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Stepping Across the Barricade: I’m 47, Married, Religious, and Love My Gay Friends, Daggonit

Stepping Across the Barricade: I’m 47, Married, Religious, and Love My Gay Friends, Daggonit

By Josh First

July 31, 2012

1) I do not hate, dislike, or otherwise work against homosexual people.
2) Since my college years I have known casually and also been close friends with many gay people, both women and men. I love my gay family members as well as a couple of my gay friends.
3) I am not gay, I am not attracted to men, but rather have always had a “thing” for older women. Now that my marriage is closing in on 20 years, I’m finally getting what I always lusted after: An older woman.
4) I have stood up for gay people, in the office during my professional career and during social situations in college, since I was in my teens.
5) If I were to see a gay person being physically attacked for the simple reason that they were gay, they could and always can count on my immediate involvement and intercession on their behalf. I’ll physically defend your right to be gay and free from harassment and assaults, and I’m a tough brawler.
6) I believe that people are born gay, that it is not a choice at least most of the time, and that God made gay people the way they are; more power to them. Someone had to fill Isaac Mizrachi’s shoes, and it sure isn’t going to be a knuckle dragger like me. I admire anyone defending our nation with a gun, gay or straight.
7) Be gay if that’s what you are. Live. Be. Enjoy the free air as much as I or any other person enjoys it. You are just as entitled to it as any other human. I don’t care if you are gay.
And…8: During the two times I have run for public office (U.S. House PA-17th District, 2010, and PA Senate – 15th District in 2012), I have taken open, strongly worded policy positions against discrimination against gay people in the work place, in the application of government benefits, and in equal protection of the laws of the land.

Given the forgoing, you would have to be a lunatic to say that I am anti-gay, bigoted against gays, or somehow an anti-gay crusader.

And yet, all these things have been said about me, and much worse, over the past week since I dared to raise a nuanced policy discussion about preventing the sexualizing of children. In sum, to recapitulate what started the ruckus, I support the Boy Scouts of America policy of not sexualizing their kids. In terms of gay people, it means that open displays of sex, discussing being gay, gay-ness, gay acts, and other human sexuality in general are all off limits, forbidden, and utterly unacceptable. Because these are, after all, children. This applies to gay, straight, and pedophile adults. Think what you want, but keep your thoughts to yourself.

My child is not going to be a battleground in this culture war issue. Homosexuality is sexuality, and sexuality of all sorts does not belong in the scouts nor around little kids. People pushing sexuality make me uncomfortable for obvious reasons, whether they are straight or gay. Sexuality is a private matter. Kids and sex don’t mix. 

Sexuality is sex; it is not race, religion, etc. no matter how much culture war proponents want to say it is. That’s the problem with culture wars. Demands are made of others to suspend belief, suspend reason, suspend debate and just kowtow, or die. 

Once again, to recapitulate, it is my opinion that talking about sex or sexuality with children who are not your own, especially in the Boy Scouts-type setting, is unacceptable. Adults, sex, and kids do not mix.

Unless the kids are yours and you are parenting them by describing human sexuality. Or, if you consent to having the “birds and the bees” be described for your kids at school by a professional in a public setting.

A few reasons probably account for the heaps of criticism on the position I took. First, gay people generally want to be accepted like anyone else (why wouldn’t they?), and they mistakenly believe that someone is singling them out for unfair treatment in a policy discussion like this. A second reason may emanate from straights who support gays’ right to be free from intimidation, harassment, and discrimination, and these fine folks believe, mistakenly, that any criticism of gays (even criticism that is leveled equally at both gays and straights) is automatically unfair and out of bounds. Another reason may be simple politics, as in “I will attack you and destroy you and harass you and demean you and lie about you if you say something I disagree with.”

Reading those comments, we had all three reasons at work.

What does it mean to be gay?

Well, being gay means that you are attracted to people of your same sex or gender.

Only you know how you feel about sex, unless you tell someone, or act flamboyantly in ways that convey your sexuality (or perform sex acts where others can see them). For gay men, this may mean acting effeminate, dressing in women’s clothes, or adopting modes of communication that tell other men that they are attracted to them. For straight men, conveying your sexuality usually results in charges of sexual harassment. At the very least, you’ll have been known to have ‘hit’ on someone.

The point is, unlike skin color, which is obvious to all but the blind and accounts for race and ethnicity, and religion\creed, which can be observed many different public and private ways, being gay or straight is not something that can be publicly observed under normal circumstances.

Which is one reason why I supported adding being gay or being perceived as gay to Pennsylvania’s anti-discrimination laws.

The bottom line is this: Sexuality is not race, ethnicity, religion, or creed. Human sexuality is a thing unto itself, and usually it is taboo. We have taboos against incest, sex with animals, and until recently, homosexuality. In recent times, we recognized that private sexual relations between consenting adults are their own business, and that they must be accorded the same protections as anyone else when there or out in public.

In free societies, we ensure that minorities of all sorts are free from discrimination, because discrimination undermines the promise of equal protection and opportunity for all citizens. Minorities are defined as being different than the Protestant majority formed by the Europeans who settled America. If someone tells you over the phone that they are African American, you can then later on compare them to a European American’s skin color and see the difference, and measure their minority status. Religion is often strongly correlated with race and ethnicity, and ethnicity is often strongly associated with certain names. Thus, many names (Goldberg, Rosenberg, Stein, McCloud, etc.) give a hint about the person’s place of origin, potential ethnicity, and religious affiliations, however tenuous or committed.

Gays have the misfortune of being in a category that should be protected, but which cannot be easily verified, at least without the removal of some clothing and the performance of acts that must by necessity for all citizens occur only in private among consenting adults. Verification is going to be a challenge.

There are those of us Americans who are raising our kids to be both tolerant of others, including gays, and also be religious and modest. This means they are taught that some subjects cannot be discussed in public, but that everyone is entitled to the American dream. It means that we expect others to display the same inhibitions that we exhibit, and to respect our boundaries as they expect us to extend respect to them.

However, American public life is increasingly coarsened and with it the standard for public discourse is lowered. One measure is how Hollywood continues to abuse its power of persuasion and suggestion with movies glorifying violence and sadism. Another example is the blurring of private and public lives, where innately private acts are displayed in public. This means that some people now believe that they may, nay, even must, be able to force upon you their own beliefs, practices, and thoughts. Even if they are offensive to you as much as you accord them the right to be and do what they will. They demand such respect even while simultaneously stating that you yourself believe in only stupidness and bigotry.

Which gets to the conclusion of this essay: Tolerance is a two-way street. And tolerance does not mean acceptance. No one has the right to demand that someone else adopt their way of thinking or risk being called a bigot. You cannot do it with religion, and you cannot do it with sexuality. People have a right to have comfort zones, to have beliefs. Gays have a right to be free of discrimination. And parents have the right to say that they do not want Little Johnny knowing that men are attracted to each other like Mommy and Daddy are, and all the discussion that such attraction entails. There is no easy answer to this, as one side must gain and the other must by necessity lose in such a situation. Picking sides means no further dialogue, with each side manning its barricades. Some friends have let me know which side they are on, and they exclude me from that side, which I think is both illogical and unnecessary.

I like to view myself as someone who has stepped over the barricades and extended a hand of friendship to the other side. Demanding that I drop my discomfort, or that I kowtow and say certain words to make someone else feel as though they have won, well, that just prolongs the conflict, because it’s not right. Given the preface above, I wonder how many gays will say the same for my religious belief system. Or am I the only one who needs to be tolerant?

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