This blog is becoming a bit of a hybrid of what’s going on in Asia and how Trump and his cronies are working to destroy the U.S. as we know it.  The latter part of that last sentence may be a bit of hyperbole, though after some of the speeches at the CPAC conference, including Bannon’s, I wonder how much of that sentiment is really hyperbole. Yet that is a thought for another time or perhaps it will just continue to unfold in the messy way it has since Trump won the election.

Yesterday, Trump rolled back Obama era protections for transgender students that allowed them to use the bathroom of their choice.  Putting aside the legality of such a move given that the original decision was supported by Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, Trumps move raises two interesting points.  One, it’s a policy decision that re-opens the culture wars that the Republican Party and many voters were hoping to move beyond.  Two, it’s a relatively low-stakes policy move on the part of the Trump administration consistent with his seeming “do-little” approach to governing since taking office a month ago.

During the last presidential election, cultural issues related to gender and sexuality seemed to take a backseat to economic and national security issues.  The 2016 election was certainly a far cry from 2004 when it seemed that cultural issues were guiding both the left and right.  Think about what Trump campaigned on – jobs and national security, with which I am including immigration.  While I am sure there are many conservatives who are applauding this move, it’s interesting how muted the support has been from members of Congress who seem to want to avoid the controversy that engulfed North Carolina on a national level.  While polls show the American public pretty evenly split on bathroom access, if Americans were asked where they prioritize this issue relative to jobs, health care, the economy, national security, or even Russia, I am sure that this issue would be a rather low priority in terms of on what Americans want their politicians to focus.  Congratulations President Trump on firing another shot in the culture wars and taking the heat off of your ability to actually get things done that voters care about.

So the second point is that we now have one of Trump’s first major policy dictating who should be using which bathrooms in our nation’s schools.  The move does not seem like it’s going to do much to bring jobs back to the Rust Belt or Coal Country or help protect our borders, yet this is one of the matters on which he is expending his political capital.  It’s actually quite Trumpian in its simple logic.  He knows full well that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act or bringing back manufacturing and mining jobs are herculean, if not impossible tasks.  He also has the attention span of a gnat and such policy prescriptions would never fit on a single page, so he turns to something that is both easy to understand and execute on, while satisfying conservatives that he remains true to their principals.  I don’t know what’s worse in a Trump administration, barely governing or barreling full steam ahead and running into all sorts of potential roadblocks.  I’d argue the latter because at least then there is a chance of failure, which would hopefully set us up for something better than what we are currently getting.  This barely governing approach that involves throwing some red meat policy moves to his supporters could turn into a war of attrition where the opposition in all its forms simply grows tired and gives up before turning back the tide on what could be the end of America as we know it.

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The “real China”

March 1, 2009

My friend, Henry and his girlfriend, Sara were in GZ yesterday for the day visiting some of Henry’s family.  We managed to meet up for dinner before they headed back to Hong Kong and I had a chance to show them my apartment, the campus, and my favorite Sichuan restaurant, which is right outside the East Gate of campus.  They were my first visitors from outside China.  As we were walking to dinner, Henry remarked on how cool it was that I was getting to live in the “real China” compared to so many other foreigners who park themselves in Hong Kong or Shanghai and feel as if they’re roughing it.  Now living in GZ is certainly not roughing it, but it’s definitely more “real” than HK or Shanghai in terms of how little the city caters to its foreign population.

One aspect of the “real China” I always seem to be bumping up against is just how not obvious it is to the people here that I am a gay man.  After Henry and Sara left, we went out to meet up with our friend Superman at a corny GZ nightclub called Nana Club that was hosting an’80s party.   Wherever there’s Superman, there are sure to be lots of foreigners because he is a Chinese guy that enjoys surrounding himself with them.  Anyway, we met a lot of his friends from Australia and France and they were fun to hang out with, but the whole night these guys kept asking me if I had a girlfriend.  When I told them no, they asked me if I was into Chinese girls because that could be the only thing keeping me from having a Chinese girlfriend.  I finished the night amused at all the assumptions that were being made and wondered if the idea of gay is so ephemeral in China that even the straight foreigners here don’t have gaydar.  

One place where I think everyone knows I am gay is at the LGBT organization I volunteer at, Guangtong (广同).  This past Friday I was asked by the head if I could come in and facilitate a discussion after their screening of “Milk.”  It was funny that they were showing it because I had just seen it last week and was going to suggest showing it to the group on English night.  However, every Friday night they show a movie and this happened to be their selection this Friday.  It’s an understatement to say that it’s an amazing movie, but after watching it, I wanted to get back to the States and re-immerse myself in the fight for gay rights.  Before watching the movie I had no idea just how important and powerful a figure Harvey Milk was, but his role in the fight for gay rights in the 70s was so important to get the movement to where it is today and a powerful reminder of how much more needs to be done.  Now I was sitting in a room full of gay men in China and having a discussion about the movie and its message, mostly in Chinese with my friend, Kevin acting as my translator.

I opened up by asking the group how the movie made them feel and I received quite a few responses along the lines of inspired.  One man said that China needed to stand up and fight like Milk did, but it would never happen in China because Chinese people do not have anything to fight against the same way that Americans do.  This idea that there are laws in America against gay people, but none explicit in China and the presence of these negative laws is the motivation for the fight in America came up repeatedly throughout the evening.  After three or four people echoed this sentiment, I asked the group of 16 how many of them were out and only two were out in some way, shape or form.   I then raised the idea that it’s not only having laws telling you that you can’t do something that serve as the motivation to fight for change, but you also have to fight to change beliefs and perceptions in a society that will not let you be who you want to be or live your life the way you want to.  I was greeted with some murmurs of approval, but also looks of skepticism.  The discussion then drifted to what progress has been made in the U.S. since Milk’s assassination and what to do if a girl  hits on you, so it was a bit of the serious and then some not-so-serious.  Once again it was a great chance for me to see how far China has to go and how hard in China it is to get a group of people being hurt by society’s attitudes to realize that you can work to change those attitudes, that fighting something is not always synonymous with going against the government.

Of course the “real China” is also the land of confusing and poor signage, so I leave you all with this sign hanging in the supermarket located in the Jusco department store (a discount Japanese chain) that I stumbled upon Saturday afternoon in the basement of Teemall.

Make sure to brush twice a day and use your toothpasta

Make sure to brush twice a day and use your toothpasta