223. cacography

Darcy“My good opinion once lost is lost forever.”

This past weekend my friends Adam and Jesse got married. They’ve been together fourteen years, which is a number I can barely grasp as an amount of time spent with one person. Aside from my family, very few of my relationships have lasted even remotely that long.

As expected, the weeks and days leading up to the wedding were difficult, partly because I was putting together all of the music for it, as is often my job. I wrote (and performed) a song for the occasion, something I haven’t done since college, a setting of an excerpt from Walt Whitman’s Song of the Open Road—”Camerado! I give you my hand.”

It’s tough participating or working on weddings when it seems like it will never happen for me. It’s like someone who works for minimum wage making products that they’ll never be able to afford. Now that I’m past my half birthday and virtually thirty-two years old, it seems even more unlikely that I’ll ever find a boyfriend, let alone one who might someday become a husband…

Weddings are also difficult right now, seeing as one friend after another has been getting into relationships, engaged, or married of late. Relationship statuses change, and friends post pictures of themselves with their partners, seemingly happy, doing things together, participants together in life. Which leads me to wonder if I’m truly living, and what that even looks like. Because it still feels as if I’m picking up the pieces of the remains of my pre-atheist, pre-Seth existence.

A few weeks ago my friend Sarah returned to the States after several months abroad in Europe. Sarah is a fellow graduate of Northwestern College (now the bizarrely re-named “University of Northwestern,” which led a friend of mine to comment: “That’s awfully specific”), and a fellow apostate and ex-fundamentalist.

To make a long story short, at the end of her sojourn abroad, she inadvertently found herself in a relationship with an Austrian fellow who she’d met at the beginning of the year and had been building a friendship with over the course of her travels. I got the whole story at the beginning of the month, and my initial reaction was like this: “How is it that this is so easy for everyone else?” Because it truly feels like my universe is shrinking.

Part of her story was Sarah coming to the realization that her lack of interest in guys was not so much that she wasn’t into guys (or girls) but rather that she hadn’t met anyone on the same level, with whom there was a mutual respect. She likened her relationship to Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

This struck a note with me, as I’ve been feeling similarly adrift, dating-wise. And for a long time I’ve felt like the problem is me, that I’m the one who is broken. Now I’m starting to think that maybe I just shouldn’t be dating American men—at the very least, not Midwestern men.

For me, the “Darcy” comparison seems particularly accurate (aside from not being worth $14 million). If you’re familiar with the novel, our initial impression of him is one of aloofness, coldness, and haughty pride. It’s only later that we discover his depth of feeling, fierce loyalty to family and friends, and the deep insecurity that drives him to keep most everyone away.

Most of my character faults can be traced back to a fear of rejection and failure. At the wedding this weekend, I watched everyone else interacting with a seeming fluidity and natural ease. It always confounds me how most gay men seem to flirt with blithe nonchalance. Of course, that may just be my perception, and that I’m only seeing extroverts.

The reality is that I find it difficult to interact with most American gay men. The stereotypical enjoyment of popular culture and trivial conversation is mostly lost on me. As a friend of mine once observed, I don’t suffer fools. Does that come across as Darcy-like arrogance? Probably. But as an introvert who finds most human company exhausting, I don’t understand the need to fill every moment with noise. That seems to be a defining characteristic of American gay culture.

The sense of dissatisfaction in my dating life up until now seems to come from the lack of any potential romantic partners who I can respect as an equal. That probably doesn’t sound very flattering, which is where the Pride & Prejudice metaphor comes in handy.

Elizabeth is perfect for Darcy because she is a strong, independent-minded woman with her own opinions (contrasted with her sister Jane’s demure, more compliant personality). She stands up to and challenges the men in her life, even supposed authority figures. Like Darcy, she is fiercely loyal to those she loves, to the point of disregarding social proprieties when she walks to Netherfield Park after learning that Jane has fallen ill.

Towards the end of the novel, Elizabeth asks Darcy what attracted him to her when they started as rivals. She suggests: “The fact is, that you were sick of civility, of deference, of officious attention. You were disgusted with the women who were always speaking and looking, and thinking for your approbation alone. I roused and interested you, because I was so unlike them.”

And that’s what I’ve failed to find in dating American men—a man who distinguishes himself and challenges me. (There’s also the stunting influence of Puritanism and internalized homophobia, a rant for another time.) American gays seem caught up in the rush of culture, fashion, hookups, and fetishes, and I’m not into any of those things. Whatever happened to the likes of Gore Vidal, Oscar Wilde, Benjamin Britten, or Christopher Isherwood? (They were seemingly replaced by the likes of Perez Hilton and Ru Paul.) That era was no cakewalk and they were all flawed people, but that’s the ilk of man I’d want for a partner.

Now, to find him…

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162. amygdaliform

This post is a mirror of one I just published over at www.GayWithoutGod.com. I’m publishing it here too because it’s worth reading, and so that I can get back to my new Jon Meacham biography of Thomas Jefferson!


A recent article in the LA Times reports that the Associated Press is distancing itself from use of the term “homophobia” in its hallowed Style Book. (For those outside of journalism, this is the Bible for press editors and writers.)

The wire service’s online style book recently recommended against the use of “phobia” in “political and social contexts.” That means terms like “homophobia” and “Islamophobia” will become rarer in the many publications that operate under AP style.

Watch Your Language…

To be fair, there are potentially valid reasons driving this move. Over the past year and a half it seems usage of “homophobia” has increased dramatically. It’s become the new “racism” – the proverbial gauntlet to the face, with anything perceived as anti-gay quickly labeled “homophobic.” Chick-fil-A. Tracy Morgan. Fox News anchor Tricia Macke. Even socialite Paris Hilton was recently accused of hatin’ on the gays.

As AP Deputy Standards Editor Dave Minthorn told Politico:

. . . “homophobia” is often “off the mark” as a descriptor. . . . “It seems inaccurate. Instead, we would use something more neutral: anti-gay, or some such, if we had reason to believe that was the case.”

Crying Wolf?

The website nohomophobes.com tracks usage of anti-gay language on Twitter: words like “faggot,” “dyke,” “no homo” and “so gay.” (Apparently no homo is “a term used by straight guys who are insecure with their masculinity” to clear up confusion over something a guy says or does that may be perceived by others as gay, according to tagdef.com. You learn something new every day.)

tweets about homophobiaThe above image is just a snapshot of the home page. By the time I’d finished editing the picture (which took about a minute), mentions of “faggot” had risen to 22,935. The reality of chronic homophobia in American culture is still very real, and not something to ignore.

However, is everything labeled “homophobic” actually homophobic? Are all of the above tweets indicative of gay bashing just waiting to explode? Is Dave Minthorn correct that it’s inaccurate? Or is the meaning of the term cheapened by its quick-trigger usage?

Name Calling v. Calling a Spade

The definition of homophobia is “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals” (Merriam-Webster).

During this past election season here in Minnesota, I had to limit myself from using “homophobia” or “bigot” too often. Even when it was really tempting, and even when the shoe clearly fit, as it did on many occasions. It was almost too easy to resort to it, like a fallback. And it does tend to shut down conversations and put everyone on the defense.

At the same time, I worried about caving to pressure to be conciliatory, to be too courteous to those who were trying to take away my rights. The LA Times article later quoted John McIntyre of the Baltimore Sun: “Homophobia gets used because it is useful in describing an identifiable phenomenon.” There’s a difference between name calling and calling out people for hurtful behavior.

There’s a big difference between “You’re a homophobe” and “That’s homophobic.” Nouns name. Adjectives describe. My conservative Christian parents may not necessarily hate gays or be disgusted by us, but their behavior certainly doesn’t indicate that they love us. They may not tell me outright that they believe I’m going to hell, or that I’m an abomination and a pervert. But they have told me I need therapy, that I don’t deserve to be legally married just as my younger sister was four years ago, and that they won’t acknowledge any relationship I’m ever in, no matter how committed.

Whether or not their behavior is fueled by fear or disgust is another matter. But their behavior is clearly homophobic. Does that make them homophobes? Possibly, but the issue is more nuanced than that. And that may be what the AP is trying to get at.

It’s Not Time to Back Down

Whether or not the decision is a right one is a topic for for discussion. And there will be. This may be an olive branch to Evangelicals and conservatives after the recent marriage equality victories in the U.S. and across the world. If so, it’s a potentially wrong-headed approach. They may have been defeated, but they’re just regrouping, so now is not the time to back down when we can actually make progress towards equality.

Of course, if this is a call to be more responsible and purposeful about language and how we conduct conversations, it could be quite useful. We shouldn’t be stooping to label our opponents into boxes for the purpose of dismissing them. As Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War, “never underestimate your opponent.”

But one thing we can’t do is stop talking about homophobia and its effect on adults and children alike. We need to stop being polite when politicians say hateful things about the LGBT community. What we can do is adapt our methods and change how we talk about these issues. Instead of letting them control the conversation, we can be getting to know friends and neighbors and dissolving the lies and slander by simply being decent human beings.

Our opponents know they’re fighting a losing war, and that it’s only a matter of time before people stop listening to them. After all, if evolution teaches us anything it’s that those who fail to adapt ultimately fail to survive.

158. climacteric

Most people will make a few bad decisions in their lives. Drink too much, get arrested, shave your head, get a tongue piercing or a dumb tattoo. I like to think that my poor decision was voting for George W. Bush in 2004. To be fair, the alternative was John Kerry. Now, if I’d been voting in the 2000 election, which I missed participating in by just a few months (why couldn’t my parents have had sex a few months earlier?), I’d’ve voted for Al Gore hands down. Or at least I like to think that I would’ve. Vote for the nerd over the nincompoop? Is that even a choice?

My political affiliations have changed radically in the last ten years or so. Most of it has reflected my steady shift towards atheism and abandoning the fundamentalist beliefs of my childhood. My parents, who will be voting for Romney (because at least he believes in God) and “Yes” on the Minnesota Marriage Amendment, are staunch Republicans, and believe that how elections go will determine how God will judge America. They also believe that Jesus is coming back to swoop all the Christians up into heaven one of these days. Personally, I hope they’re right about that part.

But my other poor decision was to attend Northwestern College in Saint Paul, MN. It’s a small conservative Christian liberal arts college. It had a good music composition program, which was my focus then. (Another poor decision — not majoring in something practical).

The past few weeks I’ve had some interactions with students there via my writing on several online journals and newspapers about the marriage amendment. The Huffington Post ran a story today about Northwestern students “proudly” voicing their support for “traditional” marriage. Here are a few of the students’ reasons:

I’m voting Yes because…

This is actually a great cross-section of why Christians support this amendment. Moreover, these responses highlight the intellectual poverty of these young people, and of the pro-amendment folks, and of the community that celebrates willful ignorance.

This also highlights how much the Minnesota for Marriage people have distorted the reality that this amendment isn’t about voting to legalize same-sex marriage, as they’re doing in Washington, Maryland and Maine. This is about voting whether or not to permanently ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota — or at least put it off for another two years.

To the “Our future depends on it” girl: You think your petty, misogynistic God is going to destroy America because gays decide to, oh, make life-long commitments to each other? — which a lot fucking more than most Christians can claim these days. (Especially Christians from Northwestern. Hm.) Or perhaps you think that, as Chris Kluwe suggested, once gays are allowed to marry that your super-duper Christian youth pastor boyfriend will decide to leave the closet he’s been hiding in and become a “lustful cockmonster.” If that’s the case, then he was never yours to begin with.

To the “arrow pointing to girlfriend” guy: You’re going to vote to deny gay people their constitutional rights because you have a girlfriend?

To the “Marriage is a spiritual covenant, not a secular issue” guy: You have drunk the Kool-Aid, buddy. You’re taking a bloody bath in it. Religious marriage may be a spiritual three-way covenant between your dear wifey and your imaginary sky friend, but marriage is a legal, secular institution. The officiant doesn’t say “By the power invested in me by God” or “by the Church.” Marriage is regulated by the state you live in.

To the “I believe Jesus died for me, now it’s my turn to live for Him” guy: That’s so great that you have a boner for Jesus. But your silly religious beliefs have nothing to do with why we should ignore both the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment to discriminate against gay people because you don’t like them.

To the “Christ calls us to take a stand on marriage” girl: Where exactly does Christ say “Marriage is between one man and one woman [and not two fucking queers]”? (Emphasis mine.) That’s right. HE DIDN’T. Christ did say something about judging your neighbor and treating people the way you want to be treated. Would you like someone voting on whether you should have the right to marry the person you love?

To the “It’s the way GOD designed life to be, and a child needs a mom and a father” girl: You want to talk about the way your God apparently designed life to be? Read the Bible like a guidebook. You should be a sex slave to your husband, your daughters sold into slavery if he desires it. You should be forced to have an abortion (trial by ordeal) if your master merely suspects you of infidelity. Sound good?

To the “I believe the WORD of GOD” girl: Which has what, exactly, to do with public policy? If you’d care to go live in a theocracy, be my guest. But America is not a fucking Christian nation. We are a nation founded on secular values. The people who fled here did so to escape ignorant, hateful people like you, and you want to make this country into a religiofascist dictatorship.

I don’t begrudge you your religious beliefs. Just don’t hide behind them to mask your being a prejudiced bigot.

157. canonize

I started this as an email to my friend Christy, but figured I’d share it as an open letter instead.

Basically, here’s my pitch for voting NO on the constitutional marriage amendment in Minnesota — even for Christians.

Contrary to how it’s framed, this amendment isn’t about voting to legalize same-sex marriage. If it doesn’t pass on Tuesday, it still won’t be legal on November 7. There will still be a law in place. It’s about limiting the rights of citizens in order to enshrine a religious doctrine: i.e., God’s design for marriage is 1 man + 1 woman. It’s forcing the Minnesota constitution to take sides in a religious debate. This is a violation of the First Amendment, as well as the Fourteenth Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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.

If there were secular reasons for banning same-sex couples from marriage, it would be one thing. But there aren’t any.

I’ve been through the “evidence” from Minnesota for Marriage, and it’s highly suspect.

  • Churches won’t be forced to marry same-sex couples. (Actually, in every state where same-sex marriage is legal there is specific language in the laws prohibiting religious institutions and clergy from being forced to perform same-sex ceremonies.)
  • Christians won’t be fired from jobs for speaking out against same-sex marriage or gay people.
  • Children won’t be taught about same-sex marriage in school any more than they’re already being taught about heterosexual marriage.

It’s all scare tactics.

The CDC released a study in 2010 on the results of a 6-year study that found that the only factor researchers could identify for raising healthy children is a two-parent home. The gender of the parents was not a factor for success. Children of same-sex parents were just as happy and healthy as those raised by opposite-sex parents.

If this were about protecting marriage, we’d be banning divorce. If it were about protecting family, we’d be incentivizing marriage by limiting it to couples who are able to or choose to produce children. But infertile couples are free to marry, just as couples who don’t get pregnant are also free to. And they’re free to marry and divorce as many times as they like. Yet same-sex couples can’t even get married once.

So for me this is about returning sanctity to marriage. When I want to make that kind of commitment, it’s not because I can. It’s because I will want to share my life with someone in a very meaningful way. After all, what is it that has kept same-sex couples together for decades when there was no incentive to do so? Most had to keep their relationships a secret, or had to live in insular communities where they could be safe. If anti-gay conservatives are right and relationships are just about sex for gays, why shackle yourself to one person when you could be out enjoying the smörgåsbord?

When a heterosexual person gets married, they are unwittingly bestowed with over 1,138 federal rights and benefits from the government. (There are 515 laws in MN that discriminate against same-sex couples.) It’s like the government sneaks a huge binder in amongst all the wedding present.

  • You can’t be compelled to testify against your spouse in court. I would be compelled to testify against Jay since the law would consider us “roommates.”
  • You’re entitled to the disposal of your spouse’s body and property in the event of death. If Jay and I bought a house together and his parents didn’t approve of our relationship, they are legally entitled to swoop in and take everything if he were to die, and I would have no legal rights over how to bury him. There are awful, heartbreaking stories about this. Heterosexual couples don’t have to have lawyers to ensure this doesn’t happen.

There’s more. Believe me. (Check out www.project515.org.) So how is all of this not discrimination against committed, same-sex couples? Why is the relationship between a man and a woman so different that gay people need to be excluded from marriage?

Marriage will NOT be redefined when same-sex couples are permitted to marry. (Yes, I said when.) Predictions made when Loving v. Virginia hit the Supreme Court in 1967 are being made today — and society is still standing. Bottom line: we’re not asking the government to redefine anything. We merely want to be included, the same as everyone else. The Supreme Court even called marriage a civil right:

Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival.

Last night during the Minnesota Public Radio marriage amendment debate, Kerri Miller asked Brian Brown what the consequences would be if same-sex marriage were legalized. He kept changing the subject and speaking in generalities, but he couldn’t name specifics. Instead, he kept kept bringing up the Bible — but this isn’t about religion. It’s about law.

Constitutions should expand the rights of citizens, not limit them. This amendment not only expands the role of government in permanently banning same-sex couples from marrying, it also enshrines a religious belief and the prejudices of those who hold it, enabling them to discriminate with impunity.

This is about the Golden Rule: do to others as you would be done by. Would you want someone voting on who you can’t marry? I don’t think so.


Resources:

American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota:

Marriage Matters

Minnesotans United for All Families

Project 515

RationalWiki

Southern Poverty Law Center

156. draggle

There are accounts of a group of Christian extremists in the 4th century called the Circumcellions who were so committed to martyrdom that they took to attacking random travelers on the road with blunt clubs. The goal was to goad their victims into killing them and thus making them martyrs for their faith. Whether the travelers were supposed to know that they were dispatching these spiritual guerrillas to their blessed reward is unknown, and probably immaterial. They were just implements in God’s clever toolbox of earthly horrors. Likely they left their broken and bleeding attackers behind them on the road, saying to each other, “What the fucking fuck was that?” This was how they spoke in the ancient Roman Empire when confronted with bizarre situations.

This obsession with death and martyrdom has been a cornerstone of the Church since its inception. The image of Christ as the willing sacrifice has driven millions to go eagerly, even joyfully, to their deaths. I guess when you truly believe that this world is only preparation for the next, you’ll do anything to make sure that your place in the ‘world to come’ is secure. Even if it means being used as a human torch. Or torn apart by wild beasts. Or stabbed to death by confused travelers who are wondering why you’re attacking them yelling strange phrases in Latin.

“The battle over the marriage amendment continues to rage here in Minnesota. Last Thursday the third commercial from the anti-gay hate group Minnesota for Marriage went out on the airwaves, sparking some interesting conversation. Several media sources critiqued the truthfulness of these ads. Minnesota Public Radio summarized the ad, saying “most of [the examples cited] don’t have anything to do with whether same-sex marriage is legal or not. Local station WCCO aired an exposé, calling the ad “questionable.”

This past weekend a billboard in the Uptown area of Minneapolis, an area known for its liberal political slant and high concentration of gays, was vandalized. While vandalism of private property is never acceptable, one has to wonder what they were thinking in putting it up there in the first place. Were they expecting to change minds? Did they think that gay couples would see the sign and say to each other, “You know, maybe they’re right”?

Obsession with persecution seems to be a common theme among evangelical Christians these days. When I was growing up we were taught to expect to be reviled for our beliefs, and for speaking the truth. Jesus said to his disciples: “And everyone will hate you because you are my followers. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Mark 13:13) It’s hard not to see this now as a self-fulfilling prophesy of sorts. When you tell total strangers that they’re bad people who are going to burn eternally in the fires of hell, one can’t help but take offense. But the Christians of the early church accepted their martyrdom with joy, instead of modern Christians’ whining refrain of persecution.

It’s almost as if they’re taking to politics to force the government into action against them. Of course, they see this as a spiritual battle against the encroaching powers of darkness, as apparently evidenced by increasing acceptance of LGBT individuals and our disgusting behavior. The more fundamentalist groups even see persecution as necessary to bring about the end of the world and the reign of Christ.

What it really comes down to is what the Fifth Doctor said of the Daleks: “However you respond to them is seen as an act of aggression.”

Next time you see an anti-gay marriage ad, or really any anti-gay rhetoric, try hearing it in the staccato, hysterical tones of a Dalek having a hissy fit. The sooner the public can see these people as the childish puritans they are, the quicker we’ll be able to move on from this nonsense.

“Exterminate! Exterminate!”

154. cacology

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

 

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.

150. foible

On the way up to my boyfriend’s place this weekend I was listening to the audiobook of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, which I’ve read and listened to several times so I mostly revisit just to hear Dawkins and his wife Lalla Ward read. They could recite the periodic table of elements and I’d still listen.

Earlier this morning I was going through email, RSS, Facebook and Twitter feeds (thank you, HootSuite) and came across an article on Upworthy about The Top 8 Ways To Be ‘Traditionally Married’ According To The Bible. It’s that infographic that’s been going around the Internet for months, and is actually a pretty concise description of what a traditional, “biblical” marriage looks like—according to the Bible.

But as I opened the page, the following bubble popped up…

What exactly do global warming and same-sex marriage have to do with each other? I don’t really need to explain my stance on same-sex marriage, but when it comes to global warming my opinion is fairly nuanced. Just as same-sex marriage is a complex issue that can’t be distilled down to “agree” or “disagree,” global warming isn’t as simple as everyone makes it out to be.

While I agree that the earth is warming, I don’t think that human activity is 100% responsible. There are many plausible explanations for the trends we’re observing, such as increased solar activity (a theory backed by CERN scientists concerned about charged subatomic particles from outer space) or geomagnetic reversal (which is a rather more frightening prospect than global warming).

To be clear, I think we should be doing more to keep our air clean and not pollute. It doesn’t make sense to use the water in your own backyard as a sewer, and we have future generations to think about. Plus, interplanetary travel isn’t yet possible and we have limited resources on the earth, so why spend money you don’t have?

But it bothered me that I was only given two choices to a question I didn’t entire agree with. If I went with the affirmative, I was agreeing with the idea that same-sex marriage should be legal and that humans are responsible for global warming trends. If I went with the negative, I was saying that there are other forces at work besides human activity and that same-sex marriage shouldn’t be legal. It’s one of those “gotcha!” tactics, such as when politicians sneak piggybacked legislation into bills. The addition of a repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to an otherwise unnoteworthy defense spending bill is one such example.

There are other examples of how this tactic is used to trap people into agreeing or disagreeing with certain positions, but it illustrates how emotional appeal instead of intellectual argument is employed. On the issue of same-sex marriage, conservatives voters are being caged into supporting the denial of equal treatment of the GLBT community. They hear things like, “If gay marriage is legalized, your children will be taught about homosexuality in school!” which is code for “Your children will be taught how to be homosexuals!”, as if in addition to the safe sex and AIDS prevention curriculum in health class they’ll also receive tips on how to properly fellate a penis and cruise for men in a gay bar. A Christian may not agree with the majority that homosexuality is wrong, but with the looming spectre of the “gay agenda” and the demonization of homosexuality they may not see that they have a choice.

The Daisy ad from Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 presidential campaign that effectively won him the election is an example of how conservatives are using scare tactics and emotional appeal (pathos) to cloud people’s judgment…

In fact, most of the conservative efforts to pass constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage appear to be taken from this iconic minute-long commercial. It appeals to a primal fear in human—that of some harm coming to children. With the threat of the Cold War and nuclear holocaust, the juxtaposition of the girl plucking daisies with the mushroom cloud was a frightening reality for voters in that election.

In one of his essays, David Sedaris illustrates the power of guilt by association:

As we pulled into the station, I recalled an afternoon 10 years earlier. I’d been riding the Chicago El with my sister, Amy, who was getting off two or three stops ahead of me. The doors opened. And, as she stepped out of the crowded car, she turned around to yell, “So long, David. Good luck beating that rape charge.” Everyone on board had turned to stare at me. Some seemed curious, some seemed frightened, but the overwhelming majority appeared to hate me with a ferocity I had never before encountered. “That’s my sister,” I said. “She likes to joke around.” I laughed and smiled, but it did no good. Every gesture made me appear more guilty. And I wound up getting off at the next stop rather than continue riding alongside people who thought of me as a rapist.

There was no evidence that he was a rapist, but all it took was the mere suggestion that he might be to convince a car full of strangers that he was the most vile human being on earth.

In the same way, conservative anti-gay groups have employed this subtle but effective approach in demonizing gay rights. With the allegation that homosexuality is eroding the moral fiber of our country and that it puts children and families at risk, it becomes very difficult to overcome such claims because of the passionate emotions those images evoke. And, as we know, emotions can make people irrational. We’ve seen this in nearly thirty different state campaigns to ban same-sex marriage, and it’s worked—overwhelmingly and inexorably.

So are you the kind of person who believes that global warming exists and gay people should have the freedom to get married?

146. pensée

Earlier today I got the following e-blast from John Helmberger of Minnesota for Marriage:

General Mills Declares War on Marriage

The Green Giant, Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Kix, and Trix have all declared war on Marriage.

General Mills has made billions of dollars in marketing these cereals to parents of young children, and they have just declared War on Marriage here in Minnesota.

In what could go down as one of the stupidest PR decisions of all time, General Mills has pro-actively inserted themselves into a divisive social issue that flies in the face of their very business model.

A survey last year by the Alliance Defense Fund found that 63% of Americans with children living at home believe that marriage is ONLY the union of one man and one woman. Those are the very customers that General Mills has just insulted!

Aren’t you just sick and tired of big corporations ignoring your wishes to pander to special interests? It’s actions like those taken by General Mills that sometimes help me understand the whole “Occupy” philosophy against corporations that have lost touch with the people who have made them wealthy.

Just because General Mills is doing exactly the opposite of the very thing conservative groups have been doing doing recently (i.e., big corporations pandering to special interests and investing money in order to oppose the constitutional amendment), it means General Mills has declared nuclear war on apple pie and puppy dogs?

And, because it’s right on the tip of my tongue, lest I be accused of just throwing the word “bigot” around too flippantly, here is the definition from the Merriam Webster dictionary:

A person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especiallly : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.

It is not hateful or intolerant for those of us on the “anti-amendment” side to call out those who want to deny equal treatment of GLBT couples and individuals (in stark opposition to the provisions afforded to citizens in Section 1 of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution) on their prejudiced and discriminatory rhetoric and tactics.

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.

Head over to Project 515 if there’s any doubt in your mind how GLBT citizens (not to mention non-traditional families) are being treated unequally under current Minnesota and Federal law.

To those on the other side…

We hear your concern and your fear, and we understand that this is an important issue to you. We’re trying to listen, and we want to respect you as much as we can. Most of all, we hope for as amicable an outcome as possible for both sides so that we can, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, come together, “with malice toward none, with charity for all … to bind up the nation’s wounds.”

Because, just as in 1865 after the end of the American Civil War, we do despise each other right now. There are gaping wounds, and we in the GLBT community have been deeply hurt by how we’ve been treated. But we have to move forward if we’re going to grow up as a nation. We got past slavery, we got past women’s rights, we got past racism and inter-racial marriage. We can get past this.

However, this is also an issue that is important to us as your fellow tax-paying, law-abiding citizens, and the fact that you’re terrified of change doesn’t give you the right to treat us like second class citizens because we happen to be attracted to members of the same sex.

We don’t want to destroy your marriages, your families or your homes. You heterosexuals seem to be doing a fine job of that on your own. We are a nation of immigrants whose diversity makes us stronger, and we want to strengthen marriage and family in our country by affirming it for everyone.

We don’t want to force you to accept us, because ultimately we can’t change your mind for you, but we hope that you will eventually come to see us as your neighbors and not as a threat.

We don’t want to recruit your children into the ranks of the homosexual army (or whatever it is that you’re worried will happen in public schools if same-sex marriage is legalized), but we do want GLBT teens and kids to feel accepted and safe in schools and their homes to be who they know in their hearts that they are.

We don’t want to force churches to perform same sex marriage ceremonies, because who wants to celebrate their love and commitment in a place filled with hatred and animosity towards them? (There are plenty of places that do want us and our money, and we’ll go there, thanks very much.)

As one who grew up gay in a conservative religious home and spent years denying and fighting against who I was, I don’t want another teen to live with the pain and anguish that comes with thinking that you’re an abomination to God, that you’ll have to choose between living free or losing your family, community and God; and that you’ll go to hell for the sin of loving someone of the same sex as you.

Most of all, we want you to stop being afraid, because you’re missing out on so many opportunities for rich relationships with co-workers, with friends, and with your children and family members.

144. natch

On April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg while en route from Southampton in England to New York City. I don’t need to say much about the disaster. There are documentaries and movies enough on the subject. The most poignant aspect for me about this story is the breakdown of survivors and those who died. The majority of the victims were men, as men were expected to give up their seats on the lifeboats for the women and children. 1,387 men died in the water that night.

The greatest number of casualties were, not surprisingly, amongst the third class passengers, of which there were 706 altogether. 84% (387 of 462) of male and 54% (89 of 165) of female steerage passengers perished. 66% (52 of 79) of their children didn’t make it either. The second class didn’t fare much better. Of the 168 men, 154 (92%) were lost. The second class women were luckier: of 93, only 13 (14%) died. Amazingly, all of the children in second class survived.

In first class, the men bore the heaviest toll, with 66% (118 of 175) never making it to New York City. Still, that’s significantly less than the lower two classes. Of the 144 women aboard in first class, only 4 (3%) died; and of the 6 children, only 1 didn’t make it.

That’s a lot of numbers, but those numbers speak volumes in terms of the human loss of life, of the drama of that story and of the terror and hopelessness that these people went to their deaths with. These were 1,514 individuals with their own unique stories, loves and losses that died in the water that night. Doubtless some of them died believing that their merciful God would save them or at least accept their souls into heaven—probably the greatest and cruelest tragedy of all.

It also speaks to the subjective standards by which human lives were weighed. Your chances of survival on the Titanic that night were predetermined by how much you paid for your ticket, and therefore how valuable you were based on your class. Steerage passengers were corralled below decks like animals and had little access to the lifeboats.

This brings me to my topic for today, which is a familiar topic for many who follow this blog: the religious opposition to gay marriage.

Today the ironically named conservative group Minnesota for Marriage posted a new “marriage minute” which addresses the question: “I have heard people talk about same-sex marriage interfering with ‘Religious liberty’ principles. What does that mean?”

This is probably the most popular argument from religious conservatives—that if marriage is redefined as genderless it will result in the persecution of religious individuals and groups. Churches that refuse to perform same-sex marriages will lose their tax-exempt status (which I and many others don’t think they should have anyway). Christians who speak out against same-sex marriage or gay rights will be thrown in jail. Christian businesses that refuse to, for example, print wedding invitations for same-sex couples will be fined or lose the business altogether. Basically… GAYPOCALYPSE!!

This is one of the loudest talking points for conservatives. They have the nerve and audacity to cling to the Constitution in order to protect their right to discriminate—laws never intended to enshrine religious discrimination or prejudice. Quite the opposite. As a cartoon on the website Slap Upside the Head reads, “Not being able to treat gays as second-class citizens makes me a second-class citizen!” ThinkProgress had a great article about this a few months ago titled “Inside NOM’s Strategy: Use ‘Religious Liberty’ As A Catalyzing Red Herring.” In it, they quote from a memo that included the following passage:

We have learned how to make the coercive pressures on religious people and institutions an issue in the United States. We will use this knowledge to raise the profile of government attacks on the liberties of religious people and institutions in Europe, both for internal domestic consumption in Europe and to halt the movement towards gay marriage worldwide. Our goal is to problematize the oppression of Christians and other traditional faith communities in the European mind.

So yet again, conservatives are resorting to fearmongering and post hoc reasoning in order to scare the Faithful into the voting booth in November. At the risk of invoking Godwin’s law, this is precisely how Hitler was able to gain support in Germany: by manufacturing a threat (in this case, that the Jews were responsible for Germany’s financial woes) in order to rally the people to his side. And as we know now, it worked quite effectively. Here we have groups like NOM and Minnesota for Marriage doing exactly the same thing in response to the “crisis” of the looming threat of gay marriage.

Why shouldn’t a business that refuses a gay couple for no other reason than their bigoted religious beliefs be sued? True, a business has the right to serve whoever they want to serve; and in Maryland, special provisions were put in place guaranteeing that this sort of thing wouldn’t happen. And frankly, we gays should boycott businesses that are not GLBT-friendly. However, at the risk of evoking an overused trope, there was also a time when it was acceptable for businesses to refuse to serve black patrons. As time went on, those businesses were pressured into change not by the government but by public opinion that came to view such behavior as prejudiced.

I say this a lot, but there is no reason other than homophobia bolstered by religious dogma for the GLBT community to be treated differently than the rest of hetero land. Their “scientific” studies are being discredited left and right. The medical and psychological communities haven’t been able to find anything wrong with gays. At what point do we just say “Enough!” to these people? We hear their fear, but we’re doing nobody a service by accommodating this nonsense.

Religious liberty ends where it senselessly tramples on the civil rights and liberties of citizens, and stands in the way of the inalienable Rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.