TV & Radio
Koizumi's heir apparent worries Japan's neighbours with his hawkish agenda
By David McNeill in Tokyo
Published: 19 September 2006
Japan's most important election in years will not be especially democratic; it will be closed to the general public and we already know the winner. But, for better or worse, by the end of this month the world's second-largest economy will have a new leader, and he is already causing political waves.
Tomorrow, a million members of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party select a new party head who will, thanks to the LDP's dominance of the Diet, step into the giant shoes of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi next week. The public will not have their say until a general election next year.
Although technically a three-way race, the clear election front-runner and the man anointed by Mr Koizumi as his heir apparent is Shinzo Abe. Unlike Mr Koizumi, who was once considered too much of an oddball to lead the country, nobody can call Mr Abe a dark horse. The 51-year-old Chief Cabinet Secretary is a well-known conservative with an impeccable political pedigree and a history of making provocative, right-wing statements.
With his droopy, teddy-bear eyes and weak chin, Mr Abe is an unlikely looking hawk. But since coming to national prominence in 2002 when he began a tough-talking campaign against North Korea, he has championed a staunchly conservative agenda that includes reviving the military, revving up patriotism and changing the 60-year-old pacifist constitution.
After five years of the unpredictable Mr Koizumi, who wound up his term with a valedictory visit to the Yasukuni Shrine war memorial, China and South Korea desperately want relations with Japan to improve. But with Mr Abe, there is little reason for optimism. Beijing's official mouthpiece, The China Daily, said last week: "Those who aspire for better Sino-Japanese ties feel nothing but ... worried."
Once again, it is the pall of history that drives these concerns. Mr Abe has kept quiet on whether he too will make a pilgrimage to Yasukuni, although he supports prime ministerial visits and went in secret in April. As a rising political star, Mr Abe chaired a group of right-wing LDP policymakers who backed a campaign to revise high school textbooks and delete references to Second World War war crimes by the Japanese military.
Last year, he was at the centre of a censorship scandal when he admitted leaning on Japan's state broadcaster, NHK, to change a 2001 documentary on wartime "comfort women": sex slaves abducted by the military from Korea and other countries.
Mr Abe's political colours have long been nailed to the mast, as have his twin policy obsessions: rewriting the 1947 constitution and reforming the education system. And although he is being hailed in some quarters as a political breath of fresh air, both policies have been on the LDP wish-list since 1955. Written while Japan was under US occupation, the constitution and its war-renouncing Article Nine, which allows Japan to maintain "self-defence forces" but not an "army", has always sat uneasily with conservatives. Parts of the document, such as Japan's expressed determination to "trust in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world" have caused particular ire; Mr Abe calls them a degrading "signed deed of apology" which he, backed by US hawks who want Japan to square up to China, is determined to change.
Even more worryingly, Mr Abe ducks the issue of whether he will abide by Tokyo's 1995 apology to the rest of Asia, issued on the 50th anniversary of Japan's official surrender. "Japan has already apologised [for the Pacific War] more than 20 times," Mr Abe said last year. "How long do we have to keep apologising?" As the Korean Times put it: "His political success stems from a hawkish, not conciliatory, approach to his Asian neighbours. Will he be able to swallow his pride for the sake of Japan's future?"
* 1954: Born into high-profile family. Father is Shintaro Abe, a former foreign minister, and grandfather former prime minister Nobusuke Kishi, a suspected war criminal.
* 1977: Graduates in political science from Seikei University before studying politics at the University of Southern California.
* 1982: Begins low-level political career.
* 1993: Wins first seat in Diet, representing home prefecture of Yamaguchi.
* 2003: Appointed secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
* 2005: Appointed Chief Cabinet Secretary.
A Bad Amendment
Even if you oppose gay marriage, Virginia's ban would go too far.
Sunday, September 17, 2006; B06
SINCE 1998, 20 states have adopted constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. But not all of them have been drafted so expansively, and so carelessly, as the measure that will appear on Virginia's ballot in November, which would recognize no "union, partnership or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities or effects of marriage." The amendment is muddle-headed and absurdly broad, duplicates what is already in state law and carries the germ of a thousand unintended consequences. Virginia voters should reject it.
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) opposes gay marriage, but he shares with its defenders the concern that the wording of Virginia's amendment could imperil the rights of individuals to enter into private contracts or employers to extend benefits such as health care coverage to unmarried couples. Plenty of the state's most prominent employers might face a more vexing recruiting environment if the amendment is approved.
The governor seems prepared to spend some political capital opposing the amendment but not too much; his aides say not to expect a full-court press. He has recognized from the outset that the amendment can be construed not only as banning same-sex marriages and civil unions but also as putting thousands of unmarried couples at risk of losing a host of benefits. But he is loath to hit the hustings in an all-out effort to defeat the measure, which will appear on the statewide ballot Nov. 7.
We believe that all such measures enshrine intolerance and may have cruel and discriminatory effects. Around the country, there are encouraging signs that voters and legislatures in some states that have not already adopted such amendments are balking at jumping on the bandwagon. The tide that has carried these proposals may be receding somewhat, which may be one reason for Mr. Kaine's ambivalence. He has said he would support a narrowly drawn amendment that defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as a number of states have done.
Like any politician, Mr. Kaine is entitled to pick his battles, and there's no doubt that this one would be an uphill struggle. He would have to tackle the reality of a majority of Virginians who start out opposed to gay marriage, as well as that of the state's attorney general, Robert F. McDonnell (R), who backs the measure and dismisses the idea that it is legally problematic. But the stakes, as the governor himself has defined them, are high. Defeating the amendment is a fight worth fighting wholeheartedly.
性の多様さ理解を 札幌でパレード 【写真】
The Japan Times: Sunday, Sept. 17, 2006
Japan's bid to host 2016 Olympic Games a pipe dream
By JACK GALLAGHER
"Yes means maybe. Maybe means difficult. Difficult means impossible."
When I first moved to Japan, many years ago, someone imparted me with this wisdom and told me to remember it in my dealings here.
The advice has stayed with me ever since.
It came to mind again recently when I started thinking about the Japan Olympic Committee's selection of Tokyo over Fukuoka as the city to represent the nation's bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.
The JOC's decision to enter into the race at all is a complete exercise in futility. Japan has absolutely no chance of winning this competition, which makes me wonder why the JOC is even trying.
The reasons why Japan's bid is doomed are plentiful:
Timing -- Coming just eight years after the 2008 Games in Beijing, the International Olympic Committee is highly unlikely to select another Asian city to host the Summer Games.
Competition -- With strong bids from the United States (San Francisco, Chicago or Los Angeles), Europe (Madrid) and South America (Rio de Janeiro) expected, Tokyo will be going up against formidable opposition.
Facilities -- One of the most flawed aspects of the Tokyo bid is the fact that organizers want to host some of the events in venues that were built for the 1964 Games.
I'm sure that IOC members aren't going to take very kindly to sites that will have been in existence for at least 52 years, by the time the 2016 Games roll around.
Television -- Let's face it, the IOC likes to put the Games in places where the time zones are more favorable to European and North American audiences, and larger rights fees can be garnered. Awarding the Games to an Asian city does not do this.
History -- IOC members have long memories. The trouble caused by the fallout from the awarding of the 1998 Nagano Games still resonates with many.
When Japan made its final presentation for the event, in June of 1991 in Birmingham, England, it was still enjoying the benefits of the economic bubble.
The Nagano organizers promised they would pay for the transportation of all of the athletes to the Games. The ploy worked, and Nagano won the bid.
However, by 1998, the economy in Japan had cooled off considerably and Nagano reneged on its offer, eventually providing only $ 1,000 to a limited number of athletes to cover transportation costs.
The damage from this was significant and had consequences.
When Osaka bid for the 2008 Games, it received only six votes -- after being told the night before that it had many more -- and was eliminated on the first ballot.
I am not one to usually complain about the use of taxpayer money when it comes to sporting endeavors, but in this case I think the issue is legitimate.
The projected cost for Tokyo just to campaign in the international bidding for the 2016 Games is 5.5 billion yen, with the metropolitan government to contribute 1.5 billion yen of that figure.
Those are staggering sums, and with some of the inferior venues the bid will have to utilize it just does not make sense.
A wiser course of action would be to begin building new venues now, which are sorely needed, then bid for the 2020 Games, when Japan would have a more legitimate chance of winning.
None other than JOC president Tsunekazu Takeda, who has done of fine job of trying to reform the organization, made the following statement at a Foreign Sportswriters Association of Japan meeting in November 2004, when asked about future Olympic bids.
"At this point, it is probably getting late to even try for 2016, so I would say that our best chance at hosting a future Summer Games would be in 2020," he said.
That was nearly two years ago.
Which begs the question, "Why is Japan bidding for the 2016 Games?"
Pressure from politicians and corporations is the likely answer.
The IOC will pick the finalists from the 2016 candidate cities in July 2008.
In February and March of 2009, the IOC will then conduct an inspection tour of those cities.
In October 2009, the IOC will select the winner at its meeting in Copenhagen.
A member of the JOC, who voted in the selection process to select Japan's host city for the 2016 bid, informed me that it would be difficult for Tokyo to win the overall competition.
Which takes us back to that old saying.
"Difficult means impossible."
You got that right.
The Japan Times: Sunday, Sept. 17, 2006
【ライブドア・ニュース 09月16日】－ AP通信によると、スペイン南部アンダルシア地方の古都セビリアで15日、スペイン空軍の軍人男性2人が結婚式を挙げた。
2 Male Spanish Air Force Privates Wed
- By DANIEL WOOLLS, Associated Press Writer
Friday, September 15, 2006
(09-15) 13:58 PDT SEVILLE, Spain (AP) --
The Spanish military — once a crusty remnant of a right-wing regime closely linked to the Roman Catholic Church — got its first public taste of gay marriage Friday as two male soldiers wed, sealing their union with gold rings and a long kiss.
Alberto Linero, 27, and Alberto Sanchez, 24, both privates in the air force, wore dark blue dress uniforms with red and gold epaulets as they exchanged vows in a reception room at Seville's town hall — the first known wedding among same-sex members of the military since Spain legalized gay marriage last year.
Some members of the military may not be happy about the union — the grooms declined to say if they are suffering harassment from commanders or colleagues — but the Defense Ministry has said it considers the wedding a personal matter and the men will be allowed to continue with their careers. It had no comment Friday on the nuptials.
Spain has no law against gays in the military, and other service members have acknowledged their homosexuality in the past.
In the United States, the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy prohibits the military from inquiring about the sex lives of service members but requires those who openly acknowledge being gay to be discharged.
The men were married by Seville Mayor Alfredo Sanchez Monteseirin, who said their wedding marked a victory for gay people everywhere who have suffered discrimination.
"This is not just your wedding. You symbolize millions of people who are not here and suffer from homophobia," Sanchez Monteseirin said. "The city will protect your rights."
After they were pronounced spouses, Linero and Sanchez placed gold rings on each other's fingers and shared a kiss. The 100 people in attendance clapped wildly. Sanchez later wept as he hugged his younger brother Sergio.
The mayor is a member of the Socialist party, which oversees a government that legalized gay marriage last year and has pushed through laws including fast-track divorce and easier terms for medically assisted fertilization.
The laws have irked the church and the country's conservative establishment, which has accused the government of tearing away at the nation's traditional values.
Addressing a gaggle of reporters after the ceremony, Linero said the wedding was a small step toward complete equality for homosexuals.
"We've done our little bit. We hope society realizes this," he said.
Some 4,500 same-sex couples have wed under the gay marriage legislation, which took effect in July 2005, according to the Justice Ministry.
The wedding is believed to be the first marriage between two same-sex members of the Spanish armed forces, said Beatriz Gimeno, president of Spain's Federation of Gays and Lesbians.
She welcomed the wedding as something the military and Spaniards in general have to get used to.
"I don't think the army in a democratic society has to be conservative," Gimeno said.
Besides Spain, the Netherlands, Canada and Belgium have legalized same-sex marriage, while Britain and other European countries have laws that give same-sex couples the right to form legally binding partnerships.
In the United States, only the state of Massachusetts allows gay marriage, while Vermont and Connecticut permit civil unions.
Gay Groups Renew Drive Against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
By Lizette Alvarez
The New York Times
Thursday 14 September 2006
Madison, Wisconsin - The three young men who tried to enlist at an Army recruiting station here appeared to be first-rate military material.
Two were college students, and the other was a college graduate. They had no criminal records. They were fit and eager to serve at a time when wars on two fronts have put a strain on American troops and the need for qualified recruits is great.
But the recruiter was forced to turn them away, for one reason: they are gay and unwilling to conceal it.
"Don't judge me because of my sexuality," said one of the three, Justin Hager, 20, a self-described Republican from a military family who has "a driving desire to join" the armed forces. "Judge me because of my character and drive."
As the Pentagon's search for soldiers grows more urgent, gay rights groups are making the biggest push in nearly a decade to win repeal of a compromise policy, encoded in a 1993 law and dubbed "don't ask, don't tell," that bars openly gay people from serving in the military.
The policy, grounded in a belief that open homosexuality is damaging to unit morale and cohesion, stipulates that gay men and lesbians must serve in silence and refrain from homosexual activity, and that recruiters and commanders may not ask them about their sexual orientation in the absence of compelling evidence that homosexual acts have occurred.
The push for repeal follows years of legal setbacks, as well as discord among gay rights groups about how, or even whether, to address the issue. Now, rather than rely on the courts, advocates are focusing on drumming up support in towns across the nation, spotlighting the personal stories of gay former service members and pushing a Democratic bill in the House that would do away with the policy.
In August the gay rights group Soulforce opened a national campaign by recruiting openly gay people, including the three young men in Madison, who would have enlisted in the military if not for "don't ask, don't tell." [As part of that campaign, two young people who were rejected as applicants on Tuesday at a recruitment center in Chicago returned there on Wednesday and engaged in a sit-in. They were arrested but later released without charges.]
The move to change the policy faces stiff resistance from the Pentagon and Republicans in Congress, who, in a time of war during a tough election year, have no longing for another contentious debate about gay troops. The House bill, introduced last year by Representative Martin T. Meehan, Democrat of Massachusetts, has picked up 119 supporters, but only five of them Republicans.
"In the near term, it has zero chance," said Daniel Gouré, a vice president at the centrist Lexington Institute. "It's hard to see how anyone would want to give potential opponents any ammunition to knock them off."
A 2004 report by the Urban Institute concluded that at least 60,000 gay people were serving in the armed forces, including the Reserves and the National Guard. But since 1993, at least 11,000 members have been discharged for being openly gay, among them 800 in highly crucial jobs, according to the Government Accountability Office, Congress's investigative arm.
For all of that, gay rights groups, gay veterans and some analysts say much has changed since the policy was adopted. A Gallup poll in 2004 found that 63 percent of respondents favored allowing gay troops to serve openly, and a similar survey, by the Pew Research Center this year, put the number at 60 percent; those majorities did not exist in 1993. Young people in particular now have more tolerant views about homosexuality.
In addition, 24 foreign armies, most notably those of Britain and Israel, have integrated openly gay people into their ranks with little impact on effectiveness and recruitment. In Britain, where the military was initially forced to accept gay troops by the European Court of Human Rights, gay partners are now afforded full benefits, and the Royal Navy has called on a gay rights group to help recruit gay sailors.
The new debate on "don't ask, don't tell" also coincides with multiple deployments that are being required of many American troops by a military that has lowered its standards to allow more high school dropouts and some convicted criminals to enlist.
"Would you rather have a felon than a gay soldier?" said Capt. Scott Stanford, a heterosexual National Guard commander of a headquarters company who returned from Iraq in June. "I wouldn't."
Lt. Gen. Daniel W. Christman, retired, former superintendent at West Point and onetime assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said both the British experience and the shifts in attitudes at home would cause the American armed forces to change, though slowly.
"It is clear that national attitudes toward this issue have evolved considerably in the last decade," said General Christman, now a senior vice president at the United States Chamber of Commerce. "This has been led by a new generation of service members who take a more relaxed and tolerant view toward homosexuality."
In fact, a growing number of gay service members have told advocacy groups that fewer heterosexual troops are making homosexuality an issue. In some cases, they say, commanders look the other way when someone is suspected of being gay or even avows it, especially if that service member is valuable. Since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, discharges of openly gay members have fallen by 40 percent.
"People are really blasé about the issue," said Tim Smith, 24, a former marine who was discharged last year after a civilian chaplain, told of Mr. Smith's homosexuality by congregants, alerted his commander.
Mr. Smith, who was married when he entered the Marine Corps in 2001, hopes to dispel a stereotype of the "promiscuous, night-going, street-dancing" gay man by telling his story and sharing the reaction that disclosure of his orientation elicited. That reaction was largely favorable. At the end, he said, his commander even told the commanding general in a letter that Mr. Smith would be impossible to replace.
On the other side of the divide, Elaine Donnelly, president of the conservative Center for Military Readiness, said permitting gay men and lesbians to serve openly would prompt recruitment rates to drop and disrupt unit cohesion, a linchpin in the decision to allow gay troops to serve only in silence.
"People in the military live in conditions of little or no privacy," said Ms. Donnelly, who advocates a full ban on gay troops. "In conditions of forced intimacy, people should not have to expose themselves to other persons who are sexually attracted to them."
Further, the policy lets unhappy troops, straight or gay, ditch the military service to which they have committed. About 85 percent of those discharged under the policy had declared a homosexual orientation, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a gay rights watchdog; roughly half that number had volunteered the information simply to get out of the military.
"It lets people kind of get out of jail free," said Aaron Belkin, director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military, a research group at the University of California, Santa Barbara, that has sided with the effort to eliminate "don't ask, don't tell."
Mr. Hager, the young man rejected at the recruiting center here in August along with John Alaniz, 25, and Derek House, 19, had expected that outcome. Joining the Soulforce campaign, he said, was about making a point.
He had tried to enlist in the Navy in high school, when his sexual orientation was still hidden, and had scored high in his aptitude test. His father had served in Vietnam, and his grandfather, a concentration camp survivor, had instilled in him a drive to safeguard America. But a broken ankle dashed his plans then.
This time it was his own words that sidelined him.
"I am openly homosexual," he said, "and that opportunity won't be there for me."
Campus 'gay point average'
Book strives to tell students which schools are welcoming
By Sarah Schweitzer, Globe Staff | August 25, 2006
In an age when colleges live and die by their rankings, a new focus for campus assessment is emerging: gay-friendliness.
The Advocate, the national newsmagazine for gays and lesbians, published a 389-page book this month listing the 100 schools that it says offer the best discrimination protection, most friendly climate, and most extensive campus services for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students. Sixteen of the schools are in New England, including six in Massachusetts.
MIT, for one, made the top 100. The school is cited for having one of the nation's oldest gay and lesbian student groups and for early on including both sexual orientation and gender identity in its nondiscrimination policy, yielding what the book, The Advocate College Guide, calls a high ``gay point average."
``It is a welcoming place," said Natalija Jovanovic, a graduate engineering student at MIT and president of the Rainbow Coffee House, a gay, lesbian, transgendered, and bisexual social group. ``Because it's so technically oriented, if you are good at what you do, nothing else matters. Transistors and chemical compounds don't care what you do with your free time."
The book arrives as surveys show that more gay and lesbian students are coming out at younger ages, often in high school, placing the climate of a college campus at the forefront of more students' minds as they select schools.
``A lot of high school kids have already dealt with the issue of coming out by the time they get to college," said Bruce Steele, the editor of the Advocate, whose sister company, Alyson Books, published the guide. Steele said the book's aim is to help those students and their parents make an informed college choice.
The book does not assign individual rankings, but identified a top 20, including Tufts University and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Since 1992, the Princeton Review, has ranked the 20 schools that it considers the most and the least ``gay community accepted." This year, the review ranked New York University as most gay friendly and Notre Dame as most inhospitable.
Steele points out that the Review's gay-friendly rankings are based on student opinion, while his guide is based on quantifiable data.
Harriet Brand, spokeswoman for the Review, said the survey of 115,000 students is more compelling because students offer a more accurate, ground-level gauge of a campus's climate.
For the Advocate, the rankings book is an entry point to a potentially lucrative niche market. The magazine is so eager to attach its name to reports about the guide that magazine officials insisted that Steele answer all questions about the book and refused to allow the author, Shane Windmeyer, to speak with a reporter.
The publishing house has no sales figures yet for the book, which had a first run of 5,000 copies and is expected to be placed in stores' college preparation sections, not their gay and lesbian sections.
Officials at schools that made the top 100 expressed gratitude in interviews for being included.
Bruce Reitman, dean of students at Tufts University said: ``We know it's a friendly, open campus. . . . It is a nice statement for the community."
Yet last week Tufts alerted the press when Newsweek had named it one of the ``New Ivies" and did not publicly announce its ranking within the Advocate's top 20. Kim Thurler, the school spokeswoman, said that Tufts does not announce its standings in every school ranking, adding that it did not publicize the US News & World Report or the Princeton Review rankings, for instance.
She said the Advocate ranking will be posted on the school's e-mail news service. ``We certainly weren't keeping [the Advocate ranking] under a bushel," she said.
Gay and lesbian activists and student leaders said that the book is a welcome addition to the online rumor mill that has tended to inform high school students' decisions about gay-friendliness.
``I would have definitely liked having a book like this," said Abigail Francis, 29, project coordinator of MIT's Lesbian Bisexual Gay and Transgender (LBGT) Services, a position the university funded for the first time last year.
The rankings are calculated on a ``gay point average," which looks at 20 factors, including whether a school offers a resource center for gay and lesbian students, a variety of gay studies courses, scholarships specifically for gay and lesbian students, gay and lesbian social events, and procedures for reporting gay and lesbian harassment.
The rankings, educators said, might not have been possible to calculate a decade ago, because fewer services for gay and lesbian students existed. The AIDS crisis in the 1980s propelled the creation of more services, which then multiplied in the 1990s as more students came out at younger ages, said Dona Yarbrough, director of the LGBT Center at Tufts. But, she said that today less than 5 percent of colleges and universities have centers for gay and lesbian students.
The rankings of the top 100 schools were not all obvious choices, some educators said. Smith College, for example, is not on the list, nor is Harvard University.
Steele said he wasn't sure why Smith didn't make the list; Harvard did not because at the time the Advocate was surveying school officials, Harvard's antidiscrimination policy did not protect transgendered students, though that has since changed, he said.
Steele said he hopes to expand the list in coming years to include more schools.
But for now, ``what matters is that schools are now going to compete to see who is the most gay-friendly," he said. ``They change because they have to keep up."
US: Is this campus gay-friendly?
The New York Times
Is this campus gay-friendly?
by STEPHANIE ROSENBLOOM
Thursday, 14 September 2006
THIS fall, stacked amid the hefty new college admissions books like “The Best 361 Colleges” and “Financial Aid for the Utterly Confused” is a guide about an entirely different sort of college acceptance.
“The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students” (Alyson Books) profiles 100 of the country’s “best campuses” for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, and it arrives at a time when gay students are more vocal and visible.
“It’s looking more like half or most gay and lesbian Americans are coming out before they get to college,” said Bruce Steele, the guide’s editor in chief. “Unlike in the past, the experience they will have on a campus is something they can think about before they go to college.”
Among the top 20 colleges in the guide are the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Southern California.
Lance Sun, 17, of Flushing, Queens, said he had purchased the glossy yellow guide as a supplementary resource to help him gauge how well he might fit in at various campuses.
“I remember a few months ago I was looking for a Web site or guide,” he said. “I tried really hard and I couldn’t find one.”
But a few weeks ago he received an e-mail message from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, a national education organization, about the new guide.
“I was really excited,” Lance said. “It was perfect timing.”
There is ample evidence that in recent years gay students have become more outspoken about their identity. Most Gay-Straight Alliances registered with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network are in high schools, and today there are more than 3,000 of them, up from 750 in September 2001.
Grant Hoover, a 21-year-old senior at the University of Southern California who was the executive director of the university’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Assembly last year, said the Advocate guide is “definitely a step in the right direction.”
“I think it reflects growing visibility on a national level,” he said. “And a growing need.”
For decades college guides have offered advice on subjects as varied as tuition, dorms and even where students can buy the best marijuana. Yet books devoted entirely to gay students’ experiences have been scarce. New York University Press published “The Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Students’ Guide to Colleges, Universities and Graduate Schools,” but that was in 1994.
Kevin Jennings, the executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and a former high school teacher, said the Advocate guide is the first book that really takes on the questions of non-straight students comprehensively.
The Advocate guide, about 400 pages, does not rank the schools but has a Gay Point Average Official Campus Checklist, which scores campuses (up to 20 points) on their policies, programs and practices affecting lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. That includes whether a school has nondiscrimination statements, if there are housing options or themes, if there is a student group devoted to the population, and if there is a variety of related courses.
Each profile also has a “Fun Queer Stuff to Know” box that includes information like “best LGBT-cool athletic sport” and “best LGBT-accepting religious/spiritual organization.”
For many non-straight students the guide is a sign of how progressive many American campuses have become and proves that the students do not necessarily have to go to a big city college to feel comfortable. It can help parents find schools where their children will not only be safe, but welcomed. And, Mr. Steele said, it may make colleges and universities more aware of one another’s practices and foster more change.
Yet several students said they were surprised their schools were in the guide because they still have a long way to go to stem homophobia.
Jeremy Marshall, a 20-year-old junior at Duke University and the president of Duke Allies, a student organization for those who support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, said he was surprised Duke was listed among the top 20 friendliest schools.
“I don’t think Duke has warranted that position yet,” he said. “We were ranked one of the most homophobic schools in 1999,” by Princeton Review.
Mr. Marshall said he believes tolerance will improve eventually, but he was unhappy with the funding to Duke Allies this year and said that homophobic slurs can still be heard on campus.
The school has several gay awareness programs that make it look “good on paper,” Mr. Marshall said, yet “the real challenge is changing the hearts and minds of students.”
But Maddie Dewar, 22, of Durham, N.C., who graduated from Duke this year and was president of the Alliance of Queer Undergraduates at Duke, said that while being gay at Duke is more challenging than being gay at N.Y.U., progress has been made. “Four years ago I wouldn’t have recommended it,” she said. “Now I think it’s a prime opportunity, and a rare one.”
She said the school deserves praise for providing funding to the small group of students and faculty who wanted to stop living an “underground” kind of lifestyle amid what she described as the school’s “good old boys” culture. And when the guidebook came out, some 200 administrators, students, faculty and staff gathered to celebrate Duke’s inclusion, said Janie Long, the director of the school’s Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Life.
Because every student’s campus experience is subjective, the guide has a top 20 “best of the best,” but does not rank the 100 colleges and universities included. “It’s really not possible to say one university is three notches better than another in terms of total gay and lesbian experience,” Mr. Steele said.
The guide is largely based on student perspectives. Nominations were gathered from 680 campuses across the country, and more than 5,500 online interviews were conducted to help determine which campuses made the cut.
Jamal Brown, a 20-year-old junior at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., said he was shocked and happy to learn that Dartmouth was included. “I think that it’s showing that the work that we’re doing is actually getting done,” he said, referring to events that promote awareness and attempt to root out homophobia.
Still, there is plenty of “institutionalized homophobia,” he said.
“Nowadays people aren’t going to say ‘fag’ or ‘queer’ or something outright,” Mr. Brown said. “But when you get behind closed doors, you still have that.”
During a welcome-back barbecue at the University of Southern California, Maureen Osborne, a 21-year-old senior who is on the executive board of the university’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Assembly, placed the Advocate guide on a table. She said many students picked it up and remarked that they had not realized they had it so good.
“We had no idea how far ahead we were than everyone else,” Ms. Osborne said, referring to the fact that U.S.C. and Penn were the only two schools to have a Gay Point Average of 20 out of 20.
“We were really excited,” she said, though she said she wished her school’s profile had focused more on the activist, academic side of gay life on campus instead of the party scene. But, she admitted, “our dances are amazing.”
Mr. Steele said there are probably another hundred colleges that could have been included in the book. One of those is Harvard, he said, which did not have a policy that prohibited discrimination against transgender students when the guide was being compiled, but does now.
Smith College, a liberal arts college for women in Northampton, Mass., that has a substantial lesbian population, is not in the guide, either. “Maybe it did not have enough supporters in the initial unscientific nomination process,” Mr. Steele said.
But though the new guide will probably make some students’ college searches easier, everyone from Mr. Steele to college advisers to students said that, as with any college guide, it is important to check out the schools in person. “What the Advocate College Guide assesses is really the effort that’s being put forth by the colleges themselves to make their LGBT students comfortable,” Mr. Steele said.
A Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network survey released in April that gathered reports from students 13 to 20 who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in America’s high schools found that about 75 percent of students heard derogatory remarks frequently or often at school. More than a third experienced physical harassment at school based on their sexual orientation.
“When people feel included they can focus on learning,” Mr. Jennings of the education network said. “When they feel isolated and marginalized they can’t. And what LGBT students want is what everyone else wants when they go to college: They want to feel like they belong.”