Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My Thoughts on California Proposition 8

By Ed Smallwood

I don’t like grapefruit. To me, it tastes horribly bitter. When I say bitter, I mean it tastes like someone distilled out the bitter chemical from broccoli and then added a little bit of sugar to it. Not “kind of bitter,” but “Good God, are you feeding me grapefruit?!?” bitter. It took me a long time to find this out, but there is a small percentage of the population that has taste receptors for bitter that work especially well with a chemical in grapefruit, and to these people it tastes unacceptably bitter. That’s me. It’s not that I don’t like the idea of grapefruit, it’s not that I have anything against grapefruit, its not that a grapefruit scared me as a child, it’s just that I would probably starve to death if that’s all there were to eat. It just tastes horrible to me.
Now, just what the heck does that have to do with California Proposition 8? Quick synopsis of “Prop 8”: Proposition 8 would put in a constitutional amendment that would overturn the recent Judicial ruling stating that homosexual people have the right to marry.
So, again, what would my dislike of grapefruit have to do with Prop 8?
There are a few reasons stated as to why gay people should not be allowed to marry. The first is that they are not able to naturally reproduce. The usual reply to that is: “Why do we not then require married people who do not reproduce divorce, or why do we allow sterile people to marry?” My thought instead is: Then why do we give extra rights, such as the right to determine what happens to a brain-dead spouse, the right to get medical coverage from an employer, or the right to visit a spouse in the hospital to married couples only? These rights have nothing whatsoever to do with reproduction.
There are a few other arguments that come out, but eventually you come down to a couple of final ones: Homosexuals choose to be that way. If we allow homosexuals to marry, it will destroy marriage.
I’m going to make an admission here: I’m straight. I’m heterosexual. In short, I’m like most people (except for the hating grapefruit part.) But why should that be? If gay people choose to be homosexual, then why did I not choose to be homosexual? Are they in possession of information I am not? Does food taste better when you’re gay? I seriously doubt it. So why would one choose to be a member of the last group it is okay to discriminate against when it is so easy to choose not to be?
I have found that I learn more about myself by turning these questions around: Why did I choose to be straight? I have had people try to convince me that I chose to be straight the first time I had sex with a woman. That is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse and ignores the important question: Why did I decide to have sex with a woman instead of a man? Was it because I would be part of the majority? Was it because I would get benefits from my employer if I married a woman? Was it because of some words written thousands of years ago? Did I flip a coin at some point and it came up “tails?” (Yeah, tails!) Was it because I’m a grapefruit-hating mutant? Could it be that it was because I’m attracted to women in a way I am not attracted to men?
Hint folks: The correct answer is the last one. Yep, it’s not even all of the above. That last answer so overwhelmed the others that I didn’t ever consider them (and I never flipped that coin—there was no point in doing so.) That might explain why I chose to marry a woman, even when it’s obvious that they carry cooties (just ask my boys.) I won’t go into the reasons I selected the woman I married now. That’s subject enough for a book, probably of poetry. (“There once was a man from…” Okay, what rhymes with “Santa Cruz?”)
So, why would someone choose to be gay? To me, the answer is simple: They don’t. I did not choose to be straight. I am straight. Just like I did not choose to hate grapefruit. I do not find men sexually attractive. There honestly isn’t any argument that would convince me to be gay, just like you can’t convince me that grapefruit isn’t bitter. So to me it naturally follows that gay men do not find women sexually attractive, and lesbians do not find men sexually attractive, and you cannot argue them into feeling otherwise. You may be able to cow them into behaving as if they do, but that is simply straight conscription, not honest, open debate. People will do strange things under pressure.
Now, what does that mean about those that think that being straight or gay is simply a choice? To me it means that either the person making the argument that a person chooses to live a “homosexual lifestyle” is a gay person living a “straight lifestyle,” or they really haven’t thought it through and were convinced that it is a choice by someone else who is gay and living a “straight lifestyle.” I’m thoroughly convinced that they are either naïve or closeted homosexuals. The only third option I see is that they may be bisexual and denying their homosexual urges. Not necessarily complimentary, but I honestly can’t come up with any other options.
So what about the idea that allowing gay people to marry will destroy marriage?
I’m going to state right now as fact that should Prop 8 fail I will not be divorcing my wife. I do not believe that she will be divorcing me for that reason either. Remember that admission earlier: I’m not gay, and there is no argument that will “turn” me gay.
Now, a couple of decades ago, I saw the marriage of a close family friend, who I consider a sister, dissolve. Her husband, the father of my niece (not by blood), came out as strictly homosexual. This was indeed a family tragedy. The divorce was not amicable. Baseless accusations were made. A few years after the divorce, my sister’s ex-husband died of pneumonia complicated by HIV infection.
So, this would seem to be a classic explanation as to why allowing gays to marry would wreck marriage. Except, this was twenty years ago. The debate had hardly begun, and homosexuals clearly did not have the right to marry. If gays had indeed had that right at the time, perhaps my former kind-of brother-in-law would not have married my sister, and that messy divorce would never have happened. Of course, I would have been denied a wonderful niece, but even she would not have endured the tragedy of being separated from her father for the last few years of his life. Their marriage was an unhealthy fraud in the first place, and shouldn’t have happened. The lives of three people, and the death of one, attest to that.
I do not believe that passing this law will cause people with homosexual urges to stop having them, or to ignore them. It is illogical to believe that this could happen, just as it is illogical to believe that passing a law that states that grapefruit is not bitter would change the tastebuds in my mouth.
So, passing Prop 8 will not defend even one marriage. The final argument is left in tatters, and I will be voting against it this November. And should it fail, I will not be toasting its demise with grapefruit juice.


Anonymous said...

First off Ed, I would like to thank you for your blog!!!

My partner and I have been together for 15 plus years and just got married!

I have been very upset over the past few days as everytime I get into the car, I see the "Yes on 8" signs. The feeling that I get everytime I see one is total and complete hopelessness. My life is going to be voted on by everyone and to see that many people hate everything about me makes me so sad. My partner, excuse me, husband and I live in a typical niegborhood and have the typical friends and neighbors who I can honestly say respect us and our marriage as much as we do theirs. I don't see how us being married hurts anyone! If anything, I see that our marriage will do nothing but help marriage as a whole as we are in a loving and healthy relationship and have allways have room in out lives and hearts for everyone.

With all that said, I was starting to get very depressed about the fact that we have been attacked by all these groups that aren't even in CA, not to mention the Prop H8 people that it really did pick up my spirits to read your post! To see that someone that is in a healthy "straight" marriage is actually on our side was a great pick me up today.

Thanks again.


Dominick said...

I really appreciate your writing what you did. Thanks much.

It's so very obvious to me, a gay man, that equality means exactly that. In effect, those who disagree must think of me and other gays as diseased, defective, disordered or things like that. They wrongly imagine that I'm not actually gay, but straight, only trapped in gayness. Otherwise, they couldn't maintain their positions.

But I ramble on. Really, I am writing to say that you're a great guy - a fair, reasonable, and, yes, good guy - for writing the blog post.