Father Tony

Setting Sail on the Gayflower

Filed By Father Tony | December 10, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: gay assimilation, gay culture

Dear Father Tony,

I've been a reader on Bilerico for a few months. I've read previous letters that you have received and posted on the Bilerico website and wondered if I could do the same.

I am a 20 year old gay male, living in Florida. Even though here where I live, there is not much bigotry I read different articles from multiple gay press websites, and I can't help but feel that eventually something is going to happen. I fear that someday, that battle will come here. I know that eventually it's going to happen in all states, but I what is there to do when the National Organization for Marriage and all the anti-gay groups decide to come here? I already feel like NOM has devoted their lives to making sure that all gay couples do not get any kind of happiness, and that upsets me. I talk to my boyfriend about this, he says that they won't win. But I can't shake the feeling that there may be a possibility, due to the number of people that do not support gay marriage, that things will not work out. I said to my boyfriend that I want to move out of this country and live in a place where we can be happy. I know it seems like a big rant or that I think negatively, and apologize. But I can't seem to shake the feeling that this country can't have a wide view of the different people that live in it. What do you think Father Tony? Do you have any suggestions on what you think will happen to this country in the future?

Thank you for reading this,
Michael

Dear Michael,

I think I understand that at which you are getting.

You have a sense of doom. The wagons are circling. The dark clouds speed and gather. War seems inevitable. We will never all be able to get along. Some may tell you to relax and just stay where you are and water your plants and play with your dog, but I wonder if perhaps your instincts are not good ones, and if perhaps the time has come to either fight or to swarm and find a new hive.

In the battle for equality, I have always harked back to the American Revolution. We fought the British as a ragtag band of inspired farmers armed with a deep familiarity with the woods. I have always thought that we should bring the same fortitude and resolve to our fight for gay rights, but let's go back a bit further in American history to that time when a group of English families persecuted for their beliefs left England and sailed for America on the Mayflower. They had decided that things were never going to work out for them in England. They decided to uproot themselves and find a place where they could be themselves. Where they could be free.

Maybe it is time for the gay community to do the same. We have exhausted ourselves trying to fit in, trying to assimilate, trying to live as couples according to the image of American marriage. What have we gained by doing this? Close to nothing other than acceptability as a running gag on many sitcoms.

We are different.

We will never be the same as straight people.

The most we can hope for is a world in which there is room on the sidewalk for all of us, and nobody blinks when someone queer walks by.

Oddly, two opposing things are happening concurrently.

Specifically "gay" markers are evaporating. Gay press, gay literature, gay bookstores, gay appearance, gay lingo, gay ghettoes. It is all being subsumed. We are being drawn into the undertow of pop culture.

And yet, at the same time, we are hated, belittled and reminded that because of our outspoken sexual preferences, we may not be allowed to sit in the front seats of the bus.

What to do? For a while, I was inclined to join those queers who would strike back by becoming inconvenient and disruptive. Now I am inclined to find a Mayflower and establish our own new world to be constantly replenished by the sons and daughters of those who judge us unfairly. (The southern half of Florida would be nice...)

Michael, you wonder if I have a crystal ball. I don't, but in my neck of the woods, I don't feel the oppression so badly because my world is urban and liberal. Perhaps, if I were more severely and daily oppressed, I would be more inclined to pack and leave.

Here is what I think. If we stay the course, within three or four generations, men and women will have achieved fluid sexuality as the norm. There will not be "gay" or "straight". There will only be the moment and its dictates of natural attraction and pleasure. If we become a separate country (Gaymerica?) we will have perfected our "gayness" into a form of "gayosity" or "gayocracy". Either solution will be fine with me, and really, my greatest sadness in life is that I will not live to see either of these possibly wonderful new worlds unless we develop some super-vitamins that will increase the human lifespan.

Meanwhile, I bounce back and forth between Fort Lauderdale and Manhattan where I am equally accepted and reviled because I am above the fray and entirely unfrazzled by these concerns.

You and your boyfriend should spend more time laughing and kissing because it all goes by in the wink of an eye.


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My partner and I live in a small city (pop. 100K) in Texas. Most folks wonder how we can do that, but there's no overt bigotry or problems here. All of our neighbors know us and know about us and have no problems with us. One even has young children and has no problems with us. We live quite a happy life here. Although we don't have the rights we want, we're willing to wait and fight by changing minds. The more everyday folks we can get to know and let them see we're not a threat, the better our chances of getting what we want in the long run.

So live your lives! Get out and meet the neighbors. Give them all baskets of homemade cookies for Christmas. Enjoy!

I set sail on the Gayflower. Though it looked an awful lot like Lufthansa flight LH411 from JFK.

I would have loved to stay behind to fight, even in a modest way. But my partner (who is not an American) and I simply couldn't wait.

Father Tony is right when he likens the situation to religious persecution. For it is from US religious organizations that much of our most deliberate persecution comes.

If we fight, what does victory taste like? If victory is the ability to live your life in peace and freedom, then living outside the USA is one way to achieve victory. For me, it was really the only way. For others, it might not be.


The Florida writer should know that Florida voters and state representatives already did the dirty deed against gays twice. First, there was a law passed by the legislature banning same sex marriage. Then, in November 2008, Proposition 2 was passed, amending the Florida State Constitution to now ban same sex marriage, in case a court were later to find that the earlier law was unconstitutional. I doubt that Maggie Gallagher and NOM will was their gunpowder for the time being in Florida, unless there is a strong movement to repeal Proposition 2.

Dear Drake,

That is why we should all move to southern Florida while Maggie is not looking. Then we can make it our own as the voting majority!

An older-than-middle-aged couple was visiting New York City, and they decided to take a walking tour of Greenwich Village.

But they weren't enjoying themselves because there were too many couples that appeared to them "odd". Many were two men holding hands, and occasionally two women would go by holding hands.

The husband became particularly distressed by a two-man couple that were kissing. "Those guys are disgusting!" he told his wife. "They ought to be shipped off to an island somewhere!"

Just then a young man walked by and overheard the husband. He turned around, snapped his fingers, and quipped, "You're on it, honey!"

Of course, it's an old joke. My point is that if one is looking for a "gay mecca" or even a "gay safe spot" the ones you can find here in America are about the best you can do.

I have friends who are world-traveled --- when they come back from Amsterdam, or Budapest, or Copenhagen, or Berlin, they usually say the foreign city may have been beautiful, but the gay scene there was not the ascension into Homo Heaven that they were hoping for.

You said "and older than middle aged couple" I had to read through the whole thing before I realized you meant a STRAIGHT couple. I mean, like a man and a woman.

Ohhhh.

The most we can hope for is a world in which there is room on the sidewalk for all of us, and nobody blinks when someone queer walks by...

... If we stay the course, within three or four generations, men and women will have achieved fluid sexuality as the norm.

I'm sorry Father Tony, but that is terrible advice.

The "most we can hope for" is equality.

Plus, to suggest "within three or four generations" is so defeatist.

Here is what Michael needs to know:

Each State in America is different in their treatment of LGBT persons or their acceptance of them. The most important data regarding whether or not you are in "friendly" territory, is the percentage of persons in each State that make religion "important." This is not a condemnation of religion, but a very reliable indicator of local attitudes.

65% of Florida residents make religion important, one of the higher percentages, but certainly not Mississippi at 85%. But, there is some good news: Religion is changing, mostly in intensity of belief. Religious people are forming two groups - conservative and progressive. Data indicates that the conservative bunch (the literal interpretation of the Bible) are about one-third of the religious crowd. The other two-thirds have become much more liberal and open-minded. In fact the majority of this group supports your equality.

Our problem as a community is that we have ignored the change in religious intensity and the big divide within denominations - Episcopalians and Lutherans are dividing because of us. This is an opportunity for our community, but we paint all of religion with the same brush. We create the false impression that all of religion is like the right wing conservative nuts. We do this by giving them all of our attention - including on this Blog.

We also have invested almost entirely in a "political solution" to our equality ($2 billion during the last 40 years) and yet there is none.

The only solution is to change the minds of our fellow citizens. The research suggests that we can enroll the support of the two-thirds that are progressive/liberal in their religious beliefs. The problem is, we haven't done anything to enroll them.

So, you have a choice: Pick a State from the list below, or talk to your neighbors, friends, co-workers and even strangers. We can only change minds by sharing ourselves with others and leading them to a better understanding. You also have permission to ignore the one-third that simply won't listen. Look for the other two-thirds. They'll listen and are likely to be supportive.

If we truly want our equality Michael, we will need to create it. I wish Father Tony had encouraged that. Whatever you decide to do, don't let anyone talk you out of your equality and please, don't settle for waiting or expecting someone else to do the work.

Percent of Residents that make Religion Important:

Alabama 82%
Alaska 51%
Arizona 61%
Arkansas 78%
California 57%
Colorado 57%
Connecticut 55%
Delaware 61%
District of Columbia 61%
Florida 65%
Georgia 76%
Hawaii 57%
Idaho 61%
Illinois 64%
Indiana 68%
Iowa 64%
Kansas 70%
Kentucky 74%
Louisiana 78%
Maine 48%
Maryland 65%
Massachusetts 48%
Michigan 64%
Minnesota 64%
Mississippi 85%
Missouri 68%
Montana 56%
Nebraska 67%
Nevada 54%
New Hampshire 46%
New Jersey 60%
New Mexico 66%
New York 56%
North Carolina 76%
North Dakota 68%
Ohio 65%
Oklahoma 75%
Oregon 53%
Pennsylvania 65%
Rhode Island 53%
South Carolina 80%
South Dakota 68%
Tennessee 79%
Texas 74%
Utah 69%
Vermont 42%
Virginia 68%
Washington 52%
West Virginia 71%
Wisconsin 61%
Wyoming 58%

Dear Andrew,
The lines you quote from my response are an assessment, not advice. Are you one of those guys who jump on posts with their own theme in mind and then criticize the writer because he doesn't sing your song? I hope not, but I think so.
Also, you highlight the $2 billion spent dismally, you say we need to notice something: religious intensity, and then you run away after this Hallmarky bromide "Michael, don't let anyone talk you out of your equality." without a specific plan. Do you want him to move where the percentages are lowest? Isn't that rather what we were talking about with the Pilgrims etc?

Also, I do rather think that my talking about a sidewalk on which we might all comfortably walk is a way of saying "equality". Sorry you didn't see that.

I think my suggestion of Michael's choices were made very clear:

"So, you have a choice: Pick a State from the list below, or talk to your neighbors, friends, co-workers and even strangers. We can only change minds by sharing ourselves with others and leading them to a better understanding. You also have permission to ignore the one-third that simply won't listen. Look for the other two-thirds. They'll listen and are likely to be supportive."

You've also suggested 60-80 years, when it appears available today - if we'll do the work. You made it "hopeless," I don't think it is.

I don't seek topics, as you've suggested, and then present my own ideas. I told Michael the truth. He can make his own conclusions about your advice (or lack thereof). I believe he was very sincere and probably expected the same from you.

Andrew, your point is interesting, but the data are only part of a bigger story.
For example, it has been reported several times that states with a higher percentage of Catholic voters more often vote in favor of LGBT rights. The typical Catholic is far more tolerant than the Church clergy and leadership, and Catholics have learned to defy Church authorities for more than a generation on many sexual matters, particularly pre-marital sex, contraception, divorce, and increasingly on homosexuality and same sex marriage.
Also, regarding the idea that one only finds peace by escaping the USA, I wonder what one is escaping? Family? Bigotry? There is alot if bigotry in Europe too, and a huge skinhead community . One can be blissfully ignorant when one does not know the language.

Yes, Catholics are much more liberal than their Faith. Denominations are divided into two groups of believers: Conservative and progressive. Catholics are typically 50/50. The data reflects much of this. You can see this in the difference between New England States and the Southern States. Catholics have had the courage (half of them) to put equality before religion.

The data is from Gallup and Pew, but i have also done some focus group research regarding actual "intensity" of belief.

I would never suggest "escaping," I think we're better off "creating."

Dear Andrew,
I suggest you review Michaels' letter. He didn't ask me for advice. He asked me to look into the future. He was curious about how I might see things unfold. I gave him a sincere answer. Without grandstanding.

Michael asked: "I know that eventually it's going to happen in all states, but what is there to do when the National Organization for Marriage and all the anti-gay groups decide to come here?"

You said: "If we stay the course, within three or four generations [60-80 years], men and women will have achieved fluid sexuality as the norm.

What "course?" Waiting? You suggest our equality is another 60-80 years away. We've already spent more than 50 years, why do we need another 60-80 years? I took exception to that particular hopeless grandstanding.

There is plenty that Michael can be doing in Florida, especially if he doesn't lose hope. Here's hoping some of the "comments" inspire him.

Father Tony, did you really say sexual preferences?

We aren't hated and belittled for our sexual preferences. We're hated for who we are.

Let's not confuse the two.

Dear Travis,
That is an interesting distinction that is ever more in mind.
Earlier this afternoon, on the beach in Fort Lauderdale, I was reading what Edmund White has to say about that very subject in Chapter 12 of his new City Boy. I'm racing through it because I'm eager to write about it.

Also, some would say, and I am tentatively among them, that we are hated/resented because we give ourselves sexual license. We permit ourselves those things which others deny themselves.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | December 10, 2009 9:04 PM

Dear Michael,

As an expat I have advocated Thailand as a place to land particularly if you have "health care issues" involving the care of your partner. For myself I was through debating with doctors about decision making in my partner's interest or my right to them. Thailand is largely devoid of Gay bashing and "katoeys" roam free. But you are 20 not 50 so to come here to reside you need a very marketable skill not available to the Thai economy from a national.

Do you have a skill that will allow you to immigrate? For myself I really did not, but I made the most out of what living in Chicago could bring me after college. I did not live in a "Gay bubble" community, but in the real integrated city. I never had a problem with neighbors, in fact we were sought after to help. Kirk above is very right in value of getting to know a variety of people.

Fr. Tony had a similar letter to yours a few months ago and I weighed in at the end that one should concentrate on a strong, internationally needed, marketable skill that gives you the option to live where and how you desire. There is never too much education. Pile it on as deep as you can. Keep laughing with and kissing your boyfriend, but also remember Fr. Tony was saying that *life itself* goes by in the wink of an eye so don't delay, learn today. Enjoy it while you have it.

It will be interesting to see if the perception holds up that Roman Catholics tend to be less anti-lgbt than other observant fundamentalist Christians. It appears to me that the RC church leadership, starting at the top and continuing down all the way to the parish level is becoming increasingly and aggressively anti-lgbt (the marriage equality issue being a spark-point, but only the most obvious of the issues where the Pope and the Bishops have taken strong political stands and and warned the faithful that the price of disagreement is perdition).

There was good reason to think that Question 1 could be defeated in Maine, but the RC church launched a huge anti-equality campaign, voter turnout in Catholic towns and neighborhoods far exceeded projections and those areas overwhelmingly voted to reject marriage equality.

Catholics are a lot different than their leadership (the Pope). Here's what it looks like in New Jersey:

So here's the latest out of New Jersey, which is stalling on gay marriage, and the faithful: "Despite opposition from the Catholic Church, New Jersey Catholics generally support legalizing gay marriage, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today [with data collected in early November]. Among Catholics, 48 percent support gay marriage, while 40 percent oppose and 12 percent are undecided. Protestants hold the opposite view, with only 34 percent supporting and 55 percent opposing gay marriage; 11 percent are undecided. Jewish respondents support gay marriage, 56 percent to 40 percent, with 4 percent undecided, while those with no religion preference are the most supportive, at 85 percent to only 10 percent opposed (5 percent undecided)."

The poll: http://news.rutgers.edu/medrel/news-releases/2009/12/new-jersey-catholics-20091209
from Rutgers University.

If we stay the course, within three or four generations, men and women will have achieved fluid sexuality as the norm. There will not be "gay" or "straight".
That statement is just plain foolish to think that somehow the culture will change in that manner. And whether you believe it to come about naturally or via some social shift, you've just given ammunition to every homophobe who claims we want to turne thee whole world gay.

The idea that homophibia will ever die away completely is rather foolish also.

If we stay the course, within three or four generations, men and women will have achieved fluid sexuality as the norm. There will not be "gay" or "straight".
That statement is just plain foolish to think that somehow the culture will change in that manner. And whether you believe it to come about naturally or via some social shift, you've just given ammunition to every homophobe who claims we want to turne thee whole world gay.

The idea that homophibia will ever die away completely is rather foolish also.

I'd like to have some list members who live in Canada tell us what their LGBT life is like. If we're going to be guided by history, there's a long history of persecuted USA-ers heading north, from Tory loyalists in the 1770s to the draft resisters of the 1960s. Canadian weather may be rough, but South Florida has its drawbacks, too. As Drake pointed out, Florida voters have embedded anti-gay language into the state constitution (if the LGBT community had been able to muster just a 40 percent vote, that amendment would have been defeated, but Obama chose to stay silent as he blitzed Florida -- but that's another story.) And Florida's politics seem to be drifting farther to the right as the economy decays.

In my opinion, there is no easy answer or response to this posting. Everyone desires to live in an environment where
they are safe, accepted and free from hate or harassment. As a sixty year old Gay male who came out in 1972, I can
only share my own (and my Partner's experience).

I came out while in graduate school and spent two years living in a university town with at that time a sizeable
LBGT presence. From 1973 to 2004, I lived in the Washington DC area. My Partner and I have been together since
1996. During my/our years in the Washington DC area, being LBGT seemed to be a non-issue. We were simply Rick and John.

We both retired and moved to Tucson, Arizona where we experienced four years of pure hate and harassment.
We have simply tired to simply be good members of our community. Sadly, we had individuals who, in my opinion,
instead of looking at themselves found it easier to attack us and take the attention off them. The legal system
did not provide us with any protection. We also consulted with the local LGBT center in Tucson, Wingspan,
for assistance in montoring our situation. Guess since we were simply a LBGT couple over 50; we were ignored.
Realizing that until one of us was killed or physically harmed, nothing would be done. We could no longer live in fear.
Last year we sold our Tucson home and moved to urban area with a large LGBT community in another state.

We have both asked ourselves what we could have down to prevent what happened. Our answer is nothing; there
are individuals who hate. We learned that there are non-Christian in the United States that feel that members of the LGBT community are simply child molesters who should not be permitted to live in the same community as they do.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | December 11, 2009 6:58 PM

And Rick, add in health, insurance, inheritance and elder care issues and you find there is really no where(stateside)for us "privileged, over 50, presumed wealthy to have parity with a hetero couple.

I hope you and your partner keep a lawyer on speed dial for Medicare/hospital time and a registered copy of all powers of attorney, living wills etc. in the trunk of each car you own. I had the experience of being banned from his pre op surgery prep because paperwork had not caught up with a hospital transfer for a heart procedure. Land of the Free.

Now imagine trying to take a cross country driving trip or domestic flight.

Maybe I'm an optimist but I do feel like we are making progress. While we can focus on our losses and be angry that our gains are not enough at the end of the day we are making strides. It is also very clear that the divide we experience is largely an age gap issue not just a religious one.

The conversation should be about civil rights for ALL as our forefathers penned not religious morality as defined by whatever a specific group decides to honor from their book of choice.

Sailing away to greener pastures for equality in my opinion is not the answer. The answer to me is to make sure we have elected government officials that uphold the constitution for all not some. And we can all play a role in making sure that happens both on the federal and state level.

Warren,

Great comment. We have made progress. What's missing is an "end game" for equality. We don't have one. Equal Rights may be our "default" goal, but equality is the real goal. That, exists in the minds of our fellow citizens and it is something we do very little about.

Data on age and religion and their opposition to LGBT issues is almost identical. The older someone is the more likely they are to take religion seriously and be anti-LGBT. Young people are much more open-minded.

I'm just curious, Father TOny, on a personal level.

What you speak about deals in queer nationalism, a subject I looked at closely a while back and have some, um, unique ideas about.

The limitation to queer nationalism, however,, is that we have to find a place to go to.

And they are sorta rare of late, lol.

Since we can't even get people to run for office now, how would we expect them to do so, so we can create a governance system that appeals to the majority of the whole thing, and, secondly, are you suggestion a singular location or multiples, in that it would be a gay men's place, a lesbian place, a bi place, and a trans place, etc. ?

Toni

Dear Dyss,
I just wanted to raise the option for discussion. Some find the idea repugnant. Some think it is the only solution. Some say that eventually, gay men will have their own "island". Gay women will have theirs. Trans folks will have theirs, etc. What do you think? Are we one family, or not?

I think its the same sort of segregationist idea that our opponents seek to literally foist on us, and that its an exceptionally impractical solution to the problem, given that LGBT children are literally impossible to tell apart from each other, and not that different from other kids.

But it is quite appealing, on am emotional level, because it brings with it the illusion that we would not have to deal with the outside world, and be able to create a utopia of sorts.

And I say this coming from a faith where a long term goal of many of the ever shrinking population is to literally build an island and sail out.

It's quite possible to do, but there are many issues that surround it, chief among them being...

... is it a good idea?