Saturday, November 30, 2002

Why Do I Have Sand In My Hair?

I''''ve been thinking. I tried not to, but it''''s just one of those things that, with proper stimulus, just happen to one. What got me going was the unusually virulent tones that many of my daily blog reads have taken of late. One might go so far as to call it an Epidemic of Snarkiness (if one were inclined to use the word "snarky," which I am not... depsite the fact that I just did). I put it down to Seasonal Affect Disorder and went about my merry way, doing my best to be positive and lighthearted in response.

I am by nature a Hostess. When people are unhappy, I try to cheer them up. When they weep, I try to find something to lighten their hearts. When they are angry, I try to point out the underlying goodness or inevitablility in whatever has made them angry. When there is an uncomfortable silence, a pregnant pause, a banked fire, a sizzling fuse, I will automatically do something to distract attention from the center of the disturbance. I smile, I nod, I change subjects. It''''s part of being an alcoholic, I guess... or perhaps more precisely a result of a WASP''''s fear of emotional intensity paired with a codependent''''s passive-aggresive need to control people, whipped together and poured over an alcoholic''''s knee-jerk reaction to escape reality. I consciously work against this urge, knowing where it''''s errors and shortcomings are, but it''''s part of me.

However, I am also a Reasoner. I want to hear people''''s ideas, and I want to gauge my reactions to those ideas, and I want to consider the values and motives and repercussions of one over the other... and I want to learn something from that comparison. And so as I have read the rants of others, I have tried to understand their points of view and to understand where — and more importantly why — I find myself disagreeing.

I was reading Jhames'''' site this morning, as I do every morning (and most evenings, and sometimes checking in at midday), and I was taken aback by the vehemence of his language. I had been taken aback by the vehemence of his last three or four posts, truth be told. In the first of these, I did my usual Pointing Out The Positive on his comments. It''''s kind of a stupid thing to do, but it''''s habitual with me... sometimes my Editor falls asleep at the switch, and I blurt.

But today''''s post got under my skin in a way that others hadn''''t, and when I read through the previous posts that led up to it and other articles to which it referred, I was forced to sit back and actually think about a number of things, namely: A) Why is this pushing my buttons? B) What is the value of my response? C) On which points do I agree or disagree? D) How much of my agreement/disagreement is from the nervous WASP codependent Hostess, how much is from the Reasoner? E) What exactly do I believe in my higher mind, and what is the value of that belief? and finally F) What has this got to do with anything at all?

The following is pretty long, so I will put in separators (like this [...], the usual thing in blogs) between topics so you can skip around if you want.


I have gone around the mulberry bush a couple of times in the past, with Jhames and several others, about "The GLBT Community." When I look at sexuality, at community, labels, and how that all comes together in The GLBT Community, I think I see something slightly different than some other people see. I will often share my view when it dissents from the views of others, not necessarily in hope of changing their minds (though that hope is always at the back of even my best motives), but rather to offer a counterpoint... agreeing with people is nice, but it doesn''''t really get you anywhere in dialogue. But when that view of mine is challenged by a not-only-different-but-rather-mutually-exclusive view of the same thing, where a completely valid argument totally rebuts my completely valid argument, I have to take it apart and subject it to Reason.

I guess you could say that Reason is my religion. I mean, my favorite Star Trek character was always Mr. Spock, because he was so cool and intellectual... and yet also understanding. Though he knew something to be entirely illogical, he would go along with it because he knew that his Earthling friends held illogical things to be as important as Vulcans hold logical things (we shall skip over the fact that his character was created by illogical people, and so much of what he said and did was technically out of character, with the built-in excuse that Spock was half-human... Star Trek''''s unending use of racial over cultural influence as character definitions always got on my nerves).

So I always strive to understand people when they do or say or believe things that strike me as Un-Reasonable... because, since it''''s my religion, I have to align everything I encounter to that religion, the way that Saint Augustine of Hippo tried to align all the Classical philosophers he admired to the wildly unclassical religion he had embraced. And yet I know that it''''s unreasonable to do this, to align unreasonable thoughts to reasonable motives, so I often get very confused in my mind.

But that is neither here nor there... I was talking about the so-called GLBT Community and its shortcomings and its value.


What I don''''t comprehend is how or why people would assume that The GLBT Community is or should be some easily-defined, visibly cohesive unit of people... or how anyone can say that, since it''''s not easily-defined or visibly cohesive, it doesn''''t or shouldn''''t exist? What community in the world is such? All GLBT people have certain things in common, just as all French people have certain things in common (such as that they speak French and were born in France) and all short people have certain things in common (such as they''''re all short); and that commonality creates a community.

You can argue that gay men and lesbians are not alike, that bisexuality and transgendism are fundamentally different phenomena from gayness or lesbianism; but you can also say that Parisiens and Marseillaises are not alike, and that the citizens of Rouen have absolutely fundamental differences from the citizens of Caen. But they''''re still all French. They may not like each other, they may go around killing each other and discriminating against each other and spreading diseases among each other and so on and so forth. They may or may not identify with Jerry Lewis or eat frog''''s legs or wear berets. But they''''re still French, come what may, and have certain rights and priveleges and identifiable lables of Frenchness.

Similarly, not all gays and lesbians and bisexuals and transgendereds like Queer as Folk or do bumps of crystal or drool slavishly over designer labels. But they are still set apart by their minority gender/sexuality. If people are making assumptions about you because you belong to the same community as some people who do like Queer as Folk or do bumps of crystal or drool slavishly over designer labels, those people are to blame for ignorance and intellectual laziness... the community itself is not at fault.

Communities are not made up of like-minded homogeneous people. Communities are made up of people who have certain things in common, be they cultural or geographical or physical or personal or intellectual. Any one person must belong to many different communities... and each person is the possessor of an individual community that is made up only of the people one knows and the things that one holds important in one''''s self. If you are an effeminate gay man living in a big city, you belong to a community of the people you know, a community of effeminate men, a community of gay men, a community of GLBTs in general, a community of your neighborhood, a community of city-dwellers, a community of whatever organizations you belong to, a community of the family you are born into, et cetera ad infinitum. But you aren''''t necessarily just like all the other effeminate gay men in big cities. We are all different, one from the other, and nobody can fit into just one community.


I have heard it said (and have said it myself when making gross generalizations) that The GLBT Community is only a political construct that is used to garner rights for the people that have been ''''herded'''' into that community for that purpose. I suppose that''''s a reason, but it seems to me more organic than that... the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered folk are the same, and should be the same as everybody else''''s. If all we have in common is the minority nature of our sexuality and/or gender identification, how can we really be considered a political community? And considering the massive differences between those acronym letters, the vast diversity of needs and desires, what can the possible outcome of such a political bloc be? If the ''''cause'''' of the GLBT political bloc is hurt by the inclusion of transgendered folk, or the proximity of perceived pedophiles, how can the very genesis of such a bloc be useful?

It has always seemed to me that the error of Reason in Civil Rights has been to espouse and champion the causes of specific minorities. To my mind, the whole point of Civil Rights is Equality, that all citizens of a country or planet must have the same rights, that each individual person has value, rather than basing it all on a minority/majority paradigm of the strong versus the weak that is the cause of the trouble in the first place. I don''''t desire Gay Rights because I am Gay: I desire Human Rights because I am Human.

For example, I don''''t believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry; I do believe that there is no one in this world who is empowered to tell a same-sex couple that they don''''t have the same rights as a different-sex couple. There is no rational reason to withhold rights from one person that are granted to another, except when those rights have been abused or they prevent/destroy someone else''''s rights (which is what Crime really is, a deprivation of someone''''s rights to life, property, etc.) I don''''t believe that anyone has the right to tell another person what he or she is allowed to do in private to his/her or anybody else''''s body, so long as that action does not impinge on the other person''''s rights.

It''''s a simple matter of logic: there is no Rational reason that people should be denied rights because of same-sex orientation, there are only religious reasons; since our Government is founded upon a separation of Church and State, we therefore cannot rely on religion to guide us to legal right, we must rely on logic. We cannot base the definition of "marriage" on a Judeo-Christian paradigm of Family, because not all of the people who marry today fulfill that fundamental paradigm. What about different-sex couples who are unable or unwilling to have children? If having children is not a requirement of Family, then what does the biological gender of the persons involved in the partnership have to do with its validity? And why is it legal to base the validity of a marriage on a religious ceremony? These things do not make sense, and therefore should not be part of our nation''''s laws.

Of course, there are places where logic is not clear. Such as in abortion, which is the greater right, the woman''''s right over her own body or the fetus''''s right to life? Or in the case of statutory rape, how exactly is the minor''''s right infringed upon, and how does the right of the parent over the minor and the right of the minor over him- or herself coexist?

This is where we need a Superior Court, to judge upon those things, because they are unanswerable questions and must rely on legal nicety. It is a legal nicety that individuality begins at the stage when the fetus can theoretically survive on its own. This is based in rationality; it doesn''''t cover all the questions, but it gives us a working premise. It is a legal nicety that an individual has sufficient self-possession at the age of eighteen to make informed decisions about his or her own body, even though some individuals are perhaps ready for those decisions at a much earlier age and some people are never ready. But you have to draw a line somewhere for the Rule of Law to work.

But it is not in the Constitutional privelege of the Supreme Court to take away people''''s rights for purposes based in religion or opinion. And denying same-sex couples the rights to their own bodies and to their property, and to the transferrence and/or conduct of these (which is what legal marriage is about), is inherently un-Constitutional and must be changed.


At any rate, I consider the GLBT classification of a civil-rights minority to be specious. Yet I also consider the GLBT Community to be a naturally-occuring actual community, one in which I take an active part and interest. No, I don''''t go to circuit parties or do bumps or wear Raymond Dragon swimwear or go to the gym or live in the Castro. That isn''''t The GLBT Community; it''''s the Circuit-party-gym-bunny-crystal-bumping-Raymond-Dragon-wearing-Castro-clone Community, which is but one (particularly flashy and attention-grabbing) segment of that population. And just because the party-boys and the glittering drag-queens and kookie fringe-elements grab more attention from the fickle and ineffective modern Media than the flannel-wearers and the dog-lovers and the stay-at-homes of our Community, doesn''''t mean that one segment should be made to represent the others or has more or less value than the others. The Community exists, it''''s flawed and wildly imperfect; but it is also perfectible and worthy of better treatment than being thrown out or ignored.


Another of my buttons that gets pushed is when people state that they consider their sexuality to be merely one of the many facets of their beings, and by no means one of the most important ones; however, it has been my experience that the fact of my sexuality is one of the most important facts about me. It defines me in ways that other Facts About Me do not. It affects my life in more ways than other Facts About Me can. It touches every part of my life, from the courses open to me and the people that I know and the way that I speak and the books that I read, in ways that few Facts About Me could. It is the opening premise, even, of many of the other Facts About Me. For me, being gay is in the top five, at least, of any list of Facts About Me. It''''s so integral to my identity that it practically goes without saying.

This is one of the reasons that a lot of people fall into the habit of ghettoizing themselves regarding their sexuality. Almost everybody I know is a gay man, because being a gay man is such a huge portion of my life and thought-process and identity. Since it''''s so large a part of my life, I tend to gravitate toward others of the same ilk. And with that tendency, I simply don''''t come across very many straight men socially, as most straight men tend to stay away from gatherings of gay males. I know a few straight women, but they tend to have lots of gay male friends, too. I know very few lesbians, at least not closely, and then they are usually women who, like the straight women, have lots of gay men friends. Basically, it''''s a Gay Male-Friendly kind of thing.

Furthermore, most everyone I know is in Recovery. There are many of my friends who aren''''t, but they tend to be generally sober people, not inclined to overdo it, or simply not part of a culture that requires drugs and drinking. Of course, I do this one more on purpose than the Gay Male thing... I simply cannot stand to be around people who are fucked up.

I do not gravitate toward gay men because I want to have sex with them (though sometimes I do), and I don''''t shy away from straight men because I can''''t have sex with them (even when I want to... which does have perhaps more to do with it than I let on). It''''s not really about sex. It''''s about the sorts of people around whom I feel comfortable, connected, and accepted. I have met a lot of gay people who baffle and discomfit me just as much as straights; I have met a number of straights with whom I feel comfortable, connected, and accepted. It''''s just that these don''''t make up a majority of people I know. And since I am an introverted type of person, it stands to reason that I would tailor my social life to places where I feel immediately comfortable. It works for me.


So as I read Jhames'''' post this morning, I had to remove from the argument these two pushed buttons, and look at it with acceptance on those particular points. I can see very easily how someone would feel differently, I can see very easily how Jhames feels the way he does.

That left several other topics to push my buttons, all right in the first paragraph. For one thing, Jhames is an idealist in ways that I am not, and the Hostess in me feels guilty about that. When people espouse ideals, particularly when their reasons are laudable and well-thought-out, I admire them; yet, when I don''''t hold those same ideals, I fear that my very existence, along with my disagreement, will be abhorrent to them. The very idea of people not liking me still tends to get my panties in a bunch, Reason and Recovery notwithstanding, and so a disagreement on loft ideals terrifies me.

For example, I do not believe that animals have rights other than those we give them... I don''''t consider animals to be sentient, really, though this is not a scientific or Reasonable belief, it''''s just something that I feel and it has not been proved wrong to me. I therefore feel no compunction about eating meat or wearing fur or leather or conducting scientific experiments on animals. I disapprove of cruelty towards animals, and I personally feel squeamish about causing pain to animals, but it is because of the effect I believe such things have on the human spirit... civilization requires a degree of squeamishness, I think, in order to progress from our tribal beginnings.

However, I know that Jhames feels entirely differently about this, and it worries me because I like Jhames a lot and I want him to like me. I know in my Reasoning mind that Jhames is capable of accepting and liking me despite this key difference of belief, just as I am capable of accepting and liking him... but in my Hostessy codependent mind I worry anyway. Another pushed button.


Then there is the issue of activism, which also worries me and makes me feel guilty. I don''''t believe, for example, that anything can be achieved through demonstrations. Peace marches and what-have-you often strike me as being little more than pep-rallies that give their participants a false sense of accomplishing something, a vent for their fears and anger and indignation over injustices done. The venting and the rallying, in and of themselves, are perfectly laudable reasons to have a peace march, or a Civil Rights march, or any other kind of march... but the demonstration does nothing for me and I don''''t think it accomplishes the task at hand, so I don''''t participate.

And yet, I also do not try and do anything that will accomplish the task at hand. I don''''t really understand what the task at hand is. I see social injustice, and I burn with anger and indignation, but my only cure for the anger is to bury my head in the sand, the only outlet for indignation is to point out as publicly as I can the rational errors that are being committed. And I feel guilty that I am not on the front lines, that I am not out there beating my head against that big brick wall of the Establishment trying to effect change.

I tend my own garden, and hope that others will tend theirs. I do not indulge in or practice social injustice, I eschew hatred, I try my very best to respect other people even when I believe they''''re wrong. If we all did this, the world would be a vast utopia of introspective and peaceful people.

But there are people who are constitutionally incapable of minding their own business. And among those who do not mind their own business, there is Good and there is Evil. And the evil will mind your business for you whether you want them to or not. Therefore, there comes a time when minding one''''s own business is not enough, one has to prevent people from overstepping their rights and enforcing their wills on other people''''s gardens... a time when tending is not enough, you have to protect the gardens, your own as well as everybody else''''s. And then you get kind of mixed up as to whether or not you are doing good or evil yourself, by minding other people''''s business (a lot of Evil is done in the hopes or under pretense of doing Good).

Above all this, I know that I am not designed to mind other people''''s business (outside of my codependent desire for controlling others in the interest of their own happiness)... I am not a changer, a crusader, a doer. Perhaps I could be, if the borders of my own garden were threatened, but in general I cannot emotionally handle this sort of thing... I can''''t process the fear and the anger and the indignation. It makes me sick, it makes me hurt physically, so that all I can do is turn my attention somewhere else, stop reading newspapers and watching the news on television and listening to news radio. I just want everyone to get along, and they don''''t, so I ignore them as best I can. I shove my head in the sand and wait for the feeling to pass, then examine it all dispassionately from the comparative safety of the inside of my own head.

Essentially, you can''''t make a potholder out of silk tulle. And why should you, when there are big pieces of teflon and cotton batting around? Though you can''''t make a potholder out of tulle, it is also true that you can''''t make an evening gown out of teflon and cotton batting. And the tulle evening gown has its function, too... not as utilitarian and necessary as the potholder, but it has its place in the universe. If it weren''''t for the armchair philosopher, there would be no one to tell the crusaders when they had left off doing Good and were suddenly doing Evil out of habit. If it weren''''t for the entertainers of the world, the hostesses and the chit-chatters, the world would be a grim and mechanical place. If nobody gave you something to laugh about, something to love, and something frivolous to do with your spare time, what would be the point of living?

I am a silk tulle evening gown. I stand at the sidelines and cheer for you, Jhames, as you tilt with the dragons. Go Jhames Go! Keep pushing those buttons, everybody, keep fighting the good fight. When you''''re tired and bored, come on by Mannersism and I will give you a kiss and a little song to sing (unless I''''m in a bad mood, of course).


Thanks for sticking with me this far. Please feel encouraged to comment. The only way for dialogue to work is if people react and respond.

By the way, as I was researching my quotation on Tend Your Own Garden (which is originally from Voltaire), I stumbled across an online text of Candide. Read it... it''''s really good! I thought I was Dr. Pangloss, but decided that I wasn''''t.

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