Friday, June 28, 2013

"It's the law...!"

Photos this week are fireworks for the 4th of July, Photos of San Francisco, and school posters...

Wednesday June 26 was a memorable day for the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender) community in the Bay Area.... With the passage of the two Supreme Court decisions, marriage between two people of the same sex is now legal in California and the federal restrictions on recognition of same sex marriages is removed. To top it off, this is the weekend of the SF gay pride parade – the most ‘out’ day in the year will be a major celebration this year!

Fourth of July fireworks
‘We were happy and gay riding the school bus today!”  Such was the meaning of “gay” just a few decades ago.... Today when I visit high school classrooms I sometimes hear “That is so gay!”...  Used this way the term is a serious insult and a challenge – This ignorance about the GLBT issue goes deep into our cultural history.  With adolescents (and some older folks too) the issue is often the person’s insecurity about his or her own sexual identity – their fear that “it might happen to them...” Safer to laugh about it and call someone else “gay”...or to blame gays for being the way they are.

San Francisco
I grew up in a small Central California city where ‘there were no gays or lesbians”  - not overtly anyway... it was a taboo topic.  No one recognized or talked about it.   Oh, some people twittered about the two middle-aged librarian ladies who lived together – but they were such “nice people” and it was wonderful that they could find mutual company in each other.
It wasn’t until I went away to college that I really encountered the issue – Living in the dorm, young college guys were naturally curious about sex and asked questions about the gays and lesbians in San Francisco – There were ( and are )  many myths floating around...

Coit tower neighborhood - SF
1.     “You can always tell if someone is gay by the way they act, look, and talk”.  Not true -  
2.     “ I don’t want my child to have any contact with a gay person– they might influence him or her to become gay.” A person is not recruited to being gay. It isn't an infection.
3.     “Just look at how his mother coddled him – that’s why he turned our gay.” Having a dominating mother (or father) does not produce gays
4.     “ It’s a decision they make – they could decide to stop being gay if they wanted to.”  Someone does not choose to be gay – it’s not a decision to be made.
5.     “There are counseling programs that can ‘cure’ a person of being gay.” These programs can only repress the natural inclination of the person by playing on their guilt or by inducing fear. They are still gay.
Fireworks - Oaxaca 
So what causes a person to be gay or lesbian? It is still largely an unanswered question.  Studies show that most gay individuals recognize at an early pre teen age that they are different. Most gays experience no sense of choice about their sexual orientation,  their choice is about "coming out" or staying hidden. One guess is that there may be unidentified complex genetic/chemical factors.  Another hypotheses is that it is a genetic/chemical event in the embryo or shortly after birth. Homosexuality is natural in some other mammals – not just humans. Cats, dogs, horses, cows for examples...
In some cultures homosexuals were honored as Shaman or wise men.  In other cultures they became the priest class.  In some Native American cultures they became medicine men given special power and prestige. And in some cultures they are figuratively or actually stoned to death.

Fireworks - Oaxaca 
Can you imagine the intense heart sick pain of having to live life pretending to be someone that you know you are not – and then surreptitiously finding opportunities to practice your true identity in secret? Living in fear of being ‘found out’? This kind of life style can lead to despair, a distorted personality, or at least a sad unfulfilled existence. It can even result in suicide  ( all to common ). The fortunate ones grow up in an open and accepting environment.  Some find a sympathetic counselor to help lead them into an open and honest life.  It can't be easy to "come out of the closet" - but people who do, describe it as a freeing experience. Of course some parts of the US are more willing to accept openly gay people than others.

Bulletin board invitation - Teens can have many sorts of conflicts for which they need help...
I did not learn to feel comfortable with GLBT people until I had a program supervisor who is lesbian.  I have come to admire and like this woman as a person. I have come to feel at ease with her and enjoy her company.   All it takes is knowing one individual to break through  the pattern of prejudice and ignorance... Since then, I have worked with others both lesbian and gay... they are like all of us... some I feel friendly with and some I have difficulty relating to.  I was a little slower coming to feel comfortable with gay men – because I did not have  interactions with any... When Judy and I became members of a church with several openly gay men and women,  we found gay people active in leadership roles, good 'idea' people, funny, easy to talk to...  With them I learned that gay men are much like the rest of us. We have invited them into our home and enjoyed good conversations.  It doesn't taint me to enjoy being with them as friends.

School hall way poster -Oakland
We see gay and lesbian couples who are in long term committed relationships – some lasting a lifetime.  I know two dear sweet professional woman who are powerful forces in their community and firmly committed to each other – they own a beautiful home, enjoy their dogs, and maintain their garden... just like the rest of us.

I am about as heterosexual as you can be – but my life has been enriched by becoming open to people with different sexual orientations.  This has largely occurred because of the open attitudes about GLBT peoplle living in the Bay Area.  (The lives of gay folks can still be a challenge here - there are still homophobes lurking about.)  For me, it only took working along-side people different from me  to find that we have much more in common than we have differences.