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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

OSU 'I am gay' writing class essay printed as paid advertisement in student newspaper

Cory Zimmerman 'I am gay' essay paid insert to Barometer Nov. 20, 2015

PHOTO: An "I am gay" essay by Oregon State University student Cory Zimmerman (listed as Interior Design major in the accessed Nov. 21, 2015). The essay was written for an OSU WR121 writing class student project and inserted as a "paid advertisement" in the student newspaper, The Daily Barometer Nov. 20, 2015.

I found Cory Zimmerman's "I am gay" essay to be an excellent example of how common issues of sexual orientation and identity have evolved at OSU since World War II. First, if Cory reads my comments below, I hope he will not take them as criticisms and instead take them as questions for self-reflection and learning. Furthermore, he should take my interest as being praise because I have to choose carefully the smaller number of things I can read and comment on today given my low vision blindness. Google was unable to find me a link to Cory's essay, and so I've included below my personal scanned OCR text version that is suitable for reading with an ADA accessible Web browser like the one I use (note: please accept my apologies for any OCR transcription errors I couldn't see):

"[Headline: I am gay]: These three words are pivotal in a homosexual man's life. They characterize him and shape his life. Whether or not he chooses to define himself by those three words are his choice. Most, however, do not.

"Many gay men prefer to keep their sexuality a very small flavor in their life's main dish. Yes, they're gay. Yes, it's who they are, but it isn't the only thing that defines us. We're singers. We're engineers. We study biology, business, and medicine. We play video games, and Netflix, binge. We play sports. We jam out to music. We like to take photos. We're adventurers and hikers.

"There are many elements of my life that people sometimes thoughtlessly ignore. Recently, I was being introduced to someone by my friend. She began the introduction with my name, how she knew me, and immediately divulged my sexuality. This apparently, was to her, the only quality worth mentioning. This new acquaintance will most likely associate me solely as being gay from here on out. And although there is a possibility that I can salvage this relationship and substitute a hobby or passion as my defining feature, it is doubtful, and I will likely receive various phallic shaped objects for my birthday as gag gifts rather than actual gifts that I may enjoy. Instead of a new book or maybe a gift card, it's more likely I'll receive a shot glass shaped like the male organ. That's all that matters. I am gay so there is no need to remember anything else about me. Yeah, okay.

"I am not saying there is anything wrong with this lifestyle. I know many gay men who would prefer their sexuality be a very visible part of their identity, to the point of adorning, themselves with rainbow-trimmed tee shirts and flower crowns. They make it known that they want products sahped like a penis for their birthdays. A friend of mine back home wears pink shirts with the words "gay" and "queen" and the like on it. He often makes various gay jokes, typically at his own expense. However, he also loves biology. No, I'm not talking about anatomy -- he loves plants. When he came to visit me at OSU, I introduced him to my friends as my friend from back home who wanted to major in botany. He immediately interjected and said that he was one of my gay best friends. In that introduction, though I chose to leave the gay part out, he made a conscious decision that he wants his homosexuality to be included as a prominent part of his identity and on par with his passions.

"When it comes to sexuality, different people assign it different degrees of significance. This goes for anyone from the LGBT community. Some people don't care for it being viewed as any more than a minor trait, while others let it define them. Some prefer it to be somewhere in the middle. Any way is acceptable. What is not acceptable, however, is to presume for anyone -- straight or gay -- the degree to which their identity is determined by their sexuality."

(Quoted from Cory Zimmerman , "I am gay," "The Exchange," paid advertisement insert to OSU student newspaper, Barometer, Nov. 21, 2015, p 3 of ad between pages 4-5 of printed newspaper and not in online edition)

Google failed to find a link to the above essay, but amazingly Google found a relevant link to "The English Letter," College of Liberal Arts Spring 2015, p. 15-16 (PDF 2.4 MB) that explains how "The Exchange" will be written "by students of WR121 and appear in a special insert (of the OSU Barometer student newspaper) with a print run of 7,000 and distribution across Corvallis."

In addition, Google also relevantly linked me to an OSU gay frat boy page that I assume was written by the same student: "Delta Lambda Phi is a traditional Greek social organization founded by and for a decidedly nontraditional group: gay, bisexual, and progressive men." contact " Cory Zimmerman 2251 SW Jefferson Ave. Student Experience Center Suite 306 Corvallis, OR 97331 ( page accessed Nov. 21, 2015)

As I said above, I found Cory Zimmerman's "I am gay" essay to be an excellent example of how common issues of sexual orientation and identity have evolved at OSU since World War II. First, if Cory reads my comments below, I hope he will not take them as criticisms and instead take them as questions for self-reflection and learning.

Cory's essay is a good example of how young gay men today have no issue with coming out in their school newspaper, but they feel a need to have some control over "the degree to which their identity is determined by their sexuality."

Cory admirably acknowledges and accepts the choice of other gay men to advertise they are gay on their t-shirt, and I likewise accept his choice to decide when, where and how much he wants to identify as being gay. However, based on my experience with these issues over the last 50 years, I think he should do some deeper self-reflection by asking himself why does being introduced as being gay bothered him enough to write and publish an essay?

For example, would he have the same reaction if somebody introduced him as being a student in the interior design department? I doubt he would have a problem today, but prior to the 1969 Stonewall riot, he might have been offended by this because introducing somebody as an interior design major or a fine arts major, like I was when I was as a freshman, would have been interpreted by most people as saying you are gay, which in those days also labeled you as being either a criminal or a mentally ill person. As a result, gay men back then were careful to only use such introductions if they wanted to drop "hair pins" to suggest to somebody they were gay.

Cory should also ask himself, is internalized homophobia behind his desire for "some control" over how he is introduced? Why is Cory not comfortable with deflecting the conversation to the things he wants people to know about him -- he says his fear is that the "new acquaintance will most likely associate me solely as being gay from here on out."

Note that I am not asking the question of "internalized homophobia" to offend or browbeat anybody, as it was historically used by Stonewall era gay liberationists who accused the more conservative homophile activists of being "internally homophobic" because they wanted to avoid a backlash from mainstream society by working quietly within the system to achieve equal rights for gay people. (Note: a famous homophile activist W. Dorr Legg was an OSU Professor during World War II before he later founded the Log Cabin Republicans)

Instead, I am asking the question about internalized homophobia, based on my experience with totally out gay men still being timid about disclosing their gay identity in certain situations. While I think it is both polite and appropriate not to make gay jokes in front of your evangelical Christian aunt because it will shock her, I also believe this type of restraint should provoke one into thinking about how you should discuss it with her in the future -- e.g. do you wait until you invite her to your same-sex wedding ceremony?

The problems of identity are universal and age-old. My first experience was with the cultural identity of children I grew up, who all looked the same to me as blond haired and blue-eyed Scandinavians, but I quickly learned that it would offend them if you called a Norwegian a Swede or said they were from Finland instead of Sweden or Norway. I learned that the reason was that all of these cultures had over millennium built up different cultural stereotypes that nobody wanted to be associated with. It took me awhile to be able to see it, but there are certain genetic physical differences that most native Scandinavians can use to detect the other person's country of origin. They really are born that way!

My experience has made me realize that it is easy to lose sight of how the customs of your own culture can subtly affect your behavior and how you interact with other people. It also made me realize that yes, there were some situations where I had "internal homophobia" and was in fear of how others might react to my queerness. For example, when I started college as a Fine Arts major, I wanted to do computer animation, but realized I would have to take engineering classes to learn how to design the computer needed for doing it, but the Fine Arts Dean refused to sign my course plan. Instead, I had to go to the engineering dean, who signed off on my cross-disciplinary coursework because the University President wanted to see more engineering students taking liberal arts classes. (Back then there were almost no female engineering students.) I quickly learned not to go to an art class and say I was taking engineering because I would be discriminated against. Likewise, engineering students had a stereotyped view of liberal arts students being non-productive and unemployable in a good job.

I found the issues and concerns raised by Cory's essay to be historically interesting because they represent a young man's view of similar problems shared by gay men decades ago. For decades, gay men have argued if it was right to "flaunt being gay," or better to "stay in the closet except during sex." Cory represents the modern and more tolerant view of accepting where a person chooses to be, including somewhere in-between on the spectrum of always introducing yourself as being gay to only coming out when it is relevant.

In my experience, I would advise Cory to lighten up and not worry so much about how he is being introduced. If somebody locks it in and forever associates him as being the gay guy, then so what? If it is a real problem, then address the problem instead of wishing that everyone will be polite and allow you to decide how and when to identify yourself.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Why do I own two cars despite being too blind to drive anymore?

Raiju 2016 Subaru Crosstrek and 2011 Toyota Landcruiser in front garage workbench

PHOTO: A 2016 Subaru Crosstrek all-wheel drive automobile is shown, in the foreground, beside a 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser 4-wheel drive motor vehicle, and are shown parked in the garage of my private residence. I've named the Subaru Crosstrek Raiju (Japanese for thunder beast), which is a legendary creature from Japanese mythology, and I named the Toyota FJ Cruiser Kaiju (Japanese for strange beast), which is a race of amphibious creatures genetically engineered. Although I am too blind to drive anymore, I am fortunate to still be wealthy enough to own both of these cars, which I let other people use when they drive me to the store, doctor or dentist appointments. If I need to save money in the future, I can use the Dial-A-Bus service or the city bus, but the nearest bus stop is nearly a mile away and I have become too paralyzed to walk that far. I bought the new Subaru for its fuel efficiency and reliability, after considering buying a less fuel-efficient van with a wheelchair lift, but my optimism gives me hope it won't be necessary before I die. (see Subaru Crosstrek 1015 last year's model (PDF) accessed Nov. 23, 2015)

In my experience, buying a new automobile is always more work than it needs to be. Similar to most states in America, local car dealers in Oregon have successfully lobbied both Federal and State legislators to pass laws to protect their businesses from buying a car from Amazon. While I agree it is nice to have local car dealers and service, and I am willing to pay for it, I still believe the buying process should be easier than the many times I've bought new cars in states wide apart as Virginia, Minnesota, Colorado, Washington, California and Oregon. Hopefully, I will be able to blog some more on my experiences and suggestions for how it could be improved. (See New 2015 & 2016 Subaru Inventory in Corvallis, OR accessed Oct. 12, 2015)

See previous posts and related links:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Corvallis History by Roy Bennett

W. Dorr Legg in 1938 from Before Stonewall, Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context, Edited by Vern L. Bullough, 2002 PHOTO: W. Dorr Legg in 1938. W. Dorr Legg (1904-1994) was an assistant professor of Landscape Architecture at Oregon State University from 1935 to 1942. (See my previous posts W. Dorr Legg OSU archives records 1935-1942 (7/31/10), FBI files on gay OSU professor 1956 (7/7/10)and Gay Oregon Professor 1935 (12/16/06))

I noticed that a mention of the gay OSU Professor W. Dorr Legg was mentioned in the new book by Roy Bennett, et al. "The Story of Corvallis: A Streaming Narrative," Corvallis Community Pages, LLC, Jun. 2013, printed April 24, 2015 and purchased at the Book Bin, Corvallis, Oregon (PDF 14 MB). (Also see Roy Bennett, et al. "The Story of Corvallis: A Streaming Narrative," Corvallis Community Pages, LLC, Jun. 2013 (mobile version))

The book is very rough and incomplete in spots and unfortunately the author recently died. (See "Founder Departs This World," corvallis TODAY accessed Jun. 25, 2015 and "Obituary: Roy Bennett (May 5, 1949 - April 12, 2015)," posted Apr. 22, 2015)

Roy was the quintessential example of the type of eccentric iconoclasts you can find hanging around a small college town -- it is what makes living in a small college town so enjoyable!

The book's PDF file is not easily read by those of us with low-vision blindness without doing some extra steps, therefore it may be a while before I can blog more on what Roy has said. The parts that I have been able to read are packed with interesting facts, although his sourcing if hard to verify on many of them.

Social Security spouse benefits unclear after Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage

 Michael McConnell, 73, and Jack Baker, 73, at their home in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 1, 2015

PHOTO: Gay marriage pioneers Michael McConnell, 73, and Jack Baker, 73, at their home in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 1, 2015. (Courtesy Angela Jimenez) (See previous post Baker on gay marriage in 1972 vs. 2015 reaction to Supreme Court ruling (7/17/15))

The recent Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriages, under state marriage laws, has left opened the question of how, in the future, Federal benefits should be paid equally to same-sex married couples.

In addition to the simplest case, of a same-sex couple who is married when neither partner is transgender, there are many other corner cases, such as a transgender FTM (female-to-male) person born with a female birth certificate, but who is currently identified as being male and who was legally married before any gender transition to a person who was born male and still identifies as being male. Legally, do you treat this marriage based on the sexes assigned at birth, or do you treat it legally based on the current gender of the two people?

My curiosity about the above questions, combined with my own retirement planning efforts, has led me to look up what are the spouse benefits for Social Security and Medicare -- Medicare eligibility for both a worker and his spouse is always 65 years old, except for people who are determined as being disabled under the law. For a spouse, either working or non-working, to receive Social Security benefits, the rules are more complicated. Two key ages for a non-working spouse are 60 years old for "widow" benefits and age 62 for "spouse benefits."

In addition to Social Security benefits, there are the retirement benefits and so-called minimum distributions, or withdrawals, which must be taken out of the IRA and 401(k) type of plans. The following business magazine article discussed some of the modern problems if combining Social Security benefits with these tax-deferred plans that were first promoted by Republicans during President Reagan's administration as being a future replacement for Social Security, which is a FDR era program that Republicans consider to be socialistic and should be cut.

". . .The lack of plans is fueling a retirement-savings crisis. Few workers save anything outside of employer-sponsored plans. Only 8 percent of taxpayers eligible to set aside money in an IRA or Roth IRA did so in 2010, according to the IRS. . . Low-income Americans have long relied mostly on Social Security. Now middle-class professionals and managers are increasingly doing the same. But the average Social Security benefit -- $15,700 a year ($1308 per month) -- doesn't come close to replacing the earnings of those with mid-five and six-figure salaries. . . Some 58 percent of the 68 million wage-and-salary workers without a company-sponsored retirement plan in 2013 worked for a business with fewer than 100 employees, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. . ." (Quoted from Carol Hymowitz, "No-Retirement-plan Starter Pack: With no program at work, few people save anything at all; There's huge coverage gap that needs to be addressed," Business Week, Oct. 26 - Nov. 1, 2015, p. 33-34 and posted online as "The 401(k) Crisis Is Getting Worse: Half of U.S. workers lack company-sponsored retirement plans; 45% of businesses with fewer than 100 employees offer 401(k)s" Oct. 22, 2015)

A legally married spouse, who has never worked in a paid job, can qualify for Social Security benefits (and Medicare) on the work record of the other spouse who worked enough to qualify for benefits. Traditionally, the sexist assumption by Congress is that the male husband is the worker and breadwinner for his family and his female wife was a stay-at-home mom and housewife who did not work in a paid job subject to Social Security insurance taxes and benefits. Likewise, even if she had worked in a job that paid less than her husband, then she could get the larger Social Security Benefits based on the record of her husband who had made more money and who therefore was qualified to receive a higher benefit.

Listed below are some of my miscellaneous notes and links about Social Security spouse benefits I recently learned about:

  • "Survivors Benefits For Your Widow Or Widower," accessed Oct. 3, 2015 says, "At present, there are about 5 million widows and widowers receiving monthly Social Security benefits based on their deceased spouse's earnings record. And, for many of those survivors, particularly aged women, those benefits are keeping them out of poverty. . . Your widow or widower can receive: reduced benefits as early as age 60 or full benefits at full retirement age or older . . . benefits as early as age 50 if he or she is disabled AND their disability started before or within seven years of your death. . ."
  • "Disability Planner: Benefits For Your Spouse," accessed Oct. 3, 2015 says spouse benefits can be received at, "Age 62 or older, unless he or she collects a higher Social Security benefit based on his or her earnings record. The spouse benefit amount will be permanently reduced by a percentage based on the number of months up to his or her full retirement age."
  • "When can my spouse get Social Security benefits on my record?" accessed Oct. 3, 2015 says, "Your spouse may be able to get benefits if he or she is at least age 62 and you are getting, or are eligible for, retirement or disability benefits. . . "Your spouse may be able to get benefits if he or she is at least age 62 and you are getting, or are eligible for, retirement or disability benefits. . ."
  • "Retirement Planner: Benefits For Your Spouse," accessed Oct. 3, 2015 says, "Even if he or she has never worked under Social Security, your spouse may be able to get benefits if he or she is at least 62 years of age and you are receiving or eligible for retirement or disability benefits. He or she can also qualify for Medicare at age 65."

On a loosely related note: Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Press, "No rise for Social Security," Gazette-Times, Oct. 16, 2015, p. A9says, "The annual cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, by law is based on a government measure of inflation that was released Thursday. . . But as far as benefits are concerned, the lack of a COLA will affect more than 70 million people, over one-fifth of the nation's population. Almost 60 million retirees, disabled workers, spouses and children get Social Security benefits. The average monthly payment is $1,224."

I will leave the Consumer Price Index and the topic of inflation for another post. (See previous post Cost of OSU outpaced inflation letter to the editor (11/5/14))

Monday, November 2, 2015

Michael McConnell Files donated to University of Minnesota Tretter Collection for GLBT Studies

VIDEO: Celebration of a donation from one of the persons named in the first U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, Michael McConnell Files, which were donated to University of Minnesota Tretter Collection for GLBT Studies, Oct. 26, 2015 at the Elmer L. Anderson Library University of Minnesota. (See "Celebrating the McConnell Files. Iles document first U.S. couple to apply for a same-sex marriage license," University of Minnesota, posted October 28, 2015 and see previous post Baker on gay marriage in 1972 vs. 2015 reaction to Supreme Court ruling (7/17/15))

The University of Minnesota Libraries and President Eric Kaler celebrated the donation of the Michael McConnell Files to the University's Tretter Collection for GLBT Studies at the University's Elmer L. Andersen Library on October 26, 2015.

The event featured comments by President Kaler, University Librarian Wendy Lougee, Vice President for Equity and Diversity Katrina Albert, Tretter Curator, Lisa Vecoli, and McConnell and Baker.

About Michael McConnell and Jack Baker:

On May 18, 1970, Michael McConnell and Jack Baker were the first couple in the United States to apply for a same-sex marriage license. It was denied, but their actions were the first step in a fight for equality that was ultimately vindicated as the Supreme Court ruled that gay couples nationwide have a right to marry. Michael and Jack have donated the Michael McConnell Files - the letters, documents, news accounts, and interviews that chronicle their groundbreaking history - to the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies at the University of Minnesota Libraries.

About the Tretter Collection:

The Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies is one of only a few dedicated GLBT archives in the country. With over 3,000 linear feet of material documenting the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender experience, this vital and growing collection is a unique resource for students, faculty, and the public.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

New head of OSU EECS sends letter to alumni promoting interdisciplinary research perfect for Magnus Hirschfeld Fund

Ad for new head of OSU EECS IEEE Spectrum Dec. 2014, p. 67

PHOTO: (click on photo to enlarge) A full page display advertisement used to hire the new head of the Oregon State University School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science that ran in the professional society magazine IEEE Spectrum, Dec. 2014, p. 67. The recent replacement of the EECS department chairman has taken years to finish. (For more on the signal processing research background of the new head, Professor V. John Mathews, See previous post OSU soap opera ends with new head of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (8/6/15)) The ad's position description brags about the OSU college of Engineering being founded in 1889 and having graduated over 30,000 engineers. The ad says 25 percent of the students come from out of state and 8 percent are international students. The EECS has over 50 tenured or tenured track faculty members with 9 million dollars of funded research. The more than 200 Ph.D. students in EECS make up over 10 percent of all Ph.D. students at OSU. The head of the search committee was Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering Professor and University Honors College Dean, Dr. Toni Doolen, who started her career at HP San Diego working on the manufacturing of HP plotters and inkjet printers, before transferring to the HP Corvallis inkjet division and then leaving HP to work at OSU.

Just when I was wondering when I would get one, I finally received a letter in the U.S. Mail dated Oct. 20, 2015 from the new head of the Oregon State University School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) Professor V. John Mathews. (See previous post OSU soap opera ends with new head of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (8/6/15))

The gracious one-page letter from Dr. V. John Mathews introduced himself and highlighted his last thirty years on the faculty of the the University of Utah where his research focused on digital signal processing, which coincidentally was the topic of my Master's Degree research nearly 40 years ago. Dr. Mathews bragged about the growth of OSU over the last few years and noted there are now 3000 undergraduate and graduate students in the EECS programs. He says six new faculty members were hired this fall and he has plans to hire several more this year. He lists OSU's area of research expertise in analog and digital circuits, artificial intelligence, big data and computational biology, cybersecurity, sensors, signal processing, and software engineering. He gave his email address and invited people to come by Corvallis and say hello.

I hope to inform Dr. V. John Mathews of the possibilities of interdisciplinary research concerning humans or animals with a minority sexual orientation or gender identity, which I have set up research funding to do. I hope to blog more on these interdisciplinary research ideas later. (See previous post OSU Foundation Magnus Hirschfeld Fund Agreement (1/4/12))

On a loosely related note, here are links to several things of interest:

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Dear Abby advice on FTM pronoun etiquette printed opposite comic page read by children

Gazette-Times, Oct. 12, 2015, p. B4-B5 Dear Abby advice on FTM pronoun etiquette printed opposite comic page read by children

PHOTO: Astonishingly, my local "family newspaper," as it has been called by both its professional newspaper editors and its readers over the years, directly opposite the comic page, which of course is read by many children, printed a Dear Abby advice column concerning the etiquette of a lesbian and her female-to-male transgender partner correcting somebody about the proper pronoun to use when referring to him. I say "astonishingly" because it was only a few decades ago when this newspaper was inundated with angry letters to the editor, including some threatening to cancel their subscriptions, after the newspaper printed in 1976 an article about two women who wanted to be married. The person asking Dear Abby for advice admitted to accidently using the wrong pronoun for her FTM friend and then she asked Dear Abby, "I told them their correcting me bothered me. All weekend I could tell they were irritated with me, and I felt it was uncalled for." Abby sensibly replied, "How else is a person to learn that a mistake was made if it isn't pointed out?"(See Abigail Van Buren, aka Jeanne Phillips, "Dear Abby: Old habits linger in gender transition," Gazette-Times, Oct. 12, 2015, p. B4-B5)

Given how newspapers are usually laid out in an outline form, it is likely the editor did not see how the "Family Circus" comic strip looked like next to a FTM sex advice column, however, I still find this layout significant because as recently as 15 years ago the editor of this newspaper was still skittish about publishing any mention of homosexual sex acts due to her fear of offending readers, especially those with children who would read the newspaper.

Jan. 9, 1976 feature article by Anne Wood, 'Gay women: Coming out of the closet in Corvallis, 'Now I want to marry this woman,' on p. 7-8 of Corvallis Gazette-Times

PHOTO: A 1976 feature article by Anne Wood, "Gay women: Coming out of the closet in Corvallis, 'Now I want to marry this woman,'" Corvallis Gazette-Times, Jan. 9, 1976, p. 7-8. One of the women profiled in the article came out in a letter to the editor of her student newspaper and she was active in early gay women's groups at Oregon State University. (See previous post Gay 1976 newspaper controversy (5/3/06))