Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Complete Failure To Empathize

Recently I was depressed over a feeling of helplessness about recent movements by the religious right regarding same-sex marriage and the very real harm it's been starting to cause queer citizens. For a while the common cry from the religious right has been "protecting the sanctity of marriage," but more and more states have used their shiny new constitutional same-sex marriage bans to successfully destroy benefits and rights that had been available to same-sex domestic partnerships for years now.

I've heard a lot of people say, "I've got no problem with gay people, just don't call it marriage," but clearly they're not just protecting their "sacred" word "marriage" anymore, instead they're systematically trying to deny basic protections and benefits to queer people because they lack, or have completely ignored, any amount of empathy that would connect them to the human level of this issue.

Honestly, when you ask yourself, what in the world does, say, inheritance rights for your partner have to do with the "sanctity" of marriage? I think a lot of people by now know about the story of Laurel Hester, a policewoman in New Jersey who, before loosing her battle with cancer, had to fight to get her pension left to her partner after her request was denied by all 5 members of an all Christian board who claimed that in denying her this simple act of compassion they were, in fact, "protecting the sanctity of marriage."

While I've always disagreed with the rhetorical and never well-defined "sanctity of marriage" argument to begin with, trying to use it to refuse benefits often given to married couples is...beyond me. These types of protections and benefits that exist with marriage aren't granted to couples just because they're married; lawmakers didn't just sit down one day and watch things like hospital visitation rights spring fourth from a magic silver box labeled "The Sanctity of marriage and all things pertaining thereto." These things exist because lawmakers sat down one day and thought,

"you know, people who share a bond like this probably care a great deal for one another. It might be, you know, nice of us, and hey, maybe even beneficial to society as a whole if we, as a government, help people in relationships by extending to them certain rights and tools that help them foster and protect the dignity of their union."

I say "beneficial to society" because I think that the religious right is partially correct when they say that the The Family® is the "cornerstone of society." I say partially right because I take huge issue with the religious rights assumed ownership of The Family®. One mother, one father, biological children, and lets hope that they go to church at least once a week. I believe that family is good for society, but by that I mean true family and all of the beautiful diversity and kinship which is entailed. Society is strengthened by community and by bonds, and family creates those bonds, and that includes The Family®, and it includes single mother and fathers, and same-sex couples, and the Mormon eternal family, and adopted children, and my brothers best friend who spends Christmas morning with us, and communes, and friends who are so close that they consider themselves family, etc, etc. Family and unions are bonds that are good for society as a whole, and when you foster a healthy family or a healthy union by providing tools and protections for their benefit, you foster a healthy society of rich interaction and community.

Of course, this is obviously the problem. What I may one day call my family or my marriage or union is not The Family®, nor is it The Marriage®, and so in the minds of many, my family or union is already detrimental to society from the get go, corroding it from its foundation on up. Thus, my family or my union is not deserving of basic acts of compassion, in fact, better I didn't exist at all. Seeing things from this viewpoint, you can see why the religious right feels justified in their complete failure to treat us as equals. There's nothing wrong with denying same-sex couples basic protections usually associated with marriage when you've failed to identify with them on the most basic levels: as fellow human beings in love, who value their bond, just like you.

Now isn't that just one of history's favorite themes: dehumanizing your target to feel better about the injustice taking place.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fun With A Theme

Wait, I think I recognize these two from an old photo...

Oh...wait, I guess they don't really like it when you point out flaws in their reasoning, huh? My bad.

Thanks, CCF for protecting our children from the dangerous same-sex marriage licenses and for the source material.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

On The Proper Dealings With The Unkempt: Being A Rant And Speculation On The Future

I've decided that I'm going to be finding a new place to live. It won't be until the end of the school year for the sake of simplicity, but I'm pretty sure that I don't want to live in the placer house any more. This is been a difficult decision, primarily for two reasons. The first is that I genuinely like nearly all of my house mates, which isn't to say that there is one that I don't like, just that I don't feel the same sense of...warmth and consideration from one in particular that I do from the rest. The second is that I have the master bedroom with a private bathroom and I'm paying a ridiculously small amount of rent for it considering Santa Barbara prices.

However, all of the good aside, I find that I just cannot share a house with people who don't seem to care about...the house. My house mates are, for lack of a term less offensive to them, slobs. There seems to be no sense of pitching in around the house, and it really seems like I'm the only one who cares about having common areas that aren't littered with trash and smell like stale pot and old food. I don't mean to berate their lifestyle, but I can't live like that. I've always been hesitant to complain because apparently the person whom I replaced when I moved in was a compulsive control freak who took cleanliness to a level that he defined and ruled on with an iron fist, and I don't want to be compared to that. Besides, I don't think like that, I think that cleanliness should just be a goal in general that everyone in the house strives for in at least some amount. When I'm the only one in the house who seems to care that there is food on the kitchen floor covered in a trail of ants enough to stop and clean it up, then it's clear that I don't belong in that house.

I used to clean pretty frequently until I noticed that I was really the only one doing it, which can really make you wonder why you're bothering at all. I can spend my time cleaning so that my house mates can trash it within days...or I can just let it be and live in my room. I don't really like either of those options. I have a theory that messy people fall in to two general categories: those that honestly don't see anything wrong with living in a dirty house, and those that are just lazy or immature about it. As per the first, which seems to be half of my house mates, I really can't hold that much of a grudge at all since that's just the way they like to live, and so I have a measure of understanding. I have to say what bothers me much, much more are the type who acknowledge that things are bad, but who deny responsibility to do anything about it. "Oh, it's not my problem; none of those dishes in the sink are mine; none of mess in the living room is mine; etc etc."

This goes back to my earlier statement about no sense of group effort, sort an immature attitude that belongs back home when you were 9 years old living with Mom and Dad and arguing that it was your sister who should have cleaned the living room. One of my roommates in particular, the one whom I seem to connect with the least, has a sphere of consideration that doesn't seem to extend beyond his room and the bathroom that he has to use. I really can't remember the last time I saw him doing something around the house unless I count when his partner is doing it.

But enough ranting, because this isn't meant to be me attacking my house mates. This is simply me stating that I need a new place to live, because I'm clearly not working with this house. It's a shame, because like I said, I otherwise enjoy living with these guys, and even with those of them that I feel less of a connection with, we share a large number of interests.

Oh, and there's the issue of our eternal house guest whom is quickly being labeled in my mind as a leech who uses our internet, stores his booze in our kitchen, sleeps on our couch until past noon the next day without cleaning up his "bed," and doesn't seem to really contribute anything back to the house in recompense...but that's another story.

I Thought I Fired You

Last Thursday morning I received a text from an old friend:

"coming to la on sun for work till wed. Can I stay with you? Xxxkeegan"

Keep in mind, by "old friend" I mean a person that I met for about 2 minutes a year ago at gay night at the Wildcat, who was from LA and in Santa Barbara for the night and who assumed that I was also from LA. Maybe he thought we had something special.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Dodging The Question As Jesus Would

Wait, I don't think Jesus would have dodged a question....I digress. This week the Christian worship group on campus, Real Life, hosted an appearance by Chad Thompson, a professional ex-gay (read: traveling snake oil salesman, do pardon my sarcasm). Chad Thompson is the author of the book Loving Homosexuals As Jesus Would, which is at heart a personal testimony of an ex-gay and a call to Christians to treat homosexuals with love and compassion, even the ones who have embraced their identity and have no intention of following an ex-gay lifestyle.

On the outside, this seemed like a good thing. I was skeptical, no doubt, but I held out hope that what I would find was a no-strings-attached call to America's evangelical Christians to seriously reconsider not only their treatment of homosexuals in this country, but their perceptions of them which are largely based on stereotypes and perpetuate on comfortable ignorance. I have to give Chad credit, he did make those calls to Christians in the audience and everywhere, and he also made sure to always use "I statements," which is a fancy way of saying you make sure never to speak for others, only for yourself, which in Chad's case would be when he described why he thinks he was a homosexual.

The conversation started heading south, in my mind, when the more political side of Chad's message started to show. It started with Chad pointing out that it may seem like a contradiction for Christians to say that they love homosexuals, when at the same time so many Christian organizations, including multiple ones Chad is tied to himself, politicize themselves so strongly on anti-gay legislation and fighting pro-gay legislation. Having identified the very real contradiction, he sort of just left it at that, not really resolving the contradiction or condemning the religious right's political targeting of queer people but just sort of saying that it's not really a contradiction because they love us. Pay no attention to the agenda behind the curtain.

Following that was a light presentation of out-dated and easily refutable ex-gay propaganda about research concerning the origins of homosexuality which, fortunately for Chad, aren't really that easily refutable when the only place to call him out on it is a very brief Q&A session following his talk.

I don't want to go in to details, let's just say he needs to know that "genetic" doesn't mean a literal gay gene, and that when articles about research use catchy titles referring to the abstract "gay gene," any legitimate data and theories brought up in said research can't be dismissed by claiming that the "gay gene" doesn't exist. That's called a straw man. If I can take just a second to soapbox on the idea of nature v. nurture, whether it is nature or nurture that brings a person to their identity and their sexuality, if they are content with that identity or sexuality then any suggestion that they need "fixing" is a direct affront to their dignity.

During the Q&A session he was asked questions solely by queer people in the audience, and they made up less than half of that audience (honestly I think Chad was a bit more conservative than UCSB's more liberal-leaning Christians are used to). When confronted about the contradictions in both his opinions and arguments presented in his speech, Chad would generally sort of just dodge the question and bring the focus on something else. I called Chad out on the contradiction that he identified himself and then promptly swept under the rug, asking him how he can ask Christians to show unconditional love to homosexuals while at the same time use the power of their vote to see to it that queer people do not enjoy the same opportunities and protections as they do. I brought up the issue of same-sex marriage, pointing out that in Michigan 80% of evangelical Christian voters voted to ban same-sex marriage, and thanks to the wording of the amendment, just this past month it was used to void benefits that had been granted to same-sex domestic partners since before the same-sex marriage wave that swept country in recent years.

Chad avoided the issue of same-sex marriage and responded by talking about anti-discrimination law, saying that if such legislation were approved then he would be arrested for talking to me as an ex-gay. In the most polite way I could muster I told him that his response was so much bullshit, and asked him how he could justify voting against legislation that would protect a person from being denied equal opportunities for employment or housing simply because he was afraid of some bizarre situation that would be thrown out of court faster than you could say "wasting ministry time and paper" (nod to Brazil! fans). Chad was asked by the person after me to give just one concrete piece of reasoning as to how same-sex marriage could be harmful and thus justly voted against, and all he could offer were proof substitutes about how the "breakdown of the family unit" has been shown to increase rates of teen pregnancy, drug abuse, wanton sex parties at my house, etc, which was also a fallacy of false cause I might add.

To sum it up, Chad's basic premise behind his response to the attitude of evangelical Christians toward queer people is that "gay people do it to us too," and how he's "had more difficulty from gay people by being an ex-gay than he ever had from straight people by being gay." You know what Chad? Let me break out my violin while I bask in the irony of a politically motivated professional ex-gay who actively supports anti-gay legislation trying to kid himself that gay people would have a grudge against him just because he made a personal decision about his identity based on his faith.

Lastly, Chad described being ex-gay as a lifelong struggle for many, and that when a person like Ted Haggard or John Paulk are caught dabbling in the forbidden fruit, it's simply a "relapse," and that doesn't mean that they're still gay, just that they're human, because after all none of us are perfect (hell I know straight guys that relapse in to gay sex all the time!) The real point I'm getting to is that someone came up for a great idea for Queer Student Union's next shirt design:

"wanna relapse?"