Tag Archives: lgbt issues

Privacy, Coming Out, and Anderson Cooper

Originally, I had planned to spend this evening reading the next chapter of Alissa Harris’s book, “Raised Right:  How I Untangled my Faith From Politics” and resume my series of posts discussing that book.  Those plans changed when Alvin McEwen mentioned that Anderson Cooper officially came out to the world today.

I ran over and read Cooper’s email to Andrew Sullivan in which he admits to Andrew (who I believe already knew),  Andrew’s readers, and the rest of the world that he is gay.  It’s a wonderfully worded letter and I highly recommend reading it.  Right now, I would like to focus on a part of Cooper’s email in which he explains his rationale for not coming out until now:

I’ve always believed that who a reporter votes for, what religion they
are, who they love, should not be something they have to discuss
publicly. As long as a journalist shows fairness and honesty in his or
her work, their private life shouldn’t matter. I’ve stuck to those
principles for my entire professional career, even when I’ve been
directly asked “the gay question,” which happens occasionally.

On the surface, Cooper’s statement makes perfect sense.  When he is acting in his capacity as a journalist, his religion, sexual orientation, marital status, race, and any other personal characteristic should be irrelevant.  And I salute Cooper for wishing to make sure his sexual orientation doesn’t effect how people perceive how he does his job.

The problem is, we don’t live in a world made up of what should be.  We live in reality.  And the reality is that being gay, being a member of a minority religion, and several other personal characteristics or private matters do become an issue if they come out in the open.  There are those who will approach Cooper’s reporting with (more) suspicion now that it’s known that he’s gay.  (Peter LaBarbera has already suggested that Cooper should refrain from covering any LGBT stories.)

The thing is, this mentality unfairly targets LGBT people and minority groups.  No one would question the journalistic integrity of Barbara Walters if she officially announced she was a heterosexual.  No one would have questioned the journalistic integrity of Walter Kronkite or suggest he shouldn’t cover certain stories after mentioning in passing that he had a wife.

The system we currently have does not make sexual orientation irrelevant.  The system we have punishes sexual minorities by treating them with suspicion.  Keeping one’s sexual minority status out of the picture encourages the latter, not the former.  It’s simply giving tacit acceptance and approval of a system that says that people who do not fit the characteristics that society has determined makes a person a default human must either hide their differences or face the penalties.

If everyone plays that game, then the system will never change.  And I’d like to think that this is what Cooper finally realized.  Because the only way the system will change is if people challenge that system.

You can’t make stuff like this up (but Janet Mefferd can)

I decided to take a break from writing up my thoughts on “Out of a Far Country” by Angela and Christopher and Yuan.  While I find elements of the book problematic, especially in light of the culture in which the book was written and that it is presumably supporting, I feel much more strongly compelled to offer my comments on the arguments Janet Mefferd offered against homosexuality in general.

Mefferd attempts to draw parallels between the quest for LGBT rights and the quest to uphold  women’s reproductive rights, obviously intending to show how horrible both positions are.  However, in order to do so, she engages in some extreme rhetoric — making her accusations that those who support LGBT rights and a woman’s right to choose of engaging in rhetoric ironic at best and hypocritical at worst.

As such, I would like to explore some of the arguments she uses to demean those of us who support LGBT rights.  (While I fully support a woman’s right to choose, I would rather leave debunking Mefferd’s caricatures of that issue to someone far more capable of doing so.)  Mefford’s statements will appear in bold, while my responses and thoughts will appear in normal text.

1. Both agendas operate as anti-child cultures of death. Abortion kills children. Homosexual behavior can’t create them.

In three sentences, Mefferd has managed to conflate not wanting to have biological children (or not wanting to do so) with being anti-child and conflates being anti-child with operating as “a culture of death,” a term that I find practically meaningless beyond being used as a tool to instill fear and hatred of others.

This argument immediately ignores the fact that one does not need to biologically conceive or give birth to children in order to have children in one’s life.  One can adopt.  One can become a teacher.  One can become a mentor, a big brother/big sister, a scout leader, a den mother, a Sunday school teacher, a youth center volunteer, or many other things.  Mefferd is once again engaging in the fetishization of biological parenthood and the invisibilization of every other form of adult-child relationship in order to denigrate LGBT people.

Furthermore, by claiming that not wanting or not being able to have children (and there are those adults who are not interested in having children as a significant part of their life in any form) is to be part of “a culture of death,” Mefferd is arguing that the sole purpose of life is to reproduce.  Personally, I find this an unthinkably depressing and pointless understanding of life and culture.  If the only purpose in living is to produce children, who will in turn only exist in order to produce more children, who will in turn only exist in order to produce more children, who will….well, seriously, what’s the point.  This turns life into nothing more than the biological equivalent of a pyramid scheme or other marketing structure.

Mefferd’s failure to appreciate that people — LGBT and others — can remain childless and yet make great contributions to society in the form of art, science, philosophy, entrepreneurship, and hundreds of other worthy and beneficial pursuits shows how little she values these things.
2. Both agendas falsely play on people’s unnecessary fear and guilt by focusing on the micro personal story, rather than the macro moral issue.

Mefford and many like her seem to think that morality can be divorced from the personal.  I disagree, and would argue that it’s the interaction with other individuals that not only defines morality, but makes it necessary.  A person living on a mountaintop alone need not worry about morality.  Moral concerns are for those of us attempting to live with others.

The phrase “macro moral issue” draws to mind an attempt to reduce morality to nothing more than a checklist of behaviors that are either right or wrong, but without the context of personal interaction, such a checklist is meaningless.

Truth be told, pro-choice people and LGBT rights advocates make it personal because these issues are personal. These things are not abstract concepts, but very powerful and influential realities in flesh and blood humans.  I suspect that Mefferd simply wishes to ignore that reality in order to face those tough moral questions about why she should get to dictate how others should live their lives in ways that affect them greatly and herself not at all.

And to be honest, Mefferd and company aren’t nearly as opposed to making the issue personal.  After all, they like bringing up Carrie Preejan, Marjorie Chrisoffersen, David Parker, and the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association and paint them as martyrs.  They like to talk (dishonestly, no less) about how individuals’ “religous conscience” could be at stake.

And, of course, if your answer focuses on deeper questions about the effect on society of embracing abortion on demand or so-called homosexual marriage, rather than personal love for your own flesh and blood, then you look like a jerk.

The thing is, people like Mefferd have been pushing these “deeper questions about the effect on society” of various issues and making dire predictions for years.  And yet, they can provide no evidence to support those predictions, nor can they offer a convincing argument as to why we should take their convictions seriously.  At some point, someone needs to tell Chicken Little that the sky is still as high as it ever was and they need to quit fearmongering.

3. Both agendas rely heavily on Orwellian Newspeak. For the abortion activists, the terminology is “a woman’s right to choose,” “reproductive health decision” or “termination of pregnancy.” No mention of babies. For the LGBT activists, the terminology is “equality,” “civil rights” and “love.” No mention of sodomy.

While it’s certainly true that LGBT advocates (and pro-choice advocates) choose words carefully to frame the issue to focus on what they feel is most important to focus on, Mefferd is being disingenuous by implying that she and those like her don’t do likewise.  Her use of the word “sodomy” is a prime example of this, in fact.  Mefferd wants to talk about sodomy, but here’s the thing, LGBT rights are not about sodomy.  LGBT rights are about people.  Sexual acts cannot push for rights.  They have no need for rights.  People, on the other hand do.  Whether I’m celibate, actively engaging in anal sex, or just prefer oral sex (okay, technically oral sex is sodomy too, but most people who use that term are talking about the buttsex), I am a human being deserving of the same respect, protection, and rights as everyone else.  In fact, I’d argue that the whole reason Mefferd would rather talk about anal sex is that it allows her to avoid facing me as a human being.

I’m complete skipping her fourth point.

5. Both agendas have succeeded by obfuscating the physical death, pain or injury that comes from embracing their agenda….Similarly, why don’t we ever see a major news analysis on the health risks of homosexuality, as reported on the website of the Centers for Disease Control? http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/msm/index.htm

And just as Mefferd and others like her are obsessed with anal sex (but only if two men engage in it!), she and those like her are also obsessed with the “health risks of being gay.”

Except that she (and they) ignore the fact that the health risks she’s talking about have nothing to do with “being gay.”  Truth be told, the health risks she mentions are also health risks for heterosexual people.  The problem isn’t being gay, the problem is engaging in risky sexual practices.  And while it’s true that HIV (the health risk most often cited) is of particular concern among gay men, Mefferd will not discuss the multiple reasons why that is.  She certainly won’t quote this part of the CDC page she referenced:

Homophobia, stigma, and discrimination put MSM at risk for multiple physical and mental health problems and affect whether MSM seek and are able to obtain high-quality health services. Negative attitudes about homosexuality can lead to rejection by friends and family, discriminatory acts, and bullying and violence. These dynamics make it difficult for some MSM to be open about same-sex behaviors with others, which can increase stress, limit social support, and negatively affect health.

That reality makes her next statement particularly interesting.

I guess we are all to believe that the moment America’s First Gay President repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” all the health risks of homosexuality magically went away. Not relevant, homophobe. End of debate.

First, as I covered above, the health risks are not so much about homosexuality but risky behavior, some of which is encouraged by homophobia and other stigma.  And no, no one seriously expected such health concerns to magically disappear.  This is why HIV educators are still hard at work, why researchers are still working to develop an effective vaccine against HIV.  And it’s why many of us are still combating homophobia in the hopes that one day it will cease to contribute to some LGBT people’s poor health.  It’s why various organizations are pushing LGBT people to practice safe sex and to get tested — not only for HIV, but other STI’s as well — on a regular basis so that if the worst does happen, they can get the treatment they need to stay healthy and prevent further infections.

With the above statement Mefferd demonstrates that she doesn’t know the first thing about the health concerns of LGBT people.  Her lack of understanding demonstrates that she doesn’t care about them either.  Bringing them up is nothing more than an attempt to score rhetorical points on her part.

I’m going to pass on commenting on her final points.  I think I have demonstrated that her arguments are nothing more than the kind of rhetoric she accuses her opponents of engaging in.  Janet Mefferd would like to paint herself as the victim of the big mean gays and “abortionists.”  Yet her clear dishonesty demonstrates that she is merely projecting her own behavior on those with whom she disagrees.

Pondering “Out of a Far Country”: The morality question

While I find Christopher Yuan’s life and journey as he describes it in “Out of a Far Country,” I find the way in which that story culminates to his conclusions in the “Holy Sexuality” chapter to be troubling and problematic.  Again, as I alluded to in my previous post, this is where he at least implicitly shifts from telling his personal story to offering a moral prescription for others.  As such, I feel this chapter needs to be directly addressed.

This shift I’m talking about quickly becomes visible when Christopher begins his defense or justification of calling on gay men and women to a life of celibacy.  Christopher offers his realization that there are people in the Bible who lived their entire lives abstinent, noting that both Jesus and Paul were both such men.

The thing note, however, is that both men acknowledged that it was neither an easy calling or one that everyone was suited for.  When Jesus’s own disciples comment that it would be better to remain unmarried, Jesus responded that “not all can accept this,” without any sense of condemnation (Matthew 19).  Similarly Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthian church (chapter 7), he notes that it is better to remain single, but that those who cannot control their lusts should get married.[1]  So as I read Christopher’s insistence that it’s not unfair of God to demand celibacy — especially lifelong celibacy — of certain people, I’m skeptical that his two examples of holy and celibate men would actually agree with him.

But the thing is, Christopher isn’t claiming that God is demanding lifelong celibacy of individuals, but of an entire class of people.  I have no problem believing that God called Paul, Jesus, or even Christopher Yuan to lifelong celibacy.  God places individual callings upon people all the time.  But to say that an entire class of people must remain celibate simply because of who they are drawn to when it comes to sex and romance[2] is an entirely different claim, and I think it’s a position that takes far more defense than Christopher offers.  I also think it takes far more appreciation of what one is claiming God demands of all gay and bisexual people and just how hard a road one is calling others to.

That last statement is pivotal to me.  What I see here is that some — either including Christopher or those who will be further emboldened by him — are trying to tell other people — and entire class of people, in fact — what God’s calling is for their lives.  I maintain that this is not how callings work.  Callings are not placed upon people by other individuals.  No, the things so placed are rightfully called burdens.  Callings are made not to classes of people, but to individuals by a god who draws that individual in, gives the individual a heart and desire for that calling, and fills that individual with a sense that while the calling may not always involve an easy road, it is entirely doable.  This is not what is being offered here in the chapter on holy sexuality.

As I’ve referred to the chapter’s title which invokes the word “holy,” let’s look at the statement popularized by some Exodus leaders and repeated in this chapter:

“The opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality, but holiness.”

My problem with this statement is that it reduces holiness — a complex and wondrous topic — to a mere question of not having sex or at least not having the wrong kinds of sex.  It reduces the idea of holiness in sexuality to following the right rules, avoiding the right taboos, and so on.  It does nothing to illuminate what makes sex or sexuality holy — sacred to and glorifying of the Divine — which makes it hard to accept the unsubstantiated statement[3] that the holiness of one’s sexuality or sexual activity is affected by the gender of one’s partner(s).

I wish Christopher the best in following what he believes that God has called him to.  But I would ask him not to attempt to universalize that calling for all gay people or allow others to use his story to do so.  It’s simply not his or their place.

[1]  Not exactly a ringing endorsement for marriage as a sacred institution, is it?

[2]  And like so many others, Christopher never seems to acknowledge that same-sex relationships have a romantic side or other aspects beyond the sex.

[3]  Christopher and others might argue that “The Bible says so” should be good enough.  Setting aside that not everyone agrees about what “the Bible says” on the topic, I will note that this underscores an extremely authoritarian approach to morality and assumes and authoritarian God who gives a moral code that is based on nothing more than His say-so.  I am deeply troubled by such an understanding of both morality and God.  Indeed, I think conservative Christianity would be greatly served by the sudden appearance of many more Jobs in their ranks.

Pondering “Out of a Far Country”: Conflating Issues

There’s a part of me that wishes I lived in a different world.  That part of me wishes that I lived in a world where the Yuans’ book, “Out of a Far Country,” existed in a vacuum.  In such a world, I could appreciate the book for its own merits and my discussion of it would be complete with my previous post on the topic and a brief explanation of where I disagree with Christopher’s conclusions and theology and leave it at that.

Unfortunately, that’s not the reality I occupy.  In reality, I live in a world where some people — influential people — have invested a great deal of time and money in presenting QUILTBAG people — particularly gay men — in the worst light possible.  There are those who still either explicitly or implicitly seek to link homosexuality with substance abuse, pedophilia, risky sex, and other destructive behaviors.

Such people like men like Christopher Yuan.  They love such men’s stories, because they can point those men’s experiences, generalize them, and say, “See?  This is what all gay men (and QUILTBAG people in general) are like!”  Courageous men like Christopher — and I do not discount his courage or the truly amazing nature of his transformative journey — become tools in the anti-gay political machine’s to inaccurately paint and even dehumanize an entire class of people.

Some may feel that it’s unfair to hold Christopher responsible for how others might misuse his story.  After all, such people are responsible for their own actions some might say.  And in many ways that’s quite correct.  However, I will note that Christopher and Angela are not isolated or separate from the very community that would misuse this book to generalize about all QUILTBAG people.  Indeed, the book makes it quite clear that Christopher and Angela were familiar with groups like Exodus International — which has spent years cultivating the “gay lifestyle = risky sex and substance abuse” narratives. In fact, in the chapter “Holy Sexuality,” Christopher invokes the common Exodus slogan, “The opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality, but holiness,” and talks about “gay identity” that is identical to the view expressed by many ex-gay groups and individuals.

As such, I have to assume that Christopher knew how his story would be perceived and presented by others.  I find the fact that he did nothing to address that and point out that his story is unique and not representative of all gay men, let alone QUILTBAG people in general, troubling and questionable.

He spends much of the book talking about friends — friends that eventually abandon him — from the circuit party scene, from the drug scene, from the porn scene.  And I have no doubt that they did exactly that.  But he makes no note that the problem isn’t that his friends were gay, but were part of scenes that are notorious for being filled with the kind of people who are only friends of convenience.  Perhaps Christopher didn’t make any gay friends from other scenes — coffee shops, pub-style gay bars, social groups, or groups that have a political/social justice bent — that tend to be filled with gay people who are more likely to swarm around someone in need.  People get involved in different scenes after all, and I’m not questioning his experience.  But again, as someone who should know what the narrative many conservative evangelical Christians try to push concerning QUILTBAG people, I’m troubled that he put in no effort to make it clear that his friends’ abandonment of him was probably far more influenced by factors other than their sexual orientation.

I find the same problem in the chapter “Holy Sexuality,” which I hope to cover more in a future blog post.  But for now, I’d like to note that Christopher describes the sequence in which he identifies and eliminates his “idols.”  He starts by identifying drug use as an idol and something he needs to live without, which I can certainly agree with.  Then he moves on to determine that dance music and the party scene is idol for him.  He is quick to note, however, that there is nothing inherently wrong with dance music or going to clubs.  He simply points out that he does not believe that he could do these things without falling back into old drug habits.  I can certainly understand this and honor his personal wisdom in realizing what he needs to do for himself in order to keep himself healthy and under control.  I’ll also note that in a sense, he also acknowledges this as a personal struggle and a personal choice of how to deal with it.  He doesn’t try to make it a universal ban on dance music and clubbing for all people.

Then he gets to the issue of sex.  He describes his own relationship to sex as follows:

I had an addiction to sex.  Having several anonymous partners at a bathhouse in the same day had been nothing out of the ordinary for me.

An actual addiction to sex is a serious problem, and I sympathize with Christopher and anyone else who has struggled with sexual addiction.  But Christopher jumps from the above statement right to the question of living without sex at all.  It’s as if in Christopher’s mind, there’s no middle ground here.  A gay man is either celibate or he is addicted to sex.

Perhaps he doesn’t mean that.[1]  Perhaps he means this as a personal decision, that for him, the only way to break free from the sexual addiction he felt was to turn to abstinence.  If that is the case, then I can respect that as another personal decision based on personal struggles.

However, the context of the rest of the chapter doesn’t leave me with that impression.  But my analysis of the rest of his views on holy sexuality will have to wait for another post.  And at any rate, given the tendency of many in the ex-gay/anti-gay movement(s) to conflate homosexuality and sexual addiction/”promiscuity,” I’m still concerned that he either intentionally or unintentionally contributed to that conflation by not addressing the issue.

[1]  Assuming the email I received regarding my last post, Christopher is reading my blog posts concerning his and his mother’s books.  Given that, perhaps he will see fit to clarify what his thinking/intent on this and my other concerns are.

Homophobia, allies, and definitions

I often enjoy looking over the stats for this blog, particularly to see how people run across this blog.  Today, I found myself fascinated by one visit in particular because of the search they used to land on my blog:

do people have to be an lgbt ally to not be homophobic

Personally, I find that a fascinating question.  I also think it’s a question that requires us to first understand what terms like “homophobic” and “ally” mean.  Of course, different people probably understand the words slightly differently, but since it’s my blog, I’m going to explore how I understand those terms.

I tend to view homophobia as any action which negates, denigrates, trivializes, or lessens the basic dignity and humanity of QUILTBAG people, either collectively or individually.  This means that actually being up a QUILTBAG person, fighting against full equality for QUILTBAG people, and telling a joke that makes fun of QUILTBAG people or trivializes their experience are all homophobic acts in my book.

So what’s an LGBT ally in my book?  Anyone who believes that QUILTBAG people deserve to be treated with the same humanity, decency, and respect given to heterosexuals as a matter of course and acts out that belief.  That doesn’t mean that I think that one has to run out and volunteer to help with the latest marriage equality campaign or anything else so “grand.”  For me (and others may feel differently), being an ally can be as simple as expressing displeasure when someone else tells a homophobic joke.  It can be as simple as lending moral support to the trans* friend who is having problems with a transphobic coworker.

So to get back to the original question, I think it’s actually inverted.  I think the real question is, “Can a person seek to rid themselves of homophobia and still not be an ally?”  As I think about it, I’m inclined to think the answer is no.  I think as a person becomes aware of how their thought patterns and actions — even the minor ones — hurt QUILTBAG people — even unintentionally — and seek to change them, they are in effect going through the process of becoming an ally (or a better one).  After all, when you become aware of such things in your own life, you tend to become more aware of them around you, and it tends to bother you there.

An evangelical speaks frankly

Warren Throckmorton is Associate Professor of Psychology at conservative Grove City College and the creator of the Sexual Identity Therapy Framework, a set of guidelines for therapists who wish to help gay people of faith (particularly a more conservative form of Christianity) to reconcile their sexuality with their faith.

Recently, Dr. Throckmorton wrote a blog post in which he discussed Christian media sources to refrain from discussing or even mentioning recent studies relating to sexual orientation.  The entire post (and the rest of his blog) is well worth reading, and is one of the reasons I respect Dr. Throckmorton.  As fellow gay blogger, Pomoprophet, put it while covering this post:

Throckmorten[sic] (though he doesn’t fully agree with me) is the type of Evangelical Christian that I can actually respect. He is informed and thoughtful. When he talkes about “defending truth is the name of Jesus” he does so with the best data available on “the truth”, not merely conservative talking points that fit nicely into his narrow view of the world. I find it ironic that many Evangelicals shun one of their own because he reports the facts and the studies and calls them on their anti-gay animus.

The fact that Dr. Throckmorton has faced much criticism from his fellow evangelicals — some have even pressured Grove City College to terminate his employment there — for his honesty and his integrity makes his commitment to both all the more admirable.  However, I would like to suggest that in this post, Dr. Throckmorton has gone beyond simply standing up for the truth, but acting in what some Christians might consider a prophetic role.  Consider this quote from his blog post:

Many evangelicals get their information from NARTH through groups like Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Exodus International, etc. Others get information from Christian media. However, these studies are not reported in these places. No wonder most evangelicals approach sexual orientation with a 1990s mindset. It is as if the evangelical world is in blackout mode when it comes to current studies on sexual orientation.

Dr. Throckmorton is not merely standing up for the truth, but he is calling out those here are hiding the truth, misconstruing it, or even lying about it.  This has become an endemic problem among many evangelical leaders (for more examples of this, simply check out a half dozen other posts from Dr. Throckmorton’s blog, an equal number from Fred Clark’s blog, and my own post from Wednesday.)

Note however, that Dr. Throckmorton’s prophetic warning is not merely aimed at those leaders who would either leave their followers in ignorance or even actively deceive them.  His warning to those followers is also clear:  Do not assume that your leaders are being honest with you just because they’re standing in front of a cross.  It is up to those who value truth to verify the veracity of what they’re being told for themselves.  To do otherwise is to play some small part in their own deception.

Thank you, Dr. Throckmorton, for being such a voice for integrity and justice.

Effective Tactics vs. Dirty Tricks

I received another email from Eugene Degaudio.  This time, he is asking for donations to oppose the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that is working its way through both the House (H.R. 1397) and Senate (S. 811) committees right now.    In his usual inflammatory manner, Delgaudio has dubbed this bill “The Gay Bill of Special Rights.”  Read the bill as it stands in both houses of Congress for yourself and see if you can spot any “special rights” it grants QUILTBAG people.

Delgaudio speaks of the bill and those supporting it thus:

But this organization is more dangerous because it’s learning from past success.  You see, they’ll be using the same tactics other groups used to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a battle you and I lost.

In their own words, the “lessons and tactics learned in the repeal fight are finally being utilized.”

Interestingly, Delgaudio does not mention what “tactics” pro-equality advocates have found successful.  The only “tactics” I recall anyone using to push the repeal of DADT consist of the following:

  1. Honestly portraying QUILTBAG people honorably serving their country only to suffer as a result of the policy.
  2. Demonstrating through testimonies and other verifiable evidence that allowing QUILTBAG people to openly serve in the military does not and would not negatively impact unit cohesion, military preparedness, or any of the other things that the anti-gay lobby would have you believe.

Effectively, the “effective tactics” that the pro-equality crowd has been using is the honest truth.  Compare this to Delgaudio’s own choice to drum up political and financial support by lying.  From his email:

Churches would be forced to hire homosexual youth pastors or face lawsuits for discrimination.

However, this is not true, as both versions of the bill have religious exemption clause.  Section 6 of S. 811 reads as follows:

This Act shall not apply to a corporation, association, educational institution or institution of learning, or society that is exempt from the religious discrimination provisions of title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 pursuant (42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq.) to section 702(a) or 703(e)(2) of such Act (42 U.S.C. 2000e-1(a), 2000e-2(e)(2)).

Section 6 of H.R. 1397 contains nearly identical language:

This Act shall not apply to a corporation, association, educational institution, or society that is exempt from the religious discrimination provisions of title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 pursuant to section 702(a) or 703(e)(2) of such Act (42 U.S.C. 2000e-1(a); 2000e-2(e)(2)).

It’s no wonder that Delgaudio doesn’t want to discuss what the “effective tactics” the pro-equality side are using.  After all, his supporters/marks[1] might start comparing those tactic’s to Delgaudio’s own.  And I don’t imagine making it even more obvious that he’s a liar will not help Delgaudio’s cause.


[1]  What else do you call people you lie to in order to get them to give you money?

Risky Behavior the Anti-Gay Crowd Loves

The Bisexual flag and Gay flag put together (A...

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I ran across an AP article this morning that says that some research suggests that LGB teens* are more likely to engage in risky behavior than their heterosexual counterparts.  According to the article:

Investigators asked about dozens of risky behaviors, ranging from not
wearing a bicycle helmet, to drug use, to attempting suicide. Gay,
lesbian and bisexual students reported worse behavior in half to 90
percent of the risk categories, depending on the survey site.

The article goes on to give statistics on cigarette usage, suicide attempts, and purging:

  • About 8 percent to 19 percent of heterosexual students said they
    currently smoke cigarettes; 20 percent to 48 percent of gay and lesbian
    students smoked.
  • About 4 to 10 percent of heterosexual
    students said they attempted suicide in the previous year. For gay and
    lesbian students: 15 percent to 34 percent. For bisexual students: 21
    percent to 32 percent.
  • About 3 percent to 6 percent of
    heterosexual students said they threw up or used laxatives to lose
    weight or stay thin. For gay and lesbian students: 13 percent to 20
    percent. For bisexual students: 12 percent to 17.5 percent.

At first glance, it might seem strange to talk about not wearing a bike helmet and suicide attempts in the same article.  However, when you consider that both behaviors are inherently self-destructive and an indicator of self-image and self-worth issues, it makes perfect sense.  When people don’t value themselves as much as they should, they tend not to care as much what happens to themselves or take proper care of themselves.

Unfortunately, the anti-gay crowd does not help this, when it comes to LGB youth*.  The anti-gay crowd is invested in stigmatizing them, encouraging them to feel bad about themselves and lower their sense of self-worth.**  They tell these youth how horrible it is to be gay, and all the horrible things that means about them.  They tell these youth how bad their life is going to be, painting a “gay lifestyle” that must be by its very nature filled with self-destructive behaviors.

One thing anyone who has worked with children and teens will tell you is that if you tell a child or teen long enough that they’re bad and they do bad things, a teen is going to decide to do those things.  So in effect the anti-gay crowd is engaging — and I have to assume at this point that it’s done knowingly — in pushing a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And of course, once the fruits of their smear campaign starts showing, they self-righteously point to the self-destructive behavior and insist it’s because “gay people know that what they’re doing is wrong.”  Note how it turns into a vicious cycle.  One that we QUILTBAG adults and our allies need to break.

It’s important that we remind the QUILTBAG youth in our communities that the anti-gay crowd is lying to them.  We need to remind them that they are worth far more than the anti-gay crowd want them to know.  We need to remind them that they deserve to treat themselves with care and respect rather than engaging in risky, self-destructive behavior.  Because QUILTBAG youth are being inundated with some awful messages, and they are listening.  We need to make sure they hear and listen to our message too.

Our message to QUILTBAG youth is that they are better than that.

* I suspect the same can be said about all QUILTBAG teens, but that would be pure extrapolation on my part, not something supported by the studies mentioned.

** Oh, the anti-gay crowd will tell you that it’s untrue and that they only want such youths to “find freedom from homosexuality.”  But first, they have to convince those same youths that they’re sexual orientation is the same as “bondage.”

In a Small Alcove at Susquehanna University

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I came out to myself and my best friend at the time on Monday, 1 April 1996.  Tomorrow, 1 April 2011 marks the fifteenth anniversary of that event.  In honor of that, I’ve decided to do a series of posts on the topic.  This is the first one.

My mind floats back fifteen years ago — almost to the day — and a few hundred miles away.  I can still remember what it was like that night, sitting in the cloth-covered chair with wooden arm rests that sat in the tiny alcove of the first floor of Seibert Hall.  I never knew which professors had their offices there, but the place was familiar.  I chose that place to meet Merion because not only was it relatively secluded from the bustle of campus nightlife (or what passed for campus nightlife on a Monday night), but it was a place both of us knew well.  It was the same tiny alcove that the Bible study we both attended — and I eventually became coleader of — met once a week the year before.

I needed that familiarity to help calm my nerves.  It didn’t work, because I was a complete wreck.  I think it took me over five minutes to build up the courage — that is, to grit my teeth hard enough — to utter those two words:  “I’m gay.”

I hadn’t said those words prior to that moment, and that was a big thing.  Oh sure, I had admitted that I was attracted to guys.  I had even told a number of people.  But I had mostly said “I’m struggling with homosexuality” or something like that.  Up to this point, I had made it clear that I didn’t want to feel this way.  The closest I had come to those two words were a few weeks earlier when I told my friend, Joyce, “I think I might be gay.”*  Even then, I had left myself the escape hatch.  I may have started to realize I was losing the “ex-gay struggle,” but I hadn’t “conceded defeat” yet.

That night, sitting in that chair and facing Merion in the the chairs twin to my right, I made that concession.  And it was hard to do, because I knew exactly what I was doing.  It was terrifying to do it, even though I knew that Merion would be completely supportive, as she had already came out to me as bisexual** about a year earlier.

I think by the time I said it and for the first several minutes after I made my confession, I was actually shaking.  I was that worked up.  Merion was wonderful though.  She was encouraging.  She was supportive.  She was incredible.  I don’t really remember much of what she said to me, other than the fact that she told me how honored she was that I chose to tell her.  The rest of the details, however, blur into the emotional chaos I was going through at the time.

But that also marked the beginning of the end of the emotional chaos.  I escaped the prison of fear and shame that day.  I ran out screaming — almost literally.  And while things didn’t get instantly better, the process of improvement began.  It’s taken me years to clean up the mess I was left with, and in some ways, I’m still cleaning it up.  (I’ll talk about that more tomorrow.)  But that moment moved me into a place in my journey where I could face that task, no matter how daunting it seemed at times.

* And Joyce, in her well-meaning but less-than-helpful way, glibly responded by saying, “It’s about time you figured it out.”  Seriously folks, I know sometimes you can tell that a loved one is gay before they’re able or willing to admit it to even themselves.  But this is not the way to respond when they finally confide in you.  If you must tell them you already figured it out, do so in the gentlest way possible.  Otherwise, it can come across as you dishonoring their choice to be completely open and vulnerable to you in a way which was probably took a lot of courage on their part.

** That night, Merion clarified that she was a lesbian.  She was one of those people who originally came out as bisexual because it was easier to take that as a step towards coming out as strictly gay.  And no, that does not mean that everyone who says they’re bi is doing so.  There are authentically bisexual people out there, too.  The fact that there are some people in the gay community who refuse to accept that is a personal pet peev of mine.

Employment, Community, and Coming Out

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Tonight while doing laundry and packing for my trip to Erie, I spent some time listening to Episode 22 of the Inciting A Riot podcast.  Fire Lyte is an intelligent, funny, and charming podcaster and I highly recommend you check out both his podcast and his blog.  For my own post, however, I want to focus on the segment of Episode 22 where Fire Lyte talks about work and the closet.

Fire Lyte makes the sound observation that different jobs allow for different levels of being open about one’s spirituality and sexuality.  I know that as  software engineer, I’m in a position of great comfort.  An old coworker once summed up the engineers’ situations when he commented that he once overheard a conversation between two managers discussing the engineering department on a previous job.  The older manager told his junior, “They’re a weird lot.  But they get the job done, so leave them alone.”  My own experience has verified the truth of that mentality, that most people in charge of engineers are willing to overlook just about any “personality quirk” as long as the person in question proves themselves an invaluable resource.  As such, I can be relatively open about both my sexuality and my spirituality without worrying about my job.  Someone who is in a teaching position or — to go back to Fire Lyte’s example — who is working for children in a governmental capacity may not be so lucky.  To them, an alternate spirituality or sexuality could be a liability to them.

Fire Lyte’s advice on the matter is to be conscious of this, both when making decisions about how out to be in their current job or in deciding what job opportunities to pursue.  This is certainly sound advice from an individual perspective, and I support the idea that an individual’s first concern should be his or her own well-being.  Principles don’t matter as much when you can’t afford to buy food.

However, the down-side to that advice is that it does tend to reinforce the status quo rather than challenge it.  And as an idealist, this is one area where I certainly would like to see the status quo challenged and eventually broken.  To accomplish that, someone somewhere — quite probably a lot of soemones in a lot of different somewheres — are going to have to push their luck and take risks.

Part of the problem, as Fire Lyte noted, is that people have all these strange ideas about Pagans (and gay people), and that if you happen to be the only person that your employer or others know that is Pagan (or gay), then you have an uphill battle to fight, and one that your employer or others in power may not be willing to let you fight.

The problem is, there’s ultimately only one permanent solution to that scenario:  Pagans (and gay people) need to become more visible.  As long as we stay hidden because it’s easier, then people will remain unconfronted with and uninformed about us.  As I said, we only reinforce the status quo.

This doesn’t mean that I think everyone should run out and tell their boss, their neighbors, or anyone else that they are Pagan (or gay).  I don’t think everyone should slap a pentacle or pride flag on their desk at work, their car, or their living room window (my landlord made me take mine down due to a lease violation).  I may be an idealist, but I’m not a moron.  But there are those of us who can take risks — and there are different levels of risk that different people can take — that would go a long way.

There are those of us in jobs where we are secure, either due to the nature of the job or the fact that we are invaluable to our employer.  And I’d encourage those who have been at their job for five years or more (yes, such loyal employees still do exist, though they’re rare) to think about how they might have the job security to push the boundaries a little.  Because the only way we can gain more visibility and more understanding is to be more visible.

I’ll also note that the advantage of having been at a job for a long time before coming out is that you’re an established person.  Rather than being an unknown individual who is a “weird Pagan,” you become a known hard worker who happens to be a “weird Pagan.”  And ultimately, I think that’s what we need.  We need to be seen as full individuals.

As I said, there are different levels of risk.  This most directly translates into different levels of being “out.”  “Coming out” at work can be something as simple as telling a couple of trusted coworkers (or even a trusted manager) in confidence.  The whole office doesn’t necessarily need to know, and even the increased awareness of one or two people can have positive and radical results in the long term.  I’m reminded of the job I had in Ithaca.  During the four years I was there, I kept a picture of my boyfriend on my desk.  The only two people who commented on it the entire time I was there originally assumed it was a picture of my brother.  I politely informed them each that the handsome man was my boyfriend.  The one said nothing more, while the other became a better friend.  I’m not sure what anyone else in the office made of the picture.  For all I know, the others still assumed he was my brother, and I was content to let them assume that.

In the end, each person must make their own choices when it comes to the closet(s) and how “out” they want to be at work, in their community, or in other aspect of their lives.  Each person must decide what level of risk he or she is willing to take, and I would not dream of dictating such important choices to others.  Bu I would encourage everyone to consider again what level of risk they might be willing to live with if it means a long-term improvement for all Pagans (and/or gay people).