One of the most favorite things I do with my phone is listen to NPR podcasts during the commute. The Diane Rhem Show is one I listen to a lot. The other day I was listening to a show discussing the anti-gay marriage amendment that was recently passed in North Carolina. Diane's always good about making sure she has representatives from both sides of an issue. Representing the
religious conservative bigots viewpoint was Maggie Gallagher, president, Institute for Marriage and Public Policy.
I was a little worried I'd end up in a rage listening to the discussion, but honestly, these days Maggie and her cohorts just strike me as pathetic and sad.
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change. -Charles Darwin
Give my love to the dodo, Maggie.
There were a couple of things that struck me about the conversation. For one, I never once heard the phrase "sanctity of marriage." Apparently conservatives are wising up to the fact that such religiously charged language isn't necessarily helpful to their cause. Marriage is merely "unique and special" these days.
The disadvantage of podcast listening is there's no opportunity to join the conversation. Not that my chances of getting in a call are much better than a snowball's in Hell. Still, I would really have like to ask Maggie about her old and tired arguments about procreation and child rearing. To start, marriage is not a requirement for procreation. Period. There really is no discussion there. Asserting that marriage and procreation are somehow dependent on each other is little more than wishful thinking.
I'll just completely sidestep the laughable assertion that opposite sex unions are inherently more stable.
As for child rearing, that the whole "a child needs a mother and a father" business doesn't really hold water by any objective standard. A stable, loving home is more important than the sex of the parents. But let's go ahead and assume that her assertion has merit. If opposite sex marriage is so fundamental to the proper functioning of society and the proper education of children, why isn't Maggie's organization putting as much effort in to dismantling divorce? To enforcing adultery laws that are still on the books all over this country? To advocating stricter marriage license requirements? Maybe some kind of mandatory "Matrimony Ed." You know, some analog to driver's ed? How about periodic evaluation by a licensed professional to assure the home remains stable and caring? Why isn't she working to reversing women's rights so a woman has few options except to stay home and raise the kids? That's "traditional" marriage.
Even though Maggie seemed to take umbrage at claims by her opponents that those who share her views are bigoted and hateful, I don't know what else you would call it. There's an obviously double standard. One group is given far more leniency (a.k.a. privilege) than another. Her statements that "anti-miscegenation laws were wrong and should have been dismantled, but this is different" display either a stunning dishonesty or a remarkable ignorance of how societies try and preserve power and the status quo.
If you're not familiar with The Trevor Project, it's worth checking out. It's an attempt to foster hope and curtail suicide among gay teens. There have been a lot of celebrities who have produced videos for the project. And then there are many, many more from "normal" folk who have lived it and want to assure young people struggling that it does get better.
Apparently an "It Gets Better" video has been produced by students at BYU and is making the rounds on Facebook. I finally broke down and watched it today. I have mixed feelings. I refused to watch it at first because the first time I saw it on Facebook it had "same-gender attraction" in the title.
<rant>I find that phrase extremely offensive. For starters, it perpetuates the myth the Mormon church is trying to establish as doctrine that sex and gender are equivalent, which is complete and utter bullshit. Anyone with a brain will tell you that sex is about your anatomical bits and gender is about the social roles assigned to you because of your bits. Gender roles are at the heart of homophobia.
It also completely denies the reality of what being gay is. This phrase allows the church to define homosexuality as a condition, a disease, a handicap. God created us all straight, gave males all the power and women all the child-rearing and cleanup duties. This is the very foundation of the Mormon church's opposition to homosexual rights. If you think it's just an innocuous phrase, you're totally missing the boat.</rant>
So anyway, I finally got past my visceral reaction to the Phrase Which Shall Not Be Named and watched the video. To say that I can relate to the struggles these students talk about would be an understatement. I briefly considered re-posting it to give my family some idea what it was like for me 20 years ago when a gay-straight alliance at BYU was absolutely unthinkable. In the end I decided not to. I imagine they'll find it on their own eventually.
On the one hand, I'm glad these students can actually express themselves and talk about their sexuality. That has got to make life much easier. On the other hand, I wonder how long it will be before their status as second class citizen wears on them. Admitting you're gay is one thing. Being allowed to live and love as comes naturally to you is something else entirely. How long can they live with the dissonance created by a gay-straight alliance at BYU and the Mormon church's continued efforts to fight LGBT equality?
Like those students—I keep wanting to call them kids. Probably has something to do with the fact that my own children are that age. <sigh>—I too had experiences where I felt like God was telling me I was okay, two of them actually. The first was when I was still married. I was having a particularly bad day struggling to keep it together. I don't even remember what I was thinking. I just remember a thought that intruded on the miasma that was my emotional state that day. Clear as a bell it said, "You're not broken."
The second time was right after my first boyfriend broke up with me to go back to the church, "confess his sins and put his life in order." It occasioned some soul searching on my part. One evening I sat on the floor wrestling with my thoughts. I tried to imagine myself going back to the church, getting remarried and doing my best to "endure to the end." That thought made me physically ill. I imagined going back to the church, staying single and trying to find someway to give my life in the church meaning. That just felt depressing. The third option I considered was to stay on the path that I was on and find someone else to love. Once again, a thought, clear as a bell that didn't feel like it was my own: "Yes. Do that."
I wonder how long it will take these young men and women to work out that God/Wisdom/Grace/Whateveryouwantotcallit exists independent of the Church™; that an experience that tells you you are not broken, that God doesn't care that you are gay is not the same as an endorsement of the Mormon church. What I fear is that increased tolerance in the Church will end up making it more difficult to make the break, to make the decision that they do not need to be punished because the Mormon Collective can't wrap their head around a God who doesn't have a stick up His Ass.
D got me a game called Dragon Age II for Christmas. It's pretty standard fantasy fare: swordsmen, wizards, dwarves, elves, with the occasional dragon thrown in for good measure. As you go through the game you meet new characters which you can include in your adventure parties. You also interact with these characters, helping them sort out things they have going on in their own lives.
The game proceeds by passing through decision points, "What do you want to say now?" You usually have several options: you can be the peacemaker, the funny guy, or the no-nonsense tough guy. Occasionally, when interacting with your friends, you have an option marked with a heart which indicates romantic intent. I was pleasantly surprised to find the game doesn't discriminate. Romantic options come up when I'm talking with my male friends just as they do with my female friends. This is actually quite out of the ordinary. Generally video games that allow for romantic relationships keep it quite heterosexual.
So in chapter one of the game, I started flirting with the elven swordsman I met along the way. In chapter two, things got...shall we say...steamy. All very PG, but the elf immediately regretted our interlude, "My past...blah blah blah..." and backed off. Then in chapter three sir elf was feeling morose because his sister had just betrayed him to his arch enemy. Naturally when the romantic option to comfort him came up, I took it. There was a look of appreciation, but that was about it. Now, however, the other members of my party are giving the elf a hard time. (They talk to each other as we move from place to place.)
"Oh, you're in love."
"How would you know?"
"Because you make puppy dog eyes at Hawke [my character] every time his back is turned. It's adorable."
"There are no puppy dog eyes."
"So Fenris, who swept who off his feet? I'm thinking Hawke swept you. He's taller. Could have been awkward the other way around."
"All I'm going to say, dwarf, is there was no sweeping."
It's hard to describe how it feels to operate in a word where no body gives a shit that I'm in a relationship with a guy. People are suspicious of magic and some have issues with the fact that I'm a mage, but nobody cares I'm gay. I find myself playing the game as much to see where the relationship goes as what big, evil monster I have to kill next. Yes, I had friends both gay and straight who were supportive when I started dating D, but for the most part they were all friends I had made after I came out. My friends before I came out? Not so much.
When I first saw this video, my first thought was, "I like what it has to say, but it's a bit melodramatic." My second thought was, "Isn't that just like you. Finding some reason to minimize what you feel, make it palatable to others around you." It seems to fit in with the topic at hand, so here it is in all its melodramatic glory...because I do feel like this sometimes.
I haven't heard this song in a while, but it came up on my playlist today. Mulan was released in 1998. My wife and I had agreed we would separate just before Thanksgiving 1998. We waited for the holidays to pass, and I moved out January 5, 1999. Needless to say 1998 was a rough year. I remember being floored by this song the first time I saw the movie. Even now hearing it again brings back all those feelings of inadequacy and seeing no way for things to ever change.
It may even have been this song that started my long slide to leaving the church and coming out. It articulated how I was feeling so perfectly. It almost felt like someone was trying to tell me something. If that song started it, this one cinched it.
(Try and get past the awful music video. I'm making a serious point here.) Footloose was originally released in 1984. Being completely clueless, I hadn't figured out I was gay at the time, even though I totally related to that song and felt that yearning for a prince charming come to rescue me. I did say I was completely clueless.
Fast forward to 1999. For the 15 year anniversary of Footloose's release, the soundtrack was remastered and released. Having always had an emotional connection to that soundtrack, I bought the CD. I got it home, popped it into my computer and gave it a listen. Bonnie Tyler's song came on and I suddenly felt like I had been put into a time machine and transported back to 1984. It was like I was 17 again. Nothing about how I felt about that song had changed. I knew then that if nothing in the intervening 15 years had done anything to alter the way that song made me feel, nothing ever would.
Interesting isn't it, when science can't explain the origin of the universe or the true nature of matter, it's a sign of the Hand of God. Proof that the Creator exists and has knowledge and designs that are beyond the feeble comprehension of man. But when science can't explain the origins of homosexuality, there's no Hand of God. There are no designs beyond the comprehension of men. It's just sin.
Over at thinkprogress.org, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) is quoted on the subject of gay marriage.
So, pretty soon, if you don’t set parameters, you don’t have any parameters at all, the license means nothing — the marriage means nothing. It’s their right to marry whoever they want, but we’re saying marriage is between a man and a woman. So, there’s a difference there. But it’s not a right in the Constitution as far as that goes either. It’s not a right of anybody — of a 3-year-old to be able to drive a car. You know, the government has set some parameters that they think is correct.
OK. Having worked as a counselor for troubled adolescents, I would be happy to testify that the license doesn't mean anything as it is. It's little more than a genital check. I once worked with a young man whose parents, heterosexuals as it happens, were both on disability for mental health issues. They had produced three children, all of them struggling, at least two of them basically living on the streets, because their parents are barely capable of functioning as individuals, much less as parents. But as long as there's a penis and a vagina involved
society conservatives don't care. We can't interfere with an individual's God given right to f*** up their kids.
If the government is setting parameters, they need to justify said parameters with real, measurable outcomes that demonstrate the state has an interest in monitoring and controlling said outcomes. I have yet to see any such data regarding GLBT folk. In fact, the data currently suggests GLBT folk are no better or worse at parenting than their heterosexual counterparts. Therefore, the state has no interest in preventing GLBT people from marrying. On the other hand, how much money do you think the state spends on treatment and incarceration of adolescents and adults who come from dysfunctional homes? It would seem there's a manifest budgetary consideration, but the state chooses not to involve itself in questions of parental fitness for heterosexuals...that is until it's too late and the damage is already done. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right?
A 3-year-old and a car...really? That's just stupid and absurd. A 3-year-old is incapable of driving a car. A paraplegic is incapable of running a footrace. A blind person is incapable of describing the color of a sunset. GLBT folk are perfectly capable of loving and bonding. A more correct analogy would be forbidding someone a driving license because they are missing a finger on each hand and cannot therefore grip the wheel in exactly the same way as 10-fingered individuals.
I once saw a sign at a little tourist shop in Austria that said, "Vor inbetriebnahme des Mundwerkes Gehirn einschallten." Roughly translated: Before opening mouth, engage brain. I swear some conservatives don't even have a working clutch.
An Out magazine on a newsstand? In 7-Eleven? In Sandy? Is the world coming to and end?
This morning on the Diane Rhem show she interviewed Edward Albee the playwright who wrote Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf? When I tuned in, he was relating how the movie studio didn't keep to their original vision of the movie based on Albee's play as described to him. He talked about how the character Martha was 52 in the play, but 32 in the movie and was intended to be 20 years her husband George's senior, but is six years his junior in the movie. He made light of the fact that the verbal agreement he had with the studio "wasn't worth the paper it wasn't written on." Nevertheless he thought the movie was well done, well acted and well directed.
The first caller was a gentleman who called to talk about an all male production of the play he had participated in. I'm sure he was expecting a response along the lines of "That's an interesting idea. How did it go? Was it well received?" But that's not what he got. Albee's response: "I wouldn't have let you do that." You could tell the caller was taken aback by Albee's outright rejection of the idea. He fumbled with his words. He tried to talk about the success of the production, that it was very well received. He also talked about how strictly faithful they were to the script, the only change that was made was to substitute Martha for a man named Richard. I don't remember how many times Albee repeated "I wouldn't have let you do that." He wouldn't engage with the caller at all. He just kept repeating "I wouldn't have let you do that." He did ask if the men were in drag or if they had substituted a gay male for a heterosexual female. When the caller affirmed the second option, Albee's once again stated, "I wouldn't have let you do that. It hardly seems the same to me." (paraphrasing) Apparently he would have been okay with men in drag. There is, after all, a long standing (sexist) tradition in theater of men in drag acting female parts.
I was also disappointed in Diane's response to this interchange. Rather than trying to encourage Albee to engage on the topic, she affirmed his statements and said, "Well, [caller] you've heard it from the source." So much for the journalist who asks hard questions of her guests. I guess if you're a well-known playwright you get a pass. At the very least she could have asked him to elaborate on what exactly the differences are as he sees them. I guess I'm going to have to see the play/movie now. Based on the synopsis I've read, I have a hard time seeing how the sex of the couple is even relevant.
I really felt for the caller. I'm sure the caller expected a playwright with a reputation writing plays that are "are considered well-crafted, often unsympathetic examinations of the modern condition" to be more open to the idea or at the very least to not completely shut down the conversation. I don't know enough about Albee's work to know if the caller's expectations were off base or not. Still, it just goes to show you that you never know how someone is going to react to the subject of homosexuality. In fact, in my experience, it's these types of situations that hurt the most. You go in expecting an affirming response—or worst case, a neutral response—and you walk away feeling sucker punched by hostility.
It also goes to show that even in our more "enlightened" age, there is still a lot of stunning ignorance, even among those we hope are our friends.
There’s no reason that the government should prevent homosexuals from entering civil marriages because some religions object to the concept, any more than the government should ban atheism because some religions object to it.
I don't know who Lisa Pampuch is. There are dozens of her on the Net. I couldn't find the original source of the quote either, but it's everywhere. I'm thinking it has something to do with how eminently reasonable it is. Of course, as this Lisa Pampuch points out, reason has little to do with the religious experience.
When asked what he would do if Camping* is wrong again, Rick LaCasse, who witnessed Camping’s 1994 failure, said: “I can’t even think like that. Everything is too positive right now. There’s too little time to think like that.”
UPDATE:This Lisa Pampuch, cited above, is the Lisa Pampuch who has thoughtfully provided links to the original article in the comments. Thanks, Lisa.
*Camping is currently predicting the rapture will occur on May 21, 2011. Obviously, it wasn't 1994.