Inhuman Swill : Homophobia

To follow up on my recent post about why, on average, gay parents are better than straight parents, I want to point you toward a terrific blog post by my cousin Erika's daughter Lia. (Because I was born a Mormon and have genealogy in my genes, har har, I must point out that this specifically makes us first cousins once removed.)

Anyway, Lia's post is dedicated to answering the stupid questions she gets asked about having two moms. Here's a sample:

Q:  Did your mom become gay because your dad was a jerk?
A:  Even though that is more a question for her, I'm going to go ahead and answer: NO. Being gay is no more a choice than being straight. Every person has natural attractions. Some people are naturally attracted to the opposite sex, and some to the same sex. It's really simple. You can't just "become" or "turn" gay, it's kind of built in. Someone could get into a terrible car accident (God forbid) and become paralyzed, but as far as I know, there isn't an event that can subsequently change your sexual orientation.  [read more]
I've always been proud of my cousin Erika for the way she's lived her life and raised her kids, but now it's obviously past time to be proud of the next generation too. Just more anecdotal evidence for my original thesis.

Gay parents are better

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That nasty Rick Santorum is at it again. He likes to think of himself as a culture warrior, but I see him more as the kind of infectious culture that requires a good shot of penicillin. The poisonous idea he's spreading this time around is that children with fathers in prison are better off than children of gay parents.

This notion is so offensive and counter to all that is rational that it shouldn't require demolishing. But unfortunately, in our political landscape it's the kind of junk-scientific argument that people who don't know any better (and many who do) will seize on and spread. It a notion that needs inoculating against, and I can't think of any inoculation better than this video clip of Zach Wahls testifying before the Iowa House of Representatives in opposition to a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage:

Yes, Zach is only one example of a child of gay parents, but he's a powerful example, and if Santorum can misuse scientific studies to jump to unwarranted conclusions, I can generalize from this one example through a simple thought experiment to prove that gay couples are, on average, better parents than straight couples.

What I want you to think about are the barriers straight couples face in conceiving or adopting children versus the barriers gay couples face. Okay? Okay.

Straight couples have, by and large, an easy time conceiving*. They're biologically built to produce offspring. It's so easy for straight couples to conceive, in fact, that it happens unintentionally all the time. Some of these unintentional pregnancies are welcome surprises, of course, but not all of them are. Many of them result in unwanted children, and many of those end of being raised in poverty by single mothers, especially in communities where access to birth control is limited. For every child of straight parents that was brought into the world deliberately, according to plan, into a welcoming, prepared home, I think you'll have to admit that there is at least one who was not planned for and not wanted.

Gay couples, on the other hand, have a much harder time having children. Unless they're bringing kids from a previous heterosexual relationship, male couples need to either adopt or find a surrogate mother. Female couples need to adopt or find a sperm donor. Gay couples may be blocked from any of these avenues by local laws, and in any event they're going to face significant hurdles in having children. The long and short of it is, gay couples don't accidentally have kids. They have to make a conscious choice, going far, far out of their way to get it done.

I think it's only reasonable to presume, because of the difficult of clearing those hurdles, that the percentage of gay couples who end up being conscientious, responsible parents is far higher than the percentage of straight couples who become the same. It only makes sense.

Now, I'm not saying that all gay parents are better than all straight parents. But I am making the case that, as a kid, you'd have much better chances of getting a good upbringing with gay parents than straight. I think any of us would be lucky to grow up with conscientious, loving parents like Zach Wahls had, of whatever orientation. So there.

*I'm talking on average here. I don't mean to discount the difficulty some straight couples, for whatever reason, have in conceiving, nor to discount the heartache this can cause.

Frothing at Santorum

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No politician more consistently makes me yell at my radio than Rick Santorum. Every time I hear him frothing at the ass mouth, I fly into an apoplectic rage which can only be vented by abusing the poor inanimate device that channeled his spew into my house. Now that he's come within a devil's whisker of winning the Iowa caucus, it's worth reminding ourselves that—just as we must remind ourselves that Newt Gingrich is crazy, and that Mitt Romney is a shapeshifter—that Rick Santorum is evil.

I'll say it again. Santorum is evil.

It's not just his determination to further cripple America's technological future by degrading our science curricula with more creationism. It's his insistence that morality can only be learned from an ancient, irrelevant book, and that rational thought can only lead us into disaster. It's the dangerous belief that we can do whatever we damn well please to the planet and it's all fine because Jesus will be coming soon anyway to establish his kingdom and roll the earth up like a happy scroll, so we may as well just go ahead and enshrine our Christian extremism in the Constitution.

And it's not just his frothing, kneejerk hatred of homosexuality. It's his desire to use America's irrational fear of gay sex to wedge his way into your home and your bedroom, to legislate against any type of consensual sex that makes him uncomfortable and even to roll back your right to contraception.

Make no mistake. Santorum's fight against gay rights is the opening salvo in a war on all pleasure, gay, straight, sexual, or otherwise—the opening salvo in a war on privacy itself. There's a reason, after all, that it was Santorum and not some other right-wingnut who was chosen by Dan Savage as the beneficiary of a hostile redefinition of his surname. It's because Rick Santorum is evil, and is a deadly danger to far more than just gay people. If he becomes president, he'll make George Bush look like a Unitarian.

After hearing him interviewed on NPR's Morning Edition back in 2005, I was so offended by his assertions that atheism leads to immorality that I had to vent my bile to the world at large. I said then, in part, in an open rant to Santorum:

Compassion and tolerance are so much more important when life on this tiny rock is the only life we'll ever have, but your only idea of compassion is to force the 14-year-old girls you've rendered ignorant into bringing more hungry, poverty-stricken babies into the world, and your only idea of tolerance is to slither your way into one of the most powerful posts in American government and then whinge endlessly about how so-called Christians like you aren't allowed a place in the public discourse. I may not believe in God, but I do believe in evil, and you're its simpering mug.  [read more]
I worry that I might give myself a stroke yelling at the radio during the rest of this election season. We're not stupid enough here to actually elect Santorum, right? Right?

Well, if his educational standards should become the norm, we sure will be.

If Bethlehem were Pompeii and Vesuvius spewed molten gold The house on the corner is a goddamn nuisance.

Laura would probably put it like this: "Someone sure whacked them with the Christmas stick."

It's a big, beautiful house of tan brick, in the Prairie School–derived style that makes so many old Chicago houses so distinctive. We covet this house.

But the Christmas decorations—good lord. Not only is there a half-size crèche occupying half the front lawn, spotlit, but on top of that the whole house is covered in colored lights that flash in sync with the synthesized loop of carols blaring from the hidden speakers. When we walk past it at night, Ella skitters away from the place. I don't know how anyone inside, or even next door, can get any sleep. All together, it's seizure-inducing.

Honestly, it probably wouldn't be too bad if it weren't for the music. And I'd like to knock on the couple's door or leave them a note with a message to that effect.

But why haven't I? Because they're gay, and I don't want to somehow give them the impression that I'm homophobic. I know I'm being stupid, but when I've seen them out in the yard they look kind of belligerent, like they have chips on those broad shoulders, and I don't want to chance a misunderstanding.

I know we're not the only ones who find the house and its holiday deckage less than appealing. When Laura mentioned it to another couple we know from the dog park (a gay couple, I hasten to add), one of them said, "As long as that nativity scene isn't still out rotting in the yard in April."

Ghost in the wires Yes, that's the other thing, which no doubt ratchets up the annoyance. Last year, that couple didn't take their decorations down after the new year, and the crèche sat there well into spring getting dirtier and dirtier and bit by bit falling to pieces. By April it looked like an excavation from Pompeii.

Someone of my acquaintance (who will remain nameless) used to sneak into the yard every day and move the donkey a few inches at a time. No one inside seemed to notice the slow progress it was making across the yard. One of the magi lost a hand, also, and that hand somehow found its way from the lawn to the top of a telephone junction box on another house. Where it still sits. Eight months later.

Which is all to say that, through my complacent, cowardly inaction, I allow my neighbors to continue to be oppressed ... by denying them equal treatment under the laws of neighborliness. Because we'll never all be truly equal until we feel the freedom to say the same things to everybody that we'd say to anyone else.

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