Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The April Fool

Growing old is a humbling experience.  I remember all the ways I've failed and been less than I think I should have been throughout my life.  I had a moment like that today.

With all the talk of gay marriage lately I've missed the ol' blog.  I'm on the high council now and the stake presidency knows I'm gay.  We discussed it a bit when I was called because I wanted them to know that I come out to whoever I want whenever I want, and they've got to be okay with that if they want me on the high council.  They were.

I also came out to my parents about 6 months ago.  They were visiting our family and we were chatting about a gay cousin who blocked me from Facebook.  I mentioned, "You know, I'm gay too. FRM and I decided to get married anyway."  My mom took it in for a few minutes while my dad sat opposite us playing with my kids and didn't even notice what I'd said.  And that was it.  There were a few slightly awkward phone calls after that where Mom had to sort of dip a toe in the water to find out if talking about it was okay.  It was.  And it gave us the opportunity for me to disagree with some of her views.  But that was it.  Not spectacularly interesting event, I suppose.

But let me get back to gay marriage for a bit.  I've been on record as being for gay marriage for at least 5 years now, but I find people don't necessarily realize it.  When the topic comes up I take the devil's advocate spot.  With my friends against gay marriage I try to point out that it's fair and pragmatically the right thing to do for people.  With my friends against religious people I try to point out that vilifying and distorting those with whom you disagree doesn't help move the cause forward.  Because I'm always the devil's advocate, people assume that my position is always the opposite of theirs.  But my position is for people to quit being haters of the others; sometimes that ends up with them just a hater of me.

I think it's one of those devil's advocate conversations that must have crept into my cousin's facebook feed that caused him to block me.  My feelings were hurt because we've never once had a conversation about gay anything, let alone gay marriage.  He has no idea how much I've defended him and stood up for him in conversations with other family members.  And frankly, I have no way to let him know because he's closed off all contact.

It's certainly taken a lot of thought and time for me to work through the issues, and I think people should be given the time they need.  For those who think taking too much time makes me a failure, I have no great response.  I'm not perfect.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Healthcare Disparities

Just published a few comments that have been waiting in the hopper for almost a year... so, sorry about that. :-) Haven't logged in here for a while.

Decided I'd drop a quick note about the AMA's recent policy adopted in regard to gay marriage. It was based on a report written by the Council on Science and Public Health that outlined the evidence for healthcare disparities between heterosexual couples and homosexual couples. The findings of the report were literally true, although taken altogether they gave an impression that was not true. Specifically, the supporting information suggests that the only reason for homosexual couples to be excluded from marriage is discrimination, which is opinion rather than fact.

It is a fact, on the other hand, that those who are insured are much more likely to get good healthcare options, live healthier, and live longer. It is also a fact that insurance coverage is routinely offered to spouses but not otherwise unrelated relations, so to speak. The disparity in healthcare and health between gay and straight couples is directly attributable to these facts, and was the basis for the AMA's support of same-sex marriage.

But there's a little problem with this.

Many opponents of gay marriage have contested that extending marriage to gays would dilute or destroy traditional marriage. These concerns have been dismissed as paranoid and absurd. How could it possibly follow that your straight marriage is harmed by opening the circle to others a little bit.

But the AMA has now shown exactly how this would work. The rationale for supporting gay marriage was to eliminate health disparities. This same logic, to be consistent, must also support eliminating traditional marriage altogether. The disparity in health and healthcare has never really been between straight and gay couples, it has been between married couples and unmarried people of any sort. By the same logic, that is unfair and victimizes those who are unmarried. Whether it is by choice or necessity, they should not have to bear the brunt of inferior healthcare and shorter lives because our society arbitrarily bestows benefits on the legally married.

So, in my view, the AMA's new policy position can be interpreted as a great step forward for gay equality and the marriage movement, or it can be interpreted as indicative of how some of the anti-gay marriage arguments might not be so absurd after all.

Don't be surprised if I don't moderate comments right away. I've got board exams coming up and a move and... well... life isn't really leaving room for this blog much anymore!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Judge Walker, is that a fact?

The overturn of proposition 8, historic and fascinating, will do a lot of good for gays. I hope. I'm not sure, really though, because when there are so many statements of opinion designated as "facts" upon which the findings are based, it's hard to know how that's going to play out.

I don't have the time right now to trot out all the examples, but one will surely come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog:

51.Marrying a person of the opposite sex is an unrealistic option for gay and lesbian individuals.

Yet, here I am. As with many of Judge Walker's "facts", this begs the question. When I got married, I went down to the courthouse and filled out the paperwork and paid my $20 to get a license. Then we did it. How is this "unrealistic"? Oh, yeah, because gay and lesbian individuals wouldn't necessarily value or want such a marriage because we're gonna equivocate between the legal standing that marriage is and the loving relationship of intimacy that marriage can be... at least for this part of the argument. The only one that is ever guaranteed for anyone is the former, and it's just as "realistic" for anyone who signs up.

My new standard disclaimer: I favor recognition of gay marriage but oppose the civil rights argument and arguments of equality as the basis for it. No amount of love conquering hate, tolerance conquering animus, or loathing giving way to acceptance is going to change the fact that marriage between homos and heteros is qualitatively different because only one can naturally produce children. And Judge Walker, that's an *actual* fact.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

An update for anon

My last post got a comment from an anonymous writer who says we have a lot in common. He asked for an update, and I realized that I haven't really written anything about myself in ages. There have been a few rants (and I feel one boiling up about the latest prop 8 ruling, even as I type), but this blog is supposed to be about *my* journey and it hasn't been much of that for a long while.

I'm a lot less ardent than I used to be. There are many reasons for that, but I'm still a little ashamed to admit it. I was raised to be ardent, and I've been active and faithful my whole life. But lately I've been feeling some laziness in my spirituality. I don't read the scriptures often and I seldom pray other than at meals and church. Our FHEs are sporadic and lame. I home teach still and enjoy it for what it is, and I still attend church and do a good job with my calling... but I've lost my spiritual moxie.

It would be an easy matter to set aside my faith and move on with life, if that's what I thought was best. But I've decided to believe and specifically decided that the alternative is not for me. So, I see my current lukewarmness as a bump on the road. Something that will pass eventually.

As general commentary, I've also always told myself that when I'm not living the gospel fully, I will never make judgments about its value. I stick by that, and so I'm in no state to shuffle through the tired arguments as to why the church doesn't "make sense" or why the historicity of the scriptures can't possibly be right, etc.

Having said all that, my marriage is as strong as ever... stronger? We love and cherish each other and I don't think I could face the world without her. Sex sucks. Or comparatively, anyway. I'll be honest about that... it's not all I would get were I to go after what my body responds to best. But, my life, my family, my ambitions... are all about a lot more than getting the best sex.

If I were to fall in love with and make love to a guy, as you have done, anon, I suspect my happy life would be shattered. So, I feel for your current challenge. You're in command of your own fate, so I'll decline to speculate on where your marriage will go from here, but I wish you the best in any case.

That brings to mind one of the things that makes my wife and I so close. She has told me more than once that she wants me to be happy. She's willing to divorce me and let me move along if that's what I think it would take as a gay man. Ironically, it's that willingness to give me up out of love that makes me love her and want to keep her forever.

Making one's way through this maze of life, there are many unexpected twists and turns. I'm going to try to avoid dispensing foolproof advice, recognizing that there are so many nuances that we can never even communicate to others. But, for me, trusting in God has led me to a place that is happy, and remains happy, even without God. Or, more accurately, God is here waiting in the wings until I figure out this current puzzle of faith, but I couldn't be where I'm at without His help getting here regardless of where my faith goes from here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fathers, etc.

I was reading the transcripts of final arguments in the anti-proposition 8 lawsuit in California, and it was an interesting read. The arguments were not new, for the most part, but the way they were stated was so much clearer and more compelling than the usual. That was what I liked about it.

There were some different arguments that I'd never heard before. In fact, the *central* argument of the defense on the heterosexual exclusivity of marriage was a spin-off of arguments I've heard about the ideal circumstances in which to raise a child. This argument was that marriage is intended to benefit society by channeling intimacy (that may lead to a child) into a committed and stable relationship that would be better for an accidental child, should that occur. Or something to that effect. Gays can't have accidental children, and if they go out of their way to get kids, they're the last ones you have to worry about channeling into stability and commitment, because they've already got it in spades. Weird, huh? Flameretardentmormon called that out as disingenuous--something like what our son does when he's been naughty and then has to come up with an excuse after the fact as to why he was in the right the whole time.

Having said that, I disagree with the prosecution that those who supported proposition 8 could only have been motivated by discrimination, hate, and animus. That's the drum I've beaten on this blog for a long while, so that probably comes as no surprise that I get irritated by such labeling of others' motivations. Whether they successfully proved this is not the case, I still know for myself that it's not based on the only motivations I can really know without doubt--my own. I've written about my ambivalence on the subject and the competing gospel principles that may lead members of the church to opposite conclusions, and how I ultimately would have voted for proposition 8, had I been in such a position. I know I'm not motivated by hate, discrimination, or animus, so that's a settled question for me.

In the spirit of Fathers' Day, I thought I'd share this link: Science can't prove fathers matter. That doesn't mean we don't. It reflects my sentiments pretty accurately, in the title particularly. If doing research for the last several months has reinforced one principle in particular, it's the inability of science to satisfactorily address certain types of questions even while being brilliant at addressing others. Whatever science has shown about lesbian mothers and their well-adjusted children, or failed to show about the differences between gay households and straight ones, I'm certain that my choices have been for the best for my children. Absolutely certain.

Happy Fathers' Day!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Life of Pi

I thought about writing a lengthy April Fools Post, but that seems out of place in a blog that's been so infrequent in the updates. It would have been fun to tell the story about outing myself to the general assembly of the American Medical Association to battle the political bullcrap that slides by in that House, but that may come true one of these days, so I'll save that one up. :-)

No, instead I wanted to post a quickie about a book I just finished called the Life of Pi. It's a pretty popular book, so many people have probably already read it. I can't really discuss the interesting aspects of it without a spoiler, so if you're planning to read it, you'll have to stop reading this post now or risk me ruining it all.

Pi is an Indian boy who grew up around animals in his family-run zoo. When they decide to move to Canada and take their animals with them, Pi ends up the only human survivor of the shipwreck and finds himself aboard a lifeboat with an untamed tiger. He survives for months and most of the book tells the details of how he manages it. After being rescued, inspectors from the ship's company question him to determine what caused the ship to sink. They do not believe his story about the tiger and demand another explanation. He tells a parallel story that includes cannibalism, murder, his mother being beheaded by an evil man, etc. He points out that the inspectors have no way of knowing which of the stories is actually true and asks which of the stories they prefer. They say the one with the animals, and Pi responds, "so it is with God."

Earlier in the book Pi had become Hindu, Muslim, and Christian simultaneously, showing that he loved God and didn't dwell on the factual reality of any of the faiths. This seems silly in some ways and so wise in another.

The story impacts me personally because I've recently felt so acutely the same option in my beliefs. Given two stories that can be neither proven or disproven, I've chosen to believe in God. So, yeah. So it is with God.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

A few recent thoughts

Since my blog has devolved into nothing more than an occasional rant whenever something inflames my sensibilities to the point of needing verbal expression, I figure I’ll economize and get a few topics out of the way at once.

The recent attention to “don’t ask don’t tell” is long overdue. The policy never particularly concerned me because I don’t see it as a horrible imposition to keep your personal life private when so many other accommodations and personal sacrifices are also required of our military. However, the policy was much broader than that and was outrageous because of it. That a person can’t discuss their sexuality with their physician out of fear is just reprehensible. Add to that the fact that physicians must ask direct sexual questions to appropriately care for patients, and it’s easy to see the injustice of requiring a soldier to either answer a direct important question honestly and risk losing his/her livelihood and dreams, or lie and receive inadequate or frankly inappropriate medical care. It’s just wrong and it’s long past due for correction.

Meanwhile hypocrisy is alive and well as self-righteous defenders of gay and lesbian interests go far past what is reasonable and try to one-up the hatred they believe is generalized among those with whom they disagree by out-hating and out-hurting with re-doubled efforts. I read an example recently:
Now that explicit anti-gay animus is an albatross, those who oppose gay civil rights are driven to invent ever loopier rationales for denying those rights, whether in the military or in marriage. Hatch, for instance, limply suggested to Mitchell that a repeal of “don’t ask” would lead to gay demands for “special rights.” Such arguments, both preposterous and disingenuous, are mere fig leaves to disguise the phobia that can no longer dare speak its name. If gay Americans are to be granted full equality, the flimsy rhetorical camouflage must be stripped away to expose the prejudice that lies beneath.
Let me set up for you, Mr Rich, a series of ideas, and then you explain to me how you can be so categorical in maligning those with whom you disagree.
  • Marriage as a religious institution is irrelevant to marriage as a secular institution.
  • Therefore, marriage as a secular institution is necessarily what society determines it to be.
  • The United States of America has specifically defined marriage in federal law as a union of one man and one woman.
  • Civil rights are those rights which expressly enumerated by the U.S. Constitution and are considered to be unquestionable; deserved by all people under all circumstances, especially without regard to race, creed, color, gender, and disabilities. (wiktionary)
  • Marriage, as a civil right, is still regulated and withheld in particular circumstances; that is, it is not available to anyone at any time and in any form merely because it is considered to be a civil right. This is not questioned in many cases (as in minors, for example).
  • Marriage, as defined by federal law, is currently available without regard to sexual orientation. My own situation as a gay man married to a woman exemplifies this fact. I have exercised my civil right to marry, and believing the federal definition of marriage to be accurate and appropriate in no way takes civil rights away from anyone.
  • Therefore, one referring to changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions as extending a “special right” is a logical and consistent position. Lobbing insults at people in place of addressing their argument makes the disingenuousness seem a lot closer to the source.
  • Society treats people unequally in many respects and this is often a good thing.
  • People pay different taxes depending on their income. It would be considered ridiculous for the wealthy to refuse to pay taxes by appealing to equality under their civil rights; marriage as a social institution is much more concerned with money and legalities than it is with love and companionship, and may be comparable with tax rebates given to only a subset of citizens based on arbitrary criteria.
  • People are treated differently because of their race and background in the academic and business world. This is often to deliberately favor non-white people, but this inequality is appropriate and well-considered.
  • Those who oppose affirmative action often have legitimate points. They are not automatically racist.
  • Therefore, defining marriage as society has defined it, including excluding certain couples from marrying, is neither violating civil rights nor necessarily inappropriate.
  • What is fair and good is debatable. Unfortunately, an increasing number who come to the discussion refuse to discuss the issues occupying themselves instead with dogmatic assertions that echo the close-minded inflexibility they so criticize in their religious counterparts.

Now, Mr. Rich, you may disagree with many of the issues I’ve presented here, but can you really so confidently dismiss them as “preposterous and disingenuous”? Can you really continue to generalize that all those opposing same-sex marriage are merely masking their bigotry when they discuss these issues? Can you possibly fail to see the bigotry and hatred in yourself, then?

A while back my wife and I invited some friends over for a little book club. We discussed The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. One of my friends is an evolutionary biologist and another is a psychologist. Both vehemently support gay marriage while perfectly active members of the church. During our discussion of The God Delusion the conversation steered, almost unavoidably it seems, to gay marriage as a possible example of where religion harms people. I defended the religious view as internally consistent and not necessarily motivated by hatred or discrimination. The ensuing question was: if not hatred or discrimination, then what possible secular reason could a person site for opposing gay marriage when it has been shown to improve the quality of life of the gay couple and their children, decrease health disparities, etc. etc.?

My answer was that marriage can be seen as necessarily tied to heterosexual coupling because of the necessary tie of procreation to heterosexual coupling. This, not surprisingly, was unsatisfactory. We don’t need heterosexual coupling for procreation anymore. We’re way past that. And all the science shows that children of homosexual parent households have no psychological deficiencies.

I pointed out that there is a world of difference between showing that those children have no psychological deficiencies and failing to show that they do. Science can’t measure everything. The measures I often see in the literature that have been “validated” are laughably crude. Have I no right to watch my wife breastfeed our children and conclude that a mother is necessary for the best family situation? Is that such an unscientific assertion based on non-psychological criteria then? Does the mountain of medical literature that supports breast-feeding as best for babies have nothing to do with the discussion of gay marriage? Why ever not? The rules seem to be made up as we go along.

At this point in the conversation my friends were nearly apoplectic, bewildered that I could hold out by playing such a non-scientific card. It was a lively discussion, to be sure. Ultimately, they never did directly concede that a person could hold a non-bigoted, non-discriminatory, non-hateful position of secular opposition to gay marriage. I suspect this was because it is human nature to require some explanation as to why someone would disagree with one’s views when it seemingly couldn’t possibly be a misunderstanding on the part of one’s self.

I’ve settled into a pro-gay marriage stance over the last several months. I feel that I stayed agnostic for a period that was wholly appropriate as I continued to ponder the topic, despite that I’ve been called out more than once for doing so. I hasten to add that my opinion is subject to revision as it suits me. I believe, ultimately, that the question of whether or not society should recognize gay marriage has no right answer, and I’ve come down on the side of favoring it. The question of how the church views marriage does have a right answer, and I subscribe fully to it as well. There are lots of folks within the church who equivocate between secular and God-recognized marriage, and I think knowing that fact goes a long way to reaching peace on the topic.

Yep, that’s right, I’ve come down on the side of gay marriage, where I’ve pretty much been hovering for years. I do not believe that gay marriage is appropriate because it’s a civil right. I do not believe that society is obligated to recognize such marriages out of fairness any more than it is obligated to a flat tax. It may be a good idea, it may be fair, and it may really help a lot of people live happier and better lives. However, that doesn’t mean that those who oppose it are irrational, deserve to be vilified, or are any less entitled to an alternate opinion as well as vocal advocacy in the political process.