Why Two?

The question has been asked, and it’s time it was answered. A select few mainstream evangelicals are posing this question, and although responses have been attempted, none have yet proved sufficient. “Why Two? Why not three, or four, or ten?” This question, of course, is about marriage. Having won the battle for the rights of two people of the same sex to marry, we now face a question designed by evangelicals to trap us into a moral corner. The assumption is that we are insistent upon marriage being confined to only two partners, and because they see our victory as a redefinition, they want to hear our explanation as to why we insist upon two. “If you are redefining marriage anyway, why stop now? Why two? Why not more?”

Now, if you are in the pro marriage equality camp, and you do feel that marriage must be confined to two partners, I would love to hear it. But our movement was never about just two. It’s about equality, and the historic fight won in the U.S. Supreme Court was about people of the same sex being able to enter into a marriage contract with one another – two because that’s the marriage convention we have. If a group of polygamists/polygynists began demanding the right to marry tomorrow, I for one would not have a problem with it; and here’s why:

Relationships that have a sexual component, in this case marriage, hinge on consent. The reason we do not allow children to marry children, or adults to marry children or animals, is because children and animals do not have the mental or emotional capacity to understand the meaning of such relationships; and cannot appropriately give consent. In the case of adults, be it two or more than two, consent can freely be given. Polygamy may not be right for you, it certainly wouldn’t work for me, but where consent is present, I see no reason to impose restrictions on it based on my own distaste. I can’t answer the question “why two,” because I am not of the mindset that it must be only two.

I must admit, I find this question a bit curious, considering where it comes from. Those posing it are firmly in the “only two” camp, and every time a progressive says what I just said, they feel a small sense of victory. “Ha! See? They have no morals! They say they are good people, but they just contradicted themselves!” The problem is that nobody contradicted themselves at all. I am a good person, and believing that marriage between consenting adults is okay, be it between two or more people, doesn’t make me a bad person. Among the many assumptions these opponents make is the belief that we agree with their morality, at least to a certain point. “We believe marriage is between two people, they agree with us on that, so if they say polygamy is okay, they have made a moral contradiction.” The reasoning behind this question is ludicrous, and based on an unfounded premise. Many of us do not agree.

The first five books of the Bible talk positively about polygamy frequently, and it’s used in all sorts of contexts – economic necessity, social organization, even by divine command. Two-person marriage is not the only God-ordained form outlined in the scriptures, yet it is seen as a fundamental issue of morality today that only two people, one man and one woman, be granted the right to it. The question “why two” is a good one, but it is being asked of the wrong people. Those asking “why two” need to have the question turned back on them. To the evangelicals asking us “why two,” I ask the same of you. I never said “two,” and the funny thing is your Bible doesn’t insist upon it either. So why two? Why is it that you are so adamant that marriage be between two people? Let’s be honest, you have more scriptural support for your arguments against same-sex marriage than you do against polygamy; and that’s not much. So why two?

As a final thought, consider this. We on the progressive left are being challenged on moral grounds by people who believe a book that says a woman, subject to the will of her father, can be forced to marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29, Exodus 22:16-17). We are being asked “why two” by followers of a God, eternally unchanging, who allows polygamy under certain circumstances (Genesis 16:1-11), and is arguably generally accepting of it when you take all of scripture into account. We are being asked “why two” by people who assume we think “just two.” They don’t know if we feel this way, they just assume we do, and cry moral foul when it turns out we don’t. To our evangelical opponents, perhaps you would care to answer the question: Why two?

 

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The Significance Of Justice Scalia’s Death

If you haven’t already heard, United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia peacefully died in his sleep on February 13, 2016 at the age of 79. Appointed to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan in 1986, Justice Scalia was a longstanding opponent of virtually every old school value that seeks to discriminate, deny freedoms, or otherwise oppress. He was anti-marriage equality, anti-choice, and pro-death penalty; a position in direct conflict with his ‘pro-life’ views. He consistently disagreed with progressive decisions on gender and racial equality, as well as protections based on sexual orientation. He was a massive hypocrite, having no problem when rulings went his way, but claiming the Supreme Court had overstepped its bounds when they ruled against him. In the 2004 Elk Grove Unified School District v Newdow case, as well as in a later 2013 interview, he demonstrated a belief that Christian values should be allowed to influence certain policy decisions. In short, and contrary to what some have written already, Justice Scalia conducted himself in the legal arena in accordance with his personal religious beliefs – and effectively against the U.S. Constitution that he is said to have loved.

Presidential hopeful Donald Trump, upon hearing of Scalia’s death, tweeted “The totally unexpected loss of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is a massive setback for the Conservative movement and our COUNTRY.” This says a lot.

Now, many have written that Scalia will be remembered as a brilliant legal mind, a man to be admired. I respectfully disagree, but before I continue let me be clear that I am in no way celebrating the man’s death. I am merely having one of the many discussions that Antonin Scalia’s judicial legacy demands. That being said, I am a firm believer that although we need not dwell on the deeds of the departed, if a person acted despicably in life, that does not change after their passing; and should not necessarily be kept silent. The passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, a man who left a reprehensible legacy from my point of view, demands discussion. His death carries with it huge implications for the future of America, which brings us back to Donald Trump’s tweet.

“The totally unexpected loss of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is a massive setback for the Conservative movement …” It’s amazing how so much can be said in so few words. At the time this is being written, President Obama has not yet announced whether he will appoint a successor or hold the decision over for the next president, but if I have been reading the cultural and political tide in America correctly, two things are almost certain. (1) the next President of the United States will likely be a Democrat, and possibly one who is not beholden to the traditional establishment (let’s hope), and (2) that will result in the appointing of liberal justices to the Supreme Court. In other words, far-right conservative Justice Scalia will likely be succeeded by someone who holds progressive views. This will bring a breath of fresh air to a seat that has been held by a hateful anti-equality blowhard since 1986. As long as the Supreme Court is responsible for ruling on social issues, a new liberal face will better ensure positive outcomes; and a more solid base in support of the views held by the liberal SCOTUS contingent. Granted, the Republican Senate will do whatever they can to keep this from happening, but even a more grounded conservative would be an improvement.

So let’s discuss the root issue with the ‘Conservative movement.’ To be absolutely blunt, the Conservative movement is one that seeks to deny equal rights and protections to all who are not cis white male. For those who aren’t familiar with this term, a cis white male is a person who is caucasian, has a penis, and identifies as a man (cisgender). I realize that your knee-jerk reaction may be to dismiss this statement as a conspiracy theory, but this is all well documented and researched. As a matter of fact, modern Feminism and the LGBTQ+ rights movement is about this very thing – our patriarchal system run primarily by white men – and if you want a current reference point, I encourage you to start following the U.S. Republican primaries. The comments being made about social issues and policy by Trump and company show us exactly what the Conservative movement is … and it’s not pretty. Justice Scalia was a part of that movement, and every time one of their members passes away, our potential for good grows just a little bit more.

Society is becoming increasingly secular. Humanist values continue to permeate our social consciousness, and as that happens, we reject and push back against outdated ideas that hold us down and deny us our full humanity. The politicians who are already liberal-minded begin to come around and follow suit. As the cis white male Conservative movement ages and loses members, those voices are not being replaced. Instead, liberal progressive voices are rising to fill the void. The time will come that the patriarchy will have lost all relevance, and that time is closer than many of us think. This is why Justice Scalia’s death is so significant. One of the most influential voices in the American patriarchy, a voice that held a position of great power, has been lost. That voice will not be replaced. Instead the position will be filled by a progressive, and those who enjoy cis white male privilege … people like Donald Trump … are right to view this as a big loss for them. It is, and that’s exactly what equality looks like. You see, contrary to what many claim, this isn’t about the proletariat overthrowing the bourgeoisie. It’s about equal footing, equal opportunity, equal dignity, respect, and freedom. Equality requires privilege be lost. Cis white males need not be cast asunder as inferior to anyone else, at least I don’t want to see that, but the privilege they enjoy by virtue of an uncontrollable condition of birth has to disappear.

I am not cisgender, but I am white, and I do have male genitalia. Although I don’t identify entirely as male, I look the part. As a result I have cis white male privilege, and that has kept me from experiencing many terrifying things that are everyday concerns for members of other minorities. Since coming out as gender variant, I have struggled with fears that were foreign to me, and that has given me a small sense of just how powerful cis privilege is. White privilege is more powerful still, and it is so vital that we tear down those walls. It’s too easy for those of us with white privilege, for those with cis privilege, to condemn and marginalize without even realizing it. We have to keep ourselves, and each other, in check. Privilege has to be done away with. Each and every loss for the Conservative movement is a step closer to that goal. The loss of Justice Antonin Scalia is a potentially huge win for progressivism, liberalism, and equality.

 

Trans Rights In 2016

2016 has to be the year of Trans rights. On November 13, 2015, an article appeared on theguardian.com, outlining the very pressing dangers facing Transgender and gender non-conforming people in the United States today. It was devastating to say the least, and it serves to warn us all that the struggles of Trans people deserve more attention in the year to come.

2015 saw the landmark SCOTUS ruling legalizing marriage equality throughout America, and that was just one of many victories won this year. Despite the fact that LGB people are still facing discrimination, harassment, and the ever-present fear of violence, things have gotten better overall. 2015 has been a great year for equality! We must keep this momentum going in 2016, and at the same time prioritize our push for the same progress in Trans visibility and understanding.

As of Nov 13 (the publication date of the article above), there had been 21 Trans homicides in 2015; almost all of whom were Transgender women of colour. Of the 53 Trans murders between 2013 and 2015, NOT ONE had been reported or prosecuted as a hate crime. Due to social pressures, stigmas, and threats of further violence, we know that most violent crimes against Trans people go unreported, leading to the safe assumption that these numbers are not even close to revealing the reality of the situation. It should be noted here that these are U.S. statistics, but that the struggle for Trans people across the world, including my country of Canada, is just as real.

A Congressional group dedicated to the rights and equalities of LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. has taken the step of putting together a Transgender Equality Task Force, and we have to put our passions into this as well. Governmental and grass roots groups have to both work hard for this, a combined effort that has seen success for decades now. We have to fight just as hard, though hopefully not as long, as we have for the rights and equalities of LGB people.

Note what was just said about the victims of these crimes – in 2015, most were Trans women of colour. It is rightly pointed out in the article that the issue here goes much deeper than mere Transphobia; a definite issue to be addressed, but it only scratches the surface. The deeper issue lies at the intersection of racism, sexism, and transphobia. Immediately clear, and again rightly pointed out in the article, we can no longer afford to address these issues separately. Where do we begin? By listening to the people already talking about it, and asking questions to gain a better understanding.

The push against traditional gender roles, against sexism and for Feminism, against transphobia and for equal rights and dignity, against continuing systemic racism, and many more problems, are here all wrapped up into one. Trans people have become the most at-risk group among the LGBTQ+ community, Trans women of colour especially. Their voices are not being heard loud enough. Their struggles are not being addressed to the proper extent. They are being decried as freaks, perverts, and liars by evangelical activists like Dr. Michael Brown (you can find him, and object to his misinformation, at askdrbrown.org, and ‘Ask Dr. Brown’ on Facebook). Most importantly, the realities they face are not understood. We have to correct that in 2016, before more lives are taken.

I don’t generally make New Year’s resolutions, preferring instead to make lifestyle changes when the time is right. This time, though, right now, is the right time for all of us to make a change toward asking, listening, empathizing, and acting to make things better. Countless LGB people died while we sat and passively argued against inequality. It was only when things reached a tipping point that the push got real and things started to change, and they still have a long way to go. That tipping point came too late for people who never should have suffered the way they did, people who could have been effective voices fighting for their own lives. Are we going to continue to repeat that history?

In every single state but California, “Trans Panic” is currently considered a valid legal defence. For those of you unfamiliar with what that is, “Trans Panic” is the argument that upon learning that the person they were involved with was Transgender, the murderer panicked, lashed out in an uncontrollable rage, and cannot be held responsible for their actions. Since Trans people are seen as such a shockingly disturbing bunch to an aging white cis-male legal establishment, “Trans Panic” can be used for nearly any situation – from brief social interactions to a romantic relationship. After all, who’s to say that panic and murder aren’t warranted when you buy someone a drink at a bar and find out they have unexpected genitalia, right? “Trans Panic” frees the guilty and blames the victim. It says the victim deserved to die, and this somehow makes sense to the legal establishment in every American state but one. This has to change in 2016.

The good news is that there are people already talking about this. What we have to do is start listening to them. It took a long time, but many people have come around and taken the time to understand what it means to be gay and/or lesbian. It was once thought that bisexuality wasn’t a real thing, but people know differently now; and bisexuality is better understood. Two-spirited people are beginning to be celebrated in some communities, Queer people are entering the discussion and we’re telling our stories, and asexuality is beginning to be talked about as well. The challenges and dangers facing these groups are still there, but things have improved greatly. Let’s make 2016 the year we give Trans issues the attention they deserve. Let’s make 2016 the year we force the discussion about the intersectionality of racism, sexism, and transphobia. Let’s make 2016 the year we tell our legal representatives that “Trans Panic” is a disgusting and dehumanizing argument that has to be thrown in the trash where it belongs.

2016, I must admit, is also going to see me asking more questions. I intend to ask about terms that confuse me – terms like “transage,” and “trans-species.” I want to learn more, to know if my inclination toward dismissing terms I find suspect is valid or the result of my own ignorance. Humanity is complex, we are all very unique and fascinating creatures. Before venturing an opinion or point-of-view, especially for a person who chooses to live as an outspoken ally, information has to be sought out and carefully taken in.

My plans for 2016 are many, but where my Trans advocacy is concerned, I intend to ask, learn, act, and aggressively fight for the equality, rights, dignity, and acceptance of the Trans community.

Have a safe and happy New Year!

 

A Legitimate Question

On May 1st of this year, I asked “Anti-Gay Activists, Why Do You Persist?” Today I’m asking again. It’s not that I don’t understand the scriptural basis for your condemnation – I understand it very well. My question has to do with why you insist upon waging war against equality. Why the animosity? Since the landmark SCOTUS decision legalizing same-sex marriage, a number of pastors and religious leaders have blatantly declared outright war on the LGBTQ+ community and allies – even more than before. They just can’t let it go, and I’m curious as to why that is.

Bryan Fischer takes to the airwaves every day, and you can regularly count on him to decry the dangers facing America as a result of the acceptance of the “gay lifestyle.” He compares pro-equality activists to Hitler’s Nazi’s, and even claims that “Hitler surrounded himself with homosexuals because he couldn’t get straight soldiers to be savage enough.” What is it that makes a person feel so threatened that they resort to such bizarre and offensive falsehoods?

Politicians, televangelists, and country preachers write books, articles, and Facebook posts in which they claim that gay men are more likely to be child predators. The available research (credible research) on same-sex families suggests a different picture, and even if that information didn’t exist, the claims would still be speculative at best. Now, it would be one thing if they admitted speculation, they would just be wrong in that case, but they prefer instead to claim that they’ve actually researched the issues and know what they’re talking about. Why?

There are thousands of examples that could be used here. As a former evangelical homophobe, I understand the desire to aggressively jump at issues of equality when you believe that equality isn’t deserved, but these people are really taking it beyond the pale. Even when they’re caught lying or proven to be just flat-out ignorant, they don’t stop. Paul Cameron has been disowned by every reputable psychological association in North America, and Tony Perkins has never made a factual statement about the LGBTQ+ community; aside from the admission that they exist. Regardless, they continue to make things up and their followers stay loyal. They just keep lying. Why?

It must be stated again and again that this war is being fought entirely on one side. Our goal is simple – equality. That’s what we fight for, and we’re getting there. To the religious right, though, this fight is about the destruction of society. They are convinced that pro-equality activists are after their children, their churches, and their faith. As I said on July 9 of this year (“The Gay Agenda”), they are fighting a monster that doesn’t exist. They are fighting a war being waged only by them. We’re not even really responding. We just challenge the status quo in favour of a more loving and equal society, while they wage war on an enemy that exists only in their imagination. Why?

A tactic that bothers me most in all of this is when pastors and Christian publications occasionally read and publish transparently fabricated “ex-gay” letters. Christianity Today has done this in the past, and every once in awhile I come across these letters being read in sermons. When I read and listen to these, I almost feel embarrassed for whoever is presenting it. I also feel embarrassed for those who believe it. Obvious fabrications made to enforce homosexuality as a choice, a sickness, a curable disease. The ex-gay man who found solace in the arms of men because his father didn’t love him. The ex-gay woman who grew up with a single mother, and rejected men because her father had left them when she was young. The ex-gay convert to Christianity who found love in the arms of Jesus, and in that love the strength to reject same-sex desires. Sound familiar? Now, I don’t want to downplay the experiences of someone who legitimately went through a tough time and triumphantly came through it, but the “ex-gay” movement is a sham. It’s a coercive religious movement that uses shame and guilt to force people back into the closet. Ex-gay stories are the evangelical equivalent of chance encounters written about in Penthouse Forum – made up scenarios to excite and engage those who believe that these things actually happen. The difference is that the “ex-gay” movement leaves a tragic mess of guilt-ridden and broken hearts in its wake.

I have always been open about my hateful past. I understand how it feels for a person who believes wholeheartedly that the Bible calls homosexuality an abomination. I understand that the perspective from that vantage point is completely closed to the possibility of being wrong, and entirely closed to the possibility that scripture was not written in a vacuum but has linguistic, historical, cultural, and spiritual contexts to it. All I’m asking here is for evangelicals reading this to think about the question. Why insist upon this so vehemently? I’ve asked this question before, but it bears repeating. You say “Jesus said to love everybody,” and you openly condemn in the same breath. Why? If I may be so bold as to suggest an approach similar to 1 Peter 3:15, ask yourself if there is a rational justification for your distaste toward LGBTQ+ people. It’s a legitimate question.

 

Kim Davis Broke The Law

Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who defied the Supreme Court and refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, was found to be in contempt of court and sentenced to jail a few days ago. Cue her supporters, the droves of Christians who are now rushing to her defence, loudly screaming “foul” on the grounds of religious freedom being trampled. It’s a predictable response, and there’s one point her supporters are all missing … Kim Davis broke the law.

This case has nothing to do with religious freedom. Everybody has the right to freely practice their religion, but they do not have the right to impose their beliefs on others. When you work as a public servant, your right to religious freedom is limited to you – you may not infringe on the rights of the people your job requires you to serve. This is how rights and freedoms work in general. My right to swing my arm ends at my neighbour’s nose. When a law ensuring the rights of an oppressed group is passed, you follow it, and if you refuse to follow it you suffer legal consequences. It’s not complicated. The same thing happened when Jim Crow laws were abolished. People complained about losing religious freedom then as well, but I think we can all agree that re-enacting those laws would be a very bad thing.

The U.S. Supreme Court took mandatory prayer out of schools in the early 1960’s. That was one of many legal actions made to remove the imposition of Christian values onto people who do not subscribe to, or practice, Christianity. These laws are in place because they are good for us as a society. We may all freely practice the religion of our choosing, including none at all, but the government can’t take sides. When state laws are based upon religious belief, equality is, by definition, impossible. We follow the laws that bring equality closer, and if we are jailed for our refusal to do so, we may NOT then truthfully say that our religious freedom is being trampled. This is what has happened in the Kim Davis case.

Please don’t try to make Kim Davis going to jail into a reason to complain about religious freedom falling by the wayside. She is NOT a martyr. She refused to issue marriage licenses to a specific group of people, despite her job requiring her to. She broke the law, and she is suffering the legal consequences of doing so. Her anti-gay stance IS disgusting, it IS deplorable, and yes I DO think she is presenting herself in a very negative way … but none of that has anything to do with her going to jail. Before you start to complain about Christians being jailed for their beliefs, understand that doing so is to complain about something that isn’t happening; at least not in this part of the world. There is but one fact here: Kim Davis broke the law.