The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Daddy’s Home: Recommended Reading

I’m at home with Dylan today and working from home. (Dylan’s doing very well, by the way. He’s nearing 2 months old and has gotten so much bigger! He was just under six pounds when he was born, and he’s just over 11 now; and he’s got a few extra chins, chubbier cheeks, and chubbier legs. He likes watching Parker play, and likes to be held upright and walked around the house.)

So between taking care of him and getting some work done, there may not be much posting here today, except for this post—which I stayed up last night to complete after getting Dylan to sleep—and possibly one more that I’ve been working on for a bit. (That’s if I can finish it.)

I haven’t been able to do as much writing as I’d like to lately, but I’ve been doing a lot of reading. (It’s relatively easy to read news & blogs online while rocking Dylan in my office chair. And there’s a lot out there I’d blog about if I could manage to find the time and the energy, and get them to synch up. In lieu of that, today seems like a good day for a roundup.

I was intrigued to read about a study suggesting that gay relationships are healthier than heterosexual relationships, in some ways. Why? Greater intimacy and more equality, apparently.

The study found that couples in same-sex relationships were more flexible in terms of gender roles, parenting and household responsibilities.

It also found that lesbian couples are emotionally closer than gay male couples, who, in turn, are emotionally closer than heterosexual married couples.

“It all comes down to greater equality in the relationship,” Robert-Jay Green of Alliant International University’s Rockway Institute said to UPI. “Research shows that lesbian and gay couples have a head start in escaping the traditional gender role divisions that make for power imbalances and dissatisfaction in many heterosexual relationships.”

I’ve said it before, but one thing that differentiates our family from even some of the most progressive heterosexuals is that there’s no gender-based division of labor in our house, no assumptions or expectations—explicit or unspoken—about who’s going do what in terms of housework or taking care of the kids. I can’t speak for other couples, but for the hubby and me that means lots of communication, compromise, and cooperation.

I’m not sure how the above jibes with this tidbit from earlier research on same-sex couples, via Andrew Sullivan.

John Gottman, a renowned couples therapist who was then at the University of Washington, and Robert Levenson, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, led a team that evaluated 40 same-sex couples and 40 straight married couples. The psychologists concluded that gays and lesbians are nicer than straight people during arguments with partners: they are significantly less belligerent, less domineering and less fearful. Gays and lesbians also use humor more often when arguing (and lesbians use even more humor than gays, which I hereby dub “the Ellen DeGeneres effect”). The authors concluded that “heterosexual relationships may have a great deal to learn from homosexual relationships.”

But Gottman and Levenson also found that when gay men initiate difficult discussions with their partners, the partners are worse than straight or lesbian couples at “repairing”–essentially, making up. Gottman and Levenson suggest that couples therapists should thus focus on helping gay men learn to repair.

…Gottman, Levenson and their colleagues found that gays and lesbians who exhibit more tension during disagreements are more satisfied with their relationships than those who remain unruffled. For straight people, higher heart rates during squabbles were associated with lower relationship satisfaction. For gays and lesbians, it was just the opposite. Gays conduct their relationships as though they are acting out some cheesy pop song: You have to make my heart beat faster for me to love you. For gays, it is apathy that murders relationships, not tension. Straight people more often prefer a lento placidity.

…Why would gays show more beneficence in arguments, do a worse job of repairing after bad fights and find palpitation satisfying? Researchers have long noted that because gender roles are less relevant in gay and lesbian relationships–it’s a canard that in most gay couples, one partner plays wife–those relationships are often more equal than heterosexual marriages. Both guys do the dishes; both women grill the steaks. Straight couples often argue along gender lines: the men are at turns angry and distant, the women more prone to lugubrious bursts. Gays and lesbians may be less tetchy during quarrels because they aren’t forced into a particular role.

Interesting. In 7 1/2 years, I can count on one hand the number of times the hubby and I have had a serious argument, and still have fingers to spare. And we’ve never not made up. Maybe it’s because we can’t stay mad at each other. Maybe the answer is in the lyrics of a cheesy pop song. (Hint: The spoken part, in the middle.)

On another note, speaking gay folks, this Guardian Unlimited article about how Democratic candidates are glossing over gay rights was interesting, especially in light of how much gay support (passionate gay support, at that) those same demurring Democrats enjoy.

Daniel Koffler uses the candidates answer to a debate question to make his point.

Moderator Tim Russert put the following question to all three candidates:

There’s a federal statute on the books which says that, if a college or university does not provide space for military recruiters or provide a ROTC program for its students, it can lose its federal funding.

Will you vigorously enforce that statute?

By agreeing to enforce the Solomon Amendment, all three of them gave their assent to a policy whose only goal and only achievement is the perpetuation of discrimination against gay men and women.

That Hillary Clinton did so is not altogether surprising – it was her husband, after all, who signed the “don’t ask, don’t tell” legislation into law. But Barack Obama has spoken eloquently before of the injustice of “don’t ask, don’t tell”. On Tuesday night in Las Vegas, however, a night in which the candidates failed to highlight the differences between them, when given the chance to explicitly link enforcement (or more accurately, obsolescence) of the Solomon Amendment to overturning “don’t ask, don’t tell” – ie, the chance to take a principled stand for civil rights, and distinguish himself from his opponent in doing so – Obama declined the opportunity.

Speaking of gays & Obama, he’s been busy lately. First he got a challenge from an African American minster.

Sen. Barack Obama has said that he strongly disagrees with the views of people like gospel singer Donnie McKlurkin and others who use religion to attack members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. Those of us who are missionaries for justice and equality are hopeful that Senator Barack Obama will be true to his platform for change, and speak out against religious bigotry coming from a select group of African-American evangelical leaders. His appearance Monday night at a presidential debate in Myrtle Beach would be a good opportunity for him to do just that.

While Senator Obama’s candidacy for president of the United States offers hope, let us not forget a facet of society that has had little hope for change the last 20 years. The purpose of our government, first and foremost, is equality under the law, respect for human rights, and protection of all our citizens, whether they are white, black, male, female, disabled, Christian, or gay. We must be about the business of building a beloved community with a foundation of compassion and justice for all.

The Declaration of Independence says: “All people are created equal and endowed with the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The Bible says, “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:30-31 There are no exceptions about who our neighbors are.

Whether that challenge reached Obama or not, I don’t know. But he stood in the pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church and said the following:

“For most of this country’s history, we in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of man’s inhumanity to man. And all of us understand intimately the insidious role that race still sometimes plays – on the job, in the schools, in our health care system, and in our criminal justice system.

And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King’s vision of a beloved community.

We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them.

I’ll give Obama credit. He’s establishing a record of making such comments about gay equality in front of non-gay audiences. But apparently, he made no such mention when he spoke at the decidedly anti-gay Church of God in Christ, in Las Vegas.

Obama may taylor his message to the level of homophobia in his audience, and may still talk the talk more often than not, but what Obama’s actually done on gay rights it another question.

The general consensus of opinion among Obama supporters is that Obama is clearly the best of the Democratic candidates. They will enthusiastically proclaim, usually without any documentation, that Obama has “done the most” for gay rights of all the Democratic candidates. They point with pride to his sponsorship of the Illinois law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity, and his fine words about what he wants to do if elected president.

The trouble is, those words aren’t backed up by much in the way of concrete action–and what action there has been from Obama can at best be described as ambivalent. There is a curious disinterest, among Obama’s supporters (whether gay or not) to discuss what I’ve come to think of as the “McClurkin Incident.” When I bring it up, however, I am usually told that I’m just dredging up old news from the past in an attempt to smear the best candidate in the field.

…In other words, in four terms in the Illinois Senate, Obama co-sponsored (but did not introduce) three bills that would have added sexual orientation as a protected category under the Illinois Human Rights Act. None of those bills passed, all of them dying in committee and then expiring when the session adjourned. From what I can tell online, Obama’s involvement with the bills seems to have been minimal. He does not appear to have argued for their passage, urged their consideration, or done anything other than to put his name onto someone else’s bill. Moreover, the language of the bill he supported, like the one that eventually passed without his involvement or support, while it did extend protection on the grounds of sexual orientation, also made it quite clear that there was to be no “preferential treatment” or “special rights” for homosexuals under the bill. That’s what I’d call a left-handed compliment–or a backhand to the chops. What the bill gave with one hand, it took away with the other–and appealed to decidedly right-wing framing and language to do it. If I were Senator Obama, I don’t think I’d be holding up this bill as anything to be particularly proud of. I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to list it among my accomplishments.

In 2006, Barack Obama got a score of 89 from the Human Rights Campaign in its 2006 congressional scorecard (PDF link). That was the same score received by both Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman. John Edwards got a 66 from HRC in its 2004 scorecard (PDF link), largely because he didn’t vote on the “Marriage Protection Amendment” that came up that year. An 89 is not a bad score by any means. But there were 11 other senators in 2006 who received perfect scores of 100–including Lincoln Chafee, at that time a Republican. I’ll be the first to admit that such legislative scorecards are not perfect indicators. But they do at least offer a consistent metric by which to judge different people on the same set of issues. And by that admittedly less-than-perfect metric, there’s considerable room for improvement where all three of our Democratic front-runners are concerned on the question of gay rights.

It does lead one to question exactly what record Obama was talking about when he suggested his record on gay issues should be a “source of pride and interest to the LGBT community,” as recounted in an article “Taking Stock of the Gay Vote.”

Obama made a telling comment at the very end of my October interview with him. Dismayed over the level of attention the community gave to the McClurkin imbroglio, he said, “It is interesting to me and obviously speaks to the greater outreach that we have to do, that [my record on LGBT issues] isn’t a greater source of interest and pride on the part of the LGBT community.”

He seemed genuinely disheartened that people didn’t know more about his stance for full repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (Edwards also supports full repeal, while Clinton supports partial repeal), or that he sponsored a gay nondiscrimination bill in the Illinois state legislature, or that he regularly addresses AIDS and homophobia in black and religious venues that are not particularly gay-friendly.

Since Donnie McClurkin was brought up, it’s at least an opportunity to link to this great Balkanization post about the “ex-gay” movement as “Trojan Horse.”

Christianity Today has a fascinating article in a recent issue about the evolution of the “ex-gay” movement. The article, entitled “An Older, Wiser Ex-Gay Movement,” inadvertently exposes a major fault line in the Christian Right’s position on homosexuality. Right now that fault line is a tiny crack, and the article does not dwell on it, but it shows that it is inevitable that the structure as a whole is destined to shatter.

The article, unsurprisingly given its venue, takes as unquestioned premises that homosexual desire and homosexual conduct are always evils to be avoided. It notes an important shift in the claims being made by the “ex-gay” movement, a primarily Christian movement that has been around for some decades now, promising to lead gay people away from homosexuality. In the early days of the movement, it claimed that a gay person could transform him- or herself into a heterosexual through a pure act of will. Those claims have now disappeared. The article reports that “[e]arly hopes for instant healing have given way to belief that transformation occurs through a lifetime of discipleship.”

…The abandonment of the claim that sexual orientation can easily be changed is very big news. Poll data suggests that those who think homosexuality is innate are overwhelmingly likely to support gay rights, while those who think homosexuality is a choice are likely to be opposed. “Of those who consider it a choice,” a New York Times poll reported in 1993, “only 18 percent rated it as acceptable, compared with 57 percent of those who regard it as something gay men and lesbians cannot change.” (The story is here, but the link may not work for all readers.)

…The appearance of the Christianity Today article is a significant event, because it shows that mainstream conservative Christianity is now willing to admit these uncomfortable facts. This, however, is a decidedly unstable cultural formation. My guess is that once it is generally admitted that homosexuality isn’t a matter of casual choice, resistance to the gay rights movement will be drastically enfeebled, and the salience of gay rights as an issue in American politics will begin to fade.

Returning to the primaries for a moment, some coworkers of mine are planning to get together on the evening of Super Tuesday and watch the results come in. They asked if I was coming, and I was honest: when it comes to the primaries, I just don’t have a dog in the fight. I know the chances of my candidate winning are slim to none. So, my attitude towards the primaries is “Get it over with already, and just tell me who I’ll have to settle for come November.

You might have guessed, I tend to agree with Karen Ocamb’s “Bah humbug” assessment.

The saddest part today is that LGBT people are still shooed away, still eyed with suspicion, still addressed through code words like “equality” and their representatives — the LGBT press – is still shunned — while the candidates talk about change and inclusively.

Perhaps the most painful part is knowing that the candidates are aware that the LGBT vote is the second largest and most loyal group in the Democratic Party — roughly 75% — second only to African Americans. So while the candidates court the Black vote in South Carolina as a “core constituency” — they are once again rendering us indivisible.

Some change.

So what do we do about it?

What to do about it? For my part, I’ll support a candidate who supports me and my family until I no longer have a truly supportive candidate to support. But until then, volunteer for a candidate who doesn’t support equality for my family?

Feh. I don’t have that kind of time. I’ve got bottles to make and diapers to change.

Right now, as a matter of fact.

So I’ll leave you with this piece from The Guardian about inequality and the death of concern for others. It more concerned with economic equality than anything else, but I think it’s still relevant to everything mentioned in this post.

People in these positions bemoan the growth in inequality. They all agree that there should be greater redistribution from the rich to the poor. But in almost every case, “rich” is defined as someone richer than the speaker, and “inequality” tends to mean their own sense of being unequal. No one I talked to about this, left-leaning or not, felt any enthusiasm for paying more towards some general good. They not only feel under financial pressure, but they are increasingly conscious of living in a harsh world in which they must secure their own pensions, pay for their own dental treatment and care in old age, and attempt to protect their children from the consequences of living in an era of global competitiveness. Everyone is now aware that as the rewards for reaching the top have grown exponentially, so the penalties for failing have grown more savage. As one Labour-voting father said, inequality eats away at the spirit of community. He feels he can’t risk his children falling to the bottom, and he wants to use what he has to help them, rather than contributing more to the common pot.

This closing down of concern for others is echoed by Scandinavian research. Academics discovered the middle classes supported greater equality of opportunity in education only as long as the middle class was expanding – in other words, only on condition that their children’s social position was not threatened by others’ upward mobility. Last week researchers at Oxford University concluded that Britain was in just that position. There was a big expansion of the middle classes from the 60s to the 90s, but the academics warned it was a one-off event. From now on, any upward mobility would have to be matched by someone else’s downward mobility.