Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Abraham Lincoln & Proposition 8

So the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8.

Somehow, I can't seem to get too excited about it. Sure, it's a setback for marriage equality, but so what? Those two words roll off my tongue with the flavor of inevitability; not quite there, but close. Almost all of New England has adopted it. Iowa, for God's sake, has adopted it. Every time a new state gets it, it's harder to take it away. And 18,000 same-sex couples in California are still married.

How absurd is that?

Not only that, but the demographics of this country are changing. I participate in occasional LGBT panels at the university, and at a recent panel on media for a journalism class, the students were asked how many of them had a gay friend or family member. Every single one of them raised their hand. Granted, the University of Oregon is no bastion of conservatism, but still – the Young Republicans is still a viable organization on campus.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "Am I not destroying my enemies, when I make friends of them?"

I love that quote. When I destroy my enemy by making him my friend, I also destroy my enemy's enemy. We both win.

Obtaining marriage equality for the nation is a matter of time. It's a matter of being out and proud. And it's a matter of civil discourse. I signed onto BRO's campaign to repeal Measure 36 here in Oregon, and fully intend to do all I can to move marriage equality forward.

I intend to be mindful about how I do it, though. The folks who voted for Prop. 8 and Measure 36 are our neighbors. The votes they cast were acts of conscience, fear, and/or ignorance; they were not, for the most part, acts of bigotry. Many of these votes were cast because the people who did it honestly believe that they are protecting their own family; that gay marriage really would somehow – spiritually, I guess – damage or destroy society. These are the acts of people motivated by love – and, I believe, in most cases, perhaps all, fear.

So I would ask that we speak to the opponents of marriage equality with respect. That we honor their dedication to their children, and to the code that they hold dear. That we honor their conscience, and their right to vote according to it. I would also ask that we do not motivate our actions out of fear, or anger, but love. I would ask that we do not take their words out of context, or lie. We do not need to lie; ours is an ethical and honest position. Leave the lies to them. And make no expectation that befriending them will change their minds. We have no hope of changing votes of conscience; and votes of fear or ignorance will fall by the wayside as we demonstrate to those who are ignorant of us our love, our respect, our compassion, and our integrity – as we ensure that our neighbors and family members know us, and know our lives.

I would like for us to stop throwing words like "bigotry" around. Let's recognize the integrity of those who are compassionate yet opposed to us because they rely on a certain reading of ancient wisdom texts to direct their moral consciences, and reserve "bigot" for genuine acts of violence that are directed at our persons, or intended to intimidate: rhetoric such as that thrown around by Fred Phelps, and the acts of violence that all too often harm us and our children.

To that end, I have entered conversations via this blog that have led to befriending an evangelical Christian, and may perhaps do the same with a Mormon mom, who shares with me a passion for homeschooling. They will continue to vote their conscience, and to pray for me, for they truly believe that that is their best gift. It probably is, and I appreciate it. If nothing else, when their children see them praying for a queer friend by name, the kids may think twice about bullying the queer kid on the schoolyard. And I have gifts to give to them, which I hope they are open to receive.

Their minds will not change. But that's not the point.

The point is to destroy our enemies – and theirs.

I believe we can do it.

If we all do it together, perhaps we can end the intolerance that leads to violence, and live side-by-side in peace.


David Carrel said...

That quote by Lincoln is in my book of quotes that I like. So true.
Great post Seda.
I agree and appreciate that you see and understand the other side, even though you don't agree.

Anonymous said...

I hope what I'm about to say makes as much sense typed out, as it does in my head. :)

Seda - It is one thing to acknowledge and understand the opposing arguments to marriage equality, which is something you have done very well here on your blog through multiple dialogues with others. I believe we need that perspective, and I also believe that many of us already have that perspective.

So many GLBT people I know have had similar conversations with parents, friends, and other family members concerning their orientation and sexual identity. Conversations that last deep into the evenings, and where true concerns and fears are shared in the open. This leads me to believe that many in the "family" of GLBT DO understand the opposing perspective pretty well.

It is another thing entirely to point out the INJUSTICE and BIGOTRY of our country and its laws, which is the path I have chosen. I am well aware, as I believe many in the "family" are, that those opposing marriage equality are human beings with lives and families, and that we probably have more similarities than differences. However, don't be fooled into thinking that there are NOT people guilty of bigotry, fighting against marriage equality.

Groups like the KKK (and many others) that were vastly popular in the south before and during the Civil Rights Movement are seen as bigoted groups. After all, by definition, Bigotry - intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself. I'm sure those (mostly) men belonging to such groups had families, and fears, and thought that what they were doing came from a place of love for those close to their hearts. In fact, they used the Bible as justification as well. But, does that make their actions less bigoted?

Because they had families and thought they were protecting their loved ones, it was less wrong? So, their actions weren't bigotry? They were just misconstrued love? I can't ride that boat with ya. Sometimes we do things that seem (SEEM) to come from a place of love, but we later realize those actions came from a place of selfishness, pride, bigotry, anger, or revenge. I believe those in opposition to marriage equality are believing their actions to be based on a love, or fear for their families, but will later see how crippling it can be to force your beliefs on others.

I have many close friends who disagree with marriage equality laws, and while I would never use the word "bigot" as a name-calling weapon, and would never choose to DEFINE these people SOLELY on this one issue, I still believe that in due time, that is how their beliefs will be seen. And, I still believe that our laws should never reflect bigoted attitudes.

Anonymous said...

Also, if you're interested, I found this post interesting:

Seda said...

Thanks, David!

Thanks for this thoughtful comment! I agree that many LGBT people already have this perspective, and especially that LGBT people already understand the opposing perspective! It is almost universally true that people lower in a social hierarchy understand those higher thoroughly, while those in the higher have almost no understanding of the lower.

I do not intend, nor mean in this post, to neglect pointing out injustice and bigotry. I think you know that I understand and agree with just about everything you said. My point here is that many people (perhaps most) who are aligned with conservative religions, such as LDS and some Baptist denominations, are NOT bigots, as I would define them; and I think lumping them in with those who truly are bigoted is more destructive than useful.

These are people who are loving and open, even as they follow a strict code. And I believe they have little or no concept of our lives. They operate based on assumptions and stereotypes, and perceptions that are twisted by media, both mainstream and that of their own religions. Again and again, I see them refer to "the gay lifestyle." What the hell is that? The gay people I know live many different lifestyles, and hold many different worldviews.

And that, I believe, is an opportunity. If it is possible to befriend these people by connecting with them on our common experiences and humanity, we break down those stereotypes and become whole (real) people in their eyes.

At the same time, I think that our community holds stereotypes of religious conservatives, and LDS people in particular, that can be broken down by these connections, so that we see them as whole (real) people. And that can lead to more compassion on both sides, which I believe is a good thing.

Of course, we need to be discerning about it, too. I held a long dialogue with a blog called Opine ( last year, and should have realized earlier that, despite their rhetoric, they are a pretty bigoted bunch. I don't advocate wasting time like that. Nothing will open them to empathy except the passing of generations. But people like David, and (perhaps) Pearl? These are people who truly try to live their faith. They deserve better than to be insulted because that faith compels them to vote against marriage equality.

What truly confuses me about many of these folks, is why do they resist hate crimes protections for us, even as they enjoy them themselves? That simple fact undermines my whole thesis.

Oh, well.

Fannie said...

Great post. I wish our opposition read posts like this instead of the angry Perez Hilton-esque ones that they constantly point to as examples of how the LGBT community is anti=social.

Seda said...

Thanks, Fannie. I'm afraid I don't give them enough ammo to shoot back at us. I think David may be the only conservative who actually reads this blog. Seems like the rest want something to rage at...

Thanks, David!

David Carrel said...

Your welcome Seda. Thanks for the shout outs.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our