When "Traditional Values" had a Party, and Love Showed Up
I went to my first sit-in yesterday. I had no idea when I headed off to campus that I’d spend part of my afternoon sitting crosslegged on the floor of the college library with my back to someone who was explaining to the assembled crowd how not to be homosexual, but it’s all in a day’s work, I suppose.
I had heard from a few students, and via the college newspaper, about a campus group that calls itself the Traditional Values Club. Its stated mission is “to promote the sanctity of all human life, from birth to natural death; chastity before marriage; marriage exclusively between one man and one woman; as well as the belief that pornography, adultery, and masturbation are immoral, and that everyone is entitled to freedom of speech and religion." (I had to add the semicolons; without them, the list was a nearly unintelligible mishmash of unrelated phrases.)
It's sort of a red flag that the club’s founders felt it necessary to include freedom of speech and religion in their mission statement. They know good and well that their message comes pretty close to hate speech, and so they preemptively invoke their constitutional right to proclaim that those of you who whack off, have premarital sex, or (god forbid) love someone of the same gender are sickos. Methinks they doth protest too much. The writing group I advise feels no need to state that they have a right to free expression, because the default of that crowd isn’t exclusion, mistrust, and fear, but the opposites: inclusion, trust, and acceptance.
Which brings me to why I’m struggling with what I saw yesterday. The Traditional Values Club hosted a talk called “The Scientific view of Homosexuality,” in order to (according to the club’s faculty advisor) “give the science of same-sex attraction, from the secular point of view.”
That fellow faculty would endorse someone utterly uncredentialed posing as a scientist (his PhD is from an online school that was shut down in 2005 after granting a graduate degree to a cat) is at best an embarrassment, and at worst, unethical and counter to the college’s mission. So I decided to see what the fuss was about.
Not long after I arrived at the speaking venue, I joined the few dozen students sitting on the floor with their backs to the speaker in silent protest against his message. The acoustics were poor. Students nearby were whispering to each other. My hearing is bad and I was far away, so I admit that I had trouble getting every word he was saying. I did manage to piece together this much:
Mr. I’m-Heterosexual-Because-I’m-Married-and-Don’t-Act-on-my-Desires is no more straight than the drag queen who was sitting nearby. He made no distinction between sexual orientation and sexual behavior. One can’t be changed; the other can. The speaker detailed a childhood during which he played with dolls, identified strongly with girls, and was attracted to boys. He went on to have relationships with men. His first marriage, to a woman, broke up because of his homosexuality. He struggled with drug and alcohol abuse. But then, he was rescued from this “lifestyle” by a Christian organization.
Hmm. Secular and scientific? You know, I sometimes get secular and nonsecular mixed up, too; they sound like the opposite of what they are, so maybe I’ll forgive that gaffe. But mentions of the Bible and sin and redemption aside, there was nothing scientific about his message, either. He trotted out overbearing mothers and veiled references to Sigmund Freud, but he could not answer questions from the audience about why the DSM no longer recognizes homosexuality as a disorder, or why all of the higher primates engage in homosexual relationships.
The upshot of the man’s presentation was that he is, in fact, a gay man who has chosen to “be” a heterosexual. He doesn’t deny that he has urges, but he has learned a “method” (he used an acronym and held up five fingers to illustrate, although I could’t hear what he said) to cope with these undesirable feelings. In short, he applies the same strategies to deal with his sexual urges as an addict might to deal with cravings for alcohol or drugs.
I don’t understand conflating immutable attraction to the same gender with a craving for controlled substances. One is about fulfillment. One is about self-destruction. The TVC would say that they are the same: that homosexuality is as destructive as alcoholism or drug abuse. They fail to say whom it destroys. They say that there are all kinds of unhealthy sexual desires (what about pedophilia!?!?) that should be subverted. They fail to make distinctions based on pesky technicalities like the absence of a victim or the presence of consent.
Besides, being homosexual is not about whom you want to screw. It’s about whom you want to love. It’s about who you are, not what you do. It’s about making commitments and partnerships and families. For the life of me, I don’t understand how anyone can have a problem with that or think that any loving, consensual partnership is a threat to any other.
For awhile, as I sat there, my blood pressure rose. I was horrified that the college allowed the group to organize. Technically, they cannot deny groups their freedom of speech. So does that mean they’d allow white supremacists an open forum? How about Holocaust deniers? Would a Eugenics club would be okay? I just didn’t get it.
But as the speaker went on, I actually started feeling sorry for him. Self-loathing is a terrible thing. He admitted that it was the cause of his alcoholism and drug abuse. He thought it was the cause of his homosexuality. It made me sad that he could not see that the answer to it all would have been to learn to love himself as he was. As god made him.
Just as I was getting all riled up, I looked around and took stock. The chairs facing the “expert” were nearly all empty. Of the 8-10 that were not, over half were protestors who had moved forward in order to ask civil, intelligent, and respectful questions challenging the speaker. It was hard to tell if anyone (other than one faculty member whom I recognized as having written a defense of the club in the school paper) was there in support of intolerance. They threw a party no one wanted to come to--except the crashers.
By at least a ten to one margin, those in attendance were there in support of love: from gay men in “Born this Way” Tshirts, to lesbians in rainbow socks, to straights with NOH8 written on their faces. People of all ages and colors, students, faculty and staff all sat together on the floor like Kindergarteners, united in our conviction that this guy had it wrong.
It looks like the Traditional Values Club accomplished teaching us something after all: Love wins.