Tuesday, November 9th, 2004

Issue 1 votes in Montgomery County


Presidential election 2004 in Montgomery County

See that island of dark blue slightly to the right of the center of first map to the left (you might need to zoom in to see it)? Those are the precincts in Montgomery County that voted against Issue 1 by a margin of at least 2:1. I live in one of them, Dayton precinct 1-B, which voted 307-90 against Issue 1, or a margin of about 3:1. (The gray areas also voted against Issue 1, just much more narrowly.) The vast majority of my immediate neighbors think that I should have equal rights, or at least that Issue 1 went too far in denying me equal rights. That shouldn't be too surprising since many of my neighbors are gay. So if you have to live in Dayton and want to live in the best part of town, check out the Oregon District.

The second map shows how precincts in Montgomery County voted in the presidential election. (Both these maps come from an article by Dayton Daily News reporters Jim DeBrosse, Lawrence Budd and Ken McCall.) You'll notice that in this map I live in a somewhat larger island of blue, roughly corresponding to the city of Dayton. (My precinct isn't dark blue, however, as some of my neighbors, even some gay ones, supported Bush.) Interestingly, there's a gray section from the first map that is pink in the second map (perhaps Oakwood and parts of Kettering?). Maybe these are the Republicans who actually listened when Governor Taft and Senators Voinovich and DeWine told them Issue 1 was a bad thing.

What does this mean for me? I'm still leaving. I wouldn't mind living on an island, but I'd prefer a different one.

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2004

I knew it was coming and I knew what people in Colorado and Cincinnati felt like when their neighbors voted to make them second-class citizens, but I didn't expect to feel so depressed once it officially happened in Ohio. I suppose I should take some solace in the fact that Ohio's amendment passed with a lower percentage than amendments in other states (only 62% of Ohioans think that not only should I be barred from marriage but also from even civil unions -- whoopee!). I suppose I should take some solace in knowing that 2 million Ohioans did in fact vote against Issue 1. I do take some solace in knowing that most of my friends and family voted against Issue 1.

It's not solace enough however. I didn't choose to be gay and I didn't choose to be an Ohioan. Although some might argue that in fact I can do something about the former, everyone must acknowledge that I can do something about the latter. There are states and in fact countries in which gay and lesbian people can have equal rights. I don't have to beg and plead with people in Ohio to treat me equally. I can leave and go someplace where I will be equal.

This is similar to a decision I made several years ago to leave the United Methodist Church. It wasn't that there aren't good people in the Methodist church, but it was that I was tired of being in a place where people were always arguing and voting about whether I deserved to be treated equally as a child of God. I was incredibly lucky to meet people forming a new church in which all would be truly welcome and equal, and we were lucky to find a denomination which has already had the arguments about whether gay people are made in God's image and deserve fair treatment. That church is Cross Creek Community Church, and it's something about Dayton that I'll miss.

I have a scholarship to study in Germany for six months next year, so I was going to get away from the divisiveness in the United States anyway. I'm not sure what I'm going to do after that. Probably grad school, probably somewhere in the United States, but it won't be in Ohio. The incredible freedom of being out is that I face less (overt, at least) discrimination, for example, in employment, because I wouldn't take a job someplace that didn't accept gay people. I'm going to apply that freedom to where I live too.

Monday, November 1st, 2004
Two reasons for feeling rather hopeless about tomorrow's election:
  1. This morning a nice guy in one of my classes thanked me for being honest with him about why he should consider voting against Ohio Issue 1, said he had to vote his conscience nevertheless, and hoped we could still be friends. I replied that I appreciated his integrity in being honest with me, that we could still be friendly (there's no point in hating), and that I didn't think I could truly be friends with someone who would vote to make me a second-class citizen.
  2. This evening I spent a little time in gay.com's Dayton 1 chat room where I learned that at least two ditzy faggots there did not even know what Issue 1 is. One said he spends too much time chatting with his online friends to read newspapers. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that straight people haven't done any research on gay issues, but I naively hoped that gay people at least would be less apathetic.
Here's hoping the concentration camps have good dance music.
Tuesday, October 12th, 2004
Today was a pretty gay day for me. I was part of a queer panel for a psychology class at Wright State, and I attended a presentation at UD called "Gay and Straight, Our Common Ground" by renowned gay Catholic Brian McNaught. The panel was organized by the Rainbow Alliance (formerly Lambda Union -- I'd point you to a web site, but they don't have one, an issue I'll speak more about in just a minute). I don't go to many Rainbow Alliance meetings, in large part because I'm older than many of the members, but I'm on the mailing list and I wanted to do this panel. It was rather serendipitous that the panel and the McNaught presentation were on the same day since they stirred some of the same thoughts for me.

Part of the serendipity of today was that if a couple of things had been different I might not have gone to hear McNaught. I'm not Catholic and I've always sort of thought of McNaught's message as being more for Catholics. I knew some of his story, and left to my own devices, I would have thought it was good that he was speaking at UD, but it wasn't really for me. However, Juli Burnell, the woman who worked so hard to arrange McNaught's visit, not only for tonight's presentation but also for his workshops with UD faculty and administration, is a friend of mine from Cross Creek. Seeing her excitement about the event I wanted to go if only to support her. In addition, as it happens this quarter, I'm on campus at UD every Tuesday and Thursday evening for my GER361 class. How could I not go?

I'd seen a video of McNaught's years ago. Speaking of being older than most Rainbow Alliance members, I guess today is in some part also a day for me to feel old. His video was called "On Being Gay... A Conversation with Brian McNaught," which, when I looked it up on imdb.com, I was surprised to remember was from 1986, 18 years ago, and longer than I've been out. He also had a book with a similar title, On Being Gay: Thoughts on Family, Faith, and Love, which I also read years ago. The thing I remembered most about the book, however, (if McNaught ever googles himself and sees this, I'm in trouble) was thinking that he was cute. He's still not bad looking, but he no longer matches the picture I've always had in my mind of him.

McNaught is a very powerful speaker, more so than I remembered or could tell from a video, and what makes him so powerful is his ability to express things in ways to which so many people can relate. Part of what he spoke today of was the importance of "singing our song." He said that he thinks that after he dies, God is going to ask him whether he sang the song he was taught, and that each of us has a unique song to sing, songs that tell who we are and let people get to know us. As McNaught pointed out in his speech, his audience was made up of all sorts of different people, including openly gay people from the greater Dayton community, including PFLAG members whose meeting this month was to come to this presentation, including UD students and faculty who heard about the event and wanted to come and including students of Greek 101 who were required to come (I'm impressed that Juli pulled that off).
     I think McNaught's words were aimed primarily at the non-gay students in the audience, perhaps especially frat boys who are stereotyped as being unfriendly to gay people, to try to get them to understand what it would be like growing up gay and being unable to sing one's song and to get these non-gay people to understand how their own words and actions are songs that send messages to the gay friends they most certainly and usually unknowingly have. However, McNaught's words were also aimed at gay people in the audience to remind us how important singing our songs is both for straight people who think they don't know anyone gay and for gay people who are following us out of the closet.

I felt good because I've been singing my song, even though at times it's tempting just to let others sing. I arrived at Wright State this morning half an hour before the PSY200 class the panel was for was supposed to begin, only to find no convenient parking and tempted after 15 minutes of stalking to just go home. I went ahead and drove to the other side of campus, parked in lot 4 and made it to the classroom with a few minutes to spare, only to be asked, "Oh, are you in this class?" "No, I agreed to be on the panel; don't you remember?" As it turned out, they needed more men, so I stayed, and I'm glad I did. Students in that class needed to hear that although I am gay, I'm also Christian and that there are churches including mine that not only oppose Issue 1 but also support same sex marriage. A female African American student in the class responded emotionally to a panelist's comments about the civil rights movement by pointing out that she can never shed her black skin if she decides one day she's tired of dealing with discrimination or worst case wants to avoid anti-black violence but that gay people can simply deny being gay. Perhaps another panelist might have said something equally appropriate had I not been there, but I was glad to be able to tell her that she was right, that black people face oppression every day and cannot get away from it but that black people also are usually born into black families that love and accept them and help them to deal with the ugliness they encounter while gay kids are usually born to straight parents to whom they cannot turn for support when they first are called fag or dyke (a point that McNaught also brought up tonight).

There was something about which I thought briefly as I left that classroom that hit me more as I sat in UD's Kennedy Union later listening to McNaught, and that is how lucky I am that I'm in a place where I can sing my song. (Of course I wasn't thinking in terms of that metaphor earlier in the day at Wright State, but I like how McNaught uses it.) Taking a GER361 class now is not the first time I've been a student at UD. Exactly 20 years ago this fall I was a freshman at UD, attending courtesy of a full scholarship and feeling extremely lonely in the midst of a big crowd. I'd spent the past four years trying my damnedest to appear straight in high school, trying to date girls, even attending prom, being told that these years were the best years of my life, and failing really to fool anyone but myself. Yet I didn't know anyone who was gay, or at least I didn't know anyone who was honest about being gay, and there I was at UD, facing the prospect of four more years of the same thing. The guys on my floor in Stuart Hall were grabbing each other and pretending to butt fuck each other and calling each other fag, and to borrow McNaught's terminlogy, I wasn't liking the songs I was hearing. I dropped out and spent several more years feeling sorry for myself before I finally got to the point where I just had to come out, which I did at age 25.

     Look how much things have changed, despite so many things also not having changed. The Catholic Church still teaches that homosexual behavior is a sin (and accordingly endorses Issue 1), but the University of Dayton now has a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and has at least a few openly-lesbian and openly-gay staff members. Perhaps there are still guys in the dorms acting out their homophobic feelings by grabbing each other and pretending to butt fuck, showing through their nervous humor that they of course are not gay, but now prospective frat boys at least have to hear a gay man explain to them the effects of their behavior. I'm sure there are still freshmen at UD who think they will never be able to come out and be honest about who they are, but at least now they know there are gay and gay-friendly people on campus, including Student Allies, a gay/straight student alliance.

I suppose I should be jealous that Brian McNaught wasn't at UD to speak when I was a student there or that I should regret not having been smart enough to have come out then anyway, but I'm not and I don't. I've had a great time being in college this time around, at Wright State, not only saying things I wouldn't have said back then but also taking classes I wouldn't have taken back then. It's never too late to sing your song.

Now if I were a better person than I am, I'd end this posting on that idyllic note, but I'm not perfect and life does have some nitpicky frustrations, such as parking, as I noted above. Another frustration, also noted above, is that the Rainbow Alliance does not have a web site. It's great that Wright State, like UD, has a gay student group, but how do gay students find out about such groups? How do any students get information about anything these days? They google it. If I were 17 and picking colleges again, even if, or especially if, I were closeted, I'd want to know what gay groups were at the colleges. During the PSY200 panel today a student asked if the Rainbow Alliance had a web site, only to be told, "Um, no, we changed our name and therefore we don't have a web site." Stupid, stupid, stupid! Google "Wright State gay group" and you'll find the stale site for Lambda Union, the Rainbow Alliance's predecessor. There is a web site, it still exists, and they haven't bothered to even update the web site to say that there's a new name. To me not having done even that seems extremely bureaucratic.

However, as it turns out, I should cut the Rainbow Alliance some slack, not that they shouldn't update their stupid web site, but because it seems to be the nature of many nonprofit web sites to be rather stale and infrequently updated. The only event on UD's Student Allies' online calendar is a meeting from last January, no mention even of tonight's presentation by McNaught. The site for Sinclair's group is still under construction. And the site for my church, Cross Creek, still touts last month's Eyes Wide Open exhibit (by the way, another friend of mine, Bill Meers, has a simple but eloquent site documenting that event). So it's best to remember that these groups, including Rainbow Alliance, do good things such as today's panel, and nitpicky issues such as their web sites are relatively minor.
Thursday, October 7th, 2004
Today I read a report on Queer Day that Ohio's two senators, both Republicans, oppose Ohio Issue 1. Not that they don't believe marriage shouldn't be restricted to opposite sex couples, but, amazingly, they think the proposed amendment to our state's constitution goes too far.

I'd been thinking for a while now about writing something about this issue. The other day a guy who's been in a couple of my classes, a nice guy who knows that I'm gay, told me that he thought marriage by definition could be only between a man and a woman. I told him that my church disagreed and asked whether he would vote for an amendment that would deny me rights. He didn't have an answer. Perhaps that means he's going to vote for Issue 1 anyway but couldn't say so to my face. Perhaps that means he's going to think about it.

    Also this week I've received a few mass mailings from the Human Rights Campaign, encouraging me to talk to people about the difference between Kerry and Bush when it comes to LGBT rights. That's important too, and compared to Bush, Kerry is wonderful on gay rights, but even Kerry originally said he was for state level amendments such as the one passed earlier this year in Missouri. This is one issue on which Kerry really has flip flopped, later saying that he opposes Missouri's amendment because it not only banned gay marriage but also banned civil unions. I realize in the grand scheme of things that there are issues more important than gay rights, but it's depressing that a presidential candidate can be so ill-informed. Ohio Issue 1, like the amendment passed in Missouri, would ban civil unions, and if Kerry could be ignorant of that fact, millions of much less politically aware heterosexual Ohio voters could be too.

So today I've done it. I wrote an e-mail and sent it to my family, neighbor, professors, and friends. You can read it below.

Now it's your turn. If you live in Ohio or if you know people who live in Ohio, you need to talk about Ohio Issue 1. Even people who feel compelled to vote for Bush should be forced to think about whether they really want to vote for Issue 1. No one should be able to go to the polls on November 2nd without thinking about a gay person they know or at least a person they know who cares about gay people.

   
This New Yorker cartoon is funny
but the issue is serious.
    From: David Lauri
Sent: Thursday, October 07, 2004 11:34 AM
Subject: Please take a few minutes to read my thoughts on Ohio Issue 1

I know that many people find discussions of politics distasteful, and that friends and families often avoid talking about political issues for the sake of keeping peace. While that is understandable, I'm violating that practice with this e-mail because I believe it is important that each of you consider Ohio Issue 1 not as some abstract question but as real policy that affects people you know. Each of you receiving this e-mail probably knows many people who will be affected, but you all know at least one such person, namely me.

In case you're not already aware, Issue 1 would amend our state constitution to restrict marriages in our state to "union[s] between one man and one woman." In addition it would ban any "legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage."

That first sentence may seem a no-brainer to you. However, have you considered the significance of the second sentence?

Many people, including Ohio's two Republican senators, think that the second part of the amendment would not only ban civil unions but would also ban things such as health benefits offered by state and local governments for same sex partners. Both Senator DeWine and Senator Voinovich said yesterday that they oppose Issue 1 because they think the proposed amendment should not contain this second clause.

Realize then that if you vote yes for Issue 1, you are not only voting to ban same sex marriage but that you are also voting to take away medical insurance coverage for same sex partners of students and employees of state institutions such as Wright State. Do you really think that such benefits harm you or your families? Is taking away such benefits so important that you want to put it in our constitution?

I also want to ask you to consider whether Ohio should ban civil unions. A great deal of the debate on the issue of gay marriage has centered around the word "marriage." Many people believe that marriage by definition is between a man and a woman and that the term "gay marriage" is an oxymoron. I don't agree, but I can understand the basis of that argument.

Yet just because you believe the word "marriage" should not be redefined does not necessarily mean that you must be against equal treatment of same sex couples. You may think that two men living together is a sin, but do you really think it necessary to deny them the right to visit each other in hospitals or nursing homes? You may disapprove of two women having spent their lives together, but do you really think it's necessary to prevent one of them from making decisions about funeral arrangements for the other?

Civil unions are the answer that Vermont chose in order to grant its gay and lesbian citizens some protections while retaining the traditional definition of marriage. California has similar provisions that fall under the term domestic partnership. Do you really think that civil unions or domestic partnerships harm you or your families?

Realize that if you vote yes for Issue 1, you're not just saying that you believe in a traditional definition of marriage, but you are also voting to deny any protections whatsoever to same sex couples.

Lastly, I have to ask you, what possible good do you think this amendment will do?

Do you think Issue 1 will make gay people realize the errors of our ways and convert to heterosexuality? Well whether you approve of my "lifestyle" or not, I'm sure you will believe me when I say that I will not be marrying a woman, no matter how the voters of Ohio constitutionally define marriage.

Do you think Issue 1 will strengthen the institution of marriage? Do you seriously think that straight people will stop getting divorced because of Issue 1? Even if you believe that heterosexual marriage is the pillar of our society, do you really think that Issue 1 will cause more straight people to take marriage seriously? How does preventing me from legally marrying a man keep Britney Spears from entering frivolously into marriage?

Do you need Issue 1 in order to live your life righteously? In other words, are you going to become homosexual if Issue 1 does not pass? Are you going to divorce your wife or your husband if Issue 1 does not pass? Does your relationship with God depend on denying me rights?

Think about these questions and the concerns I've raised. If you've taken the time to read this far, Issue 1 is no longer abstract for you. Even if you still intend to vote yes on Issue 1, you can no longer do so without thinking of me.

And if you intend to vote no on Issue 1, think about talking to your other friends and relatives about this issue. Make this issue personal for them too. Tell them that you have a gay son, a gay brother, a gay nephew, a gay neighbor, a gay student, a gay friend, and that therefore Issue 1 affects you personally too.

David
   
 
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