Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Man Needs a Woman... Like a Swallow Needs A Scooter?

Last week was a very gay week for me. Over the weekend, I had a lengthy debate with a friend about homosexuality. Then my wife and I watched the latest episode of "30 Days," which focused on a woman vehemently opposed to gays adopting children living with two gay men and their four adopted children for a month.

The common realization in both is that beliefs about sexuality are tar babies (I use that in the sticky wicket sense, not the racial slur sense). I'm like the blissfully naive gay couple in the TV show, who sincerely believed if someone could just witness them -- their devotion to their adopted children, their love for one another that wasn't at all sleazy or bathhouse-inspired -- it would force a shift in prejudiced attitudes. But these beliefs rarely seem as malleable as we'd like to think they are.

The studies showing that homosexuality is linked to biology and genetics are piling up higher every year. Although there might be cultural or environmental factors, certain people are simply more inclined to be gay than others. To me these studies are simply confirming what I've anecdotally witnessed my whole life.

My friend disagrees. His argument is this, basically: (a) if it's hot and wet and you stick your dick in it, you will get off, so it's really a choice of which hot and wet places you find acceptable and which ones you don't. But it's a choice, regardless. And (b) just because studies show that some people are genetically inclined to find 7-year-olds sexually exciting doesn't make sex with children an acceptable lifestyle choice. We expect those people to either adjust themselves to our laws or suffer serious consequences. So why do we want to make it socially acceptable for one unnatural act and not another?

Considering that I don't get aroused at the thought of mounting a sheep, or at pictures of sheered sheep, or at videos of sheep doing it, and considering I don't get aroused looking at naked men, or the thought of a naked man mounting me or me him, or by watching naked men do it in any way, and considering that I get quite easily aroused when looking at an attractive woman in any number of stages of undress, and most definitely at the thought of sexual exploits with them... it doesn't feel much like a choice to me. (Not that, um, I look at pictures of women and stuff.)

I mostly think that "any hole will do" theory works only in prison or on deserted islands. But hell, even alone on that island Tom Hanks didn't try and rape Wilson. Or maybe they cut that part out of the final version.

An acquaintance of mine is most decidedly heterosexual by choice. Or, to put it another way, he's gay and in the closet. Let's call him Foster.

He in his 40s and has never been in a serious relationship. He will end his years on this earth as a single male, because the only choices in his mind are between Heaven & Hell. Foster could admit his homosexuality to himself, if not the rest of the planet, but to give that possibility any real estate in his thoughts would be sinful. So Foster will never know the love of a relationship based on sex and intimacy.

Maybe some people can joke to themselves, "What a lucky guy," 'cuz you think about all the crap and baggage we deal with in our intimate relationships. Just like Mariah Carey can talk about starving Somalians and say, "I'd love to be that thin, but not with all those flies and everything."

I'm calling him Foster because he is living an adopted life, a lie he hopes will keep his place in Heaven safe. Fortunately, he is so fanatically religious that sacrificing intimacy for his entire life isn't so bad. It's the much lesser of two evils, in his mind. A no-brainer.

But. If all we need, sexually speaking, is some place warm and damp and snug, then it would seem Foster has chosen the worst of all options. He has limited himself to warm locations in which he has no genuine interest. It's like me going to a Hummer dealer to buy parts for my scooter. And, when I realize they have no parts for my scooter, I just resign myself to not buying any scooter parts. Ever.

Except this is sex and intimacy. Which makes it a whole lot more fucking depressing than scooter parts.

Last week just made me kinda sad, because although gay rights are starting to make inroads, and progress is moving along slowly but surely, there are barriers that simply cannot be overcome in the perceptions of others. Most of them are religious, but not all. And although I used to believe that gay rights would be to the early 21st Century what civil rights were to the last 50 years, I'm starting to think gay rights won't get nearly the groundswell of protest or support, and the opposition won't fade into the shadows in quite the same fashion.

Some beliefs are so powerfully instilled in people that no amount of heartstring-tugging or anecdotal convincing or scientific research can sway them. We are a stubborn civilization in that regard, and it makes me sad.

"Closet" is from Pete Yorn's debut album Musicforthemorningafter. "Tony" is from Patty Griffin's rawkin' second album Flaming Red. "Rough Boys" is from Pete Townshend's 1980 album Empty Glass. The first two are available on iTunes or Amazon.com's mp3 site. "Rough Boys" is available only on iTunes.

Other songs I thought about but didn't include:

  • Michael - Franz Ferdinand

  • Mama I'm Strange - Melissa Etheridge

  • Androgynous - Crash Test Dummies

  • Androgyny - Garbage

Others that actually were hits:

  • I Kissed a Girl - Jill Sobule

  • We Are the Champions - Queen

  • Lola - The Kinks

  • Freedom - George Michael

  • Stand By Your Man - Lyle Lovett

  • Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover - Sophie B. Hawkins

  • Relax - Frankie Goes to Hollywood


Bob said...

According to some anthropologists, monogamy is an "unnatural act," so I don't think that thinking gets at the issue. It's easy to oppose the gay lifestyle when you are a church-sanctioned hetero, to critique outside the norm when you are in the norm, so to suggest that it's a "hole choice," not an innate desire seems unfair.

I will admit, though, that I am bothered by how our societal age restrictions don't seem to apply in the gay community. If you're 16 and gay, you are probably even less equipped to have an adult sexual relationship that a hetereosexual teenager, simply because of all the extra pressures on you.

Daytimerush said...

Oh, such a large amount of food for thought. I want to have a face to face, vodka to beer chat with your friend.

jbradburn said...

I don't think it's fair to lump the gay rights movement into the same category as the civil rights movement.

For the majority of those who fall into the category, there was no way to get around being "black" - no closet they could go into or come out of.

I think this is clearly a case where society will become more accepting of the lifestyles that cause the controversey become more accepted. I don't think they face a lot of workplace, loan or even living arrangement discriminations as the African American community did.

I don't think you'll ever see the adoption issue die until every qualified Heterosexual couple that wants children can have them. Their are other predisposed conditions that would prevent one from adoption -and I think, well, this may just be one of they give up to live the life they want to live.

jennifer said...

This would have been the ideal time for me to post a link to a webpage on the history of the gay rights movement that a classmate and I put together for one of our College of Ed classes. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to work anymore.

To refute jbradburn's comment about not facing as many discriminations, all I can say is hell, yes, they did. Maybe not in the same numbers as African Americans, but for decades homosexuals were asked to leave the military, the federal government, teaching positions, and probably plenty of other jobs.

The way Reagan and other conservatives let the ball drop on AIDS education and publicity in the '80s is completely disgusting and disturbing.

Before Stonewall and After Stonewall are pretty good documentaries to watch that tell the history of discrimination and the struggle of the gay rights movement.

Movement leaders and organizers have borrowed much of their strategy and tactics from the Civil Rights movement. It's a part of US History that obviously gets left out of many classrooms. My students know it's one of my touchy subjects whenever they say anything negative or closeminded about gays.

OK. Getting off my soapbox!

Billy said...

To me, the Civil Rights movement and the gay rights movement are like Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium. They're not the same ballpark, but to most folks, they're both still ballparks in the same city. (Yes, I drank a beer right before I wrote that.)

I think gay rights is a tougher concept for even many rational people to accept, especially when notions like "transgendered" and "bisexual" get added to the mix, muddying the water. I also don't quite think the persecution of gays quite compares to the lynchings, burnings, enslavements, and everything else that makes up 200 years of racism. I'm not minimizing the struggle gays have gone through and continue to; I'm just sayin'.

This whole thing is just a sad reminder to me that, simple as it sounds, we really can't all just get along.

jbradburn said...

"To refute jbradburn's comment about not facing as many discriminations, all I can say is hell, yes, they did. "

No, they did not. They weren't forced to sit in the back of buses, they weren't forced to drink out of seperate water fountains, they weren't hassled at the polls like many blacks were, they weren't lynched for looking at white women, they were allowed to attend public universities and high schools.

It ain't like comparing Yankee Stadium to Schea, it's like comparing Yankee Stadium to a minor league ballpark. This isn't meant to downplay the discrimination they faced, but rather a different between a large scale gov't enforced discrimination (albeit often at a local level) and day to day discrimination that several groups battle.

jennifer said...

Touché. And I didn't intend to downplay the discrimination that African Americans faced and continue to face today. As a social studies teacher, I try to emphasize the social construction of race, gender, and class, so I tend to get fired up for any group of people that I feel is getting a raw deal.

Suffering is not really a good subject to do comparative analysis with anyway, right?