Saturday, December 20, 2008

Questions of Equality

lightuprights I'm going to be out of town tomorrow (my niece's birthday!), but I promised myself I would do my teensy-tiny part to help make sure Prop 8 will never happen again. To be honest, this blog and my writing is really the only voice I've got. It may be small, but it's the best I've got.

Thus far, I have only been listening. I've been trying to understand why people were so vehemently opposed to gay marriage. I have been trying to learn what I can do to help. I have just been listening.

That's what writers do best, I think.

The results? The people who "don't really care" just sort of say there are no rights being violated, and when you bring up examples, they just shake their head and say that gay partners have all the rights they want, except the right to call themselves a marriage. (As if that weren't enough.) No facts really change their mind about this, which sort of boggles my mind. It's like they erase a fact from their brain as soon as you mention it.

They also feel that because they wouldn't engage in gay sex, they won't vote for it. Not that they care either way, you understand.

image And then there are others who say they need to "just say no" for the "sake of America," and "draw a line for morality." From talking to them, I don't think they are actually realizing that gay rights involves real people with real feelings who are actually love each other.

They forget what a beautiful thing love is.

I was listening to someone spout this intolerance, and I couldn't convince him that it's just love. No matter what I said, he, too, just mentally erased my words. He lost a lot of respect from me that day, and it was actually really sad.

I wish I had some powerful words that would sway someone. I don't. I'm at the point where I feel all I can do is listen, and try to keep the conversation alive. Sometimes, though, I feel talking about it makes them more vehemently attached to their intolerance. Probably it would help if I were a lesbian, if I could show them I'm as normal a human being as anyone else. (I'm quite arguably not, LOL.)

I don't know.

Throughout history, whenever humans have taken away or denied someone's rights, they've just not seen those people as people like them.

One of my readers wrote me last week and said that before I'd written a story about the Amish, they hadn't seen them as real people. 

That's our gift, I guess. As storytellers, we get to help people walk in someone else's shoes. We get a chance to make people come alive for others, to help them understand someone they maybe don't understand. Understanding leads to acceptance, one hopes.

Thoughts? May I listen to your thoughts on the issue? And is it possible to open a mind that is closed? How? Why is it such a strong part of human nature to segregate, to separate, to sort people into groups, to say "I am this way and not this way, and therefore I am better?" Why is it human nature, that once we find what makes us happy, many of us want to force those beliefs on others? Why can't we just let ourselves all be different, and respect that?

Here's the candle I won't be able to light tomorrow night:

15 bonus scribbles:

Rick 12/20/2008 12:31:00 AM  

Well, Spy, once again you've caused me to think. I'd like say that I understand the whole thing, but I don't. So I'll just listen and learn.

Robin 12/20/2008 08:35:00 AM  

I think you've hit on the unfortunate main roadblock. People who are intolerant on the subject aren't likely to be swayed by conversation. They feel they're upholding some sort of righteous banner, and protecting others from the decadent deterioration of society. It would be like the Arabs trying to convince the Crusaders to go home and leave everyone the f' alone.

I live in a very conservative area, and some of my friends are quietly judgmental. My best friend is gay, and she visited me, and we went to dinner with my friends from the area. Everyone saw how cool and great she was, and how much I love her. I think that real life example was the best thing for swaying people, who aren't likely to be moved by verbal argument.

This issue really bums me out. I wish it were a non issue, and we'd just let people live and love in peace.

kathulhu 12/20/2008 10:06:00 AM  

The thing that drives me nuts is when the Christian conservative starts spouting off about how gay marriage will ruin the family value system.

My response, "Ummm...ok, like straight people haven't degraded family values since the idea of marriage was invented?" What is adultry or child abuse but degredation of family values? Srlsly???

I say give gay people a chance!!! Here is a group of people that actually WANT to be married out of love, not out of some sense of religious duty or because the woman got pregnant or because it's a good tax break.

Lauren 12/20/2008 10:21:00 AM  

A legal marriage is a vehicle for all kinds of rights, as you point out Spy.

In many more conservative religions a civil ceremony doesn't cut it and you have to be married in the church or you are still "living in sin" and not, by their definition.

The thing that makes me mad is most people who are against gay marriage follow the above belief. So why do they care if the state calls it a marriage if they wouldn't recognize said marriage anyways? I want to shake them and say "Just don't let them get married in your church and then it's not a 'proper' marriage by your definition anyways, they still get the rights of the legal state marriage and everyone is happy."

Edie 12/20/2008 10:59:00 AM  

I'd vote for gay marriage, and so would my husband. My husband thinks it's not about prejudices as much as money. If they're not legally married, insurance companies don't have to cover spouses of gay people. And there's pensions, social security, military benefits.

Those are just a few things that most spouses in gay marriages are legally denied and heterosexual couples take for granted.

Have fun at the birthday party!

Stephen Parrish 12/20/2008 11:35:00 AM  

Equal rights for all, including gays, is an idea whose time has come. We only need continue arguing the point. Nice post, Spy.

LaDonna 12/20/2008 12:30:00 PM  

Spy, I read somewhere that the biggest failure in the human race is the selfish need to be right! It's what starts wars, and separates people. When a person feels they're right and everyone else who doesn't share those views is wrong, well it's insane imo. Eventually, "circles" clump into a group mentality, and that grows into a dis-ease. I'm aware my thoughts are mine, and I respect others' thoughts as well. There's no right or wrong way, just your way!

I wholeheartedly support people's right to marry whomever they wish. What right does anyone have to take that away? Intolerance is at the top of my, whaaaat? list.

On a note, I had two ladies knock on my door this a.m. They gave me a leaflet from a relious organization that believes only X-amount of people are going to Heaven. My response? Happy holiday! LOL. It totally rolled off my back, cause it's their way not mine and it's okay.

Melanie Avila 12/20/2008 12:59:00 PM  

Spy, this post made me think of another type of relationship that was illegal for a long time - interracial marriages. I realized there's a world of difference between the two, but there are still groups that think it's a sin. When I think of how many interracial couples I know, myself included, I'm amazed at how different our world would be if it weren't allowed. It seems absurd to many people that race could be a factor, so why is it ok to judge based on what's between a person's legs?

Robin 12/20/2008 01:37:00 PM  

It made me sick to my stomach that on my own street, three neighbors had yes on Prop 8 signs in their front yards. What happened to all people are created equal? Human beings are human beings. Period. No one's rights should be violated ever, no matter who they are. I don't get how people can be so narrow-minded, so mean and unkind, so judgmental. But like you said, having a dialogue on the subject is difficult. Thanks for talking about it in a heartfelt, encouraging way. I truly hope one day it's no longer an issue.

Stewart Sternberg 12/20/2008 03:55:00 PM  

I am not sure why people have such difficulty with gay marriage. I recently spoke to someone who said that they voted for the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Michigan because they thought gay marriage was a threat to marriage, to their understanding of marriage.

"Really? So what, you're husband is going to run and leave you for a gay man?"

"No."

"Then how is gay marriage a threat to the institution of marriage?"

There's no good answer other than to fall back on a strangely interpreted relious one.

I always consider people who oppose homosexuals as being guilty of tremendous egoism.

colbymarshall 12/20/2008 10:57:00 PM  

I'm afraid most people I know of who believe these rights should be denied to people who are gay are very unlikely to change their minds. I, however, and like you and believe that love is love. If we are truly going to call ourselves a country with freedom of religion and separation of church and state, then we must have it.

It is obvious to me, most of the time, that people who are against gay marriage haven’t yet had any real friends who are gay…sure, they might know Aunt Liz’s cousin, or some guy who works in my office is gay, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about true friends, who you care about their happiness and get to know them as people outside of their sexual orientation. If you kept and open mind and got to know them as you would anyone else, you’d learn like I have learned that gay or straight, love is love…and people are people.

Robin 12/20/2008 11:09:00 PM  

Yay, Colby! I like the way you said that!

mom2brie,  12/20/2008 11:20:00 PM  

I think equal rights will eventually come, at least I hope so. I've always said, it is hard enough to find happiness in this world, why would I want to make it any more difficult for someone?

On a side note, Brie woke up from her nap and said "Downstairs ... people!" and I said, "I'm sorry honey, everyone had to leave. It's just you, me, and Daddy now." She very, very sadly said, "Ba-bye people!" She LOVED playing with you!!!!! :-)

Sarah Laurenson 12/21/2008 02:10:00 AM  

My wife and I want to stay married. We want the legalization of gay marriage nationwide, but we're having to focus right now on keeping what we have. And the supporters of Prop 8 have finally fessed up that they're going to try and nullify the 18,000 marriages that were performed between June and November. They filed for this on Dec 19th.

Jerry Brown, our Attorney General who is supposed to be enforcing the state laws, has decided he cannot enforce Prop 8. So we now have Ken Starr coming in to argue the case for Prop 8. Not sure whether to cheer for that since he did such an interesting job with the Clinton impeachment. You can read about all of this here.

We're still keeping the option open of leaving this state. We like being married. We want to stay married. We'd rather not be forcibly divorced. Against our will. Through no action of our own.

Just think what it means that a slim majority vote can strip you of your rights any time they want to. That's what precedent they are trying to set here. You live in a state where the majority doesn't like something you're doing even though you have the legal right to? Well, they can vote to take that right away from you. And you may not be able to stop them.

Angie 12/21/2008 09:05:00 AM  

I think you hit on it -- a lot of people have a way of life, a philosophy, a world view which works for them and which they think is "RIGHT" and so they want everyone else to believe what they believe and live the way they live because they think it's best and therefore everyone should do it.

There's an inherent assumption in there that everyone is like them, and that if all these stubborn strangers would only open their eyes and really see this great lifestyle or philosophy or world view, they'd understand that yes, it's the best, and would go along, and everyone would be the same.

But if these bigoted people are assuming that everyone is basically like them, then they're assuming that people who have different lifestyles or philosophies or world views will also try to persuade or force other people to be like them. So they're not just fighting against other people's right to be accepted as gay; in their own mind they're fighting for their own right not to be gay.

To address what Lauren said, about why religious conservatives can't just have their own church refuse to perform marriages on whomever it deems unworthy and let the state perform marriages for anyone who can legally marry, an important point in the pro-8 campaign was the idea that if 8 didn't pass, churches would be forced to perform gay marriages or would lose their tax-exempt status. Another point was that if 8 didn't pass, public schools would be "teaching" students to be gay. Both of which were lies, of course, but they were very effective.

People who think it's right to stick their nose in other people's business just assume that other people will interfere in theirs. So the idea that the gays would try to force their lifestyle on people who didn't want it fell on extremely fertile ground. The religious conservatives do their best to persuade everyone within their reach to enter into a het marriage, so of course they're ready to believe that gay people will be trying to persuade everyone withing their reach to enter into a gay marriage. If you're an evangelical Christian, it's all about recruiting, and they assume everyone else tries to recruit too.

About how to combat it, I agree that just talking to people won't help. They don't listen, they don't hear -- what you say clashes with their world view and so it doesn't penetrate past the eardrums. :/ Having more and more gay people be out and visible -- not necessarily flamboyant or swishing, unless that's what they're into, but just not hiding that their partner is of the same sex -- is probably the best long-term strategy. Like Robin said, when they get to know someone who's a cool person and a human being, someone they wouldn't mind knowing or working with or living next door to, who just happens to be gay, that makes it a real issue about real individual people, rather than just a fight over paper ideas.

Angie