Thursday, July 17, 2008

Family Values

Another Right Wing Republican has been caught with his pants down with another man. Its getting to be old news. And yes, this guy was another hypocrite who has been blaming the homosexuals for everything wrong with America.

The guy's name is Troy King. He is Alabama's Attorney General and many thought he was a likely front-runner for governor in 2010. When I first heard the name I assumed he grew up on Troy Street and his first dog's name was King. Or vice versa. Or however it is you figure out someone's porn name.

The sordid details can be found at a variety of sites reporting the news:

The basic story is that Troy King's wife came home and caught him in flagrante delicto in their marital bed with a young man, apparently an aide. King has been quoted as saying homosexuality is the "downfall of society". He has worked tirelessly to outlaw sex toys. Apparently "male aides" are not "sex toys". King was head of McCain's leadership committee in Alabama, and suddenly all references to King have been wiped clean from the McCain campaign's website.

If the bare bones of the story sound familiar its probably because we get this story so regularly, only the names change: Ted Haggard, Larry Craig, Mark Foley, Jim West, and the granddaddy of all of them, Roy Cohn.

Meanwhile Martin and I just returned from the Rainbow Families-Great Lakes (RFGL) Family Week.

Eighty Families come together to play and learn. Most important, the kids have a chance to just have fun with other families that look like theirs. Kids of gay parents learn early that its OK to be different, and that families come in all shapes and sizes. Being different can be both a blessing and a curse, and it is pretty special to these families to have a week without the stress of adapting to society's norms.

These families have often had to live a part of their family life in the closet: in order to get an adoption authorized, or to get custody of a child, or get decent housing, or get a school to help their children. The satisfaction of their family life is in direct proportion to how openly they can lead their lives.

For one week these families can truly live a family life out of the closet.

It is a joy to behold.

Like most gay folk I lived a period of my life in the closet. And like most gay folk I would do all sorts of things to deny what I knew to be true about myself.

And it was miserable.

It almost makes me feel sorry for right-wing closet cases. Almost. However in many cases these folks denial of their sexuality is literally killing people. Because they have more power than the average gay-guy-in-the-closet they can kill AIDS education programs, prevent needle exchange programs, create roadblocks for safe-school programs, outlaw second-parent adoptions, and generally screw up parental rights. Their political actions give bullies power in the schools and comfort perpetrators of hate crimes.

Perhaps we need to start a special camp for closeted right wing nut cases. I envision seminars on "dealing with your inner demons", and "finding appropriate sex partners", and the most important one, "Coming Out 101".

Good Luck, Troy.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day Musings

July 4th 1981 was my “Coming Out Day”. As it turns out the actual date was rather arbitrary. I had been coming out to friends for several months, and it would be years until I came out to my parents.

But I was ready to come out to most of my world, and it seemed like an appropriate date. Just the NAME of the holiday seemed right…Independence Day.

Coming out was indeed liberating.

Even more important to me was the association of the day to Thomas Jefferson. No, he was not gay. I wish. This was the day of the publication of the Declaration of Independence, largely created by TJ. There were a lot of philosophers at the time writing about human rights and democracy. The rallying cry in France was “Life, Liberty, and Equality".

But TJ made a subtle but important change in the rallying cry, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”.

That small change changes everything.

You can argue all day about homosexuality being nature or nurture. Our founding document does not care. Whether you were born gay, became gay, or, yes, even “chose to be gay”, the only way you will be happy is to be able to express yourself. And Thomas Jefferson says that I have that INALIENABLE RIGHT.

Take that you conservative pundits.

I would like to claim Jefferson as part of my liberal beliefs. And when I was a young radical in the 60’s I claimed him as part of my heritage. And my conservative-leaning father claimed him as part of his political heritage. And folks MUCH more conservative than my dad point to his State’s Rights views to justify some very conservative views. In fact earlier today GWB invoked Jefferson to justify “the spread of democracy” to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Part of Jefferson’s genius was that he often wrote about big universal ideas. If the ideas are big enough, a wide variety of folks can claim them. This incredibly diverse country has suffered and thrived from the ambiguity of our founders.

On the surface I am so-o-o-o sure I am right in all of my opinions. When I dig deeper I have come to believe that there is strength in ambiguity.

Kurt Vonnegut commented once on the strange eye-on-the-pyramid on our money, and mottos in Latin even though it is a dead language, and a National Anthem that is near gibberish, sprinkled with commas and question marks. He said, “It is as if a nation were saying to its people, ‘In Nonsense is Strength’”.

I long for the day that queer folk are legally afforded life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In the meantime I fear the forces that have given us DOMA, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and a legion of state constitutional amendments that legalize homophobia and discrimination. In that climate I embrace the ambiguity of Jefferson, and the absurdism of Vonnegut.

Happy Fourth of go pursue some Happiness!