Jesurgislac’s Journal

June 28, 2011

“Jesus wants me to hate you!”

This is Jeffrey:

First, we were created in Godd image. Second, God gave you free will to make your own choices and act on your own feelings. third, it is a feeling that you get that makes you like the same sex, therefore, it is not any different than a rapest who feels he has to rape women to be sexually fulfilled. Also the molester who gets off on touching little kids. It’s all acted out on feelings that you have. I have feelings that I feel strongly about, but it doesn’t make them right or ok. Also with the bible it talks about traditions and ideas that are created by man and laws set by man. You cannot take what man created and use it to conflict what God has said! We are all created for a purpose in life. Unfortunately being gay isn’t one of those purposes. I see a lot of desperation to twist and contort the bible. You cannot compare specific law of man in the bible with specific law of God in the bible. It specifically says in the bible that God looks down on homosexuality not eating shrimp!

This is David:

  1. When law and public opinion give their endorsement to homosexual behavior, they implicitly condemn those who disapprove of such behavior, namely traditional Catholics, Protestants, and Jews.
  2. The push for SSM is — at least de facto, if not deliberately — an attempt to destroy traditional Christianity.
  3. The drive for SSM is but the latest stage of the sexual revolution, and at every one of that revolution’s earlier stages (casual fornication, unmarried cohabitation, out-of-wedlock childbirth, abortion), it has served to undermine marriage; why would any reasonable person imagine that this latest stage will be any different?
  4. SSM is the reductio ad absurdum of marriage. If persons of the same sex can get married, doesn’t marriage then mean anything — and nothing?
  5. Marriage was instituted for the begetting of children, something that two persons of the same sex cannot do
  6. A growing child has a profound psychological need for a mother and father. Two mothers won’t do, and neither will two fathers.
  7. The undermining of marriage has had disastrous consequences for millions of children who have grown up fatherless (and usually in poverty). These consequences, while bad among all racial groups, have been worst among African Americans — in some cases frustrating the movement toward socioeconomic parity between black and white.

David says, rather pathetically, that he thinks these arguments are good arguments, “but, in practice, I find that the arguments don’t persuade anyone who is not already convinced”. He asks, with extraordinary blindness “Why have many of us in the anti-SSM camp been unwilling to deploy the argument that homosexual behavior is immoral/unnatural?” I have no idea why he thinks this hasn’t been happening, but it’s possible that people who are opposed to equal civil rights for LGBT people haven’t been attacking in quite that way in David’s hearing as much as he’s used to, in the last few years, just because coming out as openly homophobic and bigoted is found to be counterproductive.
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September 16, 2010

Peter Tatchell: Not the Pope

Over at Mercatornet, Michael Cook, the editor, is having Conniptions about a documentary on Pope Benedict, released by Channel 4 the Monday before the Pope’s arrival in the UK on a state-funded visit.

Cook dismisses Peter Tatchell as “a vigorous campaigner for lowering the age of consent to 14″ and summarises a documentary that touches on such things as the bans on contraception inspired by Catholic doctrine which cause such suffering in developing countries, to the ban on stem cell research, to the re-admission of a Holocaust denier to the fold, as “about the Pope and the sex abuse scandal”.

Peter Tatchell began his life’s work as a campaigner for human rights as a teenager in Australia, where he campaigned against the death penalty and for aborigine kids to have scholarships to attend his school.

This is Tatchell on the Channel 4 documentary he presented this Monday:

Rather than interview atheists like Richard Dawkins, which would have played to expectations, I chose to interview mostly Catholics, both allies and critics of the pope. To some extent, the film reflects a debate within Catholicism, between the liberal and fundamentalist wings of the church.

I wanted to give Catholic leaders an opportunity to put their side of the story. When we went to Rome, the production company, Juniper TV, requested an interview with Pope Benedict or a senior cardinal. The Vatican turned us down. Our approach to interview Archbishop Vincent Nichols in London was also knocked back, with the rebuke: “We do not wish to co-operate with a programme presented by Peter Tatchell.”

Although the church did put up a spokesperson at the last minute – Fiona O’Reilly from the pressure group Catholic Voices – it strikes me as a sign of weakness that no Catholic leader from the Vatican or Britain was willing to be interviewed in defence of the pope.

In the forty years since Tatchell began his life’s work for human rights, he has campaigned for democracy, civil liberties and rights, and human rights almost literally without stopping. He campaigns for clean water, for the right of Muslims to live without harassment, for the rights of women and LGBT people under Shari’a law, for the right of free assembly, for the right to vote. He was beaten twice by Mugabe’s bodyguards when he attempted to put the dictator under citizen’s arrest for torture.

Does he feel resentful towards his attackers? “No. There’s an element of regret in that I wish these injuries hadn’t happened.” Mugabe’s henchmen attacked him three times in Brussels – once in the lobby of the Hilton hotel where the Zimbabwean president was staying, and twice on the street outside, leaving Tatchell paralysed down his left side for several days. On television news footage of the beating, you can hear a crack as the bodyguards make contact with Tatchell’s skull. In Moscow he vividly remembers the thugs kicking him to the ground with “heavy, black boots”. Afterwards the Russian police arrested Tatchell and let his attackers go free. How can he not feel resentful? “What’s the point? Bitterness is a very destructive emotion.” He breaks off. “Obviously, I think they’re bastards,” he says with a grin, “but I don’t hold some grudge… The best reward for me would be to change them.”‘ link

“Age of Consent” is top of the alphabetically-ordered list of things he campaigns for on his website – http://www.petertatchell.net/ – and you may or may not disagree with his belief that a 14-year-old has the right not to be prosecuted or persecuted for having consensual sex.

Ratzinger may outlive Tatchell. Ratzinger has led a far more sheltered, protected life. At the age of 16, Ratzinger joined Hitler Youth, because his family didn’t see any alternative but to go along with the social norms. No one can blame a teenage boy for doing what’s easy, not what’s right, especially when doing what’s right would have got him and his family into such serious trouble.

But knowing what we do about Peter Tatchell, in the same situation, he would have died rather join Hitler Youth. Tatchell has the moral stature that Ratzinger lacks: the willingness to stand up for and suffer for what he believes, that Ratzinger has never demonstrated.

His doctor has told him he should take a complete break of at least six months, but Tatchell, who works 14 hours a day, seven days a week, and ekes out a living of £8,000 a year, largely from donations, is politely ignoring them. He spends his time orchestrating campaigns and answering a constant stream of emails and phone calls. He is extremely thin, subsisting on a diet of raw vegetables and cups of tea. On a comparatively uneventful day, he goes to bed at 3am and wakes up at 9am. Doesn’t he ever pine for a quiet life? “I can understand why people want a quiet, relaxed, material life, but on another level I can’t understand why people just accept things the way they are. One billion people woke up this morning without clean drinking water. That is outrageous. We live in a world of such plenty that it’s unconscionable that so many people don’t have the basics… That is just morally unacceptable.” link

The notion that Pope Benedict, who instigated the worldwide concealment of child abuse by the Church and supported the systematic transfer of paedophile priests from parish to parish, is somehow morally superior to Peter Tatchell?

Some people think Ratzinger’s critics are holding him responsible for acts that were carried out before he became Pope, simply because he is head of the institution involved. This is an error. For over 25 years, Ratzinger was personally in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the part of the Vatican responsible for enforcing Catholic canonical law across the world, including on sexual abuse. He is a notorious micromanager who, it is said, insisted every salient document cross his desk. Hans Kung, a former friend of Ratzinger’s, says: “No-one in the whole of the Catholic Church knew as much about abuse cases as this Pope.” Johann Hari

Benedict lives in a city state where he is supreme ruler: Tatchell lives in a small flat in London. Tatchell has fought for his beliefs all his life: Ratzinger has always taken the easy path. That’s the difference between them.

August 13, 2010

Five ways to talk to the religious right about marriage

This post was inspired by Five Ways To Talk To The Left About Same-Sex Marriage, by Eric Pavlat, and the discussion thread that followed.

The “religious right” in this instance may be Catholic or Evangelical or Baptist… as I noted to Pavlat in his post, “the left” in his definition would include Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The post which led me to Pavlat’s had already used the title Five Ways To Talk to the Other Side About Same-sex Marriage, or I might have used that.

1. Bear in mind that pretty much everything these people know about homosexuality or transgender identity is wrong.

If you want to know the kind of stuff they’ve been told is The Truth About Homosexuality, the Friendly Atheist blog recently paid for two people to attend an AFTAH event and hear the kind of stuff being said and write an outline of it post-event: but for example: Pride events are portrayed as public orgies in which people have “dangerous sex” right on the street. (This is the kind of thing that would only make sense to people who have not only never attended a Pride rally or march as participant, but also have never had one held in their home town.) And being gay or lesbian is “caused” by having been molested by an older gay or lesbian person: for a more detailed account of how this kind of unspeakably cruel lie is promoted to the homophobic parents of LGBT children, see Love Won Out.

Also, right at the start: in eleven countries round the world same-sex couples can already marry: in about twenty more same-sex couples can register a civil union with rights equivalent to marriage: and in none of them has the freedom to marry led to any of the awful consequences which the anti-marriage activists evoke.

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June 27, 2010

Why is abortion like setting fire to kittens?

As many of you may know, I am a fervent and committed believer in a woman’s right to choose: I support all six demands of the women’s liberation movement: equal pay, equal employment opportunity, free contraceptive services, abortion on demand. (The last demand, free 24-hour childcare, I think is brilliantly utopian, world turned upside down, but the first five are all achievable in our present political state….)

Setting fire to kittens, on the other hand: inarguably wrong. Even if you hate cats, and as many of you may know, I am a fervent and committed cat worshipper whisperer.

Pro-lifers generally run blogs that do not accept dissenting viewpoints. (They’re like gay marriage opponents in that way.) But for pro-lifers, the “dissenting viewpoint” can be anything like “Contraception is a good way of preventing abortions” or scientific facts about how methods of contraception work, to assertions that women have abortions for all sorts of reasons, including the purely economic fear of losing your job, and these reasons are none of them outrageous or wicked. If you don’t want a woman who works for a Catholic school to have an abortion because she can’t afford to lose her job, then – as the ACLU did – you fight the case of a woman fired for getting pregnant, so that Catholic schools in future will refrain from encouraging their employees from having abortions. If you think a high abortion rate is a bad thing, you fund free access to contraception, you put in place sex education in schools that encourages children to think about sex positively as a source of pleasure for themselves and each other and using contraception whenever they have sex unless they intend to engender a child, you provide maternity care and paid maternity leave and rights for working parents to have time to care for their children and earn a living. We know that pro-lifers are not interested in reducing the number of abortions because, as a political movement, and, mostly, as individuals, they support none of these things.

What are pro-lifers interested in?

They hate abortion. And they want you to know they hate abortion.

Part of this goes right along with hating abortion because it means women can have, in the pro-life euphemism, “sex without consequences” – why pro-lifers also oppose free access to contraception. Women, in this view of things, ought not to be allowed to have sex joyfully, for her own pleasure, without fear: the fear of becoming pregnant is something that ought always to be looming over a woman’s mind when she thinks about having sex. Especially an unmarried women: hence pro-life support for firing an unmarried woman who decided not to have an abortion. This hatred of women having sex for pleasure is very strong in the pro-life movement, and for many years I’ve assumed it to be the key motivator. There’s considerable evidence for this in the policies/campaigning of the pro-life movement, as this post by Ampersand outlines:

In contrast, the leaders of the abortion criminalization movement have consistently put their political weight behind policies which make little or no sense if they genuinely think that abortion is identical to child murder. And those same leaders routinely endorse policies that make a lot of sense if their goal is to penalize women who have sex – to, as I’ve heard many of them put it, make sure women “face the consequences” of having sex. And they’ve done so with the apparent backing and blessing of the vast majority of the rank and file. [Further analysis at Alas a Blog.]

This belief – that denying access to abortion is an effective means of turning pregnancy into punishment and babies into “consequences” – is why many pro-lifers say they think abortion ought to be allowed for rape or incest, or to save a woman’s life.

But for some pro-lifers, that’s still not acceptable. For them, the key is hating abortion, and hating people who support the right to have an abortion. They don’t care about women dying: they don’t care about fetuses dying, or babies dying: they certainly don’t care about preventing abortions, because where would their source of hate be then?

I read this post on Slacktivist about false witness some time ago; Fred illustrated his point with reference to an awful incident the paper he worked for had reported on, a “group of disturbed and disturbing children doused a kitten with lighter fluid and set it on fire” and other incidents in which disturbed and disturbing people had done this awful thing. Fred noted that people were universally and unsurprisingly against kitten-burning:

But one also came away from reading that thread with the sense that people seemed to think this ultra-minimal moral stance made them exceptional and exceptionally righteous. Like the earlier editorial writers, they seemed to think they were exhibiting courage by taking a bold position on a matter of great controversy. Whatever comfort might be gleaned from the reaffirmation that most people were right about this non-issue issue was overshadowed by the discomfiting realization that so many people also seemed to want or need most others to be wrong.

The kitten-burners seem to fulfill some urgent need. They give us someone we can clearly and correctly say we’re better than. Their extravagant cruelty makes us feel better about ourselves because we know that we would never do what they have done. They thus function as signposts of depravity, reassuring the rest of us that we’re Not As Bad As them, and thus letting us tell ourselves that this is the same thing as us being good.

Hating abortion is a political tool to get people to vote against their own economic self-interests: as Avedon at the Sideshow summarises succinctly: “the lie that the anti-abortion movement was an organic reaction to Roe v Wade, but of course that’s not true – like everything else, it was orchestrated by rich right-wingers as part of their ongoing program to polarize society.”

In the US in the 1970s, racism was becoming less and less acceptable as a means by which right-wing politicians could convince working-class white Americans to vote and even campaign against their own economic interests. (As an example: By the end of that decade,even the Mormon Church had had to receive a revelation from God that it was unacceptable to ban black men from the priesthood. But in the 21st century, the Mormon Church actively campaigns for discrimination against lesbians and gays.) In 2002, the then-Senate Majority leader, Trent Lott, had to apologize for saying that the United States would have avoided all these problems if the racist Strom Thurmond had been elected President in 1948: in 2004, George W. Bush could endorse a national campaign for homophobic bigotry and inequality.

But if you can’t, any more, use racism as a trigger to get people to vote against their own economic self-interest, what can you use to drum up hatred? In the 1970s, the LGBT equality movement wasn’t widespread enough for gay-hating to work as a national trigger – too many parts of the US where LGBT people just kept their heads down and tried to be invisible and inaudible – but women, everywhere, need access to abortion and contraception. Turn this natural human need into a hate campaign and you’re off to a winner.

Abortion is like setting fire to kittens not because human fetuses are like kittens (there is no lolfetuses website) but because pro-lifers get their buzz out of believing themselves to be better than others. The opposition of pro-lifers to intact dilation and extraction, and their invention of the non-medical term “partial birth abortion”, is otherwise inexplicable: IDX is an abortion technique, one which can be safer for a woman who needs an abortion in late pregnancy, but banning IDX will not prevent any abortions: it merely ensures that a method which may be less safe for the woman must be used. Many pro-lifers have reacted with anger and rejection when asked if their opposition to IDX is because they want women to be hurt or permanently damaged: apparently what they want is a return to the pre-IDX days when the only way to remove a dead or dying fetus from the uterus was piecemeal. This belief that IDX in particular is bad makes no sense to many people, but if what pro-lifers want is the reassurance that they’re better than people who support a woman’s right to choose, thus letting them tell themselves that this is the same thing as “being good”, then it makes sense that they want abortion to appear “extravagantly cruel“. Performing IDX means the fetus can be removed intact, allowing the parents to hold the body as they mourn their loss: to pro-lifers this is as unacceptable as legislation for social justice is to Trotskyites who believe in a worker’s revolution.

I was 27 weeks by this point. I was terrified. The moment I met the doctor, all of that ended. He was a wonderful and loving man. I came in on Monday and gave birth to our baby girl on Friday. We were able to hold her after, and say our goodbyes. That doctor will always be in my heart. (From A Heartbreaking Choice, the website set up to commemorate Doctor George Tiller’s work.)

Pro-lifers are the movement for setting fire to kittens. They are not interested in preventing abortions: they are not interested in protecting women from harm. They are not interested in saving fetal lives. What they want is to compare access to abortion with the holocaust, with slavery, with torture – they want abortion to be performed as dangerously as possible: they want to claim that abortion is dangerous and performed by uncaring people; they want to campaign against evil like brave, brave, brave Sir Robin without actually running any risks because the evil empire they tourney against is entirely of their own invention.

Unfortunately, the women condemned to suffer and die from their tourneying are not.

Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today!

April 25, 2010

Lies about Islington demonstrate Tory desperation

Right up till 15th April, it looked like the results of the general election were going to be one of two dreary prospects:

  • Either Labour was going to remain in power with a bare majority, and we would see five more years of the same kind of no-risk party government as we saw under John Major (who won the 1992 general election with a margin so narrow that without the Ulster Unionists he couldn’t have stayed in power);
  • or the Conservatives would win majority (which of course they could still do, even if a majority of voters in the UK clearly reject their policies – see Johann Hari on the forces that block British democracy) and we’d be in for five years of right-wing government.

Then for the first time in the UK, there was a prime ministerial debate, and, even though no one seriously expected a LibDem victory (ten days ago? they didn’t stand a chance: they have 63 seats in the Commons, and they had a hopeful list of 30 constitutencies which they were hoping they could flip from Labour or from Conservative – I live in one of them, and I didn’t think they had a realistic chance here) they very properly invited Nick Clegg, Lib Dem leader, to stand with Gordon Brown and David Cameron. (And I bet Brown and Cameron are both wishing they’d said no to Clegg.)

Because Nick Clegg won the debate.
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March 2, 2010

Catholic Charities reminds employees that promoting homophobia more important than caring for the sick

CEO of Catholic Charities to staff: “I am writing to you to inform you of an important change to our group health care benefit plan that will take effect on March 2, 2010 due to a change in the law of the District of Columbia. It is important to note that the existing health coverage of current employees will not be affected by the change. New employees and current employees requesting revisions in benefit coverage will be affected by this change.” – Letter from Catholic Charities president and CEO to staff

Because same-sex couples will be able to get married, and because Catholic Charities are not allowed to offer health care coverage to spouses in mixed-sex marriages only, they have the choice of denying health care to all spouses who become eligible to join the plan after 2nd March – which will bar all couples in same-sex marriages, as they won’t be able to get married until after that date – or continue to offer health-care coverage to all spouses, even if that means some lurking closety gay spouse of an employee of Catholic Charities finds himself the recipient of health care that the Catholic Church believes he does not deserve.

Which are the two great precepts of Charity and the seven Corporal Works of Mercy?
1. ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God hate gay people with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength’.
2. ‘Thou shalt love promote homophobia to thy neighbour as to thyself’.

1. To feed the hungry except for queers;
2. To give drink to the thirsty except for queers;
3. To clothe the naked except for queers;
4. To harbour the harbourless except for queers;
5. To care for the sick promote homophobia;
6. To visit the imprisoned except for queers;
7. To bury the dead except for queers.

This isn’t even their first-response reaction to finding out they’d have to act like they thought gay people deserved health care as much as straights do: on 17th February the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington formally announced that they believe promoting homophobia is more important than caring for children, too.

You have to wonder: how long can the Catholic Church go on promoting the idea that for Catholics homophobia is a core value which comes before everything else? Mormons got away with promoting the idea that racism is a core value for their faith for well over a century: does this mean Catholicism will be able to push homophobia as a required doctrine into the 2080s?

I hope not, but there is a positive side here: prior beliefs claimed by Catholics that corporeal works of mercy mattered led to Catholic charities becoming heavily involved in social services, with their own pro-lifer tweaks and biases helping to promote pro-life beliefs among the helpless. If the Catholic Church is now taking the position that promotion of homophobia comes before everything else, and therefore it must refuse to provide social services where it is not allowed to promote homophobia, maybe this will mean a gradual drawing away of the power of the Catholic Church to affect society negatively?

It’s ugly, though. There isn’t really an upside. The power of a strong Church determined that its followers shall promote bigotry as a core value of their faith is just… ugly.

July 9, 2009

We “love” you: we just don’t want you in the pool with us!

It’s been in the news recently: a private sports club in Philadelphia which accepted a fee of $1900 for the children of Creative Steps summer camp to swim in their pool one day a week for the summer – but after the first day the kids showed up, returned the fee and told Creative Steps they shouldn’t come back.

Why? Well, the sports club president John Duesler says: “There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club.” The kids of Creative Steps were black. The Valley Swim Club was, covertly until this week, whites only. (They’re so disturbed by news of their very public racism, that their website www.thevalleyclub.com has now been replaced with a message denying everything.)

There’s a happy ending to this story: not only did the kids of Creative Steps get offered an alternative swimming venue by Girard College, a local ice-cream store, Gumdrops and Sprinkles, gave them a day of free candy and ice-cream making. So the kids may have learned that rich white people can be mean as knives, not wanting to share what they have in case it’s “polluted”, but they’ve also got the message that most people are not like that.

What does this kind of petty prejudice – we aren’t sharing our facilities with you – remind me of? Why, the changing the definition of marriage argument: the don’t let same-sex couples get married elsewhere and think they can be recognised as married at home argument; the don’t let corporations think they can buy advertising in gay magazines argument; the don’t let schools teach children to love and respect each other argument; the teach homophobia and promote self-hatred argument. It’s all much the same, but on a much wider scale: these bigots are splashing and screaming that they want the queers out of their pool.

Marriage in their view is not about pledging to love, to honour, and to cherish the one your love till death to you part; it’s not a civil right necessary to the orderly pursuit of happiness, as the Supreme Court decreed 42 years ago; marriage is a privilege, a strictly limited pool, and allowing lesbians and gays in the pool will “change the complexion of the club”.

Slacktivist wrote in May last year:

Imagine, for example, that California’s legislature had passed a law stating that the Irish were forbidden from getting driver’s licenses. Such a discriminatory law would have been quickly voided by the courts. Anti-Irish bigots would have decried that ruling as “judicial activism,” but that’s an epithet, not an argument. The state’s constitution simply will not tolerate new law that attempts to exclude particular classes of people from the same rights and protections available to everyone else. Voters might well respond to the court’s decision by passing a ballot measure redefining a “driver” as a “non-Irish person,” and thus excluding by semantics those whom the constitution did not previously allow them to exclude by statute, but I can’t imagine the courts finding this transparent ploy convincing. This hypothetical anti-Irish proposition wouldn’t be any more constitutional or legitimate than the shamefully non-hypothetical anti-gay Proposition 8 is.
…..
Supporters of Proposition 8 were forced to resort to Lying for Jesus — pastors will be jailed! your church will be forced to conduct gay weddings! your organist may become even more flamboyant! — because they weren’t able to articulate any honest basis for opposing this right as an equal right. The ‘vixen and I got our marriage license on the same day that George Takei and Brad Altman got theirs. The wedding of George and Brad neither picked my pocket nor broke my leg, so what possible cause would I have had to object to it? What reason would I have to deny George and Brad the same happiness that my wife and I were permitted to enjoy? Such exclusion makes no sense unless we appeal to some imagined grave consequences such as those dreamed up by the Liars for Christ.

And here again we see that basing policy on imaginary fears and imaginary grave consequences leads to different, but very real, grave consequences. When we choose to make laws based on imaginary fears, we see our own rights reduced to mere privileges. This is what always happens when we place fear on the throne.

This fear – that if the black kids are allowed to swim in the same pool with the white kids, the “atmosphere” will change: that where two men or two women are able to marry, this “changes the definition of marriage”, dovetails in my mind with a parable Fred retold earlier this year: the workers in the vineyard. These people are not content to enjoy their own orderly pursuit of happiness – you feel (I do) they are terrified that other people are somehow getting away with something. Rather than taking joy in their own marriage (if they can) and at least ignoring the people getting married in a way they don’t approve of, they grumble “These couples who were wed recently worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.”

“Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”

Yes. Yes, they are.

July 7, 2009

Bigots or sociopaths?

Two people meet, fall in love, decide to get married, decide to have children together: what could be more humanly understandable?

Christians who oppose same-sex marriage or same-sex parents or who promote anti-gay discrimination in other ways, usually come across as inhuman, because they really appear not to understand what’s so very human.

“Lesbians and gays have equal rights – they can just get married to a person of the opposite sex, just like straight people do”

What this says, unpacked, is that your Christian advocate against same-sex marriage really believes that marriage isn’t anything to do with making a lifelong committment to the one person in the world whom you have chosen to love, honour, cherish and live with to the end of both your days – marriage is just a legal emotionless contract where anyone will do so long as they’re the right gender. This isn’t just unChristian – it’s inhuman. It’s sociopathic. The notion that people are interchangable – just pieces in a game where what matters is not the individual but the gender – is something completely off from normal humanity.

The usual argument brought forward to support opposition to same-sex marriage is that a same-sex couple “can’t have children”, which actually makes it even worse: marriage has now become a means merely of producing babies which are biologically the offspring of husband and wife, and any couple who aren’t biologically capable of producing babies together ought not to be allowed to get married. In this scenario, marriage has nothing to do with parenting children together, nothing to do with children growing up sheltered and protected by a loving and committed relationship – it’s purely and solely about biological fertility.

A same-sex couple can of course have children: either by AID or by surrogacy, or by adoption or fostering, or step-children from a previous marriage. These are ways in which mixed-sex couples have children too. But legally, while there are countries in which a spouse can divorce their wife or husband for being infertile, in practice it is only these anti-gay Christians who advocate that a couple ought to separate and find other partners if they can’t have children together and still wan them.

Arguments against same-sex marriage have, to my knowledge, included strong statements that a married couple ought not to expect love or passion – that marriage isn’t anything to do with the joy that two people may take in each other. This is an argument against the idea that a same-sex couple are justified in wanting to commit their lives to each other because they love each other. When it’s argued simply and directly as that it’s fairly plain bigotry – if a lesbian or gay person wants to be married and can’t fall in love with a person of the opposite sex, well, they should just marry without love. But when – as these advocates often try to do – it’s argued as if it were a general principle, that marriage isn’t about love, passion, or joy, it’s a legal protection for engendering children – this sounds horribly as if these people have themselves no other experience of marriage. They don’t argue for love in marriage because they don’t themselves feel love for their partner, nor can they imagine that other people do.

Are these people bigots, or sociopaths? Does it matter? Are they ill from the inability to love or even to imagine love, or are they just sick haters who cannot bear the idea of two men or two women who do love each other taking marriage vows to love, to honour, and to cherish each other lifelong?

The problem expands horrifyingly when these people talk about children – not merely when they try to come up with pseudo-scientific ideas about how two men or two women can’t parent children “properly” (no study or research backs this idea, it comes directly from the Institute of It Stands To Reason, which is based at the University of What Everyone Knows) – but when they try to argue that same-sex couples ought not to have children together.

Same-sex couples can be prevented from adopting or fostering children together by passing legislation. (What this means for children in need of adoptive parents is simply that a gay man or a lesbian will adopt a child as if they were a single parent, and the child won’t be allowed the security of a legal relationship with their other dad or other mom.) Nothing but a strongly fascist state can prevent a lesbian from using a sperm donation to conceive, if she wants to: the only legislative options there are to prevent the child conceived from having the security of two legal parents.

All the legislation against same-sex parents being able to adopt or foster as a couple, or having their joint parenthood of a child conceived by donor acknowledged, is primarily damaging to the children of the couple. Though I’ve often asked the question, no anti-gay Christian has ever explained how they justify attacking the children of same-sex couples merely so that they can proclaim their loathing of same-sex relationships. That is, they have responded with something like “I want to protect children”, and then the argument usually circles round to some justification about how the children of same-sex couples shouldn’t exist anyway and their parents are selfish for wanting to have them, and these paired arguments – these children shouldn’t exist, and their parents are bad people, appears to justify the case for attacking the children in the minds of these anti-gay Christians.

When this argument gets expanded out – as recently, when an anti-gay Christian argued that people are just selfish if they have children just because they want children, any parent who chooses to have children because having children will bring them happiness – this sounds even more appalling for these people’s children.

You’d have to be a bit starry-eyed to believe that children are invariably a source of happiness. And I know from bitter personal experience, that the lesbian or gay child of a homophobic parent is in for a world of pain from their parent, as their parent is in for a world of self-created pain. But the pain is because of love. I know from my own personal experience: I hurt my homophobic parent enormously by being a lesbian. What I came to understand after many years was that the pain was not inflicted by me: I was not in any real sense the cause of it, nor was my coming out the cause of it. The pain suffered by my homophobic parent was caused by the awful conflict between the sure knowledge that a homosexual is an evil and depraved person whom no good person ought to associate with, and the equally sure knowledge that this lesbian daughter is a beloved source of joy. What can it be like for a homophobic parent who cannot stop loving their child, and yet cannot let go of their knowledge that being homosexual is something deeply wrong? My parent’s solution was (a) to blame anyone but me for “corrupting” me, (b) to hope I’ll grow out of it (c) to be coldly and rejectingly polite to any partners (the latter, I believe, isn’t a conscious strategy, just an unhelpful kneejerk reaction). This isn’t much of a solution, but such as it is… it’s based on love, on joy. Because if I wasn’t loved so much, I would have been absolutely cut off long ago. And I never was.

But that is human too: to love and to take joy in your children – even when they’re a source of so much pain. This may be “selfish” – in the sense that it’s all about your feelings as parent – but you can’t love someone else without being a self who loves. You can’t take joy in your children – in anyone – unless you are a self who feels joy. A sociopath may not be able to see what’s good in feeling that joy, in feeling that love – a bigot may not be able to understand how a lesbian or gay person can feel that love for their children, or – in a worse-case scenario – a bigoted parent may not be able to love their lesbian or gay child any more.

Are these people sociopaths, to so dismiss the humanity of parents who just simply want children, parents who are made happy by their children? Or bigots, who think anything attack is justified so long as it makes clear to lesbians and gays and their children that Christians believe them to be inferior and unworthy?

Does it matter? I do have a homophobic parent, but one neither bigot nor sociopath. Capable of comprehending, thanks to me – I don’t know if thanks are ever spoken, but by damn I deserve them! – thanks to me coming out, 25 years ago, capable now of recognising the humanity of lesbian and gay people who would once have got a knee-jerk rejection. There’s been a world of pain in that, but the pain was caused by the love which Renaissance Guy has repeatedly dismissed as “selfish”. Because he is sociopathic and cannot feel it and cannot understand it? Or because he is a bigot who cannot conceive that lesbians and gays are human beings like himself?

July 3, 2009

Renaissance Guy, 1948

This is Renaissance Guy, on July 1, 1948:

Before we ask any other issues about the military, we ought to first consider what the military’s purpose is to begin with. Before tackling issues of who should or should not be in the military, we ought to ask, “What is the military for?”

One of my great-uncles was prevented from joining the military because of a visual disability. Another great-uncle was kept out because of flat feet. Although they were disappointed, they understood that the military needs people in good physical condition and with no disabilities that would hinder their ability to perform their duties.

The military is not a group that you join in order to feel good about yourself. It is not a laboratory for sociological experiments. It is there to provide defense for our country, and a person should join it in order to serve the country.

I am ambivalent about the role of black people in the military. I have nothing against their serving; however, I can understand why white members of the military might object to sharing barracks with such people.

I think back to my college days. My dormitory had community showers. I was not too keen on showering with other people, and so I tried to time my showers when nobody else was in there. It often occurred that others were taking a shower at the same time that I was. The banter was always interesting. The general direction of it was that most of the guys hoped that nobody in there was black. They would not appreciate being around black men.

Of course, there were some people in the dorm who might have had “touch of the tar brush”, but nobody who was completely “out.” It was in the South, after all. It was also understood that it would be very awkward for a white man to discover that his room mate, especially his shower mate might be black. There’s a reason why the South segregated facilities s uch as dorms, showers, and bathrooms: white people feel uncomfortable at having to share them with black people.

I’m guessing that most white people in the military feel the same way. While they might not say it out loud in certain circles, they probably discuss it among themselves and not always in the most polite language, I’m betting.

I do not see any reason to put them in that uncomfortable position. The military does not exist to force people to give up their queasiness about undressing in front of people who are not the same race as them.

If the Truman administration does change current military policy, then I think they will have to find away to allow black people to serve in the military but to have separate sleeping quarters and separate bathing facilities. I do not know how else to give black people the freedom to express themselves as they see themselves but still safeguard the real concerns about segregation that the white men and women might have.

The military does not exist to make people equal. It does not exist to push the norms. It does not exist to make people feel good about themselves or to help them grapple with a lifetime of rejection or mistreatment. It exists to defend the country, and it is important to make it function the best possible way for all the great men and women who want to serve.

West Wing, “Let Bartlett be Bartlett”:

Major Tate: Sir, we’re not prejudiced toward homosexuals.
Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: You just don’t want to see them serving in the Armed Forces?
Major Tate: No sir, I don’t.
Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: ‘Cause they impose a threat to unit discipline and cohesion.
Major Tate: Yes, sir.
Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: That’s what I think, too. I also think the military wasn’t designed to be an instrument of social change.
Major Tate: Yes, sir.
Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: The problem with that is that’s what they were saying about me 50 years ago – blacks shouldn’t serve with whites. It would disrupt the unit. You know what? It did disrupt the unit. The unit got over it. The unit changed. I’m an admiral in the U.S. Navy and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff… Beat that with a stick.

May 24, 2009

On joy, jokes, transphobic jokes, and apologies

Everyone knows what gender they are. It’s one of those certainties; ask a child old enough to speak in coherent sentences (say around age 2 or 3, later if a conservative) “Are you a boy or a girl?” and you get a definite and often rather irritated answer: “I’m a GIRL,” says that cute little moppet in jeans and sweatshirt, or “I’m a BOY!” )

The difficulty is, with some little kids, they know what gender they’re supposed to be, and they know what gender they know they are, and they’re not the same, and this is bewildering and confusing enough to a child still processing language acquisition – but worse because it is unlikely that the child will receive any helpful support from their parents. A three-year-old who knows he’s a boy will be laughed at if he has F on his birth certificate and his parents know that their little girl is such a tomboy. Worse things happen to little girls with M on their birth certificate: much worse. A girl who “wants to be a boy” is perceived as trying to climb into the superior gender: a boy who “wants to be a girl” is perceived as sliding down into the slummy gender.

Some people say they can’t believe a kid that age can know they’re trans. Well, they don’t know – that is, they are most unlikely to know the word “transgender” or know that it applies to them. But, in the experience of all the trans people I have ever known who remembered their earliest childhood: they knew. They knew the same way any kid knows “I’m a boy” or “I’m a girl”. But what they knew got mockery and abuse and – also almost without exception – they taught themselves not to talk about it.

I have known trans people who died in the closet – who never were able to come out and declare their true gender and transition – legally, medically, socially. Transition is itself – as I have seen it – both joyful and fragile. There will never be a time in a trans person’s life when they’re less likely to “pass”, and the penalty for not passing can be horrible. Each year in November the Transgender Day of Remembrance commemorates those who were killed because they did not “pass”. In this world we live in, a woman can be killed because a man decides that her not “really” being a woman is such an offense that she should die.

Transition often means losing job – career – family – spouse. It’s a difficult time in itself – it would be even in the most caring and careful of environments – but it’s also a dangerous time: and a time where many cisgendered people feel free to mock a trans person for being “a big tranny bastard”, for being lady looks like a dude. Yet for a trans person finally to be able to break out of the cocoon, spread their wings, and be themselves, is to experience a joy I can only imagine, as someone who has never been in prison can only imagine what it feels like to walk out of the gates, free.

The peculiar horror of transphobic jokes for me is that they attack that joy. A trans person, wings spread, out of prison, full of this unimaginable joy – I celebrate that joy. I can’t share it, maybe I can’t imagine it, but I celebrate it, I am full of joy that such joy can exist. And then…

“You big tranny bastard.” “Lady looks like a dude.” “Mann Coulter!”

I don’t care for bigoted jokes. I don’t find the kind of “humour” amusing, that takes for granted that it’s funny when people are different from what privilege has determined as the “norm”. I don’t like racist jokes, whether told about Barack Obama or about Clarence Thomas; I don’t like sexist jokes, whether told about Margaret Thatcher or about Joanna Russ; I don’t like homophobic jokes, whether told about Dan Savage or about Janis Ian.

But I do find transphobic jokes peculiarly horrible. Because the point of the jokes is not just to police women for not conforming to the patriarchal norms of “how women should look”, though that is clearly one of their functions. Nor is it just to make clear to women that, whatever our politics, it’s what we look like that’s really important, though that too is clearly one of their functions. The kind of person who would make fun of Ann Coulter for “looking mannish” is the same kind of person who would try to erase Sylvia Rae Rivera from the gay liberation movement because a trans woman isn’t the kind of hero you want remembered from the Stonewall Riots. Bigoted jokes are policing jokes – warning people who don’t conform to the norm what can happen to them if they don’t behave.

The stereotype of the humourless feminist: fixing someone with a steely eye and saying in a voice promising blood-for-breakfast, “I don’t find that joke funny.”

That’s me. (Quel surprise, I hear you say.) I don’t find those jokes funny. I find them hurtful and horrible. I will not endure them in silence, for fear someone who is hurt by them more than I am, someone on whom they are a personal attack, hears only my silence and thinks silence gives consent.

I do not consent to the destruction of joy.

With regard to apologies: remember Rule 13. Omit needless words. Without the first 772 words, this post would be an adequate, if ungracious, apology. The mere inclusion of just over 64 dozen words of self-excusing explanation of how the author still feels that transphobic joke really wasn’t that bad and how dare people be mean to her boyfriend just because he told a bigoted joke, effectively converted the final two sentences into “Sorry you were offended” rather than “Sorry I offended you”, which in itself is a weaker apology than “Sorry I was offensive”.

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