A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘glbt rights

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • At Beyond the Beyond, Bruce Sterling considers the grim future of e-book readers. Why a dedicated reader when a generalist tablet would do just as well?
  • Paul Gilster at Centauri Dreams summarizes a paper by one Duncan Horgan examining the efficiencies of different propulsion methods for interstellar probes.
  • Far Outliers’ Joel compares early modern English and Spanish expansion, arguing that each imperial power began by colonizing an adjacent area (Ireland in the case of England, al-Andalus and the Canaries in the case of Spain).
  • The Global Sociology Blog argues that the political concept of “traditional family” should die a quick death in the face of the diversity of real families.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen suggests that German hostility to American-style immigration policies favouring low-skilled workers explains why robotic mowers are more successful on the German market–capital substitutes for labour.
  • At The Power and the Money, Doug Muir makes predictions about the future of Syria. He expects Assad’s defeat after a long drawn-out battle, and bad things happening thereafter.
  • Registan’s Nathan Hamm is unimpressed by the quality of the PR consultants hired by the fame-seeking daughter of Uzbekistan’s dictator, Gulmara Karimova.
  • Torontoist describes how, in 1993, a lawyer on the 24th story of a Bay Street tower ran into a window panel and fell out, to his death. True story.
  • Understanding Society examines what assumptions underlying talking about the “social sciences” as the “human sciences”. (Emphasizing the importance of history and the interpretive nature of human sciences as contrasted to the empiricism of natural sciences is key.)
  • At the Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Kontorovich contrasts and compares Israel settlement policies on the West Bank with Turkish settlement policies in North Cyprus, making a case that Turkish settlement is a more substantial effort.

[BRIEF NOTE] Coming out in China

Did you know that PFLAG–Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, one of the premiere support groups for relatives of non-heterosexuals–has a Chinese branch now? I didn’t until I came across an Economist article describing the latest progress in gay rights in China.

The organization has clearly come a long way since its foundation, documented in a 2010 article in the Global Times‘ Beijing edition. This interesting-looking documentary on parents of out children in China is likewise promising.

Homosexuality was declassified as a mental illness in China a decade ago, but prejudice remains deep. So when an editor at the government education department in the city of Hangzhou was compiling a pamphlet recently to help parents guide their children through puberty, she included a warning about “deviant” behaviour.

What she may not have expected was an irate open letter in response from a group of mothers of gay children. Eighteen mothers, from all over China, affiliated with Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, an NGO known as PFLAG China, signed the letter. It called for the book to be withdrawn.

“We’re extremely angry about this,” one of the signatories says who asked only to be identified by her internet name: Romantic Mum from Hebei. “Understanding and accepting gay people starts with education,” she continues. “But if kids continue to get this kind of education, the prejudice will remain.”

The mother says her own “unsuitable education” meant that she was devastated when her son came out to her at the age of 15: “I kept asking myself what I had done wrong in bringing him up.” But last year, after joining some online discussion groups, she accepted that her son was not going to change. Now she helps run PFLAG’s hotline, which offers advice to parents of gay children.

PFLAG’s director, Hu Zhijun, says that ten years ago very few children came out to their parents. Now, with more information available online, a new generation of gay people are more confident. “They’re more likely to tell their parents and classmates,” he says.

The government editor’s response was encouraging too: she invited the volunteers for a chat, apologised for not knowing much about gay people, and said there will be changes in the next edition of the book.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 14, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Posted in Assorted

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[BRIEF NOTE] On the homophobe running Belarus

I’ve blogged in the past about <a href="Guido Westerwelle, Germany’s out Foreign Minister. Towleroad today pointed to a news story suggesting that the Belarusian president used Westerwelle’s sexual orientation to try to trigger a diplomatic incident following the suppression of free elections.

Last November in Minsk, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko suggested to German Minister of Foreign Affairs Guido Westerwelle that he should cease being gay.

Lukashenko recently acknowledged the incident, telling reporters that he dislikes “faggots” and confirming he told Westerwelle “it is necessary to live a normal life.”

Russian gay activist Nikolai Alekseev expressed surprise that there was little reaction to the incident from German gay activists or the German government.

“To leave without reaction what Lukashenko said is nothing else than setting a dangerous precedent,” Alekseev said. “If he can bash verbally a German minister on his sexual orientation, then why he would not do it with all Belarusian LGBT people.

“People have to understand that their absence of reaction can have some negative side effects to others.”

ILGA Europe went into more detail about the comments, the Gay Russia site going into more detail after Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorsky himself.

According to the Polish Minister, the Belarusian President created a diplomatic incident when he told the openly gay German Minister that all gays should be sent to State Farms.

“When I was in Minsk together with Guido Westerwelle, we talked about minorities, and not just national minorities. Similarly (concerning sexual minorities) Alexander Lukashenko also expressed himself. I recognise that it should not be an example for members of the Civil platform” explained Radoslava Sikorsky to the News Agency Regnum on February 14.

Citing sources in the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Polish daily «Wprost» writes that during the meeting of the Polish and German foreign ministers in Minsk, President Lukashenko made a long monologue.

“He said he does not understand how a man can live with a man. It was an obvious allusion to Westerwelle, who has a partner. The German minister looked nervous, but Lukashenko went even further. In very severe form, he said he did not have anything against lesbians, but that he would be happy to send gay men to State farms” writes the newspaper.

On the eve of last December Presidential elections in Belarus, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski together with his German counterpart, Guido Westerwelle, travelled to Minsk, where they both called President Alexander Lukashenko to hold transparent and fair elections. Mr Lukashenko was re-elected on the first round with 79.67% of the votes.

The situation for GLBT rights in Belarus isn’t very good, so it’s probably not surprising that Lukashenko used Westerwelle’s sexual orientation–broadly unremarkable in Germany, increasingly so in Poland–to delegitmize European criticism of Belarus’ totalitarianism. Alekseev quoted above is right to note that letting Lukashenko’s bigotry pass for three months without any public criticism likely isn’t good; certainly it seems indicative of Lukahshenko’s respect for minority rights generally.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 1, 2011 at 4:04 pm

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • 80 Beats observes the discovery of a star in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way, that’s the most massive star discovered to date with a mass three hundred times that of our sun.
  • At the Everyday Sociology Blog, Janice Prince Inniss writes about the rising rates of intermarriage in the United States, with Asians and Hispanics marrying outside their demographic more often than whites or blacks, and some potential partners (whites, mainly) more valued than others.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money’s Robert Farley is properly scathing of a book, Walter Laqueur’s The Last Days of Europe, that’s terribly sloppy in its argument that Europe is becoming Eurabia.
  • Marginal Revolution quotes from a Stratfor analysis of Greece’s situation that’s altogether too reductionistic: Greek problems aren’t all about geography, people.
  • At the Search, Douglas Todd points out that rumours that Muslim birth rates in Canada are so high that soon we’ll be elected Muslim prime ministers are, well, Eurabia.
  • Towleroad’s Andy Towle announces that after many years, the Obama administration has helped the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission to finally gain consultative status at the United Nations, along with other groups. Abroad, a coalition of mainly Muslim countries has opposed the recognition; inside the United States, some Republicans followed suit.
  • Undercover Economist Tim Harford writes about the thriving–and mass popularity–of board games like Settlers of Catan in Germany.
  • Window on Eurasia reports speculations that the recent ouster of the nationalist governor of the Russian republic of Bashkortostan might mean that the Russian government is finally going to place the autonomous ethnic republics more tightly under its control.

[LINK] Some Friday links

  • Acts of Minor Treason’s Andrew Barton points out that genes aren’t everything, that the environment (in its broadest sense) controls the expression of genes in any species.
  • blogTO’s guest writer Matthew Harris summarizes the controversy surrounding the Bohemian Embassy condo development on Queen Street West.
  • Centauri Dreams speculates about the idea of humanity dispatching biological packages to distant worlds in order to encourage the panspermic spread of our biosphere. The idea is controversial.
  • At Crooked Timber, Henry Farrell speculates that the ongoing debt crisis in Greece might accelerate European integration.
  • Far Outliers visits anti-Chinese legislation in independent Indonesia and the treatment of Chinese in the Dutch East Indies by Japan during the Second World War.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Douglas Muir examines the upcoming examination of the legality of Kosovo’s declaration of independence, suggesting that the court’s likely to fudge the decision rather than take a controversial stance.
  • Joe. My. God announces the good news that the European Union is requiring aspiring member-states to respect gay rights and the sad news that the Roman Catholic diocese of Washington D.C. has closed down its foster child program rather than stop discriminating against same-sex couples.
  • Language Hat explores the sorts of largely good-hearted ethnic jokes made by people in the very multiethnic Russian Caucasian republic of Dagestan.
  • The Search’s Douglas Todd writes about how a Pentecostal preacher has been coordinating chaplaincy services
  • Steve Munro points out that, contrary to rumour, the TTC employs ten thousand people.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests that Lithuania’s overlookied Russophone community is starting to mobilize behind demands for greater recognition.

[BRIEF NOTE] On the mainstreaming of gay politicians in Canada

John Lorinc’s Globe and Mail article on the emergence of out politicians in Canada is worth reading in full. Unfortunately, most of it is behind the paper’s subscription firewall.

When Toronto mayoral candidate George Smitherman kissed his spouse, Christopher Peloso, before a bank of cameras this week, he announced his campaign with a public display of affection normally reserved for heterosexual candidates and their spouses.

The gesture may have appeared casual, but it signalled two things to Canadians: that same-sex marriage is becoming an acceptable part of the country’s social and political geography and that being openly gay is no longer a liability for politicians. As David Rayside, a University of Toronto professor of political science and sexual diversity, notes, “Visibility counts.”

Mr. Smitherman will be getting a whole lot more visibility during the next year as he seeks to become the first gay mayor of Canada’s largest city. And he may not be the only candidate reaching for that goal: He will probably be challenged by another openly gay politician, Glen Murray. The two-term former mayor of Winnipeg has not yet formally announced his candidacy, but he has acknowledged that he is considering joining the race.

Their opponent, in turn, will almost certainly be businessman and radio host John Tory, a socially progressive conservative who once lost a hard-fought provincial riding race to another openly gay candidate, Kathleen Wynne.

As a one-time health minister, Mr. Smitherman, 44, will certainly face far more questions about his role in the eHealth Ontario scandal than about his sexual orientation. That’s as it should be. Few Torontonians – or Vancouverites or Montrealers – would be surprised to learn that lifestyle is no longer an issue in local politics. But are Canadians outside large urban centres – especially those in small towns or rural areas – prepared to elect openly gay politicians to top leadership roles, such as premier or prime minister?

Pollster Michael Adams, who tracks social values in Canada, says sexual orientation isn’t an issue. “We’re at the point where we’re past it,” he says. “There are groups whose cultural differences are more controversial than being gay.”

The previously mentioned Scott Brison, out since 2002, made bids for the Progressive Conservative party leadership in 2003 and for the Liberal Party leadership in 2006. In both campaigns, his sexual orientation wasn’t an issue, at least not openly. Television coemdian Rick Mercer suggests in his 2003 interview of Brison that his Nova Scotianness was the problem.

Lorinc does conclude by noting that some of the more prominent gay politicians, like Liberal George Smitherman in Ontario and John Baird for the Conservatives in Ottawa, have become prominent through their aggressiveness: the two men were loud enforcers for their governments, known for being aggressive and constantly on the offensive. Might there be parallels with the way that the first crop of female national leaders–Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher, say–were notable for their hard-headedness and aggressiveness? If gay politicians now, like female politicians a couple of decades ago, have to be aggressive in order to be taken seriously, contrary to Lorinc’s assertion there’s still a way to go.

“What are things like in your countries,” I ask my readers.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 28, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Posted in Assorted

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[LINK] Some Friday links

  • At Acts of Minor Treason, Andrew’s very skeptical about the good sense of ideas to save money on the TTC by cutting service: positive feedback loops in negative directions are always nasty. (Thanks to mindstalk for correcting my terminology.)
  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait shows pictures of the footsteps of the Apollo 12 astronauts taken by a recent Moon probe.
  • Centauri Dreams reports that, in the recent tradition of astronomers finding smaller and more distant objects, a small chunk of ice a bit less than one kilometre across was found seven billion kilometres away from Earth by the Hubble.
  • The Global Sociology blog tackles the nurture-versus-nature debate on gender differences and argues strongly on nurture’s side.
  • Joe. My. God lets us know that a North Carolina politician mocked the sexual orientation of another politician’s dead gay son, and that Rwanda is also considering strongly homophobic legislation on the Ugandan model.
  • Language Log’s Geoff Nunberg discusses the question of how linguists should respond to conflicts of interest, with the discussions expanding upon what a conflict of interest for linguists actually is.
  • Murdering Mouth wonders how, or if, you can break through to someone operating under a completely different paradigm.
  • Inspired by Douglas Muir’s posts from the Congo at Halfway Down the Danube, Noel Maurer uses Mexican history to demonstrate that banks and breweries can survive extreme levels of violence.
  • Slap Upside the Head reports on anti-gay freakouts, among gamers unhappy with a same-sex encounter in a video game, and with homophobes who don’t like a Nova Scotia MPs inclusion of a picture of him with his husband on his Christmas mailing.
  • the F OR V M discusses the question of whether or not the failing of US companies to bid on Iraqi oil means that they expect significantly greater instability in that country in a year’s time.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 18, 2009 at 8:40 am

[BLOG-LIKE POSTING] On Buju Banton, homophobia, and racism

Buju Banton, a Jamaican reggae star perhaps best known outside reggae fandom for homophobia, whether the murderous sentiments expressed in songs like “Boom Bye Bye” (“World is in trouble/Anytime Buju Banton come/Batty bwoy get up an run/At gunshot me head back”) or for his joining in a mob assault on gay men in Jamaica, has been arrested on cocaine charges in Florida. Good for him.

A few years ago, I stated forthrightly that so long as murderous homophobia is popular in Jamaica and supported to one degree or another by the Jamaican government, the country can go rot. Why would I want to visit a place where that sort of behaviour is acceptable? Who would? If things improve, fine, but I’ve no interest in waiting. Uganda’s anti-gay bill, passed by factions with a worrying amount of support by American evangelicals and so far lacking much of the opposition one might have hoped churches to voice against that sort of murderous persecution, makes me think the same way about that country.

Except. Joe. My. God. made a couple of posts (1, 2) about Banton’s arrest, and while the number of Buju Banton supporters appearing to defend their star was annoying (no, he is not the next Martin Luther King) the number of commenters who were responding to those commenters using language little short of racist was shocking. To what extent, I wonder, does support for equal rights for any minority and disgust at a country that intentionally falls short correspond with bigotry of one kind or another?

Written by Randy McDonald

December 15, 2009 at 11:56 am

[LINK] Some Friday links

  • blogTO’s Robin Sharp reports on the latest fears that the Annex, arguably the signature neighbourhood of Jane Jacobs’ urbanism philosophy, is on the verge of changing hugely.
  • James Bow thanks the opposition parties in the Canadian parliament for passing a resolution forcing the Conservative government to release documentation relevant to the torture of Canadian detainees.
  • Daniel Drezner lets us know that North Korea’s revaluation of its currency is producing measurable levels of popular unrest and fears this may help hardliners be all the more in control and remain aggressive internationally.
  • English Eclectic’s Paul Halsall thanks American conservative preacher Rick Warren for condemning Uganda’s anti-gay law.
  • At Gideon Rachman’s blog, the Financial Times‘ Victor Mallet documents the latest tiresomeness of the Anglo-Spanish confrontations re: Gibraltar.
  • Global Sociology notes that poor countries are great places to dump toxic waste.
  • Douglas Muir at Halfway Down the Danube explores the machinations behind Congo’s bizarre seafront and Angola’s enclave of Cabinda.
  • Marginal Revolution points out that, contrary to libertarian fantasies, the Confederate States of America was actually quite a strong state.
  • Normblog’s Norman Geras points out that using Saudi Arabia’s low level of religious tolerance as a standard anywhere in the world is a Bad Thing.
  • Noel Maurer follows up on Douglas Muir’s post on Congo’s weird maritime border by examining how that border created the oil-rich Angolan enclave of Cabinda, and documents Venezuela’s now-finished oil-driven economic boom.
  • Strange Maps documents another case of long-standing cultural differences driving politics, here dialectal differences mapping onto support for conservative and liberal parties in Denmark.
  • At Understanding Society, Daniel Little examines how recent community surveys in southeastern Michigan document the recession’s severe effects, and examines Arthur Koestler’s fictional take on Bukharin.
  • At the Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Volokh reveals that even states which explicitly don’t recognize same-sex marriage recognize the parenting rights of same-sex couples, split or otherwise, as per long-standing practice.

[LINK] “Polling Booth: Blood Donation by Gay Men”

I lost a friend over this question, discussed at Torontoist.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Canada was rocked with its worst public health disaster ever: the tainted blood scandal. After being infused with infected blood product, one thousand Canadian Red Cross patients contracted HIV and twenty thousand more were infected with hepatitis C. Even worse, a federal health employee claimed that it was known by the early 1980s that contaminated blood existed within the system.

In the years that followed, the feds instituted a compensation program for infected patients, and the Red Cross was ordered by the Supreme Court to pay seventy-nine million dollars in settlements. The scandal caused the Red Cross (now succeeded by Canadian Blood Services) to establish one of its most controversial policies: any man who had any type of sexual contact—even once—with another man since 1977 was barred from donating blood products.

This policy is not unique to Canadian Blood Services; it’s ubiquitous in blood agencies around the world, despite state-of-the-art tests now employed to screen-out diseased blood. There are also many other conditions that will disqualify potential donors, although the system is only as effective as the applicants are honest. This autumn, however, CBS finally started accepting stem cell donations from gay men. The latest Health Canada guidelines now allow for tissue, cell, and organ donation by gay men, but that change doesn’t apply to blood products. Some say that the screening technology is now effective enough that it doesn’t pose a significant risk to the hundreds of Canadians waiting for donors, and that the policy perpetuates longstanding myths about gay men; others feel that prohibiting gay men from donating is not discriminatory, but simply a matter of public safety and common sense.

My problem with the ban is that modern RNA tests can pick up the virus at a very early stage of infection–days, as opposed to months–and that the blood-donation ban is a reflex reaction to the ghastly tainted blood scandal. On balance, however, I support the ban, inasmuch as queer men do have substantially higher rates and incidences of HIV infection than their straight counterparts, other demographics with an above-average rates and incidences of infection with HIV and other blood-born diseases are also banned, there is still a certain if low risk of infected blood making it through, and I’m really at a loss to understand how having one’s own blood and body parts be used in medical procedures is a right.

And you?

Written by Randy McDonald

December 10, 2009 at 1:51 pm