I have to struggle to not use the term “media narrative” pejoratively, but I usually concede and admit it deserves to be treated as a malignant influence. When persons in the media began to call the gay rights movement as the “civil rights struggle” of our time, I viewed them askance. In the 2004 American election cycle, I heard many justifications and explanations regarding this seemingly “complex" issue. The Democrats were saying that it was a matter for the states, and some Democrats and Republicans offered “civil unions” as a suitable alternative to traditional marriage, without using the loaded term of “separate but equal.” I had to force myself to consciously ask myself–what exactly are the “gay people?” Are they distinct people with distinct needs? Wasn't serving in the military all about protecting the nation? How did a soldier's sex life matter at all to anyone? Ah, the wonders of youthful "logic"— “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” made perfect sense to me if I applied it in a very "Libertarian" fashion to the heterosexual servicemen and women as well. Since when did the military become a place for expressing anyone's sexuality? Little did I imagine, however, that the ultimate answer to be found is quite simple.
Rip The “Narrative” Apart
Of the Republicans, the religious and “traditional values” class, I wondered— why are they pumping billions of dollars, including federal taxpayer dollars, into advertising and creating financial incentives for more straight people to marry, while simultaneously ruling it out for the demographic in this country that wants it the most? Of the Democrats, I had no questions because their hypocrisy was too blatantly opportunistic—John Kerry wanted the votes of gay Americans while seeking to chip away enough from President Bush's bloc of conservative voters, so he was against gay marriage but extended an “olive branch” by leaving it up to the states. I could observe that the shameful distortions and vacillations of the media and the political class lent credibility to the foundations of the narrative from the Religious right.
Watching national leaders contort abstract social constructs made me realize that their ridiculous insipidity made most people think that while the last hurricane, terrorist attack or tsunami were not caused by enjoining of male couples and female couples, it could have serious repercussions to the social fabric of the country.
As opposed to the disingenuous politicians and media, I was touched by the sincerity of the genius and talent of persons that I found out were gay. Comic actors like David Hyde Pierce, Nigel Hawthorne, Stephen Fry, John Inman, and Jim Parsons made me laugh during the most troubled times of my life. They were not only sources of “entertainment”—they helped bring of a true sense of happiness. These were sincere, genuine, wonderful people who understood the power of love through humor. It could not be that their faculty of love and happiness could be “unnatural.” If this were so, then all it meant was that our “natural” capacity of love was insufficient. The matter reached final clarity when I discovered in the writings and speeches of the late, legendary Christopher Hitchens, the simple assertion that homosexuality was wrought of the same love that heterosexuality was. It's not that homosexuality is an “equal” of heterosexuality, it is actually not even separate. It is rendered of the same essence, which is the search for love.
Pursuit of Love
In his memoirs Hitch-22, Hitchens further clarified the competing influences in the evolution of our civilization:
“...to a conflict that dominates all our lives: the endless, irreconcilable conflict between the values of Athens and Jerusalem. On the one hand, very approximately, is the world not of hedonism but of tolerance of the recognition that sex and love have their ironic and perverse dimensions. On the other is the stone-faced demand for continence, sacrifice, and conformity, and the devising of ever-crueler punishments for deviance, all invoked as if this very fanaticism did not give its whole game way. Repression is the problem in the first place.”
To the religious, I would go beyond simply arguing that their calls for punishing gays and lesbians through either humiliation or physical torture are inhumane and monstrous, and beyond pointing out that the fact that their scripture (be it Christianity, Judaism or Islam) fully endorses this type of behavior means that their God is a cruel, savage monster. I would inform them that their opposition to homosexual people is not about “perverted sex,” but about opposing true love and happiness. That is not something that needs “curing.” They don't have to tax their imagination by putting themselves in the metaphorical shoes of gay individuals; they should employ that faculty in realizing that asking the government to ban or undermine gay marriage and gay sex is no different than having your high-school sweetheart's family drag her away, threatening you with physical repercussions if you do not stay apart. It is to tear away your wife, the mother of your children, your life partner from your home in the middle of the night. It is not the “gay lifestyle” you are trying to ban, it is “love” itself. That is very much beyond a “civil rights” struggle. It is indeed, a “way of life” struggle, for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Don't Fight Opportunism With Opportunism
Of course the term “traditional values” or “family values” is code for [insert choice of rotten scripture – Qur'an, Old and New Testament, etc.] but also an opening for the audience to pour into a common pool of festering, irrational, insecurity. Gay rights campaigners do not support teenage pregnancy and rocketing divorce rates. However, thanks to an opportunistic media that's fueled by controversy, you have to waste precious airtime opportunities clarifying the obvious. Rather than allow the heterosexual majority to see the commonality of human love as the uniting element, each and every public debate goes overboard in stressing the differences, more loudly and repetitively.
Take a “fallen” minister or politician whose homosexual pursuits have been exposed, and the media asks them what that “behavior” means for them, for it can never do to have it be perfectly clear that it is a source of emotional and physical happiness. Of course, the underlying curiosity is purely—are you going to accept that you are gay, or go into denial? No one will pose such questions as, "why did you try to conceal something that makes you happy and filled a void in your life?" No, I am to watch an unseemly public baring of the entire family, with the person in question blaming either the crude world of politics or Satan for not recognizing his or her full and true nature. If homosexuality is to be regarded as natural, should we start by not pressuring these families to do shoddy and humiliating self-exorcisms for our entertainment?
Of the politicians, only the Libertarians and Greens, the irrelevant creeds in the American political system, can stand with their heads held high on this matter, for they were both consistently pro-gay rights from day one, as matter of principle and not opportunity. I admired President Obama's embrace of gay rights only when he showed the moxie to take the message to the people of Senegal and the wider African continent, even though he knew it might tarnish their perception of him; this was a real sign of sincerity to me. In the end, however, one does not need Jeffersonian philosophy to justify keeping the government out of people's private and family life. Giving the government the power to keep two people in love apart is what is at stake here. There is no real need for living or dead presidents, and non-existent, supernatural entities to weigh in on that question, is there? (Having never been a victim of the ailment, I perhaps underestimate homophobia.)
The final piece of the puzzle is that just as any form of love, homosexuality has endured times ancient and modern, and will continue to do so. I leave you with the poem, “De Amicitia” (Of Friendship) by the English poet Alfred Edward Housman. He wrote this sometime in the late 1920s or 1930s, those years in which anti-Semitism was fashionable and racism was in fact the dominant political ideology of Western civilization, so naturally he felt it best not to have this published until well after his death. In this poem, Housman buries his love for his dear friend and love, Mr. Moses Jackson, in the very act of commemorating it, as his feelings of love break his friendship, and must be carried silently to the grave:
“Because I liked you better “Than suits a man to say “ It irked you, and I promised “To throw the thought away. “ To put the world between us “We parted, stiff and dry; “Goodbye, said you, forget me. “I will, no fear, said I. “If here, where clover whitens the dead man's knoll, you pass, and no tall flower to meet you starts in the trefoiled grass, “Halt by the headstone naming the heart no longer stirred, and say the lad that loved you was one that kept his word.”
Moses Jackson died in the 1920s, and Housman died in 1936. In its crisp rendering, the passion in the poem, the interflow of love and friendship, lives on, surviving every war, tsunami and holocaust that has struck since those years and any other calamity likely to come our way, including the entire mortal lives of countless charlatans, sadists and hypocrites. The bygone generations have had to exorcise more sinister demons in their time, but as love outlives us, shall we have it said of our times that we simply refused to see it for its true self?
“At the risk of sounding ridiculous, the true revolutionary is moved by true feelings of love.”
- Ernesto “Che” Guevera