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« Fact of the Day | Main | Incompleteness and Drug Development »

May 18, 2005

Facts of the Day

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Arts and Letters Daily points out a scary Michael Specter piece in The New Yorker. It's about gay men, methamphetamine ("crystal"), the Internet, and risky sex.

Some facts from Specter's fascinating article:

  • More than 10 percent of gay men in San Francisco and Los Angeles report having used methamphetamine in the last six months.

  • In New York City, the rate of syphilis has increased by more than 400% in the last five years -- and "gay men account for virtually the entire rise."

  • "Between 1998 and 2000, fifteen percent of the syphilis cases in Chicago could be attributed to gay men. Since 2001, that number has grown to sixty per cent."

  • "Over the past several years, nearly every indicator of risky sexual activity has risen in the gay commmunity ... The number of men who say they use condoms regularly is below fifty per cent; after many years of decline, the mumber of new H.I.V. diagnoses among gay men increased every year between 2000 and 2003, while remaining stable in the rest of the population."

  • The ability of people to connect online has played a big role in these developments, according to some researchers. One doctor did a study and concluded: "It turned out that crystal methamphetamine and the Internet were the perfect complements for high-risk sex. Crystal washes away your inhibitions. Makes you feel good and want sex. And the Internet is there to respond to your whims. It's fast, it's easy, and it's always available."

  • Michael Specter writes: "The Internet has turned out to be a higher-risk environment than any bar or bathhouse -- men who meet online are more likely to use the drug, more likely to be infected with H.I.V., and less likely to use condoms."

Interesting to learn about a few more of crystal meth's side effects: depression is common after long use. People on the drug often forget to drink enough water and become dangerously dehydrated. Meth can cause heart failure and and stroke. And "all users -- not just addicts -- suffer some long-term damage to the brain; memory loss and paranoia are common."

Perhaps scariest of all -- as if death and derangement aren't disincentive enough -- "the chemicals used to make the drug are so toxic that for those who smoke it there is the danger that their teeth can crumble and fall out."



posted by Michael at May 18, 2005


As someone who has to budget to the bone in order to make his health insurance premiums this kind of stuff infuriates me. I realise irresponsible behavior isn't the entire reason for health care costs going through the roof (high tech is another reason) but it is a primary one. I'm sure if someone totaled behavior related costs, he would find that especially where health care is concerned this kind of hanky-panky is high on the list. No one wants to address this issue. Whenever the MSM has a "story" on health care costs this is ignored.

Posted by: steven on May 18, 2005 11:08 AM

The whole thing is just sad. When I hear of behavior like this, gay or straight, all I can really think is the level of hopelessness inherent in it, the level of self loathing. As has been recently stated in discussing teen pregnancies among girls---"hope is the best contraceptive." If people can see a future that it is worth taking care of themselves for, this behavior changes.

Posted by: annette on May 18, 2005 11:11 AM

Ah yes, the methheads. The anti-meth ads running in the back of every gay publication are so badly designed and ineffectual. You want gay men to put down the tina? Two words: Premature Aging. Meth fucks up the skin like nothing else. It also causes impotence and general hair/teeth falling out. So much better than Meth=Death!

I'm disspointed in this new drug of choice. It's a trucker drug, midwestern despair and poverty line shacks. Whats wrong with coke, I ask you? At least it can come with pretty acessories.

Posted by: JL on May 18, 2005 12:23 PM

I don't want to come off as some sort of (gasp!) homophobe, but whenever I hear stuff like this:

People talk about ‘Will and Grace’ and how accepting America is now of homosexuality. That is simply not true. America has come a country mile, I agree. Still, in the state I just left”—Georgia, where the C.D.C. has its headquarters—“almost four out of every five adults recently voted to deny gay men and lesbians the right to even have a civil marriage. We have an awful lot more work to do.”

I think, WTF? Am I just crazy, or does anyone else see the correlation between america's increasing acceptance of homosexual conduct and the spread of disease amoung gay men? And yet the constant chorus is, "It's the cruel intolerance of straight america that makes us do this!" Seems to me, the closet was a hell of lot safer for most of these guys...

Posted by: jimbo on May 18, 2005 1:43 PM

JL -- if you're looking for a stimulant, meth just feels better and lasts longer than coke. It's also sold at a much lower price-point. Cost is an issue, especially among younger tweakers.

Annette -- the effects of growing up gay have been compared to post-traumatic stress syndrome by some researchers and psychologists, and I absolutely agree. There are few people emphasizing love when it comes to homosexuality -- I was hit on the head with warnings about HIV when I came out at 15, and gay relationships are seen as anathema by a large percentage of the population. Is it any wonder that so many of us end up fucked-up? You're right that the meth/HIV problem is symptomatic of a larger syndrome.

Steven -- my apologies for raising your premiums. *Rolls eyes* Why not do something sensible like going after smokers and fat people?

Jimbo -- quick answer: sampling error is a serious problem in a statement like yours. I hit that same error multiple times below, but the quick version: closeted men are less likely to be tested for HIV or STDs, so the true health consequences of unprotected sex are revealed, not caused, by increasing openness in society. I'm not sure what you're trying to say exactly -- you think that an atmosphere hostile to homosexuals would improve our general health profile? I think that's obviously ridiculous, and I also don't think that our general welfare counts among your objectives.

MB -- The article (or your summary) has lots of inaccuracies. The "meth mouth" story has largely been discredited. Cigarettes and marijuana are also highly corrosive to tooth enamel; the problem is that some meth addicts lose track of time in a very visceral way. It's easy to forget to brush your teeth when you don't realize the sun's set (or risen again). Generally speaking, the overdose problem is overhyped as well -- it's very difficult to die as a direct result of meth unless you have preexisting heart conditions (or predisposition to stroke). Meth's actions on norephinephrine release and reuptake actually make it a vasoconstrictor -- you're more likely to have a heart attack using Viagra or poppers.

Depression is common after long-term abuse that is chronic. Recreational use (i.e. no more frequently than monthly, at most) is believed to give the seratonergic and dopaminergic systems sufficient time to recover from the ordeal, but given the nature of the beast there haven't been many convincing or conclusive studies that I've seen.

As for the ten percent figure, it strikes me as being a bit high. You don't include a confidence interval for the estimator, and my guess is that there's sampling error involved. I think I also saw figures recently that 13% of high schoolers had used cocaine in the last six or twelve months -- just to put the figure in perspective. The number was over 30% for marijuana use. Also, use isn't abuse. I'm not able to use methamphetamine recreationally -- I was addicted from the first hit -- but in my explorations of the subculture I've met many people who do only use infrequently. I'm reluctant to characterize that as abuse.

The internet bit is on point. I know that I was first introduced to the drug through such a liaison, and after becoming addicted I also met dealers and other users there. I think it's more that, the more places you can get it, the more likely you are to try it. It's extremely easy to get methamphetamine in a bathhouse, so availability has never been an issue. It just didn't occur to me to try it until someone suggested it online.

The explosive growth between 1998 and 2001 make me suspicious. Is Chicago an outlier for some reason? I know that syphilis has been a problem due to its relatively innocuous symptoms, but perhaps the recent awareness campaigns have simply lead more people who were already infected to go get tested. The 400% growth figure in New York also seems very high -- as if no one was getting tested for syphilis in 2000 while the disease was beginning to spread again. That's just one alternative explanation that comes to mind. I'm sure there are others.

I know that this comment is already hideously long, but the statement that HIV diagnoses have remained stable within the rest of the population also strikes me as disingenuous. Is he talking about number of cases or percentage of total infections? It's a known fact that heterosexuals and bisexuals (and intravenous drug users) are much less likely to be tested for and diagnosed with HIV, and the rate of positive diagnoses among those tested is higher for that group.

Finally, you have serious sampling error when you talk about the number of gay men who use condoms regularly. Where are these statistics gotten? From men who are getting tested for HIV! I just think you're looking at significant difficulties when you make this move from sample mean to population mean.

I could write more -- but I think you get the gist of what I'm saying. I think this article is probably very alarmist, although I must admit I've not read it.

Posted by: Michael on May 18, 2005 1:54 PM

I lived on Christopher Street in the 70s, so know whereof I speak. Even sadder than the degenerate behavior are the lengthy rationales for it.

Posted by: winifer skattebol on May 18, 2005 2:55 PM

Winifer -- that's interesting: I don't think I've ever had a conversation with a meth addict that's involved rationalizing his or her behavior. While addicted, nothing matters but the drug, and you rarely have anyone to whom you must make excuses. You certainly never feel the need to do so for yourself. If you think that's not true, you haven't been there. :)

My own experience with meth addicts in recovery and withdrawal, on the other hand, is that the remorse and guilt for past transgressions against oneself and one's friends and loved ones are tremendous. There simply isn't any way to rationalize that kind of self-inflicted harm. But I am not a substance abuse counselor -- perhaps you're right.

Of course, your characterization of "degenerate behavior" doesn't really target anything specifically, and my comment, MB's summary, and the article he references, together include a vast number of things that you might be referring to.

But then I wasn't born until after the 70's had rolled on by, so I may simply not "know whereof [you] speak". Perhaps you could be more specific for the sakes of those less experienced...?

Posted by: Michael on May 18, 2005 3:31 PM

Well, Michael, I'll get specific for you, since I lived in San Francisco and NYC in the 70s and 80s.

I'm not one of those people who live a segregated life... as you said you do. I've always been friends with gay men, although I am straight.

The bathhouse and drug scene of the 70s and 80s was catastrophic for gay men. My closest friend is the sole remaining member of his once large circle of friends. All the others long ago died of AIDS.

The "degenerate behavior" consisted of (excuse me) frolicking in both urine and excrement while engaging in multiple drug use, and engaging in unprotected anal sex with as many as a dozen partner in a night. My gay friends bragged about this and called me foolish for not joining in the melee. They are all dead.

They sort of knew their behavior was suicidal. I remember that it was standard practice to bring bags full of vitamins, minerals and supplements to work in the morning and chug them to offset the destructive hangover from the previous night.

Posted by: Stephen on May 18, 2005 3:57 PM

I saw a bit of the '70s-'80s scene too. Among the gay partiers I knew, it was considered a macho sport to compare notes about sores, infections, warts, and numbers of doctor visits. Showed how liberated you really were. One of the things that isn't much discussed is that many of the initial cohort that developed AIDS already had immune systems that were badly compromised by all the drugs and promiscuity. Gabriel Rotello's "The Sexual Ecology of AIDS" is one of the few books I know that's pretty frank about this.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 18, 2005 4:34 PM

They've been discussing the origins of homosexuality and homophobia over at based on an article written by Pinker in the NYTimes.

Given that STDs predate the 20th century, I suspect that the high incidence of promiscuity and disease among gay men is probably one big fat cause of homophobia.

Posted by: marie on May 18, 2005 4:58 PM

Stephen (and MB) -- thanks for being more specific. I'm sorry about your friends. I'm sure that my generation's ignorance of the immediate pain of a wake of AIDS funerals is frustrating given what you've been through. I'm sure that it is for any activist older than 35 or so.

I would say, however, that I'm not sure that I agree with one of the final jumps in your logic -- that using supplements, etc., to compensate for a chemical hangover is akin to acknowledgement of a death wish. Illegal drug use is a risky enterprise that people can evaluate from a cost/benefit perspective, right? Generally speaking, benefit varies with risk-cost fairly closely: if you wanna get really high and feel really good, you have to understand that you're going outside your brain's regular operating parameters. Attempting to mitigate the immediate cost seems like a basic appreciation of utility to me.

That aside, in the end it sounds pretty much like what I figured -- i.e., the same thing that exists today, although probably as a smaller (sub)subculture. The bigger question, about the wax and wane of such risky behavior particularly given the context versus an upward trend in information, however, remains. In the 70's, gay men were having sex to death largely out of ignorance. Lots of us are doing the same thing today, but the difference is that now we all know, beyond a doubt, that we should be using condoms and that using meth, ecstasy, cocaine, and GHB all weaken the user's immune system, making him more vulnerable to HIV. Basically, we have a new law: HIV=Death.

So you raise again, albeit indirectly, an interesting point: if we just take your earlier supposition as a given, why were/are so many of them/us (to paraphrase) "sort of... suicidal"?

Annette mooted and I seconded that very question -- and I think it was one that winifer was attempting to attack with his talk of rationalizations, as if explication and justification were one and the same. When you makke that sort of patently false argument with little more than a soundbite, I think it should be drawn out.

Posted by: Michael on May 18, 2005 4:58 PM

Regarding meth and teeth, doesn't meth cause people to absent-mindedly grind their teeth? If you're strung out for days, not brushing your teeth, and you're relentlessly grinding them, then after a while it seems obvious you'll lose them.

Posted by: marie on May 18, 2005 5:03 PM

Marie -- yeah, the teeth-grinding is particularly annoying. Between that and the marathon sex, my jaw would hurt so bad after a three or four day run that I could hardly talk or chew. And that doesn't even include "speed bumps", the sores that form on your tongue after binge use -- dry mouth + constant friction + general toxicity aren't good for any part of your body, I'd bet. Of course, meth acts as an incredible appetite suppressant, so you don't notice that it hurts to eat until you come down.

(Snorting it's not much better, given the holes that will form in the septum relatively quickly.)

Posted by: Michael on May 18, 2005 5:21 PM

One of the big reasons gay men want to be able to marry, and one they never mention in public, is so they can have access to their partners health care. And that's of course one of the best hard headed reasons to not let them marry, because it would drive the rest of our health care costs up once again. If people want to be selfishly seek suciidal pleasure fine, but that selfishness gets disgustedly out of line as soon as they start asking for someone else to pay the bill.

Posted by: zetjintsu on May 18, 2005 6:19 PM

zetjintsu - I think you might find, were you to research the topic, that the part of the gay community that has been campaigning for marriage rights does not have much overlap with the part that indulges in multi-day sex-and-drugs parties. People who are interested in having their life-long commitments legally recognised are not usually promiscuous.

Posted by: Simon Kinahan on May 18, 2005 6:28 PM

True, there are probably many gays who would be excellent models of lifelong commitment, but recognizing gay marriage would open the floodgates to all gays, and as a group they're more promiscuous than _average_, and would have higher health care costs than _average_. As I learned when I started up a buisness, it's all about reading the averages and you'll be able to predict the outcomes enough times to win in the long run.

Posted by: zetjintsu on May 18, 2005 6:50 PM

I'm a heterosexual who lives in San Francisco. So I've been aware of this problem for some time.

One thing being left out of the equation here is what was represented in this quote from Daniel Carlson: "The prevention message has been lost completely. It used to be simple: AIDS equals death. Now the world is murkier than that. Fatigue is genuine. But also gay culture is focussed on youth, and once you hit forty you are no longer that cute kid on the block, the pretty kid. You are not married. You don’t have a partner, and you are trying to assess what you want out of life. There are many who are confused and unhappy, and you mate that with cultural norms that have moved away from safety and you have a pretty explosive situation.”

The statistic you're missing, Michael, is that the average age of a newly infected gay man is forty.

It is possible that Tina users are resorting to heavy use and rampant sexuality BECAUSE they see no future or because current Western societal norms offers nothing legally or socially acceptable beyond the lovely consolation prize of same-sex unions (maybe).

Posted by: ed on May 18, 2005 6:53 PM

On the other hand, maybe a few of these guys are misbehaving and being irresponsible in a way that's a real drag. Maybe they're putting their own short-term pleasure ahead of everyone else's well-being. My limitation, I know. But my understanding-of/sympathy-for/patience-with suicidal/homicidal behavior runs out at a certain point. I cut people a lot of slack, and I feel sorry for people who are dreadfully ill. But people who deliberately (or even semi-deliberately) do what they can to spread a fatal disease stretch my sympathy mighty thin.

And yeah, that average-age-of-new-infection-being-40 stat was interesting. Seems like these are guys who should know better, no?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 18, 2005 7:12 PM

As asked, I will expand upon my initial remark. Here is a quotation from Micahel-the-gay-meth-user's posting:

"There are few people emphasizing love when it comes to homosexuality..."
No wonder!
If you were concerned with love, M, you would not be having promiscuous sex, with or withour the aid of drugs. You would wait until you found your "life partner", or whatever the vogue term is,and then you would be faithful. Anything else is a "rationalization."
(By the way, I am a she, not a he). If it's any consolation, I just dumped my perfectly straight friend for the same reason. She was sleeping with 4 guys a week, smoking dope, and drinking a lot. So it doesn't have to do with homophobia.

Posted by: winifer skattebol on May 18, 2005 7:38 PM

Zetjinsu - My poor understanding of business leads me to think that it's change at the margin -- not over the average -- that matter. But I don't own or operate a company, either. I think a better test, however, would be to see if there is a significant difference in mean promiscuity between partnered gay males and unpartnered gay males.

I'm left unsure as to your meaning of "open the floodgates to all gays". You mean, people would be free to express their sexual orientation as they pleased? Oh, heavens, no.

Winifer - *Shrug* I think you have a poor understanding of the term "rationalization". Feel free to look it up in the dictionary or just via google for other current usage, if you wish. And since you mentioned it, your freedom to associate -- or not to associate -- with whomever you like hardly offers me any consolation. You sound narrow-minded and unforgiving, and I wish you well.

Ed -- it was my understanding that the largest growth in growth rates demographically has been among the 16-27 (or whatever that slice of the pie is) group, but I could be wrong. Interesting statistic, though.

Posted by: Michael on May 18, 2005 9:00 PM

"One of the big reasons gay men want to be able to marry, and one they never mention in public, is so they can have access to their partners health care. And that's of course one of the best hard headed reasons to not let them marry, because it would drive the rest of our health care costs up once again."

Hey, I've got a great idea for keeping health care costs down: make it illegal for men to marry. It seems they're not making the best decisions about the jobs they take and their injuries are driving all of our health care costs up.

Posted by: Anon on May 19, 2005 1:27 AM

I've heard rationalization defined as "devising socially acceptable reasons for socially unacceptable behavior".

As you were...

Posted by: Brian on May 19, 2005 1:31 AM

Having said that this behavior derives from a bigger problem does not infer, however, that I think having silly indiscriminate drugged-up sex is the solution to the middle aged man's depression. Go for a bike ride. Go to Europe. See a therapist, if you can find one who knows what they are doing. Sheesh...I can just imagine the sympathy for middle-aged women, who are no longer the cute young girl, and aren't married, or are divorced, just throwing themselves indiscriminately into meth and sex. Poor thing, she's depressed.

Posted by: annette on May 19, 2005 10:21 AM

Not that this tactic is always useful or even reasonably applicable, but what if we viewed these issues as affecting another group of people rather than gay men. What if it were teenage girls? Or teenage boys? Or dwarves? Or Africans? Or Germans? Or Canadians? (Wait, it would be too easy to blame Canada...) Anyway, I've noticed that when any topic is discussed within the rubric of homosexuality, it suddenly gets all this extra drama and vitriol that - at least I think - is unnecessary and gets in the way of honestly discussing the topic.

Take gay marriage. If the topic were polygamy, nearly everyone but the odd Mormon or Middle Eastern Muslim would agree that as a society we concur that we don't want to allow the legal matrimony of one person to many. Any good reasons? Yeah, but they're as fraught with preference and opinion as those regarding gay marriage. What about brothers and sisters marrying? Hey, if they agree never to have kids - say he has a vasectomy before the ceremony - what would be wrong with that? How dare we deny them their rights, eh? (Sounds kinda silly, no?)

As another example, what about swingers and those who go to sex clubs? If a story were to break that they were more prone to nasty diseases and poor health (and they probably are), most of us would shrug and surf on (or turn the page if you insist on going analog).

If a certain portion of gay men live a very dangerous lifestyle, it's their prerogative, but don't ask me to share in the consequences of if any more than I should share in the consequences of some kid who decides to join a street gang and be a gangsta. You makes your choices...

Posted by: Yahmdallah on May 19, 2005 10:50 AM

Yahmdallah -- Your transition from the marriage-qua-discrimination argument to the personal responsibility one is a bait-and-switch, plain and simple. In fact I don't think it "sounds kinda silly". There is no reason a brother and sister shouldn't be allowed to marry -- if they want to bring a child into the world, furthermore, that's also their business. We hardly rule out marriage between other people with high life risk-factors -- e.g. race, socioeconoimic status, HIV-infection, serious hereditary diseases, and so on.

You do the right thing in taking the argument to its extremes. What is wrong with polygamy? If three people are truly in love, why should the only acceptable recourse be a marriage+1 relationship? Certainly outside the legal realm coupling is not the only form of social interaction, platonically, romantically, or otherwise.

But what about single people? Why can they not designate people they trust -- perhaps professionally and platonically but not romantically -- to share the same benefits that married people do? Why does it matter that you're willing to fuck the person? We don't presage the legal benefits of marriage with stipulations of future childbirth, so that's hardly an answer.

You rationalize what I believe to be discrimination by writing that "as a society we concur". It's simply justification for tyranny by the majority, a fear with which even the writers of our Constitution were intimately familiar.

These questions -- of human freedoms and institutionalized discrimination in favor of married people -- are only indirectly related to your last point. People shouldn't be allowed to marry if the extension of their health benefits then covers a partner who indulges in dangerous behavior.

Therefore, non-smokers should not be allowed to marry smokers. Or some other illogical example when, as you did before, I take your argument to the extreme. Are you as consistent in your beliefs as I?

Posted by: Michael on May 19, 2005 5:04 PM

If our current societal norms concerning marriage crumble away, there will be a price to be paid, and the people who will pay it will be children. Children have a stake in the fact that the word "married" has a shared public meaning, a narrow, definite meaning. We are seeing what happens to the well being of children in our communities where conforming to the old norm is not expected. Marital law supports and encourages conforming to the time tested norms. Doing away with the support would further weaken the institution, weakening the power of the word by fuzzying up the definition, increasing the freedom of adults, but at a cost to the well being of children.

Posted by: Bill on May 19, 2005 5:40 PM

Oh, Bill, link to or simply cite a study where the children of two adult gay males or the children of two adult lesbian males are likely to be worse off than than those of heterosexual parents -- I'll even grant you a ceteris paribus enclusion, though the truth is that if two men want to have a child together they are far more likely to be of higher socioeconomic status than the mean of all heterosexual parents who (perhaps accidentally) have a child. You can't provide a reference for that statistic because it simply isn't true, and there are plenty of studies that in fact say the opposite. So if you'd like to admit that there is no negative causal link between the sexual orientation of a child's parents and his or her welfare, this would be a good place.

More difficult to rebut is the slippery-slope style argument. I can ask you to show me that allowing for divorce hasn't weakened the institution of marriage. Perhaps it has, you could respond, but as a society we've accepted the necessity of divorce, etc., and that one "wrong" doesn't mean that another "wrong" is justified, and so on. I think I can argue that line quite fruitfully, but it's ultimate usefulness is limited.

I might also say that assigning the power of legality to "time tested norms" simply because they are time tested norms is not best practice -- e.g., slavery -- besides which it seems to allow for a level of cultural relativism before which many anti-gay marriage proponents would quail.

But, you see, the difficulty with the slippery slope argument isn't that it's correct -- it's that it's so nebulous while at the same time transferring the burden of proof from the tyrannical majority to the minority. Essentially you've said, "We needn't prove our claim that gay marriage [read: "the wanton subversion of marital institutions"] will harm children; you must prove to us otherwise." And, of course, no one can argue against the welfare of the children, now can they?

So let me instead turn it back around -- can you prove a causal link between the weakening of marriage (which you've postulated yourself) and the declining welfare of children? I'm certainly open to debate. I must admit, however, that most of the time the anti-gay marriage proponent at this point resorts either to silence, weak anecdotal evidence, or ad hominem attacks. I expect little more.

Your local homo.

Posted by: Michael on May 19, 2005 8:51 PM

Bill -- One other point, a bit more personal, as I tend to get a little worked up while people argue against the liberties of myself and my family. Given your concern for the welfare of children at large, how do you think my children will benefit by growing up with not one but two unmarried gay males? Are you really defending the children of society or merely your one?

Perhaps my partner and I should simply be sterilized -- to protect your offspring from our noxious influence and the role we play in the decline of Western civilization.

God, what utter despicable hogwash. It infuriates me.

Posted by: Michael on May 19, 2005 8:58 PM

Okay, I'll see if I can come up with something responding to your thought provoking posts.

Posted by: Bill on May 20, 2005 10:28 AM

(Not an official blowhard) Michael,

I think you missed my point, because we're saying in effect the same thing. I'm saying it's the tide of opinion in a society that determines these things. Societies around the world have almost universally had mores against sibling marriage, the grand exception being some misguided European royal families who eventually bled to death. Polygamy has gone back and forth, usually related to how wealth is distributed in a society, and not about love at all. Etc.

So, in short, if gay marriage never becomes a reality in American society, it's because the "tyrannical majority" as you call it, doesn't think it's a good idea. Since marriage is not a right, and is governed or provided by either one's church or the state - just as having a driver's license is not a right but something granted by the state - arguing as though it were a civil right won't get much traction. You already have the right to love and associate with whom you choose. Whether or not a legal definition is extendable to any relationship of yours will come down to what the society deems it wants.

I think your response proves my point that since it's about homosexuality, it's fraught with all this drama and vitriol. I doubt you'd be so passionate or cutting about it if it were merely about siblings getting married. (And, for the record, I assume you're ignoring the real health risks to any children of sibling parents primarily to make your point, as opposed to not knowing about them.)

However, I do understand your passion. When I feel my religion or political party or favorite musical artist is being treated unfairly, I snarl, too. But, that doesn't mean I'll expect everyone to apologize, change their mind and buy me a beer. (And I really like free beer.) These folks are diametrically opposed to my views, and often with what they feel are darn good reasons. Sometimes they win me over to their side, sometimes they adopt mine. That's the way it goes.

Don't mistake this as a justification to be anti-gay, which I'm not, but I just haven't made up my mind about civil gay marriage, and I don't buy the "it's a right" argument. If I eventually decide against it, if I ever do, I don't feel as though it'll be the same thing as denying you (or anyone gay) liberty and the pursuit of happiness (or having children), I view it on the level of denying a homeowner a building permit to build, say, a huge arboretum in their back yard. I'd expect them to be pissed, but again it's not on the level of denying someone's civil rights.

For the record, I am against polygamy because it's not good for the children or the multiple spouses from what I can tell (and that wacko Mormon cult from Utah that practices polygamy is relocating within a few hundred miles of me, so I'm gonna get to see that fiasco up close and personal). I'm against siblings and close cousins getting married, for all the icky reasons that have borne out when it's become a reality. I'm against spring-winter romances that bear children, because one of the parents is guaranteed to die before the child is old enough (and therefore is an ultimately selfish act). I'm against teen pregnancy because I don't feel children should raise children - both childhoods are diminished.

Now pardon me whilst I don my Teflon jammies. I know we're not supposed to be allowed to have opinions other than the ones you approve of, and I'm sure you'll remind me of that. (And let me also say these opinions are mine alone, so no one else should take any grief over them.)

Posted by: Yahmdallah on May 20, 2005 11:09 AM

I feel the need to jump in and reiterate an earlier point: those championing gay marriage are (by and large) not the ones doing crystal meth. There's a schism there and it really grates when "the gays" are discussed as a monolithic group.

People get involved in drugs for a wide variety of reasons, from depression over aging or homophobia, to the thrill of being young, out, and ready to push the envelope. Ultimately, though, it's all a lot of rationalizations and people have to be responsible for their own behaviour.

More gay marriage means less gay drug abuse. You may think that's simplistic but, hey, sometimes life can be simple.

And if I can barrel on for a moment -- can we please remember that the children we strive to protect may grow into the gay adults treated as second-class citizens. How is that doing them any favours?

Posted by: Scott D on May 20, 2005 12:13 PM

Yahmdallah -- Clever tactic, there, reducing the whole of one comment to little more than "drama and vitriol" when I make eminently clear how these issues can affect the intimacies of someone's day-to-day life. And the legal recognition of my relationship as little more than an inconvenient (not to mention ugly and expensive) arboretum? Smooth.

In regard to your first few paragraphs: why do societies change at all? Is it some form of sociological natural selection? At what point did a global, socially-accepted practice like slavery become recognized as the vile (but legal) horror that it was? If the government can simply grant civil rights as it pleases and you see nothing wrong with that, obviously denying those rights to a large class of people doesn't bother you? Because, after all, the majorities represented by those governments were comfortable with the idea.

Again, majorities may make the laws -- and may even be tyrannical -- but legality is not fairness and it is certainly not unquestionable.

My passion, as you put it, results not from homosexuality but from my personal stake in the matter. (That's a particularly nasty little rhetorical device you used, by the way.) Were I in love with my sister and she in love with me, and the recognition of our union forbidden by the laws of the state, I bet I would be just as flipping mad about it. Were I and my wife denied a wedding permit because as smokers we were more likely to bathe our children in carcinogens, would you be surprised at a response by smokers at large? We're talking about a class of people here, who whether due to genetic predispositioning or our overdomineering mothers are permanently different from a large majority, that are being denied legal rights that the majority keeps for itself.

I should make clear that, at the root if it, I am primarily anti-government recognition of marriage, not pro-gay marriage. To use a bit of spin, I am pro-the legal benefits of marriage should not be denied to those who cannot be married. How about that, eh?

The truth of the matter is that I don't give a rat's ass one way or the other about getting my union on the society pages or wedding announcements. But I'll take what I can get and if the support of gay marriage will allow me to visit my partner when he's hospitalized, I'll take it. And if civil unions will allow me the same, I'll take them, even though I will argue strenuously at the same time that the creation of separate but equal institutions have a history of, er, imperfectness in the United States (and, I suspect, everywhere). Because what you say is not a matter of legal rights, is. There are more than 1000 different legal rights accorded to married couples that are not afforded to non-married couples, and there is no reason except a misguided need to hold onto history for that level of discrimination.

Does that make my position more clear? I do hope I've not gotten your Teflon jammies in a bunch. I have to admit that it's a cute, albeit mildly puzzling, image.

Posted by: Michael on May 20, 2005 12:50 PM

(Not an official blowhard) Michael and Scott D,

I understand your points.

I still disagree with one aspect of what you're saying. To reduce it to a single example: Does my inability to marry my (biological) brother constitute a reduction or violation of my civil rights? When he was out of a job a while ago, I couldn't extend my health benefits to him or his family, even though he is legally family. Does this somehow make him or me a second-class citizen, or infringe upon our rights?

To answer my own question: No. It means that I can't marry my brother because society doesn't agree with that permutation of a legal relationship (nor do I - ick), and I can't extend my health benefits to him because the rules of my company say so.

I would solve the health benefits issue by (and I apologize to my quasi-libertarian blog hosts for actually placing these words on their drivespace) finally creating socialized medicine in America, much like the rest of the developed nations have. That would eliminate the need for defining which relationships could extend benefits and which couldn't. (I can't get a gay friend to apply where I work because we don't extend benefits to "partners" and they do where she works now, otherwise she'd jump at the job - so I am aware and personally affected by that situation.)

I know that when the AIDs epidemic first struck, hospitals wouldn't let partners visit or be there at the end, which was tragic. But is there anyplace that does that today? I've not heard of one.

I just think there are other ways to get these things accomplished without having to pick out china patterns, is all.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on May 20, 2005 2:16 PM

Believe it or not, there are still some people of faith out there who oppose gay marriage on theological grounds. At least in the Christian religion, the marriage service is symbolic of a mystical union between Christ and His Church. The Church is the vessel and Christ is the inseminator. The wedding ceremony implies at least the possibility of procreation in its words "Bestow upon these thy servants, if it be thy will, the gift and heritage of children." But for a same sex couple this is theologically (and biologically) impossible.
So far as benefits go, one would never dream of asking the government or the insurance co. to pick up the tab for a platonic roommate. So why should it pick up the bill because one chooses to have sex with one's roommate? That's none of anybody's business.

Posted by: winifer skattebol on May 20, 2005 3:51 PM

Yahmdallah -- Mmm, sounds like we're nearly as much in agreement as you indicated earlier. I don't think that marriage or civil unions will solve the disparities faced by gay men and lesbians; that a large part of society believes those disparities to be all good and well doesn't really convince me. I'm not a big fan of our President, I must say, and a majority elected him. I know how cliche the example is, but it stands.

The question of health benefits has been very pervasive here, so I'm going to address it below in conjunction with my response to Winifer.

Winifer -- Sure you can oppose it on theological grounds, but you shouldn't so quick to write of a "Christian religion's" viewpoint. Unitarians and (American) Episcopalians are hardly so... discriminating. (Hah, I love puns.) As for your specific sect's perspective, well -- the Catholic Church also likes to tell its African parishioners that they will catch HIV even if they use condoms during intercourse. Should the Pope's perspective dictate law? Or an influential imam's? Or a holy book translated so many times that any hope of the layman's (or his pastor's) recovering its meaning basically lost?

As for your extension of health benefits question, that's a harder one to answer. It's pretty obvious that should you be a single man living alone, you should be able to designate legally anyone you wish to have priority visiting rights in the event of a medical emergency. A best friend or platonically-cherished neighbor. Something along those lines. That's one of type of marriage-specific benefit that I don't think needs to be restricted as it is.

If my partner and I were to live together there would be no legal definition for our relationship beyond roommate status, in which case, were one of us to have health insurance through employment and the other to stay at home watching the kids, I would want a health insurance company to effectively insure the household, i.e. my roommate and my roommate's darling kid. At least in California, domestic partnership registries have been created for that sort of eventuality.

If a married couple is separated and has no children and (for the extreme example's sake) furthermore is infertile, are benefits still shared between them? Of course. So while I recognize a social externality in the increased incentive to raise a family (as risk is reduced), I don't know that it's the reason for the policy in the first place. In that case why not simply say that any two people who are raising a dependent qualify for shared health coverage (from, say, conception to the child's turning 23 or death, whichever happens first).

If a husband or wife wants to live at home without raising children (which I'm presuming in developed countries is considered a major social good), why should his or her health insurance -- and, effectively, his or her income -- be subsidized by a company's health insurance policy?

In this case the welfare of the child (and society as a whole) truly seems to be at the crux of the issue. Unless anyone else wants to point me in another direction, anyway.

Posted by: Michael on May 21, 2005 2:36 AM

"Episcopalians are hardly so... discriminating."
Except that wedding quote was from the Book of Common Prayer! (used by the Episcopal "sect" I belong to).
Have you considered that you yourself are a layman?
("Hah, I love puns.")

Posted by: winifer skattebol on May 21, 2005 6:01 PM

I am always amazed by the direction arguments about gay marriage take. Personally, I wonder what happened to the common sense reaction, which should be to say: "You're crazy. It's insane to talk about marriage between two men or two women. Maybe you need to drink more."

The notion that, if one can prove intellectually and by stats that gay marriage is justified, then gay marriage should be legalized, is sheer lunacy. I sometimes wonder why I seem to be the only one who understands this.

The notion that tradition does not matter, and that it should be overturned if the intellect can muster a good argument is the modern form of evil known as Marxism. I often wonder how this lesson, probably the main lesson of the 20th century, gets overlooked so often.

What has happened, of course, if that daddies have forgotten how to assert authority. Homosexuality is, to a very great degree, about wealth and release from responsibility. The wealthier a society, the more people begin to turn away from responsibility. In the past 50 years, the authority of the father has been seriously undermined.

What used to hold homosexuality in check was the demand that gays remain closeted. Gays should be closeted. It's better for them. In the past, gays were forced by public censure to remain in the closet, and to get married to a woman, for better or worse. Women provide a brake on male sexual behavior. Taking away that brake led to the AIDS epidemic.

I'm going to say this again. Tradition matters. Religious, spiritual and cultural tradition matter. There are many reasons, some known and some unknown, for the traditional societal proscriptions against homosexuality. Tinker with them at your risk. Pretending that you know why these ancient traditions exist is an exercise in self-delusion.

The intellectual arguments haven't moved me an iota. Gay marriage is a contradiction in terms, as any person with a shred of common sense knows. Only a politicized intellectual could fool himself into advocating something as patently absurd as gay marriage. The tale of Sodom and Gomorrah has a lot to say about this. I suggest that you start reading there, and cease fooling yourself with intellectual argument.

While I don't know the form it will take, I do know that if we go down this road the payback will be overwhelming. I'll make a statement that will leave you all aghast. This debate is actually a temptation of the devil. Fall to that temptation, and the consequences will be devastating.

Posted by: Stephen on May 21, 2005 6:14 PM

Believe me, Stefen, I'd much prefer to live alone all my life than to be married to a closeted gay men.

Posted by: Tatyana on May 22, 2005 1:06 AM

Oops, preview!
Stephen, of course (and shouldn't that be beleive?)

Posted by: Tatyana on May 22, 2005 1:07 AM

Haha -- that's beautiful. Not only am I an (evil) Marxist, I'm also one who completely lacks common sense and trumpets the temptation of the devil.

Traditions are all well and good, but to place them at the root of all social good? That's an amazingly short-sighted (not to mention selectively-applied) principle. Surely modern industrial processes were superior to the traditional cottage industry they preceeded? I mean, the Luddites didn't think so, but you've gotta wonder at your allies there. Would you have been as quick to speak for the socially-accepted "traditions" of slavery or women in the home? Of a general might-makes-right principle? Well, perhaps -- as the decline of Western civilization all comes down to a weakening of male dominance culturally.

You ignore my logic and argument, Stephen, and I laugh at your traditionalist fervor and spluttering predictions of doom. Bring on the brimstone, I say. Do you believe as well that last year's spree of hurricanes were caused by Gay Days at Disney and the homos taking root in Wilton Manors and South Beach? One wonders why San Francisco hasn't simply fallen into the Bay altogether. Oh well, God works in mysterious ways.

Your reasoning (or lack thereof) leads me to wonder whether Godwin's Law should be appended to include mention of Marxists, Communists, and other red herrings, especially where diehard conservatives are concerned.

Your local homo, here and queer, etc., who already drinks too much.

P.S. Winifer: the pun was on the word "discriminating". Perhaps double-entendre would've been a better way to describe it.

And as for the Church's position, I'd recommend you consider the actions of your sect before you reduce its beliefs to the words of a book. I spoke specifically of the American Episcopal Church -- as opposed to its worldwide counterparts -- for a reason. "Conservative is as conservative does," perhaps?

For what it's worth, not only was I raised Episcopal and baptized in that church, I also attended Episcopal school for three years and Catholic school for three and consider myself reasonably educated in the Bible's teachings, etc.. I was not, however, an altar boy, nor do I believe that I have a grasp of the Bible's meaning and more subtle nuances -- it's a long, preachy book that I've read a few times and never particularly liked. Of course, when people like Stephen speak of Sodom and Gomorrah as a starting point for discussions of homosexuality in modern life, I think my point is more than proven.

Posted by: Michael on May 22, 2005 6:45 AM

Oops, and by definition I'm a layman -- I'm not a priest, duh. Of course I was including myself in the reference.

Posted by: Michael on May 22, 2005 6:46 AM

Yes, the decline of male dominance is a disaster, and we will be paid back big time. Yes, it would be better for everybody, including most women, if women spent most of their time at home. There is a growing movement of women, organized around home schooling, who do just that, and they aren't even particularly religious. The return of patriarchy in force is inevitable. You'll see it within your lifetime. Good thing, too. Letting the children run the show has been a disastrous mistake.

I didn't argue logic. I talked morality.

Tatanya, you may feel that way, but there are other women who do not. This is obvious, because in the past many women married closeted gay men. It's quite traditional, and still the norm, in most Asian cultures. Marriage to a closeted gay man is a better role for women who are called "fag hags." The fag hags are abandoned by gay men at the age of 30 or thereabouts, and spend the rest of their lives in isolation. I meet many of them in New York City. What a pathetic existence they lead.

Michael, I didn't call you a Marxist. I said that you have been duped by Marxist nonsense, which has been at the core of the gay activist movement. Marxist nonsense has invaded our language. You're going to pretend that the theorists of the gay activist movement are not Marxists? I'll rattle off their names for you if you like, starting with Richard Goldstein. They are, indeed. Andrew Sullivan has written at length about his anger at the demand from gay activists to embrace Marxism. Feminism is an overtly and proudly Marxist movement. Read the resumes of any women's studies department. I do.

Yes, I am religious, but not at all in the sense you've suggested. I'm Catholic, and I go to mass only on Christmas and Easter.

Michael, I suggest you read Liberal Larry's blog, Blame Bush! He does a very good job of satirizing your world view. If you will read my blog, you'll discover that I am not at all the way you've suggested.

Societies throughout human history have paid a heavy price for falling to the temptation of male homosexuality. That's why the severe proscriptions. What you call homophobia is, in fact, societies trying to protect themselves from a moral scourge. If you don't like the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, which is right on point and foretells the consequences of the open gay life of the 70s and 80s (the AIDS epidemic), then I suggest "The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire."

I've raised two children. I know the difference between right and wrong. The college dormitory ridicule that you employ doesn't move me a bit. You are wrong. There is a difference between right and wrong, and some of us still know that. What is needed now is for daddies to listen politely to the moral nonsense you espouse, then say: "No, you can't have that."

The daddies forgot how to say that, but I haven't. You need to be told no, just because it's morally wrong. It's coming. Children do get angry and bitter when they are told no. And, yes, the Peter Pan syndrome among gay men is almost universal.

This is not about logic, it's about morality. Yes, you will throw a tantrum and scream ridicule at the fathers when you are told no. Too bad. It is the job of fathers to put up with this and refuse to budge.

Posted by: Stephen on May 22, 2005 7:14 AM

Excuse the length of my reply, but it is necessary, since you've decided to tell me what my views are.

I didn't say that San Francisco would slide into the ocean. It is very possible that it will be attacked, bombed and burned to the ground. I foresee that in the future for New York City.

I live in Jersey City, a very heavily Asian community. My wife, who died 8 months ago, was Filipino. My girlfriend is Filipino. I have two Filipino extended families. You might recall that the first arrest after the first attack on the World Trade Center was made in the Philippines, and that the first conviction in that case was of a Philippine national. Jersey City is a heavily Islamic and old world Asian community. So, I hear first hand the complaint that led to the second attack on the World Trade Center, from my extended families and it's just in the air in Jersey City.

The attack on fathers, and the advance of feminism and gay activism will not be tolerated in most of Asia, and we already know that it is openly defied in Arab culture. We are headed toward a total world war over these issues, unless the West relents in its missionary zeal. It may take 100 or 200 years, but I see the West losing this war. And I am a good patriotic American. The religious and traditionally moral outnumber your compatriots by a huge margin. The numbers are on the other side.

Fathers collapsed and gave up in the West. This is not going to happen in the East. China will be the great emerging political and military power of the next century. Men in the East have not lost the will to fight, as men in the West have. You're in for a surprise. Men in the East are willing to fight and die before they surrender to the moral chaos that predominates in the West. The childish ridicule that you use has absolutely no effect on a traditional Asian man. He'll ignore you, shrug his shoulders at your moral foolishness, and secretly go about finding the way to defeat and destroy you. He won't even bother to debate with you.

We're headed for a cataclysmic global war over these issues. I hope that I die before it develops fully. It's not going to be pretty, and unless the West backs off, the war will be fought right here.

Posted by: Stephen on May 22, 2005 7:35 AM


Yes, please go after the fat people first. The standard American diet is why your premiums are high. As a male vegan American, my chances of dying from heart disease are 4% instead of 50%. Cancer, very unlikely. Furthermore, since I am not constantly immunosuppressed, I never get colds, bronchitis, or pneumonia like I used to; I've been to the doctor once in five years and that was from cross-contamination in a restaurant. Gluttony is raising your premiums, not a minority of a minority group.

Posted by: Rob Asumendi on May 22, 2005 9:33 PM

The argument that gay men behave self-destructively because of of the trauma of growing up gay in a heteronormative society is patently insufficient. Society was far more homophobic fifty years ago, yet gay men were much better behaved.

The key to understanding this riddle is the observation that men, cut off from the mitigating influence of women, always take their behavior to an extreme. Similarly women, cut off from the natural catalyst that is masculinity, stagnate--which is why feminist theory hasn't broken any new ground in over thirty years. Gay men have exiled women from their erotic lives and in doing so they have jettisoned the wisdom of the female principle. I can see no easy way to recover that wisdom without going the whole "ex-gay" route, which is simply not an option for the majority of homosexuals (myself included).

My full thoughts about this can be found over at my blog. :-)

Posted by: gaylikeafox on May 23, 2005 2:59 PM


I agree with you on some things, namely that the subversion of paternal authority in the West in the past thirty years has been, overall, a bad thing. Civilization is by its nature patriarchal and feminists need to grow up and get over it. Try to change that foundation and don't be surprised if the whole house falls down.

But the thing that confuses me about people like you (and Michelle Malkin, incidentally, because she's the exact same way and I posted about it before) is that you are hypocritical. You talk a fine talk about "traditional values" but (excuse me if I'm mistaken) weren't you in an interracial marriage? How traditional is that? And if you can make the statement that "there are many reasons, some known and some unknown, for the traditional societal proscriptions against homosexuality," why can't you say the exact same thing about interracial marriage? And why is it okay for you to throw traditional standards of morality out the window in your own personal life, but not okay when homosexuals do it?

I feel somewhat uncomfortable saying this for the simple reason that you have recently lost your wife and I don't want to disparage your relationship with her in any way. But I do think there is some hypocrisy there which I am going to call you on.

Also, your argument that the destruction of society follows from the acceptance of homosexuality as night follows day is just not true. Plenty of civilizations - such as those in Japan and China prior to Western influence - tolerated, even celebrated the practice of homosexuality without collapsing. Even here in the west, Classical civilization celebrated male-male relationships throughout the course of its rise and expansion, not just during its decline. Holding up as universal the extreme form that same-sex relationships took among a decadent and bored-senseless Roman elite does gays everywhere a disservice.

I personally think the problem is not accepting homosexuality, but losing our appreciation for the uniqueness of heterosexuality. I am gay, obviously, and I like being gay, but I also recognize that there is something special about the heterosexual union. Let's face it, none of us would even BE here without heterosexuality. I think it is in our society's best interests to recognize that. Other societies have tolerated homosexuality and found a place for gay relationships in the prevailing order without making the mistake of equating them with heterosexual relationships. Why can't ours do the same?

Finally, I don't see where you get this assumption that Eastern man will not fall victim to the same decadence that, yes, does afflict Western man. There is nothing inherently weak in the European genome: Any people who gain prosperity stand to lose their strength of character in the face of new comforts. Some of those East Asian countries you seem to lionize have the lowest birth rates and highest rates of never-married women in the world.

Posted by: GayLikeAFox on May 23, 2005 7:29 PM

Hello GayLikeAFox,

You misinterpreted my argument slighly. I didn't argue that homosexuality should be suppressed, made illegal, or even made the subject of public disapproval. I said that gay men would, on the whole, probably be better off closeted and married. I also said that the tradition of being closeted creates a place in family and society for those women known as "fag hags."

Asians are the most prosperous and successful immigrant group in the U.S. They have been for some time. Success does not seem to be having the same outcome for Asians as for others. Yes, Japanese women have a very low birthrate. Asians seem quite adept at taking the best parts of Western technology and ideas, while keeping the family intact.

Interracial marriage is traditional. I'm a blues musician. Blues is all about racial intermixing. "House of the Rising Sun" may be the most famous blues song in the world. It was probably written to be sung by an Asian prostitute, and the tune is an Irish lament. The song was probably written just after the Civil War. The history of people having a good time with members of other races is a very taboo subject. The left makes its living out of convincing us that all that existed in the past was racial hostility and violence.

Posted by: Stephen on May 24, 2005 8:41 AM

Stephen - *Shakes head* As someone who speaks Chinese and has lived in Taiwan, I think you're in error. As someone with a degree in International Relations, whose courses emphasized Chinese politics and international political economy more largely, I think you're in error. As someone whose world view has hardly been revealed here in any complete sense, I think you're in error. I found your comments to previous posts misinformed, condescending, and irritating, and your remarks here are no different. I see no reason to pursue this discussion, except to note that I continue to disagree and to believe your rhetorical tactics are juvenile. You may, of course, characterize yourself however you wish, Daddy.

Posted by: Michael on May 25, 2005 3:12 AM

Didn't see any trackback info.

I put a link to this post here:

~ Maria

Posted by: Maria on May 27, 2005 10:32 AM

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