Monday, June 11, 2012

Some Thoughts on Homophobia and the Boy Scouts; or, Dear God, Let This Woman Lead Her Son's Boy Scout Troop!

Hey, everybody; I'm Alex Adrian and this is the Diary of an Atomic Man. (Sorry 'bout the lateness, by th' by. Life sort in the way; you know how it goes. Anyhow, the main post, "the biggun", the one I've worked on with skunkworks secrecy these past months, should be up next weekend; this is supposed to be a simple rant-post to tide us over.) Now, Jennifer Tyrell would seem on the surface to be a normal mom: A devoted partner, a Cub Scout troop leader, and a damned good 'un at that--but for one fact: she's gay. While this really shouldn't be a problem--not in this day and age, not with the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, equal-opportunity employment legislation, and the general loosening of attitudes towards homo/bisexuality--but according to the Boy Scouts of America, it makes her unfit, completely unfit, to be a Cub Scout troop leader. Homophobia has been called the last acceptable form of bigotry--you can't be racist, you can't be sexist, gods know you can't be anti-Semitic, or discriminate against any religion whatsoever, but should you happen to love the same sex or both, you're screwed,and people are free to discriminate against you;Lawrence v. Texas may've struck down sodomy laws, but all the Southron states have laws banning gay marriage, if not Constitutional amendments, on the books. Stereotypes of gay men and lesbians still abound:effeminate gays and mannish, unattractive bull-dykes, both nearly the opposite sex but for a minor difference of plumbing, hypermasculine leathermen looking like escapees from a Village People video or a Tom of Finland drawing, mincing, misogynistic fashion designers, sadistic paedophiles on the evening news, conspiring recruiters pushing their insidious agenda on America's innocent youth...and bisexuals? Forget it; unless it's two hot girls getting it on--more proof, as if any were needed, that the porno industry is run entirely by and for straight guys--we[1] apparently don't exist. This rather curious phenomenon is known as bisexual erasure, or to Tropers as No Bisexuals, and when bisexuals do appear they're--we're--all too often depicted as either uninhibited sluts out to screw anything that moves or else depraved perverts who couldn't care less if their part--er, victims are male, female, canine, or equine.[2] Then, too, there's the idea that bisexuals are confused or "on the fence" about their sexuality--we're not--and that bisexuality is merely a media fad, something that's simply a passing fancy of today's youngfolk...Ahem. Anyway, the Jennifer Tyrell controversy; more specifically, gay parenting, the Boy Scouts' previous history of doing this kind of thing, and the "gay agenda" crap the right's been spreading. Firstly, gay parenting. I've nothing against it; the kids of gay parents I've known--and the gay people, what's more--seemed well adjusted and normal, studies have shown no appreciable difference between kids raised by gay and straight couples, and why should we care whether a child's raised by a man and a woman, or two men, or two women, or five adults of varying genders, so long as the household's open and loving and the kid's not getting beaten senseless on a regular basis or treated like an undesirable, a stranger in his own home? Jennifer's son is also okay that he has two moms; he made a sign saying, "I love my two gay moms". Moreover, the Boy Scouts gave a rather...idiotic...reason for letting her go. To wit (from the statement they released to CNN): "Our mission does not include teaching young people about sex or sexual orientation, and we do not believe it is Scouting's role to introduce this topic in our youth development program." I...wha...huh...? So...a gay parent would be more likely to introduce kids to sex and sexuality than a straight parent, simply 'cos they're gay? Preposterous! Absurd! you say--some, your 'umble typist included, might even go so far as to call it madness. Besides which, it's probably--hopefully--nothing that the kid won't learn about in health class, or, God help us, his elder brother's sock-drawer.[3] Of course, the Boy Scouts have a history of this kind of thing: you may remember the brouhaha a few years back--though this has quite literally been going on for twenty years--when they refused to let gay Scoutmasters lead scout troops. The Scouts have also a history with the Unitarian Universalist Association; the Scouts refuse to recognize the UUA's religious emblem program, and while there exists a religious emblem program for Unitarian scouts, the UUA refuses to recognize it! The UUA is a liberal denomination, with positions on atheists, agnostics, and homosexuals almost diametrically opposed to those of the Boy Scouts; Unitarian beliefs require not that a worshipper believe in God--only acknowledge a higher power of some sort--and UU's have always been accepting of minorities; indeed, the LGBT outreach and acceptance program occupies pride of place on the UUA website. Given this history, is it any surprise, then, that the Boy Scouts don't recognize Unitarian religious emblem programs? No. Is it, along with their refusal to let LGBT people serve in leadership programs, antiquated, backwards, bigoted, wrong-headed, reactionary, just plain dumb, and a damn crying shame? You better believe it. It's this kind of intolerance, from one of the most-respected youth organizations in America, that leads--in least in part--to homophobia and homophobic violence. And it's not like there's anything intrinsic to Scouting that means the organization must discriminate against gay people! After all, Great Britain--the Boy Scout organization that started it all, I needn't tell you--Canada, and most Continental European scouting programs allow gay people to join. So, what's with the BSA's obstinate refusal to let gay people join? It may be related to the prevalence of certain elements in American society, conservative ones, the Bible-thumping evangelicals; a preacher-man garners respect in American society, moreso than a politician, cop, or lawyer, and many a conservative minister has used this respect to advance his social agenda: In getting stem-cell research banned, for instance; or pushing abstinence-only sex-ed; or setting the cause of gay rights back about twenty-five years with their crap about "homosexual recruitment" and the "gay agenda".

The Gay Agenda 

One of the more enduring myths of the right--fundies especially--is that gays are some sort of all-powerful force of evil in America, whose tentacles are all-penetrating, spread throughout American society but especially in the liberal media and the radical socialist atheist communist Democrat party. It's immoral and unbiblical, they say, citing Leviticus and Romans as "proof" that it's wrong for "a man to lay with a man, as he lays with a woman". It's unnatural, they say, here trotting out the hackneyed old one-liner that God made "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve". It's a choice, they say, and they bring an "ex-gay" up to show even the most depraved Godless sinner can become a God-loving heterosexual. It's obscene, they say, gays are flaunting their sexuality, they say (though when straight guys sexually harass women or engage in joshing masculine behavior, or when straight women act bitchy, catty, and shopping-obsessed--such stereotype-conforming jackasses are dangerous--they're never accused of flaunting their sexuality). And, they say--and this is perhaps the most damning accusation--gays are everywhere...and they're recruiting. The Pink Menace is, they say, an active force for evil in the world, wanting to turn every God-fearing heterosexual Christian into depraved atheistic Communistic homosexuals...and what they want to do with America's good Christian boys and girls--I-I shudder to think of it! Why, there oughtta' be a law! And, Oh, the children! Won't someone please think of the children? Standard conservative doctrine has it that all of this tripe is true, though there's precious little evidence to support it.[4] The lesson of the oft-cited passage in Leviticus is more "Don't rape angels" than "Don't have sex with guys" and Paul had...issues (he was the one who told women to submit to their husbands, thus making him one of the first advocates of maledom);[5] let's not forget, besides condoning genocide--something not many people are in favor of, these days--the Bible also contains instructions on how to treat your slaves (Cor. 4:1). The gay-agenda crap is really far too big for this one post; I'll get to it some other time.

Conclusion--And a Call to Arms

While I started this post in the wake of the Jennifer Tyrell controversy, much more has happened since then in the field of gay rights, specifically on the gay-marriage front. The first thing was the passage in North Carolina, banning gay marriage in that state now and forever; this makes it the thirty-first state to have such a measure on the books. The second--the storm, really--was the combined announcements of Vice-President Biden, Education Secretary Duncan, and Himself, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, all announcing their support for gay marriage, and Mitt Romney, consequentially announcing his opposition to 'em. Duncan, as a Cabinet official, has very little to lose--if Romney or Ron Paul (who's still in this race, let's not forget) win in November, he'll not be reappointed--and Biden sticking his foot in his mouth? Happens every day; what's on TV? However, he and the President are indeed running for re-election, and while some on the left may criticize him, the President, for not saying enough, it must be admitted that this took courage and temerity of a kind rarely seen in DC. A sitting President endorsing marriage equality? How often has this happened before? Oh, that's right--never. What more d'you want--an executive order saying consenting adults can marry whomever they want, regardless of race, gender, or number? Not in this Congress, not with this President; not here, not now. Still, there oughtta' be a law; we have to repeal the lamebrained, misnamed, misguided, bigoted Defense of Marriage Act and pass a law–Hell, a Constitutional amendment, though that's arguably as cuckoo as the attempts by Tories to pass a law banning it--guaranteeing the right for men to marry men, women women, and both sexes each other. And we can't throw this to the states like table scraps to a pack of starving dogs, as we've been doing; else the Southron states will never allow it--they might even go so far as to secede, though how sane reviving the Confederacy is when the US armed forces are that much more powerful, better-armed, and more technologically advanced than 150 years ago is open to debate. No, this must be a federal law; we must state, in writing, that same-sex marriage and heterosexual marriage are equal in the eyes of the United States federal government--if not those of God--which is good enough for me. I feel this to be at least partially a matter of national pride; Canada has a federal marital equality law, and if the Goddamned Canucks can do it, why can't we? Hell, forget Congress--we need to take this to the highest court in the land.[6] Yep, we may have to make a federal case out of it–literally:The tenor of the next Congress may be even more rightward (yes, I know) and–somehow–even more obstructionistic and antagonistic towards the President–though perhaps not!–and so marriage equality is may be out of the question just yet; if Obama gets re-elected in November, though, and the Dems take the House and (more of the) Senate…well, we might just get somewhere. Just remember Loving v. Virginia. The repeal of the anti-miscegenation laws clearly didn't cause the death of civilization as we know it, so why should allowing same-sex couples to marry? Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway (why is Europe so much more progressive than the U.S. socially?), Great Britain, as I mentioned above, Canada–All allow same-sex marriage. So what's with the opposition in the States? No idea, though it may be the religio-political complex I mentioned earlier, and probably is. But wait, you say:what about the Southron states, and polyamory, and the Midwest, and civil unions, and the religious right, and this and that and the other thing…? Patience, Grasshopper, patience! I'm no prophet or oracle, able to see the whole future spread out before like a vast tapestry. All I can say is this:We need a federal marriage equality law–and not just this wishy-washy civil-union crap: Full. Marriage. Equality. The fight will not be easy; it will be hard, and it may be long, but it must be won, and it shall. We'll have to work and fight like Hell to get it passed; but it's not impossible or even extremely hard–this is, after all, America, a nation conceived in the name of freedom from the tyrant's jackboot, under the premise that "All men[and women!] are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain rights, among these being the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness[I paraphrase]"–And what's more intrinsic to that last than the freedom to love who you please, to commit them, and to marry–or not marry, as you wish–them?[7] That's all very nice, Alex, you say as you get up for a second glass of Iron Fire, but what can I, one single person, less than a mite in the grand scheme of things, do? That's the thing; you may be just the one person–but a million, or even a hundred thousand, "just the one" people, working in concert, can work as much change as an army of legislators, lawyers, and lobbyists. Here's what you can do:
1. Vote! It may seem like such a quaint, old-fashioned thing to do in an age of NASCAR, Facebook, and YouTube, but Amendment 1 in North Carolina? Passed with eight percent of the vote–out of fourteen percent of all North Carolinian registered voters. Eight out of fourteen–that's fifty-one percent, more or less. That's the tyranny of the minority taking form in a pretty damn tyrannous way. What I'm getting at is, your vote matters. If you're not registered, it should be at the top of your to-do list. If you are registered to vote, but you've not voted in awhile because all politicians are scumbags, why the Hell haven't you!? Don't you know that the right to vote is what distinguishes us from dictatorships like North Korea or Nazi Germany?[8] The right to the franchise is a fundamental American right, just like trial by jury, or a free press, so exercise it! Vote Democratic, vote Socialist, vote Green, Hell, vote Republican if you believe that their platform's right for America–just vote, and let your voice be heard.
2. Agitate. It's a little-known fact that I'm a democratic socialist; I think government control is a good thing–I consider myself halfway between a DemSoc and a progressive ideologically speaking–and that in order for real change to be effected agitprop must be spread. Write your Congressman or -woman telling them how you feel about this Issue–for it has become an Issue, if it wasn't before, now that President Obama has thrown his weight behind it–besiege the Congressional phone-lines–besiege them, I say!–and protest; if nothing else, we must protest against this madness and for equality. But, you say, I'm not the protesty type. You're really starting to piss me off, you know that...? Protesters aren't just grey-haired relics from the Sixties or hot-blooded, earnest college students, you know; there's enough young couples, professional types, and trade-union activists to present a respectable front. On a local and personal level, the  Boy Scouts aren't all homophobic–My brother's friend's Scoutmaster is gay, and the troop's fine with that, and of course Jennifer Tyrell's troop all rallied behind her when this happened–and many Republicans are decent, moral, trustworthy folk, the kind who are often described as "pillars of the community" or "fine, upstanding citizens".[9] In both cases the problem lies at the top (though as oft happens in politics any Tory is no friend of mine): As we've seen, the Boy Scouts have issues with LGBT people, and the flock of rascals, jackasses, and bigots serving as the GOP's elected representatives in the House and Senate sicken me; they truly do. Quoting the late, beloved Douglas Adams, they're "a bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes". I know, of course, that the election will not be decided on this Issue alone, or even primarily; it'll swing on, above all else, the economy, with all the rest, from abortion to foreign policy to this, subordinate to it. But we have the American people, or at least some of them, behind us, for in a Gallup poll this year 51% of all surveyed agreed with the statement "Gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry their partners [again, I paraphrase]", an arguable vote of confidence from a statistical majority that, though bare, is bound to only get larger as time goes on.
The right, the religious right especially, will scream and rave and rant about how this will mean the death of traditional American values, how it's contributing to the further erosion of America's moral fibre, how allowing gays to marry will destroy the institution of traditional (read: Monogamous, heterosexual) marriage, how it's all a conspiracy by Them (who are rarely identified, but when they are, they nigh unto invariably include Communists, "secular humanists", pagans, gays and lesbians, feminists, "uppity Negroes", and immigrants) to erode the bedrock of traditional American values and on and on and on. If we allow gays to marry, their argument goes, Western Civilization, and life as we know it, will end: there'll be men marrying men, women marrying women, plagues of locusts, widespread sex with farm animals, unwed couples living in sin, people rejecting Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, cats and dogs living together–mass hysteria! This line of argument, of course, is madness in its highest form; when Tories lament that we're abandoning the values that our country was founded one, I want to ask: Which ones? Slavery? The mass extermination of Native Americans? Whaling? Forbidding all but white males over the age of twenty-one to vote? Anti-immigrant sentiment (one that's, sadly, still not been abandoned)? Isolationism? Imperialism and colonialism? Institutionalized sexism? The right of any man to eat as much as he pleases, then pay what he likes, plus a $5 charge for seating and plates, at Big Bubba's Buffet & BBQ? (I know, of course, that when Tories speak of the "values that our country was founded on", they refer to God and country, to the myth that America was founded as a Christian nation, despite the fact that the Founders feared monarchy and theocracy so much that they not only forbade governmental establishment of religion, but also forbade any religious test for government office; many of them were also Deists, and Thomas Jefferson was one of the first Unitarians. Perhaps ironically from the view of a Twenty-First Century observer, the Southrons were the pro-religious-freedom camp at the Constitutional Convention, with New England and the Mid-Atlantic states standing for the established Church; most delegates from those states were religious conservatives, John Adams and Ben Franklin–along with Green Mountain Boys leader Ethan Allen, a Vermonter through and through, who held the rather heretical view that, insamuch as organized religion was nothing but the tool that tyrants and kings used to prop themselves up and give themselves a shade of respectability, all organized religion was inherently evil–being a few notable exceptions. The switch only became apparent in the 1830s and '40s when the issue of slavery started a-looming. After that conflict began to boil, many Southron freethinkers fled north–if they weren't run out of town on a rail–their abolitionist tendencies making them pariahs in an increasingly traditionalistic, pro-slavery South. In the North the Unitarians and Quakers, both liberal, both opposed to slavery, welcomed the fleeing Southron dissidents into their congregations. Further down the line came civil war and deep cultural divides that arguably still shake our country to this day: in the South, a racial caste system, laws, customs, and attitudes meant to ensure that the black man was the eternal inferior of the white, the Supreme Court-imposed doctrine of "separate, but equal" honored in its first half but entirely ignored in the second; on top a white aristocracy, their standing determined solely by skin color, not by birth or means or any other factor, gathering in darkened barrooms to sip mint juleps and mutter about the damnyankee carpetbaggers, who did they think they were marrying our good Southern girls, the parasites, and what should be done about them uppity Nigras–If you ask me, the feller at the end of the bar says, we never shoulda' let Lincoln win; never shoulda' abolished slavery!–'till all hours of the night, the ruins of Neoclassical antebellum mansions, set afire by either Union soldiers or newly-freed slaves realizing that they didn't have to bow and scrape and do whatever Ol' Massa said, that they were free men and women, now, mouldering away in the swamps; beneath, a black underclass, their status as much related to their skin-color as that of whites. In the North, a general feeling of helplessness, a "what can we do?" attitude, prevailed–after all, those stupid Southrons tried to secede once, they failed, so why should we help? And we gave the Negroes their freedom–What else do they want? So it went–and so it goes:"The South shall rise again", goes the battle cry–"and we'll just knock you down again", comes the Northern reply. Anyway...) If, if they refer to those values, then yes, yes it is. If, however, they refer to freedom and equality, to the belief that all are equal under the law, then no this is not a rejection of those values; it is a confirmation of them.
This is the great civil-rights struggle of the early twenty-first century, the abolitionist movement, the women's-rights and civil-rights movements, the civil-liberties movement, the labor movement, and the ongoing struggle against totalitarianism. If we win–when we win, for it is only a matter of time until this is passed–we can build on it, as the 14th Amendment was, as Brown v. Board of Education, Loving v. Virginia, United States v. One Packet of Japanese Pessaries, and a hundred other laws and Supreme Court decisions were–for polyamory, say, or whatever fights technological advancement will bring as the Twenty-First Century wears on. It can be done, it must be done, and so help me God, it will be done. This is the coming storm, the one fight that must be won right now–and if not right now then soonish–and those who try to stop it will be blown out and remembered poorly, as the racists and segregationists who ran the South when the Civil Rights movement arose were. A stand for this issue is a stand for freedom, justice, liberty, and equality; a stand against, a stand for bigotry and reactionism (Is that a word? It is now).  The question is, where will you stand?

--Alex Adrian, twilight hours of 6/6/12 and 6/7/12

1. Holy Hell, did I just come out to the fifty-some people who read this blog? 'Pears so.
2. That's the first man-on-dog/man-on-horse–Hell, the first bestiality–reference 'round here…
3.…And the first official dirty joke.
4. Fun fact: studies have shown that the best parents for kids are lesbians. Interesting, no?
5. My dad has a pet theory about Paul: He was secretly gay–and he can cite Scripture to prove it:"...For I felt a growth within me, like a thorn…this happened to me not once, not twice, but three times…[a third time I paraphrase; Dad, if you can come up with the actual citation, please post it in the Comments section.] Plus, he never married and spent all his time hanging out with a bunch of dudes–highly suspicious behavior, y'know. Additionally, yes, yes, I did indeed make an utterly tasteless joke about one of the arguable founders of Western Civilization that perhaps ten percent of my comically small audience will get. I am DRUNK WITH POWER, DRUNK, I TELL YOU! MUAHAHAHA!
6. The People's Court!
7. The Hell of the situation is, for both sides this is a question of freedom–What it boils down to is, do you want the freedom that's really not freedom, the freedom of the states to do what they please or the freedom of people to marry who they want and have the same rights as any married couple? I stand for the latter; the jackasses and homophobic bigots in the National Organization for Marriage and the Republican Party wish for the former.
8. Interesting fact, here: The Nazis were democratically elected to power by a major industrial nation and campaigned on a platform of "getting Germany back on its feet", "taking Germany back"(from, admittedly, different forces than those that the present-day GOP wishes to–Primarily international inspectors and occupation forces, not immigrants or "international bankers"…weellll, maybe that second one), and family values; y'know, criminalizing homosexuality (or rather enforcing the existing laws against it, for while said laws had been on the books since 1870, they weren't enforced under the Weimar Republic) and stressing the woman's role as mother and homemaker, subservient to her husband in every respect; abortion was criminalized and "Aryan mothers" were awarded medals for bearing vast litters of children. Herr Hitler would fit right in to today's GOP…
9. Incidentally, wouldn't it suck to be a "pillar of the community"? I mean, a community's gotta' weigh two, three hundred tons easy–and prolly a lot more–what with all the bricks and mortar and other building materials on your head; I'd hate to be one.
10. Incidentally, this marks the tenth Diary of an Atomic Man post, at least according to the Blogger interface. And now, the coda…


Today, an e-mail from arrived in my inbox, one that shifted my entire post and reminded me of what an ungodly slow worker I am: What it said, among other things, was, owing to the Jennifer Tyrell case–which, you'll remember, was what started this post in the first place–the Boy Scouts are now allowing gay Scoutmasters to serve openly. Thus, the overall framework for this post is now out-of-date; however, the overall idea–that gays and lesbians face discrimination in America that can only be compared to that seen in parts of Africa–remains, I think, especially pointed, with Referendum 74 in Washington, which would keep legal same-sex marriage in the state I have been proud to call home these past eight years, on the ballot. Homophobia is still rampant in our great nation; LGBT students face discrimination in schools from fellow students–our future leaders, the men and women who will run this country or do other, equally noteworthy things in future–and the religious right has this debate by th' short-'n-curlies, equating same-sex marriage with polygamy, incest, and bestiality. (I wonder how many of these ministers were born of unions between first cousins–or their mothers and animals. God knows they act the goat…Poor taste, I know. Anyway…) This item is but one victory in a long fight, but it's an important one, and a precursor–I hope–to other, larger victories. If you live in Washington, vote to approve Referendum 74; this is a stand we can make here and now. What must be done must be done, even something as small as this. Excelsior!
--Alex Adrian, 6/10/12