When we first began to get to get acquainted with some of the lesbian couples in our Toledo, Ohio neighborhood, my initial response was something like "Wow, this is cool." I had had gay friends and neighbors for years, but never seen gay families with children, minivans and houses in the suburbs. I thought it was wonderful--but the point is that I thought about it. I think I created a "lesbian family" category in my mind and filed the families I knew in there. It was a category I thought about in a very positive light, but it was still a category separate from my general "families" file.
Somewhere over the last couple of years, though, this separate category has faded away. I went to a high school graduation party last weekend for the son of two terrific neighbors of mine. I wished the new grad well, drank beer, ate lasagna and cake, mingled with gay and straight people from teens to sixties and went on home. Not once, though, did I think of my friends as a "lesbian family." They were just a family, having a perfectly ordinary graduation party. Only when I saw Pam's Pandagon entry and started about wondering for five minutes about what to write about did it did it even occur to me that I had just recently seen a lesbian family celebration. Yawn.
I think that the fading away of my mental category of "lesbian family" is being mirrored in larger segments of society. How else to explain the muted reaction to major gay marriage decisions coming out of California and New York last week? This isn't to deny that there is a lot of hateful intolerance out there; of course there is. It's only to suggest that the ultimate goal of events like Blogging for LGBT Families Day should be to make themselves unnecessary and obsolete--and that day may be coming sooner than we think. As LGBT families become more deeply enmeshed in American neighborhoods, putting them into a special category should become as silly as thinking of left-handed families, blue eyed families, and black haired families.
Paul Waldman, writing in The American Prospect, serves up this surprising history of the public's attitude toward interracial marriage, and suggests it has application to the currently evolving tolerance of gay marriage:
Back then [41 years ago], the American public didn't like the idea of interracial
marriage, either. In 1958, 94 percent of Americans surveyed by Gallup
said they disapproved of marriages between blacks and whites. Ten years
later -- the year after the Loving decision -- the number had declined
to a still-strong 73 percent. It wasn't until 1991 that more Americans
approved of interracial marriage than disapproved. In the most recent Gallup poll on the topic, taken a year ago, the number disapproving had fallen to 17 percent.
All of which is to say that it may be some time before same-sex
marriage is legal in every state and the public acknowledges that it
should have been thus all along. But whether it happens in 10 years
or 20 years, there will be no doubt who was right and who was wrong,
who stood on the side of humanity and justice, and who stood on the
side of fear and prejudice.
I wonder in what year the Democratic candidate for President will favor gay marriage--and in what year the Republican party will drop anti-gay marriage language from its platform. The eventual acceptance of the Loving decision suggests it might be sometime around 25 years from the date Massachusetts legalized love, or 2028.
If her writing is any indication of her thought processes, it's clear that University of Toledo administrator Crystal Dixon is a bigot, a kook, and an intellectually deficient human being. However, I have worked at two other northwest Ohio institutions of higher education, and I can say pretty confidently that if being a bigot, a kook and an intellectually deficient human being were grounds for termination, the faculties and staffs of both would be decimated.
Dixon, however, was recently fired from her post as an "interim associate vice president of human resources" at UT for writing a letter to the editor of the Toledo Free Press in which she laid her bigotry, kookiness and intellectual deficiency out for all to see:
As a Black woman who happens to be an alumnus of the University of
Toledo's Graduate School, an employee and business owner, I take great
umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are
"civil rights victims." Here's why. I cannot wake up tomorrow and not
be a Black woman. I am genetically and biologically a Black woman and
very pleased to be so as my Creator intended. Daily, thousands of
homosexuals make a life decision to leave the gay lifestyle evidenced
by the growing population of PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex Gays) and
Exodus International just to name a few. Frequently, the individuals
report that the impetus to their change of heart and lifestyle was a
transformative experience with God; a realization that their choice of
same-sex practices wreaked havoc in their psychological and physical
Following publication of her letter, she was fired--for doing nothing more than writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper and expressing her views.
If Dixon can be fired from a public university for expressing her anti-gay opinion, then any other employee could be sacked for expressing pro-gay sentiments--or for that matter, for expressing anything at all. Things would be different, perhaps, if Dixon was an employee at will at a private institution. However, if the First Amendment means anything, it means that agents of the state (such as the University of Toledo) are not allowed to punish employees for holding and expressing unpopular views.
It's uncomfortable for me to be on the same side of this matter as Rush Limbaugh, but this is not a liberal or conservative issue--it's a civil liberties issue. Dixon plans to file suit against UT; I hope she succeeds.
In a much-anticipated ruling issued Thursday, the California Supreme
Court struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage as
This vindicates Mayor Gavin Newsome's courageous decision to buck California's so-called Defense of Marriage Act and issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Sometimes you have to do what seems like breaking the law to advance civil rights. Martin Luther King would approve.
Here's the nut of the decision, which roots gay marriage firmly within a person's fundamental, individual, inalienable rights:
[W]e conclude that, under this state's Constitution, the constitutionally based right to marry properly must be understood to encompass the core set of basic substantive legal rights and attributes traditionally associated with marriage that are so integral to an individual's liberty and personal autonomy that they may not be eliminated or abrogated by the Legislature or by the electorate through the statutory initiative process. These core substantive rights include, most fundamentally, the opportunity of an individual to establish -- with the person with whom the individual has chosen to share his or her life -- an officially recognizedand protected family possessing mutual rights and responsibilities and entitled to the same respect and dignity accorded a union traditionally designated as marriage. As past cases establish, the substantive right of two adults who share a loving relationship to join together to establish an officially recognized family of their own -- and, if the couple chooses, to raise children within that family -- constitutes a vitally important attribute of the fundamental interest in liberty and personal autonomy that the California Constitution secures to all persons for the benefit of both the individual and society.
Only one line in the news story today troubles me:
An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is likely. The federal high court has never addressed the question of same-sex marriage.
I don't see the federal jurisdiction here at all. Marriage has always been a state, not a federal, matter. However, given the current makeup of the high court and its willingness to find federal jurisdiction on other cases that have historically been matters of state law (see, e.g., Bush v. Gore), I'm not as confident as I'd like to be. There will be battles ahead.
Then too, the drool-flecked pulpit-banger wing of the GOP is ramping up a campaign for a referendum on an amendment to California's constitution banning same-sex marriage. That might well come down in November of this year, once again injecting the old Fear Of A Gay Planet fervor into the Presidential race. Again: there will be battles ahead.
But for today, let's celebrate a victory for love and reason.
A project of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, the Day of Silence "is a student-led day of action when concerned students, from middle school to college, take some form of a vow of silence to bring attention to the name-calling, bullying and harassment -- in effect, the silencing -- experienced by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) students and their allies."
Well, the AFA isn't going to stand for kids sitting quietly in school and not talking! As their website helpfully points out, "Schools do not have to tolerate students remaining silent in class."
My wife and I spent a lovely long weekend last October in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. It's a thriving, vibrant little town where no two streets are parallel or intersect at right angles, where the streets are built on different levels with wrought iron footbridges connecting the sidewalk of one street with the second story of a building on the street below.
We shopped in beautiful galleries, visited an artists' colony, saw performances by Odetta and the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and marveled at how well the downtown historic district had maintained its Victorian character. I shopped at the local bookstore and supported the public library by buying books at a flea market. I went to a farmer's market and bought beautiful flowers and vegetables from a Hmong family. We watched street performers and ate very well. We chatted up the locals, who were a warm, welcoming bunch.
It was, in short, about as wholesome a weekend getaway as you could find.
Ah, but little did we know about the hideous evil that lurked just under the frontier Victorian facade of Eureka Springs. It turns out that the place has been taken over by horrible homosexual activists!
That lovely bit of hysteria, which all but compares homosexuals to cockroaches, comes to you from the American Family Association , which is prognosticating that as Eureka Springs goes, so goes the nation:
Residents of the small Arkansas town of Eureka Springs noticed the homosexual community was growing. But they felt no threat. They went about their business as usual. Then, one day, they woke up to discover that their beloved Eureka Springs, a community which was known far and wide as a center for Christian entertainment--had changed. The City Council had been taken over by a small group of homosexual activists.
The Eureka Springs they knew is gone. It is now a national hub for
homosexuals. Eureka Springs is becoming the San Francisco of Arkansas.
The story of how this happened is told in the new AFA DVD “They’re Coming To Your Town."
of the first actions of the homosexual controlled City Council was to
offer a “registry” where homosexuals could register their unofficial
“marriage.” City Council member Joyce Zeller said the city will now be
promoted, not as a Christian resort, but a city “selling peace,
relaxation, history and sex.”
“They’re Coming ToYour Town” documents the story of how and why this
happened. And how homosexual activists plan to do the same in other
Order a copy of “They’re Coming To Your Town.” Watch it. Then take the 28-minute DVD and share it with your Sunday School class and local church. This is a story the liberal media will never tell, but one you need to know.
Well, I say bring it on. If gay governance can make Toledo anything remotely like Eureka Springs, I'm ready to replace the current mayor and city council with the homosexual cabal right now. "Peace, relaxation, history and sex" sounds pretty good to me.
If a student calls another kid a nigger or a kike within earshot of a
teacher, he or she almost certainly gets a trip to the assistant
principal's office. However, if a student calls another kid a faggot
or a dyke within earshot of a teacher, nothing happens.
As a society, we view racial epithets as Class A felonies, whereas homophobic slurs are parking violations (if that).
* * * [H]omophobia is so ubiquitous as to be invisible in American society.
Only people whose idea of formal attire is a white sheet with eyeholes
would dare to use the N-word in public, but homophobic smears
reverberate throughout pop culture.
The way I have confronted this issue is by using the felony words. The best way to show how ugly those words is is to use other
ugly words by way of comparison. Don't use euphemisms (like "the
n-word") or general descriptions (like "ethnic slurs"). Shove the
ugliness right in their faces.
At a public meeting about the "climate" of my sons' public high school, I asked, loudly and specifically, what the school policy would require if a teacher heard a student calling someone a nigger or a kike. Several people at the meeting flinched visibly at that, but there was general agreement that this would result in a talking-to. Then why, I asked, do we tolerate calling people fags, queers, homos, and gays?
On Wednesday, Newsday repeatedly asked Obama if same-sex relationships were immoral.
"I think traditionally the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman has
restricted his public comments to military matters," said Obama,
leaving Capitol Hill. "That's probably a good tradition to follow."
He turned the conversation to opposition to the military's "don't ask,
don't tell" policy: "I think the question here is whether somebody is
willing to sacrifice for their country."
Of course, both Senators later put out statements "clarifying" their remarks, neither one of which made a simple declaration that homosexuality is not immoral. Clearly, they are trying to avoid going on camera and saying this and thereby giving the hate wing of the GOP a sound bite for an attack ad. Not exactly profiles in courage, are they?
How is it that crusty old Republican Senator John Warner was able to say, "I respectfully but strongly disagree with the chairman's view that homosexuality is immoral," but the two Democratic frontrunners couldn't bring themselves to utter these terrible words?
I've noted before that Presidential campaign politics sometimes resembles high school social life. One phenomenon common to both that has been on my mind lately is the Designation of the Unpopular. It goes like this:
For there to be a "popular" group, there must also be someone who is "unpopular," someone for the in-group to bully and harass. This person is often selected because he or she manifests qualities that are esteemed in the outside world. Perhaps this is an unconscious reaction by the in-group to the threat posed by those qualities. Thus the person designated as unpopular may be smart, talented, original, good-looking, or otherwise possessed of certain advantages. The designee need not have these qualities to any great degree; even the slightest superiority in one of these areas is sufficient to turn a decent kid into a target.
Take John Edwards, for example. He's blond, slender and handsome--not outrageously so, but certainly more so than Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, James Taranto, Ann Coulter, et als.
It only takes one comment from the popular set to begin the process of turning a kid into a target.
Ann Coulter: "I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic
presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go
into rehab if you use the word ‘faggot,’ so I — so kind of an impasse,
can’t really talk about Edwards."
The first comment signals to the popular crowd that it's safe to go after the designee. It also serves as a challenge: if you don't agree with it and chime in with a denigrating comment of your own, maybe you don't belong in the popular set. A kind of put-down oneupmanship develops as the whole group piles on.
The designee is then put in an impossible position. If he ignores the taunts, he's a pansy, but if he tries to do something about them, he's over-reacting and lacks a sense of humor. With any luck, he'll drop out of school--at which point the in-group will designate someone else to be the unpopular one.
Glenn Greenwald points out (with terrific pictures!) that some of the men smearing Edwards for somehow being insufficiently masculine are themselves pretty soft, pink and curvaceous and thinks that their attacks reveal much about their own gender anxieties. That certainly fits into the high school scenario. Why are so many adolescents so reflexively homophobic? It's because many kids haven't figured out who they are yet, sexually speaking. They find it hard to define themselves in terms of what they ARE, because that's complicated and scary--but it's much easier to define themselves in terms of what they AREN'T. Kids who use Coulter's "schoolyard taunt" really mean, "I haven't sorted out my own sexual feelings yet, but I hope I'M NOT GAY!" Most of us move past that stage and become secure in our own sexualities, at which point we stop feeling the need to define ourselves by what we hope we are not. Some people, however, never become that sexually secure, but stay stuck in an endless high school hallway. They grow up to become the people who make childish remarks about people like John Edwards.
Nordette Adams compares the recent attacks on Edwards to the movie Mean Girls (which I haven't seen, but that sounds about right). As she says, "We'd like to think it's only high school, but in reality adults, both
men and women, still operate this way, and when election time comes
'round it's back to the schoolyard."