In Honor of National Coming Out Day

I support lgbt rights, but National Coming Out Day is a little bit of an odd concept for me.  You can’t really participating by “coming out” if you’re straight or if you’re already “out,” and if you’re not, I’m not sure if you want to begin that talk with “So Mom, you know today is National Coming Out Day, right?” Although, who knows, maybe you do.

In any case, in honor of National Coming Out Day, I’m reposting one of the answers from my interview with Kindle Author:

During the course of writing (Angel) I only had to focus on telling the story the best I knew how, and crafting it as a workable novel.  Once I’d finished it, I found that I had to contend with having written a love story between two men, one of whom is a Christian minister.  I had to figure out how to sell and market it, and how people might react to that or try to present it.  I’m not a person who courts controversy, and I don’t personally feel as though what I wrote is controversial.  I tried to write something beautiful. As a straight person, I’ve taken for granted not having to size up anyone’s views about sexual orientation before I talk about my life.  Now when people ask me about the novel, I find myself trying to gauge how they might react and how to frame it before I speak, and it’s given me a certain empathy.  I won’t say I wasn’t empathetic to lgbt people before (I couldn’t have written Angel if I wasn’t), but I didn’t have any personal taste of what it must be like to have to think about how someone might react to you when you speak about the events of your life.  Sometimes people ask me what the book is about and I tell them and I feel a bit of a silence come over them.  They’re surprised.  I feel their discomfort.  I suppose it is possible that there will be some people who have strong feelings against homosexuals who might put me into a certain category and decide they don’t want to try my other non-fiction books.  I hope that doesn’t happen.  In any case, you can’t live in fear of things like that or you won’t ever say anything worth saying.

Struggling With… The Language of Seuxal Identity

Been thinking about the language people use when talking about gays and lesbians and how different it is from how we talk about heterosexually oriented individuals.

I’m “openly” straight, I’ve been “struggling with” opposite sex attractions for as long as I can remember. I remember the lovely evening when my boyfriend, who I’d known for three years, looked into my eyes and we decided to “act on our heterosexuality.” We have been a couple ever since, but we try not to “flaunt it.”

How does talking about my desire to love and be loved, desire and be desired, and my relationship with my beloved seem when I use this language to describe it? I’ve been trying to reflect on whether or not I would feel differently about myself if I was using this kind of language or others were using it about me on a regular basis.

What do you think?

P.S. Maybe we’ll get “straight married” someday.

The Vocabulary of Love: What are “Lovers?”

CoupleWhile looking up something else I came across a blog by Kate Trgovac which featured an article on “The Subtext of Stock Photography.”

In it Kate describes how images of a loving same-sex couple (pictured here) appeared in her search for images to illustrate an article on furnaces.  Gay couples apparently show up when you search for the term “heat.”

“Seriously?” she wrote, “Maybe two scantily clothed men making out in front of the fireplace.  But two gay stockbrokers with their chihuahua?  Hardly… why is it that ‘gay’ in all of its forms implies a licentiousness or luridness?”

I was reminded of a quote by Yale professor John Boswell who described some of the pitfalls of translating terms for emotionally charged vocabulary related to love, relationships and marriage.

“Modern English has no standard term for same-sex partners in a permanent, committed relationship, so it is virtually impossible to translate ancient terms for this (of which there were many) accurately into contemporary English,” he wrote.  “Probably the most common word in contemporary English is ‘lover,’ but it is quite misleading… A heterosexual ‘lover’ is generally not the equivalent of a spouse: it is either someone to whom a heterosexual is not married (or not yet married) or a love interest in addition to a spouse, seen on the side and usually clandestine… these associations are not apposite to ‘lover’ as applied to same-sex couples, for whom the world almost always designates the primary and exclusive focus of erotic life, usually intended to remain so permanently.  Using ‘lover’ for same-sex partners implicitly suggests that all same-sex unions are illicit relationships, comparable to what passes between a heterosexually married male and his mistress rather than to the man’s union with his wife.”

In the Bible Marriage Was Between Two Men

Yes, I chose that headline for its shock value.  But there is some truth to it.  Read on.
I just finished reading God and Sex by Michael Coogan.  Coogan is director of publications for the Harvard Semitic Museum and professor of Religious Studies at Stonehill College.  His book explores what the Bible really has to say about sexuality and gender relations within the context of its culture and time.
It provides an interesting counterpoint to those who claim Biblical authority for the concept that marriage is between “a man and a woman.”   
These claims are often made with a reference to Adam and Eve, the first couple.  (“Not Adam and Steve.”)  But the Bible never reports a marriage ceremony took place for Adam and Eve.  Adam and Eve are therefore not a good example of how the Bible defines “marriage.”
“I am sometimes asked by relatives and students to suggest biblical passages for use at their weddings, Coogan wrote, “but few are appropriate.  The Song of Solomon is too erotic—not to mention that the lovers are not married.  Most text concerning married couples are permeated with patriarchalism.  Many major biblical characters had more than one wife.  Because biblical views on marriage originated in societies whose mores were in many ways different from ours, biblical models do not necessarily inform either our practice or our theory of marriage.”
Marriage, as we understand it today, as a romantic union between two partners, was not what Biblical authors would understand marriage to be.
Marriage was a property arrangement— and the property was the woman.  The marriage contract was between two men—the father of the bride-to-be and the groom.  (Hence my headline.) The father sold the daughter for a bride-price to a man, who might have been a close relative.  (Jacob married his cousins Leah and Rachel, and one of Esau’s wives was his cousin.)
The husband might go on to marry another wife or two.  Abraham had three wives, Jacob had four, his brother Esau had five, Gideon had many.  Marriages were arranged and were often between one rather old man and a “woman” who was just past puberty, such as Joseph, aged 92, and Mary, aged 14.
Not even the most conservative Biblical literalist is out there arguing that we should, in keeping with Biblical tradition, sell our 14-year-old daughters to be one of the multiple wives of her first cousin, a senior citizen.  (When we hear stories about religious sects that engage in such behavior we consider it to be shocking and abusive.)

Opponents of same-sex marriage can make their case that a more inclusive definition of marriage flies in the face of their cultural traditions, and that those cultural traditions are important and worth upholding.  One argument that they can not make legitimately, however, is that the “one man one woman” model of romantic marriage is mandated by— or the cultural norm in— the Bible.