27 February 2008

In Defense Of Growing Up (Part One)


On 21 February, an excellent essay called "On The Need To Grow Up" was posted on the front page of Jerry Maneker's blog, Christian LGBT Rights. After reading it there, I urged him to post it at Pam Spaulding's House Blend website as a diary entry. As I'd hoped would happen, she chose to feature it on her front page.

In the essay, Jerry criticized a poster produced to publicize the most recent Folsom Street Fair, a leather/fetish event held annually in San Francisco. The poster was a take-off on Da Vinci's "Last Supper" painting; it re-imagined the solemn gathering as an S & M sex party complete with "toys". The depiction (see above) was guaranteed to offend most Christian sensibilities, and Jerry's was among them! Patrons of the Blend immediately pounced on his criticism, accusing him of bigotry against the BDSM community (a charge I find baseless, knowing Jerry's libertarian views about sexuality as I do).

Personally, I find the Folsom Street Fair poster tacky and ill-conceived, but I don't want to stir up that hornet's nest again: The brouhaha over leather/fetish politics obscured the main points Jerry was trying to make! I'd like to refocus attention on them. Here, in my opinion, is the meat of his essay:

The unfortunate fact is that many Gay people . . . have bought into the false notion, inculcated by religious and secular homophobes, their very oppressors, that they are merely sexual beings . . . who then, therefore, portray themselves, and view themselves as just that: One-dimensional people who focus on sexual activity, and who define themselves by their sexuality and by little or nothing else . . .

Being Gay, just like being Straight, is about one's whole being: His/her perceptions, sensibilities, and emotional/affectional/sexual preferences. We are all multi-faceted, and to restrict oneself or others to being a mere one-dimensional sexual animal does a grave injustice to both logic (and) Gay people themselves.

One can blame centuries of discrimination for the unconscious and/or conscious self-loathing that prompts the appropriation of the hateful epithets . . . by which many LGBT people identify themselves, and the sexualization of the self as the major component of one's very being that is held by many LGBT people; but that explanation only goes so far, and gives such LGBT people too much slack when any of us put the onus of self-hate solely on those who discriminate against the oppressed.

There is a point when one has to own his/her dignity, demand the respect due to any human being, demand full and equal civil and sacramental rights regardless of the negative messages and hostility that have been visited on that person in the past, or even in the present . . . and those goals will not be realized as long as the minority group accepts its inferior status, and revels in it by referring to its members by the very same terms used by the most virulent homophobes throughout history . . .

So, I say to those who revel in using pejorative and hateful self-identifiers, who are content with being treated as second-class citizens, who are delighted with crumbs of incrementalism, who are self-satisfied as long as their immediate perceived self-interests are being met, who tolerate the indignities attendant upon being treated as "the other" and "the deviant," who allow homophobic clergy and others to demean them with impunity: Grow Up!

When we were children we usually, and for some of us all too frequently, allowed adults to define our realities for us. Now that we're grown, we have an obligation to act our ages and demand to be treated with the same dignity and have the same civil and sacramental rights as anyone else! And not settle for anything less!

To the degree we act like children, either by centering our lives on frivolous and self-destructive activities, or by allowing others to define our realities for us, or by not demanding full and equal civil and sacramental rights, or by using negative and hostile self-identifiers that serve to perpetuate "outsider," "deviant," "abnormal," and "inferior" status, it is to that degree that homophobes are further emboldened; what rights that are currently enjoyed are threatened or may even be rescinded; increasing numbers of decent people will find "justification" for considering LGBT people as "not one of us," and the fight for full and equal civil and sacramental rights will be greatly harmed.

"In Defense Of Growing Up" continues with Part Two.

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