Chick-Shut-the-F-Up-Fil-A

I don’t like stupid people. Perhaps they shouldn’t be allowed to marry because then they’ll breed and make more stupid people.

Oh wait, I forgot. I don’t have God on my side. See, if God is on your side then it’s okay-dokey to be as bigoted and hate-filled as you want. In fact, it’s so OK that if we encourage you to line up at Chick-Fil-A and show the world how bigoted you are. Step right up, folks, and get some delicious Chick-Fil-A. Their special sauce? God-infused hatred. Yum, yum.

I get so tired of this and I’m straight. I can only imagine what it’s like for my family and friends who are gay. Not so long ago I had a conversation with my housekeeper, an otherwise lovely woman of whom I am genuinely fond. A born-again Christian, Teresa tried to explain to me that she doesn’t blame my son for being gay. In fact, she prays for him every day, that the “evil inside” will be exposed to God’s love and go away. I sat at the table stunned. Then slowly got up, went to her, put my arms around her, looked her in the eye and said, “Teresa, I know we have different views on this. But I promise you there’s nothing evil within my son. The only thing within him is what God gave him freely and lovingly.” Teresa turned brick red and stammered an apology. Which was beside the point. Because she only said what she honestly believes.

The last thing I need is for a top executive from a popular food chain to be promoting more hate talk and more nonsense like this.

To quote Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?”.

Adjustments

I spoke today with a friend whose son recently came out. Her son is in his early teens, and the announcement was not a surprise to her or her husband. They love and support their son completely, and want, like all of good parents, to spare their child hurt and pain.  Just that fact puts the three of them on a strong and steady path.

I was honored to be confided in, and even more honored to be asked to share my experiences in going through this same experience with our son.

Children give us many hints about who they are.  So many hints that, if we have our eyes open at all, we shouldn’t be surprised to be learn what their sexual orientation is.  But the lack of surprise doesn’t change – can’t change – the emotional roller coaster we find ourselves on.

The fact is, that from the moment you learn you’re having a baby, you start to have dreams about that child’s future.


We can’t help it. We want the best for our children, and we want them to have happy and fulfilled lives. And we visualize happiness through our own experience.

  • If you’re a professional and love being a professional, you think that perhaps that would be good for your child.
  • If you’re religious and find great comfort in your faith, you think that your child will likewise find joy in religion.
  • If you’re hooked on sports and exercise, you think your child will naturally be active and even athletic.
  • And if you’re straight, you think that your child will be straight. Of course.

Except it doesn’t work that way.

I shared with my friend the best story I ever heard as a way to grasp what you, as a parent, go through when you learn the truth. I read about this years ago in an Ann Landers column, in a letter written by a woman who had just given birth to a Down’s Syndrome baby.

Suppose, she wrote, you’re planning a wonderful vacation to Italy.  You spend nine months thinking about what you’ll do and what you’ll see.  You think about the delicious pasta, about the fabulous artwork, about the canals of Venice. You’re so excited when you get on the plane, ready to land in Rome. But when the plane lands, you find yourself…in Holland. Now there’s nothing wrong with Holland.  But it’s not where you thought you were going. It takes you a little while to adjust and open your eyes to the beauty there – the Van Goghs, the tulips, the windmills – and yes, the canals of the Netherlands.

When our son confirmed that he was gay, I had to come to grips with the fact that my son’s life would be very different from what I imagined. Worse, I had a whole new world of fears to contend with – AIDS, bullying, hate, discrimination. And if you don’t think that took a little while to adjust to, well, you’ve never been a parent.

None of this changed the fact that we adored (and adore) our son, and we fully support him. But we did have to go through some change ourselves. I learned how to stand up proudly and say, “My son is gay.” I learned to tell people who were telling gay jokes that I found that humor distasteful and not funny. Oh, and did you know my son is gay? I learned that some people are judgmental, and nothing you say will open their eyes to the biological facts of life.

And I learned that knowing my son, for who he is and who he will be, is an incredible gift.

If you find out your child is gay, I can almost promise it will be an adjustment for you. Our dreams are changed, and we must build new ones. But the new ones can be glorious, and the future bright.  If your heart is open to it.

Two Hearts, Two Lives, Two Brides

A little history before I share with you my weekend…

  • My Hungarian Jewish grandmother was appalled when my mother married a Romanian Jew.
  • She was even more aghast when I married a (non-practicing) Presbyterian.
  • She was gone by the time our daughter married a Catholic Chilean, but you just know what she would think about that. Spinning in her grave is the phrase that comes to mind.

We no longer live in our little villages, isolated from other tribes, locked into the customs that are handed down from generation to generation. And try though we might, we can’t go back.

This bought us tremendous freedom to be ourselves and not have to fit a predefined rigid role definition.  At the same time, it means that those around us have to adjust, too.  Even if it’s uncomfortable. Especially when it’s uncomfortable.

So here we are in Denver, gathered to witness and celebrate the union of my niece Amy with her beloved, Christie.  We’re at the rehearsal dinner Friday. Our combined families are there (Oy vey, Grandma!  Amy is not marrying a Jewish girl! And her family is not from Hungary, either!), as diverse a group as you can imagine. And we know that the level of acceptance for this union ranges from joyous to “they’re going to hell.”

You can forgive me, therefore, if I held my breath every time a toast started, never quite sure what was going to come next.  I needn’t have worried.  My brother-in-law Alan gave a beautiful, funny toast that reflected his complete love and acceptance of his daughter.  Christie’s sister gave an equally heartfelt toast to the happy couple.  And then one of Christie’s uncles gets up and says the words that needed to be said…that we all need to be happy for these women who we love and we need to get over this being different from what we have experienced before.  That yes, tomorrow there will be two brides in bride gowns walking down the aisle, and that we need to accept that and wish them joy.  Because we love each of these girls, and we want them to be happy.

He was more eloquent than that, but you get the idea.

So Saturday came, bright and sunny and gorgeous.  At 5:00 pm, we gathered on the lawn outside the hotel, overlooking spectacular fall colors in the Rockies around us.  And we watched as the bridal party, consisting of siblings and of Amy and Christie’s three dogs (appropriately collared in the wedding colors of navy blue and lime green) made its way down the aisle. And then we rose to see our girls, each surrounded by her parents, come to the altar to bind their lives together.

It was a wedding in spirit if not legally.  And who are any of us to deny happiness to them? Amy and Christie brought together believers and nonbelievers, Jews and Gentiles, gay and straight, East Coasters and West Coasters, canine and human, to celebrate their love for each other.

I wish them years of health and happiness, many children and, yes, many dogs. And I look forward to the day that I can celebrate my son’s union with the man of his dreams, too.

“Milk,” “Mad Men,” and the ADA

Three seemingly unrelated events:  I watched Milk, one of the best movies ever, this weekend, for the second time.  I tuned into the superb season premiere for Mad Men. And I saw on the news that this week is the 20th anniversary of the American Disabilities Act (ADA).

Huh? What do these have in common?

Think back to when you were a kid, growing up.  How many people in wheelchairs did you see?  How many openly gay men and women?  If you’re anything like me, not so many.  Because we made it awkward to be open about ourselves. We used cruel comments, intimidating acts and physical obstacles, from building design to legislation, to keep those different than us hidden from view.

Mad Men provides lots of examples of how we used to think and act.  On the season’s premiere, Donald Draper is interviewed by a Korean war veteran who lost a leg.  Draper and his colleagues waste little time in joking about why the magazine couldn’t send a full man instead of a one-legged one.  Ha ha.  Yeah, hilarious. But in 1963? The norm. And who can forget Salvatore Romano, the conflicted gay man on the series?  Says columnist Mia Navarro:

Part of the joy of watching “Mad Men,” the acclaimed AMC series, is realizing how far we’ve come since the ’60s. That’s especially true for the sexually repressed Salvatore Romano, a gay character played by Bryan Batt, who is also gay.

In Milk, I was struck by Harvey Milk’s insistence that gay men come out or be outed.  I strongly remember outing in the 1970s, and being horrified at people’s privacy being invaded in such a blatant manner. But that was then, and since being blessed with a son who happens to be gay, I’ve grown up on the subject and have a very different view from my old self.

Would we be having the discussion we’re having today about gay rights if you didn’t know someone who was gay?  Case in point.  Years ago, I posed the following riddle to my husband:  What do we have in common with Dick Cheney and Ronald Reagan?  Scott, a lifelong Democrat, looked at me, utterly baffled.  The answer, of course, is a gay child.

Hiding leads to fear and self-loathing. Openness leads to acceptance and respect. Let’s make it easy, not hard, for all of our citizens to have the opportunity to participate and contribute in America.  After all, where would we be without my son, your daughter, my niece, your neighbor?

Who Speaks for God, Anyhow?

On our way back from Montana last week, I picked up a copy of the Salt Lake City Tribune to read in the car. When I got to the opinion section and saw a number of letters about gay rights and gay marriage, I winced. While there is much to admire about The Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS), their aggressiveness in changing the California state constitution through Prop 8 last fall infuriated me. Hey, if you want to be a political organization instead of a church, be my guest. Just give up your tax-free status.

OK, OK, sorry. It’s very hard for me to write about the role of the LDS in Prop 8 without ranting.

Back to my story. I very reluctantly started to read the letters, waiting for my blood pressure to shoot up. And? I was taken completely aback.   The letter writers overwhelmingly said that the Church’s interference was wrong. The letters to the editor were prompted by this article quoting Elder Dallin Oaks of the LDS:

The anti-Mormon backlash after California voters overturned gay marriage last fall is similar to the intimidation of Southern blacks during the civil rights movement, a high-ranking Mormon says in a speech to be delivered Tuesday.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks refers to gay marriage as an “alleged civil right” in remarks prepared for delivery at Brigham Young University-Idaho, a speech church officials describe as a significant commentary on current threats to religious freedom.

In an advance copy provided to The Associated Press, Oaks suggests that atheists and others are seeking to intimidate people of faith and silence their voices in the public square.

This is the kind of rhetoric from a religious leader that gets to me, as it is so not full of God’s love and acceptance.  And to presume that people who dare to disagree are atheists suggests that Elder Oaks lives in a very narrow world with giant blinders – has he not noticed how many people of faith support civil rights for all?

For years, gays were targeted for being promiscuous.  Now people don’t like them because gays have the gall to want to be allowed the monogamous long-term committed relationship known as marriage.  You just can’t win with these folks.

So it was refreshing to hear from others in Utah who responded to Elder Oaks comments with thoughtfulness and different perspectives, starting with this submission:

Gay Marriage

Public Forum Letter
Updated: 10/22/2009 02:51:02 PM MDT

My stand on same-sex marriage is a strong Yes! Maybe “back in the day” gay marriage was wrong. But “back in the day” people owned slaves. Does that mean we still should? No.

Getting married is supposed to be about love and sharing your life with someone. Who cares if the person you fall in love with is the same sex as you? For those who say that if gay marriage is allowed the birth rate will go down, you’re wrong. If people are already gay they aren’t going to be making babies anyway.

Let them adopt the thousands of children who don’t have homes. Just because a few people are gay doesn’t mean the whole world will be; babies will still be made.

Let gays be. Love is love, no matter what sex your partner is.

Alexandra Gaston

Alexandra’s letter drew almost 200 responses, with perhaps my favorite being this one:

One Human Family: 10/22/2009 6:09:00 PM

I wholeheartedly agree with the author. Why do people care that my gay brother gets married to his partner of 10 years? I never got to choose my sexual orientation, neither did he. No amount of legalization of gay marriage is going to take away my attraction to the opposite sex and no amount of banning gay marriage is going to change my brother’s attractration (sic) to the same sex. Why can’t people get that basic truth?

I don’t know the answer… But I do know that this issue is NOT going away. Because the five to eight percent of the world’s population that was born gay isn’t going away. And civil rights are not going away. And people of good faith are not going away.

Get used to it.

EQCA Lobby Day Sacramento

I Walked the Walk

Although in work-related situations, I have (ahem) a rather big personality, in my personal time, I’m somewhat introverted. Hate big parties. Don’t like crowds. Don’t like meeting strangers. Don’t like asking personal questions. That kind of thing really stresses me out.

And yet, there I was on Saturday morning at All Saints Church in Pasadena, going through training on how to canvass a neighborhood and find out why people voted as they did on last November’s Proposition 8. I was nervous and jittery. Not only was I doing something completely outside my comfort zone, but I was doing it with strangers. Nice strangers, mind you. Extremely appreciative and supportive strangers, in fact. But strangers.

During the training, we were taught both key messages and methodologies. We learned how to make sure there wasn’t a vicious dog behind the fence, waiting to lunch on our leg. We were reminded that we had three objectives: to identify why people object to gay marriage and try to soften their view, and to entice those who support gay marriage to volunteer. The best weapon, we were told, is our personal story – why we are doing what we’re doing.

Mine was easy: I’m a mom with two children, one has the right to marry because she’s straight, and the other doesn’t, because he’s gay. As a mom, I can’t live with that.

I was assigned a canvassing partner – we would work the same block on opposite sides of the street (damn… I would have been so much more comfortable if we could have worked the houses together, but we were told that was intimidating). But at least my partner had done this before…

Rob was great – in fact, spending two hours with him was the best part of the experience (you can get to know Rob at his blog, wakingupnow.com). On the ride to our district, Rob told me how hurt he was after the election, and that for awhile, he hated all straight people. That he was so angry at conservative Christians. And that he was canvassing because it was at least something he could do to make a difference. I was inspired – but still scared pea green.

We arrived at our target community (which was in the foothills, so there was lots of huffing and puffing accompanying our efforts), and I rang my first doorbell. A man came out. He became very, very angry when I told him I was there to learn about voters’ views on gay marriage. He became intimidatingly angry, in fact. I was polite but got the heck out of there. They told us what to do about mad dogs, but not what to do with frothingly angry voters.

The day got better after that (how could it have gotten worse??). My high point was talking with a 75-year old grandmother who just didn’t understand why people cared about gay marriage – why do they want to tell other people how to live? Don’t we all deserve love and happiness? I wanted to hug her. My most puzzling conversation was with a mom like me – she also has one straight and one gay child. She raved on and on about her lesbian daughter, how responsible she was, how lovely. But no, she could not support gay marriage. Civil unions? You bet. But marriage brings in a religious piece that she feels is sacred. And, she assured me, her daughter felt the same way. Hmmm, I don’t believe that for a minute, but I understood her perspective. She voted for Prop 8 last time, and would do it again.

I was shaking my head when I walked away from the door. But part of me thinks she has a point. As soon as religion enters the picture, toxins join it, and emotions get very high.

So let’s do this a different way, and make ALL marriages civil unions. Mine, yours. Make sure we all have the same rights under the law. Then, if you want to be married in God’s eyes, do it separately in the church of your choosing. If your church doesn’t perform same sex marriages, leave it and go find a church that loves and respects you for who you are.

Live and let live. Love and let love. Equal protection under the law. I don’t care much about equal protection under the church – that’s not my right nor my problem as a U.S. citizen, where separation of church and state is the law of the land.

Will I canvass again? I don’t know. It was a highly emotional experience, and one of the more difficult things I’ve done in my life. I can’t promise I’ll be up for it again. But on March 21, 2009, I stood up for my son, my niece, my family, my friends, my colleagues, my fellow human beings. And for that, at least, I can be proud.

Walking the Walk

Although in work-related situations, I have (ahem) a rather big personality, in my personal time, I’m somewhat introverted. Hate big parties. Don’t like crowds. Don’t like meeting strangers. Don’t like asking personal questions. That kind of thing really stresses me out.

And yet, there I was on Saturday morning at All Saints Church in Pasadena, going through training on how to canvass a neighborhood and find out why people voted as they did on last November’s Proposition 8. I was nervous and jittery. Not only was I doing something completely outside my comfort zone, but I was doing it with strangers. Nice strangers, mind you. Extremely appreciative and supportive strangers, in fact. But strangers.

During the training, we were taught both key messages and methodologies. We learned how to make sure there wasn’t a vicious dog behind the fence, waiting to lunch on our leg. We were reminded that we had three objectives: to identify why people object to gay marriage and try to soften their view, and to entice those who support gay marriage to volunteer. The best weapon, we were told, is our personal story – why we are doing what we’re doing.

Mine was easy: I’m a mom with two children, one has the right marry because she’s straight, and the other doesn’t, because he’s gay. As a mom, I can’t live with that.

I was assigned a canvassing partner – we would work the same block on opposite sides of the street (damn… I would have been so much more comfortable if we could have worked the houses together, but we were told that was intimidating). But at least my partner had done this before…

Rob was great – in fact, spending two hours with him was the best part of the experience (you can read about Rob at his blog.) Rob told me about how hurt he was by the election – that for awhile, he hated all straight people. That he was so angry at conservative Christians. And that canvassing was at least something he could do to make a difference. I was inspired but still terrified.

We arrived at our target community (which was in the foothills, so there was lots of huffing and puffing accompanying our efforts), and I rang my first doorbell. A very angry looking man came out. Intimidatingly angry, in fact. The thundercloud on his face increased when I told him I was there to learn voters’ views on gay marriage. I was polite but got the heck out of there. They told us what to do about mad dogs, but not what to do with frothingly angry voters. The next house had no one home. Nor did the one after that. I was relieved, to tell you the truth.

The day got better after that (how could it have gotten worse??). My high point was talking with a 75-year old grandmother who just didn’t understand why people cared about gay marriage – why do they want to tell other people how to live? Don’t we all deserve love and happiness? I wanted to hug her. My most puzzling conversation was with a mom like me – she also has one straight and one gay child. She raved on and on about her lesbian daughter, how responsible she was, how lovely. But no, she could not support gay marriage. Civil unions? You bet. But marriage brings in a religious piece that she feels is sacred. And, she assured me, her daughter felt the same way. Hmmm, I don’t believe that for a minute, but I understood her perspective. She voted for Prop 8 last time, and would do it again.

I was shaking my head when I walked away from the door. But part of me thinks she has a point. As soon as religion enters the picture, toxins join it, and emotions get very high.

So let’s do this a different way, and make ALL marriages civil unions. Mine, yours. Make sure we all have the same rights under the law. Then, if you want to be married in God’s eyes, do it separately in the church of your choosing. If your church doesn’t perform same sex marriages, leave it and go find a church that loves and respects you for who you are.

Live and let live. Love and let love. Equal protection under the law. I don’t care much about equal protection under the church – that’s not my right nor my problem as a U.S. citizen, where separation of church and state is the law of the land.

Will I canvass again? I don’t know. It was a highly emotional experience, and one of the more difficult things I’ve done in my life. I can’t promise I’ll be up for it again. But on March 21, 2009, I stood up for my son, my niece, my friends, my colleagues, my fellow human beings. And for that, at least, I can be proud.