28 July 2011

Is Hate Crime Legislation What We Really Need?


Ang Ladlad is again pushing Congress to enact hate crime legislation. Certified urgent panawagan sa Kongreso sa imbestigasyon ng LGBT hate crimes

I recall many years ago, after I left the province, testifying against hate crime legislation with a group of Marxists. I recall a right-wing senator, who also opposed the legislation, asking me many questions and being flummoxed by the reasoning since we obviously didn't come from the same point of view.

In essence, I opposed hate crime legislation because I felt that it would disproportionately impact the poor. When a poor person attacks a rich person, should the sentence be enhanced because the rich person was targeted because of his or her wealth? Would a judge ever enhance a sentence of a rich person who targeted a poor person because they were poor (assuming that a rich person actually was adjudicated guilty of committing a crime against a poor victim)?

Do hate crimes really just become another way for the government to manage the poor by adding other opportunities to extend sentences of imprisonment. I think that, all things being equal, hate crime legislation has disproportionately impacted the poor because the poor are disproportionately put in jail. (In the US, this translates in young Black men going to jail longer for attacking a white person than otherwise.)

I doubt that hate crime legislation is really the appropriate vehicle to address LGBT-related violence. It is clear in many of the cases of homicide and assault that gay men were targeted for occurred because they were gay. However, in a number of other cases, it appears they were targeted for money or for likely triggering some extreme internalized homophobia on the part of the assailant. In these circumstances, the victim's existence as gay is irrelevant because the motive was something other than attacking the victim because they were gay.

Even if motive-based, sentence enhancement "hate crime" legislation were ready to be adopted, I think there is a several decade evolution of police professionalization and community oversight that has occurred in most developed countries that is totally absent in here in the Philippines. We do not have police commissions or regular legislative inquiries into allegations of police misconduct, unless the police misconduct is part of some bigger conspiracy like rigging elections or corruption. I am not aware of systematic contesting of police overstepping through litigation.

The movement to demand that the laws be enforced equally against assailants of LGBT victims as they are of straight victims or of lower-class victims as they are of upper-class victims must precede the push for hate crime legislation. Each barangay or municipality should have a PNP oversight board composed of a few people (3 or 5) that are not and cannot hold elective office or any position of public profit (i.e. government workers, teachers, etc.,) that have rotating, non-renewable terms of 4-5 years and are appointed by the mayor in office with the agreement of the council or a majority of barangay captains. They should have the power to oversee investigations into police misconduct, malfeasance, misfeasance and/or nonfeasance and have power to remedy misconduct or nonfeasance, etc.,. In the US, many of these bodies actually appoint the OIC of the police for specific geographical areas!

Hate crime legislation enacted without this intermediate step is likely to be used by wealthy people who already have contacts with the PNP to do something and will not help aid better, more equitable enforcement of current laws. Murder was and continues to be illegal in the Philippines and the lack of hate crime legislation is not the primary reason why the assailants of LGBT victims have not been put in jail. It is a failure of the PNP to administer criminal justice in a fair and equitable way and, in this way, deprives the entire country of the rule of law.

These are the kinds of arguments that support LGBT people that can easily link to other groups who also suffer from the homophobic and misogynistic inclinations of the PNP collective spirit. The PNP is composed mostly of lower middle class and working class as the non-commissioned officers. Yet, the PNP is not the most receptive to crimes against the poor. Most of it can easily be corrected if there is some non-political, non-PNP oversight by the public. Why is it when a wealthy mayor is murdered a task force is formed and a dozen police are assigned to investigate, but when a gay man (who is not a mayor) is murdered there isn't enough personnel to conduct the most rudimentary investigation?

This requires reform of the administration of criminal justice in the Philippines. Real reform. When the laws are enforced as written, then we can see if motive-based sentence enhancements are appropriate or even necessary. What good is another law if it will not be enforced?

27 July 2011

Movie Review: Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema

This is certainly not the Celluloid Closet! My reaction was mostly to see how much of my adolescence and adult perspective were influenced by the developments of America's Queer Cinema! Who knew? I think it does an excellent job of telling the story -- although I would have added more Gregg Araki, like an interview or something. I would add it to the gay studies list of documentaries. And without giving anything more, let's be thankful the cost of producing movies has come down so much.

24 July 2011

22 July 2011

Book Review: Recruiting Young Love

Mark Jordan is the Richard Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Divinity at the Harvard Divinity School. He wrote this book as a sequel to his 1997 award winning book The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology.

I was attracted to this book because of my abiding interest in the interaction with social LGBT type movements and religion. It happens that most of the work being produced these days focuses on American Christian sects. If you consider some of the other books I have reviewed here, you will come to see my belief that American Christian sects had a tremendous shaping of LGBT identities in the US and globally: God Hates Fags, How the Religious Right Shaped Lesbian and Gay Activism, Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe and Straight to Jesus. But, of course, the books I have reviewed here have not been limited to Christianity: With Respect to Sex, and The Hindus, An Alternative History.

This book, in some ways, reverses the proposition of How the Religious Right Shaped Lesbian and Gay Activism. It could have been titled How Lesbian and Gay Existence Shaped Religion.

Jordan is a Foucauldean and a theologian which, after much thought, is actually quite consistent. He does a genealogy of the present religious understandings of sexuality. He shows how both the liberal and conservative church reactions to the changes of scientific understanding of sexuality and sex were not theological (or only very superficially theological). Rather, the churches completely give up theological positions and enter into the rhetorical field of modern psychiatry, psychology, sexology and biology and just paste over some out-of-context biblical citations to rationalize the position.

Now, I'm not a theologian so it took me a few chapters to understand this. You see, theology is not reading a biology textbook and then making judgments about what you read and then finding Biblical passages to support your judgments. That is what political activists do. Theology is supposed to be a science itself so you can see by giving up the entire field to modern medicine, sexology or psychology and then backing in with Biblical passages eliminates the relevance or focus of theology (which is the study of God).

The other point that Jordan touches on, but unfortunately, does not do well or completely with a Foucauldean method is how American gays create myths and rituals to contain the affect of their life (He focuses on the consequences of AIDS to vibrant gay communities). Of course, I'm a Jungian so I would think that. I do think that Christian symbolism and ritual heavily shaped American gay identity. However, I don't think LGBT is the post-Christian. Human beings gravitate as a group by symbols. Christians borrowed and gays borrow, but nobody considers Christians to be post-Krishnas or post-Buddhists because themes were mixed and borrowed until significantly limited by the Nicene Council.

I found the Foucauldean method to be a little burdensome but the book kept my interest through out. I have even put his first book on order.

The version I read was a 296 page hardcover published by University of Chicago Press (April 15, 2011), ISBN-13: 978-0226410449. It is written in English. The lowest price I found online was used at abebooks.com and amazon.com.

07 July 2011

Book Review: Unplugging the Constitution

Florin T. Hilbay is an assistant professor of law at the University of the Philippines, College of Law.

I have to tell you that I debated whether to do a book review of this book at all (or not). As you may wonder, why this kind of a book would be on my blog since I have only once before reviewed a book by a Filipino author and only once before reviewed a book with a minor, tangential LGBT theme.

I totally disliked Hilbay's language. It was unnecessarily complicated. His choice of words did not add clarity or precision to the ideas he was trying to convey. Rather, it just showed that he has a wide command of obscure English words (or can intelligently use a Thesaurus) to produce obtuse phrases that shroud his texts in near meaninglessness.

That being said, it was a non-LGBT chapter I found the most interesting. I agree with many of the points he makes throughout the book. I don't agree with some of the reasoning. I don't know if I would call him a post-structuralist, in the Foucauldean or Deleuzean sense, but he has the social science structuralist reasoning down. I also believe the over emphasis on the language of things itself is overly deterministic and improperly allocates too much of the truth and the good life to the neocortex.

His essay on eliminating the publication of rank of bar exam finishers and reducing the breadth of the bar exam, I agree with. In the first instance, I don't believe the results of any professional licensing exam should be publicized other than to list those that passed. No other information should be given out. It has no logical connection to the purpose of the examination, assessing entry level competence. It says nothing about future competency levels, or competency level in a particular area of practice (even for professions like nursing). Ranking of an entry-level competency exam is absurd and runs counter to the purpose of professionalization through entry-level competency exams.

With respect to the legal profession and bar examination content, I also agree. The purpose of the bar examination should be to determine whether the potential lawyer has adequate legal reasoning and has a fundamental knowledge of the major aspects of law. A four day, all day bar examination with hundreds of subjects doesn't do that at all. It only tests for competency as a medieval Spanish scribe. It has the corrosive effect of having law schools teach to the exam as opposed to developing critical, legal reasoning skills and competency in areas of interest (commercial law, public law, tax law, etc.,.) The first five years of a legal practice should not be learning to be a lawyer in a particular subject area of the law. It should be developing experience!

Now this is the controversial part of my review and if you think I've become a counterrevolutionary with what I'm about to say, so be it. Get your bundle of sticks, fire and stake ready for me. I thought I'd have tremendous affinity for his essay "Undoing Marriage". First, his convoluted, unnecessarily complicated language makes it difficult to get to the bottom of things. Second, he repeatedly states that there are no reasons why the state should or would prefer life-time heterosexual partnering.

Look, I spent most of my adolescent and adult life opposed to the institution of marriage for legal and political reasons (although I have off and on supported same-sex marriage causes around the world when the practical debate has been either for or against it). Nevertheless, I can write down a long list of reasons why the state might prefer life-time heterosexual partnering over a libertarian free for all. The most relevant part (in my mind) is consistency and tradition. That's right, I said it. Not every human being can be a bar topnotcher post-structuralist law professor who idealizes two-women/one-man threesome relationships like Hilbay does.

Most people do not have the capacity or interest in exploring creative ways of human intimacy. And that's okay! At present, all the law needs to do is recognize the fact that the range of human intimate relations is much more expansive than life-time heterosexual marriages. Let's look at American jurisprudence for a moment to show how a small change in the law can have major impacts in the span of two generations. In the 1960s, the U.S. Supreme Court held that marriage couples have the right to medical information and medicine about family planning and contraception from their doctors.

That little case opened the flood-gate to recalibrating the landscape of socially permitted sexual and intimate expression: the right to contraception, the right to possess pornography, the right to have an abortion, the right to privacy, the right to be free from discrimination against homosexuality, the right to same-sex marriage, right to be free from discrimination based on illegitimacy, etc.,. That original case about the right of a married couple to medical information and contraception from their doctor can be found at the beginning of precedent all over the world where children's women's and gay rights are concerned.

You see, the law, in many cases doesn't need to have such sweeping changes in order to affect major changes in social policy. Allowing divorce, de-genderizing the Family Code and modernizing estate law may be enough to effect the change that Hilbay appears to be seeking. Of those three goals, allowing divorce and modernizing estate law are really the only two that need legislative approval. The other problems that are associated with our current system of marriage, if they cannot be legislatively cured, are all matters that can and should be adjudicated in the constitutional realm. All of the provisions intertwining the church with the state in marriage are unconstitutional. Case law developing the reasoning behind that may other areas of church state separation problems. Discrimination based upon legitimacy is a clear violation of the Due Process clause and developing case law on the reasoning for finding such a violation will help to support other areas of freedom of intimacy. But its not necessarily logical or complete but the process remains open and moving towards a new way of living life. That is the promise of jurisprudence as opposed to statutory utopian visions.

I believe that it is the process of developing jurisprudence that is in line with the more primitive parts of the brain (like the mammalian limbic system) that demands incremental changes in this manner over wholesale systematic changes. Sometimes the incremental changes in the soul are unnoticed but when the moment comes, the conservative inertia is swept aside for a new beginning and then, the long peace. This method also allow minimizes the fascist potential. Look at something like the RH bill (which is really incremental itself, but you see how revolutionary something so simple can be?). Apparently not incremental enough for the reactionary right and their followers. It is true that we constantly and unconscious depoliticize much of how we structure our life.

Critical awareness is needed to counter that and to develop ways to live a more meaningful life. But a meaningful life does not come from the Family Code and therefore its abolition or reformation will not increase the chances of a meaningful life.

The version I read was a 316 page paperback published by the University of the Philippines (January 30, 2010), ISBN-13: 978-9715426206. It is written in English. I bought it at the Diliman campus and well, at P380, it looks a lot cheaper than online.

03 July 2011

Book Review: Manhood

Mels van Driel is a urologist and sexologist attached to the University Medical Centre in Groningen. He wrote Manhood: The Rise and Fall of the Penis.

I can't fully remember how this ended up in my collection or why I decided to read it. I was under the impression I was going to be getting a concise "history of ideas" about the penis. But actually, this book is a whole lot more. This is book is much more than a history of ideas type philosophical rumination on the epistemology of the penis. Instead, it part that, part ethnographic self-reflection, and part medical manual on the male sexual system.

The book is filled with all sorts of strange and curious facts about urological disorders but also delves into medical history and the socio-political history that informed medical inquiry.

I think the translation could have been a little bit better and the title is funny as a double entendre except that the connotative meaning doesn't line up (no pun intended) with the point of the book as the author himself rightly describes in chapter one: the testicles were the focus of male sex fixations until the 19th century for pretty much everyone.

In one way, I think I was expected the next installment of a book like Susan Bordo's Male Body, but it is nothing of the sort. It's partly an extended men's health magazine article on every conceivable urological problem (did you know the penis can break?) and partly a essay on the history of medical knowledge (in urology).

It's practical orientation makes it an easy read and again, let me stress, I think every man should read the book.

The version I read was a 288 page paperback published by Reaktion Books (January 30, 2010), ISBN-13: 978-1861895424. It is written in English. The lowest price I found online was used at abebooks.com.

01 July 2011

Movie Review: Hard

For one reason or another, this movie remained off the radar for 12 years. I don't know how it happened. I had thought how interesting it would be to have a gay cop-thriller type movie. And, voila, a gay cop-thriller type movie appears. Of course, its dated a little bit and sometimes I myself forget what was normative just 10 years ago. Like I almost wonder, how do we do a gay cop-thriller type movie that doesn't have the cliched millennial-pride tropes of just a decade ago. I think of the various Law and Order episodes and well, frankly, the heterosexual womanizing detective is usually a cameo appearance in a single episode.

This is the plot summary: Paired with veteran lawman Tom -- one of many macho guys on the police force -- rookie detective Raymond is excited about his new promotion ... but he's terrified that someone will discover he's in the closet. While staking out his favorite gay bar one night for a serial killer of gay hustlers, Vates meets an attractive man and spends the night with him -- only to wake up and be told by his bedmate that he is, in fact, the brutal serial killer.

Detective, let me introduce you to your prime suspect...

Now, when I think of early gay-themed suspense films, I think of Hitchcock's Rope. But what if Saboteur or Shadow of a Doubt were gay-themed -- Shadow of a Doubt would have all the incestuous, highly erotic tension of Lihim ni Antonio without the Uncle Jonbert/Tong action. Strangers on a Train would be easy to change to a gay-theme with a married gay guy trying to off his wife -- after all Farley Granger was gay in real life. Even Vertigo could be rewritten to be gay-themed.

In any event, looking back at the movie at hand through the lens before television's Law and Order became a franchise, the director did a fantastic job. I won't ruin the ending, but this goes on the date night list.