Tuesday 19 July 2011

Whether I'm crazy or not depends on the company I keep

Alan and I spent quite a bit of time together in high school. We chummed around, talked about chicks, did all the normal stuff guys do in high school. We went to concerts, drank beer at pub night and even played in a rock band together. When high school was over, we both went our separate ways. From time to time over the years, we might have caught one another at Christmas but other than that, we never saw each other.

Twenty-five years later I had an opportunity to visit with him just six months before he died from AIDS. He was married. He had children. How? At this time, dementia had partially set in and it was somewhat difficult to talk with him but I did manage to surmise the whole story. Alan and I had grown up in an environment and an era where homosexuality just did not exist. I am convinced he hid this from me, his friends and probably his entire family. He had lived a lie his entire life but sometime towards the end, the repressed part of his life pushed him to be reckless. He paid for it with his life.

What would have it been like to grow up in a situation where you were different? What would have it been like to be surrounded, immersed in a heterosexual lifestyle, philosophy, ad infinitum and yet be homosexual? Would you think you're crazy?

FYI: The American Psychiatric Association only declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973. (Wikipedia)

In some patriarchal societies today a woman is a second class citizen with little or no rights. In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive. In Afghanistan under the Taliban, women were not allowed to be educated. However before passing condemnation, let's not forget that women only got the vote in North America in the 1920s, just ninety years ago. Until the sixties and seventies, women had almost no possibility of joining the work force. Even today, talk continues about how women are still not considered equal in the job market. Statistically, a woman automatically earns on average less than a man but only because she is a woman, not because she is less qualified. If you're a woman and you want to go to school, if you want to work, if you want something other than the roles dictated to you by tradition, would you think you're crazy?

In some countries today, alcohol is banned. Some religions forbid it. Prohibition took place in North America merely ninety years ago. Even today, some groups frown on its consumption if not ban it outright. However many people in many cultures all across the globe enjoy a glass of wine with their meal. If you family forbade it, if your church condemned it, if your social group frowned upon it and your colleagues threatened to ostracize anyone who did it, would you think you're crazy?

While the laws in some place in Canada and the United States have relaxed, it is still pretty much illegal to smoke marijuana. The use of this "drug" is considered tantamount to evil itself. It has been labelled over the years as a gateway drug to such truly evil things like heroin (re: 1950s propaganda film Reefer Madness), however the vast majority of people who smoke marijuana do not move on to other drugs. If you went to Amsterdam where marijuana is legal, you apparently can walk into a public café and light up. Considering these contradictions, when your own attitude towards a joint may be the equivalent of a glass of wine with your dinner, would you think you're crazy? (FYI: I remember reading the story of a guy who was caught with 2 joints in 1979 and sent to prison for 20 years. 20 years!)

Scientology and the Jehovah Witnesses practise what is called disconnection. Anyone who wants to leave the church is ostracized by everyone else in the church including one's own family and even one's own spouse. Other religions may not be quite so forthright, but some form of exclusion from the community is not unheard of. Imagine that you change your mind about God and your family and friends disown you. Would you think you're crazy?

What if you're vegetarian? It's a carnivore world. What if you only eat Kosher or Halal? What if you're doing something that nobody else does? Would everybody else think you're crazy?

I will close by mentioning sex. I don't think that there is any one topic more personal and more controversial than sex. At the one end of the spectrum we have the right wing Christian religious fundamentalists who believe that sex is only between a married man and a woman for the purposes of procreation. Anything else is wrong and a perversion in the eyes of God. Moving along the scale, we can find everything and anything. Betty Dodson is a pro-sex feminist and sex educator who over the years has conducted numerous group sessions where women would get together, discuss and show off their bodies, talk about sex and their own sex lives and learn and practise together the techniques of masturbation and self-pleasure. Violet Blue is a sex educator who writes for various publications. On her own web site, she regularly reviews sex toys, pornography and literary erotica for the purposes of informing the public about commercial products dedicated to sexual pleasure. Pamela Madsen, author of the book Shameless, has become a sex educator and a proponent of sexual exploration outside the confines of a married couple as a means to enhance and possibly save monogamy.

Michele Bachmann
Ms. Bachmann is campaigning to become the next Republican candidate to run in the presidential elections of 2012. She recently signed a pledge written by a socially-conservative advocacy group in Iowa called the Family Leader. The pledge “The Marriage Vow: A Declaration of Dependence Upon Marriage and Family” endorses the view that homosexuality is a choice rather than a biological trait. It condemns adultery, “quickie divorce,” infidelity, pornography, cohabitation and Islamic Sharia law. It also suggests that more African-American children are born out of wedlock now than they were under slavery. (see Michele Bachmann: the next president of the WTH!?!)

Final Word
I am writing this sitting in a small apartment all by myself. I am alone. There is nobody else here. There is no conflict because there is no one to complain. If I have a glass of wine with my dinner, there is no one here to criticize me. If I think that God doesn't exist, there is no one here to contradict me. If I boil water to make spaghetti and don't put in some oil and a pinch of salt, nobody is going to tell me my pasta is terrible. (Silly? See Boiling Spaghetti: to salt or not to salt)

Back in the early 90's, I'm watching one of the talk shows, not quite as elevated as Oprah but not as low as Jerry Springer. A couple is being interviewed but we're given to understand they have a secret. Commercial break. We return to see... two women. I look closer. Woman number two is the husband; he's dressed up in drag. The wife explains that her husband has always had a fetish for women's clothes and once a month he dresses up and the 2 of them go out together as 2 women. She goes on to say that her husband is a wonderful man, a great husband, a good lover and an excellent father; he just seems to have this one special quirk and it is the only oddity out of an otherwise exemplary human being.

Adolf Hitler was a bad man. There is no debating that. John Wayne Gacy, the American serial killer who raped and murdered 33 teenage boys, was a bad man. There is no debating that.

However many other things, having a glass of wine with dinner, being homosexual, watching an erotic movie, may be considered okay or evil depending on the company you keep. If you're gay, you do not want to be hanging around with Michele Bachmann. Actually, there seem to be a number of things you can't do if you're going to hang around with Michele Bachmann and the cross-section of America she represents.

At the end of the day, you may not be crazy at all. All you have to do is hang out with different people.


my blog: I suck; you suck; we all suck. What!?!
I discuss what I think the origins of the word sucks. I discuss growing up in the late 1960s, early 1970s, and how high school boys would insult one another by suggesting that the person was homosexual and had or would perform oral sex on a man.

my blog: The Halton Catholic School Board: a "gay" anachronism
I discuss the policies of this Catholic school board which are non inclusive towards the gay community. I talk about growing up in an exclusive heterosexual era and a high school buddy who hid his homosexuality his entire life.

Wikipedia: Homosexuality and psychology
Since the 1970s, the consensus of the behavioral and social sciences and the health and mental health professions has moved to the belief that homosexuality is a normal variation of human sexual orientation, while there remain those who maintain that it is a disorder. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. The American Psychological Association Council of Representatives followed in 1975. Consequently, while some still believe homosexuality is a mental disorder, the current research and clinical literature now only demonstrate that same-sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings, and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality, reflecting the official positions of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association.


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