Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday Miscellany

Excellent statement by John Aravosis today on why the Rick Warren controversy can’t be allowed just to go away. Because questions of rights can’t be allowed just to go away.

We didn’t let that happen with the rights of people of color, or of women. Why should we allow it to happen with the rights of gay human beings? Or is it that we regard gay people as less human than other groups of human beings? As “negotiable,” to use John Aravosis’s term:

In bad news, no, the Rick Warren controversy has not run its course. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I hear the non-gay majority in this country give their view on "diversity," the more incensed I get. There aren't two views on civil rights, unless you mean the right view and the wrong view, the moral view and the immoral view. Obama knows the difference. Obama has lectured his own community on the difference. But now that he's seeking to curry political favor with the bigoted evangelicals, suddenly civil rights is just another policy debate with multiple legitimate points of views. Suddenly, when the color changes to gay, civil rights become relative and humanity negotiable. They aren't (

Be sure to notice the picture John Aravosis appends to this statement. It’s part of his argument.

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Speaking of pictures, the one accompanying this posting is that infamous picture taken on my 56th birthday. With Steve and my nephew Patrick. The one that popped up on my work computer mysteriously after it had been taken. (The tuxes were required dress for the faculty banquet that happened to fall on my birthday.) When I realized that the circulation of this picture was a statement that someone with the capability of (or authority for) manipulating the computer network at this workplace wanted to make, I decided to help him or her along.

I emailed the picture to the leadership team of the campus, thanking them for their hospitality to my nephew in the week he visited me and the campus. When people want to smear, lie, and oppress, it often helps to take the very symbols they are using to accomplish those evil goals, and put those symbols right back in their face.

It helps to force them to own the symbols, to acknowledge the evil intent they have in circulating the symbols. It is an act of political defiance to make oppressors “eat” their oppressive symbols. In this case, to call out those trying to use a birthday picture of my nephew, life partner, and me as some indicator of a sexually abusive relationship between an uncle and his nephew—to call them to own the evil that they were doing.

In such situations, the shame is not on the heads of those targeted: it is on the heads of those trying to shame gay people by claiming that to be gay is to be a pedophile. This should not be going on in 21st-century America—especially not at a church-owned university, particularly one serving a community (the African-American community) that has historically known how soul-ravaging such slanderous attempts to stereotype can be.

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It has occurred to me several times this month that, though the anniversary of my father’s death on 13 December in 1969 came and went, I did not make mention of it. As I do make mention of other anniversaries of death in my family . . . .

As I have thought about my reluctance to engage this memory, it occurs to me that there is clearly still need for healing in my relationship to my father—in my relationship to what I remember of my father, that is, since our relationship to those who have died shifts to commemoration after their deaths.

It is a deep wound, to be repudiated by a parent because one is gay. This is a wound that far too many young people have to endure. My prayer as Christmas nears is that fewer of us will inflict such wounds on the generations ahead of us.

This is why it is important to teach, to challenge lies such as the gay = pedophile lie. If nothing else, the malicious ignorance of those who equate being gay with being a pedophile needs to be exposed constantly, to prevent adults who cling to such ignorance from inflicting pain on young people they perceive as gay, simply because those adults happen to believe nonsense about what it means to be a gay person.

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And finally, a note of thanks to Wayne Besen for linking to Bilgrimage this week at his Truth Wins Out blog. I have long admired Wayne Besen and the work he does to challenge the lies of the ex-gay movement. In my view, few movements in American religious life have more importance than the movement to stop the lying of the religious right about gay people in its tracks—and to stop the damage being done to gay psyches and gay lives in the name of God. Wayne Besen is at the forefront of this movement, and deserves our support.