Category Archives: homosexuality

a wish for a safe world

My son is gay. 8th-grade boys who are happily and comfortably out of the closet are pretty rare, so he serves as a sort of unofficial model for the kids at school, demonstrating for them daily by his mere existence that being gay is just another way of being human and nothing to get upset or angry about.

In large part because of my son’s openness at school and the (relative) lack of negativity he’s received from kids or adults, a friend of his (let’s call him C) decided it would be safe for him to come out, too.  One huge difference between them is the fact that C’s dad is extremely homophobic; but he figured his dad would be angry at first and then get over it.

So, C came out, at school and at home.

And his dad left.

I don’t mean he left the room — he left the house. He left his marriage. He left his family.

When this happened, C tried to “fix” the situation by recanting on his admission. No, he said, I’m not gay after all. I don’t know what came over me.

And his dad came back.

But it didn’t last long. C had tasted the freedom of being his authentic self. Of being able to talk freely to my son and his other friends about who he is and who he likes and what he wants from life. After a few days, C came back out at home.

And his dad left.

Apparently his dad isn’t planning to return to his home as long as he has a gay son living there. Of course, I don’t know what the parents’ marital status was before this; maybe it was shaky anyway, and he was looking for an excuse to leave. But I can’t pull together the words to describe how tragic I consider this situation.

A bright, handsome, talented young man will carry with him the rest of his life the conviction that he caused the breakup of his family.

A husband and father is so overwhelmed by hatred and disgust for something that he won’t even try to understand, that he rejects his own son and, by association, his wife and other children.

The other family members must try to cope and sort out their own thoughts and emotions, as they’re pulled in opposite directions by people they love.

I do not — cannot — understand the father’s actions. I want to go to the mother and beg her to support her son and love him no matter what. I want to offer the boy refuge.

I want the world to be safe for my son, and for C, and for the countless GBLT boys and girls who are sitting in middle school (or high school, or college) today and concentrating not on their classes, but on how to tell their families and friends their most private secret so they can finally, finally be themselves.

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an abundance of unkindness

Last night at dinner, my kids were talking about school and some of their teachers. My son said, “Mr. Jock [not his real name] keeps doing something really annoying.”

And what might that be?

“When two guys are wrestling around in the hall or something, Mr. Jock will ask them if they’re going out. Or he’ll call them girls — like, ‘Girls, are you coming to class?'”

Mr. Jock apparently makes such comments fairly often. Homophobic words litter his everyday speech.

His — and a lot of other people’s.

Teenagers have taken to using the word “gay” as slang for something stupid or ridiculous. Don’t like a movie? “It was really gay!” Think a kid at school is doing something goofy? “He’s so gay!”

I can fix that behavior within the confines of my house. My daughter’s ex-boyfriend learned to eliminate the negative “gay” figure of speech pretty quickly. Now we’re working on the new boyfriend.

But I can’t fix the behavior of my son’s teachers, and the other students, and all the people he’ll encounter for the rest of his life, who will speak and behave in ways that are bigoted and hurtful. Many of them will do so unconsciously, reflecting the way they were raised and taught. Others will do so very much on purpose.

And we live in relatively enlightened times! I’m frightened enough for my son as he faces the rest of his teen years and then adulthood. What must it have been like for parents of GBLT youth 20 years ago, or 50? It gives me some slight inkling of what it must be like to parent a child who’s a member of racial minority, even today. How did mothers and fathers bear to let their children leave the house in the days before Civil Rights brought at least partial sanity to our society?

For our gay youth, there is still very little sanity in the United States. Hate speech of the kind that is no longer tolerated when it refers to skin color is commonplace when it refers to sexuality. GBLT people can’t talk openly about their relationships or hold hands with their partners on public streets without risking verbal or physical violence. Prop 8 and similar laws around the country remind them that regardless of the strength of their love, many people consider their relationships “wrong” and unworthy of cementing with a marital bond (unless, like some dear friends of ours plan to do over Christmas, they travel to one of the few enlightened places that allow gays and lesbians to wed).

I love my son more than I can possibly express. I want to be able to ensure that his every moment is filled with happiness, love, and sunshine. But I can’t. I’m helpless even to ensure him a hate-free environment at school — we decided that it’s better not to try to address Mr. Jock’s behavior, lest fallout come back on my son; and my daughter has warned her brother that although the high school he’ll attend next year is a relatively GBLT-friendly environment, he’ll face plenty of unthinking insensitivity there, too.

All parents want their children to experience the very best that life has to offer. In the United States, all parents want to tell their children that they live in the land of equality and freedom. But some of us have to tell our children that as much as we love them, and as great as our country is, life for them will not be equal and free; instead they’ll encounter venom and hatred and disgust, not because of who they are but because of who they love.

No mother should have to say that to her son. It isn’t fair to either of us. And it makes me very, very angry.

another closet door forced open

https://i0.wp.com/cuboidal.org/photos/2004/08/08/IMG_6207-medium.jpgAnother Republican politician has been caught trying to entertain his natural impulses. Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) was arrested in June after making signals to an undercover police officer in the adjoining stall of the Minneapolis airport restroom. The police had received complaints about sexual activity in said restroom and were investigating. The following is from the breaking report filed yesterday by Roll Call:

Airport police previously had made numerous arrests in the men’s restroom of the Northstar Crossing in the Lindbergh Terminal in connection with sexual activity.

[Officer] Karsnia entered the bathroom at noon that day and about 13 minutes after taking a seat in a stall, he stated he could see “an older white male with grey hair standing outside my stall.”

… Craig then entered the stall next to Karsnia’s and placed his roller bag against the front of the stall door.“My experience has shown that individuals engaging in lewd conduct use their bags to block the view from the front of their stall,” Karsnia stated in his report. “From my seated position, I could observe the shoes and ankles of Craig seated to the left of me.”

… “At 1216 hours, Craig tapped his right foot. I recognized this as a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct. Craig tapped his toes several times and moved his foot closer to my foot. I moved my foot up and down slowly. While this was occurring, the male in the stall to my right was still present. I could hear several unknown persons in the restroom that appeared to use the restroom for its intended use. The presence of others did not seem to deter Craig as he moved his right foot so that it touched the side of my left foot which was within my stall area,” the report states.

Craig then proceeded to swipe his hand under the stall divider several times …

Despite his claims that it was all a misunderstanding (perhaps he was just asking the guy in the next stall to hand him some toilet paper?), Craig has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.

He has also resigned as co-chairman of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign; he has yet to determine whether he’ll run for relection.

There have been past investigations into and questions about Sen. Craig’s sexual orientation, and he has denied participating in homosexual activity. According to this long article, “In an interview on May 14, Craig told the Idaho Statesman he’d never engaged in sex with a man or solicited sex with a man.” Given that he’s apparently well-versed in the nonverbal restroom behavior that will hook you up with something quick and dirty, I’d say he was lying.

But who can blame him? He’s a Republican in an extremely conservative state. He’s married and has three children and nine grandchildren. He’s held public office since 1974 and has been in the Senate since 1990. He was born in a time and a place where homosexuality would have been utterly condemned by friends and family. Despite the fact that he’s almost certainly recognized his homosexuality since childhood, he would have rigorously denied it and made every effort to live the “normal,” heterosexual, God-fearing, Republican life expected of a member of his family and his community.

Craig’s family owns a ranch, which his grandfather originally homesteaded in 1899. I wonder whether he saw Brokeback Mountain. I wonder what he thought, deep in his heart, of those men and the inestimably sad and frustrating course they were forced to take to avoid the condemnation of society. All too probably, he thought something along the lines of “That’s exactly why I got married and made myself have sex with a woman I didn’t desire and have kept this dark and terrible part of myself hidden from sight.” I’m sure he hates his sexuality, which he cannot change, no matter what all those preachers say; it’s part of him, an indestructable part of who he is, and yet it defies everything he was taught growing up and all the sexual mores of the people with whom he identifies most strongly.

But despite that element of self hatred, despite his marriage and his undoubted love for his family, despite his knowledge of the myriad risks, when his sexuality screamed in his head and his desire for release overwhelmed his thoughts, he went looking for a man to make it all better, at least for a little while. Once the fire was damped he could hide again in his closet of denial until the next time desire came calling too loudly to resist.

How unspeakably sad that this man could not be, from the beginning of his life, the person he really is. He’s worked tirelessly on adoption issues in the Senate; if only he had been able to make a loving home life with a male partner, adopting children to form a family. If only his sexuality hadn’t stood in the way of family acceptance and a political career.

I hear stories like this one, over and over again, and I remain amazed that so many people in our country continue to deny the legitimacy of homosexuality as a state of being. How many thousands — millions — of Americans remain in their self-imposed closets, fearful of admitting their truth and losing everything in a wave of revulsion and hatred? How many are risking their health, their families, and their careers each day as they find shadowed ways to meet the physical and emotional needs that overwhelm them?

Why can’t we let these people live honest, happy lives?

Why do we care who they love?