Wednesday, March 7, 2012

It gets around

A very long time ago - when I was in high school, I think - I went to a small film festival here in Claremont and saw a short documentary called “The More They Know.” I remember it featured a man of small stature - a dwarf, as we used to say - who was a ranger in Yosemite National Park talking about how, after their initial shock and amused or bemused puzzlement, people quickly came to respect and admire him in his job. I don’t recall other people in the film, but the point was that when people get to know disabled people, the more comfortable they are with them.

I thought of this when I read an article in the Los Angeles Times about how it is turning out to be easier for people to accept and perhaps support same-sex marriage when it is presented as a matter of love, family and commitment rather than a matter of equal rights. Not only did the article point out that it is harder for people to say no to people that they know in their families or among their friends or even from T.V shows as more and more come out, it cited the recent case of Wade Kach, a Republican lawmaker in Maryland, where same-sex marriage was approved, having a change of heart when he happened to sit by the witness table during a packed committee hearing on the issue.

“I saw with so many of the gay couples, they were so devoted to each other. I saw so much love,” said the House of Delegates member, who is one brave Republican. “When this hearing was over, I was a changed person in regards to this issue.”

(It occurred to me in reading this article that the rebuttal to the inane argument that allowing same-sex marriage will lead to polygamy and people marrying children and even animals - hey, I’ve seen such an argument being made - is to simply have marriage laws state that “marriage shall be between one man and one woman, one man and one man or one woman and one woman.”)

The message was essentially the same when I saw Dan Savage, who started the “It gets better” video project, speak last week at Claremont McKenna College. (I had a ticket to see the wonderful actress and documentary-playwright Anna Deveare Smith speak at Pomona College, but I’m glad I went to see Mr. Savage instead.) Mr. Savage, a gay man who writes a very popular sex column from an alternative paper in Seattle, spoke with much passion (and more than a little humor) about how many queer youth are rejected by their families and churches, sometimes resulting in suicides, and how the “It gets better” videos, now numbering in the thousands and easily accessible on-line, offer them encouraging role models when they otherwise don’t or can’t, often literally not being allowed to, have access to them.

I have mentioned before how Claremont McKenna College is known as the conservative college in Claremont yet, at its Miriam Miner Cook Atheneum where Savage spoke, has done a remarkable job in hosting diverse speakers (I have written about RuPaul speaking there). When a young woman asked how heterosexuals can have healthier, safer sexual encounters, Savage, who strongly echoed my long-held belief that the anti-gay crusade is really a crusade against having fun and pleasure with sex, advised couples to ask each other the simple, magic question, “What are you into?” Think of all the trouble that would end.

Yes, the more they know....

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