Monday, June 11, 2012

Something is changing.

Photo Credit: Morgue File by dieraecharin

I am pondering love. I am thinking about honesty, about choice, about faith and freedom. I am wondering what it means to be happy, what it means to be true to oneself and whether happiness and being true to oneself are as related as I thought. I am thinking about listening and whether we, as human beings–jacked up on ego, opinion and doctrine–can do it. I am feeling hope.

Saturday I sat down to my Google Reader, looking for what goodies I might find sheltered in there, like wildflowers amid the grass. What I found was this. (It is long. Read it anyway. It is much worthier of reading than most things you will come across today and infinitely more worth your time than dusting or running to the store. Also, for the rest of this post I am going to talk about what I read there.)

I am, in case you haven't noticed, a big proponent of gay rights. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Like everyone else, I have gay friends and relatives. Not like everyone else, I belong to a church which hangs a rainbow pride flag outside on its building. Our faith's public position is that we believe that the ability for loving adults to marry is a human rights issue. I am immensely proud of this about my church. I do not, to the core of my being, see a single thing wrong with two men or two women who want to love one another. It is not anything I have to overlook or forgive. But I do not believe in the Old Testament Bible as the word of God. There is no conflict there for me. For many, obviously, this is not the case.

After reading Josh and Lolly Weed's post, I have several thoughts I want to share with you. The first is that I feel an enormous and profound respect for the two of them for how they have conducted themselves. My personal faith, although it looks very different from theirs, demands these things of me:

1) Live consistent with your values, even when to do so is very difficult.
2) Be honest, even when being dishonest would be easier.
3) Make choices based on love.
4) Know that you have a choice, that your choices will have consequences, and choose powerfully.

They have done all these things in a way that had to feel very frightening, time and time again. I have nothing but admiration for them.

The next thought I have is that they seem genuinely happy. I have been reading Josh's blog for maybe two years now and he has always written of Lolly with affection. In the video they put up to follow up their post, their love for one another is immediately obvious. I have to ask myself, after almost almost seven years of marriage to the same man–nine of exclusivity with him–how much, exactly does sexual attraction factor into what makes our day-to-day life work? It is not something I would be happy to give up without a fight, but how much, in the end, does it really matter? The fabric of our marriage is made up of other things: greetings after work, days of labor in the garden, negotiations over schedule, laughter and shared faith and values. I had a dear friend several years ago whose history was this: She was married to a man and that man became a woman. They remained married. What she had to say about this was that her challenges were issues of preference and taste. The person to whom she was married was the same and so she remained with that person.

In ways that no one can anticipate or prepare for, our love for other human beings deeply changes us. It asks us to be something other than who we were. We can falter, like children refusing to put on our shoes and leave the house or we can slip our feet into our Mary Janes and run outside into the world full of lambasting hurts and tender surprises, and try to live.

I think that Josh and Lolly were faced with a choice that few of us would want to make and weathered it, in the way that felt right to each of them. I feel somewhat envious, not of the crushing pressure of that choice itself, but of the clarity that seems to have come with it. Josh says,

"One of the sad truths about being homosexual is that no matter what you decide for your future, you have to sacrifice something. It’s very sad, but it is true. I think this is true of life in general as well. If you decide to be a doctor, you give up any of the myriad of other things you could have chosen."
I think most of us go blithely along our way, failing to recognize the truth of this circumstance of life, pretending that our choices only open doors and shutting our ears to the sound of the ones slamming behind us. When we marry, we obviously are giving up the right to be married to or sexually active with anyone else (at least in most cases), but we also close the doors on a thousand futures we can't yet imagine, limiting ourselves to meals that we both like, houses on which we can both agree, conversations our partner is willing to have. We cannot have anything without giving something up. No gift comes without a drop of our own blood. It is the way of things. Neither, I think, is this especially sad. It is merely true.

When we talk about being true to oneself, it could be asked of us what we mean. Do we mean to be true to our emotions, true to our desires, to our dreams and ambitions, or to what we believe our higher purpose to be? I think the answer to all of these questions should be no. And yes. We can't be any one of these things. We will, in some way inevitably be an assemblage of all of them, with an emphasis on one feature or another. So, I think that it is valid to choose one's values over one's desires. For the Weeds, this has lead to happiness. I think not all of us could do this. I am guided by my values, but I am no more suited to give up my heterosexual sexual orientation for a higher calling than most people are to live as a nun. And yet I can't help but have this thought:

Were this story a tale of an LDS man who, upon realizing he was gay, left the church and lived as an openly gay man, would some liberal people I know feel more comfortable with it, even if the story ended with his sadness at having left his faith community, lost his family, and perhaps never found a happy marriage? That would be the story of a man living "true to himself." This one, I think, rubs a raw spot–the question of where we might sacrifice an individual desire for a need to belong with community. The more liberal one's leaning, the more difficult this seems to be. The most liberal of all denominations, mine sometimes loses church members, it seems, over the color of the carpet.

In the end, I continue to want a world in which gay men and women are not faced with the choice to leave their faith communities or sacrifice living as gay. Even when it works beautifully for some people, it will continue to cost too many too much. I want this demand to fold into our history, like the days when we could not abide interracial marriage. I do not want Josh Weed's story held up as the answer for everyone because I fear it will hurt more than it will help. I want to thank Josh for how he has handled this, in very carefully saying that this is what has worked for him and not making it a prescription for gayness. He also said this:

"If you know and love somebody who is gay and LDS (or Christian), your job is to love and nothing more. Let go of your impulse to correct them or control them or propel them down the path you think is right for them. Do what you need to do to move past that impulse. Do not condemn the choices your loved one makes. Love. Only love. Show your love in word and deed. Embrace them, both literally and figuratively. I promise they need it—and they need to feel like they can figure out this part of themselves in a safe way without ridicule and judgment. It’s what Christ would do. It’s what your loved one needs. Accept them. Love them. Genuinely and totally."

I am full of hope. It seems that the voices of love are drowning out the voices of hate, that open-minded discussion is demanding a place next to grandstanding and yelling. When we can share from our hearts and listen to others, when we can place faith next to reason, when we can wrestle aloud with the quandary of being human, I think we will be O.K.

Something is changing. I hear it in the blogs I read from the Christ-loving writers I respect. I hear it from the comments section when the reader questions herself and her assumptions. I hear it in the affirmation of the atheist, the believer, the gay and the straight that what is right is love and honesty. I hear it, too, in the angry denial, like the smash of a dying tree trunk hitting the ground. Something is changing.

Each day, one at a time, more minds are changing and bringing the world closer to love.

What do you think we can learn from Josh's declaration? How is the faith community changing as it responds to the differing views of its members on homosexuality? Where do you stand?

More Discussion on Christianity and Homosexuality:

Glennon Melton of Momastery: A Mountain I'm Willing to Die On

Glennon Melton of Momastery: I Think Jesus'd Be Gay...or No She DIDN'T.

Dan Pearce of Single Dad Laughing: I'm Christian Unless You're Gay

Dan Pearce of Single Dad Laughing: A Teen's Brave Response to "I'm Christian Unless You're Gay"

As well as the interesting, varied, although largely LDS comments on Josh's blog, these comments on MetaFilter are worth reading, many coming from a gay perspective.


  1. I read the post and was so touched by their honesty, clarity, and bravery in sharing something that could alienate them from their community. Mostly, I was touched by their love.

    I thought some of the same things you covered here. The sexual aspect of marriage is important, but it is not the most important component of a lifelong, loving bond. In addressing their sexual relationship, I thought this: "...when sex is done right, at its deepest level it is about intimacy. It is about one human being connecting with another human being they love. It is a beautiful physical manifestation of two people being connected in a truly vulnerable, intimate manner because they love each other profoundly. It is bodies connecting and souls connecting. It is beautiful and rich and fulfilling and spiritual and amazing." was beautiful. That's exactly right and I think that some couples (of any gender combination) are fortunate enough to have such a connection and sadly, some are not.

    And this: "Love. Only love. Show your love in word and deed. Embrace them, both literally and figuratively." Words to live by, and not just good advice for dealing with friends who are gay and LDS/Christian. Those words define how we should interact with everyone.

    Personally, I think love is love is love. I think it's the reason we are here and that everything valuable is love at its core. My faith requires of me just what you outlined in your four. I do my best to live by those exact standards. I don't always live up to what I know I should be doing, but that's the goal.

    I see a shift in acceptance and it makes me hopeful. I think that if people would simply look within and then be brave enough to follow what they know to be right, the world would be healed. Instantly. Completely. Beautifully.

    1. First of all, can I just say that I love when I get long, thoughtful comments? Thank you.

      I think you are right that these are lessons of love that are larger than this issue. "I think it's the reason we are here and that everything valuable is love at its core."

      I think when we are able to able to confront how little power we actually have to change another human being, no matter what we might think of their choices and actions, we are really confronted with a choice to love or to walk away. Most of the time, we just can't see that this is the choice.

    2. WN, you rock! I increasingly love to read your point of view! I always look forward to your comments and posts!

    3. WN, I've read this post and the comments at least 3 times. This is what keeps me coming back.

      "...if people would simply look within and then be brave enough to follow what they know to be right, the world would be healed. Instantly. Completely. Beautifully."

    4. You guys are very kind.

      I think--no, I know--that I have a simplistic view of the world. Of right and wrong. It just seems so basic to me. Don't hurt anyone on purpose. When you accidentally cause pain, apologize, mean it, learn from it, and don't repeat it. If you see need and you can help, then help. If you need help, reach out.

      I truly believe that what people call heaven is ours to have. Right here. Right now. We just have to make it so.

    5. Good is often a very simple thing, WN. Sometimes it isn't, but sometimes it really, really is. And simple people are the best ones of all, when they are simply, truly good-hearted and kind.

      Mike and I just exist to put flies in everyone's ointment. :)

  2. I've been sitting here trying to process this and decide how to comment.

    First, I loved the post. (I've never read The Weed before and am looking forward to reading it regularly.) As a devout Mormon, their story was eye opening. I was brought up in a culture where, for a long time, homosexuality was considered deviant and sinful. I'm glad to say that those attitudes are changing.

    I found Josh's perspective on intimacy in marriage very insightful. What came to my mind as he was talking about that was those people whose lives are changed by accident or illness, for whom sex would no longer be possible. You don't see wives leaving their paralyzed husbands because they can't perform. (Well, maybe some do, but that's sad.) Sex and attraction are a very important part of a marriage, but they aren't the only part. And, true commitment can be there without sex.

    I read some of the comments on metafilter. I think that they are missing the point he made, that you also highlighted. We all make sacrifices in our lives. I guess it comes down to what we're willing to sacrifice. The one comment that said he wasn't really gay because he'd never had sex with a man confused me. I have a friend who is 43 years old, never married and a virgin (because our church teaches us not to have sex outside marriage). Does that mean she's not heterosexual because she's never had sex with a man? We know who we're attracted to, acting on it is a choice.

    Now, the real bones to my feelings about this. About ten years ago, my youngest brother came out to our family. This is one of those things that you really don't know how you'll react until it happens. I've been surprised and very proud of my parents, who are VERY conservative. They (and all of my family) have never shown anything but love to my brother. We try to make him feel welcome and wanted. The problem is that he doesn't understand how we can love him and accept who he is while we still hold on to our beliefs. This has caused a lot of hurt to him. I loved Josh's post because it explained how he deals with his attraction, but at the same time keeps his beliefs. I also appreciated that Josh made it clear that he wasn't pushing his choices onto anyone else. My brother chooses to date men. I'm fine with that. I would never even think to suggest he date women because that isn't what he wants. And I truly want him to be happy.

    I know that my church's beliefs anger a lot of people. I'm okay with that. I don't agree with many other church's beliefs, either. I don't think we all have to agree with each other. The one universal truth, though, is that we all need to be loved. Gay, straight, black, white, Christian, Atheist- we need love. We also all have the ability to either give love or tear each other down. The choice is ours. I choose love.

    1. Thank you, Jewels. I really appreciate your taking the time to read both posts, to think so much and to comment. As always, you have so many wise and interesting things to say. (I always look forward to your perspective in particular.) So true what you said about marriages altered by accidents or illness. For lots of reasons, people abstain from sex. I think we are more complex sexually than anyone can really quantify or describe, sometimes seemingly compelled as if by a horde of biting flies, other times showing the restraint of a lifetime of celibacy. And I think it is not impossible to enjoy a sex not driven by eroticism but by intimacy and affection. I trust that Josh is absolutely sincere in this.

      I read over 300 comments on Josh's blog and was amazed at how generally supportive they were. I felt like the comments on MetaFilter were interesting too because, taking the Weeds out of the conversations (since it isn't on Josh's blog), you could see the tension of a discussion trying to make sense of what has just happened. I think some missed the point or were wrong-headed, but I can understand the fear of the gay community as well. I had a dear friend who spent years trying to cure himself of homosexuality through Christ to his detriment and he might react that way? I can't say. The fear comes from a reasonable concern that Josh will now be held up as a standard for others as what is ideal and do-able. From their perspective, they neither desire not to be gay nor do they want it supposed that they COULD resist the need to live as gay anymore than you or I could as hetero. It feels, perhaps, like going backward. Yet I heard a lot of affirmation that this was his story, that he was not setting himself up as an example and a lot of nuance in this discussion as well. I felt generally proud of the conversation, although I only read a page or two.

      Thanks for sharing your story about your brother. I think many of us have a story like this at the heart of our feelings. I also have a deeply personal one. I am very impressed with how you explain your relationship to your brother and how your family treats him. I want to say, though, that this doesn't surprise me about you or about an LDS woman in general. We have a large LDS population where I live and I have to say that they are some of the kindest, most Christlike people I have ever met. I have nothing but respect for them as a group. My LDS friends have been curious about and respectful of our religious differences and I have always felt that they were allies in that they cared deeply about families, society and the world.

      I agree with the statement you made so eloquently. We don't have to agree with each other. The articles of my belief or non-belief are not the only defining qualities of who I am. What they lead to in action, hopefully, are values on which I can meet others in shared action and friendship. And I too choose love.

    2. You have such a thoughtful and eloquent way of expressing yourself (which is what brings me back here day after day.) That last paragraph (We don't have to agree...) is so beautifully written. I read it over and over. So very true.

      Mostly, I was overwhelmed by the love these two have for each other. And the video? Seriously. They are so sweet and genuine. If nothing else, they made me appreciate my own marriage more and made me want to be a better wife.

    3. Jewels,

      Your comments deeply moved me! You brought a tear to my eye--thank you!

      I have had a complicated spiritual journey, but in the end, I have concluded that love is the fundamental ingredient for a happy and meaningful life.

      I am an atheist in terms of my beliefs regarding any higher power, but I am an atheist who stands in awe at the vast miracle of evolution.

      In terms of social freedoms whether they relate to homosexuality or racism or children being kidnapped and forced into the sex trades or forced to be soldiers for some war lord, I have a deep passion and drive to stand up for their freedom. I am but one man with little sway in this world, I am arrogant and afraid. I am as imperfect as anyone you could hope to meet (or avoid meeting), but there is one belief I hold, which feels to me like truth. Glennon at Momestary expressed a similar idea in her post about a mountain she would be willing to die on and for me this cause no less important.

      Because I am an atheist and I don't believe in any afterlife or any universal evening up or karma. Because I believe that every human being has one precious and delicate life to live.

      Because of these things and because I believe that our Declaration of Independence is imbued with incredible wisdom, particularly in its assertion that we are all endowed by our creator (in the case of my theology, that is evolution) with certain unalienable rights and that one of those is the pursuit of happiness.

      Because of all of that, I believe it is an atrocity for any human to be forced to sacrifice their freedom, their right to pursue happiness in order to serve the greed or silence the prejudice of another person or persons.

      I believe it is imperative for each of us who have that freedom to stand tall and support those who are being oppressed in our own public way. I don't think this imperative can be legislated or forced on anyone, I simply thing it is imperative and something that each person will have to wrestle with in their own conscience.

      Thank you Jewels for your thoughtful response here! All my best to you!

    4. Jewels, you are so kind and good. I've been reading you for quite a while now--your blog and the comments you leave on other blogs we both visit--and one thing always stands out. You operate from a place of acceptance and love. It's really a wonderful thing to see.

  3. I've been ruminating on this all day long. Which, of course, is the point. My first reaction to the post was "wow! What a great expression of love." Then I read "attitudes and attractions aren't sinful, only actions are," and I got a little tied up, mentally and emotionally. The implication there (to me) is that acting on one's homosexual attractions are sinful. That makes me sad.

    I walked away, though, with overwhelming love for and from both Lolly and Josh and think that's pretty incredible. I agree with Word Nerd's "love is love is love" and Jewels' "The choice is ours. I choose love."

    I'm meeting some fascinating and wonderful people through you, Tara. Thank you for sharing.

    1. I have to say that I had the same reaction you did to that part, Margi. And I guess I thought about it and decided that, although all those feelings are valid, I didn't want to get stuck there. The basic thing is that I don't believe what they believe. There really is no conflict for me, no internal wrestling. The religion I practice now–the religion of my childhood–doesn't condemn homosexuality (although my grandfather preacher of that religion once did from the pulpit). Neither do my own values, beliefs or experience. So, I can stand for a world where homosexuality is not viewed by anyone as a sin–which I wholeheartedly believe it is not–but I can't really dismiss the fact that, for others, they have always learned that it is a sin.

      I think the point of leverage is not going to be in an argument with that fact but in a call for love, as was made here. So I want to get behind that. I think there could be danger in what has happened here, too. It will be very tempting for some to hold Josh up as the answer to gayness, despite all he's said–all layered over the assumption that gayness is worse than straightness–which I find not to be true personally. But this is his coming out story, which he has a right to as much as anyone and so I think, consequences and all, it is good. He is the first man I have heard talk in this way who has not called himself "ex-gay", for one thing.

      It is an really, really incredible story. And thanks so much for thinking and sharing your thoughts.

    2. Excellent point. I will also choose not to get stuck there and I will concentrate on feeling and sending love, period. Wow, that's a tall order when faced with something that I disagree with on a cellular level. Then again, I'm not sure I really buy into the idea of sin anyway.

      Now I have more ruminating to do. You and your readers have created a heckuva thoughtful, supportive, and safe community here at FIA.

    3. "You and your readers have created a heckuva thoughtful, supportive, and safe community here at FIA."

      I can't tell you how much I appreciate that fact, Margi! I just an hour or so ago put out the link to his post on a forum I visit and have got nothing so far but offhand slurs and dismissals from women who say that won't even read through his whole post because they are so sure he is a) full of shit b) proselytizing this as a cure or c) too rare and crazy to be taken seriously. It makes me sad. I can tell these are the "liberals." The liberals of whom I am a member. And they are so full of hate and assumption and rank stupidity. I know it's just a forum, but I always have to wonder what I'll get. Sometimes, on some topics, something interesting turns up. Most people are so completely unwilling to question their own assumptions.

      And because of that you all are so precious to me. The fact that you all let me ask ridiculously difficult questions and get on a soapbox about what I care about, share your considered point of view and are willing to think: That's worth anything, everything to me.

    4. "You and your readers have created a heckuva thoughtful, supportive, and safe community here at FIA."

      That's exactly why I love it so much here. Tara, you offer up wonderful topics for discussion and because you do so in such a welcoming way, your blog home is a place where your guests can put their feet up and share. I never feel pressure to agree with what you write (though I pretty much always do) and it's always clear that the folks here are comfortable enough in themselves to allow and encourage others to be whoever they are, too. It's all sorts of fabulous.

    5. Margi, this: "Then I read "attitudes and attractions aren't sinful, only actions are," and I got a little tied up, mentally and emotionally. The implication there (to me) is that acting on one's homosexual attractions are sinful. That makes me sad." was my reaction, too.

      When he was 17, my niece's husband's little brother hanged himself in his mother's garage. He left a note and his reason was simple: He was gay and because of the teachings of his church, he felt that his sin was unforgivable.

      When he'd come out some time before that, his mother had sent him to counseling and to their parish priest. He got different messages from the two sources, but the one he couldn't shake was the priest's. He died for that. At seventeen. In pain, scared, and certain that he was going to hell. After he died and after she'd read his note, his mother still denied that her son was gay. The child killed himself because he couldn't accept who he was and still, she refused to accept it as truth. That was probably a dozen years ago and it still makes me want to weep.

    6. This is why I teach my sons that homosexuality is a part of nature, that they will have friends that are gay, that anytime someone makes a fag joke someone just heard it who is questioning themselves, that they HAVE to stand up for people being bullied for their sexuality, or any other reason. They cannot afford not to. No one should ever, ever have to die because of this. It is like killing oneself for having curly hair.

      And it makes me cry, too, every time I hear a story like this.

    7. My heart breaks to hear those stories. I've read where people would rather their child die than "turn out gay." I can't process that. Is that a worldwide problem or a uniquely American one? I have no idea.

  4. I hate being all "What she said." in the comments of a post, but I always seem to show up to the party late, so that's what I'm left with. I completely agree with Word Nerd's response, and I thank you for sharing this Tara. Not just their post, but also for having taken the time to compose such a thoughtful reply to it. I was also hesitant at the same part that stopped Margi- I've always had issues seeing homosexuality as a sin. It's in our genes, not a choice, in my opinion. People can choose to be true to who they are, or they can choose to hide it because it's easier, but they can't choose who they are attracted to.

    I wrote a post about my son a little while back that touches on this issue: I also belong to a church that proudly welcomes GLBT and I am proud to say I do. God is about love, plain and simple.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I enjoyed your post. I have a son who loves fairies and is actively hiding this from his male friends. I can totally relate to that whole conundrum.

      This is the sticking point if there is one, for sure: whether or not homosexuality is a sin. I tend not to talk about sin much. It's not a very UU word, I guess, but to whatever extent such a thing exists I think, for me, it requires that someone be harmed. I don't believe that anyone is harmed by someone's being gay. I have very liberal views on sexuality in general, kind of limiting my judgment to what actively hurts another person. I am definitely raising my kids that homosexuality is biologically natural and that there is nothing wrong with it.

      That said, I still want to focus on what can unite people of all faiths in loving their gay friends and family. I don't think we are within spitting range of agreeing that gayness is not sinful. I do think we can look to be united on practicing love. As Josh said, "It's what Christ would do." So, for me, that is what I am interested in right now. And I am finding is very inspiring that the most potent voices I have heard in defense of gays these last months have come not just from the secular left or the reliably liberal religions but from the further in the middle. There, I think, lies the hope for equality: "God is about love, plain and simple."

  5. 'I think most of us go blithely along our way, failing to recognize the truth of this circumstance of life, pretending that our choices only open doors and shutting our ears to the sound of the ones slamming behind us.'
    wow, amazing sentence - more than thought provoking.

  6. I had a conversation with my husband about this the other day. He was asking why we appear to have so many more gay people today than 100 years ago, a question I ask myself often. My answer varies wildly, but that day I replied that being gay or not was irrelevant in societies past - that whatever your sexual orientation, having a family was the most important thing, and that orientation could not get in the way of that. When your only "pension" is your children, or you face dying alone and uncared for on the streets, questions of sexual preference usually falls short, whether gay or straight. Essentially, almost everyone was in an arranged marriage.

    To me, that is the life that Josh and Lolly have chosen - a life where a biological family comes first, and everything else is secondary. They really do seem genuinely happy with each other, their life and their relationship, and I applaud both of them for living so honestly with themselves, each other, and the world.

    Today it seems like there is more of a choice. Not a perfect one, and not by any means without some pretty significant consequences, but a choice nonetheless. Today we marry for love rather than family, wealth or power. Both gay AND straight.

    But is it really benefiting anyone? I don't know. I don't think I am in a position to say either way, having only ever experienced one form of marriage.

    What I do know is that I am very happy in my marriage for love. I also know a couple of people who are very happy in their marriage for family. And yet I also know many many people who are very UNhappily married, and that our divorce rates are sky high. Perhaps straight people need to look at gay people in relationships, and learn what they seem to know - that you have to choose the kind of relationship that is right for you, and deal with the consequences of that choice.

    1. What an incredibly insightful bunch of thoughts, Rachel. Thinking of homosexuality in history, I often remember what I learned in anthropology about some cultures with strong binary gender roles that had specific and separate roles for people who didn't fit those very clear male-female designations. These were not "gay" roles per se, but they illustrate that there has traditionally been fluidity in gender identity in some cultures, such as the Navajo, Plains Culture, and some cultures in Asia. And that there was a need for such a departure from the hard lines of male-female. Throughout history, cultures have dealt differently with homosexuality:
      I think you're onto something with regard to the recent shift away from family as a means merely to survive. This is perhaps where what we know as freedom of self-expression becomes possible and attractive.

      I think, too, that since the existence of democracy, since that idea has first formed on the lips of any person, there has been an enormous tension between the ideal and the realities around us. At one time democracy in Western Culture was the province of the landed, male, white, and educated. Ever since then we have been stretched like a rubber band, pulled to new limits by this idea and asked to concede greater and greater freedom. I think that the visible presence of gay Americans is evidence of that. Democracy stretched for gay people, hidden and persecuted by the government, and broke in the Stonewall riots of 1968. We have been changing and stretching ever since then. When this process appears complete, we will be asked to stretch again. This is what I think democracy actually requires. When people of any maligned group stand up and own their identity, they do it to resist the threat to their democratic freedom.

      I share your ambivalence about marriage based on love vs. family. I have the wrong value system entirely to choose the latter and so I can't really appreciate it in any way other than intellectually. I WILL go to the wall to say that it, too, is a valid choice. I think the point, for me, is that any choice made freely and respectfully and harming no one, is valid. Whether it is right for others is not the point. It is up to each of us to choose what is right for us. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts here.

    2. Ah yes, I should have mentioned the exceptions such as the shamans in native american culture. I read the Wikipedia article - I did not know that in some cultures it was basically expected of the wealthy! Very interesting.

      I think democracy (and whether we have it or not in America) is another discussion entirely. Whatever it is though, as much as people like to talk about "the good old days" we do seem to be moving forward in acceptance of each other, albeit slowly.

      "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" Martin Luther King Junior. The way I see it, the fight for gay rights is a fight for human rights for everybody.

      I agree wholeheartedly that choices other than my own, even ones that I cannot fully understand, are valid and defensible decisions, as long as they are loving ones.

      I do struggle a bit with whether any of this freedom is really positive (or indeed freedom at all) or not though. The break away from the model of the nuclear family and the focus on the individual rather than the group has had some really significant negatives, especially on our children. I hope that we can figure out how to have true freedom without sacrificing so much of ourselves to get it.

      Thank you for writing such stimulating stuff, and inviting us to be a part of the conversation!

    3. I sense you and I could easily chat for hours, Rachel. Everything you say points right at something worth discussing and I think it's a fascinating question–this one of family. (I hear you on the democracy. I guess I comfort myself with the knowledge that democracy continues to be our ideal, no matter how imperfectly it is practiced here, and I'm pretty sure we would agree on that.)

      I ask myself this thing all the time. In fact, it goes EXACTLY to the heart of what interested me most about Josh and Lolly's statement. My husband and I had just previously been talking about how what we have now is really a new kind of marriage, with it's expectations of love and personal fulfillment, when marriages used to be more a matter of practicality and survival. In the end, I always think that good or bad, human beings and societies change and evolve. We have changed. I don't know where where we will go. There will be good things, like increased rights granted to minorities, and bad things, like erosion of communal values. It seems like there is always, always tension between individuality and the common needs of humanity. I'd love to hear more from you on what you see as what we have lost. I read this yesterday on Josh's blog and I thought to myself: This was all just his coming out story. People will ascribe an enormous agenda to him–beyond the agenda that any of us to have our point-of-view and perspective out in the world–but in the end, he just wanted to be seen for who he was. So, I think in this marriage based more on family, he too felt that tension for individuality–in this case the freedom to not hide. That seems far-flung from anything you were talking about, but I got there in a mind map sort of a way...sorry. :) I, too, hope that we can figure out true freedom without more sacrifice. I suspect, though, that it will always be in negotiation.

    4. Me too - it took me a while to reply, because there is just so. much here to talk about, so many topics of conversation, avenues that we could go down, and it's tempting to go down them all, but we both have families to look after and no time machine.

      Yes, as far as I understand it (politics gets complicated sometimes, doesn't it?) I think democracy is an admirable goal.

      I think it comes down to the struggle between the group and individuality. There is a fantastic quote in the back of my mind that I just can't seem to bring forward, but it is something about our current society essentially forcing individuality on us. I think there is a balance to be struck between having individual rights, and still operating as part of the group - whether or not we believe, like or admit it, our actions affect those around us.

      Again, I am not sure I am in a position to really be able to talk about the benefits of one society over another, as I have really only experienced two very similar ones. I would love to travel the world one day and really get an in depth view of a truly tribal community.

      In my heart, I miss connectedness. True, raw connection with other human beings. With the earth, with life and death. I miss the everyday. The personal knowledge of every birth in the people around me. The celebration of marriage, coming of age and great achievement. We live so separate from each other, even though we are piled on top of one another in such a small space - even in rural areas. We live in our big, separate houses and go about our big separate lives, and sometimes all I want to do is sit around a big fire and eat a meal with the people close by.

      I too worry about that - that people will assign "best scenario" to Josh's story, and use it for their own agenda, to push a lifestyle on other people who it may not be right for. I have sadly seen it happen before - the church in England (at least the parts of it that I was involved in) was pretty big on "love the sinner not the sin" and Josh's lifestyle seems like the perfect answer to the "problem." I loved Josh's reminder that all choices involve sacrifice - that he does not see himself as having a problem, just a difficult choice, one that I dare say most of us make with him.

      One thing that strikes me from the update post is how amazing Josh and Lolly's relationship is. They are so utterly supportive of one another, something I think many of us could look to and learn from.

      Perhaps freedom has nothing to do with individuality in the sense that our society takes it. Perhaps we can have self expression, human rights, and the appreciation for the differences between us without pushing for self sustainability, or isolation. But Choice? Choice by definition requires leaving something behind.

    5. I can so relate to your desire for connectedness. I might even say that at times in my life I have longed for it and yet, when I look back through my life, I have tended to choose my sense of individuality over my sense of group at every turn. I have done this with regret but almost automatically. I'm hard-wired that way. I just wrote a memoir piece for my book on this and it's all still fresh in my mind.

      All your thoughts on group vs. individuality sound like a blog post–or actually, a long article or book–in their own right. One which I would certainly buy. Please let me know if you write or do anything more with that train of thought (or if you have done already!)


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