278. esoterica

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There hasn’t been much time to write recently, nor is there much time to write today, so this is going to be a bit scattered. We’ll see where this goes.

Eighteen days ago was the four-year anniversary of my breakup with Jay, the narcissist ex-boyfriend who nevertheless turned out to be—as I rightly feared—my likely last chance at a relationship before I turned 30.

I was hoping for some spark of insight about lessons learned about life choices, but instead I found little more than regret at having stayed with him for nine whole months.

Besides, there isn’t that much of my mind free to reflect on things like that these days.



One of the insights that I did have after things ended with my last therapist is that one of the reasons I feel so ambivalent about my parents is that there was a time when I was very young when I was happy with them.

This was before I was self-aware and able to internalize the bullshit theology that they were feeding me.

The world was simpler, brighter, happier, and there’s a part of my mind that still remembers what it felt like. A gulf of time and trauma now stands between me and that previous proto-self, and there is no way to get back.

You can’t go home.

I suppose that’s one of the things I most hate my parents for—robbing me of my childhood (and my future adult happiness) by teaching me to hate myself.

They also robbed me of the ability to truly enjoy things since I constantly view things that I like with suspicion or skepticism. There was always a fear growing up that one or both of my parents would disapprove of something I enjoyed or liked, for whatever reason, and would take that thing away.


I’ve also been thinking about my emerging asexual/demisexual identity as of late, where it came from, and whether I’ve always just been this way.

The present hypothesis is that, yes, I have always been this way. My hypothesis acknowledges that the relevant events happened between twelve and fifteen years ago, and that memory is an imperfect reconstruction of past events.

There’s also the reality that my sexuality formed under hostile, repressive circumstances, so it’s possible that my resultant sexual identity is a product of emotional trauma and abuse, isolation, and cult-like psychological programming.

That being said, while I definitely experienced the Saturn V rocket-like explosion of male sex drive during my teenage years, I do not recall ever being sexually attracted to specific guys. I had crushes, yes, to varying levels of intensity, but I don’t remember wanting to do anything sexual with any male peers.

Was that because I was unconsciously suppressing those desires on account of the then-impossibility of realizing them? Perhaps. I was intelligent enough then to have done that. Yet while my peers (even the Christian ones) seemed preoccupied by their sexual impulses (and, naturally, the struggle to resist and remain “pure”), I was more aware of the absence of such impulses in myself.

Piano, writing, research, or literally anything else held more interest for me than sex.

For my male friends especially, the struggle to tame their sexual needs and desires seemed ever-present, something that created a mountain of anxiety for them. I, on the other hand, struggled with just the reality of being same-sex attracted rather than any specific desires.

Being gay was largely an abstract concept for me.

What I experienced in terms of desire for other men wasn’t even necessarily sexual. Even today, I don’t have sexual fantasies about guys. What I do have are emotional fantasies—imagining going on vacations with a partner, buying our first house together, brushing our teeth, curling up on the couch together under a blanket while rain patters on the window.

It’s more the desire for intimacy than it is for sex.

That’s the homoromantic aspect of my orientation.


However, I’ve also been thinking back over my experiences as a sexually active gay man, because over the course of just a few years, I did have a lot of sex. I’ve been thinking about what that meant, especially considering how emotionally unfulfilling and empty it was.

To use a metaphor, I felt a lot like Dharma and Jane when they pretended to be German tourists and were confronted by an actual German speaker.

When I was sexually active, I largely went through the motions, doing what I grew up doing in most social situations—mirroring behavior, and generally faking emotions without understanding what was going on.

Fahrvergnügen?

At the time, I thought I was “discovering” my sexuality after years of repression. The discomfort I felt was internalized homophobia, I thought. Yet no matter how many guys I fucked, I didn’t feel any less confused or empty.

If anything, I actually felt resentful.


No automatic alt text available.

Wolf, Tikva. “Kimchi Cuddles.” Comic strip. 2014. http://kimchicuddles.com.

Reactions to my demi or asexuality have been interesting. There’s been a lot of Oh, I’ve felt that way before. I must be demisexual too.

Or: Are you sure I can’t convince you to give me a try?

Or: Your view of sex is just too traditional.

The notion of the absence of sexual attraction is apparently stymieing to many people. It’s the air they breathe, familiar and comfortable. Gay men especially seem to have a difficult time imagining life without being aroused by any hot or cute guy.

That’s one of my worries about dating again—finding a guy who:

  1. I manage to establish an emotional connection with that’s strong enough to move into sexual attraction;
  2. I find physically attractive;
  3. Is fine with not rushing into sex, and even waiting for me to determine if I’m attracted or not;
  4. Isn’t scared off by my crazy.

So yeah… I don’t know how this is supposed to work. Ultimately, my goal is to build a family of my own to make up for the one I didn’t have, but that doesn’t seem likely.

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264. mesmerism

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old-mesmerismI promised you more details about my sex life in the last post, and here it is, in two parts.


Part I

Like many gay men, I hate my body. It’s not that I’m overweight or even ugly. On the contrary, I’m still relatively slim for my age and level of physical activity (if you call pacing exercise), and objectively speaking my visage is not unpleasing. Yet still I’m not sure if I meet the standard of what other gay men are going to find attractive and desirable.

This is a game I can’t figure out the rules to.

This issue with being uncomfortable with my body goes back to early childhood. As a boy, I didn’t like going around without a shirt—I didn’t want anyone looking at me, thinking I was skinny, pale, or funny-looking.

There was also a degree of cognitive dissonance because I was aware that other boys—other men—thought nothing of displaying their bodies.

So what was wrong with me that I was so inward-looking?

I recently finished watching the Netflix series Stranger Things. One of the things I came away with was reflecting on the friendship between the four main boys. As a homeschooler, I had no such close friendships at that age. The only other contact I had with boys my age was at church, and that was limited—maybe once or twice a week.

Aside from my father, who I had a pretty distant relationship with, my journey through puberty and adolescence was a lonely one. There was no one else to normalize the changes my body went through, from hair appearing on my face, legs, and chest, to my voice deepening, to the hurricane of male teenage hormones and emotions.

Although I read and studied about these changes, I resented my body for dragging me into this new and confusing experience, especially given the conservative Christian community this took place in. The gist of the advice I received was basically: “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.” For me, the only gay in the village (even though I didn’t know it), this was even more lonely once I figured out why I wasn’t interested in girls like the other guys were.

So I’m envious of guys who can go around shirtless or wearing just hot pants, seemingly without a care. They don’t seem to worry about what other people think, and I can’t help wondering how my life might’ve been different had I had close male friends growing up who could’ve helped me acclimate and integrate fully into my adult male body.

(To be absolutely clear, this isn’t gender dysphoria. It’s more that I feel like an outsider, a pariah, or out-of-phase within my own body.)

As it is, I can’t wear shorts without feeling anxious.

Even short-sleeve shirts are a challenge.


Part II

As I’ve written about in several other posts, sex is something of a psychological minefield for me these days. Again, I’m definitely not asexual.

Rather, to quote U2, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

In addition to Stranger Things, I’ve also been watching season 2 of Showtime’s series Penny Dreadful, and just got to the episode where a character is tormented by visions of her dead children clawing their way out of their graves, beckoning her to join them in death.

Curiously, this scene actually helped clarify what has been happening to me mentally in past sexual encounters for me over the past few years.

In the years following my breakup with my first boyfriend, I transformed myself into a bona fide slut. At one point I was using three different hookup apps to find guys around me to have sex with. In the back of my mind though, I was hoping that at least one of them might turn out to be boyfriend material.

If you kiss enough frogs.

Following the catastrophe with Seth, I literally tried to fuck him out of my system, and over the course of just a few months had actually grown tired of sex. Bouncing from one guy to the next was not only exhausting and degrading: it was depressing.

Once I’d called it quits with Jay, my last boyfriend, nearly nearly three-and-a-half years ago, dating became an exercise in futility. With a trail of failed relationships, the chances of anyone deciding a gay thirtysomething was worth it seemed remote when there were more cute, fun, flirty guys around.

Either during or following my last couple of sexual encounters, the ghosts of all the past guys who I was attracted to and who rejected me came crawling up out of the recesses of my subconscious to remind me of how undesirable I am, how unattractive I am compared to other guys, how once sex happens the guy bails, how much of a fucked up fixer-upper project I am, and how no one has the time or patience for that bullshit.

Remember that cute blonde, Chris, how you went out a couple times before you let him fuck you, and afterwards he couldn’t wait to get rid of you?

It’s not as if I haven’t had enough sex—some of it good, even fun. As I get older and know myself better, sex is just one dimension for me of knowing someone.

Unfortunately, as a demisexual, there needs to be a solid emotional foundation of trust first before adding any kind of sexual element.

Yet all gay guys these days seem to want to do is jump straight to having sex, because for most of them it’s just a fun romp. And me being the one who is different, I don’t know how to negotiate when I know someone well enough to trust that they aren’t just going to bail on me once they get what they want from me sexually.

Ironically, I’m actually as celibate now as I was prior to coming out.


So those are the gritty details of my sex life.

You are welcome.

183. bilge

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Another Exodus International alum is on the mea culpa circuit: Randy Thomas, former Executive Vice President of Exodus, who issued a public apology today.

Why does anyone think this matters? Do they think this will lead to some sort of hippy-dippy Kumbaya moment where bygones are bygones, and we hold hands and sing around a campfire? Lest we forget that this is an organization that emotionally manipulated thousands of gay people into betraying themselves in the name of religious bigotry and homophobia…

The fact is, this apology doesn’t matter. Like his former boss, Alan Chambers, at no point in this “apology” does Thomas ever outright apologize for his actions. Instead, he blames others for his part the psychological terrorism of LGBT persons:

  • “My understanding of public policy at that time was limited to the talking points I was given to tailor my testimony around.”
  • “I participated in the hurtful echo chamber of condemnation.”
  • “I was, in a sense, attracted to this kind of power and allowed my conscience to be numbed so I could have a seat at their table. In the name of trying to positively affect Christian leaders, I willingly became one of their pawns. Again, I was selfish and prideful. Please forgive me.”

According to his biography on the Exodus website (now taken down), Randy Thomas grew up in an abusive home, which he attributes to having caused his feelings of same-sex attraction:

“Growing up I internalized the abuse and the pain grew. My need for love was desperate. I knew at a very young age that I preferred the company of males even though I wasn’t like them. When a male would smile my heart would leap. This became erotic at the age of ten.”

After being thrown out of his home by his religiously radicalized mother, he basically went on a sex, alcohol and drugs bender that eventually led to a “come to Jesus” moment and internalizing the lie that homosexuality is both a disorder and a sin. He “left his homosexual identity at the cross,” “learned to relate to men and women the way Father intended,” and “received love from men and women in the body of Christ that displaces homosexuality.”

Essentially, he became frightened of the abusive way he was treating his body, and was seduced by the alluring message of (conditional) love and acceptance of God and the Church. Not only that, but he joined an organization devoted to seducing others into exactly the same lifestyle (irony strongly intended).

Rather than see that he needed psychological help and counseling after an abusive childhood and then rejection and abandonment by his own mother, like so many of these ex-gay faggots (as Dan Savage likes to call them, because not a single one of those pathetic individuals are heterosexual), Randy Thomas made the fatal leap of seeing correlation where there was no causation. He associated the emptiness that he felt with homosexuality, not the emotionally empty sexual encounters he was having with other men.

I’ve felt that same emptiness too after a hookup that comes from the deep longing I have within me for a partner and kindred spirit, and not finding it in those encounters. We’re complex social primates, and that’s how millions of years of natural selection have groomed us for survival. For most of us, the desire for emotional companionship is embedded in our genes.

Instead of seeking real help, Randy cut himself off from his friends and support network, and joined up with bigots of the ex-gay movement who told him what he wanted to hear.

Nowhere in his public apology does Thomas take full responsibility for his part in the abuse of LGBT people, or that these beliefs were wrong and scientifically ungrounded to begin with. He apologizes for the hurt he caused, but he doesn’t actually say that the actions that caused that hurt were actually wrong. This is one of the first lessons I learned about making apologies: if you were in the wrong, you admit it. Instead we have this masquerading as an apology:

“I apologize to the gay community for idealizing and reinforcing the institutional groupthink of Exodus. I apologize for remaining publicly silent about the hurt caused by some of Exodus’ leaders and actions. I also apologize for my inexperienced participation in public policy, placing my personal ambition over truly serving the gay community as a Christian friend.”

This is virtually no different from saying: “I apologize for shooting you. But it was for your own good, and to keep you from going down an even worse path. I regret hurting you though! Friends?” That’s not an apology. That’s excuse making, designed to let the offender off the hook from feeling guilty about his/her past actions.

The fact is that Randy Thomas and everyone in the ex-gay movement knows that their ship is sinking, and fast. Their claim of evidence of change in sexual orientation evaporated into thin air, because it was never there to begin with. Every mainstream medical body in the world has affirmed that there is nothing aberrant or pathological about homosexuality. The much touted Mark Regnerus study that was supposed to prove that same-sex parents ultimately harm their children turned out to be fraudulent.

And they’re likely trying to make friends amongst enemies before the anti-ex-gay animus really heats up.

If Randy Thomas wants to “make amends,” he could start by inventing a time machine, going back and smacking some sense into his young adult self. Or spending his time volunteering in shelters for gay teens who have been disowned by their bigoted Christian parents, and helping them reject the lies that he helped perpetrate, come to accept themselves as the beautiful human beings they are, and find healthy and emotionally mature ways of expressing their sexuality.

Hell, just a decent sex ed course would be a start.

But this so-called apology is a joke. It’s self-pitying, self-congratulatory, and blame-shifting. Whatever his motivations here, an apology without action is worthless.

179. balk

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ruined city“Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change… You have never been my enemy. I am very sorry that I have been yours.”

Dear Alan Chambers,

I read your funny little note today. Or it would be funny if it weren’t so deeply offensive to me and to every gay person you’ve helped murder, maim, mangle, dehumanize and abuse over the many years of your “ministry” as president of Exodus International.

Fortunately, I am not one of those “ex-gay” survivors (i.e., victims). I was never desperate enough to fully buy into the lie that there was something fundamentally wrong with me, or that my sexual orientation needed “curing.” Frankly, I’m not sure why this is when so many of my friends willingly subjected themselves to the brand of psychological terrorism your organization helped promote. They did this out of a desperate, last-ditch hope that it would make them acceptable enough for your so-called God, and for their families who ultimately failed in the duty to show them unconditional love.

Perhaps it was my parents’ instilling of critical thinking skills in me at an early age that never allowed me to fully accept their and my church’s teaching about homosexuality. There was a small but present voice in my mind (that, thanks to teachings about demons and “spiritual warfare,” I attributed to the Devil tempting me) that said, “This doesn’t make sense.”

And why should it? Why would we willingly choose a “lifestyle” that for too many of us results in the hostile rejection of our friends and family, being taunted, called names, beaten up (and too often brutally murdered), demonized and hated — all for simply loving a person of the same sex?

That’s right — straight people have relationships; faggots just want sex.

“… If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”

I was never desperate or foolish enough to pursue so-called “reparative” therapy. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t spend the majority of my teen years in pained anguish over what I believed were filthy and repulsive sexual feelings, pleading with God almost every single night growing up to take those feelings away.

It doesn’t mean that there aren’t 25 years of my life that I’ll never get back because I believed the bullshit that God’s “design” for human beings was heterosexuality.

It doesn’t mean that my young adult life were desperately lonely and miserable as I watched my straight friends date, fall in love, and get married, something I thought wasn’t an option for me because our holy book said that marriage was between a man and a woman.

So forgive me if I find it infuriatingly laughable when you say that you’re not my enemy. You’re worse than my enemy. You’re a disgusting quisling, a self-loathing, self-hating collaborator against your own kind. You’ve ruined lives with your teachings. You’ve all but put the gun in the hand or kicked the chair out from under who knows how many innocent LGBT people who couldn’t live with the life you and others told them they had to live in order to get to Heaven — all because they were unfortunate enough to have been born different than 95% of the human population.

And for that you’re sorry? Like Steve Urkel lamenting, “Did I do that?”

The only good thing to came out of this nightmare for me is that I was well prepared for the realizations that (1) religion is nonsense, and (2) there is no God. For me, these conclusions were inevitable. I was never the kind of person who can blindly accept given propositions as fact. It would’ve been nice if these realizations could’ve come earlier, and with less grief and pain, but they are hard-won, and they are mine. And I’m building a new, happier, freer life for myself, without the lies and self-hatred that I was fed growing up.

It would’ve also been nice if I could have accepted my sexuality earlier, and in a family where I could’ve been accepted for who I am rather than who they believe I should be. But then, I wouldn’t be the unique, strong, dynamic and caring individual that I am today. It has been a long, difficult road to accepting myself, but I doubt that I’d appreciate the joy of love and relationships in the same way had I not known the despair and broken loneliness first.

However, I hold you personally responsible for the grief, loss and pain I suffered, in the full knowledge that you’re merely a part of the system that oppressed and subjugated you too. Yet you willingly participated in that oppression and subjugation by becoming an oppressor yourself. You taught millions of gay men and women to hate and loathe themselves, and to bury themselves alive in unfulfilling relationships with members of the opposite sex because the leaders of your church taught that this is “God’s will.”

So until you figure out a way to go back in time and prevent every person from going through the life of pain and misery you inflicted on them, there is no forgiveness for you, or your kind. All I hope is that you devote the rest of your sad life to dismantling the lies about LGBT people that you’ve promoted and fostered over the years.

But there is no forgiveness for you. There may be others who can find it in their hearts to do so, and good for them. But you will be my enemy until the day you die and leave this planet to those of us who want to build a more kind, peaceful and tolerant world.

 

164. pontificate

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Man being bullied by another man.Just so everyone knows, I haven’t forgotten about the shootings in Newtown, CT. My thoughts are definitely with the families and friends of the victims. However, I wanted to share a somewhat related email I sent this morning to Sue Seul, assistant to the superintendent of the Anoka-Hennepin school district.

There’s been a petition going around on Change.org to Tom Heidemann and the Anoka County School Board to have Bryan Lindquist of the Parents Action League removed from his appointment to the district’s anti-bullying task force.

In March of 2012, the Southern Poverty Law Center put the Parents Action League on their list of active anti-gay hate groups in the United States for promoting “damaging propaganda about the gay community” (see below). Incidentally, the PAL is affiliated with the Minnesota Family Council, the group that formed Minnesota for Marriage to campaign for the failed 2012 Minnesota Marriage Amendment.

ABC Newspapers, the local paper for that area, reported that Lindquist “has come under fire due to statements he’s made that indicate a belief that homosexuals can change their sexual orientation and that the district should distribute information about gay conversion or “reparative” therapy.”

On December 10, the nearly 2,500-signature petition was delivered to the District 11 school board. As recounted in an email sent last night by the petition organizer, Melissa Thompson, the board’s response was not only to reject the petition but also to “[remove] the public comment portion of the video and recorded agenda.” She also urged signers to write to Ms. Seul, which I did:

To: Sue Seul <sue.seul@anoka.k12.mn.us>
From: David Philip Norris

Ms. Suel,

I am writing to express my extreme displeasure at the decision of the Anoka-Hennepin school board to not remove Mr. Lindquist from the anti-bullying task force, and to censor the public comment portion of the meeting where supporters of his removal voiced their concerns and opinions.

As a member of the Parents Action League, a group classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as one of 27 active anti-gay hate groups in the United States, Bryan Lindquist is no ally to LGBT students in the Anoka-Hennepin district. This is a man who has been quoted calling homosexuality a “lifestyle choice” and a “sexual disorder” — a man tasked with protecting students (particularly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students) from bullying. This is also a school district with an unusually high number of suicides and suicide attempts, the majority of which are committed by LGBT students and students merely perceived as being gay or lesbian.

Mr. Lindquist was recently quoted as saying that “discussion of sexual orientation [should] take place in the homes with parents and not with a teacher in a classroom full of impressionable kids.” There is a difference between avoiding discussion of sexual orientation in the classroom and pretending like LGBT students don’t exist and therefore aren’t being bullied for being gay or lesbian. The school board should be enacting policies to protect ALL students, not just students Mr. Lindquist believes deserve not to be bullied.

Yours,
David Philip Norris

School Boardmember Mike Sullivan stated that “it’s critical to have opposing points of view.” Yet as Thompson was quoted in a KSTP News story, appointing Lindquist to this task force “would be like asking somebody from the [Klu Klux Klan] to sit on the committee that plans black history month.”

She has a good point. While it’s not right to exclude someone because of their religious beliefs, neither does it make sense to put a man who belongs to a group that actively promotes the idea that homosexuality results from “dysfunctional family relationships, experimentation with men or boys, incest, negative body image, peer labeling and harassment, temperament, exposure to pornography, not bonding correctly with your own gender parental figure, abandonment, early trauma such as sexual victimization, and media influences” in a position to protect those very students.

The implication here is the same made by opponents of same-sex marriage and LGBT rights: Why should we give them special rights when they choose to live a perverted lifestyle? The FAQ on PAL’s website states that “to date there is no genetic link to prove they are born that way.” Ironically, on the day that the Anoka school board rejected the petition to have Lindquist removed, results of a study by international researchers were published, who found that homosexuality seems to have epigenetic (rather than genetic) causes, suggesting that we really were born this way.

The only special rights here are the ones being demanded by bigots like Lindquist, the PAL, the Minnesota Family Council and its national affiliate Focus on the Family: to abuse LGBT people under the auspices of “freedom of religion.” These groups all have close ties with the Family Research Council, which has promoted and supported the passage of Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill, further reinforcing the notion that groups like PAL and people like Lindquist are in fundamental opposition to the human rights of LGBT people.

As we put the events in Newtown in perspective and try to learn from it, we must remember that making schools safer doesn’t just mean protecting students from outside threats. It means taking a look at internal threats as well.

154. cacology

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The past couple of days I’ve been getting caught up on the British fantasy-adventure show Merlin. One of my ex-boyfriends and I used to watch it, and it’s kind of cheesy and rompy in the sort of Stargate SG-1 sense, but it’s still a lot of fun. And I have a huge crush on Colin Morgan, which is a valid excuse for liking anything. (A half-naked Cam Gigandet was all the excuse I needed to watch Pandorum.)

Because I’m a history nerd, I’m painfully aware of all the anachronisms that nobody else seems to notice, such as the fact that medieval physicians had no concept of infection or bacteria, or that knights did not use the same hand signals that Marines use to signal attack maneuvers.

I get it. It’s a show for modern audiences that aren’t worried about those things. And, frankly, medieval Europe in its raw form isn’t very entertaining. There wasn’t much swashbuckling, unless “swashbuckling” is a term used to describe what happens when a plançon does when it collided with someone’s head.

So this is why I tend not to enjoy historical romps such as A Knight’s Tale. Even the famous Monty Python scene above sends a little bit of a shiver through me as I’m reminded of the Trial by Ordeal. In the case of the witch scene, the medieval thinking was that if an accused person was thrown in water, because God has a vested interest in human affairs, if they’re innocent God would intervene on their behalf and they would float to the surface.

There was also a much nastier version of this involving boiling water, where the accused would be compelled (or forced) to put their hand in boiling water. The hand would be bound up and after several days it would be inspected by a priest who would determine whether God had intervened in the healing process on their behalf. The term “trial by fire” has its origins in this practice, where the accused would be branded and later examined for signs of a miracle (or no miracle, in which case you were summarily fucked), or forced to walk over coals or fire.

Oh, I could go on and on. This is what happens when you are homeschooled as a child possessed of morbid curiosity and access to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

The frightening thing is that we’re not so far removed from that kind of medieval thinking. Yesterday I was talking with a pastor who believes that natural law proves homosexuality is wrong. “Just look at how men and women fit together like puzzle pieces!” was the thrust of his argument. (Of course, he conveniently sidestepped the issue of what to do about infertile couples and the elderly.) Thomas Aquinas’ Quinque viae follows similar lines: “The universe exists, therefore: [poof] God.” ([Poof] added for emphasis.)

Most notoriously, Christian apologist Ray Comfort claimed bananas are proof the world is designed by God because they fit perfectly in our hands, and are pointed toward our mouths. (I’m really not making that up. Watch the video.) Julia Sweeney parodies this “cosmological” thinking in her show Letting Go of God when she sums up Intelligent Design:

It’s like saying that our hands are miraculous because they fit so perfectly into our gloves. “Look, at that! Four fingers and a thumb! That can’t have been an accident!’

In 1913, the American atheist Emma Goldman wrote: “The Christian religion and morality extols the glory of the Hereafter, and therefore remains indifferent to the horrors of the earth. Indeed, the idea of self-denial and of all that makes for pain and sorrow is its test of human worth, its passport to the entry into heaven.”

This is what prompted inquisitors to torture and murder their victims, whose only crime was not agreeing with them; it’s what prompts Muslim fathers to behead their daughters rather than allow them to become corrupt and worldly (i.e., not wear the hijab); and what motivates fundamentalists to persecute homosexuals and teach them to loathe themselves. At the core of their teaching is the belief that whatever happens to the body doesn’t matter. What matters is getting the soul to heaven, where it can continue its subjugation to the bloody celestial dictator, God.

This is inhuman, it’s anti-human, and it’s deplorable that in the twenty-first century, when we’ve largely put the evils of slavery and torture behind us, that we’re still putting up with medieval thinking of this sort.

One reason why we haven’t seen much forward motion in the gay rights movement is that fundamentalists of the Rick Santorum/Tony Perkins/Maggie Gallagher/Linda Harvey variety are sticking their fingers in their ears and screaming, “No! No!”, and getting their followers to do the same. It’s a bit like being on a tandem bicycle with someone who keeps dragging their feet, and even trying to drag the bicycle back to the shed.

As I’ve said before, you can’t fully understand these people until you understand that they truly believe that God actually gives a fuck where I put my dick, or where my boyfriend puts his. Theirs is a severe God, looking down from heaven scowling at all the people having fun on the earth—because theirs is a God made in their puritanical image. They are murderous men and women who think they have been given special dispensation from God to make this Earth into a heaven for Christians—even though they also supposedly believe “this world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through.”

They think the reason I can’t see this is because I’m spiritually deaf, blind and dumb to Truth.

You can’t understand their fervor until you understand that they truly believe that this is a war between Good and Evil, between God and the Devil, and that my being able to marry the man I love is somehow Satanic and will bring about the end of the world. Or locusts. Or hurricanes. Or a light sprinkling of rain with a little thunder.

152. concatenate

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Last week I watched my news feed with excitement for the much-anticipated landing of the Mars rover Curiosity. Since I don’t watch television, radio and online news are my primary sources of information, and I was admittedly somewhat embarrassingly anxious to hear how the $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory would fare on its “seven minutes of terror” landing. Seeing those first few pictures of the Martian landscape is still breathtaking—images of literally another world that isn’t earth.

This mission has revived a public conversation that’s been raging in the scientific community for decades. What is life? How do we define it? How do we recognize it when we see it? Since the dawn of the science-fiction genre with the second-century Roman satirist Lucien’s True History,we’ve been imagining other forms of life in our own image, which really isn’t all that different from how we’ve crafted our gods. Until recently, sci-fi shows and movies almost always portray aliens as humanoid, partly due to budget or material constraints.

In an article on NPR today, Marcelo Gleiser ponders the implications of finding (or not finding) evidence of life on Mars. “The expectations are high that Curiosity will find a trace of life, even if long extinct,” he writes. “However, if results turn out negative, we will still learn a lot. After all, the question we are asking is whether life on Earth is the exception or the rule. If life is not found on Mars, it will be harder to justify that life is abundant in the universe.”

The human race is currently emerging from its infancy. Until a certain age, young children are egocentric, incapable of empathy and recognizing that other people are separate individuals. Their brains haven’t developed that ability yet. (Some people never grow past that stage.) Similarly, the human race is finally learning that there might be other ways to be alive. We’re now conjecturing what silicon-based life form might look like, how it could evolve, how it could evolve intelligence, and how we might recognize any of those things. Depending on planetary conditions and the elements its parent star are rich in, a life form might find chlorine, arsenic or methane nourishing, and water a lethal poison.

Analogously, the human race is also discovering that there’s more than one way to be human. (Yes, I just managed to link the Mars mission to gay rights. Bite me.)

Earlier this week I was having several discussions over this infographic that’s been floating around cyberspace:

In case you haven’t seen it, the gist of it is that we dismiss much of the Bible now as being either culturally contextual and therefore irrelevant to modern-day society (such as wearing clothes woven from different fabrics, or any of the Old Testament laws and regulations), or flat out wrong (such as forcing rape victims to marry their rapists).

Naturally, it’s caused a firestorm of controversy and disagreement.

The two central questions this debate has raised seem to concern the definition of marriage and the definition of sexuality. What does it mean to be married today? What has it meant historically? Is heterosexuality the only way to be sexual, or are there alternatives? That was the central issue in the California Proposition 8 case—whether homosexuality is a learned “behavior” or it’s a natural variant of human sexuality. The answer to that question determined whether the GLBT community could be considered a legal protected class and therefore entitled to protection under the Due Process Clause. In his ruling decision, Judge Walker overturned Proposition 8 as unconstitutional, saying that “no compelling state interest justifies denying same-sex couples the fundamental right to marry.”

Walker’s decision harkens, of course, to Chief Justice Earl Warren’s landmark 1967 ruling decision in Loving v. Virginia, when he wrote that “marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival.”

I’ve encountered a number of people of the anti-gay persuasion this week, most of whom continue to insist that being homosexual is a choice. They’ve also claimed that gay men have hundreds of partners, are riddled with STDs, rape and molest children, and bring down God’s wrath and judgment on any society that doesn’t persecute us. But I haven’t heard one argument that has cited a scientific study proving categorically that homosexuality is indeed a perversion of human sexuality, that anyone is harmed by homosexuality (including homosexuals), that children are placed at risk of harm or indoctrination by an insidious “gay agenda,” or that the institution of marriage itself is endangered by including same-sex relationships under the umbrella.

And that is the central issue at stake here. You can argue that “God says it’s wrong” until you’re blue in the face. That argument doesn’t hold any water in a secular society and government—which America is. And the second president of the United States would agree with me.

The question we should be asking is not whether homosexuality is wrong. The reparative therapy crowd has admitted that the homosexual orientation is 99.99% fixed; the scientific community has a plausible explanation for how homosexuality could indeed be genetic; conservatives have yet to produce one marriage destroyed by homosexuals (though the Miller family of Pittsboro, NC might disagree after their harrowing ordeal); and children of same-sex parents seem to grow up perfectly normal—perhaps even more well-adjusted.

In the absence of any compelling reasons, the Constitution of the United States of America weighs in via the Fourteenth Amendment:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Bottom line: Either all citizens deserve equal protection, or no citizens deserve protection.