I was troubled by two headlines in the New York Times this weekend. One article profiled a number of organizations that reportedly assist gays and lesbians to find "freedom" from homosexuality, brought to sudden awareness by Ted Haggard's claim of such liberation. [Sidebar: does anyone else find the acronyms for these predominantly right-wing "Christian" conservative organizations vaguely annoying, I mean once you get past the idiocy of their mission anyway? There's one called LIFE (Living in Freedom Eternally). Should be Living in Fear of Everyone. And there's JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality). But what about ZONAS (Zebras Offering New Alternatives to Stripes)? Or JACSHT (Jews Aching for Closeted Sex with Hot Tuchises)?]
The other headline discussed the attendance of the U.S. Episcopal Church's relatively new presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, at a meeting of Anglican primates in Dar es Salaam this week. Undoubtedly, she will face a great deal of adversity from the plethora of conservative bishops who feel the Episcopal Church has committed heresy by ordaining a gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2003. [Sidebar: Jeez, that issue is SO yesterday!] So, not only do they have a bishop from the land of black sheep coming to sit, snack and supplicate with them at the table, but this bishop's a woman! Rumor has it many of them might simply walk out on her. I say the only good side of a bigot is their backside, seen as they strut away.
Why is it that so many people, Americans and otherwise, feel it necessary to tread on others? During my life thus far, I have been very fortunate to surround myself with people for whom my sexuality is not a burning issue. Somehow I managed to escape the bigoted lunacy that formed my environment when I was a child and young adult. I came out, to myself at least, in the 80s...in Arkansas! Perhaps the linear distance from the painful melee of dying young men in greater cities far, far away was beneficial in a way. It was, however, also problematic, in that AIDS increased the irrational fear of "The Other" that plagues so many small-town folk. Speaking of distance, moving away from my family to Europe and Canada as a young adult allowed me to come to terms with my sexuality on my own and with the support of friends and newly made family. It may be true that my parents would have, eventually, come to terms with it as well, had I stayed in the household. But then I had been bold enough to come out first to my only sister, a year and half my elder. Was that ever a mistake. I was so wrapped in my own false sense of comfort that I actually thought she would find easier acceptance, so I told her. Then came the periodic drunken phone calls in the wee hours of the morning, begging me to recant my big ol' blue-eyed blunder.
"Oh, my dear brother, [sniffle] I don't know how you can do this to us. This is just horrible!"
"Horrible? Why can't you just accept me for who I am? I'm a good person. I swept the Best Citizenship awards in elementary school, was runner-up for Outstanding Youth of America, and I was drum major in high school, for Christ's sake! I'm not a bad person, and I don't need to change!"
"Pleeeease, Sandy," she gurgled, "can't you [hiccup] just give girls a try...for [burp] me?"
"No, I can't. This is not something I can change. It's not like I can wake up one morning and decide to wear brown instead of blue shoes that day. Any anyway, my shoes are just fine."
And then came the ultimate conversation ender.
"Well, you can never, ever tell Dad. It would KILL him!"
"Fine. I have to go now." Click.
So, instead of killing my father, I decided to save him from a certain torpid, agonizing decay by distancing myself from him and the rest of my family for nearly 20 years. Dad and I have reconnected now, and I am fully out to him. Heck, he has survived heart disease and near-fatal car accidents. I think he'll be okay. He loves Mark and Zane. And I, finally, have come to believe he loves me.