Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cowboys and Indians, Quaker-Style

Today after meeting, we were all standing around and talking like we usually do. One of the other mothers of young children stopped by where I was chatting, and let me know what the kids were up to outside. She looked a little bemused, and not entirely comfortable:

"They're all out there playing Indian Wars. I wonder if I ought to break it up."

I made some vaguely sympathetic comments, and she continued, with a little smile:

"The Indians are the good guys. And two of the girls are out there playing negotiator. They told me, 'We're not on either side. We're negotiating a treaty.'"

We decided to let them keep playing. Bless 'em all, and bury my heart at Wounded Knee.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Long Comment that Ought to Appear under "On the Hope Inherent in Opening One's Mouth"

*Deep Sigh* This is not a particularly well-written post. It was originally just supposed to be a comment reflecting on another person's comment in my previous blog post, but it got waaaaay too long. I apologize for the fact that it is disjointed and clunky.


Hi John Michael... I have done some research as you suggested, and I have found some information that, after reflection, I have decided should be included here for folks to see. I hope you will forgive me if I seem at all sharp in any of my comments here, it isn't my intention. I like you very much; you're among my favorite people. I think that you and I will continue to disagree about this issue, unfortunately, but I hope we can do it with mutual respect.

First, I do not care at all what form the sexual intimacy between a married couple takes, so long as that intimacy makes them both feel loved and cared for. This is merely opinion, and is no more or less valid than your opinion about the emotional nature of certain acts. We will have to disagree here, until further Light brings us more into unity one way or another.

When I say "married couple," by the way, I am not limiting my comments to legally married couples. Quakers believe that a marriage is made by God, not by state paperwork. Our Quaker forebears 350 years ago were accused of being fornicators because it was illegal for them to marry outside official church/state channels... they married each other anyway.

Second, anal sex does indeed have health risks attached to it. So does your average white-bread monogamous coitus, at least for women. Urinary tract infections, for example, are not at all unheard of as a result of monogamous heterosexual sex. Every physical thing we do carries certain risks with it...

Also, to base one's objections to homosexuality based on one sexual act seems a little misguided... I don't think that lesbians are known for participating in anal sex much. And I can think of quite a few ways for two men to be sexually intimate without engaging in anal sex. One old Talmudic interpretation of Leviticus, by the way, is that only anal sex is prohibited; no other homosexual activity is prohibited (obviously, Jewish interpretation will vary depending on the group). So being against anal sex does not equal being against homosexual sex.

Now, HIV/AIDS is a serious disease. And the primary risk factor for getting HIV/AIDS is being a man who has sex with men. Interestingly, there are no documented cases of female-to-female HIV/AIDS, although lesbians do contract the disease in other ways. So, if I wanted to make sure of avoiding HIV/AIDS, I would be better off as a female being a lesbian than being heterosexual... in that case, being homosexual would reduce my risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

Now, how many gay men have HIV/AIDS in the U.S.? I checked over at the CDC and found some numbers. There are roughly a million people with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. today. Of those, roughly 53% contracted it through male-to-male sex. Definitely a risk factor for the disease. But how many gay people actually have HIV/AIDS? If we assume that approximately 5% of the population is LGBT (which is the current best guess), the estimated 586,000 men who have contracted HIV/AIDS through male-to-male sex represents about 4% of the LGBT population in the U.S. This means that 96% of the LGBT population is Free of HIV/AIDS. Perhaps they do not engage in those high-risk activities that you have written about--anal sex and promiscuity? Perhaps the vast majority of LGBT folks are just like straight folk in their intimate relationships... limiting their loving to the one they love?

I looked into the "incubation" period for AIDS, by the way, and I think that your estimation of that gay couple's sexual activities was probably extremely misguided, at least based on the evidence. The median length of time between contracting HIV and becoming symptomatic is almost ten years, and can be much longer... nearly twenty. That's without any treatment. With current treatments, it can remain asymptomatic for many many years. So it is entirely possible, even likely, that the man's HIV was contracted before the couple ever became a couple. I think you owe them a mental note of apology for assuming the worst of them.

As a digression regarding stereotypes, I remember taking a psychology course in college. One of the things that I remember was a study of young women. Women with a low self-esteem (that is, women who had been told too often that they were unloved and unlovable), tended to express that self-hatred in their lives through alcohol abuse, drug abuse, promiscuity, and suicide. Just exactly the things that the LGBT community has been stereotypically associated with for many years. Perhaps they were driven to such acts through our cultural disdain, and not through their own "natural" tendencies at all?

I have looked at ex-gay information with interest. It is true that some gay people can and have been "cured" of their attraction to people of the same sex. But I do not agree that something should be cured just because it can be cured. Left-handed people used to be "cured" of being left-handed, at great cost to their psyches.

I also found the available estimated best-case statistics interesting... of people who seek counseling in order to become ex-gay, roughly one-third are "cured." Another third show some progress.. which I guess means that they are a little less likely to become romantically interested in someone of the same sex. This is from the gay population that WANTS to become ex-gay. That leaves a LOT of people out in the cold, when it comes to a cure, even for people who don't want to be attracted to people of the same sex. Becoming ex-gay is clearly not the solution for everyone.

I support a Catholic's right to believe in Catholic doctrine. I disagree with a lot of Catholic doctrine, but I think that people who think it is true should have that right. I do wish that the Catholic church would examine its practice regarding homosexuals though, because it seems to me that it is currently treading very dangerously close to hypocrisy. Look at the archdiocese of Denver, Colorado. Recently, the lesbian parents of a child were told that the child would not be allowed to re-enroll in parochial school there next year, because the parents do not "live in accord with Catholic teaching." At the same school, I have read, are children whose parents are single, divorced, and non-Catholic... none of whom can strictly be considered to be living in accord with Catholic teaching, either. The Catholic church in this case has singled out homosexuality as some sort of "special" sin, above and beyond any others. That's wrong. I hope that the church is able to figure out how to act in fairness to all people who are not living in accord with Catholic teaching, rather than hypocritically singling some out and ignoring others.

Honestly, if any of my children ever were to discover that they were LGBT, I would have the same advice that I would have for straight children: Your sexuality is a precious gift, not to be treated lightly or with disrespect. In a marriage, it will strengthen your relationship, help you learn to trust each other, and bring you both joy.

Thanks to everyone for your comments here. I've rambled on long enough, but I deeply appreciate everyone's care while replying to each other.