Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Supreme Court, the Opposition, and the Gay Marriage Law

We have to talk about the Supreme Court decision making it a Constitutional right for gays and lesbians to marry in the United States of America. Less than 50 years ago the psychiatric community pathologized same-sex attraction, deemed it a disorder with a real DSM II code. That didn't last long.

Reporting the news, in the same breath, journalists quoted various self-identified groups of conservatives opposed to the decision. Googling "opposition to gay marriage," I found page after page after page of groups and individuals dead set against the right of same-sexed couples to marry. Many, if not most, because of a Bible prohibition.

Being one of a bible thumping tribe, the bible being the Torah, thank you, Orthodox the persuasion,
this booming opposition is a concern. There are so many commandments, and it is ridiculously difficult to keep the entire Torah, although that is the goal. (No idea what it means, by the way, to be Ultra-orthodox. Orthodox implies strict observance of Jewish law, or halach. All stripes of orthodox believe that Moses, a servant of the Old Mighty, passed the law along to the Jewish people. They were the only people who would take it, and they had to because God held a mountain over their heads, made them an offer they could not refuse.)

We could talk about all that for hours, but since it was 3500 years ago, and Moses isn't around to verify, we can only assume that he wouldn't lie to that crowd of three million who heard the Ten Commandments, ala Cecil B DeMille, as hail, fire, thunder, and lightning pounded them senseless, along with trumpet blasts, let's not forget, until they cried, "Stop! Tell it all to Moshe (Moses). We trust him. This fireworks display is too much!"

So God did just that, told it all to Moshe, and Moshe told it to those three million, who told it over to their children, who told it over to their children, who told their children, ad sterpes, until this very day.

And yes, we are still telling our children. And it is easy, because it is all written down, and sure enough, in one of the chapters there is a passage forbidding men from lying with other men. And that is why so many Judeo-Christian folks are still confused and intolerant of homosexuality. That is why there are so many opposition groups.

So, the strangest thing happened on my way to getting a PhD. I had asked for and been granted a year's leave of absence following the dreaded first-year comps. My family had a five-year plan to live and study holy things in Israel well before my decision to go back to school. Permission granted, the dean reneged about it being a year off. He wanted me to hook up with a social science professor as a research associate. That wasn't easy, but it happened, and I studied with one of the very best in Israel.

At the end of the year, packing to return home, stacks of academic articles about homosexuality made their way into my suitcases. All that literature, no matter what else might have been in the cards for me, determined my dissertation topic.  I just had to figure out how to make it something that would keep my interest in the coming years.

Being a family therapist, exploring variables in the parental acceptance of gays and lesbians did the trick. Now all I had to do was round up about 60 parents, interview and test them, and I'd be on my way to a PhD.

In 1998 most universities had not made the leap to allow researchers to look to the Internet to find subjects for study. It took some explaining at the time. At the end of the red tape (at a major mid-west state university), the Internet sample of parents most desirous to participate happened to be religious. Christians, many of them, had joined a movement called PFOX, Parents and Friends of Ex-gays, an arm of Project Exodus. Meeting together and talking about their issues, they came to the realization that hitting their kids over the head with theology wasn't working. Better to quit fighting, love them as is, and maybe someday they would give up on the lifestyle. Return to God.

PFOX is no longer around, except perhaps as a fringe group, but the entire Exodus movement, leave the lifestyle, come back to God, petered out, probably because the therapists who supported them had promised parents they could convert their children to heterosexuals (when they were ready) and couldn't. The practice of conversion therapies is and was at the time, unethical. Indeed, the major mental health organizations have all issued statements to that effect. Subjects endured shaming and humiliation from such therapies, treatments that undermined self-esteem and mental health in too many ways to count.

Meanwhile, before that hit the fan, I had managed to interview thirty-five parents who had participated in Exodus support groups. They described their own personal horrific emotional travels beginning when their child came out, or with the realization that their son or daughter would not be bringing home an opposite sex partner, this a traumatic experience for most. All dreams of grandchildren (this was fifteen years ago) dashed. Parents talked about their grief process and how they ultimately came around to accepting partners and friends, having barbeques and picnics in the kill them with love, or hate the sin, love the sinner world view. They stopped fighting, started loving, all the while hoping that their acceptance and love might change their child's predilection.

God can do anything. Let go, let God. So many of us believe this. They defaulted to love is the answer.

But nobody talked about marriage.

I heard their stories, fascinated. The rest of my sample came from the other camp, PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians, and random people who saw fliers or had heard about the study. They, too, had difficulty initially, but never thought things would change with a loving, accepting relationship. They accepted with more of a grin and bear it, This is my kid, I love my kid. Often one parent accepted. Another did not.

And now? Now that it is a right to marry? Which parents will be going to the weddings? My guess is that most parents will go, but it will depend upon so many variables, like social support and willingness to differentiate as a marital team. One parent might go, the other stay home. People will do whatever works.

And those who object, but don't want to lose their child, might be telling like-minded friends that it takes a lot to make a marriage work. The divorce rate is above fifty percent. The odds are against them. Getting married and staying married are entirely different matters.

Maybe some will even add, "But if these kids can make it work, more power to them."



Grace-WorkinProgress said...

I love that time marches on and with each generation what polorized us once gets left behind. When the first ______ isn't even mentioned. This is when there is real progress when there is nothing to talk about.

My thought today is where will we be without the fight. Acceptance and peace is boring and takes some getting use to. We say we want peace but with peace there is no opposition to cling to no soap box to stand on.

It scares people to not be able to see clear black and white. To know you are right makes life seem safer. It is all gray and that is why we must live and let live. Like it or not.

therapydoc said...

Grace, so true. That the court's decision is so close, 5-4 tells us the controversy will rage on. The opinions are worth reading.

Portland counselor said...

Your overview of your own experience working with the different factions of the lgbt debate reveals an inherent dynamic of rigidities yielding to love. I am reminded of a translation of Schiller's poem set to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony... "Joy... Thy magic reunites what custom has sternly parted." Followed of course by, "All men become brothers beneath thy gentle hovering wings."

therapydoc said...

Lovely, thank you.

Better Things-- Seeing Ghosts