Monday, September 28, 2009

Like the Women I See on their 30th Anniversaries

Has anyone else ever noticed that those who oppose gay marriage in an effort to supposedly "defend" marriage usually end up demeaning and cheapening marriage? To prevent gay couples from marrying, they have to create a definition of marriage that excludes same sex couples and justify that exclusive definition. In the process, I've noticed a tendency to make marriage sound very shallow.

For example, how many times have you heard someone say that marriage is for procreation? They don't mean sex, because gay couples have sex, they mean birthing children. Really? So you two got married because you wanted to create offspring? That's the reason? Don't get me wrong, I think it is a very noble thing to have children, but if that is the only reason for marriage, then why don't we arrange marriages or treat them like business arrangements? Can you imagine? "Your a good looking person, let's get married and have children because I bet we'd have good children." In fact, why even have sex? Let's just use invitro technology. Since that's the purpose of marriage after all- it's just to get pregnant.

Here's another example. Marriage is between a man and a woman because that's what's good for society. Really? You two got married because you thought it would improve society. How selfless! (cough, and arrogant). Ok then, let's revert back to the time when that was correct. It will be good for society if these two political families are united. Let's make their kids marry each other. You know what? I want my posterity to inherit a lot of property. They'd do good things with it- they'd give generously to charity. I'll have my daughter marry a Huntsman.

I'm sorry, but when you're at a fancy dinner celebrating someone's 30th wedding anniversary, you're not talking about how good their marriage is for society or how wonderful it was that they were able to conceive lots of children. You don't talk about how great it was that they obeyed their mission president and got married to fulfil the commandments. Why? Because that's not what marriage really is. If that was marriage, then marriage is cheap, and frankly it ought to be destroyed.

What do you talk about at the anniversary? You talk about their love. You talk about their relationship. You talk about the vows they made to each other. You talk about how remarkable and admirable it is that they've been faithful to their vows. You talk about the children they've raised and the accomplishments of those children. You make a joke about what they can do now their children are out of the house. Wink wink. Because that's what marriage really is. That's the stuff of substance--of value. And because you know that you can't in good concious deny that to gay couples--because you know they are capable of having all that stuff of substance, you have to take it out of marriage to exclude them, and that is not defending marriage. It is demeaning it.

For the Mormons, the sin is twice as bad. They have two additional things of substance to add to the definition of marriage, and to take it away from their definition so they can exclude gay couples is shameful. For the Latter-day Saint, marriage is also about beautiful covenants and a supposedly infinite, awesome power to seal that has been given to man by God. There is no reason gay couples can't make the same covenants, nor is there a reason that the sealing power couldn't be extended to them. It's what makes families formed by adoption in the Church every bit as significant as those formed through sexual conception. In theory it really is beautiful. To say that two men can't be sealed by that power is to limit and to therefore demean that power. To say that marriage isn't about covenants and sealing power, for a Latter-day Saint, is really to not understand marriage, and that demeans it.

How much better off would the institution of marriage be if the evangelical were to proclaim, "Marriage is about companionship and family. I love my wife. She is the world to me, and I can't imagine a world without her. Likewise I love the children we've raised. They're good kids. I've learned more from them than they've learned from me. That's why I support gay marriage. I want everyone who can find it to experience this love, this commitment, this family, this marriage."? How much better off would the institution of marriage be if the Mormon were to declare, "I married my wife because I love her and because I want to be with her forever. We've taught our children to make covenants and be faithful to them because we know that the companionship, dedication, and love that we learn in families make us closer to and more like God. That's why we support gay marriage. We want everyone who can find someone to love to be able to become like God through the sacrifices and blessings of marriage and parenthood. We don't think that man was meant to be alone, and we believe that man should have joy. Marriage has brought us joy, and we believe it can bring them joy too."?

I hope the world where I can hear those proclamations is not too far away.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

We are Driving this Float Down Main, in this Pride Parade

“When I first realized I was gay,” Austin interjected, “I just assumed I would hide it and be miserable for the rest of my life. But then I said, ‘O.K., wait, I don’t want to hide this and be miserable my whole life.’ ”

I asked him how old he was when he made that decision.

“Eleven,” he said.

Coming Out in Middle School, By BENOIT DENIZET-LEWIS; New York Times, September 23, 2009
This is a fascinating read. I remember when I came out to my sister when she was a sophomore in high school and I was in college. She told me about all her friends who were out of the closet--there were tons. And she knew who liked who and who was still closeted etc. It was no big deal to her. Gay teens were part of her world, and it shocked me.

My high school world was so different. We didn't have a GSA until my senior year. We had the day of silence, but all the gay friends I have from high school that are gay were in the closet until college with only two exceptions. That was just 5 or 6 years ago. And now we not only have teens coming out in high school, they're coming out in junior high. Even at BYU--the freshman "moho's" seem so much better off than I was. As a BYU freshman, I sought out Evergreen for help. I just met a new BYU freshman who was looking to meet other moho's. He had sought out the Utah Pride Center for help.

How different would my life be if I had been born 5 or 6 or 10 years later? I knew that I was gay when I was 11. Would I have been able to decide that I didn't want to keep it a secret if I had been 11 in 2009? Would I have had exposure to healthy same sex relationships and sexual behavior? Instead of hiding a huge burden and struggling to figure out my sexual identity in secret and without healthy input, would I have been able to date guys and get advice from my parents and go to dances with people I was attracted to? I did some horrible things as a child because I didn't know how to go about my sexuality in healthy ways. Would that have still happened if I had been born in 2000 and grew up seeing married gay couples?

As I look back on what eventually did help me come out of the closet, the Internet played the biggest role by far. Blogging introduced me to people who were like me and it revealed "Romulus" and "Remus" who were my childhood friends. They helped me come to terms with my sexuality and become healthy--but only because I found their blogs. There were other things that did help--those few in high school that were out, the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts, and the issues I resolved on my mission. But more than anything, it was the blogs on the Internet.

And it's those same things that have created this new generation of gay teens. Social networking sites have shattered our walls of privacy and secrecy. Blogs have informed us. Youtube has empowered us. The Internet has created a new era in sexual identity.

I hope that this new generation of gays will not forget or take for granted those that went before. Because despite the enabling Internet, the fact is we couldn't be out and proud and safe today if it weren't for those who were out and proud when it wasn't safe. We owe a great deal to the heroes of Stonewall who fought back and stood up for themselves. We owe a great deal to heroes of hollywood who showed the world it's ok to be gay. We owe a great deal to the heroes of politics who fought, protested, lobbied, campaigned, and voted for equality. There was a time, when being gay meant being persecuted, and in so many parts of the world, that time is still going on. Let's not forget it as we celebrate the joys of this new generation of gay.