Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"Just Who Do We Think We Are?": Real People with Real Lives Affected (Really!) by Marriage Equality

Every time something like this happens, somebody says we have to have a conversation about race. We talk a lot about race. There’s no shortcut. And we don’t need more talk.  (Loud applause.)
~ President Obama eulogizing Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 26 June 2015  

Two days ago, I took the unusual step of blocking someone in my Facebook feed, who was not even a Facebook friend of mine. I could, however, see her comments on the feed of mutual Facebook friends of ours. Here's why I blocked her: as the venom poured forth in Catholic and other "Christian" circles following Obergefell, our mutual Facebook friend said something lik the following: "Friends, as you vent about this Supreme Court ruling and talk about how it affects you, please remember that it affects me, too. And that I'm a real human being whose life is radically involved in this court ruling, which gives me great joy." This man is, by the way, like the person I've just blocked, a church-going, very committed Catholic.

The response of the person I blocked: "Gosh, thank you for pointing that out. It had honestly never occurred to me to look at it this way. I've been thinking that the best place to stand is in the middle and listen to both sides. Now I'm going to have to think about what that position means to you."

And so here's why I blocked this person, who's a Catholic blogger — why I don't ever want to have to see anything she writes, ever again, if I can help it. She and I had a set-to several years ago about this very issue. When she stated proudly in some Catholic venue that she's just a centrist, darn it, when all is said and done, and she loves to stand in the middle and try to listen to "both sides," I pushed back.

I pointed out that pretending to stand in the middle while people are being denied rights and abused is really standing with the abusers. I pointed out that people who are in the middle of the fray, as people strugging for their rights and recognition of their humanity have no choice except to be, don't have the luxury of pretending that they're above it all, objective, uncommitted, picking and choosing the best from "both sides." And then she started blocking my comments about this on her blog.  And she emailed me to tell me that, as an employee of a Catholic institution, she can't stand publicly with LGBT folks, even though her blog proudly proclaims that, as a faithful Catholic, she's offering good bread anyone in the whole world who's hungry. 

Bread. Not stones.

As President Obama is vis-a-vis "conversations" about race, I'm tired of the pretend-talking that takes place among centrist, "objective," above-it-all Christians when the subject is how LGBT people are being treated by the Christian community. I'm tired of the pretense of centrists that we who are LGBT aren't even in the room as these "conversations" are being carried out, and that we have nothing to say to those definining our identity without inviting us into these identity-defining "conversations."

I'm tired of the pretense that these "conversations" aren't really about impeding the forward movement of church and society in the matter of LGBT rights, in the matter of recognizing the full humanity of those who are gay. I'm also tired of the pretense that this cannot-stand-with-you response on the part of centrist Catholics is in any way adequately Catholic.

It simply is not, because it assumes that your life is over there, the shining rule and norm, and mine over here, the failure to meet your shining rule and norm.

Here are some first-hand testimonies from out gay folks commenting on Obergefell and how it affects their lives and will affect other lives, which have moved me lately. First, my friend Alan McCornick responding to Justice John Roberts's fatuous question in his statement of dissent last Friday, "Just who do we think we are?":

I speak as a person who grew up gay in homophobic America. To this day I have members of my own biological family who believe their duty to their God requires that they not recognize my relationship with my husband. It took me the first several decades of my life to rid myself of the sense of wretchedness that comes with family rejection. Some people manage to spot the arbitrariness of religious interpretation, hang on to their religion and still get out from under the homophobia of the churches they belong to, usually quite by accident of birth. I had to shake off religious doctrine as a mark of provincialism and lack of familiarity with the richness of life before I was able entirely to make that great leap into freedom and dignity. 
We live in communities. It's not enough for most people to know what’s right and do it regardless of the consequences. Most of us need approval of our family, friends and peers. But like many LGBT people who have lived in a hostile home, I have come to understand in the marrow of my bones that my right to human dignity is absolute. Those who would have me buy into the view that I am "fundamentally flawed" or "intrinsically disordered" – the second of those two ways of putting it comes from the pope of the Catholics himself – are just plain wrong. Dead wrong. Cruelly wrong. people are incapable of undermining and subverting entrenched institutional injustices.

There's just who Alan McCornick, one thoughtful, intelligent gay man affected by last Friday's decision thinks he is, Justice Roberts. Since you're Catholic, I assume you'll be listening carefully, since the very essence of what it means to be Catholic is to recognize that his life connects to your life. And Catholic blogger lady whom I've just blocked at Facebook so I don't have to read your comments any more: since you wouldn't listen several years ago when I made this very same point to you, perhaps you'll listen to Alan now, since you've just told our mutual Catholic friend on Facebook that you've had the sudden revelation that all these conversations are about real lives!

Here's Frank Bruni in New York Times about how the Supreme Court decision was ultimately about the worth of some human lives: 

Tomorrow's 12-year-old won’t feel the foreboding that yesterday's did. Tomorrow's 16-year-old will be less likely to confront, sort through and reject so many sad stereotypes of what it means to be gay or lesbian. 
There won't be so many apologies and explanations for the 20-year-old, 30-year-old or 45-year-old, and there won't be such a ready acceptance of limits. There won't be the same limits, period. 
And that's because the Supreme Court's decision wasn't simply about weddings. It was about worth. From the highest of this nation's perches, in the most authoritative of this nation's voices, a majority of justices told a minority of Americans that they're normal and that they belong — fully, joyously and with cake.

Finally, Glenn Greenwald on how, when all  is said and done, it was the growing recognition of many Americans that their LGBT family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers are human just as they are human which made Obergefell possible: 

Still, that the Supreme Court has now ruled that the Constitution bars discrimination even in marriage laws is a remarkable development for a country that has for centuries imposed untold ostracization, misery and legal punishment on its citizens for the crime of being gay. It demonstrates that real political change typically comes from citizens, not leaders. It highlights how difficult it is to demonize and Otherize people when they’re not invisible. And it exposes the myth of defeatism: that people are incapable of undermining and subverting entrenched institutional injustices.

It boggles my mind that some Christians, some Catholics included, continue to think that they can adequately define Christianity (or Catholicism) without recognizing the full humanity of LGBT people. And that they can ethically and with integrity continue carrying on endless "conversations" about these matters as they pretend that they — the well-born members of the Christian community, the heterosexual ones — are the only people in the room, and the only people whose voices matter.

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