Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 24, 2012 8:23AM

When "Traditional Values" had a Party, and Love Showed Up

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curebacon  

I went to my first sit-in yesterday.  I had no idea when I headed off to campus that I’d spend part of my afternoon sitting crosslegged on the floor of the college library with my back to someone who was explaining to the assembled crowd how not to be homosexual, but it’s all in a day’s work, I suppose.

I had heard from a few students, and via the college newspaper, about a campus group that calls itself the Traditional Values Club.  Its stated mission is “to promote the sanctity of all human life, from birth to natural death; chastity before marriage; marriage exclusively between one man and one woman; as well as the belief that pornography, adultery, and masturbation are immoral, and that everyone is entitled to freedom of speech and religion." (I had to add the semicolons; without them, the list was a nearly unintelligible mishmash of unrelated phrases.)

It's sort of a red flag that the club’s founders felt it necessary to include freedom of speech and religion in their mission statement. They know good and well that their message comes pretty close to hate speech, and so they preemptively invoke their constitutional right to proclaim that those of you who whack off, have premarital sex, or (god forbid) love someone of the same gender are sickos.  Methinks they doth protest too much.  The writing group I advise feels no need to state that they have a right to free expression, because the default of that crowd isn’t exclusion, mistrust, and fear, but the opposites:  inclusion, trust, and acceptance.

Which brings me to why I’m struggling with what I saw yesterday.  The Traditional Values Club hosted a talk called “The Scientific view of Homosexuality,” in order to (according to the club’s faculty advisor) “give the science of same-sex attraction, from the secular point of view.”

That fellow faculty would endorse someone utterly uncredentialed posing as a scientist (his PhD is from an online school that was shut down in 2005 after granting a graduate degree to a cat) is at best an embarrassment, and at worst, unethical and counter to the college’s mission.  So I decided to see what the fuss was about.

Not long after I arrived at the speaking venue, I joined the few dozen students sitting on the floor with their backs to the speaker in silent protest against his message.  The acoustics were poor.  Students nearby were whispering to each other.  My hearing is bad and I was far away, so I admit that I had trouble getting every word he was saying.  I did manage to piece together this much:

Mr. I’m-Heterosexual-Because-I’m-Married-and-Don’t-Act-on-my-Desires is no more straight than the drag queen who was sitting nearby.  He made no distinction between sexual orientation and sexual behavior.  One can’t be changed; the other can. The speaker detailed a childhood during which he played with dolls, identified strongly with girls, and was attracted to boys.  He went on to have relationships with men.  His first marriage, to a woman, broke up because of his homosexuality.  He struggled with drug and alcohol abuse. But then, he was rescued from this “lifestyle” by a Christian organization.

Hmm.  Secular and scientific?  You know, I sometimes get secular and nonsecular mixed up, too; they sound like the opposite of what they are, so maybe I’ll forgive that gaffe. But mentions of the Bible and sin and redemption aside, there was nothing scientific about his message, either. He trotted out overbearing mothers and veiled references to Sigmund Freud, but he could not answer questions from the audience about why the DSM no longer recognizes homosexuality as a disorder, or why all of the higher primates engage in homosexual relationships.  

The upshot of the man’s presentation was that he is, in fact, a gay man who has chosen to “be” a heterosexual.  He doesn’t deny that he has urges, but he has learned a “method” (he used an acronym and held up five fingers to illustrate, although I could’t hear what he said) to cope with these undesirable feelings. In short, he applies the same strategies to deal with his sexual urges as an addict might to deal with cravings for alcohol or drugs.  

I don’t understand conflating immutable attraction to the same gender with a craving for controlled substances.  One is about fulfillment. One is about self-destruction. The TVC would say that they are the same: that homosexuality is as destructive as alcoholism or drug abuse. They fail to say whom it destroys. They say that there are all kinds of unhealthy sexual desires (what about pedophilia!?!?) that should be subverted.  They fail to make distinctions based on pesky technicalities like the absence of a victim or the presence of consent.

Besides, being homosexual is not about whom you want to screw.  It’s about whom you want to love.  It’s about who you are, not what you do.  It’s about making commitments and partnerships and families.  For the life of me, I don’t understand how anyone can have a problem with that or think that any loving, consensual partnership is a threat to any other.  

For awhile, as I sat there, my blood pressure rose.  I was horrified that the college allowed the group to organize.  Technically, they cannot deny groups their freedom of speech.  So does that mean they’d allow white supremacists an open forum?  How about Holocaust deniers?  Would a Eugenics club would be okay?  I just didn’t get it.  

But as the speaker went on, I actually started feeling sorry for him. Self-loathing is a terrible thing. He admitted that it was the cause of his alcoholism and drug abuse.  He thought it was the cause of his homosexuality.  It made me sad that he could not see that the answer to it all would have been to learn to love himself as he was.  As god made him.

Just as I was getting all riled up, I looked around and took stock.  The chairs facing the “expert” were nearly all empty.  Of the 8-10 that were not, over half were protestors who had moved forward in order to ask civil, intelligent, and respectful questions challenging the speaker.  It was hard to tell if anyone (other than one faculty member whom I recognized as having written a defense of the club in the school paper) was there in support of intolerance.  They threw a party no one wanted to come to--except the crashers.

By at least a ten to one margin, those in attendance were there in support of love: from gay men in “Born this Way” Tshirts, to lesbians in rainbow socks, to straights with NOH8 written on their faces.  People of all ages and colors, students, faculty and staff all sat together on the floor like Kindergarteners, united in our conviction that this guy had it wrong.

It looks like the Traditional Values Club accomplished teaching us something after all:  Love wins.

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Wow, beautifully executed explanation of the difference between a natural attraction and an unnatural denial of said attraction. Too bad the ones who really need to understand the message have an unnatural aversion to hearing it. rated.
This was exactly what is wrong with people today. Everyone is so hung up in judging others, pointing fingers, and being the 'right' ones. It seems it has to do with ego more than anything. One loves who they love. I am a Christian(sooo unpopular these days) however I believe in God's mercy and love, and I disown these "traditional (self-serving) Christians." Just sayin'! Enjoyed your story.
God must love homosexuals, since Hesheit made so many of them. But God must love fools even more.
Kate, what a great piece. You had me at "his PhD is from an online school that was shut down in 2005 after granting a graduate degree to a cat."

And yes, it is immensely sad that someone could spend that much of his life hating himself, and seeing his deepest self as an addiction.

Beautifully written. The good news is that for the younger people, being gay is a non-issue. No big deal. As my children grow up (in two different public middle schools that both have gay-straight alliance clubs) they will continue to see this as part of life.

Thanks.
Awesome story.

I feel sorry for the speaker, as he's adopted an alternative and destructive narrative to explain his past problems, as opposed to learning to love himself for who he is.

I also find it hilarious that the hate mongers couldn't stand his speech and left, and in the end it was just the farcical speaker and the protestors.
I teach at the same school and yes, Kate and I are friends, and oh how I wished I was not in class and could have attended this sit in. Two of my students from Shakespeare were in attendance and came to the class flushed, articulate, angry and we spent the first fifteen minutes disucssing the "presentation." Not one student in my class sympathized with "The Traditional Values," group. One in fact pointed out that there is no such thing as traditional values. Thanks to Kate for writing such a brilliant piece and for the use of semicolons......
This is a well written piece that was nice to read--particularly in hearing that he didn't have much of an audience. There's some hope to found in that.
so very wonderfully written. The battle may be long and bloody, but, yes, love always wins.
Rated.
What an interesting post. I would have been with you questioning this "club" and also it's faculty sponsor. Sounds like hate to me. Glad they were outnumbered with people who know what love is.
Yay! Love conquers all! I hope that guy allows himself to be himself some day. It's so awful to try to be what you're not!
Ah yes, love. It makes the world go round and is responsible for most of the stabbings on wicked Colfax Avenue in Denver any Sunday night. I imagine that political pressure took homosexuality off the DSM--because if you're in the shrink racket, you want to keep it there. If it's not in the book, you can't get paid to cure it. Also what's wrong with cats? My Mauser is wiser than most of the Ph.D.'s I know.
I don't know why you're so worked up over this. As you must know young evangelicals are more accepting of same sex ortientation/behavior/marriage more and more. The old attitudes are dying out as the older generation expires. The posturing of Rick Santorum and other reactionaries/traditionalists is just that...reaction against an irresistible societal dynamic. The interesting question now is how quickly homophilia acceptance will penetrate, ooh la la, more closed subcultures...the Hispanics and other immigrant communities who tend to be Pentecostal, religious lower class African American communities who voted disproportionately against gay marriage in that California referendum, etc. You should read my post: Mitt Romney...Virtual Queer Triggers Gaydars...wink
This is an excellent piece, Kate. Congratulations on the EP.

@Jejune Podiatrist,
I can’t speak for the author, but I get so worked up over this because the young, accepting evangelicals you mention aren’t making any noise that I can hear, while culture warriors such as Mr. Santorum and his Republican collaborators inflame the passions of their narrow minded and intolerant fans, fouling the nation’s public discourse and detracting from sane government.

Your young and tolerant friends might well rule the religious roost one day, but in the meantime, their elders are creating an unbearable stench to which most reasonable people will react.
Terrific job of getting inside the head of the other side -- something the right is incapable of doing with liberals, since they've made "empathy" a dirty word.

I am always amazed at how conservatives get angry with liberals for not showing greater tolerance for their intolerance. Conservatives seem utterly surprised when their hatefulness provokes hatefulness in return. They are convinced liberals are just hateful people. We're not being bigots when we say that homosexuality is a crime against nature and a sin against God, they say. We're just standing up for Judeo-Christian values, and getting persecuted for "practicing our faith."

But my favorite tactic is when conservatives accuse liberals of actively "recruiting" children to the "gay lifestyle" when schools do nothing more than adopt a zero tolerance policy for anti-gay slurs against their students.

What conservatives are afraid of, of course, is that their children just might just come out of the closet and be themselves if society lets down its guard and stops persecuting gays for their sexual orientation. So, in conservative minds, passive "tolerance" itself becomes a form of active "recruitment," with the added benefit that tolerance toward homosexuality then becomes much easier to fight politically if one can use the image it creates of predatory lesbians prowling the halls for new recruits.
Kate writes: "Mr. I’m-Heterosexual-Because-I’m-Married-and-Don’t-Act-on-my-Desires is no more straight than the drag queen who was sitting nearby. . . . The upshot of the man’s presentation was that he is, in fact, a gay man who has chosen to 'be' a heterosexual."

If someone tells me that he was a homosexual from birth and that his sexual orientation is fixed and immutable, I take that at face value. If someone tells me that he used to be a homosexual and that, through therapy, God, or a five-part acronym he is now heterosexual, I take that at face value too.

If a homosexual tells me that homosexuality is a wonderful thing that leads to a fulfilling life, I take that at face value, and I'm happy for him. If a former-homosexual-now-heterosexual tells me that homosexuality is a destructive thing and heterosexuality is a wonderful thing that leads to a fulfilling life, I take that at face value too, and I'm happy for him too.

In the midst of all of the debate surrounding these issues, I think it's important to remember that people are people, not issues. And there are a lot of people out there trying to make sense of their own lives. And in the process of making sense of their own lives some people will come to a self-understanding that pleases some political faction, and other people will come to a self-understanding that displeases some political faction.

But I think we need to extend to all people the simple dignity of defining their own lives for themselves, and if someone says that he's a homosexual, a former homosexual, a former heterosexual, or a heterosexual, then that's what he is, end of story. And if he eventually changes his mind, he'll let us know.

Kate: "But as the speaker went on, I actually started feeling sorry for him. Self-loathing is a terrible thing. He admitted that it was the cause of his alcoholism and drug abuse. He thought it was the cause of his homosexuality."

Maybe it was. We should let him interpret his own life for himself and not impose an interpretation on it. This is a radical idea, but sometimes people know more about their own lives than people who know nothing about them.

Kate: "I was horrified that the college allowed the group to organize. Technically, they cannot deny groups their freedom of speech. So does that mean they’d allow white supremacists an open forum? How about Holocaust deniers? Would a Eugenics club would be okay? I just didn’t get it."

Maybe the college should only allow groups that you approve of?
The qstn about whether or not free speech entitles one to express support for homophobia, racism etc is a tricky one, but it's just as worrying that a University would let a program titled "The Scientific view of Homosexuality" be led by an individual with none of the re
Interesting piece.
The qstn about whether or not free speech entitles one to express support for homophobia, racism etc is a tricky one, but it's just as worrying that a University would let a program titled "The Scientific view of Homosexuality" be led by an individual with none of the required credentials. Or facts.
I'm glad to see the shifting tide in opinion among younger people. Though the man in question may feel that his homosexuality was a disorder brought about by thus-and-such, and that he didn't hate himself, I'm suspicious when I see someone out on the bandwagon trying to get others to feel the same way. Just as the Christians who are out pushing religion on others tend to be the ones believing (or trying to believe, literally) some of the more outrageous claims of the Bible, people who are inordinately concerned about others' sexuality tend to have issues of their own. Hell, it's gotten to the point where a strong anti-gay stance by a politician has almost become a de facto statement of one's homosexuality. (My heart yearns for the story of Rick Santorum caught with his pants down in a park somwhere.)

I do take issue with one statement though:

"Besides, being homosexual is not about whom you want to screw. It’s about whom you want to love. It’s about who you are, not what you do. It’s about making commitments and partnerships and families."

Says you? Being homosexual, just like being heterosexual, can be about all sorts of things. It can be about making a family. It can be about living single and happy. It can be about dating. It can also be about feeling tingly when you see someone that turns you on like you've never been turned on before. It can be about a wild and really fun romp in the hay. It can be about raw sex almost on the spur of the moment.

It may be several or none of those things for you, but if you are going to preach a non-judgmental attitude, please don't assume to tell others what their sexuality is (or in a subtextual way 'should be') "about."
@kiporous:

That's actually a very fair criticism. Mine was a reductive definition of anyone's sexuality, let alone homosexuality. In my own defense, I'd guess that the reason I (at the time) couched it this way was because the message I was getting was "homosexuals are dangerous perverts who are a threat to the family," and felt the need to point out that sexuality is about more than sex and can look very much like all of the "values" they tout as "traditional." But as you astutely point out, it's not fair to reduce anyone's sexuality to love and marriage and family. In a world where we are all truly equal, we'd be free to express sexuality in any way that we choose between consenting adults -- which includes, for homosexuals, bisexuals, and heterosexuals alike, hay rolling, happy singlehood, etc. I wish I could go back and edit that paragraph now, but that feels dishonest. Thanks for the comment.