Reflections on National Coming Out Day

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October 11, 2009 by D Stack

October 11 is National Coming Out Day — a day for coming out and discussing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues. I really can’t come out — I’m heterosexual and therefore of the orientation that most people assume others are. But I can talk a little. I’ll be a little more shotgun in approach than normal, more reflecting of my feelings than a single political point, but I imagine my politics on this matter will be clear from reading…

I became comfortable speaking about LGBT issues over time. I had classmates back at UConn who were gay (engineering being a male-oriented profession the great majority of my classmates were male, leaving a small sample for lesbian classmates) but this was back in the early 90s when the thought of gay marriage was far from really entering the national dialogue. But over time I’ve become more familiar with LGBT issues through the most mundane of means — discovering coworkers, online buddies, writers, parents of my children’s friends, fellow RPGers, etc. who were LGBT. And I saw them living the same kind of lives I did. They worried about their kids. They had pride in their work. Sometimes I liked them, sometimes I didn’t get along with them. But to be honest, they were just people. And that’s really what I want to emphasize in this blog posting. Not aliens. Not deviants. Not wicked sinners. Just regular people. Does that mean there’s not some pretty deviant and wicked members of the LGBT community? Of course not. But the heterosexual community is no shining beacon of normalcy — anyone remember Britney Spears’ first marriage which could be measured in hours?

As a society, members of the LGBT community have to deal with issues that most people would find unacceptable. Most amusement parks have family discount rates. Imagine being told you don’t qualify as a family. It has happened. Or being refused rights to visit a loved one in the hospital. It has also happened, despite civil unions. We don’t allow members of the LGBT community to risk their lives serving their nation because of sexual orientation.

Most of this rejection is on religious grounds. Most religions, including my own Catholic church, are not approving of LGBT lifestyle. I wish it were different, but it is what it is. That said, there is no state religion in the United States. It is forbidden. The reasons against homosexuals in the military are quite similar to those given to defend a segregated military. The bans on same-sex marriage have their roots in religious arguments. You are trying to use the law to block people from what you view as a sinful act. So for my fellow heterosexuals, lets review some precepts of the Catholic church. Do you think these should be applied to heterosexual marriage with the power of law? All sex must have the potential for reproduction — that rules out birth control. Probably rules out oral sex as well — not going to see any babies from that. Masturbation is a no-no, so we should probably ban that as well, both within and outside of marriage. No divorce either. Let’s get that on the books.

A straw man argument? I don’t think so. It is just we don’t feel comfortable allowing these religious rules to interfere with what we heterosexuals want.

Is same-sex marriage “unnatural” in that it can’t naturally produce children? I suppose one can make the argument, but we don’t require children to be an outcome — or even a possibility — of a marriage. Two people getting married in their seventies are probably not going to produce any kids. Is it different from what most people are used to? Sure. But so what? Our lives are short. If two people of the same gender are willing to make a commitment to each other, why not let them with the same word we use for heterosexual commitments. The word “marriage” gives rights that a “civil union” just don’t provide in society.

With regard to the military, we have expelled soldiers who are fluent in Arabic — a resource we are sorely lacking in —  due to their sexual orientation and their audacity to not to hide it under “don’t ask, don’t tell”, a policy which asks soldiers to live a lie of silence. I’m hopeful that President Obama will follow through with his commitment — recently remade — to overturn it, but he’s moved rather slow on this issue. And this is a national security issue. As a nation we have effectively been saying we would rather risk another 9/11 than allow a gay soldier to serve.

I don’t think what I’m discussing are special rights — these are all normal rights. We’ve had same-sex marriage here in Massachusetts for over five years. My heterosexual marriage is still intact. It has its challenges, but they are the same challenges any marriage faces. My kids are good kids. (Most of the time. When they aren’t driving me bonkers.) We’ve taught them to be tolerant of different beliefs. I suspect their generation will be far more comfortable with these issues than preceding ones. To illustrate this, consider a debate in Iowa earlier this year considering amending their constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

One of my daughters was in the workplace one day, and her particular workplace at that moment in time, there were a whole bunch of conservative, older men. And those guys were talking about gay marriage. They were talking about discussions going on across the country. And my daughter Kate, after listening for about 20 minutes, said to them: ‘You guys don’t understand. You’ve already lost. My generation doesn’t care.’ I think I learned something from my daughter that day, when she said that. And I’ve talked with other people about it and that’s what I see, Senator McKinley. I see a bunch of people that merely want to profess their love for each other, and want state law to recognize that. Is that so wrong? I don’t think that’s so wrong. As a matter of fact, last Friday night, I hugged my wife. You know I’ve been married for 37 years. I hugged my wife. I felt like our love was just a little more meaningful last Friday night because thousands of other Iowa citizens could hug each other and have the state recognize their love for each other. No, Senator McKinley, I will not co-sponsor a leadership bill with you.

– Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, in response to an attempt to amend the Iowa State Constitution to ban same-sex marriage

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