Sunday, June 10, 2007

I Yam What I Yam

I have no idea what it's like to be a kumquat. Juicy, I suppose.

Similarly, I can't tell you precisely what it's like to be Pharaoh, a single mother or a papier mache naked mole rat.

We are all trapped in our own bodies, limited to our own perspectives and defined by our own experiences.

So as the nation continues to grapple with gay marriage, why do so many heterosexual people assume they understand homosexuals?

I'm not gay. I knew this at least from when I was in the third grade and had a crush on the sixth grade girl who monitored our lunch table. (Sorry, Debbie Something. You missed your chance.)

I can't imagine being gay. I've had close, loving relationships with male friends that have lasted longer than any I've yet had with a woman. But I've never felt sexually attracted to them. Brad Pitt and George Clooney are good-looking men. But when I see their movies, I want their women, not their bodies.

I had a gay roomate once, and the worst thing I could say about him was that he couldn't pay his share of the rent. Which might just be more evidence for equal treatment: Gay people can be financially irresponsible, too!

So when opponents to gay marriage deride homosexuals for pursuing a degenerate lifestyle choice, I wonder: When and why did these critics choose to be heterosexual?

Ah, yes. The natural order of things requires a man mate with a woman to perpetuate humanity and all that stuff. But what is natural? Babies are born with Huntington's disease or cleft lips. Some have genetic conditions that prevent them from growing to average heights, speaking or surviving to their 10th birthdays.

In no way am I implying homosexuality is a birth defect. But so what if it is? Everything human is by definition natural. Does it make sense to deny someone his rights because of how he was born? Why is this any different from Jim Crow laws discriminating against blacks?

Nobody who has ever bothered to talk to a homosexual person would come away convinced they made a conscious choice to be gay. You are what you are. Just ask Ted Haggard. Or not, considering he still thinks he can be "cured." And I'm sure we all wish him the best of luck with that.

I don't know what it's like for gay folks to realize who they are. I imagine it's often difficult to contend with a judgmental society and the prospect of harassment and ridicule. But if it was anything like it was for me, I imagine it doesn't take long to realize who you find attractive.

The only rational reason for opposing gay marriage rights is if you still believe homosexuals have chosen their sexual orientation and you want to punish them for it.

You believe allowing homosexuals to marry will destroy an institution that already fails more than it succeeds in this country. You have no idea how much "traditional marriage" has changed (because the most traditional and widely practiced type of marriage in the world has been polygamy). You believe two committed, loving adults could not possibly provide a better home for children than single parents or a series of foster homes. You might even believe two committed, loving adults should not share the same employment, medical and inheritance rights of straight couples.

If you are a religious person against gay marriage, you believe God created a breed of people inferior to you and unworthy of equal rights, much less your love and compassion. You believe tolerance for people different from you should not be tolerated.

Come to think of it, if you believe all this nonesense, you might just be a kumquat. Juicy, right?


TPerl said...

And how about the idiots who will also say something like "If you allow a man to marry another man, what's next? Should he be allowed to marry a sheep? Or a gerbil? Or a personal neck massager?"

The ol' slippery slope argument.

Or maybe just wishful thinking on their part.

D. Bones said...

Ah, but the slippery slope argument deserves discussion. Douchebags like Santorum are quick to point to incent, bestiality and polygamy. What about them?

Incest is not a sexual orientation, but a crime. No child is born in love with his parent. And there are clear reproductive risks involved with sanctioning sex between siblings. These arrangements produce victims: a child who is sexually abused by a parent or an inbred child born with deformities (or the psychological stigma) to siblings or other close relatives.

In addition, no one could fairly speak for the dog or cow or horse that an excessive "animal lover" might choose to diddle. And I'm pretty sure no one is asking to marry them or ensure they share medical insurance or inheritance rights.

Polygamy is also a sketchy endeavor. While adults might purport to freely enter into these marriages, the relationship strikes me as fundamentally chauvinistic and likely to engender jealousies and awkwardness among the family. It's an institution seemingly designed to fulfill male fantasies. And while some could argue that any arrangement between consenting adults should be sanctioned by society, I think there's a bigger difference between man-woman and man-many women pairings than man-woman and man-man or woman-woman pairings.

Some jerk once wrote to me after one of my columns mentioned support for gay marriage. The main crux of his argument involved his repulsion to sodomy.

I told him his revulsion to sodomy does not preclude others from practicing it. It is in fact a Constitutionally protected right (which I'm sure boils his blood). I get the same sick stomach watching somebody eat canned tuna fish with mayonnaise. I'm revolted by the idea of two obese 19-year-olds with braces and zits getting married after meeting two days ago at the county fair. I get enraged when I see religious zealots picket outside the funeral of a slain U.S. soldier because they think he had it coming.

Many people are equally revolted by sodomy between men and women. Should it therefore be illegal? How about sex between married couples with a condom? Should we bow to religious folks who believe all sex is sinful unless it is intended for procreation? Why should the government be involved in any of these personal decisions?

(Should the government be involved in the sanctioning of religious marriages at all? Maybe everyone should have government-blessed civil unions and let the churches, synagogues and mosques sort out the rest.)

There is nothing I could nor should do to prevent any of these actions. We live in a free society. We are free to act in most ways in which we do not harm others (drug use and prostitution lying somewhere on the fringe of acceptance). And in the marketplace of ideas, freedom of hateful speech can be counter-acted by smart, reasoned, compassionate speech.

No majority should take away the rights of any American because of what morals they choose to live by. The Constitution is a more robust document than that. Its virtue lies in the protection of minority rights from the whims and even the deeply held beliefs of the majority.

The majority of the country once believed black people should be segregated from white society. They believed it was OK for them to be second-class citizens, tolerated perhaps but mostly treated with contempt. Was this OK with today's anti-gay activists? Why not?

But more importantly, can any of these bigots tell me one significant way in which their lives are affected by the love of two committed, loving homosexuals? How do their marriages or values get diminished when two unrelated people (to them or each other) choose to share the same loving bond others choose for themselves? Life is like television. You can always change the channel.

If marriage is the stabilizing, beneficial institution it has proven to be throughout history, opening it to the only other legitimate group denied it out of bigotry only diminishes us all. We are all human. Gay people are someone's children. To the bigots out there, I say: Have a heart, and deal with your stomach.

TPerl said...

If you've never read "Under the Banner of Heaven" by John Krakauer, I highly recommend it.

He exposes the world of the Fundamentalist LDS (Latter-Day-Saints) Church, which are no longer associated in any way with the current Mormon church. The polygamy practiced amongst these animals is strictly old men "marrying" pre-teen girls who have been brainwashed to believe they have no other choice but to be one of several dozen sex-slaves to their "husband" - there is nothing even close to a "consenting adults" scenario here. At best it's faith-endorsed statutory rape; at worst it's pure child molestation and abuse to the Nth degree.

There's no room for any "natural" human feeling here since the LDS church completely controls your every waking moment from birth - they tell you what to think, how to act, and shut you off from any outside contact - even TV and newspapers are disallowed.

D. Bones said...

Does this mean you're not voting for Mitt Romney?

TPerl said...

I got nothing against the regular Mormons - it's only the extremists that scare me.

And that's gotta be one of the gayest names ever. I guess he would be the one "catching" and not "pitching".