Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A different perspective

This was recently posted on the Gay Christian Network. (and reprinted here with permission)
It is my understanding that a marriage license simply acknowledges and recognizes a commitment 2 people have made to each other. It recognizes what already is. Just like a government birth certificate or death certificate does. A government birth certificate doesn't give someone permission to be born; it legally recognizes that someone has been born. A government death certificate doesn't give somebody permission to die; it legally acknowledges that someone has already died.

. . .

This is what gay people are fighting for. They want their marriages, their commitments to be legally recognized so they can enjoy the same legal protections and rights and privileges that their heterosexual counter parts do. They want legal protection for their marriages.
This really helps to put it into perspective for me. Gay couples are not out trying to push an agenda. I'm sure there are some in the GLBT community who have some sort of agenda - but so do some on the Christian right.

I believe most gay couples simply want their union legally recognized so that they can have the same legal rights as heterosexually married couples - rights that married couples often take for granted, such as both parents being legal guardians of their children, being able to make medical decisions if their spouse is incapacitated, legal residency if one member is not a US citizen.

Gay couples aren't trying to indoctrinate school children or put religious clergy in jail for expressing opposing views. They are not out trying to destroy the sanctity of marriage. Quite the opposite - they want to celebrate the sanctity of marriage in their own relationships.

I get it!

Now ... how can I convince others to 'get it'? How can I convince straight people to look past their natural heterosexual aversion to gay intimacy? ... And, is it possible to do this without 'outing' myself in the process?

11 comments:

MoHoHawaii said...

Check out this post by one of the bloggernacle's most original thinkers. She does a great job of explaining this "describe-don't-prescribe" view of government documentation.

Bravone said...

Abe,thanks for sharing this perspective. "They want their marriages, their commitments to be legally recognized so they can enjoy the same legal protections and rights and privileges that their heterosexual counter parts do." I know this is the case with my friends in California.

I don't have a good answer to your questions.

Philip said...

Abe: How can I convince straight people to look past their natural heterosexual aversion to gay intimacy?

Of course, by intimacy you are referring only to the kind of behavior that is appropriate for straight couples in public such as holding hands or kissing goodbye.

Your post reminded me of a PFLAG Mom who told me how uncomfortable she would get when her gay son and partner would hold hands or kiss. She told me it took a while but one day she saw them holding hands and she saw a couple just like every other couple. She was still uncomfortable but not as much as before and soon her uncomfortableness went away and she reacted no differently to her son and his partner then she did to her straight children and their partners.

I guess all you have to do is give the straight person in question permission to be uncomfortable, to look the other way if need be and take whatever time they need to get over their aversion.

But they also have to be motivated to change and willing to be uncomfortable for a litle while until they can see the real person behind the taboo.

But let's not let gay people off the hook.

I think way too many gay people are squeamish about same sex intimacy and need to do the same thing straight people need to do to get over it.

It's really just intimacy and gay people have to stop seeing it as different before they can convince others.

Regards,
Philip

Philip said...

There is something else I would like to ask...

Are those posting comfortable or uncomfortable with displays of gay intimacy in front of children?

By intimacy here I am referring to the type of behavior straight couples display in public that is considered totally appropriate in front of children.

I suspect a lot of this marriage controversy centers around how straight people feel about children being around gay people. That allowing gay people to marry opens that door to children being exposed to gay people.

What I am trying to say is that I think there are several levels of uncomfortableness here.

I think even a lot of gay people that are comfortable with gay displays of affection in front of adults are uncomfortable if there are children around.

I am sure this is true.

I guess gay/straight people have to first get comfortable with gay intimacy in an adult setting then get comfortable with displays of gay intimacy in front of children.

Sounds like we have our work cut out for us.

Regards,
Philip

Abelard Enigma said...

Are those posting comfortable or uncomfortable with displays of gay intimacy in front of children?

I think any intimate behavior, that is appropriate in front of children, with a heterosexual couple should also be appropriate for a homosexual couple.

But, you do hit on a good point. For many, just seeing two men walking down the street holding hands would be repulsive and offensive. Some might even claim that they are 'pushing their homosexuality down the throats of others'.

Personally, I don't like seeing a couple kiss in public. But, I accept it because it is considered socially acceptable behavior. Although, in truth, I don't know how I might react to a gay couple kissing in public as I've never witnessed it in person.

Perhaps desensitizing the population is the answer - but that will take time.

Scott said...

I agree that there shouldn't be any distinction between what's appropriate in public (or in front of children) for gays and what's appropriate for straights.

That said, I'm sure that I have a different reaction to one than the other... It's not so much a matter of comfort level as it is of familiarity, I think. Seeing a straight couple kissing is no big deal--you see it all the time. Seeing a couple of guys kissing is unusual, and it's going to grab my attention and stand out in my memory no matter how comfortable I am with it.

Given the proportions of straights to gays, I'm not sure that that particular aspect of it will ever change. Even if/when society gets to the point where gay public displays of affection are considered normal and completely acceptable, they'll still be outnumbered by straight PDAs 10 to 1, and they'll still be somewhat novel.

robert said...

well said. wish you would post this on northern lights. the views are pretty one sided over there.

Alan said...

Americans are so culturally insular sometimes it drives me nuts. But I have also learned to be patient with it.

I served a mission in a country where it was normal, routine behavior for friends of the same gender to hold hands in public. Both sexes. The first time a bishop took my hand while we walked home after church I nearly freaked. But I had the self-discipline not to pull away (don't laugh, that's really what it was) because I didn't want to offend him and I recognized that he was showing some innocent affection in a way that was totally accepted in his culture.

Cultures vary widely in how they accept displays of affection between two people of the same sex. The U.S. just happens to be one of the most up-tight and paranoid about it. I think militant confrontational tactics by the gay community have backfired in this respect, producing less tolerance for even the most innocent bits of public affection by two guys or girls.

I agree with Scott that any expression of affection that's publicly acceptable should be so regardless of the gender of the two people involved. Doesn't bother me in the slightest. But that's because I've lived and traveled in places where I've seen that such things are possible while remaining totally innocent. Most Americans are so subliminally acculturated to the "ick" factor created by their own culture of the moment that they think it's a natural and eternal principle to react that way, they don't realize it's purely a cultural construct.

That assumption is what will have to be overcome first. People all across the Kinsey scale need to realize and really accept that tasteful, respectful, publicly acceptable expressions of non-sexual affection make everybody feel good, regardless of the genders involved, that tolerance goes both ways, and that seeing a kiss by a couple that doesn't match your own gender demographic doesn't threaten you in the least. Straight, gay, shouldn't matter. We should be happy to see two people showing that they care about each other.

Philip said...

alan: "Most Americans are so subliminally acculturated to the "ick" factor created by their own culture of the moment that they think it's a natural and eternal principle to react that way, they don't realize it's purely a cultural construct."

Thank you, thank you.

It's not that it's unnatural. It's that our society has made it a taboo. And taboos can be unlearned given a little time and motivation.

Regards,
Philip

C. L. Hanson said...

Another point of confusion for Americans comes from the strange custom of having religious ministers be (automatically) deputized to sign the legal, civil marriage certificate. In many countries, you do the legal paperwork at City Hall, then if you can have your marriage solemnized by your religion if you like afterwards.

Imagine the country had no civil birth certificates, and instead people used baptism or christening certificates as legal proof of birth (to get a passport, etc.). Then non-religious people that the churches deemed unworthy to participate in religious ceremonies would find their kids in legal limbo, unable to get legal documentation.

That's essentially what's happening with gay marriage: The churches think that because they decide who can get married in the eyes of their church, and because their sacred/holy ceremony -- crazily enough -- doubles as a legal ceremony, they naturally think they should be allowed to make sweeping decisions in the public spehere about who gets issued legal documents and who doesn't. I hope this whole issue will motivate Americans to finally follow other countries' lead and revise their marriage laws to separate the holy part of the ceremony from the profane/legal part.

p.s. Thanks to MoHoHawaii for the compliment, and I'm indebted to Sabayon' footnote (another gay Mormon blog that you don't even have on your list! ;^) ) for reminding me of this point.

Ron Schow said...

Different patterns of showing affection in public can exist in different cultures and in different families. A couple of years ago I was attending a concert at a concert hall at the University of Utah. One of our current apostles was there because one of his children was singing in the choir that was performing. I was seated close behind him in the hall. While waiting for the performance to begin, two men came in whereupon the apostle stood, greeted them warmly and kissed both of them on the lips. Based on their age and the fact that they then were seated with the family, I assume one was a son and one a grandson. Some families kiss on the lips, even between same genders. In fact, I witnessed that this is true in the family of one of our apostles.