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The New York Times reports that anti-bullying programs are already under fire from opponents who fear our wee children will catch The Gay if teachers present LGBT folks as, well, fellow human beings:

Some districts, especially in larger cities, have adopted tolerance lessons with minimal dissent. But in suburban districts in California, Illinois and Minnesota, as well as here in Helena [Montana], the programs have unleashed fierce opposition.

“Of course we’re all against bullying,” Mr. DeMato, one of numerous pastors who opposed the plan, said in an interview. “But the Bible says very clearly that homosexuality is wrong, and Christians don’t want the schools to teach subjects that are repulsive to their values.”

The divided Helena school board, after four months of turmoil, recently adopted a revised plan for teaching about health, sex and diversity. Much of the explicit language about sexuality and gay families was removed or replaced with vague phrases, like a call for young children to “understand that family structures differ.” The superintendent who has ardently pushed the new curriculum, Bruce K. Messinger, agreed to let parents remove their children from lessons they find objectionable.

(Read it all here.)

Message sent: We’re all against bullying, except when it comes to kids who are gay, or might be gay, or dress up as Daphne on Halloween even though they’re male. (If that last story doesn’t ring a bell, follow the link, stat!)

Opponents of bullying-prevention spew predictable condemnations of people who have “chosen the gay lifestyle.” I know a few lesbian parents in my town, and believe me, they are leading the “mom lifestyle.” Yes, it can be twisted, but they have chosen it! We see each other at music lessons and soccer. When it comes to carpools and practices, though, there’s not a heap of “choice” involved. (So sorry to disappoint the homophobes). Non-hetero moms and dad are supervising homework  just as painfully as the rest of us parents.

So go right ahead, you sanctimonious Christianists. Let us who’ve chosen the “mom lifestyle” hear just how depraved we are – just how repulsive! We can take it.

Just leave our beloved children out of it. My elder son’s favorite color was purple up until about second grade. I don’t think either of my kids are actually gay, but if they were – so what? So fucking what?

No kid deserves bullying, period. As long as wingnuts and ignoramuses act like gayness is a communicable disease and marriage equality is the death-knell of Western Civilization, kids who step outside the norm will continue to be bullied. Some will despair. Some will take their lives in their despair.

What kind of “family values” justify the lethal bullying of children? (Maybe Jerry Falwell will reach out from his grave and enlighten us?)

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And she knows where your other hand is, of course.

I’m a little late to the snarkfest. I’ve been toying with – oh, playing with! – a post on how hard it must be for a politician like O’Donnell to glad-hand a crowd, knowing where their hands have been. I’ve been flashing back to the precious scene in The Education of Shelby Knox where the youth pastor earnestly tells the very young Shelby that you can catch HPV from just a handshake. But I just can’t find the right way to approach that post without sounding like, well, a wanker.

Worse yet, I nowthink the snark might be a bit premature. Andrew Sullivan explains how O’Donnell’s anti-masturbation campaign isn’t an outlier, but integral to a much larger theoconservative project.

O’Donnell’s stance against masturbation is related to the new natural law that is central to the theoconservative project that Douthat endorses and believes in (and that is at the core of the Republican party base). It is rooted in the notion that any sex that is not self-giving in a lifelong marital bond between a man and a woman is destructive of the human soul and also of the community at large. (See “The Theoconservative Project” chapter in The Conservative Soul for a longer treatment of this.) And theocons are not classical liberals – they see all this as interwoven with society at large and central to what the Pope sees as modernity’s core sexual and spiritual problems.

They do not believe that masturbation can be a truly private act, no more than gay sex or homosexual relationships can be. The way in which jerking off divorces sex from procreation and marriage is as repugnant to them as is same-sex marriage and for the same reasons. O’Donnell, in other words, believes that masturbating has social ramifications, because it reduces sexuality to what used to be called self-abuse, and this itself corrupts society as a whole and weakens the family. This is exactly and explicitly the same rationale for the thoecon refusal to acknowledge gay relationships, their opposition to contraception and pornography, and, in part, to abortion.

(Read the rest here.)

Now the good side of this is that when the theocon agenda is exposed, most Americans recoil from it. My mom (who’s a sort of mushy liberal and a devout Presbyterian) says that O’Donnell is a nut and she’s doomed to fail. Mom hangs out with a lot of nice older ladies who are probably a pretty accurate political barometer. If she’s right, then the Dems get to keep Joe Biden’s seat. Sure, Mom’s just one data point, but Nate Silver agrees.

So let’s say O’Donnell goes down in flames. The theocon agenda won’t spontaneously combust along with her. It has leaders who are less obvious than O’Donnell or Sharon Angle. They may not be what I’d call nuanced, but at least they haven’t been blathering out loud about the evils of self-abuse. Some of them will win. Gradually, they’re becoming part of the “normal” U.S. political scene. Every theocon who wins a primary emboldens the Tea Party and lends new legitimacy to the fundamentalist oppression of women and LGBT people. (Yes, I realize that not every Tea Partier is a theocon, but there’s a substantial electoral overlap.)

I’m afraid that after November 2, we won’t be clapping at all. Okay, that frees up our hands for other things. Cold comfort, indeed.

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Clarissa posted this on her blog a few days ago, and I just loved it. I don’t quite think I can use it in my religion and sexuality class (it’s a bit too flippant) but I may yet change my mind.

In the meantime, enjoy some theologically accurate apostasy! Oh, wouldn’t NOM just love to teleport us all back to the Old Testament?

(Click here if you can’t see the video.)

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The prospect of marriage equality raises basic questions of what marriage is, how it came to be that way, and how it’s evolving. Here’s how Judge Vaughn Walker addressed those questions in his smackdown of Proposition 8:

The right to marry has been historically and remains the right to choose a spouse and, with mutual consent, join together and form a household. Race and gender restrictions shaped marriage during eras of race and gender inequality, but such restrictions were never part of the historical core of the institution of marriage. Today, gender is not relevant to the state in determining spouses’ obligations to each other and to their dependents. Relative gender composition aside, same-sex couples are situated identically to opposite-sex couples in terms of their ability to perform the rights and obligations of marriage under California law. Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals.

(From Perry v. Schwarzenegger, via Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish; the whole decision is here, in pdf format)

It’s a marvelous vision of marriage as degendered – one I’m happy to sign onto. But he harks back to a history of marriage that never existed. If we rely on a rosy view of the past, it’s gonna be harder to move into the future.

Once marriage equality is achieved as a constitutional right, then, yes, gender will no longer form “an essential part of marriage” – but we’re not there yet. We are still groaning under the yoke of history. And throughout history, at least since the dawn of agriculture and civilization, marriage has been saturated with gender inequality. Indeed, marriage was unthinkable outside of gender inequality, and one of its primary purposes was to preserve a gendered hierarchy. (I’ll leave aside racism, because “race” is a relatively modern invention; suffice it to say that membership in tribes, religions, nations, and various other in- and out-groups has never been irrelevant to marriage.)

From its outset, marriage was a thoroughly patriarchal institution. It raose along with civilization to assure men that their children were, in fact, their heirs – and not the progeny of another man. The only way to guarantee this was to control women’s sexuality. And that control spread into every facet of respectable women’s lives. (The disreputable could be prostitutes or concubines. They, too, remained subject to male power, just in a different key.)

Love, of course, was beside the point. Consider the good ole days in ancient Assyria. Men could sell their wives (and children) into slavery, or pawn them in cases of debt. Husbands could legally kill their wives under certain circumstances. A daughter’s virginity had considerable monetary worth. Men could have sex with concubines with impunity, while women who committed adultery faced the death penalty. The woman’s illicit partner risked the same fate, but don’t mistake this for gender equality; it just nailed down the principle that a respectable woman’s sexuality always belonged to a man, whether her husband or father. It also signals that not all men wielded equal power under early patriarchy. As in today’s fundamentalist Mormon sects, lower-status men could be excluded from power and possession. Patriarchy was a sweet deal for the patriarchs – the high-status, property-owning men. It sucked for everyone else.

Christianity and Islam both initially enhanced women’s status, but neither made marriage egalitarian. Christian women were allowed to choose sacred virginity over marriage, but the woman who chose to marry was still subject to her husband’s rule. Islam reduced the number of wives to four – which was an improvement over the massive harems that rich men held in the Prophet’s day. However, like Christianity, Islam proclaimed men the head of the household.

Even a century ago in the U.S., most women had little choice but to marry for economic survival. Legally and economically, most found it difficult to leave a bad marriage before the 1970s. The concept of rape within marriage was unrecognized forty years ago. Companionate marriage – the practice of marrying for love and friendship – only took firm hold in post-WWII America. The new ideal didn’t erase millennia of patriarchy, but love started to undermine the notion of the husband as head of the household. So did the nascent feminist movement of the 1960s. Both love and feminism required that a husband view his wife as his equal, not as an object.

So far, love and feminism haven’t been quite enough to revolutionize marriage. Some men – and not a few women – remain deeply invested in patriarchal arrangements. For instance, Sam Schulman at the Christian Science Monitor knows exactly what marriage is for: “protecting” women’s sexuality:

Among the many different versions of marriage in human history, very few of them have supplied the high-minded qualities [intimacy, inclusion, etc.] that the plaintiffs feel is their right. The vast majority of marriages in the past, perhaps a majority even now, were dictated by families, clans, holy men or magicians, and enforced on the bride and groom by social pressure, enforced if necessary with brutality and violence.

True, many marriages promote loving intimacy and enduring fidelity, but that’s an outcome of the relationship itself – not the raison d’etre for the institution. In primordial terms, marriage only exists at all – in all of its permutations, pleasant or barbaric – because of the nature of human heterosexuality. As a species, we need to protect female sexuality in order to assure ourselves of a future.

Marriage is a necessary defense of a woman’s sexuality and her human liberty from determined assault by men who would turn her into a slave, a concubine – something less than fully human. Human communities need to give women some additional degree of protection – through law, custom, religious decree, or sacrament – generally some combination of all three, neatly summarized by the plaintiffs, who demanded the sacred and the eternal from the state of California.

Of course, marriage’s power to protect women is far from perfect, but no human institution is. Parents, too, sometimes do awful things to their children. …

Heterosexual relationships need marriage because of inferiority: the physical inferiority of sexual defenders to sexual attackers and the moral inferiority of male sexual attackers

Marriage is not about couples or lovers – it’s about the physical and moral integrity of women. When a woman’s sexuality is involved, human communities must deal with a malign force that an individual woman and her family cannot control or protect.

Modern marriage is only the least worst version of marriage that has emerged from all this – but it is still necessary for women. What protects women, ultimately, is that marriage laws and customs confer upon her independence something extra – dignity, protection, sacredness – that others must respect. And if this quality can be bestowed upon anyone, even those not in intersexual relationships – it reduces, even dissolves its force.

(The rest of the trainwreck is here. Via Melissa McEwan of Shakesville.)

What’s another word for “protect”? Yup: C-O-N-T-R-O-L.

The rest of Schulman’s argument is simply incoherent. So women’s sexuality needs protection, and marriage will do the trick? Um … protection from what, exactly? Schulman never spells out the nature of the threat. Let’s assume it’s not mere slut-shaming but outright rape. How, precisely, can a husband protect his wife from being raped? Are husbands to accompany their wives everywhere, Uzi in hand? How do we explain rapists’ propensity for targeting both single and married women willy-nilly? Does my wedding ring function as kryptonite, cleverly disguised as bling?

As if he (and we) weren’t already hopelessly confused, Schulman also states that an individual family cannot adequately protect women from “a malign force.” How, then, is marriage supposed to protect women at all? It’s not as though the whole community encircles the houses of married ladies while throwing the single gals to the wolves.

Then there’s Schulman’s odd obsession with dignity. Why would marriage bestow dignity on women (but not men)? Could it just possibly have something to do with women being presumptively sluts if they’re not married? (That’s the point where I became pretty sure that Schulman wasn’t about to shield women from slut-shaming.) Why is my dignity as a married woman incompatible with the dignity of men and LGBT people? Aren’t they threatened by violence, too?

And sacredness, for pete’s sake! Why is this only accessible to heterosexual women? Why link sacredness to marriage, rather than that historically venerated state – motherhood – unless it’s assumed that all wives will automatically be mothers, too? (Note: I’m not arguing for motherhood as sacred. I’m just pointing out a likely elision in Schulman’s worldview.) And how do I get my chunk of sacredness, given that I only go to church on Christmas Eve?

Bizarrely, Schulman seems to be pining for old fashioned patriarchy, minus the polygamy, plus a little bit of feel-good “dignity.” That particular combination was born in the ashes of WWII and expired between 1963 and 1967. It’s not our world. As Amanda Marcotte points out at Pandagon, these days “we allow single women to live alone and they don’t slip into concubinage …”

Schulman can only picture (respectable) women as sexual victims or saints; he can’t imagine autonomous female sexuality. No word from him, either, on how patriarchal marriage has always co-existed like pigs in the mud with prostitution and/or concubinage. In fact, maintaining “respectable” women along with male sexual license logically requires prostitution.

Schulman got one thing right. Since the advent of civilization, marriage has been “enforced” by “brutality and violence.” The past forty years are a ginormous anomaly in the history of marriage. So we really can’t look for a usable history of marriage rooted in tradition. All we’ll find, instead, is a long trail of cautionary messages.

The only usable history is one that starts in the nineteenth century, tracing the evolution of marriage away from its patriarchal roots and toward equality of both partners. Linda McClain at Feminist Law Professors explains how the testimony of Nancy Cott – a renowned historian of marriage and gender roles – helped shape the Perry v. Schwarzenegger ruling:

Aided by expert testimony of historian Nancy Cott, Judge Walker carefully reviews how marriage laws used to mandate different roles for men and women and how California, like other states, has abolished all such restrictions EXCEPT the one requiring that civil marriage be the union of one man and one woman. This provides a powerful line of argument because the U.S. Supreme Court has previously struck down laws rooted in gender role stereotypes rather than ‘real’ differences between the sexes. And it has made clear (for example, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey) that coverture and other gendered rules of marriage do not reflect contemporary understandings of the federal constitution, the family, or of the rights of women and men.

Judge Walker further concludes that appeals to ‘tradition’ alone cannot justify the continued application of this different genders rule. This is a potentially powerful argument since, as his opinion points out, both bars on interracial marriage and fixed gender roles in marriage were defended at the time as central to marriage and yet were also repudiated as inconsistent with evolving understandings of marriage.

(Her whole post is here.)

Exactly. Coverture is dead; women now remain legal persons even after they marriage. (So take that, Sam Schulman!) We live in a world where gender roles are fluid in hetero marriage – where men change diapers and women frequently outearn their husbands.

Granting marriage equality indeed threatens traditional marriage. It undermines husbands’ patriarchal right to lord it over wives and children. It delegitimizes the control of women’s sexual and reproductive lives. Those changes won’t hurt my marriage one bit, but they sure pose a challenge to the guy who thinks he ought to be able to hit his wife as long as he’s the primary breadwinner.

We are not returning to some pure, unsullied history of gender equality. That history never existed. What we’re really doing is moving forward into a new era where marriage will cease to be a tool of oppression. This is a revolution.

No wonder some folks are nervous. To them, I would say: We are about to make history. Dare enough – trust enough – to relinquish control, embrace love, and see how much richer our lives will be when, as Judge Walker writes, “marriage under law is a union of equals.” Dare enough – trust enough – to help make history.

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Here’s hoping for the day when we’ll all have an equal chance to marry …

(From ICHC?)

… and to love, in spite of the odds.

(From ICHC?)

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Via Andrew Sullivan: A new study finds that the crucial swing group who decided to vote for Prop 8 wasn’t African Americans; it was composed mainly of white parents of young children. Their fear, stoked by TV ads? That their kids would come home from school having learned that they could marry a person of the same sex.

And now Prop 8 has been struck down. The Bear (aged 10 1/2, with occasional excursions to toddlerhood and middle age) already regards marriage equality as a no-brainer. The Tiger, at 7, was less clear on the issue. We talked about it in the airport right as the news of Judge Walker’s verdict hit CNN. His main concern: could he have another piece of candy?

The Prop 8 legacy thus led directly to the Tiger learning that boys will be allowed to marry boys.

I would like to thank the Mormon Church, all the other major Prop 8 donors, Maggie Gallagher, and NOM for underwriting one of my better moments in parenting.

Update 2:30 p.m., 8/7/10: In case you were wondering what that fear campaign looked like, in fall 2008 I posted on an ad that warned about schools teaching kids that a princess can marry a princess.

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So I just flew back from Germany with my family, and what’s the first thing I see at the screens at JFK? Not my connecting flight – lordy, we’d missed that already, because JFK is still JFK, and it is dysfunction beyond any mere family dynamic. No, the tube is tuned to CNN, and Prop. 8 has just been relegated to the history books. Wahoo! I’ve been a loud cheerleader for the “equal-protection” argument all along, even before Olsen and Boies bet the house on it. From what I gleaned, it sounds as though “equality” carried the day. I’ll know more about the judge’s reasoning tomorrow, I guess, when I’m a bit less stunned from jet lag and oxygen deprivation.

We also got an impromptu lesson on how to drive an airport shuttle bus. Because Delta had mucked with our flight times without telling us, then parked us on the tarmac for a good half hour before finding a gate, then sliced more of our connection time by unloading baggage as if it were my grandma’s porcelain (one piece at a time, almost prissily), and then vetoed any chance of catching our original flight by sending us to wait for an inter-terminal train that was broken. It only went one way. The wrong way.

Hey, JFK has improved since our last sojourn there: the one with flood, tornadoes, and threats of arresting my darling husband.

So yeah, the shuttle. We rebooked for the last flight out of the day, and then got on this “shuttle,” where the driver needed to be instructed on how to put it into reverse, how to stay under 10 mph – no, really, UNDER 10 MPH! – and here’s where you have to make sure no plane is crossing your path, and here, and here – it was like watching an astronaut getting his first training, except you’re in the space capsule with him, and you’re positive you’re about to crash with the people you love best, plus their stuffed animals. None of the seats have belts. There are only four seats. I keep hectoring the Tiger to hang on (FER FUCK’S SAKE! …well, that part was conveyed by my tone). The newbie’s teacher said, at one point, “Just like driving in New York.” Fuck yeah. I’ve driven in New York. I wasn’t ready for primetime, but this gal wasn’t even in line for the late-late show. Also, she didn’t have my 16-year-old blonde sister to dangle out the window as a peace offering for a scary traffic move. This was the real thing, weaving in and out of 767s and more.

The shuttle adventure was awesome simply because we lived to tell the tale. Also, the other family riding it had two children who clearly intend to grow up to be Dora and Diego (from Nickelodeon, aka Dora the Explorer). The Tiger righteously complained about their decibels. Might he be inching toward his own genuine appreciation for an “indoor voice”?

More delays, this time presided over by an Asian-American flight attendant who keeps us down to three minutes tops outside the confines of our seatbelt. People turbo-pee, then wait out the end of the flight, wondering if said flight attendant might earn more money for less bother as a dominatrix. (Okay, I admit it: I am the wench wondering that.)

We finally land in Columbus at 10:30, just before our car rental agency is about to close. As I grab my gate-checked bag, I note that it has grown a new strap that seemingly sprouts from the top of it. I ponder whether this could be a trunk, and if so, might my carryon be morphing full-blown into an elephant? If so, how should I expect it to change in the days ahead? (Note that hallucinations have already seized center stage in my perception.) Then I notice the Emirates tags on the faux-Sungold luggage. Oops, someone grabbed the wrong red bag. My sweetheart husband sprinted toward the baggage carousel. By pure coincidence, I spotted and waylaid the lovely and apologetic perp as she left the ladies’ room. My computer cord was in there, so if it had scampered away, I wouldn’t be writing this now. But hey, full disclosure: A couple years ago, I was the woman who took off with someeone else’s crimson carryon, certain no one else had a matching color. I’m pretty sure I was less gracious, more doofus-y, and just plain panicked.

From Columbus, my beloved drove back from the airport in spires, gyres, and forks of lighting that backlit the night sky green-violet-grey. At times you didn’t need headlights at all. We found an all-Grateful-Dead, all-the-time station on Sirius radio. (Why do I not have this in my daily life?) It was the best Dead light show, ever. But then again, I didn’t have to drive. All that was missing was China Cat, Black Peter, and Terrapin Station. I love my husband a little extra for taking on the responsibility and letting me enjoy the storm – a pleasure that echoes back to my dad, and to his mother before him.

Oh, and we got a whiff of skunk as we inched through the Hocking Hills. Just to remind me that this is home. (I think the skunkish message for my husband is a whole lot more contradictory: home/not-home/fascinating-weird. But he likes it!)

And now I’m back in our beloved house, feeling melancholy about places and friends left behind in Berlin. I’ll reintegrate in the next day or two. Transitions like this are always beastly for me. But as the Dead remind me again and again, transitions – those unbounded, undefined spaces between the songs, even the very gaps between the notes (focus on Jerry and Phil to see what I mean) – are the wellspring of creativity and innovation and surprise and ineffable beauty. Coward that I am, I shouldn’t shrink from transitions just because they exact massive housework (like moving house, really) and overtired children (who were both champs).

In the meantime, until I can fully appreciate transitions and the Prop 8 victory, I drink a marbiggie (aka a slightly oversized martini), applaud the Prop 8 decision, and lay me down to rest.

(Go here if the clip doesn’t deliver Jerry to you.)

Update 8/6/2010: I fixed a few typos. I’m sure there are more. Writing on jetlag and lightning intoxication is a sure recipe for fingers running amok on the keyboard.

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