no question, that the “educated middle class” perceives a loss of economic opportunity (men as well as women) and considerable economic risk in having kids at the most “desirable” ages (mid to late 20s).  Student debt is a problem.  The issue obviously interacts with the intellectual shallowness of the paid family leave debate (like who pays for it?)  In a real world, single people often wind up raising siblings’ children (sometimes as a condition for inheriting estates).

The idea that not every adult “wants” kids seems to rankle some people.  As this article from Australia suggests, some see it as a kind of “draft dodging”.  The BBC reports  that people who say outright that they don’t want kids being bullied on social media.  Time Magazine even dismisses the reasons for not wanting kids as inappropriately self-serving.  The Federalist   even refers to a book  “What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster”  I note the idea of the “personal (mis)use of sex”.

An important process behind this kind of thinking is the idea that much of what is interesting in life only works when “everybody else has to do what you have to do.”  In an individualistic world, no one has a right to expect that sort of mandatory solidarity from others.  But that’s how authoritarian societies (probably inhabiting whole planets) work.

So, let’s comeback to the questions: can (and should) single people adopt?  Parents magazine (generally conservative) gives a guarded “yes”.   “Unmarried equality” backs this up with more specifics  and notes that some states have specified precedence rules requiring considering married couples first.  There’s also the synopsis of a debate from Brazil on whether single people should be allowed to adopt.

Besides adoption and foster car, there is the idea of informal sponsorship of children overseas, which many charities propose.  These involve having correspondence with a particular child.  To me this now seems a bit inappropriate unless “you” are ready for full responsibility, could travel there and try to adopt.

There is a cold, existential reality that “people life me” face.  It is hard to feel personal connection (beyond intellectual empathy) to children of the next generation needing to be supported and reared, without having successfully connected to a member of the opposite sex through sexual intercourse, with a total surrender of self implicit in the process, however temporary and usually reversible.

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Update: Oct. 1

A group called UMFS (United Methodist Family Services) had a booth today at northern Virginia LGBT Pride and told me that single people, at least for foster care and probably adoption, were needed.  The spokesperson said that couples who claim they cannot find children to adopt usually are “picky” about who they will accept (by age, race, and lack of special needs). Older children who have been in foster care often do have behavior problems.

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An aunt in Ohio took care of two foster children on a farm in the 1950s when I visited in the summer.  The boy played baseball and was an avid Indians’s fan — and I saw many games in the “Mistake by the Lake” in Cleveland (with the Senators).  The girl became a journalist in the Cleveland area.

(Posted: Friday, September 30, 2016 at 3:30 PM EDT)