Monday, June 11, 2012

An open letter to the non-allies in my life

Again, my posts are few and far between. But this one opens with an image!

Today I wanted to re-post this Colbert quote on Facebook (with some commentary):

But I didn't, for the same reason I don't post much potentially controversial stuff to Facebook. I feared that regardless of what commentary I added, it would be taken as simply an attack or a dismissal, and ignored. What I actually want is to gently prod and perhaps give an opening for discussion to those for whom it is most relevant. And yes, that's mainly you, Mom and Dad, but to varying degrees my brothers, college friends, and people from my hometown. So I remembered that I had this blog, and decided that it would be an excellent medium for further commentary, since it's longer-form, and is more of a read-at-will thing and less in-your-face than just a Facebook post.

So for starters, the quote in text form, since image macros are kind of obnoxious. Steven Colbert to Neil Patrick Harris, openly gay actor/singer/dancer with a husband and two adorable kids:

You are also the biggest threat of all: you're a gay person I like. Your threat is that you make being gay not seem threatening. It's almost as if your happiness does not take my happiness away.
The reason this quote was so striking to me is that it very closely resembles remarks that I have personally heard on multiple occasions. There are two specifically that come to mind. One is the general unhappiness about Glee featuring gay characters, which I wrote about (in a less discussable and more exasperated form) two years ago.

But more pointedly, it reminds me of what my parents told me when I was planning on living in an apartment with Aaron, a gay floormate, my junior year of college. I distinctly remember being told (hedged and perhaps hesitantly, but clearly) that living with a gay person would cloud my judgement, that it would make it harder to separate the sinner from the sin, that it would make me more accepting of that lifestyle. Which is pretty much exactly what Colbert is poking at here. At the time, I was already pretty skeptical of Christianity's opposition to homosexuality, and I may have even rebutted with something like, "You mean it makes gay people seem like people?". But here we are, four years later, and I still told my parents they didn't have to come to my most recent PGMC concert because it was explicitly about being gay, and they were uncomfortable with parts of the Christmas concert.

And guess I wish I had more to say here. I can't really say much, because I can't argue with religion-based convictions that leave no room for compromise. As long as it comes down to "scripture says" and differing interpretations are precluded from the start, I can't really add anything to the discussion.

But if you're someone who knows and cares about me, even if that's despite my liberal views, I suppose I would just say this: this "issue" of homosexuality isn't just a theological precept for me. It's an operative, life-based conviction. In the past few years, the number of people I know and love that are gay and other shades of queer has only grown, and yes, your fears (and Colbert's mock fears) have come to glorious reality. It has become nothing less than absurd to me to think that Jwo and Ryan's tenth anniversary should be less worthy of celebrating just because they're both men. And it is disturbing and hurtful to me that people close to me oppose such unions. Especially when their reasons, one way or another, come down to a particular interpretation of words that were written over two thousand years ago.

I know I can't really say anything, especially in a blog post, to budge most people's convictions. But at least know that my status as an ally of and advocate for those who are gay is not because I just swallow up whatever the liberals tell me, or because I feel the need to rebel against my upbringing, or because I no longer value my faith. My advocacy is a direct result of getting to know a wide variety of gay people - as well as many loving, frighteningly intelligent people who are also allies - and finding that gay people are people who want to be able to have their love and relationships recognized and accepted and celebrated, just like the rest of us.

And I know there may be all kinds of defensive reasons you have that they're different, but I'm pretty sure I've heard them all at this point, and I'd love to discuss any one of them with you. Because I've unvaryingly found that when you realize that gay people are sincere, loving, unassuming people like you and I, those reasons end up falling far short of justifying any non-trivial distinction between gay relationships from straight ones. And when those reasons are used to exclude, dismiss, fire, shame, suppress, or simply ignore people that I love, it hurts. Especially when those doing the excluding are also people I love. So I'd be glad to talk more about all of this with any of you, because I truly believe that, even within your faith and your politics, there is no reason you should have to continue standing against the people that I know and love.

Additional note: The thing I desperately do not want is for comments here to be used to try to argue or convince. I will perhaps try to clarify and offer my perspective (as per the last paragraph), but I firmly believe that disproving or changing minds solely via comments is futile.