Prop 8 defenders to have the broadcast of the trial delayed. Presumedly so that they can hop in the Jokermobile with the other supervillians and make a hasty getaway. In addition, comes this mornings story that on of the defendants wants out of the trial, citing that he has been personally harrased for supporting Prop. 8.....Pardon me while I get out the worlds smallest violin...
Musing about Prop 8, and the elections of Maine, New York, and New Jersey has left me with a big question.....Why? Why do they care so much? Why when we get some small victory in gay rights is it worth such effort to mount public referendums and repeals? It takes a great amount of money, time, and organization to mount a national movement of any kind. Why are we so reprehensible that we merit this level of resistance? I understand my own activism for marriage equality because it has a concrete and measurable impact on my life and on the lives of many like me....but so many that resist gay marriage would not be touched by it in any way, so whats the deal? These are my thoughts and opinions on the issue, please feel free to offer your own as this puzzle is far from complete.
First off, in my opinion, for an organized movement to have purpose, it must be built on the personal motivations of it members and to those that they tailor their message to. Do I believe that Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown are in their positions because the benefits package was too good to pass up...no. For some reason this is an issue important enough to them to build their lives around it. Now....I believe that political movements and corporations do take on a life of their own far beyond the personal agendas of their members...but without the individuals who comprise them, they're like a body with no conciousness inside...a zombie with no soul to guide it....so moving beyond the organizational level of groups like NOM, or or the Family Research Council...lets look a little deeper at why an individual might choose to get involved in this fight whether as an activist or a concerned voter.
Fear of the unknown:
America's history is occasionally punctuated by histeria that a group of people is out to "topple our way of life". During WWII we rounded up Japanese Americans who had otherwise done nothing wrong and forced them to live in internment camps. Not much later we feared communism as if was a communicable disease and paranoia about the "Red Menace" taking over America reached a fever pitch. I'm sure if I looked, I could find lots more examples but I think these two are enough to establish that we have a history of scapegoating. Today its the gays that take the blame for "unraveling the fabric of traditional society" just by virtue of wanting to be a part of it and NOT skulking in the shadows as we are so often accused of.
How many Americans actually know someone who's gay? Probably alot more than realize it. If they weren't made to hide who they are on fear of public scorn the actuall number of gays and lesbians living and moving through ordinay life would astound the average straight person. Jay and I sometimes joke that it would be funny if, for one day, everyone who was gay would turn pink. Now...thats actually a very bad idea that would have disastrous consequences...but it would be illuminating. How many people would wake up to a pink spouse I wonder?
This is the one trait that groups like NOM count on. What you don't know about gay people they will use to fill in the gaps with there own fear inducing reasoning. "They will teach gay sex in schools!"...."They will close down our churchs!" ....all manner of insane arguments that have nothing to do with reality. I sometimes wonder if Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown even believe this stuff. I half suspect they don't but that doesn't stop them from inciting that fear in others in order to make gains at the ballot box.
Oh boy, brace yourself here goes the religion talk...I wonder if I can use Salman Rushdies old hidy hole?
So many people look at religion in a polarizing manner. Its either completly, litterally true...or its utterly false. Never is their reasoned argument about how the ideas presented in scriptures got there, or how they relate to other religions from which we either gave to, or borrowed ideas from.
Many in my own family learned to attach disgust to homosexuality because of the handful of passages in the
Bible that call it "abomination".......Of course, The Bible calls alot of things abominations that people don't attach that same disgust to. However, the fact that the story of Sodom and Gomorah has been spun as condemnation of homosexuality for so long, has lent it such gravity that it is accepted as empirical fact. Even mentioning that mayby the story has a deeper meaning...or another meaning entirely is enough for shouts of Heresy by many. I mean...how dare we assume that we don't have a complete knowledge of the meaning of scriptures....sheesh.
Religious belief is a controversial subject because it means different things to different people...suffice it to say for the sake of this topic that religion is one of those talking points that NOM works to scare the dollar bills out of most believers wallets. The GLBTQ community is cast as faith hostile.....never mind the fact that many gays and lesbians were raised in these same church communities and would happily be there today if not for the hostility present there. Countless are the stories of gay men and women who walked away from their faiths and families because of the view that all gay people are bound to hell....Never mind that Jesus drew people to him...not pushed them away.
Never discount the weight of repetition. No change has occured in this country without some form of labor pains. When I was a kid it was about race.....I mean more so than it still is today. Turning on any primetime sitcom would yield a plot about acceptance and/or tolerance. Whether it was interracial marriage on the Jeffersons or women in the workplace on Archie Bunker or The Mary Tyler Moore Show(yes I'm dating myself). Those shows showed the change that was gradually taking place in a nation that didn't want to face those issues either....but face them we still do.
It's not terribly surprising that one of the justifications for denying gays the right to marry is the false assumption the marriage has always been about one man and one woman. Maybe in recent history it has but certainly not the majority of world history. The Tradition of marriage is that a man could have as many wives as he could afford to support. But there are those that would counter that "that is not American tradition". Great...than we need to accept the fact that we commonly alter tradition.
When I was really young my entire family got together for Christmas and my Grandma would cook an enormous ham. I loved those times when everyone got together. They formed my belief that a family is supposed to stick together. Then,....most of my family divorced and that one day of the year that was sacrosanct was replaced with Christmas observance being spent in multiple homes. So much for tradition.
Most people need some kind of purpose in life...a reason to be. In this case the reason to be, the reason to band together....is opposition to us, "Teh gays". We give Maggie Gallagher, The Catholic church, The Mormons, and others a commmon enemy against whom to unite. When was the last time you saw the Mormons being included in religious caucasus?....never. They were always looked on as a cult by the churchs I grew up around. Now those old differences have been set aside to stop the erosion of "traditional values" that Gay marriage represents to them. Never mind that those values have been changing since long before gays even considered marriage a possibility or that the Mormons themselves where once the target of this sentiment.
And what of the fine folks at the National Organization for Marriage, The Family Research Council, Or Concerned Women For Maine? What would they be doing if they weren't out stumping the election trail for anti-gay measures? I don't have an answer for that, but I bet it would have nothing to do with scrapbooking.
I think we've seen enough of this at work withing large gay organizations to get an idea of how this goes down. Without a fight, lobbyists don't have a reason to justify their existance. With out a gay menace to struggle against, what would the folks at NOM do all day? Computer solitaire?....so pushing for referendums is another way of making sure they remain employed.
While this one is short and sweet it connects with its brethen below:
Lets face it...there are alot more straight people out there than there are gays. No accurate assesment of how many gay people there are has ever been made. The closest one being the famed Kinsey report that makes the assertion that about 1 in every 10 men are gay. Of courst that does not mean that we can point at people on the street and count: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9...gay! It just doesn't work that way....but humor aside, we get the point that we are in a minority in relation to heterosexuals. In one motion we are carved out of the human family and set in a separate class of "them". As long as you fit the dominate mold, you can hold you head up high at church and know that the Jones's can't keep up with you.
In some that resist allowing gays to marry is the idea that their relationships are better. That heterosexuality is better. If your sitting on top of the food chain, what do you have to care about who sits below you as long as you are in the dominate class? How many White people paid no attention to the struggles for Black civil rights until they recieved pressure from other white people? How many men didn't learn to see women as equals until they were first knocked off their pedestals? Even in gay rights..some of the voices with the biggest impact are straight ones. Maybe because those are the ones that other straight people will listen to without feeling pressured by what they view as an outsider. This is a bit simplistic but it is really to serve a particular point, not to give all the causes of why the Civil right movement or women's liberation suceeded. I would need more space than I have here for that.
For lots of straight men...the thought of being gay also brings with it the idea of being weak. Thats why gay kids are picked on in school and why we got the phrase "thats so gay". The idea that gay=weak is nothing new, it comes to us down through the ages. In ancient Roman days, no one batted much of an eyelash if one man had sex with another man....except...if he was the recieving party. The act of being a passive partner in homosexual sex was enough to lose someone citizenship and even worse punishments. Why is this? because its a man acting as they percieve a woman would, which brings us right into the sexism aspect. They believed women were inferior to men...therefore, for a man to take a womans role was a an unbearable shame to him. I would think that in this day and age we could climb above that thought process....but not yet.
Lack of Empathy:
The ability to share or at least imagine what another person feels is the glue that holds human society together, in my opinion. So many people look at a gay couple and wonder "why". They can't fathom that the couple they see, can feel the same passions for each other that they feel for their spouse. I don't understand why we have to explain ourselves this way but it seems to be the hardest thing for people to understand about us. We love. It isn't just about sex nor does gay rights have anything to do with tearing down traditional society. Its because we love each other...thats all....just like you can love your husband or your wife. Its why I get so mad when I hear about hospitals that ban gay loved ones because of "policy". Do they assume that our bond doesn't have the same weight as theirs? that it doesn't feel the same? That it isn't as real? Sometimes I suspect that thats exactly what they think.
Many people get cought up in defining gay men and women around sex. Thats a major factor for some people in their resistance to marriage equality. "Let them have sex with who ever they want, but why do they want to get married?" If two men hold hands in public or share a discreet kiss thats enough to earn looks of revulsion "Why do they have to flaunt it?" What people fail to see is that what motivates them is the same thing that motivates us as GLBTQ people. Did the lady that made the comment above about "flaunting it" just get done sharing a passionate kiss with her boyfriend in front of the movie theater? Did she walk hand in hand with him from the car? No one stared at her or questioned their right to do those things.
At any rate, to wrap up....this is not meant to be a finger pointing post but to point out that these are the realities of my life and things that I have personally run into as a gay man making my way through the world. I see it in the comments and attitudes of people like Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown and those that make a concerted effort to deny that we are full human beings and fellow tax paying citizens due the same rights and treatment that they are.
If you take offense at this...let me know....this has been the reality of my life. I have recieved this treatment from strangers...family...and from those I have called my friends. I believe my experience is not unique, though I recognize that others would have a different perspective .....help me put this puzzle together and hopefully both uf us will come a step closer to answering the cosmic question.....why.