aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
My little town’s still there
Roosterville, Hemp, and Cloudland are also among the nearly 500 towns removed from the state’s official map, nuked because mapmakers say there isn’t enough room to fit ‘em all. Creative typography could help—mapmaker Rand McNally won’t be killing these communities off, because their map designers use varying font types and sizes. It’s also nice to know this problem need not exist with digital maps
Here’s the AP story. I’m in PA this week, NYC next week. I’m confident that my town, the antebellum capital, will still be on the maps when I get home.
The Christian Embassy & The Pentagon
GUY RAZ: The Pentagon’s outer ring of corridors is called the E-ring and if you’re an important functionary or military chief, you get an office in the E ring. If you’re really important, you get an office in the E ring with a view of the Potomac, like the defense secretary.
Now if you’re really, really important inside the important place that is the E ring, you get access to the Pentagon’s executive dining room. And early every Wednesday morning, the executive dining room is turned into a breakfast prayer hall run by a private evangelical group called the Christian Embassy. It’s a group that is lucky enough to have an office inside the Department of Defense.
Here’s a recording of a recent prayer breakfast held in that dining room. The speaker is a prominent evangelical minister, James Kennedy.
Mr. JAMES KENNEDY (Christian Embassy Prayer Breakfast): And I often thought that the only reason anybody would not accept the gift of eternal life and Christ was either they hadn’t heard of it or they were insane.
RAZ: Insane is precisely how Mikey Weinstein would describe that prayer breakfast you just heard, not because it happened, but because it happened at taxpayer expense inside the Pentagon. So Mikey Weinstein and his group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, is on a - well, a crusade.
Mr. MIKEY WEINSTEIN (Military Religious Freedom Foundation): To try to wake the American people up to understand that we apparently have a radicalized evangelical Christian Pentagon within the rest of the Pentagon.
RAZ: Mikey Weinstein is a lawyer and a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. His dad was a career naval officer. His two sons are cadets at the Air Force Academy now, and one is off to Iraq in a month. He’s preparing a possible class action lawsuit against the Pentagon for allowing what he calls -
Mr. WEINSTEIN: The creation of a theocracy of a particular fundamentalist perspective within our own military branches.
I wish Mikey Weinstein and the folks at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation well.
Consider the lobster
Today was my first exposure to David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster, his August 2004 feature on the Maine Lobster Festival for Gourmet magazine. Now, I hate to admit it but I am one of those who always believed the myth that Lobsters feel no pain. Turns out, duh, being boiled hurts:
Cooking live lobsters does not result in a quick and painless death. “According to marine zoologists,” Wallace writes, “it usually takes lobsters between 35 and 45 seconds to die in boiling water.”
He also notes, “However stuporous the lobster is from the trip home, for instance, it tends to come alarmingly to life when placed in boiling water. If you’re tilting it from a container into the steaming kettle, the lobster will sometimes try to cling to the container’s sides or even to hook its claws over the kettle’s rim like a person trying to keep from going over the edge of a roof.”
Lobsters suffer from the minute they are trapped until the last agonizing seconds of their lives. Like other animals used for food, lobsters are torn from their natural habitat and transported long distances. “They come up alive in the traps,” Wallace writes, “are placed in containers of seawater, and can, so long as the water’s aerated and the animals’ claws are pegged or banded to keep them from tearing one another up under the stresses of captivity, survive right up until they’re boiled.”
Wallace confesses that he has “not succeeded in working out any sort of personal ethical system” in which eating lobsters is morally defensible. “[A]fter all the abstract intellection, there remain the facts of the frantically clanking lid, the pathetic clinging to the edge of the pot. Standing at the stove, it is hard to deny in any meaningful way that this is a living creature experiencing pain and wishing to avoid/escape the painful experience.”
His piece is a great read. READ IT
Slate says NYC Health Board bungled transgender birth certs
Last week, New York City’s Board of Health scuttled a proposal that would have given people more freedom to change the sex on their birth certificate. The proposed plan would have been the first in the country to permit individuals to declare a gender without making any anatomical changes. But before it could get off the ground, the plan spawned a furor. In failing to anticipate that backlash, the board did a significant disservice to the transgender community. [...]
If it had enacted the new proposal, New York City would have again gone where no jurisdiction has before. Under the plan, an individual who is over 18 can change her sex so long as she 1) has changed her name; 2) has “lived in the acquired gender for at least two years”; and 3) has submitted “two affidavits, demonstrating ... full transition to and intended permanence in ... her acquired gender.” One affidavit must come from a physician licensed in the United States who has demonstrated at least “two years experience ... related to transgender treatment.” The other must come from a mental-health professional with similar experience.
As a New York Times article observed, the new law sought to reflect a better understanding of the transgender community. Many transgender individuals do not have the funds to undergo sex-reassignment surgery, which has been estimated to cost between $10,000 and $20,000. Other people cannot have surgery for health reasons. Perhaps most importantly, many do not feel they need to have surgery to redefine their gender, which they understand to be more than the sum of their physical parts. As City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden recognized, “Surgery versus nonsurgery can be arbitrary.”
All of which sounds enlightened. But the health department, surprisingly, did not anticipate the wave of practical concerns that surfaced when the plan was publicized. These included the worry that the plan would conflict with rules adopted by New York state, or possible new federal rules, concerning identification documents. Reservations were also voiced by institutions like hospitals, jails, and schools, which routinely segregate according to sex. These concerns led the Board of Health to withdraw the proposal, settling instead for a minor amendment permitting individuals to change, rather than to delete, the sex on their certificate after surgery. “This is something we hadn’t thought through, frankly,” said Dr. Frieden. “What the birth certificate shows does have implications beyond just what the birth certificate shows.”
That may be what the good doctor said but I’m not entirely sure that’s the truth of what happened. A friend was closely involved in this issue; I’ll be in New York next week. I’ll wonder then what the real story is.