16 December 2008

Common Ground? Not So Sure...

I recently attended a "town hall" meeting regarding the Common Ground Initiative in Salt Lake. Sitting in a room full of gay activists and allies, I felt distinctly...distinct. I looked around the room and thought, "The people crying most loudly to be treated like everyone else are not at all LIKE everyone else. They're rougher, more crass, seemingly oblivious to how bizarre their appearance and speech would seem to most people they encounter on a daily basis. I don't think my perspective is SO skewed that I don't realize that I live in a cozy, suburban bubble that belies reality. I think they are probably deceived, unaware of the oddity and crudity of their behavior and sexual expression." Mind you, people looking or behaving "differently" should be no excuse for treating them with any less dignity or respect than anyone else, except perhaps where they're dishing out disrespect themselves. So I'm not saying people who are different don't deserve rights. I am simply saying I wasn't sure what, exactly, they were really hoping for...was it to be seen as "normal" and "typical" regardless of what they do and say? I wasn't sure. That may sound ignorant, but it's what I thought. Here I was, a gay man rather turned off by gay men and women and their in-your-face, militant attitudes. In their spouting off, they demonstrated just as little real intent to understand their probable political opponents as most Prop 8 supporters did. Common Ground? Really? I was disappointed.

I was left feeling a clear desire not to become what I was witnessing, not to partake in the culture promulgated by those whom I was inclined to defend. Mind you, I had to check my gut reactions and recognize my knee-jerk distaste for what it was, but there was something intangible, inexplicable which spoke to me that this was, in fact, the core of the "gay" world, once you get past the pretty veneer of sexy young guys having sexy young relationships. For some reason, seeing two middle-aged men together, neither one acting much like a "man" in the traditional sense, and it bothered me. Shoot, I'm not as tolerant as I thought, maybe.

I thought, "Well if anything in my recent experience has instilled a desire for heteronormative functioning, this is it. I don't want to be middle-aged and weak- and fragile-seeming. I don't want to sound bitter and harping on religion and the vast majority of society. I don't want to be 35 and look utterly used and spent, probably the result of a really destructive pattern of habits and pastimes." I didn't want to be gay, and I didn't want to be counted as gay. I came to support a positive effort, and I went away feeling bland about the effort. I was a traitor.

And so it became clearer to me, as I felt distanced from the "gay" world, how some gay people desire and attempt to defy nature and what amounts to "common" sense to try making a normal, traditional male-female partnership work, apparently against the odds. I most often bristle at eager attempts at conformity, but in this dark, shrill room, I felt a clear desire for a more "normal" life. The idea of facing social and religious challenges and battling prejudice my entire life, possibly for no good reason other than my own stubborn refusal to accept the sanctity and eternal nature of gender and male-female marriage...well, when that lifelong battle was so clearly before me, I paused. I paused considerably.

I recognize that I still cling to some social norms and traditional roles. Much of me still thinks men should be sensitive and affectionate yet still strong and independent. Much of me still wonders how much of gender identity disorder or transgenderism is really psychological confusion that could be "corrected". And I fully recognize that I would then have to wonder more seriously whether counseling could also, in turn, "help" me with my homosexual/homoromantic desires. They're not the same thing, to be sure, but if I'm going to challenge the gay establishment in regards to transgenderism, I have to be fair and allow my own "condition" to be challenged. In a roundabout way, my pangs of what would be called intolerance by some made me back up and try to understand where those who are "ignorant" or "intolerant" about homosexuality in general are coming from. It reminded me that not all who believe in some kind of "change" are haters or simply not trying to understand, and it reminded me that just as I've gone through processes, I have to allow others at least as much time and learning to "come around", and maybe it's OK if they never completely do "come around" in certain ways because hey, diversity is the spice of life, right?

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