If I had to pick an exercise for a reconciling event, I would ask people to tell one of the most potent stories they have heard from someone who is different than they are.

For example, since I know I have never been a gay man, I might tell about when I was a junior in High School and a boy who was a senior shared a poem called “I Slipped Upon The Ice” with me, a tale of two boys who slipped on the ice and fell into each others arms.  I knew what it meant, but I also knew that I wasn’t the person he was seeking.  I did hope he found that person once he left for college.

Or I might tell about the kid from Kettering Ohio who got blasted at the freshman welcome party and after a touch walk back, told me that he was gay.  I encouraged him to see a counselor, or at least to go to Jacques (the only gay bar I knew), but the situation didn’t come to a head until he threatened to kill himself and I organized a watch of students for him, helping some of them come to grips with having a gay friend.

What story would you tell?  How have you let someone else’s experience into your heart?

Using Sexual Preditors

I was at a screening of “Tying The Knot” at First United Methodist in Schenectady yesterday, celebrating “Reconciling Sunday” and the Schenectady Congregations for Sexual Inclusiveness.

After watching the film, a moving document about the cost of denying marriage to non-heterosexuals, there was a question time with Jim de Sève, one of the flim makers.

One gentleman noted that he heard a lot about sexual preditors on the news recently, too much according to his judgement.   He wondered what the connection was with the fears in this film.

It’s something I have noticed too.  You can’t have a newscast around here without talking about sexual preditors.  Now, rarely do we get a new report that someone has been molested, but we get lots of follow up reports and even more reports about registration, about tracking sexual offenders, about the limits to where they can live and so on, and even reports about grown-up playing kids on-line to lure other grown-ups into traps.

I think these reports tap into one of the deepest fears any parent has: someone is going to steal their kids and hurt them.  This is a huge fear because it’s a fear not for ourselves but for others, for someone whose choices we can’t completely control.  It’s a fear abut something we have no control over, and therefore it can easily be a fear that is both bottomless and endless.

I once attended a meeting of parents of gay & lesbian people.  The one thing that struck me is how much they wanted to talk about their fears for their kids, how scared they were.  And I knew that the least useful thing any parent can offer their kids is fear.  It’s tough enough to negotiate our own fears, let alone the fears of someone who can only imagine the real choices we make in our lives.   We may want the support, the experience, the encouragement, the smarts of our parents, but their fears are just another burden we have to carry.

But in this country, fear is easy to use as a motitvating factor, as Michael Moore showed in Bowling For Columbine.  Keep people afraid and you can control them.

It’s that use of fear, of the fear for our children, that ties together the media’s use of the fear of sexual preditors for ratings and the Right’s use of the theme of gay marriage to create exactly the same fear for keeping and growing voter’s support.

People know that some people are absolutely heterosexual, 0 on the scale Alfred Kinsey developed in the 1940s, and others are absolutely heterosexual, 6 on that scale.  But others are 5 or 4 or 3, with some of both desires.  Society figured out that if you keep applying stigma to those sixes, the fives, fours and threes will have to consider not just their desire but also the social stigma, which may keep their choices more normative. 

In other words, if it’s not as tough to make homosexual choices, we will have more homosexual behaviors.  And that means more kids will come out as gay.  Maybe even your kid.  And you don’t want that, do you?  After all, isn’t it better to keep them on the straight and narrow?  Isn’t that the best for everyone?

Heck, maybe even homosexuals like this stigma thing.  After all, forcing people to choose & be marked by stigma makes them declare sides, weeding out the flaky bisexuals who may leave us for a partner who is different than us, a partner with whom we feel we can’t compete. 

I talked with Jim about how the families of Earl, the late partner of Sam, defended their choice to challenge Earl’s will and take the farm Sam & Earl built together over twenty years.  Jim said that they didn’t get them in the movie,but in phone conversations, they talked about how Sam had stolen their brother, perverted him.  In other words, in their mind, Sam was a sexual preditor, and that was justification enough for grabbing everything he and Earl had built, leaving him with nothing but massive legal bills.

Earl loved Sam.  Is anyone who unlocks the love that the family wishes would stay locked away a sexual preditor?  

We hear a lot about internet sex preditors, who come right into your house and seduce your kids. The problem with this is that getting away from these people is as easy as exiting the chat room, which is what the vast majority of kids do.  A few though, find something they need, and keep chatting.

Even more, though, aren’t kids, rather they are adults playing kids.  They know how to keep a converation going when normal kids would have walked away.  And these are the ones we hear about.

The kids who do stay in the room, though, maybe they are getting something they need.  Maybe they aren’t being stolen, maybe they are there because of who they are.

It’s easy to try to use the fear we have for our kids.  But what is worse: real sexual offenders, or the people who want to use sexual preditors for their own purposes, the ones who want us to fear what is in the hearts of our children, the part of them we want to stay hidden?

But the parts of our kids we keep in darkness and demand them to deny, well, those are always the parts that will really get them into trouble.  It’s that fear that keeps them limited and hurts them.

But the people who want to use sexual preditors as their mingons? 

It’s not the safety of your children that they want, it’s your fear.  After all, how else do they keep you viewing and voting right?


If I Only Knew. . .

“If I only knew then what I know now about what women need, I would have been a much better husband,” TBB says (By the way, she now says that her moniker means “The Bi-Babe.”)  “I mean, I might have understood why my wife was so upset when she found a picture of me with a man.  I just told her I never had sex with him, which I now know wasn’t really a useful comment.”

“Yes,” I said, “but to know what you know now, you had to be willing to think like a woman.”

TBB sighed, knowing I was right.

All those year spent clinging to thinking like a guy, or at least clinging to the simulated guy we developed to walk in the world, well, those were days we resisted thinking ike a woman.  That just seemed to dangerous, too risky.  If we let go of the performance, of the defense, how could we ever hope to find partners who wanted straight men, gay men, butch lesbians or whatever we were pretending to be?

“You have to remember that lesson, you know,” TBB said to me.  “When someone isn’t ready, someone isn’t ready.  You move them forward just on your own will.”

Having dropped back in to the local crossdresser scene, I knew what she meant.  Until Linda understands that her third Saturday social club held in the old gay bar is as much a closet as TBB’s beloved SCC, I can’ help her get that.  It’s not that closets are bad or evil — they do much good as first steps for transpeople, especially transpeople born male in relationship with heterosexual identified women.   But they are closets, even if that is OK.

I remember the first moments when I dropped the walls enough to think like a woman.  One was watching a made-for-TV movie after a ETVC (now TGSF) Cotillion.  I was watching along and realized that I was identifying with the wife.

It takes a leap to drop the gender defenses and do what feels natural instead of what feels like the “right” thing to do, keeping up the pretense.  And as TBB reminds me, until we can do that, we can’t do that, and no one can make us.  In fact, people who try to open that window often feel like fair game for attack.

Once we start opening up, though, it can get hard.  These are feelings and passions that we never learned to handle as an adolescent, so feeling emotional, open and vulnerable can feel raw, risky and extremely dangerous.   Women are in charge of processing emotions (should I put the Audre Lorde quote about aphids here?) to help babies find their own understanding and words, to help men with that side, but that processing takes as much training as learning to master the external world, even if the training is different.

It might have been good if TBB had understood what women need better when she was married, but the only real way for her to understand that was to be a woman, and the minute that happened, she couldn’t really have stayed married to a heterosexual identified woman anyway.

It might be great if we knew then what we know now, but to do that, we would have had to be who we are now.  

And if we were then who we were now, we wouldn’t have gotten into the same jam, would we?