At America's military academies, the first DADT-less year draws to a close:
For the first time, gay students at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis were able to take a same-sex date to the academy's Ring Dance for third-year midshipmen. The U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., officially recognized a club for gay students this month. And gay cadets at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., are relieved they no longer have to worry about revealing their sexuality.
Several gay students from the nation's major military academies said the September repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," an 18-year-old legal provision under which gays could serve as long as they didn't openly acknowledge their sexual orientation, meant significant change.
"For the most part, it allows us to be a complete person, as opposed to compartmentalizing our lives into different types of boxes," said newly commissioned Air Force 2nd Lt. Dan Dwyer, who graduated from the Air Force Academy on Wednesday. West Point held its graduation Saturday, and the Naval Academy's was set for Tuesday.
Nick Clegg says there should be no conscience vote on marriage equality:
The Deputy Prime Minister said Liberal Democrat MPs will be forced to vote in favour of allowing gay marriage when the legislation is considered by Parliament.
Some Tory MPs are strongly opposed to allowing gay marriage. Last week Sir George Young, the Conservative leader of the Commons, announced that there would be a free vote on the subject because it was a matter of conscience.
But Mr Clegg disagreed, pointing to the fact that the original law bringing in civil partnerships was also not passed on a free vote in the House of Commons.
He the BBC’s Andrew Marr porgramme: “My view is that in the same way that the civil partnerships legislation that was introduced under Labour was a whipped vote, I personally don’t think this is something that should be subject to a great free-for-all because we’re not asking people to make a decision of conscience about religion.”
What kinds of letters did Judge Bermann receive before deciding Dharun Ravi's sentence?
most of the letters came from people who thought Ravi had made a terrible mistake — but did not deserve prison.
Some thought the media and public opinion had punished him already. Some said prosecutors were overzealous and others said Ravi, because he is Indian, was the victim of discrimination.
Some, like Amitabha, of Succasunna, N.J., said that prison was just too much. She wrote: "We have already lost a talented young man, Tyler Clementi, and it will be a double tragedy if Ravi's life is also ruined by a stiff sentence and is forced to leave the country he lived practically all his life."
Jackson, a former Rutgers sociology professor whose daughter committed suicide, wrote that Ravi is already paying for any role he had in Clementi's death: "I am convinced that he had no idea that his immature prank would contribute to his roommate's suicide and that he, like me, will punish himself with guilt for the rest of his life."
German schoolboy solves centuries-old mathematical riddle.
On the crackup of the Met's Peter Gelb:
From the start, his greatest strength has been his gift for marketing and publicity. Yet he suddenly seems unable to stop himself from engaging in behavior that generates negative stories about the Met and damages its image. His sensitivity to criticism appears to be extreme, his way of responding at once brutal and maladroit. Some might say that there is no such thing as bad publicity, but investigative stories on page one of the Times are in another category. Members of the Met board, who so far seem to have given Gelb free rein, may no longer be able to look away.
Mitt Romney will not win his home state in November. So what?
See the ship graveyard left when the Aral Sea receded.
Is the Harry Potter series fit for academic exegesis?
There are only two or three gays in Azerbaijan.
Really, Montenegro's "Euro Neuro" should have won at Eurovision. It was topical, rueful, and awful -- just right for 2012. Watch AFTER THE JUMP ...
Gay activists tried to stage two demonstrations in Moscow on Sunday to demand the right to hold a gay pride parade in the Russian capital, but they were blocked first by Orthodox Christian opponents and then by police, who detained a total of about 40 people from both sides.
The gay activists first gathered outside the city council building, where a few scuffles occurred as their opponents tried to disrupt the demonstration, decrying homosexuality as a sin. After police broke up that protest, another group tried to stage a second protest at city hall, but once again police moved in and detained participants, including prominent gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev.
Alexeyev, by the way, was the first man arrested in St. Petersburg under that city's new law prohibiting the "promotion" of homosexuality.
Moscow, which doesn't yet have such a law, is nevertheless famously unwiling to issue permits for gay pride parades. In March, city authorities banned a parade scheduled for this afternoon; it was the seventh consecutive year officials had refused permits. On the day the parade was banned, Alexeyev -- who really gets around! -- wrote that he was "getting ready for clashes on the 27th."
The Orthodox Christians with whom he clashed this morning are described by WashPo:
Among the opponents of gay rights was Dmitry Tsarionov, who spoke to the crowd in front of a sign that said “Moscow is not Sodom.”
“I will not allow perverts to bring the wrath of God onto our city,” he said. “I want our children to live in a country where a sin that so awfully distorts human nature is not preached in schools.”
After clerics in Jakarta spent several weeks fuming and fretting over the social implications of allowing Lady Gaga, lover of sodomites and revealer of body parts, to perform in the world's largest Muslim country, Gaga's security team was so inundated with threats and portents that they forcibly canceled the concert.
The pop diva appeared to acknowledge [the situation] in a post on Twitter on Saturday: "There is nothing Holy about hatred."
Islamists and conservative Muslims have decried Lady Gaga's upcoming concert, saying her revealing costumes and sensual dance moves are forbidden by Islamic law.
The chairman of the Islamic Defenders Front, Habib Rizieq, said his group could not guarantee security if the concert were held.
Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world.
In March, the pop star got a thumbs-down by the country's highest Islamic authority, according to The Jakarta Globe.
Indonesian Council of Ulema chairman Cholil Ridwan was urging Muslims not to attend the controversial singer's upcoming concert in Jakarta, the newspaper reported.
"(The concert is) intended to destroy the nation's morality," Ridwan told the Globe.
I think Ridwan is correct: Lady Gaga probably did direct the Born This Way Ball toward Indonesia, in part, because she dislikes what passes for sexual morality there. What's mystifying is why Indonesian clerics, despite their vast power, would feel threatened by a 26-year-old pop singer from the Lower East Side. They've allegedly got God on their side, and righteousness, and culture and history and whatnot. With so much going for them, why should they become unmanned by a few pop tunes and a bit of latex?
If you haven't already, please meet Loreen of Sweden: the winner of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. She's pretty and she's got a fine voice, but I'm guessing she won because she managed to stay on-key while battling a horde of invisible ... what are they? Ninjas?
Watch AFTER THE JUMP ...
Yesterday, the Winnipeg Free Press published the harrowing story of Hamed, a 27-year-old gay man whose 17-month flight from persecution in Iran has finally concluded in Canada:
Growing up in a country where homosexuality is so taboo it's not even discussed, was difficult. As a child, he says he knew he was different but didn't know what it was or what was "wrong" with him.
He'd never heard the term gay.
"And I can't find anybody else like me. I was 20 before I found another gay person," he said. When he knew what he was, it wasn't much of a relief.
"I can't be myself," he said. "I had to tell all those lies. I must hide myself. I'm alone all the time. I'm scared (of) my problem and running from myself."
Hamed was in a relationship with another man for five years in Iran before his partner's family discovered their romance. The family was appalled, as Iranian families are wont to be, and threatened to tell Hamed's family. The news could have led to anything -- disownment, imprisonment, execution -- and so Hamed fled to Tehran. But friends told him he still wasn't safe. They suggested he go to Turkey.
He couldn't get work there, but he could apply for refugee status. And he would be safer. So he went. While waiting on a more permanent arrangement, Hamed boarded with another gay man and a trans couple. None of them had work-permits, and they were forced into low-paying and dangerous under-the-table jobs. They were terribly poor. One of Hamed's roommates lost his savings when he broke his leg on a job -- he was forced to pay both his hospital bills and a fine for working without proper documentation.
From the Fress Press:
"They're in limbo," says Arsham Parsi, executive director of the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees, based in Toronto. For privately sponsored refugees, the processing time can be up to two years before they get to Canada, said the founder of the organization that started in 2008.
"They don't have any means and are at risk of being deported," said Parsi. The railroad helps an average of five or six new Iranian refugees a month who are in such limbo.
Hamed was one of them. During his time in Turkey, Hamed was in frequent Skype contact with the men who became his sponsors in Canada. Now he's in their care, looking for work, and mastering English -- his second language in a year and a half:
Hamed said he'll attend special classes at the University of Manitoba in the fall to improve his English to a Benchmark 8, the level required to attend post-secondary programs. Right now, he's reading at Level 4 and speaking and listening at Level 5.
In Turkey, he practised his English with an online tutorial. In Winnipeg this spring, he passed the written test in English to get his driving learner's permit. In June, Hamed is to take his road test, and hopes that will look good on his resumé.
This summer, his sponsors are planning to take him to the Winnipeg Folk Festival and Winnipeg's Pride parade next week. Human rights activists Chris Vogel and Richard North are leading the June 3 parade, which starts at the legislature.
"I want to try it," said Hamed, who can't fathom gay men talking about their rights on the doorstep of a government building, then celebrating their sexual orientation with a parade.
Things are going swimmingly for Hamed, though he's having trouble finding a job. Yet:
[Hamed's sponsors, Horst Backe and Mark Rabnett] say there are tens of thousands of people such as Hamed in countries where they're persecuted for their sexual orientation. Rabnett cited one estimate that Iran has executed 4,000 people over the past 20 years for being gay.
The sponsors said they'd like to see more people contact the Rainbow Resource Centre in Winnipeg to form a Group of Five and help an LGBT refugee.
If that's something you'd like to do, click here.
The Baltimore Sun published a feature yesterday about the United States Naval Academy's attempts to cope with the repeal of DADT. Short summary: Very little coping has been required. Even second-year midshipman Katy Moore, who described feeling, in her early days at Annapolis, "the most closeted I'd been in my life," had this to say:
"Sept. 19 was one day and Sept. 20 was the next day," she said. "I mean, it's like going from Monday to Tuesday — it was not different."
"Now, this far along in the process, I've begun to feel that more people are open with it. I can have a conversation with my girlfriend or with my gay or lesbian friends in public and not have to worry about someone sending me up the chain of command for discharge."
Everyone else interviewed by the Sun said much the same thing. The change at Annapolis was subtle, but good. The Sun tells the story of Andrew Atwill, whose friend and roommate, ignorant of Atwill's orientation, teased him with homophobic slurs before the repeal last year:
His friend didn't know it, Atwill says, but he really was gay — and under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, it could have jeopardized his military career.
This year, the first since the Clinton-era policy was repealed, Atwill says change has come to the academy. And talking about his sexual orientation, rather than being a career-ending offense, has rallied midshipmen to his defense.
"Pretty much everybody in my company knows now" that he's gay, Atwill said, and "they actually stand up for me." If his friends hear someone make a negative remark about homosexuality, he said, they "don't hesitate" to tell that person "it's not cool to do that anymore."
... Atwill and his boyfriend, classmate Nick Bonsall, planned to go together Saturday to the Ring Dance, a formal ball held each spring for third-year midshipmen.
"It's been really great, actually," Bonsall, 20, of Middletown, Del., said of life at the academy since repeal. "Everyone has been really accepting of us."
The best thing about the Sun's story, to this reader, is the explanation given by the midshipmen of why they're pleased DADT was repealed. It's not that they're excited to be able to express themselves, or to share tales of their sexual exploits with peers, or to join in discussions of significant others back home. Rather, they're happiest to have one less distraction from their work. Second-year midshipman Caitlyn Bryant, from Quantico, summed up the sentiments of many:
For Bryant, repeal lifted "an unnecessary source of stress."
"Now that it's gone," she said, "I can just focus on what's really important, like my academics and trying to become an officer and just dealing with daily academy life."
Meanwhile, gay midshipmen are in the process of forming a club. And this year, for the first time, an annual dinner for gay midshipmen, which had long been clandestine, was attended by Annapolis staff and faculty.