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Amy can't marry Sonia, I can't marry Terry--why? Because the sanctity of marriage must be protected from the queers! But Amy and I can get a marriage license--and into a sham marriage, if we care to, a joke marriage, one that I promise you won't produce children. And we can do this with the state's blessing--why? Because one of us is a man and one of us is a woman. Who cares that one of us is a gay man and one of us is a lesbian? So marriage is to be protected from the homos--unless the homos marry each other.
~ Dan Savage
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THE EWWWW FACTOR
15 March 2004
I went to review a show at the Sacramento Theatre Company last night. Its a musical called "Convenience," by Gregg Coffin and is the story of a mother and son who each have a secret they have to tell the other, before they can move forward in their lives.
The mothers secret is that shes fallen in love with a man and wants to marry. The sons secret is that hes fallen in love with a man and wants to move in with him.
Its a delightful gem of a show that has humor and pathos and leaves you with tears running down your cheeks as you stand to give the performers the obligatory (and in this case earned) standing ovation.
Our seats were near the back of the theatre and I was sitting next to an African American man and his Caucasian (?wife ?friend ?partner).
While the show is primarily about the relationship between the son and the mother, the two do interact with their respective partners and there are three points in the show where the son and his partner kiss each other--a little peck--or hug each other.
Each time the two men touched, the man sitting next to me gave an audible groan of disgust.
I thought about that a lot driving home after the show.
I think a lot of the prejudice against gay relationships comes from the "Ewwwww factor." Many people hear "gay" and immediately imagine physical activity (setting aside emotional connections--'cause we all knows queers aren't capable of love, right?) that they themselves find distasteful, unimaginable, and, ultimately.... "abominable."
Look at any crowd demonstrating against any gay "thing," whether it be a commitment ceremony, a gay pride march, or something like the funeral of someone who has died of AIDS. Invariably youll find a sign depicting two men engaging in anal sex (certainly something those good Christian demonstrators want nearby children to see depicted so blatantly, right?)
The thing that struck me about this African American man expressing his disgust with simple, innocent, non-prurient affection between two men on stage was that I remember vividly the first time I saw two people of different races being affectionate with one another. I had just come out the door of my predominately white high school (we had 6 African Americans in the entire school) and there on the corner was a black man kissing a white woman.
To this day I remember and am embarrassed to admit this feeling nauseated at the thought. It was nothing I could ever imagine myself doing and so the thought of anybody else doing it nauseated me.
That was a very long time ago and I lived in a culture where such things just were never seen, so the unexpected sight struck me forcibly and my initial reaction was "the ewwww factor."
Of course in the intervening years, our society -- or most of it -- has come to accept love, affection, and relationships between races as commonplace. We think nothing of seeing a mixed race couple these days. It is no longer something strange to us. It has become part of our cultural norm. This gentleman and his partner were living proof of that.
We havent reached that point with gay relationships. Society at large still suffers from "the ewwww factor." The gentleman to my left obviously could not envision himself attracted to another man and so his instinctive reaction was go go "ewwww" (audibly, I might add. Grrr...I do hate people who talk out loud in a theatre!)
(Funny how people dont seem to have any problem at all with the sight of all those mafiosi kissing and hugging each other on The Sopranos. My god, you never saw such public man-on-man affection. Yet because they are all straight, the "ewww factor" doesn't come into play. The sight of these men kissing each other is OK because in our minds, there is no possibility of it escalating into anything else. Its the mental fantasy that gives us the "ewwww factor," then, not merely the sight of two men kissing each other.)
While I grew up with gay people around me, it wasnt always easy for me to feel comfortable being around people of the same gender who were affectionate with each other. When I went to work for The Lamplighters, and realized that this was something I was going to encounter every day, I made it a point to sit and watch men holding hands, or giving each other a kiss. I wanted to get used to the sight.
It quickly became something ordinary, much like mixed race couples. I had gotten past the "ewww factor." The people around me were simply people who were attracted to other people and who did what people who are attracted to each other do.
What a lot of straight people dont realize is that this isnt like a virus. You cant catch it just by being around someone who is gay. I sometimes think that men especially, since their reactions are often so primal and so violent, fear that somehow being around a gay man is a threat to their own masculinity.
I have asked people--if it were the norm to be gay and you were told that you had to suppress your attractions for someone of the opposite sex and enter a gay relationship to conform--could you do it? Could you just forget that you ever had attractions for someone of the opposite gender and redirect those feelings for someone of the same gender? I dont think so.
The "sanctity" of marriage was demonstrated this week in Seattle when the clerks issued a marriage license to a gay man and a lesbian, who showed up at the courthouse with their partners and asked for a license. They refused to give a license to the two partners, but when the gay man (columnist Dan Savage) asked if they would issue a license for him and the lesbian to marry, even though they had same gender partners, did not intend to live together, did not intend to have children, and intended to continue having intimate relations with their same gender partners, the city willingly issued them a license.
Is this the sanctity President Bush wants to protect?
But at least a license with the name of a woman and that of a man on it does not invoke any mental images that might bring up the ewww factor, so no matter how frivolous it may be, people are apparently all for it.
PHOTOs OF THE DAY
(photos from The San Francisco Chronicle -- check out the whole collection)
Weight Lost to date:
(yes really--didn't change this week...)