I had a long conversation with a straight conservative the other night. We were both standing outside the Alabama Supreme Court. There were about 1,000 people there, most of them gathered to protest the removal of Chief Justice Roy Moore's two-ton Ten Commandments monument from the building. I wasn't one of the protesters, but my smoking companion was.
He felt strongly that the monument had to stay, because the Commandments represent the "moral foundation of America" and because our nation has strayed from its roots. Divorce rates, spousal abuse, and sexual violence against children can all be traced back to the abandonment of prayer in public schools and to the homosexual agenda, he said.
I decided this wasn't a good place for a queer girl and went home.
Gay folks have been in the news a lot lately. We can have sex legally now, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Episcopal Church got itself a gay bishop. But these victories for "my people" don't seem to translate into greater understanding. Straight conservatives seem to hold onto gay stereotypes as if they were the Commandments themselves.
If I could, I would try to debunk some gay stereotypes and to foster some homo-hetero understanding for those on the right side of the political divide, like my smoking buddy from the other night. I might as well start with my own Top 10 list:
1. The myth of gay recruitment. I can find a spouse from the existing pool of gay people the Creator created. I am not out to convert you or your kids. Don't want to. Don't need to. God gave me plenty of people to choose from. I chose one already.
2. Being gay is about more than sex. My gayness is based in love, not sex. I have an emotional, intimate connection with my spouse. Sure, we have sex, but it doesn't define us as a couple, or as people.
3. Pedophiles come in all forms. There are "bad gay people" just as there are "bad straight people." We've got some pedophiles among our group; so do you. You actually have more, because there are more of you. Can we agree to focus on fighting pedophilia? Gay, straight. Doesn't matter. Pedophiles are bad for kids.
4. The gay community is diverse. We are not all men in leather thongs with feather boas dancing on top of Gay Pride Parade floats. We're not all male, all white, all rich, or all anything else. (Also, we're not all liberal. Ever heard of the Log Cabin Republicans?)
5. Some of us believe in God. If James Lipton of the Actor's Studio ever has occasion to interview me, I have a ready-made answer to one of his standard questions. When I arrive at Heaven's Pearly Gates, the first thing I hope to hear God say is: "Yes, Jennifer, you have a reservation -- but I'm afraid I don't see Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the list." The God I believe in is loving and liberatory. (Okay, I know wishing hell on anyone isn't exactly a demonstration of loving. Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.)
6. I already can get married in a church. Some Christian denominations allow for this. Others don't. I'm not asking your church to bless me and my spouse. When it comes to "gay marriage," all we're after is the civil stuff. You know, things like having the rights of a spouse when my partner's dying in the hospital. Being able to be a mom to our kids, in a legally protected way. Those sorts of things.
7. Slurs go both ways. The gay community has names for you too. I won't call you a "breeder," if you don't call me a "sodomite."
8. Please quit putting rainbow stickers on your cars. Please quit hanging rainbow flower leis on your rearview mirrors. Contrary to popular belief, not all of us are equipped with 100 percent accurate gaydar, and if you have rainbows all over your person or property, we may well assume you are a "member of the family."
9. Gay TV belongs to straight people. With the ratings that Will & Grace boasts, I suspect a lot of straight people are glued to their TV sets week after week. Gay folks aren't the ones keeping Gay TV alive. We're a small portion of the market share.
10. We notice your inconsistencies. If you really, really don't like gay people and think gay sex is disgusting, quit buying porn with women having sex with women. That's gay sex. Americans spend a billion dollars a year on porn. When was the last time you saw a "straight" porn film that didn't have two women going at it? If you quit buying this stuff, maybe the porn industry would fold -- something that, I think, might benefit women across all orientations. Go ahead. Do it. Call me a conservative.
Jennifer Holladay lives in Montgomery, Alabama.