Someone posted the following image on Facebook the other day.
I think this is funny, because it’s a clever play on words: not just a pun, but an anagram as well. I’m sure, however, the image will offend at least as much as it amuses.
I’ve been watching the “gay issue” actively, now, for something like twenty years. It’s currently rising to the level of a screaming flapadoodle in legislatures around the country.
In the midst of all the yelling and hollering about whether homosexuals are born or made, or whether homosexuality is in congruence with God’s Law, or whether it should be normalized, forbidden, or left alone, I think people have once again missed the real point.
I can afford to take the stand I do toward homosexuality because homosexuality itself doesn’t bother me. Pick any issue I actually care about, and I can be a lot less reasonable. Homosexuality isn’t one of those issues.
People on the other side of the issue throw out all kinds of rationalizations as to why they are right to be so bothered. But the only real truth is, they are bothered.
The real culture war is not between homosexuals and heterosexuals. It isn’t about gay marriage versus straight marriage. The war is between people like me, who are not bothered by homosexuality, and the people who are bothered by homosexuality. The gays themselves are simply caught in the crossfire.
Call it the war between the phobics and the non-phobics.
I don’t know why homosexuality doesn’t bother me, any more than the phobics know why it bothers them. I can’t remember any point in my life when I stopped caring about the matter: I’ve never cared.
I remember when I was a teen-ager, and phobics tried to draw me into supporting them in their phobic behavior and discussion. I was entirely oblivious: I nodded sagely and kept quiet, because I wasn’t really able to follow the conversation. It’s only in the years since that I’ve realized, “Oh, that’s what they were talking about!”
I’m sure most phobics have no memory of becoming phobic. They were always phobic. There was never a time when they didn’t understand what that conversation was about.
Personally, I think people are born phobic or non-phobic. Argument isn’t going to change us, any more than it will change our shoe size, or … well, our sexual orientation.
Thinking of it this way gives me a measure of compassion for the phobics. There are some people — cruel, nasty people — who think it’s funny to flick spiders at people with arachnophobia. There are probably some people who think flicking spiders is good for the people they’re flicking them at, like they’ll somehow get over their phobia if they just spend some quality time with spiders; as though having spiders flicked at them is “quality time.”
I realize that the sight of two men kissing in public frightens the phobics. I don’t understand why it frightens them, and neither do they. They are simply phobic. I think people of good will can go a little out of their way to avoid flicking spiders at them. It’s the compassionate thing to do.
I find that I need that measure of compassion for phobics, lest I indulge in a dry hate of my own.
You see, I want to see homosexuality normalized in society. Completely normalized.
This has nothing to do with a homosexual agenda. It has to do with a heterosexual agenda, and I think I can explain it pretty easily.
I fell in love toward the end of high school, and I fell hard. We married. We had kids. Then the marriage started to fall apart, and we both eventually had to face the fact that my wife was not heterosexual, and never had been. We divorced on the grounds of an irreconcilable similarity; though once we could talk about it freely, we found our taste in women was nothing alike.
Interestingly enough, one of my best friends in high school went through exactly the same thing, only gender-reversed: he was gay, and his wife was straight. They also divorced over their irreconcilable similarity.
Roughly five percent of the people I knew well in high school — I’ve counted them — have come out as gay over the past decades, and the number keeps creeping upward. I was close friends with some of them. I dated some of them. I married one of them. And I never had a clue.
It wasn’t just my youthful cluelessness at work, though there was plenty of that. It turns out that every one of those homosexual men and women actively concealed their homosexuality, because in that time and place, it was not okay to be gay. They hid it from the outside world, which caused their relationships great harm. Most of them performed mental gymnastics to hide it from themselves, which caused them great psychological harm. A significant number got themselves into heterosexual marriages to try to prove to themselves and the world that they were “normal,” and those marriages broke.
That’s exactly what it means to “stay in the closet.”
It should be needless to say that this did not work out well for anyone, nor did it serve in any way to uphold the “sanctity of marriage,” or the sanctity of anything at all.
I’m neither angry with nor bitter toward all these people — including my ex-wife — who lied to themselves and to others about their sexual orientation. When I was growing up, the consequences for exposing oneself as gay were severe, entirely congruent with the sentiments of phobics who see a spider and want to squash it under their shoe and grind their foot back and forth until the spider has been reduced to unidentifiable dust. You all saw Brokeback Mountain, and if you didn’t, you ought to. I grew up in that world, a world shaped to the irrational and delicate sensibilities of the phobics. I understand why homosexuals lied. I’d have done exactly the same thing in their shoes.
Rather, I have compassion for the gay people who did what they felt they had to do to survive in a hostile world. I think it’s wonderful that they can now live freer, fuller, more open, more honest lives. I think it’s an obvious and necessary matter of basic justice, that homosexuals are recognized to have exactly the same civil rights as heterosexuals. I am happy for them.
But I lost skin in this game, too. I was burned, as a heterosexual, by the society-wide deception — the lie — that gay is not normal. So were my children. It’s personal, and I’m not prepared to be very reasonable about it.
Gay is normal.
It’s just one more minority, like being left handed, or red-headed, or blue-eyed. It’s much more common than being left-handed and red-headed and blue-eyed.
My ex-wife should have felt free to take a girlfriend to prom in high school. My best friend should have been dating guys. They should both have been able to look forward to their first kiss with the same anticipation I experienced. Had this been the case, a lot of ill-fated marriages in my generation would have been gracefully avoided.
My own children grew up in a slightly saner world. They had openly gay men and women in their high school classes, who brought same-sex dates to the prom. It wasn’t stigma-free, being gay, but it wasn’t anywhere close to what I grew up with.
I’d like to see my grandchildren grow up in a world where being gay is no more remarkable than having blue eyes. Failing that, I’d like to see their children grow up in that world.
I want this for them because I don’t want them to grow up in a world surrounded by people who live in metaphorical closets and lie about themselves. I don’t really care about the argument over whether gays are made or born: I personally think you have to be pretty dim to think it’s a choice, though I realize I have an unusually intimate perspective on the matter for a straight guy. But it doesn’t matter. What I do know is what happens when you enshrine phobias about people within law and custom.
My struggle is to hold compassion for the phobics, the people who shaped the phobic ugliness of the world I grew up in, where people, human beings, could be stomped under a shoe and ground to unidentifiable dust; to hold any compassion at all for people who want to legislate a return to that world. I understand that they are bothered by homosexuality — that it gives them the screaming heebie-jeebies — and that they really have no control over this. That’s a hard thing to live with, and they have my sympathy.
But you know, they can always just look the other way.