Hope and Love Last Longer

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Some days the madness in this world takes my breath away.  And some days it simply breaks my heart.  After the shooting at Pulse in Orlando, to say that my heart is broken feels like an understatement.  But more than sadness, there is anger – and an almost desperate need to take action.  To create change.  To promote healing.

But I’ve struggled with what to say or if I should say anything at all.  There’s too much and anything that I have to say is not enough.

Do I focus on drawing attention to the victims?  Young men and women gunned down, many of whom were just at the beginning of their lives.  What could they have accomplished?  What have we missed out on because they were taken from us too soon?  Take a moment to listen to the names of those who were senselessly murdered.  (Anderson Cooper, CNN.)

Should I talk about the attack on the LGBT community?  A community that I feel so personally connected to and yet I sometimes forget how dangerous it is for my friends and loved ones.  I forget how brave you have to be, even in 2016, to be out, to be proud and to still choose love in the face of hate. (Kevin Chorlins, Facebook post)

Is now the time to remind everyone that your words matter?  Every time you marginalize the LGBT community, you feed the hate. Every time you sneer at affection between same sex couples.  Every time you insist that the Bible tells you that someone else’s love in invalid. Every time you use the words faggot or dyke.  Every time you equate homosexuals or transgender individuals with pedophiles and sexual predators.  Maybe you are just joking.  Maybe you are just uncomfortable.  Maybe you think you are doing the right thing.  You wouldn’t pick up a gun and shoot someone you don’t understand, so why are your words important? Your words are seeds that get planted in the fertile soil of someone looking for a reason to hate and to act on it.  Choose them carefully.

Do I get angry and lash out at those who insist on placing blame?  Was religion a factor?  Was the shooter a IS sympathizer?  Is right-wing Christianity as much to blame for the persecution of the LGBT community?  Was the gunman mentally ill? Does any of that even fucking matter?  Call it terrorism.  Call it a hate crime.  It is both.  Blame society, but we are all “society” and if we aren’t working to be a part of the solution, then we are, indeed, a part of the problem.

Is it too soon to pull out the soapbox and talk about gun control? I see the Facebook posts about how President Obama (the Democrats, the Liberals…whoever) want to take away the guns from law abiding citizens as a reaction to this violence.  That is complete bullshit and perpetuating that myth keeps us from making any real progress.  There’s a real debate to be had about reasonable gun control and how we protect the second amendment, but we can’t have it until the lies coming from special interest groups are taken out of the discourse.  (PBS Newshour, President Barack Obama to gun owners.)

Can I bring myself to put all of the negative aside and ask you to choose love?  Is it naive to have hope, even now, that that world can change for the better?  Now, more than ever, we need to remember that “hope and love last longer”. (Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tonys acceptance sonnet)

Transgender Day of Remembrance: An opportunity to learn

Today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, established to remember transgender individuals who have been killed by hate crimes.  This is the first year that I’ve heard about this particular day of remembrance (established in 1999), and I’m ashamed to admit that I know very little about transgender issues.  So I took to the internet to learn more.

I would typically aim to only write a blog post if I felt as though I’d come away with a particularly compelling point to make or a story to tell, but after a couple of hours of reading up on transgender issues, I still have more to learn.  There are a lot of compelling stories to tell – and it was hard to focus on just one.  From the complexities of raising children whose gender identity does not match their physical gender, to facing discrimination in the workforce, to health care, to voting, to the persistent threat of physical violence – the transgender community faces extremely complicated issues.

Today is a day of remembrance for those who lost their lives due to hate crimes against transgendered individuals.  If passing this along prompts just one other person to type “transgender issues” into their search engine to seek out information and gain a better understanding of an often misunderstood community, I hope that contributes to the memorial in some small way.

Mawwiage, that bwessed awwangement: Opposing the Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage

I just spent 15 minutes of my life searching the internet for any well-written, non-religious arguments opposing same-sex marriage.  That’s 15 minutes of my life I’ve wasted and I’m never getting back.

I am undoubtedly more passionate about the subject of marriage equality than I am about any other social or political issue.  I’ve been writing about the issue – at least privately – since I was in junior high school.  And as I’m writing this blog post right now, I have to wonder why I’m bothering at all.  Are there people on the fence on the topic of marriage equality?  Is there someone out there who needs to be convinced with my impassioned argument?  Are there individuals in opposition of marriage equality who hold a rational opinion on the subject that I can refute?

These aren’t rhetorical questions.  While the tides are turning and those opposing equality are beginning to fall into the minority, there does still exist a very large percentage of Americans who believe that a same-sex couple should not be permitted to be married in a civil ceremony.  But why?

The Biblical Argument

There is no question that the vast majority of same sex marriage opponents will cite a religious argument or biblical argument.  “The Bible says that it is wrong.”  “The ‘Church’ defines marriage as between a man and a woman.”

If I were so inclined, I could reference the counter-argument to any biblical references with those passages that are obviously not followed to the same letter and literal translation as biblical references to “man lying with another man”.  (That’s in quotes, but I’m paraphrasing.)  We’ve all heard the counter-argument.  There are plenty of Christians and others devout in their faith who would also happily counter this and argue for equality.

Regardless of any biblical counterargument, the fact remains that a religious opposition to same sex marriage is an invalid argument in a civil, secular debate.  So let me be clear on how I see this:

1.) Your religion does not dictate my civil rights.  Full stop.  End of story.

2.) No one is suggesting that your church should be required to marry or recognize the marriage of a same-sex couple.

The “Definition of Marriage” Argument

Aside from biblical definitions, there are those who will argue that “marriage” is defined as being between a man and a woman.  (I’d argue that the definition is out-dated, but that’s not relevant here.)  If this were truly the crux of the argument, then a viable compromise is to remove the word “marriage” from all civil unions.  Marriage would no longer be a civil institution, as it’s definition is discriminatory.  All couples wishing to enter into a legal agreement that comes with obligations and rights would sign a civil union agreement, which would come with equal rights for all couples.

Suggest this to someone who opposes marriage equality, though, and they’ll likely insist that marriage and civil unions are not the same.  That the word “marriage” means too much – so much more than a civil union – and they don’t want to be denied the opportunity to be married in the eyes of the law.  To which I would say, yes.  I agree.  No one likes to be denied their human rights.

The “Next Thing You Know, We’ll Be Marrying Goats” Argument

I don’t even want to recognize this by giving it space in this blog post, but it’s out there.  There are really groups of people who think this is somehow the natural progression of same-sex marriage.  We’re talking about committed, homosexual relationships between two consenting adult humans – the same type of relationship that has existed since the beginning of time, with varying levels of openness in civilization throughout history.

Granting equal rights to same-sex couples is not a “slippery slope” to anything other than an increase in legal revenue for same-sex divorce.

The “Children Need a Mother and a Father Argument”

First of all, we’re talking about marriage and not raising a family – and yet the argument is still made in opposition to same-sex marriage.  Second of all, children need parental love.  From wherever that might come.

Point me to a “study” that has been done that shows how children from heterosexual, married couples are better students/athletes/people than other kids – and I’ll show you a study full of bias.  Do children in two parent homes perform better in school?  Quite possibly, as they are more likely to live above the poverty line, attend good schools, get three healthy meals a day and have at least one parent who has time to be available in the evenings.  No studies (that have not been soundly and widely renounced as biased and unscientific) have shown a significant difference in the performance of children growing up in a stable home with heterosexual parents versus children from a stable home with homosexual parents.

The “States’ Rights” Argument

Okay.  I guess.  My opinion on Federal versus States’ rights not withstanding, the fact remains that same-sex couples should have the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples – whether those rights are granted by the Federal Government or the State Government.  But since there are federal tax implications and other advantages of marriage, the ability to marry must be dictated at the Federal level.  If you want to argue that we should erase those Federal benefits for all married couples, I’m willing to entertain the States’ Rights argument.  (I’d still argue for equality in each individual state, of course.)