Now That’s What I Call “Change”

November 18, 2008

As noted on Towleroad, the Obama transition folks have updated their Civil Rights Agenda with specific proposals for LGBT Americans.  Although the introduction addresses us, specifically, the language is inclusive of everyone.  From my perspective, it extends to me, a gay man, the same promise that any other American has:

“While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It’s about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect.”

Specific proposals are listed regarding Hate Crimes, Workplace Discrimination, Federal Civil Unions and LGBT Couples, the repeal of the misnamed “Defense of Marriage Act,” the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, Adoption Rights, and HIV/AIDS prevention in general and specifically for women.

The only thing really missing here, for me, is additional specific emphasis on racial and culturally appropriate HIV/AIDS prevention and education programs.  The largest rates of increase in infection are among persons of color, who often are left out of programs designed by or for white gay men like me.

What I most appreciate is the inclusiveness of Obama’s approach.  These aren’t “special rights.”  They are, in essence, the same rights that everyone else has.  It doesn’t take anything away from anyone or damage anybody or anything.  It simply tries to ensure that we are treated the same.

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6 Responses to “Now That’s What I Call “Change””

  1. jonolan Says:

    “The largest rates of increase in infection are among persons of color, who often are left out of programs designed by or for white gay men like me.”

    That will be difficult given the fact that a lot of the HIV infections among Black and Hispanic men occur during incarceration. It’s only later that it spreads into the larger free population.

  2. robertangelo Says:

    @jonolan, I don’t think I know you, and I’m surprised to get a comment like this on what is essentially my journal. If you take time to read through my site, you’ll see this is mainly about my family, my late parents, places I’ve lived, and things that move me emotionally. To the extent that there is any political discussion here, it’s generally thoughtful and restrained, with a few explicit lapses into humor.

    I doubt that you read the links. If you had, you would have seen that Obama’s plan does explicitly include increased prevention efforts in prisons.

    In any case, your remark, which you have made with no references or statistics to back it up, sounds rather racist to me. You may not intend it that way, but that’s the way it comes across.

  3. jonolan Says:

    It would take a bit too much effort to dig up statistics on an issue that the penal system doesn’t want to talk about. Sorry.

    There was no intended racism, just an acceptance that there are a disproportionately large percentage of Blacks in prison. that homosexual behavior is prevalent in prison. and that the prison system offers no condoms for protection.

    It’s telling that prison slang includes phrases for HIV / AIDS: “bootie flue” and “the ninja.”

    Since most of the people in prison would never admit to homosexuality, I doubt most – if any at all – efforts at education would help – especially when the penal system refuses to even acknowledge the problem.

  4. robertangelo Says:

    It took less than a minute to use Google to locate this, from the U.S. Deparatment of Justice: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/html/hivp/2006/hivp06.htm

    Here’s another DoJ link for incarceration rates by race: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/glance/jailrair.htm

    And here is a HHS page which was a pretty good summary as of the year 2000: http://hab.hrsa.gov/publications/hrsa900.htm I think the part relevant to your argument is:

    “Of all AIDS cases in America, 17 percent have spent time in the U.S. correctional system.”

    Here is the CDC page breaking down the number of AIDS (not just HIV) cases by race: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/surveillance/basic.htm#aidsrace

    The number of Blacks and Hispanics with AIDS is significantly more than 17%.

    I agree that prisons are an important vector for HIV transmission. It’s also a very expensive treatment issue for penal systems, and the incoming Administration clearly believes in the proverbial “ounce of prevention.”

    Can I add, you do seem to be oddly focused on prisoner sex. Take a look sometime at the figures for HIV transmission via shared needles, which is also a significant issue in the prison population and, outside prisons, in some parts of minority populations.

  5. jonolan Says:

    One – the spread starts in the prisons. it continues in the free population after the release of the prisoners, so a 17% percent infection rate translates into a much larger secondary infection rate.

    Two – I focus on on prison sex as opposed to the smaller number of prison needle transfer infection rate because it is larger and more addressable.

    I absolutely HATE and LOATH the way the penal system deals with – or fails to deal with – this situation. I’ve personally seen the aftereffects of it. It’s not pretty and it’s not right.

    Combine that with the ingrained homophobia of the minority community – possible directly related to the realities of incarceration – and you have a situation that will be very hard to correct.

    Understand please that I’m not the enemy. I’m just a gut who’s seen enough that I have little hope or a fix.

  6. robertangelo Says:

    Thanks, I appreciate your taking time for the clarifications.


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