Sunday, December 6, 2015

"They" are terrified

Year 2015. We have won marriage equality and, as we strive more purposefully for transgender acceptance and equality, we are forcing deeply religious people to confront realities that they are simply unable to process. Rather than searching for agnostic truth (“agnostic” in the sense that the investigator is indifferent to the outcome) they are trying to find something – anything – that will bend reality to conform to scripture or, perhaps, the catechism of the Catholic Church. That need to conform is why intelligent people embrace seriously and obviously flawed research. There is an inexorable human need to believe in, and then obey, a deity. That has been true for thousands of years.

Truth, for some people, is defined by religious belief and nothing can change that. The only evidence that is real is evidence that purports to comply with their version truth no matter how convoluted the thinking is in order to dismiss the results of impartial, peer reviewed scientific research. With respect to sexuality, they simply cannot accept anything other than the binary proposition of men and women — all of whom are heterosexual. If some of them have “same-sex attraction” well, that's similar to a predisposition to drug or alcohol dependency. Right?

They have “evidence” to support the idea that sexual orientation is a choice. To Hell with the AMA and the American Academy of Pediatrics. To Hell with the American Psychiatric Association and all the other professional organizations who have concluded that sexual orientation is innate. Rev. Blowhard and Father Blowmeboy know better. Therefore, homosexuality is a choice that is sinful.

Frank Bruni at the New York Times may have described this determined disapproval best when he wrote that the choice to treat gay people as sinners “prioritizes scattered passages of ancient texts over all that has been learned since — as if time had stood still, as if the advances of science and knowledge meant nothing.” Real choice rests with how we treat other human beings. Whatever happened to the Golden Rule?

Lately, and coinciding with the ruling in Obergefell, they have been trying to frame disapproval of gay people as an issue of religious freedom that stems from the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment. State legislatures have been spending countless hours and resources to craft legislation that will effectively nullify municipal non-discrimination ordinances in public accommodations, housing and employment. This prodigious effort is on behalf of people who choose to judge gay people as sinners according to those ancient texts. In the end it is just disapproval based upon a characteristic that they don't like. That means it is bigotry. Bigotry is the correct word and we should not be afraid to use it.

They even want us to accommodate their bigotry. Last Thursday, December 4, Anthony Esolen wrote “Christians have attempted to redirect customers to businesses that would serve them … The Christians have asked for understanding from those customers and have not received it …”

Isn't that nice of those Christians and I am so sorry for the lack of understanding. Well fuck you! I don't want to be redirected. There is no nice, polite way to say “we don't serve your kind here.” I expect to be served regardless of your biases. And don't you dare ask me to understand or accept that you disapprove of who I am. That is why we have non-discrimination laws in the first place. It used to be routine for pretty much the same people to treat Jews the same way based on the same kind of religious prejudice. Today they would not dare. At least not publicly. Mr. Esolen thinks that this kind of bigotry is perfectly acceptable when it comes to LGBT people.

It is not just sexuality where religious belief interferes with reason and critical thinking. How many of these same folks are certain that abortions cause breast cancer? As an advanced society we have had to entertain and endure creationism and young-earth theory. Even geocentric theory is on the rise again. Its adherents claim that Einstein's theory of relativity allows the laws of physics to apply. Think about that irony. A disturbing number of people believe that man domesticated dinosaurs and that the Grand Canyon is a result of the Great Flood.

I would not care except that a frightening number of legislators, the people who make our laws, share these beliefs and attempt to inflict them on public policy. It is how they get reelected.

I do not care much for the “celebrity” class. I did not care for Bruce Jenner and Caitlyn leaves me cold. However, she has sure scared the living shit out of a great many people who simply cannot cope with a discrepancy between gender and genitalia. I can only imagine the further shock when they figure out that Caitlyn is probably a lesbian. Why is it so difficult to accept the simple fact that some people are wired differently than most of us? They will respond that pedophiles are wired differently. That is true but as a society it is necessary for us to prevent pedophiles from injuring children. The pedophiles must conform. There is no impetus nor rationality for us to treat Caitlyn any differently from who she is. In polite society the obligation to conform is on us, not her. Caitlyn is the sole decider of who she is. Don't worry. It's not catching.

The prevailing theory is that gender and sexual orientation are independent continua. Male and female — heterosexual and homosexual are at the extreme ends respectively. An infinite number of combinations of the two exist as nature provides us with an exquisite palette of possibilities. Then there is the fluidity. I personally go from gay to bi and back again all the time. My current fantasy is, well … never mind. But whatever it is, I need no one's approval.

2015 has been momentous. We have seen what our determination can accomplish. It scares the hell out of religious conservatives who have been so heavily invested in opposing us. As more people marry and raise children none of their parade of horribles will have occurred. That lack of disaster challenges their entire values system. We have seen how a certain segment of our society sees our gains as their loss and in some sense they are correct. Their credibility suffers immeasurably. We also know that we have a long way to go to achieve full equality in our society and that includes every letter of LGBT. Until a college professor like Mr. Esolen is too embarrassed to display his bigotry in public we remain second class citizens.


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Note: I started to write about Esolen's polemic and realized that the very fact that it exists is part of a larger issue.

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