Catch up with news: Monkeypox, Covid19/21 improving public immunity, social impasse on schools and gender/sexuality/identity issues

Capulin extinct volcano, NE New Mexico 2022-5-21

OK, coming back home from an unusual vacation in remote areas in the SW, I’ve got some news to cover or opine on.

The news about monkeypox was promulgating the day I arrived in Dallas and then set out into the countryside.  It wasn’t as easy to keep up as usual.

I think the best presentation so far is NYC’s lung doctor Mike Hansen, so well known for his videos of Covid, May 24, 2022.  He says he has not seen interpersonal spread like this before.

Dr. Mike Hansen on monkeypox

Medcram (Roger Seheult) has a video May 23.

Medcram on Monkeypox

NBCNews offers an AP story discussing two gay male fetish raves in Spain and in Belgium.  There is even a quarantine of some people in Belgium.  Dylan Housman had penned a provocative story for Daily Caller May 20.

UK Pink News has some explainers (by Patrick Kelleher), referring to information from Grindr.

When I was hearing the story break, my first reaction was to connect the dots with the recent scuffle in the Supreme Court, and the leak of Alito’s opinion (focused on abortion) undermining the idea of (not) finding modern “fundamental rights” to bodily privacy in the US Constitution.  The reports on monkeypox at gay events might underline the notion, advanced in the 1980s, that the “chain letter” aspect of gay male sex could eventually prove dangerous to society as a whole (through increasing immunosuppression allowing other diseases to incubate – and that idea has been mentioned with Covid) or the speculative idea that the disease could mutate to become more contagious.  The religious right tried (unsuccessfully) to pass a draconian extension of the Texas sodomy law back in 1983 (before the HIV virus was identified), when I was living in Dallas and could follow the news from my apartment in Harvey’s Racquet (at the time).  Possibly, one could argue, states could start passing sodomy laws again and then force a new challenge to Lawrence v. Texas (2003) in SCOTUS (although Alito warns near the end of the leaked draft, don’t count on it). 

The raves would have presented the opportunity for skin-skin contact, not necessarily sexual or genital.  The same sort of thing could have well happened in heterosexual parties.  So I would now think that the incidence in gay men may be circumstantial, and may not hold up over time.  Similar observations (in general) might have applied to Zika virus (but that is an arbovirus) a few years ago, where the most noticeable tragic result applied to serious birth defects in children from mothers who acquired it in pregnancy.

The issue of the smallpox vaccine is significant. CDC has an information page last updated in 2019.  I would check back here as it will probably be reupdated soon.  Routine vaccination for smallpox stopped in 1972.  I have a very small smallpox scar myself.

COVID19 has an epidemiology that is almost opposite from AIDS.  While at first we were hyperscared of surfaces and hand hygiene issues, the biggest problem seems to be aerosols with more prolonged exposure. Practical observations suggest that people living in congregate households are much more vulnerable to serious disease (in any age) than people living alone.  It seemed to go “against family values”.  Omicron, which arrived mysteriously (maybe from one immunocompromised person, or maybe from another animal reverse crossover) is almost another virus COVID21. 

My own hunch is that those fully vaccinated and boosted who then get a “mild” infection with Omicron probably do have pretty good practical immunity and can be out in public without much risk, as long as they have intact immune systems.  Covid is turning into an “opportunistic infection”.  I tend to agree with Chris Martenson and others that properly run trials of Ivermectin have not really been done, and this could still turn out to become a reliable treatment if allowed to. 

Bloomberg sums it up in a May 15 article by Naomi Kresge “How Omicron Infection Turbo-Charges Vaccinated People’s Immunity”,  link (paywall).  This News/Medical Sciences paper seems significant.

Do we know for sure about how people with fleeting breakthrough Omicron will fare over time?  Not with absolute certainty.  Maybe long Covid will still be a problem with those with a tendency toward other autoimmune disease.  Can repeated mild infections cause immune suppression?  Is there “original antigenic sin?”  We are not completely sure yet. But we are not seeing people with past Covid develop the secondary opportunistic infections (like PCP) that happened three decades ago with AIDS.

As a whole, Covid has refocuses some moral thinking, about the idea of “carrying” a virus that will not seriously hurt the infected person but which can jeopardize others more vulnerable (the original “Typhoid Mary” problem — she got locked up for years because of her danger to “contaminate” others, almost the thinking we see in China today with its Zero Covid).  Here’s a related perspective by Matthew Crawford on a UK “conservative” site called the UnHerd: “Covid was libearlism’s endgame”.

“Typhoid Mary: Most Harmless and Yet the Most Dangerous Woman in America”

I wanted to take a “non position” on the furor of school boards and “don’t say gay” bills. 

First, I tend to look at both sexual orientation and gender dysphoria as a set of inclinations, desires, and sometimes “chosen” behaviors.  I don’t think of myself or as others in my cohort as a group or pseudo-enthnicity. That is true even when these “traits” may have genetic or epigenetic explanations in many people.  Gender dysphoria in small children does happen but is quite rare (like one in several hundred) and I can’t believe it is appropriate to belong in lower grade school curricula, especially in conjunction with “indoctrination” as part of Social and Emotional Learning. But I also don’t think states should pass laws against it.  School boards and active parents should work this out.  Parents need to run for school boards.  

In my own childhood, I developed dyspraxia, which is thought (in boys) to be associated with Asperger’s or “mild” autism.  I was “teased” for my inability to compete like a normal male physically.  That came to a head when I was assigned to Special Training Company for a few weeks during Army Basic in the spring of 1968 at Fort Jackson SC.  Possibly measles in 1950 before my seventh birthday contributed to this.  But I don’t think this makes me into a separate intersectional group of “people”.

I do like the idea of using new singular pronouns for persons or animals when non-binary or, more commonly, gender is unknown (that is, instead of “he or she”).  I think the Left does not like singular pronouns for non-binary persons because the singularity reinforces individual “failure” to conform.  Nevertheless, there is no reason why individual non-binary persons will not be “good at things” (like changing their own tires or oil, for example) in prepper-like situations.

Indeed, much of the cultural debate over gender identity (which is overrunning – like rain on top of snow —  the previous historical controversies about sexual orientation [that is, over not having one’s own kids and maybe over public health] has to do with the idea that non-binary persons often don’t satisfy the yearning of others to see sexual attractiveness (of either gender) in a conventional way. 

(Posted: Wednesday, May 25, 2022 at 1 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

Johnny Harris’s video on Assange leads to some tangential questions

Chelsea Manning protest in 2019

I’ve noticed recently that journalists and writers normally refer to fully “transitioned” transgender adults (mostly male to female) with the feminine (she, her, hers) pronouns when describing their lives before transition, as well as referring to them by their new names when referring to pre-transition life history.

US Courthouse, Alexandria VA, 2019/3

They also refer to the person with the new (or current) name when describing the past.

In past blog posts, I have sometimes referred before-transition incidents with the previous names and pronouns.  I now wonder of this would be considered misgendering or deadnaming, even when writing about past events.

This whole question leads me to present a couple other videos and incidents.

Let’s look at Johnny Harris’s video of May 10, 2022, “Why He Matters: The Danger of Ignoring Julian Assange”.  Harris starts out by describing Assange’s “escape” to the embassy of Ecuador in London and hiding out in that confinement for seven years, before he gets into the actual leaks that got him “into trouble”, especially regarding information stolen by Chelsea Manning about the Iraq war.  Well, in fact, one of these was a forty-minute video of an American accidental war crime that I even carried on one of my Blogger blogs since April 2010 (until I closed it down in Jan. 2022).  It is called “Collateral Murder” and cannot now be embedded (age restriction from YT). 

Harris always refers to Manning as Chelsea and doesn’t convey the fact that the soldier then was Bradley Manning, legally male at the time when the leaks from the Iraq war started.  According to Wikipedia, Manning announced she was transgender in 2013, and completed transition surgery, litigated when she was an inmate, in 2018.  Manning had considerable grass roots protester-type support for recognition of her transition as early as 2013, but the gay press did not cover her case very much because of political opposition to “Bush’s war”. 

This leads my discussion to recalling the legal battle over Manning’s imprisonment for refusal to appear to a grand jury later in 2019.  Ford Fischer covered a lot of this for News2Share when other media outlets pretty much ignored it.  The Wikipedia article covers it.  I have a couple videos I took myself of the demonstrations outside the federal courthouse in Alexandria, VA in the good old days of March 2019.  I plan to edit and combine these into more professional videos later this summer, as I plan with some of my other mini-video sets (like on “stop the steal”). 

Video 1

Video 2

I can digress here one more time on Harris’s video, noting one conspicuous blue tattoo on one inner forearm (shows up later in the video).  Why does he disfigure himself? (He never impressed me as someone who would “need” body art.)  I love the orange beanie cap (as if paying homage to Tim Pool, but Harris has is own video style that adds a lot of in-the “visually compelling”-field fact finding to his subject matter, more than Pool usually does in his volume of Timcasts.)   Max Reisinger may well be on the path to developing a Harris-style reporting presence as he finishes his gap year.

Toward the end, Harris notes that “journalists” as such are not a legally recognized category with legal privileges (although there are such things as press passes). Journalism carries with the expectation of objectivity and intellectual honesty, which is both a duty and a privilege. That gets dicey when someone (like me) does journalism for self-expression, but is not willing to bond with others in a supposed marginalized group for organized “activism”. More about that is to come.

I’ll wrap up this one by making note of the Netflix film “Untold: Caitlyn Jenner”, directed by Chrystal Moselle.  This is part of Netflix’s “Untold” streamed film documentary franchise.  It had been reviewed on the “Media Commentary” site that has been sunset.  Again, journalists usually refer the Caitlyn as “she” for the entire life, although sometimes they will say “previously known as”, as with Chelsea.  It’s interesting that she wants to run for governor as a Republican and has some pretty sensible ideas as to how to prevent the GOP’s converting itself into ordered (or actually chaotic) fascism. As I recall, Caitlyn refers to her earlier male life in the third person, as a real person in the past. Time, after all, is a dimension.

trailer for Untold: Caitlyn Jenner

(Posted: Sunday, May 15, 2022 at 1 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

“Pray Away” (Netflix film, review); notes from a day trip on SEL and metaphysical rights

Lake Tahoe, CA-NV 2018-9

Pray Away” (2021, an abbreviation of “pray away the gay”), directed by Kristine Stolakis and streamed on Netflix (101 minutes) traces the history of the ex-gay movement through the eyes of its practitioners. At the beginning and end the film warns that “conversion therapy” has been discredited by medicine and is often outlawed.

The film focuses particularly on Exodus International (which started in 1978 and dissolved in 2013), along with groups like Love won Out, Living Hope, and Focus on the Family.  There is particular attention to the career of John Paulk. The early scenes in the film feature 1980s meetings in Reno and at nearby Lake Tahoe, a curious location.

The movements tended to be characterized by aggressive behavior or the ex-gay proponents “ministering” to others about “God’s law” and finding salvation through ‘Him”.  There seem to be a particular attention in certain evangelical communities to religion as the center of life, without much other explanation.  I’ve always thought it was a bit of a paradox that the Savior is presented as an attractive young and athletic white male, when hero-worship or idolization (particularly) is sinful (or violates one of the Commandments ). 

I was familiar in the late 1980s with another group called “Love in Action” which was said to emphasized “giving up the gay lifestyle” while at the time offered services to AIDS patients.

Of course many societies (such as radical Islam) have condemned homosexuality on supposed theological grounds and gone out of their way to persecute it. 

Many societies are heavily tribal and are concerned about their collective survival in future generations. Particularly today (as in Russia), homosexuality would be seen as a threat to a group’s maintaining enough fertility (and it gets into ethno-racism with ideas like replacement theory). 

On the other hand, some indigenous societies have recognized non “reproductive” individuals as a kind of separate priesthood but sometimes do not allow them full personal freedom but expect them to take care of others (such as with eldercare). 

Much of our moral code has to do with prohibiting activities which are harmful.  But some of our code demands participation in activities seen as essential to survival of the group (start with conscription).  This is another side of moral thinking.  

The film did not particularly focus on AIDS and gay men in the 1980s, and the right wing did.  I talked about this a lot in Section 7 of Chapter 3 of my first DADT book.

This would be a good place to present a video “Born This Way: The Science Behind Being Gay” from Real Pride, June 2021, 46 minutes.  (It had been linked on a site now taken down, but now linked here in the non-WP portion of the new site.) The video presents the theory of epigenetics (later born sons) and the idea that the X chromosome could carry a gene that makes women more fertile if they have two copies but that could interfere with heterosexual desire in males, possibly increase fertility for the whole tribe.

I do want to share a couple short videos from a day trip.

In this one I briefly discuss what I have found about SEL, or Social and Emotional Leaning programs getting put in by school systems in lower grades.

SEL Programs in schools

In this one I talk about “metaversal rights” and whey you have to be prepared to “fight”.

Metaphysical human rights and the need to fight sometimes

(Posted: Friday, May 13, 2022 at 3 PM by John W. Boushka)

Could it be ‘illegal’ to film or livesteam a noisy protest at a SCOTUS justice’s house?

SCOTUS fence protest 2022-5-5

Recently the mainstream media have reported numerous protests near the homes (DC area) of US Supreme Court justices in light of the Politico leak of Justice Alito’s draft of an opinion (from February) that would reverse Roe v. Wade (after almost 50 years).

Numerous observers have also noted that protesting loudly near a SCOTUS Justice’s home is illegal, under US Code 18 paragraph 1507 (Cornell Law), which makes it an offense to picket or parade at a judge’s residence or business (although not outside a large government building like SCOTUS) with the intention of changing an outcome (the same applies to picketing jurors).  That may be one reason why grand jury proceedings are in secret.

Washington Post columnist notes all this with an op-ed (paywall) by Marc A. Thiessen, May 10, “Protesting at justices’ homes is illegal. What is Biden doing about it?”.  Guest articles about this question have shown up in my mail inbox. 

I want to pose another question.  If I went to film it (not participate) but then post it on social media, should it be taken down (especially if livestreamed)?  Would that violate a TOS rule? 

If a “legitimate” media company does it to report the news, that is one thing.  But does the First Amendment protect my right to do this as an amateur however gratuitously as a form of self-expression?   You can, normally, after all, videotape the police (and it’s a good thing a teenager did at the Floyd incident in Minneapolis).

Maybe the critical issue would be, does the content creator do this for a living (and can ‘e’ show it with accounting?) 

I’m presuming that the content creators or videographers did not participate in the protest by carrying a sign or screaming in unison themselves. That makes it a “skin in the game” kind of problem, which is particularly how the “Left” sees it. This reflects back to the reasons for my own web simplification, which I’ll get into more detail later.

(Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2022 at 9 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

Protests at (fenced-in) SCOTUS today with a lot of slogans

Gen Z for Choice, at SCOTUS protest

Today I visited the Supreme Court area on 1 St NE across the street from the Capitol.  The fencing had driven the protesters into the street.

Most of the protesters when I was there were from a youth group.  There was one anti-abortion activist with a megaphone (“a woman doesn’t own her own body, God does”) getting shouted out.

Other sayings included “keep your rosaries off my ovaries”, “abortion is reputable health care”, and “fake babies in other people’s private places”.

The Washington Post has an op-ed by Robert Blake analyzing Justice Alito’s leaked “opinion” (which is embedded as a PDF).

I’ve written about “fundamental rights” in the past and will return to it.  Alito et al are certainly sticking to originalism and have come up with a rationale why Roe v Wade is so extraordinary that stare decisis will not hold. W

Evan Woflson has an important op-ed in the Washington Blade about the risk to gay issues (mainly marriage and possibly even sodomy laws;  the military DADT ban was settled in Congress, not the courts, thankfully).  Kevin Naff also has one.

I think the abortion issue is distinct in one way: a dependent human life is taken with abortion. The other issues don’t have this feature (although they had their own problematic possibilities in the past, as during the HIV horror of the 80s).  However, there are times when the life or health of the mother is in danger (and despite what some in the GOP claim, it isn’t always possible to avoid abortion to protect a mother’s life).  CNN presented an important case in Michigan today.  With multiple births sometimes one life has to be taken so the others can live.  (This may have happened in my own extended family back in the 1940s.)     And there are legitimate debates on when fertilization has happened or whether implantation counts, etc.   If a mother was the victim of rape, and forced to carry to term (in a sense her body is “conscripted” for a conflict just as a man’s is for war) she must be allowed to surrender the baby for adoption and not be forced to raise emH (Amy Barrett even pointed that out).

Here are the five videos I shot today:

1

SCOTUS protest

2

3

4

5

(Posted: Thursday, May 5, 2022 at 10 PM EDT)

“Copenhagen”, play by Michael Frayn, and PBS Film (retrieved older reviews by me)

Review from the original DADT legacy site of 2002 PBS film “Copenhagen”.

Copenhagen (2002, PBS/Hollywood, dir. Howard Davies, from the play by Michael Frayn, with Introduction and Epilogue by Frayn, total is about 105 min) is a conversation between physicists German Werner Heisenberg (Daniel Craig), author of the famous Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of quantum physics, and Danish physicist Niels Bohr (Stephen Rea). Heisenberg requests the meeting in Copenhagen (home of Hans Christian Andersen), Denmark (during Nazi occupation) in September 1941, at Bohr’s home. Francesca Annis plays Bohr’s wife and provides some narration. Much of the conversation consists of talk between the two men, sometimes on walks, about the whole question of science and politics. Hitler’s anti-Semitism has already cost him an edge in nuclear research, and Heisenberg insists he has no loyalty to the Nazis. The situation reminds one of conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler in Taking Sides (2001).

There is a lot of setup of the talk, though. Heisenberg’s arrival in Copenhagen by steam train and quaint travel to Bohr’s estate is carefully scripted. Their verbal encounters become contentious, as Bohr accuses Heisenberg of a little “nip” in finding fault in one of his lectures. Then they go on a secret walk into the woods, and confront each other. What they said becomes hearsay, from them. But it comes down to the join of physics, politics, and morality. Heisenberg confronts Bohr with the ultimate insight into the nature of nuclear fission (not just fusion) and critical mass, particularly when working with HEU (highly enriched uranium, U-235 isotope). Heisenberg wants to know if America has a program yet, and is debating just how involved he can get involved in what could be Hitler’s nuclear weapon’s program. We don’t know for sure exactly what was said, but restraint on their part could have prevented Hitler from getting The Bomb before America did. Later, they reunite in an empty estate, and consider Hiroshima. Bohr has worked on the Manhattan Project in the United States, and must struggle with whether he contributed to mass deaths. The two men taunt each other about who took the responsibility for doing the critical mathematical calculation involving critical mass of U-235. There is the moral point, that some of us (particularly, in Rosenfels terms, “subjective feminines”) will have the opportunity to discover and speak The Truth about great issues, to possess the proverbial Knowledge of Good and Evil. Any one person’s written work can have enormous impact on the world, for good or for bad. Hitler himself was one example. There is a certain asymmetry in this that existed well before the Internet. Where is restraint on personal opportunity and ambition called for? When is loyalty to a higher calling –faith—to be expected? There is also a parallel between the uncertainty about what they said to each other and about their friendship, and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle itself. A man is like one of those particles of uncertain position and velocity, and we are back to undergraduate philosophy. Everything is affected by the act of observing it (as Einstein said—“Jewish science” the Nazis called it)—we get to what I would call The Gawker’s Effect. (Maybe that’s why sometimes people fear being stared at.) The music background, featuring piano music by Franz Schubert (like the A-flat impromptu, which Heisenberg attempts to play on the house grand piano, and some slow movements from sonatas), as well as a theme by Mike Post, is haunting.

 A couple times in my life, I have had dinner meetings as clandestine and important (to me) as those in these films.

Review from the “Plays” Blog, 2007

On my last day as a substitute teacher in December 2005, I got to show, to an honors chemistry class, one of my favorite “films.” Actually, it is a 2002 BBC television adaptation of Michael Frayn’s stage play Copenhagen, published in book format by Anchor in 2000 (check Amazon, ISBN 0385720793). The television show starts with a twenty-minute prologue with the playwright talking about the fabled meeting between physicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg in 1941. (Stephen Rea and Daniel Craig play the parts in the TV docudrama, directed and adapted by Howard Davies). The play is important because it presents a serious ethical problem. Heisenberg had made an “intellectual discovery” that could give the owner of the knowledge the ability to make an atomic bomb. If he gave it to Hitler, then Hitler could win the war. Now, the moral problem, and the reason science teachers like to show this film to more advanced students, is that, while we “own” our discoveries in an intellectual property sense, there sometimes can be consequences for “publishing” the discovery.  I my circumstances, there were extra reasons why this was an ironic duty on the last day of teaching. 

Supplemental discussion from GLBT blog, Nov. 2006: Is there a “don’t ask don’t tell” de facto policy for teachers?

A small amount of testimony at the COPA trial referred to the possibility that teachers could be fired or reassigned in some cases if they discuss (“abnormal”) “personal information” with students. Does this mean that a teacher could be removed for making “personal stuff” available at a public place on the Internet where kids could find it with search engines?

 School boards regulate what teachers present in the classroom, and of course this has been politicized, especially by parents and pressure groups who fear that the religious or filial socialization of their children can be compromised by pluralistic exposure. Teachers generally have more freedom to say what they want on their own time and with their own resources, especially since they are public employees. Generally, teachers’ first amendment rights have been honored, for example, if they are seen by television cameras attending gay events.

There is a long audit trail of case law about this, both within school property and outside the school system. The issue is muddied by the Internet and World Wide Web, with the issues presented by search engines and by “free entry.” There is a balancing between the legitimate First Amendment rights of teachers (and students) and the need to preserve order and, frankly, safety and security in the school systems. There is a legitimate point that teaching, by definition, involves taking responsibility for the behavior of others who may be less cognitive and less competent in accounting for their own actions or in understanding what they find than are adults. After all, that is why the kids must go to school. The issue becomes much less important in practice for teachers who have only honors or AP students, but the reality of the teacher shortage today is that the challenge of dealing with average and special education students should be shared by as many teachers as possible.

The recent controversies, litigations, and constitutional amendment referendums about gay rights – most specifically gay marriage and civil unions – brings up a troubling point. Issues like gay marriage and the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for gays in the military draw attention to the reality that gays are often (by circularity) cut out of “paying their dues” and taking responsibility for others in normal family and service settings. Sometimes, persons who do not have these responsibilities may be expected to “sacrifice” for the food of people who do have these responsibilities. In this sense, then, gays (and lesbians) are not the equal of heterosexuals in practice.  What happens if kids ask a gay teacher about his home life? If he or she reveals a same-sex domestic partner relationship, is this violating school policy of disclosing “personal stuff” to students? A number of states have passed constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, and a few (like Virginia, which passed the rather punitive Marshall-Newman amendment on Nov. 7) have gone so far as to ban civil unions from any legal recognition. Since a same-sex relationship cannot have legal recognition, such an answer could be seen as an improper disclosure of personal information to students.

There have been cases in some states where teachers have disclosed gay marriages or unions in class and have not been disciplined, but these have tended to occur in states, like California, with a more pluralistic social climate. In many cases, it may be all right for teachers to “tell” if they refer to sexual orientation as “status” (Bill Clinton’s word) rather than as psychological interest or a propensity for “conduct.” They could refer to a biological or genetic hypothesis, but not to anything deeper about personal choices. That starts to sound like a content-based speech restriction.  The issue bears comparison with the military “don’t ask don’t tell” where, by law, a statement (even in private) that one is gay triggers the presumption that one has a propensity to engage in prohibited acts. Persons have been discharged from the military for disclosing homosexual orientation on personal websites or on social networking sites.

With teachers, a comparable but less draconian situation seems to exist. In fairness to school systems, one must note that their sensitivity to “personal stuff” is a community standards issue; in their world, content that is legitimate in an open adult world might be interpreted, and unfavorably legally, in their protective community, even when discovered accidentally.  There is also a similar problem if a teacher’s statements (in a public place) indicate to others (such as parents or administrators) a “propensity” to show an undue interest in the attractiveness of minors. This would be likely to affect many more heterosexuals than homosexuals (most people caught in chat room stings, as on NBC Dateline, have been heterosexual). This problem is existential: an older person who does not have an intimate relationship with someone his own age (and show complementarity) is likely to be viewed as more vulnerable to “temptation,” even though admitting to “temptation” itself is not defamatory. Teachers (even subs) could get into serious legal trouble (possibly attracting passive solicitation charges) with statements that they view as existential but that could be viewed as self-defamatory by others. There is little experience with this in the law with respect to the World Wide Web, and it is tangential to COPA, but the trial and opinion might give some guidance as to how the open access and search engine issue (and filters or labels) plays out with disturbing or ambiguous speech found by minors. For a gay person, the lack of legal equality (in recognition of adult relationships) could become relevant, because it could make a statement be regarded as “personal” and therefore indirectly solicitous or motivated by illegal intentions. On the other hand, if this legal conundrum is rolled out, we see a lot of deference to “prejudicial thinking” which amounts to a content-based restriction on free speech.

 I found, in my own case when I was substitute teaching, that it was very difficult, with certain disadvantaged students, to maintain classroom discipline (“poor classroom management”) when they did not see me as an “equal” who had faced their kinds of life challenges and “manhood” experiences. How does one answer this, as an exercise of faith? The Catholic Church has tried to build a whole priesthood culture around men who do not reproduce, to make them credible as authority figures, as long as they give up their freedom and preach only the Church’s teachings of socialization for “normal people.” Ironically, unmarried women have always been well regarded, often preferred as teachers, and “authority figures” for small children.

It is also important that, given the supposed teacher shortage, that new teachers making a “career switcher” move after retirement still have to invest about $4000 in tuition for licensure before getting a permanent job in most cases. For a gay man, in a political climate in a state that goes out of its way to say that he is not the equal of other more “manly men” as a role model, this does not sound like a sound private investment. (Of course, again there is an existential problem: if one is drawn to other men who he perceives as “better,” what does that say about him?) So there is a chilling effect. At the same time, we watch the spectacle of school districts desperately trying to recruit teachers from third-world countries because Americans are appalled by the political climate (as well as the pay) in public schools. That reminds me of the circularity problem that the military has created for itself in recruiting and keeping linguists (with “don’t ask don’t tell”). It’s important to note that some teachers (including subs) can face contingent responsibilities to deal with intimate custodial care issues (as with some special education students), and for an openly gay person, the “DADT” doctrine codified into federal law in 1993 might have legal repercussions even outside of the military. I once was asked if I would mind “helping out in the locker room” and, as a sixty-year-old man, wearing only swimming trunks myself and manning the deep end of a swimming pool on a surprise field trip. I declined. (And I don’t swim.) All of these concepts (regarding speech, legal status for relationships, and forced-intimacy occupations like the military and teaching – all becoming more important as society contemplates ideas like national service) bear parallels that are rather scary. It’s well to review the history of attempts to ban gay teachers in the past, such as the Briggs Initiative in California in 1978, or the Washington State bill in 1986, which defrocked Republican Spokane mayor Jim West had supported.

 See my footnote link note 157.  There was also a PBS show “A Hidden Life” which I’ll look up later. 

(Posted: Saturday, April 9, 2022 at 12 noon EDT by John W. Boushka)

“The Laramie Project”: Films and plays about Matthew Shepard

I have several legacy posts about the Moises Kaufman play “The Laramie Project“, about the homophobic murder of Matthew Shepard near Laramie, Wyoming in October 1998.

On Friday, Dec. 17 and Saturday Dec. 18, 2010, Langley High School in McLean, Virginia is presenting “The Laramie Project”, by Moises Kaufman, directed by Lauren Stewart and Phyliss Jafee, with members of the Tectonic Theater Project, on the Saxon Stage. I attended the performance this evening. I had substitute taught at Langley as recently as the spring of 2007, so there was a personal sense of déjà vu. The Matthew Shepard Foundation was conducting a silent auction. Thomas Howard, Program Director, conducted a QA. He started by asking the audience in what ways McLean as like Laramie. The audience was silent for a moment, before students started to respond. I mentioned the cloture vote in the Senate on “don’t ask don’t tell” due Saturday, with applause, and said that official attitudes of the Congress and the US military (and the Pope) affect attitudes in general. I may have mentioned here before that I passed through Laramie myself on Aug. 7, 1994 (before the tragedy), the day after I had made the personal decision to write my “Do Ask Do Tell” book and had spent the previous night in Cheyenne. The stage was extremely wide, with the 25 actors (many having multiple roles), spread out, giving very much a “dolby digital” effect. The centerpiece of the stagecraft was the notorious fencepost. The second half of the play was longer and more dramatic, ending with the “trials” (at which the “panic defense”, with some explicit language — “junk” — was brought up). The Fred Phelps demonstration as acted in the play came down the right aisle, and the angels came down the center.

The script mentions that Matthew was kept warm for a while by a female deer. Howard mentioned that Kaufman has a sequel script, “The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later” in which it seems many town residents have distanced themselves from the atrocity and see it as a Coen Brothers-movie-style drug deal gone bad. (See Nov. 14 posting for video.)The Laramie Project has this link. Tectonic Theater has this link’ The Matthew Shepard Foundation has this link. Howard said that Phelps’s Westboro Baptist Church had “threatened” to picket Saturday night in the winter cold (23 F according to my car in the parking lot as I left), but he doubted they would show up.

Earlier in 2010: Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville MD performed the play The Laramie Project on Saturday Nov. 13, by Moises Kaufman. I saw the play in 2002 (I believe) at the Tectonic Theater Project at the Illusion Theater in Minneapolis, directed by Michael H. Robbins. The play comprises a lot of recitations from townspeople exploring the social factors that led to the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard outside Laramie in October 1998. There are disturbing moments, such as a fear of HIV infection by the medical attendants. The play incorporates an anti-gay protest appearance by the group from Fred Phelps’s Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS. In fact, (and ironically) the group had threatened to protest the play last night but did not show up. Counter protests against Phelps had been planned. Cody Calamaio has a story in the Maryland Gazette. Phelps did not pickett the Minneapolis performance, but he did picket the All Gods Children Metropolitan Community Church in Minneapolis once, I think in 2003. The Tectonic Theater has a YouTube video clip from a more recent performance, from 2008. I visited Laramie in August 1994. There is a review of the film “Fall from Grace” about Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church on the movies blog Oct. 6, 2010.

(From Plays on doaskdotell.com):

A more recent effort play by Moises Kaufman is The Laramie Project, presented by the Tectonic Theater Project and recently performed in Minneapolis at the Illusion Theater on the rapidly renewing Hennepin Avenue. The director is Michael H. Robbins. Eight cast members take turns playing various Laramie, Wyoming residents in reliving the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard and the subsequent trial. Shepard himself is never portrayed (compared with the MTV film Anatomy of a Hate Crime). The stage is multi-furcated, with impressive backdrops of the Wyoming countryside (which I visited in 1994) projected as from a film strip. The script does tend to read a bit like a college recitation, with the various issues (homophobia, “live and let live,” smaller town sociology, capital punishment) are explored, and there is not a lot of plot-related tension among the characters as is usually expected in screen or play writing. The medical reports are particularly chilling. The fear of the attending policewoman that she could have become infected with HIV is explored and thoughtfully treated. (I was not aware that Shepard had been HIV+ but it appears that if so it likely would have remained dormant for many years and would have been treatable with the newer drugs.) The by Matthew Shepard’s father statement at the sentencing of the second defendant is most touching.

On Nov. 26, 2004 ABC “20/20” aired an interview by Elizabeth Vargas, in which Russell Henderson and Allen McKinney claim from prison that the murder was motivated more by drugs and money that homohatred, something hard to believe given the details

(From Plays on doaskdotell.com):

HBO (with Good Machine) first aired a film version of this play on March 9, 2002. The link is this. The cast included Dylan Baker, Clancy Brown, Tom Brewer, Steve Buscemi, Nestor Carbonell, Mark Webber (from Storytelling, as Aaron McKinney), Joshua Jackson, James Murtaugh. The film is very much like the play: it seems like a docudrama, a sequence of interviews and incidents, and does not have as much impact as the MTV film “Anatomy of a Hate Crime.” The ambivalence or negative perception of many of the townspeople to homosexuality comes across, even as they deplore the crime. The issue as to whether Matthew “hit on” the two perpetrators first is well covered by the bartender’s interview, when he describes how Matthew used to stake out his own territory. The anti-gay protests at the funeral are quite shocking.

(From Movies on doaskdotell.com):

The film “Anatomy of a Hate Crime“, directed by Tim Hunter and Max Ember:

MTV offered this film first on January 10, 2001, on a night dedicated to opposing discrimination. And right off the plate, the most compelling part of this film was Cy Carter’s performance, said by people who knew Matthew to be very true to life as to his demeanor, vocabulary, and personality. He comes across with tremendous charisma and intellectual precision in the first 45 minutes of the film, before the crime and tragedy. He is someone that I believe would have related to me. In fact, I believe that I met him once, about the time I was deciding to do my own book on gays in the military. The narration by Shepard as reincarnated or as a kindly “ghost” is effective in a manner that reminds one of American Beauty.

There are interesting details. For example, the girl-friend of one of the assailants testifies against the killer despite their having had a baby because they never got legally married. There is one scene where Matthew asks for HIV information (for asymptomatic disease), supposedly for a friend. There are a couple of scenes between Matthew and a friend that display an exciting, if reticent, tenderness. There is presentation of Matthew’s fluency in various languages and cultures.

The scenes regarding his two assassins are somewhat stereotyped, almost “heterophobic.” In truth, the film presents the crime as not so much a homo-hatred crime (even given the talk about “rolling queers”) as a “class warfare” crime. The two young men seemed to react like animals who will exert violence against those not only “different” but who also have what they “want” (money, finesse, and, believe or not even in Laramie, a certain sense of privilege and social esteem).

The actual assault scene is mercifully brief, but it contains the kind of chilling shots that marked USA’s re-release of Blood Simple – with the same kind of lower-class “hobo” characters. The last fifteen minutes, dealing with the Wyoming criminal justice system, were too telescoped to really be effective.

Of course, we want to see the studios able to invest in this kind of material on a larger scale, sufficient for a theater release. That is a goal I would like to work on some day.

As for hate crimes laws, I’ll say here that I think that they are a short-circuit or palliative to solving the real problems, which include government-sponsored discrimination, even if they appear in a practical sense to offer “relief” and a counterbalance to homophobia in the law enforcement and criminal justice system. We don’t want to send a message that the surest way to be protected by the law is to set yourself up as a class of “victims.” The law must apply equally to everyone. The law can consider malice and motive behind a crime at an individual level without hate crimes laws, and it did in Wyoming. Go back and read the words of the 14th Amendment, literally.

And, of course, the country has learned that anyone can be a victim of a hate crime.

(From Movies on doaskdotell.com):

NBC airs The Matthew Shepard Story on March 16, 2002. (NBC/Focus/Alliance Atlantis, dir. Roger Spottiswood) (Lifetime aired it on Jan. 2, 2007) The NBC movie starred Stockard Channing, Sam Waterson and (as Matthew) Canadian actor Shane Meier. The film was slightly longer (2 hours scheduled air time) than the other time, slightly more narrative in style and a bit less focused. The story presentation is layered, with the current time being the trial and sentencing of the two assassins. The defense attorney tries to bargain with the parents. Then the story of Matthew’s life is told in engaging flashbacks,

Matthew appears to have exuded an unusual charisma and interest in engaging people, especially those older than him, in many kinds of discussion. One incident of interest is when young Matthew quits a retail job after refusing to dupe an elderly customer. He is totally turned off by the greed that seems to drive job performance in the workplace (at least in selling) and his boss thinks he is too “gay.” The campfire scene where he comes out to his parents communicates well the idea that no one understands what it is like to be him, to be different. He would have been a good friend had I met him. Sometimes, as when he lived in Denver, he seemed to come unhinged.

Matthew Shepard foundation.

(Posted: Thursday, March 24, 2022 at 6:30 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

Article mentioning me in William and Mary News in 2014

Swem Library at William and Mary, 2011-10

In October 2011 I did go down to Williamsburg for a weekend to participate in a weekend for William and Mary GALA. which was founded in the 1980s.

Wren Building Interior 2011-10

This article by Paul Brockwell JR (2007) appeared in the Alumni magazine and is on the WM site in 2014, here, titled “Pride and prejudice: LGBTQ history at W&M”. The article mentions my 1961 Thanksgiving weekend expulsion except the person I told directly (and who called my parents, themselves on a road trip visiting friends in Charlotte, out of the blue, with my permission) was Dean of Men Carson Barnes, not Dean of Students Lambert (whom I remember). I was told that the president of the college David Paschall (do I remember the name right?) was contacted. On a certain level, given the norms of the time, they felt confronted with the idea that a “non-male” person was living in the men’s dorm (which is completely wrong by today’s understanding and is totally different from trans-gender or non-binary). It’s also notable that William and Mary did not have as many female students as male, which made male students feel more uncomfortable about finding dates and proving themselves socially.

Indeed, college dorms in those days of “in loco parentis” had sign-in curfews for women but not men, to “protect” the women from the men, an odd irony in that I was not a conceivable “threat” in that sense.

The article also mentions the story of author Tom Baker, a couple years later than mine. I’ve read his novel “The Sound of One Horse Dancing” from iUniverse (as are the first two of my three DADT books). Kirkus Reviews gives a good summary of the plot of his book.

(Posted: Thursday, February 10, 2022 at 11 PM EST by John W. Boushka)