Friday, January 7, 2011


For the last month the gay blogosphere has been buzzing over Carrie Fisher's outing of actor John Travolta as gay in the GLBT-targeted magazine The Advocate.  Even in the gay community Fisher has been as criticized as she has been applauded, even though Travolta's gayness has been pretty much an open secret in gay circles for a couple of decades now.

The question is whether it is fair of Fisher to out a man like Travolta who has been married (to a woman) for almost 20 years, with whom he has three children ... who has built a career on an image of himself as a winsomely caddish ladies' man ... who is a prominent member of a religion (Scientology) that teaches that the "sexual pervert" (by which is meant "homosexual man") is "so extremely dangerous to society that the tolerance of perversion is as thoroughly bad for society as punishment for it."

At the very least, the religion's founder, L. Ron Hubbard, conceded that the homosexual can't be held accountable for his "sick" condition, even while asserting that the society that tolerates his existence is doomed like the Greeks and the Romans who likewise ignored the "flaming danger signal" of homosexuality.  Hubbard humanely prefers "cure" to "punishment."  But, then, one has to define electric shock to the genitals and/or chemical castration as something other than "punishment"--perhaps something as benign as waterboarding.

So is homosexuality a choice, a mental illness, or an innate orientation?  The short answer is I do not know.  From a human rights and civil liberties standpoint, the answer to the question simply does not matter.

I am surprised to find that there are still people who believe that homosexuality is a choice.  I grew up on American Air Force bases, in fundamentalist Baptist churches (the kind that used to preach hellfire damnation EVERY Sunday), at a time when homosexuality was both a criminal act and a category of mental illness, in a culture that routinely portrayed homosexuals as villains, pathetic suicides, and effete ne'er-do-wells.  Beyond this I was the only child of conservative parents who were homophobic--my mother worked with Anita Bryant to prohibit gays from teaching in the Dade County public school system and told me that she'd put a bullet through my head if she ever found I was gay.  (Oh, Mom!)  So it is no wonder that I might "choose" to be a gay man:  the social and economic benefits looked irresistible.

Of course, as even some conservative church types concede, the real choice is whether or not to live actively and openly as what you are by nature.  Around the age of thirty--about fifteen years after my heterosexual peers began to express their sexuality openly--I made the choice not to hide anymore.  I also chose to teach, to work and to live someplace (even though the laws, even in the eighties, allowed employers and landlords to boot anyone found to be gay, much more so if he actually was working at it), to love some people whom I would never be allowed to marry, and to (as much as possible) live without being bullied ... or murdered (as my gay cousin Jimmy was).  So, yeah, I chose to become a part of the "gay agenda," undermining the very values of a Christian society that would want to deprive people of livelihood, residence, happiness, and freedom from harassment and violent death.  But then that's just me ... selfish ... me, me, me.

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