Why the Fuss?
(About Same Sex Marriage)
(written Nov. 2003)
HJ 56: Marriage Amendment
(written July 2003)
The So-Called Defense of Marriage Amendment
(written July 2001)
When you want to know something, it makes sense to ask someone who has been there, doesn't it?
If you want to know about computer programming, you ask a computer programmer, not a cook.
If you want to know about medicine, you ask a doctor, not an accountant.
If you want to know what it was like to be black in Chicago in the 1960s, you ask a black person who was there. They are the only ones with the life experience to really answer your question.
A white woman from Colorado who was born in 1970 can't really answer you, even if she is a sociologist who has studied the period. She wasn't there. With the best intentions in the world, all she can tell you is what other people have said.
Similarly, if you want to know what it's like to be a parent, you ask people who have raised children, not people who haven't.
The experience of each person will be different, of course. But if you ask enough, you may notice certain similarities. There are common threads and perceptions that seem to hold true for most of the people who have the experience.
For instance, in the case of the parents, you will probably find that most of the people whose children are now more than twenty years old found parenting teenagers to be very difficult. Not everyone, of course. There will always be the odd parent who tells you, "Ryan was no problem in his teens. It was a breeze."
But the vast majority of the parents are likely to tell you that it was one of the most trying and arduous things they have ever attempted.
And, of course, you believe them. After all, they ought to know, right? If you don't have the experience yourself, you might make up all kinds of reasons (accurate or not) for the difficulty, but you don't tell them that they are all lying.
But what if you read an article written by some people who never had children, never even taught school, and probably didn't remember their own childhood. And what if that article said the parents were all lying, and raising teens was simple?
Would you then point to the isolated cases of people who didn't have trouble with their teenagers, and say, "Why, the study is right! See, these three people out of the thousands didn't have any problems! All the rest must be lying."
And yet, many people do exactly that when told that being gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgendered is not a choice.
The only people who can really tell you what it's like to be g/l/b/t are g/l/b/t people. We are the only ones who have the life experience. We are the only ones who have been there.
And yet, no matter how often we explain that we never chose, many won't believe us.
Many prefer to believe people who not are not gay, and therefore have no first hand knowledge of what it is like. When these people say it's a choice, even though they cannot actually know what they are talking about, people believe them!
Many point to the very few who claim that, for them, it was a choice, and decry the vast majority of us for lying.
I find that incredible.
Why would people believe those who have no experience of something, instead of people who live the experience every day of their lives?
There must be a reason.
I have come to the conclusion that people don't believe us because they simply don't want to.
If people accepted it when we told them we didn't choose our sexual orientation and we cannot change it, they would have to rethink some of their most cherished beliefs.
For one thing, it would follow that since homosexuality is not an illness (1), not a form of rebellion, and not a political statement we are not deliberately eschewing social norms. That most of us are actually not that different from most of them. That the things many of us value most are the very same things many of them value most.
This is, in fact, true.
The only thing that all homosexuals have in common is that we are attracted to members of our own sex. (Well, that and the prejudice we face, of course.)
All heterosexual people are attracted to members of the opposite sex. Does that similarity make all of them exactly the same kind of people? Of course not.
In just that way, there is infinite variety among us. We don't have a common "lifestyle." Pretending we do is just an attempt to marginalize us, and make us less than we are.
We represent all lifestyles. We are rich and poor, white and black, Republican and Democrat, Christian and atheist, barflies and teetotalers. We are highly educated and high school dropouts. We listen only to classical music, and only to rap. We are young and old and middle aged. We are partnered and single. We are plumbers and doctors and artists and lawyers and gardeners and rocket scientists. We are everything that everyone else is.
If people believed the truth we tell about our lives, they would have to act on this belief.
Knowing that we are simply like this, and even brain damage or lobotomy cannot change our sexual orientation, they would have to stop treating us like subhumans.
They would no longer be able to deny us the right to have a job, or live in the home we chose. They would no longer be able to deny us the right to raise children, to serve in the Armed Forces, or to enter their churches. They would no longer be able to deny us the right to marry the person we love, and want to spend the rest of our life with.
To do so, for something that we didn't chose and cannot change, is plainly preposterous.
If they believed us, then those who believe that God made everything would have to come to the conclusion that, for whatever reason, he made us like this.
And that is way too much for some. Believing that, they would have to widen their narrow interpretation of their Bibles. Believing that, they would have to let their God out of the little box they have put him in, and acknowledge that he is not what they thought, but something larger.
If people believed the simple truth that we didn't choose this, and we cannot change it, they wouldn't be able to make millions of dollars from a futile and often harmful therapy that has been denounced by all major health and mental health organizations. (2)
It would mean that the leaders of the organizations that advocate these dangerous therapies would no longer be able to frighten and manipulate thousands of people by waving the specter of the horrible homosexual in front of them. You know, the immoral monster who is going to rape your young boys and convert them to this damned and sinful lifestyle, and who must therefore be stopped at all costs.
If people believed our life experiences when we tell them that we were born like this, and no one converted us; if they believed us, and all the mental health professionals who have studied us, when we assure them that sexual orientation is unchanging, then they would realize they have no reason to fear.
Sexual orientation cannot be changed.
Gay people cannot become heterosexuals.
Heterosexuals cannot become gay.
It works both ways.
If your child is gay, it's because he or she was born that way. It isn't your failing, or theirs, and it's not anything that anyone did. It simply is. There is no reason for blame or punishment.
But all that change is too much for some people.
They would prefer to believe the lie, and so they fight to keep us at arms length. That is more comfortable for them.
And of course their comfort is more important than our lives.
For some people.
1. Virtually all reputable medical and social organizations have agreed that homosexuality is not a mental illness. NARTH is not reputable. Read "Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation & Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators and School Personnel" prepared by a number of professional organizations, and available on the American Psychological Association site. Return to Text
2. Most mental health organizations oppose so called "reparative therapy," because it doesn't work, and can be very harmful. Read the Position Statement from the American Psychiatric Association. Return to Text