Post # 25 Civil vs Religious

It’s been an historic couple of days.   Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS from here on) heard arguments regarding Proposition 8 from California which seeks to deny legal marriage between same sex partners.  Today, SCOTUS heard arguments regarding DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, which made it federal law to deny same sex partners of government employees to be eligible for benefits and legal options that were available for opposite sex spouses.  As anyone could have guessed, the christianists were out in full force spewing hatred and judgment and alienating nearly everyone within the sound of their voices.

Before I got further, I need to say it again.  When I say christianist, I am referring to those people who demonstrate by their actions and speech that while they claim to be Christians and follow the teachings and guidance of Jesus they very obviously do not and use their “faith” to browbeat and rule and tyrannize others.  I know many true Christians, and I know many true christianists.  And I don’t define a christianist as a Christian who doesn’t agree with me.  Okay, back to SCOTUS.

But not really, because this post is aimed at christianist although I don’t suppose any of them will read this.  And if by some weird circumstance they do, they certainly won’t agree with it.  But as I sort my own feelings out about the subject, I’m often moved to declare them, so here we are.

It seems like the last two or three years have been so political for me.  I was never interested in politics much.  When I first came out about seven or eight years ago, I railed at a friend because I didn’t want to be defined as gay.  I told him that there was a lot more to me than just that and I didn’t want to have to believe one thing or another just because I was now out.  Back then, I said I didn’t want to be married and that marriage wasn’t a big priority.

Well, I gotta say, my views have changed somewhat.  I believe that the GLBT community at large gets a raw deal.  Anyone perceived as being different gets short shrift in our society, but being attracted to, and loving, a person of the same sex seems to set some people’s teeth on edge and make them say and do terrible things.  Gay bashing was once considered a sport.  Many people believed we deserved it.  Even now, when hate laws are in effect and most include the gay community, several gay bashing and murder cases are successfully overturned with a “gay panic” defense.  So the big “civil rights” cause now Gay Rights.  In most cases, being discriminated against in a blatant manner for being gay can be successfully argued in a court of law and won.  But there’s another insidious side to that, and it is in the area of marriage.

In our country, if two people are married, whether in a civil or religious/civil ceremony, a legal contract is enacted between them that guarantees them certain rights and certain protections.  I won’t go into a long list of those, but I’m told there are 184.  My partner/spouse and I don’t enjoy those rights and protections.  When we lived together in our first house, which did not have my name on the deed, if anything had happened to him, his brother (who is persona non grata in our house but that’s a different story) could have kicked me and the dogs to the curb and taken the house we lived in.  If I had ended up in the hospital for any reason, and unable to speak for myself, he could not be involved in the decision making process even though he’s worked in the health care industry for 30+ years and better qualified to make those decisions than anyone in my family.

Those are the kinds of protections and rights that we are fighting for.  Sure, we now have “freedom” from being beaten up.  At least, physically.  But we can still be beaten up legally.  And what it comes down to is that a legal marriage recognized federally will protect and guarantee those rights.

For some reason, christianists want to deny us those rights.  I don’t understand a lot about what they say, but what I can’t quite get past is why their hubris is so great that they believe they have the right to impose their version of their religion on me when I never claimed to be a member of their religion.  Our constitution says they can’t do that.  Our country started because a group of people who were being persecuted wanted to create a place where everyone was free to believe what they chose.  Our founding fathers made certain of that by writing down the principle of separation of church and state.   Since they want to follow the constitution, why don’t they want to follow that part?  I’m tempted to say that they read the constitution the same way they read their Bible, accepting only what they choose to.  But that would be petty.

What it comes down to is I can’t see why they even care.  My partner/spouse and I getting married is not going to impact their lives in any way.  It won’t invalidate their own marriages.  It won’t send the economy into a tailspin.  If they get an invitation to the wedding, they can simply say no.

Some christianists try to fan the flames by saying churches will be forced to perform weddings they don’t agree with.  That’s not true.  If I want to get married in a church, I’m not going to choose a church that doesn’t agree with my lifestyle.  No one with an honest thought in their head would do that.

I think some christianists are honestly confused between what marriage is and isn’t.  Marriage is a civil ceremony, not a religious one.  Many religions have marriage ceremonies, but those are not what “make you married” in the eyes of the state.  It’s the little piece of paper called a Marriage License that’s issued by the government that creates the legal contract and provides for the legal protections.  In our society, those two things have been so intertwined that many people don’t even think of them as separate.  Many churches will actually file the official paperwork for the bride and groom.   As an experiment, go to the DMV and say that you’ve been married and would like to change your driver’s license.  The first thing they ask for is a copy of?  Right, the marriage license issued by the state, not the church.  It’s that piece of paper that we should have the right to.   That’s all, just a simple official document that guarantees certain rights and protections.  Same as everyone else has.

That’s the difference between civil and religious when it comes to marriage.  It doesn’t matter how a particular religion defines marriage.  I’m not seeking to re-define their definitions.  I’m not seeking to re-write any religious texts that have lasted for centuries (although that’s been tried many times even in just my lifetime.)  I’m looking for equal standing in the eyes of the government, on a civil platform.  That’s something that no church, no religion can give me.

Because we do not live in a church-run government system.  Civil, not religious, protection is what it comes down to.

Post # 24 Another Victim in the War

A few days after Thanksgiving,  a young man named Josh Pacheco killed himself by suffocation in the family garage.  He closed the doors and windows, turned on his car, and breathed the exhaust fumes until he died.  Only afterward, during the horrifying days leading to his funeral, did his parents learn of the bullying their son endured at the high school he attended because he was gay.  They learned of this through his friend, acquaintances, even his teachers.  So many people knew or suspected what was happening, yet nobody stepped forward to assist him, or to warn his family what was going on.  His family knew that he was troubled but did not know the extent of what was happening.

Can you imagine the despair this seventeen year old boy had to feel that would cause him to make that decision?  He must have felt that the only relief or release from the daily pain was death.  The only recourse he could see for himself was to die at his own hands.  The bullying was only part of it, I’m sure.  The culture in our country that fosters the kind of base animal attacks on anyone who is perceived as different was also a large part of the despair this boy felt.  You see, he bought into it too.  He believed our society when it claimed that gay was bad.  He felt worthless, as though there was nothing of value he could bring to the world ever.  He believed that no one liked him or could ever like him, because he couldn’t like himself.  He couldn’t like himself because he couldn’t bring himself to have sexual feelings for the opposite sex, only the same sex.  In his eyes, it was wrong wrong wrong!  That’s what he was told.

He may not have been told this in so many words, but the messages were there and very clear.  He probably listened and paid attention during the vitriolic public rhetoric was spewed from both parties during the recent election.  He heard so much hate, and not enough acceptance.  He eventually came to believe that he was despicable.  He embraced it because he couldn’t see anything likeable in himself.  He didn’t see the role models.   Or if he did see them, they were only exceptions and couldn’t apply to him.

I didn’t know this boy, so you’re probably wondering how I could possibly know so much about what he was thinking or feeling.  It’s because when I was a teenager, I was him.  I was the different one.  I didn’t face the constant harrassment or bullying, but wasn’t the popular kid.  I stayed to myself, had a very small circle of friends, low self-confidence, and a piss-poor outlook on life.  I clutched at any straw to make myself feel better.  I was, and am, attracted to guys and because of needing to hide that attraction, I had a difficult time interacting with guys.  I had a difficult time interacting with girls because I never understood the appeal.  I had friends of both sexes, but no real close friends until I began to mature and come out of my shell.  But I still had that gnawing pit of hatred for myself, that area that I couldn’t accept because I’d been taught that it was wrong and sinful.

For years, I considered the act of suicide.  When I was younger, I didn’t know how, and when I was older, I was too scared.  My own personal self-hatred was so strong that I feel into a deep depression when I was around 19 or so.  Nothing tasted good, not food, not drink, not life.  Not even chocolate.  Finally, one night, I decided, that was it.  There was truly no reason to go on.  The only thing that stopped me was imagining the conversation with God when I stood before Him/Her:  “My child, why are you here?”  “I couldn’t handle the world.  It was too painful.”  “I would have helped you if you’d only asked me to.”  I was ultra religious at the time so it helped.  But in a negative reinforcement kind of way.  I couldn’t face God with that sin on my head along with the sin of being gay.

So I learned to live with the pain.  Eventually, I learned to accept myself.  I was 44 years old.  Coming out for any gay person is a multi-step process.  The first step is coming out to yourself and learning to accept it.  If I couldn’t accept myself, how could anyone else possibly accept me?  For some gay people, it’s an easy step.  For others, it’s not.  I cried for nearly two days.  But when I finally learned to accept myself (two years later, by the way), something kind of wonderful happened.  The pain went away.  That ache in my soul disappeared.  What other people thought of me no longer mattered.  The other steps of coming out were difficult, but not insurmountable.  I know people who lost their families and friends, their jobs, their careers.  I lost sleep and nothing more.  I was one of the lucky ones.

As a society, our country has failed.  We claim that all men are created equal, but we don’t practice it.  We claim to be forward thinking people, but we aren’t.  We claim to fight for the underdog, but we don’t do it.  In upcoming years, as a society, we’ll look back on the civil rights movement, the gay pride events, the right for women to vote, the hate-spewing Christianists, even the old-school Republican party, and wonder.  We’ll wonder what the real problem was.  We’ll wonder why we couldn’t accept now what will be normal in the future.

In the meantime, people will die.  People will die because this is a war.  Some people will die because they are bashed for being who they are.  Some people will die because they practiced who they are.  Some people will die because they cannot accept who they are.  The real tragedy is this war doesn’t have to exist.

http://ishouldbelaughing.blogspot.com/2012/12/another-one-josh-pacheco.html

Post # 23 Okay, Now I Get It!

In this blog, and another blog I used to write, plus my Facebook page, I wondered why the Christianist leaders and their followers (although not their followers so much since they are, after all, followers), anyway, I wondered why they were so virulently anti-gay marriage.  What harm was it doing to them if I chose to marry a man instead of a woman?  It wasn’t as though I was going to come into their home or place of worship and defecate on them.  I wasn’t even going to speak to them since they don’t know me and I don’t know them except by repute.  So, I was puzzled.

I reconnected with a good friend from college who has a good intellect and a mind with enough flexibility to provide good rhetorical argument while not getting personally involved to the point of hurt feeling.  In our spirited discussions, she said that she believed in providing the same legal rights and benefits to same-sex couples as to opposite-sex couples.  She just didn’t think it should be called marriage.  I’ve heard a variant of this argument before so I came back with the fact that in our country “separate but equal” doesn’t work and the very phrase indicates one side believing in its own superiority.  She agreed.  She wanted the word “marriage” stricken from the legal process that conferred the benefits.  She wanted it to be called something else, although she had no suggestions for what it should be called.  She said that way, marriage could only be sanctioned by those groups who used it to confer a religious meaning, while everyone could enjoy the benefits of a legal union without the sanction of religionists.  I told her I was going to have to think about that one for a while.

Now, I think I finally get it.

I have another close friend that I’ve known since almost the first day of high school.  She is very religious, very open-minded, loves me dearly, but has told me that she “believes in the biblical definition of marriage.”  She believes that God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman for eternity.  Initially, I was ready to write off a friendship of over forty years since in her mind I wasn’t worthy of the same rights and benefits that she believed she was.  The more I thought about it, though, the more difficult it became to reconcile my interpretation of what she was telling me with what I knew to be her feelings for me.

You see, a gay relationship is not all about phyical sex any more than a straight relationship is.  There are many people who would like to make us believe that so it will seem simplistic and easily managed.  When I was in South Korea working one time, one of my team members, a younger guy who I’d known for several months told me that he didn’t believe I was gay.  At most, he believed I was bisexual.  I asked him why he thought this, and he told me that he’d heard the way I talked about women and how attractive or beautiful that one was over the other one; and, he said, he’d seen the way I looked at women in South Korea and it didn’t look gay.  I had to laugh.  Partly, I was laughing because this was the same guy who told me that he’d always known I was gay because I pronounced all my words properly.  Mostly, I was laughing because he didn’t get what a gay person was all about.  So I told him that I can appreciate beauty wherever it was found whether it was male or female.  However, when I wanted to connect on an emotional level with another human being, I always chose a man, every time, for my entire life.  I told him that I’ve had many close friends of both sexes, but the people who have always “got” to me were men.  After that explanation, he agreed that I was probably gay.  And that’s what a same-sex relationship is about.  It’s not about the physicality of people involved, although that’s an important part of it.  It’s about the emotional level where two people connect.  It’s complicated in the same way that opposite-sex relationships are complicated.

So how do I manage to stay on close terms with a friend who believes that I shouldn’t be allowed the same benefits she should be allowed?  I finally realized that she wasn’t talking about legal aspects.  She was talking about religious aspects.  She said she believed in the biblical definition of marriage.  I figured out that I didn’t want her church’s blessing, or any religion’s blessing for any union I entered into.  What I wanted was all the legal rights and benefits accorded to any person in a legal, binding, committed relationship recognized by the government of this country.  I wasn’t asking for her form of marriage; I was asking for a legal union.

That’s when the first friend’s words made sense to me.  Let the religions keep marriage and all the spirituality that it signifies.  What is needed is a word to describe the purely legal definition that all citizens must enter regardless of the sex of the adults involved.   Once that legal state is reached, wherein all people are treated equally in the eyes of the law, then the question of marriage ceases to matter on a political level.  Those religions who choose to maintain the opposite-sex definition of marriage may do so without harming the legal rights anyone entering into the legal relationship.

As my college friend says, I don’t have the word for that relationship.  We can’t use marriage because that already belongs to the religionists.  We could use the word Union because that is what it is.  Would that catch on?  Every adult couple entering into a Union would then be afforded the same rights and benefits.  If the couple then chose to add a religion-sanctioned Marriage to their relationship that would be between them and their religion.

So!  What do you think?

Post # 22 And the Results are In!

I really hadn’t intended to stay and watch the returns.  I was going to go to bed early since I’d been up late last night.  I was going to wake up in the morning to find out how all the voting turned out.  I made the mistake of taking my Ipad into the bedroom.  I subscribe to too many news services.  I was told over a dozen times that Pres. Obama was re-elected.

The sense of relief I feel is almost overwhelming.  Plain and simple, this election was about my personal freedom.  It was about a bunch of relgious wingnuts trying to push their lifestyle onto and into the lives of all Americans.  It became, for them, a validation of their religious credo.

I’m happy to tell them they lost.

I was once one of them.  I was as rabid a Christianist as the best of them out there.  I was trying to hide my homosexuality.  I was trying to be not-gay.  I found that I couldn’t.  Being a Super Christian didn’t make the feelings go away.  It just made me very unhappy.  So I left it.  It would another twenty years before I could finally admit it to myself and learn to love myself.

I took away a lot of lessons from those days as uber-christian.  One of the most important was one from the Sermon on the Mount.  You may have heard of it.  It takes up a large section of the book of Matthew in the New Testament.  Someone asks Jesus how they should be praying.  He replies “When thou prayest, pray like this: . . . ” and he recites the Lord’s Prayer.  He was giving an example of the elements that are in a prayer.  One of those elements is  “forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  What he was saying was that the yardstick we use to offer forgiveness is the same yardstick that God will be using when he ask His forgiveness.  I don’t know about you, but I want that yardstick to stretch from one side of the Universe to the other for me because I have a lot to be forgiven.

The GOP allowed the rabid Christianists who have little understanding of the way forgiveness works to take over the election.  They seem to understand only judgement and condemnation.  Whatever it is they don’t agree with is simply wrong, brooks no discussion, and is thrown out.  Should they continue in this thinking, they may find their trip to Heaven will be short.

That’s what they wanted to do to the U.S.  They wanted to remake the country in their own shortsighted image because in their hubris they believed they knew what God wanted.  I’m absolutely thrilled that when it came time to be counted, the majority of the citizens of our country said they weren’t buying that.  They stood on the side of intelligence rather than intimidation.

So the results are in and it’s a good result.  But it doesn’t end there.  There’s still a lot of work to be done.  Time to roll up my sleeves and get it done.

Thanks for listening and have a good night!

Post # 21 I Want to Be Free

I live in the most free country on the planet.  My country was founded on the the freedom of individuals.  In my country, the benefit of the individual outweighs the benefit of the government.  In my country, I am free to be whatever I can make of myself.  In my country, I am free to make my own choices and live with them.

At least, I was free until the 2005.  Something happened that year.  It was a big event for me, although not so big for those friends and family who shared it with me.  I came out that year.  I announced to the world that I’m gay.

Now, I’m no longer free.  In my country, in the majority of states, I can be denied housing because of this.  In most states, I am not free to marry the person I love.  In most states, I can be fired from my job no matter how good I am at it or how long I’ve held it because of who I am.  In many states, I can be denied public assistance because I’m gay.  In many states, I can be turned away from hospitals and health care because of this.  I can also be denied seeing my partner if he’s in the hospital, and vice versa.  The list goes on.

It gets worse.  We’re in an election year.  There are many issues facing the country.  The economy is struggling.  The country’s reputation around the world is suffering.  Global warming is causing one natural disaster after another all over the planet.  Non-renewable energy sources are starting to dry up.  Families can no longer afford their houses.  Jobs are scarce.  And I want to get married.

I’ve said for years to anyone who will listen (and I’ve written it in this blog and others) that the American people have evovled into a two-party, single issue voter.  The majority of Americans will focus on that single issue that’s important to their set of circumstances and will choose the candidate from the two parties who will support their view on that issue.  It’s inevitable.  People are busy, and politics are complicated.  It’s difficult to stay on top of all issues and make informed decisions about everything.  It’s much easier to select the issue(s) that important to you and vote based on those.  For most people, it’s the economy.  They want job security.  They want jobs.  They want to be able to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads.  They will vote for whoever they believe will help them do that.

I want to be free.  I want to hold the same rights and benefits today that I did in 2002 when I was legally married.  I want the same rights and benefits guaranteed by the Constitution that are enjoyed by every other non-gay citizen of this country.  That’s my issue.

It also seems to be the issue of the Republican party, and it’s candidate, Mitt Romney.  Only for them, it’s the flip-side of the coin.  They want to work to deny me those rights.  They want to make certain that if they get into the White House next year that they do everything in their power to deny me those freedoms that I used to enjoy.  I watched the evolution of the party politics this election cycle with a grim fascination.

The impetus for this animosity comes from a group I call Christianists.  I can’t call them Christians because they don’t evidence the teachings of Christ.  I spent all my formative years studying the Bible and doing my best to deny my homosexuality and being the uber-Christian.  I know what Jesus taught.  I know what the New Testament says.  Christianists have either ignored it or forgotten it.

Christianists remind me of the scribes and pharisees in the New Testament, the ones Jesus called “Hypocites” and said “Woe unto you.”  They were the ones to whom he said, “You strain at a gnat, but swallow a camel.”  They were the ones who were so wrapped up in interpreting the law and what God meant, they were neglecting the very people they were supposed to be helping.  There’s a wonderful pic floating around the internet showing a huge, modern, expensive church building with the words How Does This? followed by another image of a destitute and hungry person with a hopeless look in they eyes with the words Help This?

Christianists are the first to judge what God wants based on their own microscopic world view.  Many of them are angry.  Many of them are hypocritical.  Many of them blame me for any natural disaster that comes along.   And they are the people who are telling the Republican party what their politics are and who to put into office.  And they are telling that man what to do when he is in office.  Mitt Romney signed NOM’s Marriage Pact when he was still campaigning for the nomination.  NOM is a political veneer for the most rabid of Christianists.

We’re only a few days away from the election.  I can only hope and pray and trust that it will come out okay.  If the Republican party gets into the White House, it will not go well for me or for the millions like me.