Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Thoughts after Orlando

I'm going to weigh in on this one, although the facts are not yet all in.  I'm willing to do this because I'm not actually drawing any conclusions (unlike some) about that tragic event, at least not yet.  What is factual is that this murderous act was evidently set off when the shooter witnessed men kissing.  So he targeted a gay bar in Orlando (which he apparently frequented!), and gay bars are where many gay people go to be able to be openly gay without fear.  Except the shooter was about to change that forever.  After this despicable crime, is there anywhere for gay people to go to feel safe about simply being themselves?  Certainly there's little sanctuary in churches, most of which continue to preach that homosexuality is a sin (and some even go so far as to say it's a sin worthy of death), and in society at large.  Overt homosexuality is still considered disturbing or repulsive.

Growing up in the ultra-conservative suburbs of Chicago, everyone I knew considered it to be a serious insult when you called someone a "queer/faggot".  I was brought up in that culture, and simply went along with it because everyone was in agreement:  fags were detestable and homosexuality was a vile act.  I was taught to hate. This has been the American perspective for generations, nurtured by fundamentalist christians who quote various biblical passages condemning the sin.  With this sort of sanctioned contempt, violence against gays has been a constant drumbeat in our "christian" culture.  Never mind that many of the most strident of those condemning homosexuality have been shown repeatedly to harbor homosexual tendencies themselves - a sort of self-hatred manufactured by the revulsion of the heterosexually-dominated culture.

We even have "conversion centers" aimed at "curing" the "sickness" that many see homosexuality to be.  Bashing gays is a full-time occupation for such intellectual giants as populate the Westboro Baptist Church.  Our culture is rife with those who demonize others for "choosing" the "homosexual life style".  Why would anyone choose to be a homosexual?  It makes absolutely no sense at all to do so, given our cultural history where homosexuality is condemned so vigorously.  Homosexuals who 'come out of the closet' to their friends and family often find themselves repudiated and reviled by the very people who should love them the most.  Does it make sense that someone would choose to do that to themselves?  C'mon, get real! Homosexuality is NOT a choice!

Having grown up with all of that cultural conditioning, I was OK with all of that revulsion for a long time.  I wasn't gay and didn't understand how someone could actually prefer to be so.  I didn't want some gay guy coming on to me to participate in his perversions, after all.  "Fag" as an insult?  Sure, I could see that.  Stay the hell away from me!

However, I began to find people I respected in my profession who clearly were homosexuals.  These were good people, great friends, and never once did they ever make even the slightest attempt at having sex with me.  [Am I that unattractive?  (joke)]  In my youth, I was raped by an older "friend" as a boy but this was clearly not a sexual act.  It was one of violence.  He was not a gay man, he was a pedophile.  To equate gays with pedophilia is simply an absurd myth, believed mostly by ignorant gay-bashers.  None of the gay people of my professional acquaintance ever made any sexual advances to me.  Ever.  None of them have ever even been accused, let alone convicted, of being pedophiles.

In my life, there came a time when I was presented with an unexpected "situation".  A gay friend was 'outed' accidentally and the circumstances literally forced me to decide just how I was going to deal with it in public.  Certain of my homophobic acquaintances urged me to repudiate my long-time friend, who was now publicly known to be gay.  Was I going to have to turn my back on my friend because he was now revealed openly to be a homosexual?  That was an easy choice - not just "NO!" but "HELL, NO!!"  My respect for those people upset by my choice has been declining ever since.  I will not turn my back to my friends because of their sexual orientation.  Period.  It's none of my business and never has been.  They are who they are, irrespective of their sexual preferences, and I have no reason to distance myself from them on that basis.

So where does this personal history leave me with respect to the Orlando tragedy?  Whatever might have been the complex motivation for the shooter, the deed almost certainly was driven by homophobic hate encouraged by many cultures, including ours in the USA.  Otherwise, why target a gay nightclub?  Like many of us in the last few years, I've learned to overcome the hatreds I was taught and we've seen a dramatic change in favor of equal rights for the LGBTs, who can now begin to imagine a day when sexual preferences go back to being purely personal and not something to be used to insult and condemn.  Religion has a long history of using guilt about sexual behavior as a means of control, and until all the major religions abandon their tradition of condemnation regarding sexual preferences, we'll continue to see suffering as a consequence of that self-imposed guilt. Religion (muslim and christian) long has been an enabler when it comes to violence against non-heterosexual people. Let us turn our backs on that!

I'm pleased to see the widespread agreement over renouncing the homophobia that underpins the Orlando shootings.  I'm encouraged by the growth of tolerance for LGBTs.  Perhaps we can eventually emerge from the darkness and into the light of real tolerance.

5 comments:

John Monteverdi said...

Hear, hear.

And, I want to publicly acknowledge Chuck as being there for me when the "outing" he described occurred. In fact, though accidental, it was a spectacular "self-outing" on my part via an email that was mistakenly sent to the wrong person, but ended up being sent to a group of professionals. It was a trying time for me, but it was even more of a trying time for Chuck and Vickie. I pretty much could guess who the individuals were that wanted me castigated, or thrown off the group, or repudiated. And I know that these people were important to Chuck too. I was mortified by putting him through this.

But we all came out of this stronger, and our friendship is stronger. And we all realize that this was a life changing event upon which we three (me, Chuck, and Vickie) and others in the group who stepped up (I don't want to name them here, but they know who they are). As for the others, they still maintain their stance on homosexuality and gay people. Not much we can do about that.

So thank you Chuck. You are a dear friend.

John Monteverdi

brian weatherholt said...

Good blog, Dr. Doswell something told me to check your site today, t's been a long time since we were the fodder of the machine. 46yrs? I would like to reconnect, if you chose. Brian R Weatherholt

Chuck Doswell said...

Brian - Wow! A blast from the past ... yes, of course. You can email me or find me on Facebook. I've thought of you often over the years and it's great to hear from you again.

John - I didn't want to mention your name without your permission, but it's obvious that that incident was a life-changing event, and we did indeed come out of it stronger and (for my part) awakened to the reality of homophobia.

John Monteverdi said...

Just one last thought on that "self outing" event in 2000. The one major change that it effectuated in me is that from that moment on I didn't give a hoot who knew I was gay and what they thought about it. I also don't advertise it constantly because it's as a part of my identity as everyone else's sexuality is a part of theirs. It's neither good nor bad, it just "is". There were many others on that group for which this incident was a turning point in their dealing with the notion of gay people among them. So, this was all good, strangely enough.

For the several others that I suspect gave Chuck the most grief, their sanctimony and self-righteous behavior continues to this day. That doesn't matter, since most of the world has gone on without them except, sadly, people like Omar Mateen.

Joel Genung said...

In the end this all boils down to nothing but hate and until "The World" stops classifying one another as Gay, Straight, Black, White, Christian, Muslim, Democrat, Republican et al, and begins looking at each other as fellow human beings, nothing will change. Unfortunately, I see little evidence of this and in fact, I oftentimes think we are swinging more towards deep division within all levels of society. While I know this may be offtrack and I don't mean to digress, no better illustration can be found than within the current political campaigns. Furthermore, far too many instances are in the name of a so-called "God," whether it be in the name of Lord, Allah, Buddha or whatever. If this violence is in the name of whatever good a "God" is supposed to bring mankind, I have a tough time reconciling the fact that there is even such a thing. Society's general behavior seems to contradict every parable of goodwill a religion's teaching are intended to imply. I'd give anything to see signs of change but the pessimist within me says we've passed the tipping point and current indications do not portend well for our children and grandchildren.