5: Telling With Pride and Fending for Yourself, 1997.
To see text visit http://www.doaskdotell.com/content/xchap5.htm
off the psychological mountaintop of the battle over the military gay ban, I
return to “mundane” civilian life in the year that I published the book. By
this point a major thesis is developing: if I want to be comfortable with
myself as a gay man, and to claim my freedom to private choice and publication
of that choice, then
I won’t just have to be responsible for myself, I may wind up fending for
chapter is the most “dissertation-like” in the opus, containing 206 footnotes and, compared to the
previous chapters, relatively little autobiography. But I’ll run through it now.
fact, by the early 1990s I had affiliated myself with Gays and Lesbians for
Individual Liberty (http://www.gayliberty.org/),
a group of generally professional men (mostly) who subscribed to the individual
rights way of arguing for “gay rights” (sic) rather than the idea of
minority status. Pretty soon, I started getting published in GLIL’s newsletters (The Quill) and then in some
other gay papers, particularly
the other major personal content of this chapter was my own “skirmishing” with
theme of the whole DADT book had been the development of political philosophy
(e.g., libertarianism) based on the idea of inflexibly holding every person
totally accountable for himself. This idea can have harsh consequences when
carried to the root. But it was a good
way to bootstrap a general discussion of morality when viewed from the
individual’s perspective. A moral
individual demonstrates honor (as described by Joe Steffen),
integrity, and a sense of earning what he has in a
fair-handed way. So a moral individual
answers for his actions, and this accountability arguably includes being able
to take care of others. I have sometimes
called this formulation “morality’s
third normal form,” based on the normalization concepts of relational
is right in prosecuting those who directly harm others, and in holding people
to contracts. But about the more
communal, collective idea of morality, that of social standards and “family
values.” I argue the libertarian
position that government should not settle these cultural questions, but that
in a free market people will tend to settle them through a process of
the cultural questions are extremely important, and for the rest of the chapter
I cover them as if they were seminar topics.
“Family Values.” That sounds like a TM mantra perhaps. In barest terms, it means the willingness, even eagerness, of married adults to put raising children (and perhaps caring for other family members) above all other ambitions and motives, material or individually pleasurable. The term also refers to the propensity of a “grownup” to remain sexually interested in just one (opposite sex) adult for the rest of one’s life, even as that partner grows less “attractive” in “conventional” visual measures. And the complaint is that in today’s world adults, since they have different options, are less willing to demo that.
I’ll state right here, that I resent it when politicians talk glibly about
taking care of “families” as if individuals like me outside of conventional
families did not exist.
There is “cultural pollution”—movie and Internet pornography, televised violence, heavy metal music, rampant materialism—all of these things place a big distraction upon parents raising children. There is the subtle message in the media and the culture that the young and beautiful matter, and that the old, fat and ugly do not and would not be missed if they just went away.
is economic pressure—of one-earner families competing with two-earner families
and with singles (and with homosexuals).
And there is the new idea that it is more important to take care of and
then express yourself as an adult than it is to raise
the call of cultural conservatives to strengthen families—to make public policy
even more family friendly (and this especially means ending the “marriage
penalty”), with additional tax credits for children and perhaps elderly
dependent adults, to restore the “family wage,” to restrict pornography, bring
religion back into schools and public life.
Conservatives are certainly correct when they maintain that strong
families provide a safety net for weaker adults with less government
intervention, so the family becomes the basic granularity of personal freedom.
then, are put in the position of looking like effete singletons with no one to
be responsible for but themselves. But some gays do raise children and do form
lifelong commitments. No wonder, then, that gays would seek the benefits of
marriage (even if some of these benefits may be “overrated”) under the law. They would litigate in
Some people in the conventional straight world would recoil in horror. They would ignore that gays were claiming that they were capable of “equal responsibility” for others. Perhaps they would gawk at disbelief that younger gay men, in particular, with their obsession with their own physical attractiveness (something very vulnerable on the battlefield or in other “manly” pursuits) would pretend they were capable of lifelong monogamous “marriages,” and would propose raising children without female spouses in the home. But their main problem was a refusal to extend their own rational thoughts as far as I would, but rather to accept the limits imposed by religious faith and “general welfare”—and the particular belief in a sacred social institution—marriage—with all of its myths (including wedding night consummation) that pull men of rather average abilities together when they are unable to fend for themselves.
Gays have tended to accept a certain ceiling in their dealings with government and to turn, instead, to government to practical protection from runaway private interests—protection from private as well as government employment and housing discrimination, as well as hate crimes laws.
one immediate reaction to proposals like ENDA is to say that far too many other
changes are going on in the workplace these days for ENDA to make a lot of
practical difference. Instead, to improve the lot of gays and non-gays alike,
one should study the rapid changes in the workplace and try to make sense of
them. What one finds is a lot of
seemingly incongruent threads, but ultimately success in the workplace and career
depends on individual responsibility and initiative, not government protection.
While liberals have worked mainly on discrimination and benefits issues, Wall Street has pressured industry to treat employees as an expense that must be justified, and as a result employees have to keep moving around—especially so around the time of the Bush presidency (the first one) when so many middle class managers were cast down by corporate downsizings and mergers—to today where the booming economy mainly helps those with the hottest technical skills.
There has always been pressure on workers in any economic change, going back to the industrial revolution and before. Whatever the progress of anti-discrimination laws, many people find themselves pressured to make career changes, freelance, do without benefits, work unpaid overtime, retool at their own expense. The entrepreneur may be an individual carrying out a dream or just someone forced to “buy” his own job.
So all of this can be very hard on some families, and some heads of
households. Social conservatives
sometimes complain that singles and gays actually come out ahead in such a
turbulent market, since they can often work “cheaper.” And singles will complain that they are paid
less for the same work, and often expected to pick up the slack (often without
overtime pay) when their colleagues with families have to take more time off
(especially in companies that offer more “family friendly” benefits). 
Complicating all of this are nuances in labor laws regarding overtime,
comp time, on-call duties—as well as traditions of “professionalism” in fields
ranging from medicine to information systems-- some of which often force exempt
or salaried people to work considerable overtime with no compensation at all,
or order to be fair to hourly workers and contractors.
One natural reaction to the unstable job markets is entrepreneurial: if you have a vision for what you really want to do, go for it. Prepare a second future for yourself even while you are still working in a relatively “normal” job. Ideas for new businesses range from the silly or trivial to the profound, especially the possibility of revolutionary software packages [or web hosting services] or other intellectual property that surprises the world (and often can only be developed by individuals working on their own). This sounded like great advice some years ago, but today this sometimes brings up the possibility of conflict of interest or at least unprofessionalism.
Another factor is professional “agility.” The downsizing mania of the early 90’s encouraged a lot of outsourcing and short-term problem solving. Then the Internet developed: the new job opportunities, especially for younger people, that tended to replace those being lost in the mainframe through data center and application consolidations, and an approach to corporate consolidation that emphasized unity at the presentation layer and interface with the external customer on a 24 x 7 basis. The result is that the pace in today’s workplace is very fast, and the ability to solve unfamiliar problems in the short term is more critical, and the methodology is not always as thorough as in the past. All of this bears on the welfare of older workers, who some feel are too inflexible to learn the new stuff. Yet the outsourcing mania is catching up with companies, who now sometimes find that senior workers bring a valuable balance and deeper judgment to the workplace.
one more factor is that in the United States, compared perhaps to western
Europe and even Canada, there is a large lower working class which, especially
when not represented by unions, tends make several times less salary than
today’s professionals and which is sometimes constrained by involuntary
overtime and by non-compete and no-moonlighting rules (as in personal service
work) . This is a legitimate “complaint” by the political left. Corporate
All of this, in my mind at least, dwarfs the conventional concerns about employment discrimination, for anything (age, gender, health status, as well as sexual orientation). For racial and gender discrimination, we are already dealing with the controversy over affirmative action (or, perhaps, affirmative access), and are divided on whether there should be reparative preferences for race and gender to counterbalance the drag-weight of past discrimination. The simplest view would be to apply this kind of “suspect class” thinking for gays (batted around in Romer) when really the issue should be, when does a person’s private life affect his ability to do his job. Blatant anti-gay discrimination (even blackballing) in most professional areas began to wane right after Stonewall. But even today there are some infamous cases. The most egregious of all may be DeMuth v. Miller (1990), in which a small accounting firm went after an employee that it had fired for violating a non-compete clause. There was also Cracker Barrel restaurants—I’ve eaten in one just once to “spy” and found the juvenile family environment uncomfortable.
has sometimes become notorious for actively opposing ENDA, on the grounds that
it violates legitimate property rights and indirectly threatens freedom for
everyone including gays (such as to have queer-safe spaces). To some extent, this view treats persons and
institutions as equivalent in matters like property, contract and
accountability. My take is that ENDA (as
would be hate crimes laws) is more like non-prescription “patent medicine”
symptomatic relief, that hides and delays solving the real problem, which is
discrimination by government itself.
I do feel quite troubled by my own “moral” situation, which is that of someone who has not learned to take care of anyone but myself. To some extent my circumstances, if a but exaggerated, represent the “progress” gays have made since the days of my horrible William and Mary expulsion. That is, gays will be left alone to lead their private lives, gays will be tolerated and in some areas (like the arts) be absolutely venerated, but they still must not have full equality in performing essential civilizing functions, such as in marrying (same-sex partners), raising families, and participation in the defense of the country. This leaves gays open to being charged as excessively “selfish” or “superficial.”
earlier generations, those who were not “the marrying kind,” especially
spinsters, tended to stay home and take care of their aging parents. Given the growing eldercare crisis (with
respect to available custodial care as well as Medicare and Social Security
issues) the pressure on gays to do more of this could come back.
would be entirely logical to propose that we need a cultural initiative
(preferably one permitted but not mandated by law) in which every adult,
whether traditionally married with children or not, is expected to demonstrate
that he/she can take care of
someone else besides the self. Volunteerism could fit into this,
and at various points along one’s life, not just for young adults. It could
become an expectation for “better” corporate jobs. It would fit into the
expanded paradigm of personal accountability mentioned earlier (and sometimes
oddly quoted by George W. Bush in his campaign). But if we were to do this,
then we should recognize committed same-sex relationships. And we should in a
reasonable fashion allow gays to serve in the military and in similar
occupations. And we should then “expect” it.
For what we have now, is a system in which an individual adult is effectively penalized for not having an intimate sexual relationship with a member of the opposite sex. The government is effectively expecting those who do not perform opposite-gendered sexual intercourse to subsidize those who do, Some conservative forces want to go further down this pike. And that’s unacceptable. Many people with antigay attitudes or indifference may not be very intellectually in touch with their own perceptions. Some, perhaps, would insist that “gays” (men, especially) have willfully entered “chosen” narcissistic behaviors and values that, besides maybe threatening public health, confound the means by which children are raised and by which the elderly are care for, and therefore should be excluded, even by the legal system, from real responsibility even though no longer hunted down and persecuted. Yet, this “reasoning,” if confronted, shows the “weakness” of the heterosexual male’s position too, if viewed in an individualistic manner.
Even so, the solution that I suggest here has potentially unpleasant consequences. It would be up to the individual to develop those interpersonal commitments that will provide him a support network as he grows older or if he gets sick (whether because of “behavior” or not). There would be some moral cultural pressure to do this, but it might be more difficult for some people in a world that, in the middle class, values the trappings of success and attractiveness more than it used to. The end result still can be that some people get left out in the cold. And this helps drive the ideological debates over issues like Social Security.
All of this tends to get obscured by conventional politics, where the rhetoric tends to be “what’s in it for me and my family?” Historical social injustices based on race, religion, ethnicity and gender, and indeed sexual orientation, have always existed, and these have begun to shrink on their own in a technological, individualistic society where diversity actually makes good economic sense. The availability of information on the plight of minorities has indeed contributed to a cultural change where, in the workplace for example, it is no longer acceptable to make fun of “different” people as it was when I was growing up. Even so, there is enormous political pressure to solve remaining indirect discrimination problems by dealing with people in groups and voting blocks. These “group oriented” solutions, however compelling the problems (and I’m listening to an Al Gore speech as I write this!) tend to obscure the moral and ethical dilemmas when viewed from the individual’s point of view, particularly the way the individual sets and executes his own private choices and personal priorities.
ÓCopyright 2000 by
 Steffan, Joseph, op. cit. (as in notes to Chapter 4).
 Stephen Carter, “The Insufficiency of Honesty,” Atlantic Monthly, Feb. 1966, pp 74-76.
 Cisewski, Gene. “License Expired,” The Quill, Sept. 1995 and the paper Gays, Lesbians and the State (1996),
 Hewlett, Ann and West, Cornel:
The War on Parents: What We Can Do for
 Burkett, Elinor.
The Baby Boon: How Family-Friendly Cheats the Childless.