Friday, November 7, 2008

More... On No on 8

I need to tell a very personal story here. I received several responses to my entry a couple of days ago about my dismay at the passage of Proposition 8, one of them from a proponent of the initiative who asserted that "Gays are living a lifestyle which is contrary to nature." (A nice referral from Cardozo, by the way, by way of rebuttal: same-sex sexual activity is, um, "natural"!) To support his point, the correspondent from Lion's Share told his story: "I remember back in junior high, changing in the locker room with a bunch of other guys, and I had certain feelings towards a few of them. Did that mean I was gay? NO! It meant that I was going through a change that I needed to sort out, and left to myself, I did." His suggestion was that, had a teacher spoken an approving word or two--or had he acted on his feelings--he might have embraced homosexuality for the rest of his life.

Okay. Now I'd like him to hear MY story. Like many other boys of my generation growing up in England during and after World War II, I was sent to a boys' boarding school. Two of them, as a matter of fact. At the first, ages six to twelve, I was molested by a pederast teacher. From age twelve on, when I was going through those necessary adolescent awakenings to which Lion's Share alludes, I was surrounded exclusively by boys. We all have our share of early sexual experiences. Lion's Share apparently had his own in the locker room at junior high. Let him imagine living in that locker room for his entire teenage. He might, then, as I did, have succumbed to the "natural" hormonal drives and found outlet for them with the only living human flesh within reach: other boys. And of course we attach emotions to our physical needs and contacts. For a teenager, that's what we call puppy love.

In short, after twelve years of boarding school education, I was convinced, by age eighteen, that I could love only other members of my own sex. I had become, it might have seemed, Lion's Share's worst nightmare--a boy conditioned by his environment to become a lifetime subscriber to the dreaded "gay lifestyle"! And then... and then: leaving school for the last time as my eighteenth birthday approached--miracle of miracles! My parents arrived to pick me up from school with a French au pair girl in the car with them, planning to drive her back after a stay in England to the home of her own parents in Paris...

Do you believe in love at first sight? I fell in love with that French girl before I was even a mile from the place of my long confinement. I pined after her passionately and with inordinate sexual desire--I regret to report that the love was unrequited: that was to come later--for two years, before the distance between Paris, where she lived, and Cambridge, where I was rapidly falling in love with a succession of other girls, took its toll.

All this to assure Lion's Share that, despite his fears, in this one living-proof instance at least, no teacher's approval or disapproval could have changed the course of "nature." I am what I am, and am glad to have come to that acceptance of myself. I will confess that I actually enjoyed my early sex life quite a good deal--though with the usual agonies of the adolescent, whether homo- or heterosexual. Had Lion's Share succumbed to his locker-room temptation, perhaps the same thing would have happened to him. Or maybe not. Maybe, gasp, gulp, just maybe, heaven forbid, he would have discovered some different truth about himself.

Lion's Share is who he is, I gladly acknowledge that. But I submit that it's none of his business to decide for others who they should or should not be, nor how they should or should not live out the experience of their humanity. We are learning painfully slowly, as a society and more broadly as a species, to experience our own freedom and allow the same to others. The election of a "different" President of the United States is a triumphant token of how far we have come along one particular path; the passage of Proposition 8 is a token of how far we have yet to go along another.


mandt said...

A great story p.---reminds me a bit of "A Separate Peace" by John Knowles,' or for that matter the atmosphere in Salinger's 'The Catcher in the Rye." Also evocative of E M Forester's writings. Well done! Peace MandT

PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks, both. A nice tribute! I'm grateful.

PeterAtLarge said...

... and, I should add, from a respected source!

They call him James Ure said...

(sigh) I've been just really (probably overly) worked up on this issue. Especially as it involves Mormons, which is the church that I grew up with.

I suffered a lot of abuse by that church and I'll leave it at that. So I've been trying for years and years to put out those coals of anger toward them and then they go and do THIS in California!!!

I have to laugh about the "unnatural" argument too because of something someone told me once. First of all it was in response to the claim that a man's sexual organ doesn't fit as well into a certain man's orifice than with a woman's sexual organ. I'm trying to be as tactful as I can here.

Anyway, this guy then said, "Well I like to clean my ears out with my fingers and they don't exactly fit perfectly but it gets the job done. So does that mean cleaning your ears out with your fingers is "unnatural?'"

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I wonder why the Mormon church believes that gay marriage is so terrible but considers it perfectly normal for a man to have multiple wives.

Anonymous said...

I had to catch up by reading the original post first and also Lion's Share's comment. There is an abundance of research showing physiological differences between straght and gay people - in dimensions of different parts of the brain, in pheremones, and so on. So it makes me crazy to hear people suggest that it is all about early sexual experiences. Such a display of ignorance on that commenter's part. So he got a little aroused at the sight of some naked boys but remianed heterosexual? Big deal. That is in no way comparable to an adolescent's dawning awareness and then later adult certainty that he or she is homosexual. Boy parts and girl parts? What??? The "parts" of your body do not dictate who you are attracted to, or who you can or should love. A good percentage of the human population (along with many other species) is homosexual in orientation. This country needs to just wrap pur minds around that fact of biology and stop discriminating.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I also had to play catch-up and read Lion's Share's comment in your earlier post.

I think maybe a lot of people were confused by the wording of Prop 8 and thought they were voting for the right of gay people to marry. It's hard to believe, otherwise, that so many Californians intentionally set back equality under the law.

It's common knowledge that sexuality is determined genetically like eye color and height. To discriminate against homosexuals makes about as much sense as to discriminate against the green-eyed or short, like me.

Dharma Momma said...

I haven't read your blog in a while, but as always, you do not disappoint. Excellent rebuttal to what I can only understand to be willful ignorance.

I'm glad I stopped by, and thank you for sharing such a personal story.

(aka the livingmandala, dharmamomma)

PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks, Manda, good to hear from you again!

Thanks, too, to Citizen and Heart for chiming in on this one. Clearly, as usual, we're not dealing with rational thought, but with fearful emotional responses that cloak themselves in the guise of reason.