Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tangled thoughts on religion and being gay

It feels as though a whole host of my thoughts for a couple days have been revolving around religion (or lack thereof) and being gay. Even when I'm not actively contemplating those two topics, something will leap up to remind me of their intersection.

Take, for instance, the recent news about new allegations against Reverend Ted Haggard. Turns out that the male escort he frequented (and bought drugs from) was not his only gay relationship; he also had a cash-for-sex affair with a young (early 20s) church volunteer. Oh, the mind boggles. Not because the man might be gay, but because of the way it manifested for him. Notice that all of his gay relationships (that we know about so far) involve paying for the sex that is so shameful to him, per what his religion tells him. I can't figure out if paying for it was supposed to alleviate some of the guilt or if the prostitution angle would make the gay angle pale in comparison. What I do know, though I won't go into it now, is that the strict prescriptions of religion can do so much damage.

Haggard aside, we're looking at the possibility of some domestic partner recognition in our community, and this is the primary reason I've been so focused on that point where issues of religion and being gay swirl around each other. I've been in the throes of letter-writing and will be sending several off tomorrow. Two are the standard letters to elected officials, including the reproach that both of them ignored my earlier missives on the topic, about which I am not impressed. Both are on record as against domestic partnerships; one specifically has cited his religion as his reason for opposing previous attempts to implement this. I doubt I'll change their minds, but the votes may be there without them.

The third letter is the one in which I have a more personal investment. It is a letter to the editor of our local rag, which absolutely everyone in town seems to read. I was compelled to write it after a throw-away line in another letter to the editor in which the writer suggested that domestic partnerships are 'amoral' and something being pushed by people from out-of-state. And so I wrote my letter to counter that second part explicitly while working against that first one more subtly (as in, emphasizing the importance of family in this issue).

The intersection with religion comes both from the loaded issue of morality and what I know about the author of the first letter. I've met him before and suspected, from a number of observations, that he is Catholic. A quick search showed me that he is not only Catholic, but staunchly, emphatically, and inflexibly so. Thus, I am probably right to read into 'amoral' all that I initially did.

But this is also where it crosses into a very sensitive territory. See, that author is the father of one of my son's classmates. Even trickier, it's the one kid with whom my son has a true, reciprocal friendship, one I would very much like to encourage since there are so many kids in his class who are quick to tease him for his differences. I hope that we can all be adults and separate our political and religious beliefs from our sons' friendship. Guess we'll see when we offer to have a playdate here.

In all of this, I find the religious/gay cocktail already so volatile that I hesitate to add in my own atheism. I worry about how that additional element might shut down all discussion.

Hang on for a minute while I set this up: I'm laying some groundwork for us to start trying to have another kid. Both Trillian and I still want two, but since almost a year's worth of doctors' appointments and blood tests have yielded little new information, the possibility of more miscarriages weighs heavily in our thoughts. Recently we decided that adoption is a possibility. Due to our particular situation, however, it is likely we would go the private route. So being me, I did some online searches and looked at how one would go about this.

Being in a same-sex couple does not appear to be too much of a barrier, per se, in private adoptions. There are plenty of prospective parent profiles and success stories. But it's hard to miss the fact that so many of these couples make explicit mention of the important role of religion in their family. So how conspicuous would it be to omit this? Notice that I'm not even thinking of including 'atheist' or any of its gentler synonyms ('humanist,' 'secular,' and others)--not that I'd be able to lie about this if asked directly.

OK, so that's not as immediate of a concern as the domestic partnerships, so it's a question that I can put on the back burner for now. Not that it will stop me from continuing to ponder how it is that I cannot untangle religion and being gay, even though they do not seem that they should logically overlap so thoroughly.


Aliki2006 said...

Good for you for writing that letter, although I can't believe the yucky coincidence that he's the father of your son's friend--yikes. Still...I'm a firm believer in letters to editors--so many people read them and it's a great place to set people straight.

My father-in-law is gay and in a serious partnered relationship. They also go to a Unitarian church where there are lots of gay couples. He was Unitarian before he came out, so for him he just sees this as part of who he is, with no need to justify his religious beliefs to anyone. He also believes very strongly in his church and their values. I would like to think that what adoption agencies or private couples are looking for would be some type of belief system in the prospective parents--not so much a rigid Christian belief, but some system that helps shape their values (or adds to them).

Mouse said...

I do think it's possible for religion and being gay to co-exist. There are denominations which manage to make room for people to be multi-faceted. The Unitarians, I believe, have generally come out in support of same-sex marriage and have been willing to file amicus briefs in opposition to those denominations which want to say it will be the downfall of civilization.

But you don't need to hear that rant...