It took a couple hours, but I’ve started crying. Partly, it’s the staggering shift from my childhood in Cincinnati, when and where being gay was treated more or less the same as being a pedophile, to my adulthood in LA, when and where my gayness is at least protected by the state (and the State) and the vast, vast majority of people I deal with on a daily basis either celebrate who I am or don’t give a rat’s ass. Partly, it’s remembering my wedding, when I married Rob, back when it wasn’t even legal in New York, and it will always be one of the greatest days of my life. Partly, it’s because of remembering losing Prop 8 and the debilitating sorrow I felt. Partly, it’s because that sorrow was made powerfully profound knowing that my neighbors and some of my family members and millions of strangers had contributed to it. Partly, it’s that my marriage and my subsequent partnership didn’t survive to this day, that having the right to love doesn’t give you the ability to make it last. Partly, it’s knowing how this ruling will change the lives, in concrete ways, of friends I have in Michigan and Ohio and Texas (and everywhere else), and these changes, the assurances and protections, are so needed and so great. Partly, it’s that I haven’t had any coffee yet, since I haven’t been able to tear my eyes from the computer screen. Partly, it’s knowing that I am going to the wedding of my dear friend Curtis in a few months, and it will be the first time that I will be at the wedding of two gay people and it won’t be a subversive act, and that is such a relief.

This is why I do what I do

Today is the first Harvey Milk Day. After a long battle, and probably only because the film Milk gave Milk so much new publicity, which in turn (probably) led President Obama to award Milk a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom, our governor signed Mark Leno’s bill making Harvey Milk’s birthday a state holiday “day of recognition.” It’s not like Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday or Cesar Chavez’s; schools and state agencies aren’t shut down. And the law, SB-572, simply “encourage[s] public schools and educational institutions to conduct suitable commemorative exercises on that date.” Whatever that means. Well, it means that if you live in a county whose school board is run by anti-intellectual bigots, you’ll never learn about Harvey Milk.


This week, ABC News did a segment of their “What Would You Do?” series on anti-gay harassment. They put some actors in a diner in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and had them act out an egregious display of homophobia: A bigoted and hostile waiter told gay a couple and their kids that they were abnormal, wrong, gross, and then asked them to leave. They did the scene with both a lesbian couple and a gay male couple. And ABC had set up a hidden camera to see who would intervene. Some did, and wonderfully. The vast majority did nothing: “It’s none of my business.”

As I watched the first of these videos, I burst into tears, because of the callous disregard for the cruelty on display and the very weak responses from those who bothered to speak up. And then I continued crying during the second video, which shows some powerful interventions, one from a very righteous young man (who was suffering from nicotine withdrawal, but still) and one from the son of Holocaust survivors.

The videos bring up some interesting issues, to say the least. One is that, well, ABC News did not hide their pro-gay standpoint. The explicit assumption of John Quinones’s narration, editing, and choice of expert analysis is that the people who intervened are good and those who did not are bad. The first person who intervened was praised, and then ABC showed that he was still rather homophobic in a scathing gotcha moment. ABC News is right to be boldly declaring their position against anti-gay discrimination. I think that, like all people, journalists have an ethical duty to support human rights and human dignity. This does not mean that journalists should report with bias on all things, but rather that there are some things about which they should have a bias. They should be biased against racism, sexism, homophobia, violence, and cruelty. What is particularly heartening is that three decades after Harvey Milk was assassinated, that sort of bias — good, moral bias — is pervasive across much of the mainstream news media. Hooray for secular intellectuals.

However, of the 100 people who witnessed these scenes, only 12 spoke up. While this is probably 9 or 10 more people that would have spoken up during when Milk was in office — and yay for that — it’s still an appallingly low number. Now, I’m sure that even if it was an explicitly racist scene, less than half of the people would have said anything. After all, this is the city (and the country) of Kitty Genovese. But even if we can get half of Americans to be in favor of banning certain types of anti-gay discrimination — averaging out those who favor ENDA, oppose DADT, and are in favor of same sex marriage — actively and selflessly defending gays and lesbians is another thing entirely. There are well over a hundred million people in this country who don’t give a flying fuck about our rights and our oppression.

To wit: Earlier this week, the governor of Minnesota and future presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty vetoed a bill that would give same-sex partners the right to make burial decisions for their deceased spouses. He’s quoted in The Minnesota Independent:

Pawlenty said the bill “addresses a nonexistent problem” saying that same-sex couple must simply draw up the appropriate paperwork. He also said that a “surviving domestic partner” should not be “afforded the same legal recognition” as a spouse.

“Marriage — as defined as between a man and a woman — should remain elevated in our society at a special level, as it traditionally has been,” said Pawlenty in his veto message. “I oppose efforts to treat domestic relationships as the equivalent of traditional marriage.”

Yes, thirty years after Harvey Milk was assassinated, it’s both politically expedient and morally upright to insult and denigrate gay and lesbian couples at their most trying time. Thirty years later, a hateful bigot is governor of Minnesota and a viable presidential candidate. (At least the hateful bigots who run Arizona and used to run Alaska are not considered serious national politicians by other serious national politicians.) He believes that the Bible — or rather, select passages of the Bible as interpreted by other hateful bigots — should govern our actions. He believes that it’s okay to hurt minorities in order to gain popularity among other hateful bigots who he needs in his quest for power. Thirty years after Milk’s death, people vote for people like Pawlenty all of the time.

Dr. KatzAnd then there was the sad story of Dr. Jonathan I. Katz. President Obama, via the Department of Energy, had appointed Katz to the team of researchers and government scientists who are charged with figuring out how to stop the epic oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. Katz, a physics professor at Washington University in St. Louis, is more hateful than Tim Pawlenty by several orders of magnitude. He is the author of the essay titled “In Defense of Homophobia,” in which he writes about the “innocent” people who died of AIDS, “These people died so the sodomites could feel good about themselves.” This a rather standard, if despicable, trope, but he makes a new (or new to me) argument is in a postscript he wrote:

Post-Script October 9, 2005: In recent weeks this essay has been the subject of controversy at, and even beyond, Washington University (see, for example, recent issues of Student Life). A number of critics have asked if monogamous homosexuals are also culpable. Quite apart from the question of the definition of monogamous (sexual contact with only one person in a lifetime? serial monogamy? some cheating? etc.), I suggest the following analogy: A man joins the Ku Klux Klan. He is not violent, and would never hurt a fly; he just wants a safe place to express his racist feelings. Is he culpable for the Klan’s past acts of violence? I believe that even though he is not criminally responsible for acts that occurred before he joined, he is morally culpable for joining the Klan. The Klan has blood on its hands, and anyone who joins must share the guilt. So, too, with the homosexual movement.

Yes, Katz claims that being gay is like being in the KKK. This man is a famed scientist, and he wrote an essay using logic that wouldn’t pass muster in a first-year comp class. His use of evidence, or lack thereof, wouldn’t pass muster in a junior high comp class. And morality would only pass muster in, well, the KKK.

In his petition against Katz’s appointment, John Aravosis made a very good point:

President Obama would never appoint a “proud racist” or a “proud anti-Semite” to a panel of experts, and showcase him as one of the best minds in our country, and he shouldn’t appoint a proud homophobe either.

After reading Katz’s essay and John’s comments, I felt physically ill. I cannot believe that no one googled Katz before appointing him, so at least someone in the Obama Administration decided that his bigotry was irrelevant. (And they also weren’t bothered by the fact that he’s against doing anything to stop climate change, which is perhaps even stranger.) And this is depressing in a stomach-churning way. For while the outcry against Katz from the gay left got him fired from the commission, it took outcry to do it.

But that’s what outcry is for. That’s what teaching about homophobia is for. This is why we tell our stories, and march, and vote. And pass along videos like the ones I’ve posted here. And why we intervene, because one person intervening is better and than none, and one person intervening will lead to more people intervening. Or that’s the hope anyway.

The curse of freelance

In which I write a nasty letter to San Diego’s Office of Small Business after they absurdly demanded back taxes and fees for my tiny amount of freelance writing income…

Dear Meredith Dibden Brown:

Yesterday, I received a letter from you (at the Office of Small Business) informing me that I had to register my “business” with the City of San Diego, pay a $34 yearly fee to be registered with the City, pay an unexplained $17 fee for “zoning,” and pay $250.84 in late fees for not having registered for the three years previously. I am writing to complain about the City’s unethical behavior and to demand that all late fees be removed from my bill.

As ridiculous as it is that I have to pay $34 so that I may be allowed to earn a couple thousand dollars a year as a freelance writer and editor – yes, I’m taxed before I even earn a dime — I understand that the City’s coffers are empty after decades of incompetence and mismanagement, and someone has to pay! Why not force the victims of said incompetence and mismanagement?

That said, never informing self-employed residents that they had to register with the City and then using that lack of knowledge as way to force them to accrue late fees for three years is a gross abuse of taxation power. It is unethical and unconscionable.

I have lived in San Diego for nearly four years. I have paid my California taxes every year. I have declared myself as self-employed each year. When I called your office and asked why I was only informed now that I was supposed to register in 2006, I was told it was because the City only bothered to look for the information now. So, I am paying $250.84 because the City could not be bothered to ask the State who was declaring themselves self-employed and then to cross-reference those names with the City’s registry and then to inform those un-registered persons in a timely fashion that they owed registration fees. I am paying late fees because the City is incompetent in its collection of taxes.

Speaking of incompetence, the letter that you sent to me claims that San Diego Municipal Code §31.0110 “requires all business within its City limits to obtain a Business Tax Certificate.” This is not true. §31.0110 defines the terms of the code concerning Business Taxes. §31.0121 is the section of the code that “requires all business within its City limits to obtain a Business Tax Certificate.”

I would appreciate your swift response.


Theodore K. Gideonse

Councilmember Sherri Lightner
Mayor Jerry Sanders
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith

UPDATE: This blog post was twittered by none other than the local government editor of The San Diego Union-Tribune. He referenced Carl DeMaio’s opposition to the way the City is dealing with the tax, so I forwarded my letter to DeMaio. DeMaio wrote back within a couple days to say that he was hoping to create an amnesty program or make really small businesses, like mine, exempt. And: “You shouldn’t be fined for not knowing you need to register.” Lightner’s assistant wrote back to say they were looking into it.

I finally received an email back from the Office of Small Business last week. It was, to say the least, defensive. Here it is in its entirety:

Dear Mr. Gideonse:

Thank you for contacting the Office of the City Treasurer.

Section 31.0135 of the San Diego Municipal Code (SDMC) states:

The City Treasurer is not required to send a notice or bill to any person subject to the provisions of this Article, and the failure to send such notice or bill shall not affect the validity of any fee or penalty due hereunder, or the duty of such person to pay required taxes.

Hence, it is the business owner’s/independent contractor’s responsibility to register with the Office of the City Treasurer prior to commencing business. Since the Business Tax assessment is a self-reporting tax, the City is not required to send notification to new businesses stating the tax is due. However, the City does provide business owners helpful information pertaining to the Business Tax application process. This information is available at the Office of the City Treasurer downtown, the six Community Service Centers located throughout the City, and the Office of Small Business which offers business start-up seminars, including information regarding the Business Tax certification process. In addition, IRS instructions to the Schedule C inform taxpayers of the potential tax liability. The fourth paragraph of the Schedule C instructions (see attachment) state: You may be subject to state and local taxes and other requirements such as business licenses and fees. Check with your state and local governments for more information.

Section 31.0131 of the SDMC also states the City can bill retroactively for up to three years with penalties for each year that the business was in operation. In addition to the penalties for delinquent payment, all small businesses (12 employees or less) that do not register or pay their taxes pay a non-compliance surcharge of $68.00, while large businesses (13 or more employees) pay $250.00. Note: Your account was not assessed the $68.00 surcharge.

All that considered, in order to more accurately assess whether you have a tax liability with the City, please address the following questions.

1. For how long have you been filing Form Schedule C – Profit or Loss From Business? Please specify year.

2. How often do you perform these freelance writing services within the City of San Diego on an annual basis? Please specify the average number of hours accrued annually?

3. Will you be filing Form Schedule C for the 2008 & 2009 tax years to report similar activities performed within the city limits of San Diego?

I look forward to your reply so I may assist you further.


John R. Zurita
Business Tax Compliance Supervisor
Office of the City Treasurer
The City of San Diego
(619) 615-1516 (Phone)
(619) 533-3274 (Fax)

There are so many problems with Zurita’s letter, most glaring being its “you don’t know what you’re talking about, you stupid taxpayer” tone. This is how I responded:

Dear Mr. Zurita,

Thank you for your email.

As my email clearly shows, I have read the municipal code. I am well aware that your office did not break the law. But your reliance on the vague fine print of the Schedule C form is a rather disingenuous way of claiming that we were told of the law when we were clearly not. I have also read Lambert v. California, 355 U.S. 225 (1957), and your office should, too, since it states that punishing someone for the lack of knowledge of a municipal law for which knowledge of cannot reasonably be expected is a violation of the 14th Amendment. [Thanks, Jeff! –Ed.]

If your office actually wanted taxpayers to know about the law, it would have made sure that California tax forms clearly stated the law and it would have made sure that tax preparation software programs all collected the tax. But it did not. And the most popular, TurboTax, which I use, is made by a San Diego company, Intuit!

The law is written in such a way, and it is enforced in such a way, as to create the nonpayment of taxes in order for late fees to be accrued. So, I stand by my assertion that the tax collection behavior of your office is unethical and an abuse of taxation power.

That said, here are my answers to your questions:

1. For how long have you been filing Form Schedule C – Profit or Loss From Business? Please specify year.

I have been filing a Schedule C since 1997.

2. How often do you perform these freelance writing services within the City of San Diego on an annual basis? Please specify the average number of hours accrued annually?

Since I moved to San Diego, I have never spent more than 20 to 30 hours a year writing, editing, or teaching writing on a freelance basis. I am a full-time graduate student, and rarely make more than $20,000 a year. The only year that I made a profit from my 1099s was 2006, when I received $xxx in royalties for work done in previous years. For that year, my net profit was $xxx. In 2007, my net loss was $xxx. In 2008, my net loss was $xxx.

3. Will you be filing Form Schedule C for the 2008 & 2009 tax years to report similar activities performed within the city limits of San Diego?



Ted Gideonse

I do not expect the City to voluntarily do the right thing. I can only hope that DeMaio is able to change the policy.

UPDATE #2: I win! I win!

Dear Mr. Gideonse:

Based on the information you have provided, you do not have a tax liability with the City. Since you have stated that you have never spent more than 20-30 hours per year providing these services, you qualified for an exemption under SDMC § 31.0202 (Exceptions — Limited Duration Activities). Therefore, we have canceled Notice Number – B2009006659.

In an effort to increase Business Tax Compliance, the City of San Diego recently began utilizing data from the State Franchise Tax Board (FTB). The City presumes that a taxpayer is conducting business within its jurisdiction if the taxpayer filed a business return/form with the Franchise Tax Board and or Internal Revenue Service using a City of San Diego address. This data is an effective means for tax enforcement and is used by a majority of California municipalities. However, there are situations that arise where an income tax filer does not qualify as a business.

We apologize for any inconvenience caused by the receipt of the Notice of Tax Liability billing statement.

Should you have further questions, please feel free to contact me.


John R. Zurita

And by the way, he cc-ed the email to Lightner’s assistant. Ha.

Me, meth

I’ve been meaning to update the five or six people who still read my blog on how my studies are going, since, well, the whole reason I’m here in Blandiego is the studying. But, actually, no, I haven’t been studying. And no, I haven’t been doing meth. I’ve been doing all sorts of other things, like teaching and obsessing over gay marriage and untangling myself from the absurd red tape caused by an ill-fated attempt to take a class cross-registered at UC-Irvine. (Irvine use punched cards in the registrar’s office. Still. Really. When I dropped the class I was cc-ed — for realz — on five emails from various admins at two campuses, because no one has figured out how to use the Interweb to connect the two schools.) I’ve also been collecting all sorts of fun stuff about crystal meth, because that’s what I’ve switched my focus to. Yeah — I came here to study assimilation and sexuality on the US-Mexican border and now I will be studying the gay meth “epidemic” in California.

This is what happened: I went to check in with one of my committee members. I had planned on working on a study on HIV-prevention among MSMs in Tijuana. I had spent two and half years studying Spanish and US-Mexican border issues (and theory), and I wrote my Master’s thesis on “Hybridity as Cultural Capital on the US/Mexican Border.” (Wanna read it? I’ll email it to you. And then I will list you in my Outlook contacts in the “masochist” category. Not that I have a category with that name. Really.) So, I was ready, more or less, to do a big ethnographic project of the such. But my committee member told me that the project that I was going to join and study (I was going to study the study, as it were) didn’t exist yet, for a host of reasons. But before I got to freak out, I was offered a number of other projects that I could hook up with, and I jumped on a large study of HIV+ gay men who use crystal meth.

I guess the questions would be: Why did I jump on this? Well, there’s one pathetic reason: My Spanish sucks and will suck for years — I’m convinced I have cognitive deficiency when it comes to languages — and so I’ll never be able to do the sort of psychodynamic interviewing in Spanish that I wanted to do. I could have done it with a translator, which had been offered, but it would have been a barrier/filter that I didn’t want to have to use, let alone totally rely on.


Then there’s the not-at-all pathetic reason: The meth situation in California’s gay communities is … gee, what’s the right word? Explosive. Dynamic. Epidemic. Increasing. Contagious. Confusing. Bizarre. Sexy. Dangerous. And it’s on the tips of everyone’s tongues, gay and straight. This is partly because of the recent, massive “Me Not Meth” campaign from the California Methamphetamine Initiative, the anti-meth arm of the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs. There are billboards all over the gay neighborhoods of California. There are ads on the sides of buses and in the Bay Area subways. There are 30-second TV spots running during, heh, “Desperate Housewives.” And I haven’t seen such a wide-spread concerted public health effort in gay bars since the early 90s: there are posters in every gay bar I’ve visited in the last month, and many of them also have “I lost ME to METH” drink coasters, too. The ads are the topic of conversation everywhere, and not always for the reason they’re meant to be. The recovering addicts in the ads are, um, kinda hot. As a friend said to me last weekend, “If they want people to stop using meth they should use guys who aren’t so attractive.” The man on the coaster (above) is especially cute; he looks like a cross between Jake Gyllenhall and Ryan Gosling. Yum!


Some people are simply pissed off by the campaign because they think that it unfairly singles out gay men, and this will, supposedly, lead the gays to be further stigmatized. In typical fashion, San Diego’s own Gay and Lesbian Times led the charge here:

Now, this is a necessary campaign – meth addiction is an epidemic in the gay community, and, the fact is, meth use is a risk factor in the spread of HIV/AIDS. It eliminates inhibitions, alters judgment, wreaks havoc on one’s personal and professional lives, and has dire health implications.

Another fact to consider, though: meth addiction doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t single out a gender, race or community – but this ad campaign does.

The important question that must be asked is: does this ad campaign do more harm than good? For the vast majority of heterosexual TV viewers, what message does the campaign send about our community?

Again, it’s no secret: meth is a problem in the gay community, as much as it’s a problem in the straight community, the Latino community, the Native American community, the black community – the risks are as monumental for us all.

But, the well-intended ads, inadvertently we think, send a mixed message; one, that meth abuse is a problem exclusively in the gay community; and two, that the gay community is characterized by drug use and HIV/AIDS.

Why do I use the word “typical”? Because the GLT tends to get their facts wrong, and this is just another example. Here’s the Los Angeles Times on March 14:

The drug, commonly known as “crystal” or “tina,” has been a popular party drug in gay circles since the 1990s. A statewide survey, also released Thursday, found that crystal meth use was 11 times more common among gay men than in the California population overall. Fifty-five percent of 549 gay and bisexual men surveyed said they had used the drug, compared with 5% of the general population.

So, um, meth is not “as much as [of] a problem” in the gay community as the straight community. It’s 11 times worse. That is 1100% worse, if you want to play with the numbers. The GLT is so embarrassing. There are some problems with the “Me Not Meth,” but they aren’t in their focus on gay men. At all.

Anyway, I’m very excited about the shift in my project, and I’m excited about getting my qualifying done. That involves a lot of reading and writing, and then I can write my proposal, which will include, in some form, the following paragraph:

… the governmentality of public health helps to construct gay men as, what I call, risky subjects: neoliberal and sanitary subjects, sexual citizens with a political ethos that connects gendered behavior and subaltern sexuality to a moral regime that promotes individualism and responsibility within, ironically, a culture of hedonism. Since its appearance in the early 1980s, AIDS has been at the center of contestations over biopower, as those who might have, do have, and will probably contract the disease are disciplined, punished, and quarantined. Public health—as well as its surrogates in private healthcare, the ever-increasing number of activist NGOs, and aligned law enforcement agencies—has been charged with not just the modification of behavior, but also, and perhaps more importantly, the construction of subjects. These subjects are not just healthy citizens, healthy Americans, but also productive citizens, responsible, happy, and normal. But what sorts of subjectivities are actually produced? And how? People who are “at risk” for HIV-infection, whether they are men who have sex with men, IV drug and crystal meth users, sex workers, hemophiliacs, or anyone from a disease-ravaged nation, are made into risky subjects with hypercognized biology, bodies, and behaviors. But this is not necessarily (or not always) a negative form of state oppression, despite the tenor of much of the literature on governmentality, the modern form of statecraft that is probably most pronounced in processes of public health. Rather, the history of AIDS shows that both resistance to and collaboration with the governmental public health project has resulted in a slow and steady pushing of the subjected into the subjectors. The public health project is subverted and mutated as the HIV-positive become doctors, gay academics devote their research to HIV and AIDS, and activists, recovering addicts, and former sex workers are professionalized as employees of NGOs and state agencies. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that that there are deeply negative effects of becoming a risky subject, for the mental health ramifications are as potentially insidious as they are deeply under-recognized.

Ya know, in case you were wondering about my theoretical perspective on the whole thing.

“Scientists are saying the future is going to be far more futuristic than they originally predicted.”

[youtube:]At last! I finally saw “Southland Tales,” Richard Kelly’s much-maligned, barely released, long-awaited follow-up to “Donnie Darko” (which is one of my favorite movies ever). I had been a bit desperate to see the movie, but, alas, it wasn’t even released in San Diego during the week or so that 18 theaters were allowed to show it. So, I spent a weekend or two back in December trying to BitTorrent pirated versions, hoping someone had stuck an Academy screener DVD on the Interweb. But, alas, all that was available was a pretty shitty shot-in-the-theater-with-a-handicam version. (I guess there weren’t any Academy screeners. Natch.) Still, I downloaded it. And watched about 15 minutes. And I couldn’t stand how bad the video quality was. It was like watching a 20-year-old VHS tape during an earthquake. So, I chucked the file and waited. I was wasting some time (procrastinating like a mo-fo) on Netflix, and I saw that the DVD was coming out on the 18th. I had it in my mailbox on the 19th. How many ways I can say that I love Netflix? Anyhoo, after I finally finished writing my first qual paper (Woohoo! And more on that later…) I set about to watch the film that made all of $227,365 and Richard Roeper called “one of the most confusing, ridiculous, pretentious and disastrous cinematic train wrecks I’ve ever seen.” (For more critics trying to out-nasty each other, check out the Rotten Tomatoes site here.)

I think this would be a perfect moment to cite, in a Fisk-y but not really Fisk-y way, the wonderful essay by Joe Queenen in last week’s Guardian about what really makes a truly terrible movie:

To qualify as one of the worst films of all time, several strict requirements must be met.

Agreed. Too many people will simply state, as Queenen complains, that such-and-such is one of the all-time worst movies without thinking deeply about what really makes some awful.

For starters, a truly awful movie must have started out with some expectation of not being awful. That is why making a horrific, cheapo motion picture that stars Hilton or Jessica Simpson is not really much of an accomplishment. Did anyone seriously expect a film called The Hottie and The Nottie not to suck?

Totes! That’s why, say, “Bad Love,” a Jenny McCarthy vehicle for Chrissake, which scored all those Razzies a couple years ago, doesn’t count for me. Neither, really, does “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” which was God-awful, but I don’t think anyone expected it to be any much better than the first movie, which was pretty near-God-awful. But, yes, after making “Donnie Darko,” Richard Kelly was expected to make another truly great film. He had a cast of thousands, and he had a lot of money, and he had heaps and heaps of ambition. It seems as if he wanted to make something like a cross between “Nashville” and “Dr. Strangelove,” which is pretty ambitious.