Category Archives: Gay Rights

Changing of the Guard… Again


As a small child in a tiny mountain town, I remember going to the Horsemen’s Riding Club for festivities.  Everywhere I turned, the majority of party-goers were White, straight, Christian folks.  Business owners were, with few exceptions, male.  Over the years, more Latinos, Blacks, and Asians began populating my circle of friends and community members.  Women were making their presence known in the business community.  Diversity was becoming more obvious.

As time moved forward, I began to meet more people who celebrated Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Native religious traditions.  As it was with my growing ethnic awareness, this, too, became my new normal.  I watched the upheaval in the country as each of these changes brought forth more obvious bigotry, animosity, and ugliness.  Ultimately, though, we saw more change for the better.  For me, and many more like me, this has become the norm as well.

Now, we see Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender folk integrating into the national picture as neighbors, coworkers, family members, and leaders.  Pockets of groups are trying to maintain the status quo in the country; however, it’s not working any better than when the ethnic and religious groups began claiming their rightful place as Americans.

We are awakening to the fact that what was once perceived as a White, Straight, Christian nation, is not so anymore, no matter how loudly some people yell about it.  We are a tapestry of beauty, intelligence, creativity, leadership, and dynamic spirituality.  America is slowly moving toward full awareness of our diversity, and accepting it in greater numbers every year.  We have White, Straight, Christians wearing t-shirts claiming their positions that they are Christian and believe in equality.  Our legislators include in their ranks, women, Asians, Gays, disabled people, Muslims, and others who reflect our growing diversity.  We recognize the importance of placing people in leadership positions that insist on adapting to our current culture and sense of fairness for all people.  We understand that until America celebrates, not tolerates, all its citizens, we still have work to do.  After all, this is what America really looks like.

Who We Are as “The People”


We have seen the National Defense Authorization Act 2012 pass in the both houses of Congress and signed into law by the president of the United States that allows for indefinite detention of American citizens without habeas corpus.  We have seen basic human rights ignored and denied by our fellow Americans through bans on gay marriage.  We have seen basic health care and housing denied to our population because they haven’t the money to care for themselves.  We have seen corporations evolve into entities that are considered individuals deserving rights.  What this all means is that we have forgotten who we are.  Any society, Roman, Ottoman, Egyptian, or any other, that forgets what it is, is doomed to reduction into oblivion so that something more aware and healthier can take its place.

When we removed ourselves from under the rule of King George III of Great Britain, we codified several facets of the lives we wanted into two documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

United States of America Declaration of Independence

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Most people discuss the “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” part of this sentence.  A word at the beginning is much more intriguing – “self-evident.”   They could have used the word “clear,” or perhaps “obvious,”  but they chose “self-evident” in this beautifully-crafted statement.   The authors made it clear that we as individuals are supposed to assume that all members of our society are equal and deserve the same treatment and benefits as every other citizen in our country.  These rights are not issued with discretion by any other citizen; they are a natural part of being a citizen of this country.  Not only are they a natural part of being American, we cannot be alienated or separated from those rights in any way by anyone or any entity, including our own government.

This first section is the part we all know; however, there is another part of this paragraph that we tend to forget:

“— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it,  and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Most people discuss the rights identified in this section as pertaining to themselves, missing the broader picture.  Individuals have the proclivity to protect their own land, property, families, and rights.  It may be an instinctual process; however, by focusing on one’s self alone, one misses a larger responsibility as a citizen of the United States – to protect our nation as a whole.  We rightly value those who serve in our military as protectors of our liberties, yet we forget that we, too, have a weight on our shoulders as well.  We must assume the rights of all citizens and fight to correct anything that disallows members of our society from their freedoms.

In the Preamble to the Constitution, the first words, “We the People of the United States in order to form a more perfect Union,”  reiterates what we found in the Declaration of Independence.  The authors said again that we as a whole must come together to work hand-in-hand to achieve the most unified citizenry and society we can.  It didn’t say, “We the governors…” or “We the few…”  or “We the wealthy and powerful…”   It says “We the People.”  All the people.  Everyone single one of us inclusively has a role to play to elevate ourselves toward the hopes of those who began our country.

Preamble to the United States of America’s Constitution

“We the People  of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The question for us becomes this:  Which single individual in our country deserves less than everything promised in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution of the United States?  Which person out of the millions born in our land or who have chosen our country as their homeland, requires or deserves fewer freedoms than any other?  Any thinking person will, of course, respond that there is not one person that deserves less.  Some might say non-Christians, gays, Muslims, the disabled, the mentally ill, or those born in other countries deserve fewer freedoms.  Certainly those who would say this are wrong according to our nation’s establishing documents.  They are acting contrary to our national intention.  And who is responsible for defending these individuals who have lost their voice and their first-class citizenship in our country?

In the same way as our founding fathers intended, each one of us is responsible, wholly and without abjuration, to ensure the full and irrevocable rights of all American citizens through word and deed.  Anything less is contrary to who we are as a people.  As we’ve learned in other fallen civilizations, we must remember who we are if we are to survive as a nation.

The Gentleman Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks!


Yes, I stole the title of this piece from a paraphrased quote in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but no other title fit more profoundly.  A recent study shows that self-described straight men who, by their answers to certain questions, can be identified as homophobic, respond to gay male pornography by growing increasingly tumescent.  In other words, when they look at nekkid men, their willies grow as hard as the rocks they throw at gay people.

Specifically, the abstract from the study by the University of Georgia, and published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, states,

“The authors investigated the role of homosexual arousal in exclusively heterosexual men who admitted negative affect toward homosexual individuals. Participants consisted of a group of homophobic men (n = 35) and a group of nonhomophobic men (n = 29); they were assigned to groups on the basis of their scores on the Index of Homophobia (W. W. Hudson & W. A. Ricketts, 1980). The men were exposed to sexually explicit erotic stimuli consisting of heterosexual, male homosexual, and lesbian videotapes, and changes in penile circumference were monitored. They also completed an Aggression Questionnaire (A. H. Buss & M. Perry, 1992). Both groups exhibited increases in penile circumference to the heterosexual and female homosexual videos. Only the homophobic men showed an increase in penile erection to male homosexual stimuli. The groups did not differ in aggression. Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies.”

If their results are correct, what can we assume by these new data?  Should we estimate the number of gays in the country by adding the number of homophobes to the count?  If so, that would make the percentage of gay folk in the United States enormous.

Of course, the last line of the study is an important one.  Those men identified as homophobic are clearly in denial of their sexuality or experience a complete lack of awareness that they are subconsciously attracted to other men.  Whether in denial or unaware, these men require our compassion because they are either deluding themselves or completely self-unaware.  Either way, it’s a challenging way to live.

So, to those men who shout at the top of their lungs epithets and derision toward gay folk,  carry  placards decrying the end of American culture because gay people can be seen in public, or excoriate homosexuals from the pulpit or political platform, just know that we hear you.  And, after this study, we hear you even more clearly now.  In a way, every time you exhibit your homophobic rants and rages, you’re coming out just a little bit more to the rest of us, aren’t you?  Welcome to our world… grrrrrl!

DADT Ends, But Work Remains


Over the last couple of days, I have been contemplating the end of the federal government’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.  With DADT gone, anyone who otherwise qualifies to be in the military may now join any branch without concern regarding the enlistee’s sexuality.  The United States of America has taken a step forward with the change, but I must admit, as happy as I am about this fact, I’m feeling a bit ambivalent about the celebration.

Since the days when Lieutenant Gotthold Frederick Enslin was discharged for sodomy from the Continental Army in 1778, American military policy regarding gays has consistently banned homosexuality among its soldiers, but the structure of that disapproval has changed many times, most often in the 20th Century.  During World War II, the psychiatric component of the military evaluation began, at which time homosexuality was considered a psychopathology.  Thereafter, several categories of discharges were established, such as the blue discharge which was neither honorable nor dishonorable, although it held a stigma in society after the individual left the military. In 1942, if an individual was not found to have sexual contact prior to the court martial, they were given an undesirable discharge.  A dishonorable discharge was given to those who had sexual contact with individuals of the same gender.  General discharges were also offered to some servicemembers. Interestingly enough, the Crittendon Report in 1957 determined that gay people did not pose a security risk, but that the anit-gay policies should remain because homosexuality was “evil.”

When DADT began on December 21, 1993, there was a mix of hope and disappointment in President Bill Clinton’s choice to go this route.  Although he promised to be the president for all American citizens, his initial attempt to eliminate the gay ban in the military was shot down by Congress.  He was advised that full permission for gay and lesbian individuals to serve in the military was unthinkable.  He chose to establish a policy of “ignorance is bliss” instead. I know many people were happy with this policy, but it seemed that any codified ignorance would not be a good thing.  I mean, what did the policy really do?

Prior to DADT, a servicemember could not openly state that he or she was gay.  The soldier could not openly date a partner, be seen in public holding hands with an individual of the same gender, and they could be asked whether he or she was gay.  If the soldier answered, “Yes,” then court-martial proceedings ensued, after which the soldier was ceremoniously removed from the military.

Lt. Daniel Choi

After DADT, the same things could happen, except the military was not allowed to ask the question in the first place.  If the soldier admitted to being homosexual, the same process began as before DADT.  Ask many soldiers, such as Lt. Daniel Choi, if there was any difference.  DADT was hailed as a step forward toward full equality for Americans, and I suppose at some level, it was.

Here’s my issue: I have known family and friends who served in the military who are gay; one of whom served during World War II.    He was a decorated veteran and served honorably for several years overseas.  The thought that had he served during DADT and it became known he was gay, the same thing that would have happened to him during WWII, would have happened to him during the 1990s as well if his superiors discovered he was homosexual.  The only difference is that during DADT, no one would have asked in the first place.  The bottom line is that gay folk were personae non grata in the military until yesterday.

Something has changed now, of course.  Gay people can enlist in the military as they can in many western countries, such as England, Canada, Spain and Italy.  They can serve beside their straight counterparts and all of them will be called soldiers… sort of.  For a while, at least, we know that because we are neither gender blind nor sexuality blind, these soldiers will continue to be called gay soldiers and lesbian soldiers among the rank-and-file and in the country as a whole.  The other salient thought is that married and registered domestic-partnered gay soldiers, will have no benefits for their spouses because of the Defense of Marriage Act.

We should call this event as it is: Another step forward.  It is not the end of the journey for our service members who happen to be gay.  A group of our soldiers will know they cannot support their spouses with health insurance, death benefits, or be ceremonially recognized if they should die as the spouses of straight soldiers are. They will give the same service, but not have the same benefits.  This is not equality.

So, as we celebrate this movement forward, let us stay aware that until full equality is achieved, work still must be done to ensure our American soldiers… all our American soldiers… are treated equally.

Inquisition 2011


Beginning in the 12th Century, the Roman Catholic Church sought to purge the world of those who were heretics to the Word of God and the law of the church.  Heretics were punished, sometimes by death depending on the era, and most often at the hands of secular and governmental bodies.  In the 15th Century, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella established the Spanish Inquisition, separate from the Roman church, but with the same intention and outcomes. 

The purpose and reasoning for these trials were specified in the 1578 handbook, Directorium Inquisitorum“…quoniam punitio non refertur primo & per se in correctionem & bonum eius qui punitur, sed in bonum publicum ut alif terreantur, & a malis committendis avocentur.” Translation from the Latin: “…for punishment does not take place primarily and per se for the correction and good of the person punished, but for the public good in order that others may become terrified and weaned away from the evils they would commit.” [1] 

As I read the commentary by candidates and public officials such as Sally Kern (R-OK) who have stated that HIV/AIDS and the bombardment of homosexuality upon our children is a greater threat than terrorism, and that our country being exposed to homosexuality destroys our virtue as a country, I cannot help but harken back 900 years to the era of those who would cleanse their world of those who had different views than those in power for the betterment of the community-at-large.

There are some differences, though.  First of all, the extreme right-wing political groups are a tiny fraction of the overall electorate.  They are loud, certainly, but they are not the majority by any measure; yet, when we look again at the structure of the Inquisition in the 1100s, we realize that the powerful minority was attempting to take action against those who spoke against their belief systems.  How is it that we are allowing this process to begin again?  

As we see “Don’t Say Gay” and “Defense of Marriage Act” bills flooding our country, we realize that a segment of our population seeks to quash the civil liberties of a portion of our population.  Legislative action has been suggested and taken to stem the evolution of our social structure to ensure that the status quo remains in place.  This all sounds dreadfully familiar to those who understand history.   The manner in which these processes are developing may be different, but the results are the same: Stop anyone who speaks out against those who bellow the loudest and do not believe as the extremists believe.  Is there a difference, though, in these processes?

Some right wing candidates have put forth a suggestion that there should be a congressional inquiry into the operation of pro-gay and pro-equality organizations.  With their desire to get to the truth about who funds and supports these causes, conservatives suggest that these organizations identify all donors during this inquiry.  Is this an inquiry or an inquisition?  Either way, this reeks of McCarthyism and the Inquisition, using terroristic and threatening methods against people who are simply seeking equal status in the United States.  Should anyone question my use of the word, “terrorism,” Dictionary.com defines this words as, “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce,especially for political purposes.” Our access to freedom is being threatened by congressional attack and verbal abuse in the media.

One must wonder, why is the right wing is becoming increasingly vehement about their patterns of attack upon pro-equality groups?  I can only think that like a drowning person who is so afraid of dying he ultimately drowns the person assisting him, the extreme conservatives recognize that the country is changing all around them.  They are so desperate to save what they know and trust, they are lashing out with every fiber of their being against a segment of their constituents to maintain their current status.  If progressive groups succeed in moving the country into the 21st Century politically and socially, the conservatives will play a diminishing role in the government.  They will be seen as archaic entities that are no longer necessary on the political landscape.  Even in my own life, I recently heard that someone I care about very much, and who is very right wing in beliefs, say to a mutual friend of ours, after reading a particularly pointed blog I wrote, “I thought James was a nice person.”  I believe I am a nice person, but a nice person who has a strong belief in equality for all Americans.   

Perhaps we are not hearing hatred shouted from the mouths of angry divisive people; perhaps, rather, we are hearing the death throes of a dying breed, the extreme conservative.  Ultimately, they may not be so interested in what is happening in the pro-equality movement as they are in how it is possible they are watching their demise as a power in the United States.  In the same way as the Roman Catholic Church did as they heard an uprising of people who did not agree with them, they are simply screaming the question, “Why?!”

_______________________________ 

1.  ^ Directorium Inquisitorum, edition of 1578, Book 3, pg. 137, column 1. Online in the Cornell University Collection; retrieved 2011-09-14.

New York Changes the Marriage Question


Today, June 24, 2011, New York became the sixth state in the republic to provide marriage equality whether a couple is heteroamorous or homoamorous when their State Senate voted 33-29 for the bill.  Previous states that have provided marriage equality include Massachussets, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and New Hampshire.  The District of Columbia and the Coquille Indian Tribe in Oregon also allow the same rights. The population of these original five states equals 15.63 million American citizens.  New York adds another 19.3 million people, more than doubling the number of citizens who now have complete freedom to marry the partner of their choice.

It is a momentous day because New York has shown that men and women of conscience can come together in honest debate and negotiation to structure a plan that works for all its citizens.  There were compromises on both sides of the equation, but the whole is what truly matters.  The New York legislature was wise enough to ensure that this bill did not affect religious organizations and their ability to choose the couples they would join.  This has nothing to do with religion.  It is a state issue of equality.  The small details of their compromises will barely be remembered, but the wedding day that joined Dad and Papa, or Mom and Mama, will be just as important to their children as my parents’ wedding pictures are to me.

When my mother died, I went through her photographs.  As the family historian, it fell on me to maintain these photos that included my parent’s wedding pictures from November 1956.  As I wandered through the pages of this vibrant couple’s memories, neither of whom were now here to remember them, I recognized this as the starting point toward our family.

Now, the children of LGBT couples will be able to have the same memories as straight couples do.  It is as important to them as it is to me.  My wedding pictures with my now ex-wife, Barbara, from 1977 are still as beautiful as the photos of my marriage to my husband, David, in 2006.

As we celebrate this victory for equal rights in our country, we must also ask ourselves who is next?  Which state next will take the appropriate actions to ensure that 100% of American citizens will see in their lifetimes a nation that will not leave anyone behind regarding equality.  Equality is not limited to marriage.  Equality must be pervasive in every area of our lives. If one individual does not have equal rights in our country, then none of us have equal rights.  As it stands, some people continue to be offered more freedom than others.  This cannot be what we mean by the beginning of the second paragraph in the Declaration of Independence when the signateurs affirmed:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The Declaration of Independence (USHistory.org, 1776)

Since May 17, 2004, when Massachussets became the first state in the Union to finally attain freedom for all regarding marriage, our country has been on a trek toward consistency.  Eventually, marriage equality will become the law of the nation, and our descendants will raise their eyebrows when their history teachers tell them that at one time, gay people couldn’t get married.  As I’ve seen firsthand as a classroom teacher, this same response occurs when the young people are told that at one time Blacks and Whites were not allowed to marry.  We do not call marriage between mixed-race couples anything other than marriage.  That is the way it will be in the years to come about marriage for same-sex couples.  It will simply be marriage.

In many ways, our country is like a majestic redwood; no matter how much shade is in our way, we always stretch toward the light.  Today, we have stretched a little bit higher toward that light.

References

“2010 Resident Population Data” (2010) U.S. Census Bureau.  Retrieved June 24, 2011 f

USHistory.org (1999) “The Declaration of Independence.”  USHistory.org.  Retrieved from http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/.

How American Are You?


As I listened to CNN report on the possibility of New York being the fifth state in the country to allow same-sex marriage, a question popped into my head:  If one is fully an American citizen, why is it possible for him or her to have different rights than other American citizens?  Should my status as an American supersede every other subgroup title I carry, including gay, Latino, Native American, European, dark-skinned, heavy-set, short, parent, grandfather, adoptee, or anything else?  I suggest it should.

When I attended school as a child, I learned the Pledge of Allegiance.  We said:

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, [under God (added in 1954),] indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” ~ Francis Bellamy (1892)

I cannot imagine that when Francis Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance in 1892 that he, as a Baptist minister and christian socialist, would have imagined that this statement would mean Blacks, Asians, Latinos, women, gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals; however, it does. Bellamy did write, after all, that “[a] democracy like ours cannot afford to throw itself open to a world where every man is a lawmaker, every dull-witted or fanatical immigrant admitted to our citizenship is a bane to the commonwealth; where all classes of society merge insensibly into one another (Beato, 2010).”  Much to what I’m certain would be Bellamy’s chagrin, we are merging into one distinct American society.  So, why then are there different levels of citizenship in our republic?

Nothing is simpler than layering  a group by status.  The “haves” have more than the “have-nots.”  Land owners had more power than the slaves. The European-based pioneers in the West decimated the indigenous people across the American territories.  Experiences like these repeat themselves time and again because the status of one group is perceived as higher or lower than another.  We face an issue of status today as gay couples are disallowed full marriage rights in the United States of America.

One issue I have with those who support equal marriage rights is that they perpetuate the current lexicon by claiming we are fighting for same-sex marriage rights.  The discussion should be about making American citizenship the same for everyone by allowing every individual the right to marry whomever he or she chooses to marry.  I understand the questions about relatives marrying, even though the current science does not support many of those arguments.  I understand the age requirements for marriage. Children cannot make a healthy choice about marriage, and they should not be asked to be in that position.  The paternalism of government has continued to encourage the placement of the gay and lesbian community within the same spectrum as children: the LGBT community apparently cannot make a healthy choice to marry any more than children can.

If one is an adult American citizen, one should be able to marry the person of his or her choice.  That’s the whole concept in a nutshell.  This is true marriage equality.  It has nothing to do with religion.  It has nothing to do with region or history.  An American anywhere in the United States may marry the person of his or her choice.  Which individual or group has the right to deny anyone that right or any other right?  Our only job as a country is to ensure that all rights are assured in every state of the union.  That is freedom. When we assure everyone have the same rights, then we can sleep soundly knowing that we have the “liberty and justice for all” promised in our Pledge of Allegiance and our Constitution.

References:

Beato, Greg, (2010, Dec. 16). Face the Flag, Reason

Bumper sticker (2011) “Love is gender blind.” Retrieved from http://middleagedqueers.com/?p=5575

January 1, 2011


As we approach the new year of 2011, I can’t help but remember my father’s observation as a pharmacist in the 1980s.  He said, “We’ve had more changes in the last 50 years in medicine than in all the years prior.”  Of course, the changes that transpired in those immediately previous 50 years emerged from the foundation of work by generations of scientists.  After all, the first concocted antibiotic wasn’t developed until sulfanilamide and penicillin in the early part of the 20th century.   As I contemplate the last 100 years, inspired by the recent loss of my great-uncle Gene at 103, I took a gander at what he had seen in his lifetime.

In the last 10 decades, we’ve seen the Nobel Prize for physics go to Madame Marie Curie (France) for the discovery of the elements, radium and polonium in 1911.  50 years later, in 1961,  this same prize was awarded to Robert Hofstadtler (United States) for his determination of the shape and size of atomic nuclei.  A mere 10 years ago, in 2001, the award went to Wolfgang Ketterle (Germany), Eric A. Cornell, and Carl E. Wieman (United States), for discovering a new state of matter, the Bose-Einstein condensate [1].  Imagine!  A new state of matter, theorized by Albert Einstein, but not proved until this group did so.  This year, we will see new weights established for the periodic table.  We have seen the extinction of animals and diseases and the rise of others.

As we enter 2011, diving into the year 5772 in the Hebrew calendar, 4708 in the Chinese calendar, 1432 in the Islamic calendar, or the Mayan long count of 12.19.18.0.0, our lives have been changed dramatically by many events.  We have seen wars and conflicts in Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East, and Afghanistan, to name a few.   The Berlin Wall has been built and destroyed.  Cultural revolutions have fulmugated around the world.  We have witnessed the New Deal, the Civil Rights Movement, and the election of an African-American president of the United States.  

We have seen unfathomable growth and challenges in the last century including the change in perception between the First World War when little was thought about homosexuals at all to the current day when homosexuals will be allowed to openly serve in the military.   We have moved from a time when a Black person couldn’t marry a White person to today when gays are marrying in some states in the U.S.  The economy has seen boons and busts throughout the century including the Great Depression in the 1930s.  Here are some other interesting tidbits:

Year     Fed. Spending [2]   Fed. Debt [2]  Postage [3]  UI Rate [4]

                   (In billions)             (In billions)

1911          $           .69               $           0.o          $ .02              6.7%

1961                  97.72                        292.6             .04               5.5%

2001            1,864.00                   5,807.o              .34               4.8%

2011            3,833.90                    1,266.7              .46               9.6%

I suppose with all this reminiscing about our past, the next logical step would be to imagine what will be in our future.  I’d rather not.  Not because I think things will be worse, but because it won’t serve any purpose.  The real question is, where are we now? 

On a personal level, I have lost my entire adopted family of origin, but I have found my family of birth.  I have encountered family members from seven generations born between 1881 and 2003.  I’ve changed careers from working in a pharmacy in the 1970s to being a music educator  today.  I’ve had the pleasure to see my husband, children, and grandchildren all working toward growing their successes.  I have returned to school to complete my education.  If my family is a microcosm of America, which it may be, then one can extrapolate that although things have been tough, we have our eyes on making things better.  We are stepping back to get a good view of where we are, and taking steps to improve our situation. 

January 1, 2011, is, I suspect, a preparatory time toward a major shift in our lives.  We, as a family and as a country, are readying ourselves for a giant leap forward.  What shape that will take, I don’t know.  We are talking about our spirits.  We are valuing our children in a more vibrant way.  We are demanding a better education for them.  We are begging for art and beauty.  We are striving for unity.  These are all good things that I believe will make us stronger, wiser, and more solid as a national and world community. 

I welcome the coming new year with everything it has to bring.  Gratitude permeates every fiber of my being as I look forward to the forthcoming 365 days.   So, in that gratitude, I say in anticipation of the coming celebration, Happy New Year and welcome to 2011!

_____________________________

References

 [1] Infoplease.com (2010) List of Nobel Prize winners for Physics.  Retrieved from  http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0105785.html

 [2] USGovernmentSpending.com (2010) [Data] Retrieved fromhttp://www.usgovernmentspending.com/year2011_0.html

[3] U.S. Postal Service (2010) News Release:  New Rates Retrieved from  http://www.usps.com/communications/newsroom/2010/pr10_064.htm

[4] Forcasts.org (2010) Unemployment figures (Data) Retrieved from http://www.forecasts.org/unemploy.htm

(2010) “Happy New Year 2011” [Photograph] Retrieved from http://win7dl.com

(2010) “Human Arrow” [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://ypg-prioryroad.com

(2010) “Marie Curie” [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://reich-chemistry.wikispaces.com

Sexuality vs. Love


All hearts can love.

As we continue having debates regarding rights, freedoms, and full citizenship for people in same-gender relationships, we may want to conserve our energy and make our discussions more efficient and accurately reflective of every type of relationship.

As I watched Current TV, the channel developed by former vice-president Al Gore, and Illinois senator, Al Franken (D), I heard a woman say that these debates, especially those going toward the U.S. Supreme Court, are made more challenging because the word sex is involved.   The word to which she was referring was, “Homosexuality.”

If it’s really an issue, why not use a different word?  The Latin word, “homo,” means, “same.”  “Hetero,” mean “different.” The Latin root, “amor,” means, “love.” 

Homoamorous means two people of the same gender love one another. 

Heteroamorous means two people of different genders love one another.

So, why not change the word.  It’s not as though we’re using ancient or sacred words to describe our relationships.  “Homosexuality” was coined on May 6, 1869 by Karoly Maria Benkert, a 19th Century Hungarian physician, who first broke with traditional thinking when he suggested that people are born homosexual and that it is unchangeable.  With that belief as his guide, he fought the Prussian legal code against homosexuality that he described as having “repressive laws and harsh punishments (Conrad and Angel, 2004).” 

One would suspect that Dr. Benkert would appreciate this change in lexicon so that we change our focus in this debate from sex to love.  John and Frank are not two people in sex.  They are two people in love.  Deborah and Sheila are not two women who spend their lives sexing each other, they are two women loving each other.  This is especially true because homosexuality has been demedicalized in so many ways.

If we’re going to have to have this debate in the first place, let’s speak accurately about the people involved.  We are homoamorous people.  We are two people of one gender who are in love.  Those in opposite gender relationships are heteroamorous. 

How complicated can that be?  If I were to approach someone and ask them if they’d like a slice of bread, their first question is likely, “What kind is it?”  As a people, we love clarity.  Homosexuality and heterosexuality are simply not clear enough terms for the breadth of our relationship.  Homoamorosity and heteroamorosity are clear winners when it comes to describing the relationships with which I am most familiar.

Sexuality is an important, if not a terribly time consuming part of most marriage relationships.  It helps motivate our interest in a particular person whose gender is consistent with what we prefer; however, that, too, is not always the case. 

Is it unthinkable that two people can have a relationship that is purely emotional in form, without sex, who continue to love one another nonetheless?  Ask many people who are of a certain age. 

Homoamorosity and heteroamorosity are not only options for the terms homosexuality and heterosexuality, they might even be the preferred forms given their more emotionally inclusive qualities. 

My mother used to say, when trying to get the direct truth out of me, “Jim, call a spade a spade.”  Although I never played bridge, from which this term comes, I knew what she meant.  Name something as it is.  I now get that message all the more clearly.

Thanks, Mom.

__________________________

References:

2010, Plato.stanford.edu. Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/homosexuality/

Conrad, P., & Angell, A. (2004). HOMOSEXUALITY AND REMEDICALIZATION. Society, 41(5), 32-39. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

A New Message from the Roman Catholic Church?


Today was a remarkable day for me at the most personal level. 

St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church

First, I performed music for the first time in a long, long time.  A friend of mine called me two days ago in a panic and asked if I would play the piano for her mother-in-law’s funeral.  As a friend and an ordained minister, it was impossible to say no to her.   The truth is, with returning to college, assisting a former student of mine with his senior project, and auditions for a musical, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed at the thought of adding even one more, short-term project.

As with all things in my life, now that I’m on the other side of today, I couldn’t be happier to have had the experience.   I sang and played piano better than I have for years.  As the most critical person of my own skills, I was surprised to be happy with my music.

The most important part of the day was that I heard a homily by Monsignor Dan Madigan, the parish priest from St. Joseph’s Parish in Clarksburg, California, who officiated the funeral mass.  His Irish brogue was soft and thoughtful.  He spoke as though he was speaking to each person individually.  With his history as a man of social justice, having founded the Sacramento Food Bank in the mid-1980’s, his words today had an especially profound effect on me.

During the homily, he discussed the fact that Jesus had once said that there were too many rules and that they burdened the every day people.  He said that faith should be simple and a benefit to the people, not a heavy weight on their shoulders. 

As he was speaking, I had to fight back the tears.   Here was this Catholic priest, in his vestments, standing on an altar speaking about the need for a simple faith.   It was so moving.

The church where the funeral was held was my former parish from 1976 to 2004.  It was the parish that helped me decide to leave my Roman Catholic tradition.

In the early 1980’s, I had gone to confession, as was the weekly requirement at the time.  I offered the truth of what my church said were my sins.  I was a gay man who had slept with another man.   The eldery, Italian priest proceeded to lambast me with horrific statements of how I was committing an abomination to God and that I would land in hell for my wicked ways.  

On that day, I realized I could not be a part of a church that would talk with a parishoner in that way.  I could no longer be told that I would go to hell for who I was.  I had no choice but to leave the church I so dearly loved.  Although I was correct in doing so, it has left a deep sadness in my heart all these years.  I miss my church and my tradition.

As I watch women having children they cannot afford, religious clergy injuring children through their illness of pedophilia, and women being denied a rightful place as ministers in this enormous church, I know I made the right decision.   I realize, too, that the elderly priest from so very long ago had no right to stand in such cruel judgement of my life when he certainly must have known people who had committed terrible atrocities, which is much different than one man loving another man.

Monsignor Dan MadiganThen, today, I am transported back to that same church where I was so hurt, and floating on the brogue of an elderly priest, I am healed from that hurt.  Faith should be simple.  It’s what I’ve believed for decades, and to hear it espoused here was truly miraculous. 

I still cannot return to my home church as a devout Catholic, but at least now I know that the church has people in it who understand about true faith, and that it is different than structured beliefs. 

Somehow, I am more at peace.