Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

John McCain is a Grumpy Old Man

Let gays serve openly in the military?

75% of Americans think so.

Yet John McCain disagrees. His bigoted stance against Don’t Ask Don’t Tell does nothing but reveal his age. Instead of embracing the public and military’s welcoming attitude, McCain continues to rail against gays in the military. His opinions are antiquated, out of sync with most Americans, contrary to the Pentagon’s findings, and, quite simply, wrong. The Washington Post‘s Jonathan Capeheart deconstructs McCain’s wrong-headedness in the video above.

I’m almost embarrassed for McCain. His attitude is less disagreeable to me than an example of an older generation’s xenophobia and crotchetiness.

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Filed under: gay rights, government, military, politics, , , , , , , ,

Obama Backs DADT Repeal

The latest: the Obama administration will support the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal put forward by Congress  this week. It’s a compromise between gay rights groups’ wish for immediate repeal and the Pentagon’s study-in-progress. The Pentagon’s study is due December 1.

If the vote happens in Congress, and the President signs it, the move will be one step forward for Obama’s stagnant record in gay rights. Public pressure must be credited to Lt. Dan Choi and the Servicemember’s Legal Defense Network for recent acts of civil disobedience as well as the protest art that’s cropped up.

Let’s hope this happens. The bad, 17 year-old law has led to more than 13,500 discharges. You can add your name to the list of supporters here.

Filed under: gay rights, military, , , , , , , , ,

Stonewall for Beginners

There’s a Tagalog proverb that goes, “Kung hindi mo alam kung saan ka nanggaling, hindi mo alam kung saan ka makakarating.”

Translation?

“If you do not know where you come from, you do not know where you’re going.”

The first time I heard this, I thought, “What a ridiculous saying.” But the more I considered it, the more I realized the wisdom. Know your roots, the saying seems to imply. Remember that knowledge is power.

I learned of the incredible, spontaneous–viscerally and physically defiant–Stonewall riots nearly two decades ago, after I first came out. The coming out process is, of course, for many of us such an arduous, painful process that the history of all those who came before us is clouded by self-interest. How can a collective movement matter much when you’re struggling to your individual identity?

Once the door is opened, however, it’s important to recognize the past. That’s the best part of the Filipino proverb: How can you move forward, if you never look back?

The Stonewall Riots–and its defiant men and women–initiated a revolution. Pre-1969, homosexuality was illegal; the American Psychiatry Association categorized homosexuality as a mental disorder. The list of social injustices burdening lesbians and gay men were endless.

I’m excited to support the new documentary “Stonewall Uprising.” It contains black-and-white historical footage and interviews with the now-senior citizens who defied police, social scientists, and the political establishment; as one participant says, “It was the Rosa Parks moment.”

Filed under: gay rights, history, , , , , , ,

Gay Rights Don’t Need Biology

A female pair at a Laysan albatross colony in Kaena Point, Hawaii. (Lindsay C. Young)

The New York Times Magazine features an article teasingly headlined, “Can Animals Be Gay?” It’s a question central to many on both sides of the culture wars; and in revisiting the argument, the NYT has little new information to add. We’ve heard of the male penguins who raised a chick together in Germany, as well as Scientific American‘s list of animals who engage in same-sex behavior. What’s the new news?

Central to the NYT‘s premise is the research of biologist Lindsay C. Young, who has been studying a colony of albatross birds in Hawaii for decades. The albatross spends most of the year in solitude, but returns to the same spot in Kaena Point each November. Among Young’s surprising findings were:

Laysan albatrosses are one of countless species in which the two sexes look basically identical. It turned out that many of the female-female pairs, at Kaena Point and at a colony that Young’s colleague studied on Kauai, had been together for 4, 8 or even 19 years — as far back as the biologists’ data went, in some cases. The female-female pairs had been incubating eggs together, rearing chicks and just generally passing under everybody’s nose for what you might call “straight” couples.

Fairly interesting stuff. But Young herself wants to stay clear of the politics and focus on her scientific research.

“ ‘Lesbian,’ ” she told me, “is a human term,” and Young — a diligent and cautious scientist, just beginning to make a name in her field — is devoted to using the most aseptic language possible and resisting any tinge of anthropomorphism. “The study is about albatross,” she told me firmly. “The study is not about humans.” Often, she seemed to be mentally peer-reviewing her words before speaking.

So this seems a case of the author/NYT pursuing a reluctant scientist to weigh in on the culture wars. Is it fair to Young? To the fervent critics on both sides of the gay debate? One wants Young to come out and state whether she’s pro-gay or anti-gay, simply to bring her research out of the realm of clinical science into the more interesting arena of social attitudes.

In thinking about homosexuality, the question of nature versus nurture often comes to light. What seems more important to me, however, is not the “causes” but our attitudes about gays and lesbians (not to mention our often-forgotten transgendered and bisexual brothers and sisters). If we go about trying to prove our worth as LGBTQ Americans, we unspool a thread of endless argument. We’re not asking people to argue where our feelings and love for others comes from, but to accept and guarantee our rights to love whom we wish.

Science can’t afford the civil rights we seek. Seeking validity through this path seems like a dead end for LGBTQ advocates.

Filed under: biology, gay rights, , , , , ,

They Give a Damn. Do You?

Fun little PSA from Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Fund, reminding all of us to give a damn.

It’s common sense, of course–marrying the person you love, serving your country openly, not being kicked out of your house as a teenager just because of who you are–but it’s worth repeating and reminding and remembering. We forget that equality, in 2010, is not enjoyed by everyone.

It’s nice to hear these familiar faces promoting a cause for the common good.

Filed under: gay rights, , , ,

Publications

BIOGRAPHY

RECENT PUBLICATIONS
» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
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About Me

Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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