Category Archives: gay rights

So goes the nation

            You know which state gets a bad rap?  I mean, other than South Dakota.

            Iowa. 

           All us people to the east and the west carry on as though Rembrandt was a New Yorker and Shakespeare lived in L.A.  We act as though the vast majority of Americans exist just to keep NASCAR in business, because really only the Northeast and the West Coast have any hope of social progress.

           Now, I’ve never been to Iowa, but I’ve seen Field of Dreams, so clearly I am an expert.  And I’m here to tell you that in some ways, Iowa has it all over California.  In no particular order: they have better snowmen, a lower cost of living, and a governor who was not the Terminator.

          And as of today, they treat all couples equally.  Let’s hope Iowa’s voters show they have more class than California’s in the years to come.

But we keep trying

            “He wanted to wear his princess shoes to school, but they aren’t safe,” I told Lena as we waited to collect our two-year-olds at our synagogue preschool.  “He’s only allowed to wear them around the house.”

            “Is your husband worried?” she asked.

            “Why would he be worried?” I asked, although I knew full well.  When your sons both love pink and the younger goes to the grocery dressed as Tinkerbell, you get asked pretty frequently whether your husband is worried.

            Lena began to tell me about some televangelist who screeched about homosexuality only to be caught with a male prostitute.  “And he was molested as a little boy.  I think that’s what pushed him that way.”  It was sort of sweet, I guess.  She was trying to reassure me that molestation, not princess shoes, is the key ingredient for an adult life of sodomy and deviance.

            “Well, it may be what made him a hypocrite,” I responded, but I’m pretty sure it’s not what made him gay.”

            In answer to her question, no, my husband is not worried.  Given his time with Mask & Wig in college, he’s pretty comfortable with drag.  He doesn’t care one way or the other about sexual orientation.  I, on the other hand, do care.  “I’d like at least one of my kids to be gay,” I told her.  “Preferably Lilah, because if she’s into guys, Benjamin will scare off all her prospective boyfriends.  I think girls won’t be afraid of him, but I just can’t imagine any boy daring to date Ben’s little sister.”

            “Why would you want your kid to be gay?” she asked.  “They’ll miss out on one of the most fundamental human experiences.”  There was a pause as I tried to figure out what she meant.  I decided she must mean pen#s/v@ginal sex, because I couldn’t come up with anything else that gay people miss out on.  But, while I’m a big fan of that kind of sex, I wouldn’t call it a fundamental human experience.

            “What do you mean?” I had to inquire.

            “Having a family,” she replied.

            For the moment, put aside all the arguments over whether the childless can be called a family and whether having children is an essential component of a fulfilling life.  We don’t even need to go there because her basic assumption that homosexuals can’t have children ignores quite a number of families, including the guy who chairs our preschool’s parent association.  “A and M have four kids,” I helpfully pointed out, starting to wonder how it was I had been transported to Pleasantville.

            Apparently, she didn’t know them, and she was definitely unconvinced.  “I would have a really hard time if one of my kids was gay,” she repeated, abusing the subjunctive case.  We could hear the teachers leading our children in the Goodbye Song, which is really more accurately described as “dragging” since only one little girl actually joins in the singing.  “Being gay would make their lives a lot harder.”

            I started to open the door to the classroom, but I turned back to look at her.  “So will being Jewish.”

            I never cease to be bewildered by these kinds of conversations, although I have stopped attributing them to hatred.  Moving from place to place, I am coming to realize that so much of what we believe is cultural.  This mother is part of a cultural group that reveres gender stereotypes and rejects homosexuality.  There are quite a few families in our preschool who are from this same community, and many have grown up insulated from different ideas.

            The next day, as we listened to the dulcet sounds of our children not singing, she turned to me, a mild wonder on her face.  “I haven’t stopped thinking about the things you said.”

Party pooper

            I am writing this shortly after the polls have closed here in California.  Across the country, my friends are rejoicing.  Facebook is a veritable confetti-fest of Obamalove.  With all the celebrating going on, I will not be surprised if there is a baby boom about nine months from now.

            And, yet, I want to cry.  Yes, I am relieved that the Reign of Terror is over.  I am pleased Sarah Palin will not be a (weak) heartbeat from the Oval Office.  I am hopeful that my next President will help save the planet for the little girl I am holding to my breast.

            But, as I type with my one free hand, I know she is not safe from bigotry and restriction.  I hope that, should she ever be in the awful position of needing an abortion, she will feel safe telling me.  And if she doesn’t, since it seems Prop 4 will pass here, she is going to have to tell me, anyway.  Of course, by that time, who knows how many more restrictions there will be on her right to choose?

            If she turns out to be a lesbian, she’s pretty screwed, too, since it looks like Prop 8 will pass, amending the state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.  (I guess she’s also in trouble if she turns out to have a tendency towards polygamy.)  On the bright side, if she is a lesbian, she does greatly lessen her chances of an unwanted pregnancy.

            Americans voted for Obama because they are afraid, as well they should be.  I just wish their votes were a signal that they have put their bigotry behind them.

Addendum: I may have jumped the gun here.  Prop 4 may fail.  Fingers crossed.

Jacob worked another 7 years for Rachel

            When I met my husband, I was 21.  He was 19.  We were in college, with the four combined graduate degrees we would eventually earn just a glimmer in our eyes.  Neither of us was ready to move in together, let alone get married.

            We did not move in together when I was ready.  Besides being male, he is two years younger than I am, and he took his time.  But not as much time as he took getting ready to actually marry me.  By the time we married, we had been together almost seven years. 

            Maybe he wanted to be sure.

            The point here is that, when we were ready, we started planning a wedding.  We met with the rabbi, we chose flowers, I shopped for a dress, he registered for gifts, and we did premarital counseling.  A few weeks before the wedding, we went to the court building and got a license.  After the ceremony, we mailed it in with the rabbi’s signature to the proper authorities.

            The morning after we married, before we left for our honeymoon, we went to the bank to get a joint account.  When we returned from the honeymoon, I changed my name.  (I figured if I was going to have some man’s name, it might as well be a man I like, rather than my father.)  It took some phone calls, a trip to the DMV, and one surprisingly easy morning at the Social Security administration.

            It was all legal.  When we were ready to legally merge our lives, the government made it super-easy for us to do so.

            There is another story.  The story of a woman who waited 87 years to marry her sweetheart.  It’s not that they weren’t ready.  They were.  They tried several years ago to get married, but apparently the government was somewhat less supportive of their union than they were of mine with my husband.

            Other people, all around the country, were of the opinion that this marriage was a bad idea.  And, for some inexplicable reason, they got a say in the matter.  People who had never met them got to determine that they had no right to be married.

I had to wait for one man to be ready.  Del Martin had to wait for an entire state.  She died yesterday, leaving behind, at long-last, a spouse.  And a legacy of working to make sure other people would find it a little easier to get married.

Real dads don’t suck

Inspired by this post over at Blogs are Stupid.

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            It seems our friend Jon has wanted to be a parent since before I met him, which was long enough ago that I was still perky in places that now respond to gravity’s call and he still thought he dated women.  He is destined to be one of the world’s greatest fathers, possessing the perfect mixture of nurturing, fun, pragmatism, and idealism.  Big heart, contained ego, and fantastic sense of humor – just about all anyone could ask for in a father. 

            So, we were all thrilled when he met a partner who brought to the table the additional attributes of a bit more reserve and wryness that inadequately covers for a remarkable good nature.  Good.  One more friend taken care of. 

            They got married the month before I had Zachary, because people really like to get married someplace far away just before or just after I have babies.  Other than the fact that J and I missed the wedding, the only thing to mar the day was that, well, legally they weren’t getting married.  They held their wedding a stone’s throw from the White House, perhaps to show George Bush just what they thought of the restrictions on their civil liberties.

Religiously they were, however, married, although they did have a hard time finding a rabbi to perform the ceremony.  No one objected to the fact that they were both male, but they took umbrage with the fact that Jon’s husband isn’t Jewish.  They finally found an officiate when Jon promised he would raise the children Jewish and would cover their ears every time his husband spouted off about atheism and the like.

Now, of course, the concern became adopting those children they were going to raise Jewish, given that the marriage had no wombs to speak of.  For a time, Jon thought that perhaps they should seek to adopt twins, under the theory that “At least when they are running around reaching for the knives, we won’t have a newborn to contend with.”  No, just two toddlers with sharp objects.

To me, this smacked of insanity.  Here we were with a newborn who declined to ever be put down, thank you very much, and our friend was thinking that two of them at the same time sounded like a good idea.  I nodded encouragement while trying to sneak a peak to see if he had sprouted a few more sets of arms.

I do understand that parents of twins say in some ways it is easier, and if that is the card a family is dealt, it is wonderful in all sorts of ways.  However, the idea of actively seeking out such an arrangement…?

A few weeks later, we were visited by the only relatives still speaking to me, distant cousins who were in town to visit their son, Kevin, who is our age.  As I watched Kevin’s twin seven-year-olds run into the other room, I mentioned the story of Jon and his moronic heroic irrational naïve belief that raising twins would be easier.  Kevin laughed.  His mother paused, pondering for a minute.

            “Do you really think it’s fair, though?” she began.  “Don’t you think children should have a father and a mother?”

            Fortunately, Zachary even at this tender age was able to cling to his parents like some sort of baby tree sloth, or I might actually have dropped him at that moment.  It’s not that I was surprised at her sentiment; despite my time in college theater, I have crossed paths with one or two homophobes in my time.  Nor was I particularly surprised to hear it coming from one of my relatives, since I was only too aware that sometimes my relations can be a bit insensitive.  She was of a certain age when perhaps her conservatism got the better of her.

            I was, however, floored that she would decide to express her sentiments that particular way.  To me.  I mean, given that she remembers my mother before she died, a luxury I do not have.  Given that she knows what a fantastic replacement my father found.  Given that she knows the extent to which my father gave three shits about how I was being raised. 

            It just seems that, talking to me, perhaps she might consider that her lovely sentiments about family structure do not always translate into reality.  Should all children have a mother and a father?  Hell, I’d have settled for just one.

            And so, to Jon and his husband, who will (God willing and the crick don’t rise) be bringing home a baby sometime in the not-so-distant future, and who will probably warp that child with the erroneous notion that all children are raised with two loving parents, I just want to say this: If I had my druthers, I’d have traded in the whole bunch of ‘em for even one of you.

            And to my distant cousin and anyone else who says otherwise?  Well, I’m a lady and I don’t use that kind of language.