Friday, February 02, 2007

In the LIfe

I walked into work this morning to find one of my officemates in a lather over (1) Dick Cheney's churlish interview with Wolf Blitzer earlier in the week and (2) Mary Cheney's sorta followup interview with the NY Times and Glamour. She (the officemate) is blown away by the hypocrisy and kept saying she doesn't understand why my head doesn't explode on a daily basis, given the number of people out there loudly proclaiming me an abomination and then turning around and doing whatever they want in their personal lives.

She's a wonderful ally. As I pondered a response, it struck me that I must engage in my own little bits of cognitive dissonance. This is not a Mary-flavored disconnect that allows me to actively campaign for a president and party while simultaneously pursuing exactly the kind of intimate relationship and family status that president and party seek to deny me. It's more of a callous buildup around my brain, one that lets the cumulative outrages register but not become all-consuming.

And I am not a serene person. Not even close. Filled with rage more days than not. But if I really, really let this stuff strike me at the core, I'd go insane.

So it was serendipitous that I stumbled onto PBS' In the Life, by way of Pam's House Blend this morning. I'm not sure why I hadn't heard of this before, but it's a GLBT news magazine. This month's installment, hosted by Ani DiFranco, focuses on the stories of three young people, but the first one--about a 15-year-old girl in rural Iowa--was the most resonant for me. This kid is apparently the first person in the history of her 5,000-person town to come out. She talks about being terrified to tell, but more terrified to go on living a life not her own. Her parents seem to have accepted her without question, but some schoolmates and strangers flung insults at her. More painful, the church that previously welcomed her as an enthusiastic member of the choir booted her.

The most emotionally charged scene shows her going to the pastor of the church for counsel, trying to reconcile the church's teachings with her own recognition that her sexuality is an innate part of her that is not going to change. To the pastor's credit, he doesn't out-and-out condemn her. But he falls back on what must seem to him and his ilk the most reasonable, logical compromise, something that rings hollow to anyone who seriously thinks about their own sexuality for more than a second: the highest calling for a gay Christian is a life of celibacy, because that will provide complete joy and freedom.

For a second I was afraid the girl would crumble and acquiesce, at least in front of the pastor, but--amazingly, to me--she looks him straight in the eye and says no, she knows she'll never be able to do that, and does not believe that a loving god will condemn her for living the way she was created.

The condemnation is left to the humans in the story. Her mother, her father, her friends all echo the same refrain. Why would anyone want to hurt this girl? Why would anyone feel they were being a good Christian by condemning her? Why would anyone want to say ignorant things about an entire class of people just because they're afraid of something they don't understand?

These are my officemate's questions as well. I'm still searching for answers.

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