Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Pro-family--unless your family is different from ours...

Via Unqualified Offerings comes an impassioned, eloquent letter. It's apparently four years old, but could have been written yesterday. I got a little bit choked up while reading it, and feel compelled to pass it on.

I wish more of us could understand and practice love the way this mother does.

Letter to the Editor
by Sharon Underwood, Sunday, April 30, 2000
from the Valley News (White River Junction, VT/Hanover, NH)

As the mother of a gay son, I've seen firsthand how cruel and misguided people can be.

Many letters have been sent to the Valley News concerning the homosexual menace in Vermont. I am the mother of a gay son and I've taken enough from you good people.

I'm tired of your foolish rhetoric about the "homosexual agenda" and your allegations that accepting homosexuality is the same thing as advocating sex with children. You are cruel and ignorant. You have been robbing me of the joys of motherhood ever since my children were tiny.

My firstborn son started suffering at the hands of the moral little thugs from your moral, upright families from the time he was in the first grade. He was physically and verbally abused from first grade straight through high school because he was perceived to be gay.

He never professed to be gay or had any association with anything gay, but he had the misfortune not to walk or have gestures like the other boys. He was called "fag" incessantly, starting when he was 6.

In high school, while your children were doing what kids that age should be doing, mine labored over a suicide note, drafting and redrafting it to be sure his family knew how much he loved them. My sobbing 17-year-old tore the heart out of me as he choked out that he just couldn't bear to continue living any longer, that he didn't want to be gay and that he couldn't face a life without dignity.

You have the audacity to talk about protecting families and children from the homosexual menace, while you yourselves tear apart families and drive children to despair. I don't know why my son is gay, but I do know that God didn't put him, and millions like him, on this Earth to give you someone to abuse. God gave you brains so that you could think, and it's about time you started doing that.

At the core of all your misguided beliefs is the belief that this could never happen to you, that there is some kind of subculture out there that people have chosen to join. The fact is that if it can happen to my family, it can happen to yours, and you won't get to choose. Whether it is genetic or whether something occurs during a critical time of fetal development, I don't know. I can only tell you with an absolute certainty that it is inborn.

If you want to tout your own morality, you'd best come up with something more substantive than your heterosexuality. You did nothing to earn it; it was given to you. If you disagree, I would be interested in hearing your story, because my own heterosexuality was a blessing I received with no effort whatsoever on my part. It is so woven into the very soul of me that nothing could ever change it. For those of you who reduce sexual orientation to a simple choice, a character issue, a bad habit or something that can be changed by a 10-step program, I'm puzzled. Are you saying that your own sexual orientation is nothing more than something you have chosen, that you could change it at will? If that's not the case, then why would you suggest that someone else can?

A popular theme in your letters is that Vermont has been infiltrated by outsiders. Both sides of my family have lived in Vermont for generations. I am heart and soul a Vermonter, so I'll thank you to stop saying that you are speaking for "true Vermonters."

You invoke the memory of the brave people who have fought on the battlefield for this great country, saying that they didn't give their lives so that the "homosexual agenda "could tear down the principles they died defending. My 83-year-old father fought in some of the most horrific battles of World War II, was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart.

He shakes his head in sadness at the life his grandson has had to live. He says he fought alongside homosexuals in those battles, that they did their part and bothered no one. One of his best friends in the service was gay, and he never knew it until the end, and when he did find out, it mattered not at all. That wasn't the measure of the man.

You religious folk just can't bear the thought that as my son emerges from the hell that was his childhood he might like to find a lifelong companion and have a measure of happiness. It offends your sensibilities that he should request the right to visit that companion in the hospital, to make medical decisions for him or to benefit from tax laws governing inheritance.

How dare he? you say. These outrageous requests would threaten the very existence of your family, would undermine the sanctity of marriage.

You use religion to abdicate your responsibility to be thinking human beings. There are vast numbers of religious people who find your attitudes repugnant. God is not for the privileged majority, and God knows my son has committed no sin.

The deep-thinking author of a letter to the April 12 Valley News who lectures about homosexual sin and tells us about "those of us who have been blessed with the benefits of a religious upbringing" asks: "What ever happened to the idea of striving...to be better human beings than we are?"

Indeed, sir, what ever happened to that?

Monday, May 24, 2004

Scents and Scentsibility

I haven't really got my blog-legs under me yet, obviously. In March I had a burst of longing to have an outlet--and then once the outlet was established I got shy. I want to figure out how to make it feel more natural to post my own words on this page instead of just linking to everyone else's words.

However. Some people's writing I so admire that I must link to it from time to time, and I hope you can understand. Melanie at Althaea Officinalis is one of those. She's been doing a series of essays about the year she turned ten, and it's pretty powerful stuff. Do check it out.

The multi-talented Melanie has also started making some very appealing herbal soaps (see them at http://www.althaea.biz). I'm trying to be increasingly frugal, but next week when I get paid I don't think I'm going to be able to resist buying a sample bar pack. I've never been a big perfume person, and a lot of lotions nauseate me in large doses, but herbal scents...lavender...mint...rosemary...I love 'em. In fact, my wedding bouquet will have mint and rosemary in it, and my fabulous groom will be wearing a boutonierre of lavender and rosemary. And I love supporting, in my tiny way, a one-woman enterprise with such excellent products.

I'll do my best to put up some more of my own words later tonight for those one or two of you who actually visit this page. Although I'd be doing this even if you weren't, I do appreciate it that you visit my little strand of the world-wide web.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Pyjama Power

This ten-year-old is a wonder:

Ten-year-old Shane Ellis says some things in life are worth the embarrassment of being seen wearing pyjamas in public.

Yesterday he walked three kilometres to and from school in his pyjamas to make a point.

Horrified after seeing a photo in of a naked Iraqi prisoner cowering in fear as he was about to be attacked by dogs at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib Prison, Shane decided drastic action was called for.

"I thought, 'Poor guy, he must be scared. I wanted to share his humiliation'," said the young activist.

To do that, he turned up for class at Pauatahanui School yesterday in his flannel PJs.


Teacher Craig Stevenson applauded Shane's actions.

"It's a great statement. It's very exciting. Political statements aren't made every day, even by adults."

And how did his classmates react? "They thought he was a dick."

However, views changed after Mr Stevenson held a classroom discussion on the Iraqi situation.

"They've now got a better understanding of what's going on. They are now looking at it from both points of view."


Shane had suggested going to school in his underpants but [his father] insisted on his wearing pyjamas.

So here's this kid in New Zealand, this ten-year-old kid, who read about the Abu Ghraib situation and was upset by it. And with that emotion he crafted a way to help his peers see into it more clearly. He knew it was about bullying, on a large and horrific scale, and he brought that home to his classmates. Walked to school in his pj's in order to be made fun of, in order to gain empathy for the prisoners--and ended up helping his class gain that empathy and that understanding, that stunning insight into the heart of the matter, the dynamics of power and oppression:

"Bullying behaviour is unacceptable anywhere."

Man, that kid is so sharp it isn't funny. I hope he grows up to be president.