Summing up then, in my traditionally long-winded fashion...
Back when the world was young, I was a lowly grad student with two toddlers, and I started this blog. I did it for some very old and very new motivations at the time, with the hope that putting our perspective (or simply our existence) out there would be some help to our children’s dealings in school with LDS peers or someone else’s children in that LDS-gay no-man's-land. I tend to think a person can fix anything, given enough work and time and I put a good deal of both into online interactions.
Then Prop 8 came about and it really threw myself and my home for a loop. Trusted family became suspect; on every other block in my neighborhood, suddenly there was a strong and hostile political base where once there was a church. I began paying too much attention to every insult to my home, especially those directed at our children’s character coming from those pulpits and our local politicians. I know I paid far too much attention to random citizens, reading through the opinion page first just to see what next insult or rhetoric they’d try out. I was looking to address every debasing, ugly characterization of my love for my home and husband.
Not a reasonable aim, and not a healthy aim.
With the turmoil around Prop 8 the world turned from the wonderful and optimistic opportunity it had become in my adult life to something threatening, more reminiscent of what it was as a 14-year-old kid, before I came out of the closet. I was going over the ground I'd settled for myself, now for my family and for my fears for my children. For those well-documented reasons of human psychology, taking a step back was also more of a blow than just being accustomed to existing injustices. I look back at old posts now and I see I was drinking in far too much of our opposition's poison than anyone should, even if I still reflexively feel, for my spouse and kids, I could swallow it all. It took a physical tole from which I'm finally recovering.
Etcetera etcetera, right?... It's all recorded around here somewhere.
I've spend a good deal of time, though, trying to figure out why this affected me so much. If others are in the same boat it may make sense, and if not just skip ahead...
It’s odd, sure, to have an epiphany when considering the Zombie Apocalypse. I mentioned in an old post that after Proposition 8 I had began having nightmares about zombies, of all things, attacking my family and me helpless to defend them. I was waking up from them with my heart pounding. It hit me as Rob and I were watching the Walking Dead the other night that I’m fascinated with zombies and they get to me so viscerally because they remind me of my most potent real-world fears in an exaggerated form:
1. Zombies are made from the familiar and, sometimes, those you love.
2. Zombies don’t want to hash things out; there’s no talking them out of their pro-“Brains!” position. Appeals to science, the golden rule, or empathy, or reciprocity do not affect on their unshakable convictions.
Similarly, I fear the polite neighbor and the quaint church on the corner turning into a threat to my loved ones much more than I fear the threats that were openly sinister from the start. Having to attack what you once counted as a friend in order to protect those you do love is traumatic, and a Zombie plot staple. Prop 8 made my neighborhood and some in my family feel like threats to my kids and husband; that's an unreasonably large panic button in me for some reason.
I also fear not being able to talk to and reason with my opposition. To be clear, I'm not saying our opposition in the gay debate is mindless—they are absolutely very intelligent. But intelligence is a tool people use to get what they want, not necessarily what is right or true. It would be at our peril to imagine they don't have a great deal of it.
While not at all like mindless zombies, they don’t use tools of communication and persuasion that I understand. I can't talk my way to a solution, and this gets to me. After debating for weeks and making a great case, too many times I’ve been told directly by those high up in our opposition that the science doesn’t matter to them because they just know the Truth; I’ve been told the Golden rule isn’t applicable when they harm us because they just know it’s for the greater good. There is no arguing that, as centuries of religious conflict can attest. They may just as well be explaining “Brains!” to me, as what they are saying scares the Hell out of me nearly as much.
I mean, I've had folks quote non-existent journal articles as evidence for my children's deficiencies and when proven wrong they didn't even skip a beat at trying to break down our metaphorical door; it's like a scientist's horror film.
What’s worse is I’ve read too much on gay history and know the zombie apocalypse of sorts has happened for gays several times in history, from the fall of Rome to the inquisitions, and I extrapolate too much. We just make such great permanently-small-in-number scapegoats.
All that is a long way to say I needed to calm down, get some perspective, and stop acting as Rick Grimes, staying up watch all night to defend my family from the hoards. Our opposition only wants a disproportionate cut of our tax, insurance, and SS dollars. Sure they want to insult us and our children, but they’re not asking for “Brains”, not to set us on fire, this century at least.
Clearly, my emotions after that loss were unreasonable and far out of proportion. But, I'm not sure I'd have wanted it another way. Potent emotions follow any topic that nears our children, and, more often than not, it's a welcome condition.
Nevertheless, it was a problem.
Fortunately, I got an unexpected job opportunity just at the right time. I had to force a space for us where we live, and this opportunity worked out perfectly. I am now a “professor” and man it feels odd to be called that by 20-somethings… So I cut out politics, and disappeared from online life to focus on my career.
It’s always striking when the universe seems to know what exactly you need, and how to remind you where your focus should be in this brief life. Focusing on science is far more healthy for me than focusing on the belief structures of hostile strangers, and now the world is back to that wonderful and optimistic opportunity.
There was a price, though. I have had to give up hope on strangers, which hurt a bit. I've had to stop going out of my way to find and digest the world's sinister side, which make me a deserter of sorts. I’ve had to stop caring so strongly and accept that I can’t fix some things, even for those I love. I've had to stop seeing myself as the unbeatable and tireless defender of my family, oddly, in order to do what my family needs most from me. I had to admit my weaknesses and keep near my strengths; my career in science was chosen over my concern for politics.
Frankly, though, I’m a gay man only incidentally. When I ask myself, my reflexes tell me that I’m a father to our two children; I’m a husband to my husband; I’m a scientist. I just don’t feel like a “gay man” or “gay rights activist” at heart. I have my family, and my friends, and I fit in with fellow scientists, but being gay is as interesting to me as the genetics behind my blue eyes. In fact I fear I’ve only ever cared about being gay as much as those who would hurt my family or others for it have cared.
I’m plainly relieved to let myself stop studying the topic; it's so boring next to what I find in my work every day. Dropping my concern for strangers and their obsession with homosexuality has let me back to my natural state, away from politics and back to a world were evidence is held high and belief is held low, back to where morality is decided by the Golden Rule. I’m back to the world that makes sense to me, and just have to accept there is another, much larger and more powerful world that decides my family’s fate.
I do feel guilty and rightly so for not being there for the online crusade to let young gay kids know that “It gets better”. Maybe the world really is getting better for young gay men and women; it's not the world I came out into. I know gay suicide and bullying is still a big problem, one which I'll fight in the non-html world. But it really has become much better and the cages gay kids find themselves in now are thankfully more and more of their own construction, which is somewhat simpler to dismantle. But doing so is most often work they need to choose and do themselves.
Boy, and at this LDS-Gay shoreline we have more than our fair share of sailors strapped to the mast. I suppose we also have sirens strapped to the rocks, and bodies of both in the waves. Coming out in these parts is a dramatic and difficult Odyssey to be sure. But I don't relate to what any sailor hears in our opponent's singing, and I landed my ship home almost 20 years ago. I'm literally getting too old for this. I don't know what help I can be in this unnecessary and increasingly alien drama other than just showing that it does end, if you keep sailing on.
And to that end, this blog is here, there are more and more like us out there, and, as a professor, I interact with more young men and women now than I ever did before. We lost a gay student a couple years ago to suicide, and it has troubled me to think I’d been too cloistered in my lab (some of that time blogging), to interact with students enough to even know one may be having such problems. Now, for what it might be worth, at least they can see one more option in their professional sphere. I’ve also listed myself as a faculty mentor for our GLBT club and we’ll see what comes of that. Simply, I’m putting my efforts into my immediate sphere and will avoid trying to argue with strangers (for my sake or theirs) from here on.
I think I’ll end with a brief update on the family, as, politics aside, I had enjoyed sharing the banal aspects of our lives much more than the controversies.
The twins are doing great. More and more bright and beautiful each week. At 8 they still have little inkling of how serious the political issue around their home will be to some strangers, and I hope it stays that way as this wave of acceptance just moves right along with their generation. They are still as different as ever. One wanted a tackle box and spear gun for Christmas and the other wanted a Glee video game and a badger pup… We do love orbiting our binary system, enough to not give them the spear gun and badger pup.
Rob and I are going on 19 years together. To say I love him more than ever would sound trite but would also be insufficient to describe what builds on nearly two decades. There is yet another reason I’ve decided to pull out of this fight; it became too clear many I know fighting so adamantly to “defend marriage” have no idea what a healthy marriage means. Our marriage gets bit each time I bring us too near those fighting over bones of vocabulary, and I can be content to keep away from that mess while I enjoy the real thing.
I’ll end with some farewell pictures from a couple of our escapades over the past two years. I wanted to share but never found the time.
We did the white house easter egg roll, last Spring: