Sunday, December 21, 2008

As Always, the Smartest Person in the Room.

What's interesting about this to me is that you see how unknowledgeable Obama is about so-called LGBT issues, which mirrors I think the American people's state of familiarity with them. It's a strange sort of half knowing that maybe (to them) feels more complete than it is because of the massive influx of gay and lesbian images in pop culture with Will & Grace, The L Word, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and other miscellaneous homosexuals on reality shows and commercials, etc. in the last 10 years. Not to mention everyone's favorite homosexual, the one who started the conversation, Ellen. I think people are much less afraid than they were 10 years ago, but they're still pretty uncomfortable with homosexuality unless it's entertainment.

This Rick Warren thing really throws it into the light. The gay community is all like "But I thought you loved us! I thought you understood," and Obama is like, "I do!" and we're like, "Apparently not."

And maybe I'm gonna be hugely wrong on this in the end, we'll see, but I still think it's the wrong approach to compare the homosexual struggle to the civil rights movement. Of course there are parallels, but I think the argument's persuasive power is too limited. Because gay rights is about sexuality rather than ethnicity, it's a different row to hoe. The conversation requires a comfort with talking about sex that most Americans just don't have. The Rick Warren-type 3rd grade schoolyard arguments against homosexual relationships -- "people aren't made that way," "the parts don't fit," etc., the so-called plumbing argument -- are impossible to refute without having a fairly graphic discussion of body parts and sexual behavior. I think most people feel such intense discomfort with the subject matter, a discomfort that I think a lot of people aren't even aware of or wouldn't acknowledge, that they are literally unable to have that conversation, to learn the stuff you need to learn in order to understand that homosexual desire is just as natural as heterosexual desire. I think what most people want to be assured of is that it's natural. It's a steeper learning curve than the race stuff, and it's unreasonable to expect Obama to be anywhere other than where he is with it.

It's so clear, when you look at a mixed race couple, to see what a simple, glaring injustice it is to deny them the right to be together in the exact same way we allow non-mixed couples to be together. The argument against mixed-race couples falls apart when you look more closely at the idea of race. The argument is based on the idea that the races shouldn't mix, but that's ridiculous because of course they already have. Each of us is already a great mixture. So you can't argue that there's some fundamental biological difference between, for example, a white man and a white woman marrying and a white man and a black woman marrying. But two men together, two women together, does present something biologically different than a heterosexual couple. Not that it's not natural or right or good, not that they necessarily shouldn't be encouraged to emulate heterosexual relationships, but it's a different argument to make.

Am I missing something?

4 comments:

ep said...

OK, no disrespect to anyone who is up in arms about this, but...I just don't find this to be such a huge mistake on Obama's part. I think the media is trying to make news and the "gay community" is feeling touchy.

It's not my experience, but here are two different, more important (to me) questions.

1. Why does there have to be any religious ceremony at the inauguration? What about the separation of church and state?

2. Why, when talking about homosexuality does sex have to come into it at all? I think our still mostly puritan nation is so hung up on sex that we, neither gay nor straight, can get past the sex when we try to speak about anything. Can't you be gay-oriented and not "practicing?" There are plenty of straight folks not in a relationship or having sex. I think this is a great hurdle in perspective.

My hope is that Obama can ensure that all people are treated equally in this country, no matter how they like their bread buttered.

Steven said...

I totally agree about religion in civic ceremonies, but that's a whole 'nother fight.

Regarding #2, I see your point, but I can't imagine how to talk about sexual orientation without talking about sex. At least for me, what it comes down to is that I'm sexually attracted to men. I think there are lots of different ways in which people experience or live that orientation, but they all get lumped into a category called "gay," and the only thing as far as I can tell that is consistent is same-sex desire. Desire is the essence of it, so you have to talk about it.

The equal treatment argument is tricky when it comes to marriage. The fundamentalists will say that homosexuals are equally free to leave behind their sinful desires and marry someone of the opposite sex, that homosexual desire is not an immutable characteristic but a sinful desire just like coveting your neighbor's wife or wanting to fondle children. It makes logical sense, if that's what you believe.

ep said...

I guess women try so hard (naively) to be seen as something beyond sexual - as intelligent, strong, resourceful, etc. - that I want us to be able to see beyond sex. But that's a different fight, too.

I don't want to be in anyone else's bedroom, so I try to look beyond, but you're right, who we desire is a huge part of who we are.

Your last paragraph about equal treatment reminds me of math class where I was shown a formula that was correct, logical, but still made absolutely no sense to me in a real world sort of way. Why I'm an artist, I guess, and not a mathematician. Or accountant, even.

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