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.
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.
Today was a remarkable day for me at the most personal level.
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.
Then, 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.
What if on June 9, 2010, (6/9 for those who enjoy a naughty giggle), the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community stopped buying anything across the country? What would happen to the American economy?
In very loose numbers, it is estimated that in 2006, $660 billion were spent by the LGBT community in 2006. That number is expected to rise to $835 billion in 2011. I’ve seen numbers that indicate as much as over two trillion dollars will be spent by the LGBT community in 2012. Even if any of these numbers are off by a few billion, the numbers are truly staggering.
The LGBT community has the power to put a dent in our economy, and yet, we don’t know our own strength. If we don’t know it, how can anyone else feel that power?
It makes sense to validate that most efficient force by damming up the economic river for just a moment in time.
Here is the plan for June 9, 2010:
Every member of the LGBT and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) communities will commit to:
2. not buy or trade one stock or bond in any stock market in the world;
3. withdraw 0.1% of your money from every account you own (e.g. If you have $1,000.00, you would withdraw $1.00 and if you have $100, you would withdraw $0.10);
4. not donate one item to charity;
5. not go to work or school for at least half a day;
6. not use a computer or cell phone for one day;
7. not use any electricity or gas that is not life-preserving;
8. not drive anywhere in your automobile;
9. do whatever else you feel is appropriate, healthy, and safe to make an economic statement about the strength of the LGBT community;
10. Finally, to make June 9 a day of silence to reflect the silence our country is asking us to provide regarding our needs, including equal access to marriage, health care, law, education, and employment.
Be sure to contact your legislator by June 8 to advise them of your intentions.
We have seven-and-a-half months to prepare. In that time, we can clearly create the environment that well over half of our country wishes from us. This will certainly let them know, “Watch what you wish for!”
What happens if the LGBT and PFLAG community disappeared and we took our money and expertise with us? We’d have a pretty good idea about the impact of that situation, wouldn’t we?
If you’re interested in participating, please contact me on my Facebook page, June 9, 2010 – Invisible Gay Day.
Dear President Obama,
As we evaluate what happened in Maine as marriage equality, via Question 1, went down with a similar margin as is did in California with Proposition 8, a vivid memory from over thirty years ago comes to mind, in the way a locust comes to a field of corn.
When I was a young father, I used to smoke around my children and in the house. I smoked in the car and at work. I smoked everywhere.
As my children grew, I would lecture them on the dangers of smoking, even as I went to the hospital for asthma and two strokes in my forties from smoking. I did begin smoking in a different room than the one in which my children were playing. I did all these “better” things, but I never quit. I never took action to model a “best” behavior for them.
I believe that this is what you have done to the gay and lesbian community. You’ve talked a lot about your support of the LGBTQ community. You’ve signed ENDA and the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law. You’ve done all this, but you have not repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and you have not repealed the Defense of Marriage Act. I remember mentioning that we would see how you’d done by this time in my commentary of May 2009, “DOMA, DADT, and the President of the United States.”
You have given tacet approval to everyone in the United States to stand by their arrogant bigotry by not taking action. Maine’s response to Question 1 raises our questions about your commitment to the tasks at hand, especially considering that on your White House contact website, there isn’t even a category for civil rights. Our issues are relegated to the cruel word, “Other.” It makes me believe that some of us American citizens are seen as “those people.”
For the record, every single one of my children ended up smoking. Although they are now in their 30’s and 40’s for the most part, and making their own choices, they initially learned from me that smoking was o.k. I am saddened every day by that fact as they end up in the hospital with asthma and bronchitis. I am saddened that they may develop emphysema or lung cancer and die the way their great-grandparents did, and as I, it appears, shall do as well. I am saddened that their children, of which there are nine between them, will learn the same lessons from my children as mine did from me. The impact of my smoking has become generational.
Are you going to allow the impact of your inaction toward the necessary civil rights issues before you to become generational, as well?
With my husband, David, we signed our Domestic Partnership documents in August 2005. In August 2006, we were married in a religious ceremony, and in doing so, we became husbands to one another. You, Mr. President, however, have no record of that marriage. Neither does anyone else, except in the hearts of those in attendance. Is that the life you would want with Mrs. Obama?
Next time you have a cigarette, (and because I, too, continue to struggle with my nicotine addiction, I know there will be another cigarette, Mr. President), each time you take a drag, think about the gay community. Each cigarette represents another gay person who is being discriminated against. Each puff represents one more day that American citizens are being kept from equality. Every butt you throw away is the dream of a gay couple whose hope for their 50th wedding anniversary that has been dashed.
So, I raise my filled ashtray to you, President Obama, in hopes that you will both stop smoking and make the changes to our laws that will provide equality to all people in America.
James S. Ch. Glica-Hernandez
Sent Wednesday, November 4, 2009 9:15 PM PST
If Nathan Lane was President of these here United States of America (with Harvey Fierstein as Vice President, and Hedda Lettuce as U.S. Attorney General), his administration would have been required to support the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) as it was for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in response to a court battle. It is the law that the Department of Justice must always file friends of the court/amicus briefs that support current law. We should not be getting upset about this amicus brief. It’s a non-issue.
What should have gone along with this brief, however, is a statement from the President indicating his focus on getting a quick legislative repeal of DOMA. His speech at the National Equality March did give us more hope; however,that’s how this should have been handled in the first place.
It’s frustrating to realize that we are having issues regarding civil rights in our third century of existence as a country; we, whose ancestors left England, and many other countries for that matter, for freedom.
I remember thinking as a teacher about students who took a long, long time to get the concepts I was putting forth, “Bless their pointed little heads.”
Sometimes, that’s the way I feel about us as a nation.
“Bless our pointed little heads.”
My point is, let’s stay focused on our next move and not get bogged down in those things we cannot change.
Stay focused, people!
Let me set the stage for you, my friends:
People, through no fault of their own, besides being born with a particular genetic package, are beaten, killed, and socially isolated and demeaned. They are set apart as different in their communities and are told they should be grateful for what they do have. Those in power bellow from every pulpit and soapbox that their rights to maintain the status quo should not be changed, let alone questioned. They insist that changing how things have always been done will destroy their lives.
Is this a description of the Deep South prior to the Emancipation Proclamation? Well, yes, it is. Is this a description of the United States in the Twenty-first Century? Sadly, the answer to this is, “Yes,” as well.
If I were a slave and my owner walked into my house and started telling me how to live, and I fought back, I would be beaten or killed. I am a gay man in California and people are still trying to walk into my house and tell me how to live. I am, of course, protesting. I have not been beaten. I have not been killed. There are those, however, who have been injured, some fatally, in this social battle.
If church leaders and those that support them do not believe that this comparison is fair, then they are blinded by their ignorance and fear. If they are unwilling to look at themselves fairly in the mirror to see themselves as they truly are, then they have actually turned the corner into becoming those plantation owners of over 150 years ago.
Every Sunday, and Saturday for some, a minister stands before his or her congregation speaking about the unconditional love of God. This same minister implores the congregation to love one another as God loves us. This is a great belief system, as far as I’m concerned.
What follows during some sermons, however, is diametrically opposed to this message. This opposing message is being carried on placards, t-shirts, and leaflets that state the following:
“God hates fags”
“Fags burn in hell”
“Homos eat small children” (I’m not kidding. I’ve seen it)
“Gay marriage destroys the sanctity of marriage”
“Kill all faggots”
How are any of these messages consistent with the concept of unconditional love? Even for those who say, “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” this horrific language cannot make sense to them. How is hatred a part of anything to do with God and faith?
I remember once in catechism at my Roman Catholic Church, Sister Cabrini, our teacher, asked the question, “How should we feel about the devil?”
I proudly and righteously raised my hand and said, “We should HATE the devil!”
“No, Jimmy,” said Sister Cabrini, “we should not hate the devil. We must understand that we must resist his temptation and rebuke his acts, but under no circumstances are we ever to hate anything or anyone.”
Although I no longer practice catholicism because I am a gay man, I love Sister Cabrini for teaching me that lesson over forty years ago.
All I ask is that those who hate so vehemently take a look at who they are for just a moment. Instead of judging everyone else, take a look at who the person in the mirror has become. Is being a person who hates someone else for the color of his skin or her sexual orientation the person he or she longs to be?
Most of the plantation owners, in their sense of God-given superiority, would have said a resounding, “Yes!”
My question is this – If we are obligated to stand before our God on Judgement Day with all our signs, t-shirts, hats, and intentions, what would God say about us?
I’d love to hear the answer to that question. I’d love that a lot.
And, for those who are curious, here is my symbol:
The top heart symbolizes my desire to love, supported by the second heart which recalls the love of God. The droplets represent our pain, but the red hearts shine through even our darkest hours.
When I read my friend, Al’s post about the recent death of E. Lynn Harris, fifty-four-year-old author of insightful books about gay, African-American men in today’s society, I couldn’t help but ponder about the current state of our gay society.
Mr. Harris’ books included, Invisible Life, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted – A Memoir, and, most recently, Basketball Jones. Mr. Harris used common language to describe the lives of his characters in a way that was accessible to the masses (ask any of the many black women in the hair salons who were his first customers), while describing, as some have said, for the first time lives that would be considered, if heterosexual and white, “normal” by most people’s standards. His critics have said that his writing was mediocre; however, the fact is that he helped bring to light a specific subculture that many, particularly those in the black community, do not discuss or wish to discuss: the gay man in the African-American subculture.
It seems we are once again returning to the beige comfort of sameness in our culture. There is a bowl of homogeneity into which we, as a people, are slowly dripping down the sides, one rich culture at a time. The gay community is no less immune to this process than the asian, latino, european, or african communities have been.
There are two periods that can be observed when the largest steps toward our own invisibility have occured. One was during the 1950’s and 1960’s when sexuality was solely a topic of discussion with regard to police blotters and social stigma. Gay men were attempting to “pass,” if I may so rudely abscond with a term from the black community, as straight. With the revolution that erupted during the Stonewall Riots in 1969, much of that changed.
During the 1970’s, free love from the 1960’s became permissable for the gay community, as well, in a whole new way. We were out and we were proud… kind of. That was also the period when I married my now-ex-wife. The irony, of course, was that I fell in love with her and truly wanted to be married. We had children and a good life for awhile. I was only seventeen years old when I married my bride, too young to know what healthy, adult love was. It was this ignorance that landed me in the discos night after night, trying to find male companionship along the way.
When acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) took hold in the early 1980’s, it became quite clear to all of us that we, the gay folk, were now the pariahs of society. Those not-so-in-the-know believed the gay community was the filthy underbelly of society that was trasmitting vile diseases and recruiting children for the sole pleasure of the evil, flaming society.
Of course, this description sounds ridiculous to thinking people today; however, this philosophy did reflect the larger culture at the time. With my impeccable timing, this was exactly the time I chose to enter into the gay community at full bore. I separated from my wife in 1985. I continued frolicking with various masculine satyrs of the time, many of whom are now dead, sadly.
Back into the closet many of us went, attempting to avoid our fearful brothers and sisters from crossing the street when we approached or giving us Hollywood kisses and hugs, afraid they would become contaminated by our very presence. I, too, began actually dating instead of playing. I worked hard, wore a tie to work, and reared my five children the best I could as a single father. At certain points, my sexuality simply went on hiatus.
As our education about AIDS and homosexuality broadened, we once again gained a brief foothold into society as a valuable cultural entity, when Ellen Degeneres and Rosie O’Donnell, Lance Bass and Neil Patrick Harris came out of the closet.
In celebration, Mayor Gavin Newsom, (D- San Francisco) decided it was time for gay folk to get married. He ordered his staff to begin handing out marriage licenses and performing marriages for lesbians and gays. Yee haw! The Wild West is wild once again.
As one might expect, these marriages were overturned in the courts and Proposition 8 came to the forefront of our gay consciousness. Proposition 8, the definition of marriage as being only between a man and a woman, passed. The LGBT community was once again relegated to the back of the bus.
This time, however, we didn’t go into hiding. The tack now was to let people know that we are your average Joe’s and Jane’s amongst the many. We are living perfectly productive, joyful lives in general society. We have effectively blended in.
E. Lynn Harris was talking about all of us in the gay community, in some ways. We are all just trying to live our lives plainly and simply within our community. Some are able to live openly, but for those who cannot do so, we make it work for ourselves and our immediate family.
Perhaps beige is the color to which we must aspire, because it is only in beige that no one says, “Look, he is different.” The question we, in the gay community, must ask ourselves, is, “Are we different?”
We pay bills, we drive to work and hate the commute, we argue with our mates, we go to PTA meetings with our children, and we shop for food that costs too much. Isn’t that what everyone does? Like Italian-Americans, or Egyptian-Americans, or Chinese-Americans, Gay-Americans have an historical context from which our population stems, if not a regional location. We can maintain our cultural identity without marginalizing ourselves in general society.
It is surmised that eventually skin color will return to the original color of medium brown with all the interracial marrying we are doing. With the acknowledgement of the fluidity in our sexuality, I wonder if we are, in that same way, finding a middle ground where one’s gender and sexuality will not matter as much to the people of our society?
We are increasingly smudging the lines of sexuality, culture and ethnicity more and more all the time. This could be a good thing. Perhaps beige is the new white.
Sometimes, change happens all at once. Usually, however, it happens in tiny increments, especially when it comes to social change.
United States Senator Barbara Boxer (California) recently distributed an e-mail indicating that she is joining a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The passage of ENDA would prohibit all employers, employment agencies, labor organizations and other groups who hire and fire staff from firing, refusing to hire, or discriminating against anyone on the basis of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity.
This bill has already been supported by high profile national civil rights and labor organizations and more than fifty Fortune 500 companies.
One must wonder if the significance of this era is being missed by those who feel they are not directly involved in the movement toward the eradication of discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender citizens?
Is it even possible to realize how important a particular shift in public perception is until after the transition is complete? The movements to ensure a woman’s right to vote and the acknowledgement of and action against racial discrimination began in small ways, but it wasn’t until the lion’s share of the legislation was passed that we could begin to fathom just how pervasive the blight of hatred and disrespect had been and how far we were stepping ahead.
Senator Boxer’s note to all of us was particularly welcome given that President Obama has shown so little dynamic leadership in relation to repealing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue (DADT) policies currently on the books in our country.
The best news about ENDA is that it is a bipartisan effort by our Federal legislators. Nothing gives us greater hope for our future than when, on both sides of the aisle, our elected officials choose to correct a horrible injustice in our laws and societal patterns in such a dynamic way.
Slowly, the awakening is beginning that each person, no matter how they are identified in the little boxes on most forms, has the right to all the freedoms promised in our United States Constitution. This new effort is one more important step.
Congratulations to everyone involved in the passage of this bill!
On July 16, 2009, President Barack Obama delivered a dynamic speech on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the National Assocation for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The NAACP has been the seminal and pivotal organization for the phenomenal growth toward civil rights in these United States of America. A celebration of this organization and its creative and powerful membership is well-deserved and should be celebrated by every group.
There was a cognitive dissonance in hearing the presidents’ words, however, as a gay person in the U.S, particularly considering the NAACP has been a vibrant supporter of gay rights. His message of hope and personal and social responsbility resonated as so much more shallow than it might have as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue (DADT) policies remain in full force.
This letter was written and sent today to President Obama in hope that my voice, added to the millions of others supporting full civil rights for all people in the United States, would make a difference.
Wherever you stand on these topics, I hope this continues to be an on-going discussion and that the gay community, like the African-American community, will find positive movement forward as time passes.
July 16, 2009
Dear President Obama,
Thank you for your dynamic and moving speech on the joyful anniversary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People today. Your words of hope and movement forward, personal responsibility and support of the national government were both powerful and intimate.
Without taking anything away from your message to the African-American community, it’s just sad that your words do not apply to the gay children in our country. It truly is a shame. Your silence is injuring our gay youth every day it continues. Your daily inaction is another pound of weight of intolerance and neglect on their necks.
Because I believe in your innate goodness and wisdom, I must only conclude that you do not clearly understand that you alone, Mr. President, can change the direction of our national intolerance and neglect toward all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in our country, particularly with regard to the Defense of Marriage Act and the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue policies. It is your voice that will ring the clarion call for change, change that you promised all Americans during your campaign.
I will continue to remind you of your promise, Mr. President. Each time you speak, I am listening, along with millions of others like me. We are waiting.
Thank you for taking the time to read this correspondence, if you have. I suspect it will simply end up in a stack of mail that your aides will review, at which time they will mail out a boilerplate response, and feel complete in their task. Your eyes will be ignorant of my words and your hands will be clean of responsibility for a genuine, personal response to me.
That is not accessibility to you. That is accessibility to the infrastructure of the White House and no more.
In prayers of gratitude and hope,
James C. Glica-Hernandez
Seaman August Provost
Camp Pendleton, San Diego, CA.
Shot to death.
Died June 30, 2009
Seaman Allen R. Schindler, Jr.
Beaten to death
December 13, 1969 to October 28, 1992
Ft. Campbell, Ky
Beaten to death
August 31, 1977 – July 6, 1999
The strange thing is that I’m not going to discuss how they died. I’m not going to talk about their families. I’m not going to vent my outrage at their murderers.
I will simply say that these young men, and others unnamed in the media, closeted and afraid during their honorable service, died in the line of duty. They took their duty seriously enough to deny who they were. They carried their duty with enough gravity to set aside their own truth to live the military truth of the United States of America in order to serve our nation with distinction.
Through their fearful and oppressive environment, through the weight of institutionalized homophobia, through their youth and inexperience with the burden of true hatred, these valiant young men died in horrific ways, either in uniform or with their uniforms hanging in their barracks closet.
These are our children, America. Look at their faces and remember their names. They lived protecting us. We didn’t do the same for them. We killed them with our ignorance.
God rest their souls and bring them into the light of his blessings. Guide us to our awakening that nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of all our citizens. Amen.