Thursday, April 26, 2007

"The world is white no longer, and will never be white again."

To add a counter-weight to my last, somewhat...negative post, I'd like to draw your attention to an incredibly inspiring "3am" column in this week's Austin Chronicle. The writer, Michael Ventura, argues that once the notion of an idea is released into the public, once the idea is in the air, "everyone inhales it."

What he's talking about is the idea of gay marriage, and the more the conservatives have to reiterate what it "should be" (as in, "marriage should be between a man and a woman"), the battle by the progressives has been won. It may take another generation to be fully integrated into society, but it will be integrated, and all this silly hand-wringing and non-comittment by politicians (we're looking at you, Clinton and Obama) will be a laughable trademark of the past.

Already it's legal in Massachusetts, it's on its way to being legal in New York; exact-replicas of marriage, dubbed "civil unions," but only in semantics, have been recently passed in New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, California, and DC; new laws protecting the rights of transgender students (read: kids!) have recently been passed in Massachusetts, Minnesota, California, New Jersey, and DC; and sweeping new pro-gay (well, anti-discrimination) laws have been passed just in the last couple of weeks in Iowa, probably will pass in Oregon (including a civil unions bill), and the gay foster parent ban was killed in Arkansas; a federal bill was introduced that would make discriminating against gay people in employment illegal.

But I digress. He argues that as society becomes more and more accepting of the debunking of "traditional" marriage vales and gender identities, a whole, new, sexually pluralistic world will be ours to embrace however we see fit (and however we see fit to define ourselves and our relationships). It's an exciting concept that makes me giddy to think about.

My mom has been really putting a lot of pressure on me lately to move back closer to home. Of course, it's never going to happen, but whenever I sort of (as nicely as possible) shrug off her suggestions and cajoling, it kind of breaks my heart a little bit more, as I'm sure it does hers. It's frustrating sometimes, and the real irony of it all is that the life she's always wanted me to lead, and the life I've affirmatively decided I want, I could never have there.

I want a family (yes, including kids). I want a home. I want a fulfilling career, and to feel a sense of inclusion and community wherever I live. Everything that I want is so ordinary, so regular, so boring. But were I to do all of those things in Rogers, Arkansas (which wouldn't even really be feasible), it would be considered radical and provocative. This is one thing I've absolutely never understood about opponents of gay marriage, and by extension, gay rights: for years they've maligned, persecuted, slandered, discriminated against, and threatened gay people for upsetting the status quo, for corrupting children and society, for being hedonistic, selfish, narcissistic. But when a gay person says, "Hey, I want exactly what you want. I want a spouse, I want 4 kids to raise, nurture and love, I want a regular job that I go to, and to make money to take my kids on nice vacations and send them to good schools," the conservative world shutters (or shrieks) and accuses us of being evil.

I'm pretty good at being empathetic I think, and seeing other people's points of view, even if I vehemently disagree, but that just makes no sense to me. I mean, obviously it presents a threat, but I don't get why. I truly, truly don't. Like, my mom loves for my brother and his family to come to her church on Sunday, and she parades my nephew around, and brags on him, and shows him off to everybody. I wonder if I had a husband, and a child that we adopted, if she would be quite so willing to put herself out there and so eager to show off our child, and say, "This is my son and his husband's daughter," and have to endure people's looks, questions, and whispers. Somehow, I doubt it. No matter how proud she might be, I just don't think she would have the strength to do that.

And it's fine. That's why I'll never live there (well, one reason among many), but I wonder if that would make sense to my mom. She thinks gay people wanting to raise children is radical. If she's gonna freak out if I kiss my boyfriend goodbye in the driveway of her house (because someone might see), well, then I'm fairly certain she would be pretty uncomfortable with the idea of my bringing home someone I call a husband, and our children, and sitting together in a pew at her small, conservative-ish church.

It's not that she's not supportive, it's just that, well, maybe it is radical. But it shouldn't be. And I think that's what Ventura is arguing in this article: that someday, probably sooner rather than later, it won't be so radical. The generation that thinks gay people have to be single, childless and alone their whole lives will someday all be gone, replaced with a new generation who takes gay families for granted. When I mentioned to my mom recently that I did want a family, and I did want kids someday, she gave me an utterly perplexed look, and said something along the lines of, "Well, you're gonna have to find a woman in order to do that." Well, yes, I suppose so technically. It's just not something people of her generation expect gay people to do, thus, she doesn't understand why it would be so difficult for me to live in Rogers, Arkansas. Not to mention, I'd just kill myself from boredom.

Ventura ends the article (and this is where he really won me over) with a quote from my favorite writer, James Baldwin, and a little nugget of real hope:

In 1953, James Baldwin, a gay African-American, wrote the most telling sentence of the 20th century: "The world is white no longer, and it will never be white again." He was right; the primacy of white power was soon to end. Now marriage and gender are no longer defined strictly by heterosexuals. Heterosexuals will not cease to be the majority, but – an enormous sea change in human history! – they have ceased to be the sole "official" definers of sexuality. Eventually this will expand our relationships in ways we cannot imagine. We've embarked, as a species, upon unmapped spectrums of sex. Baldwin would be pleased that half a century later his sentence could be refashioned to read: "The world is heterosexual no longer, and it will never be heterosexual again."

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