Prejudice and Pride

Dear President Trump,

The other day Laura texted our daughter to check in with her on the last day of their respective quarters to congratulate her on being almost finished with her first year of college and to see how she was feeling about finals. She texted back saying she’s feeling ok about how things are wrapping up. She then went on to tell Laura that she’d watched the 1989 Oprah show about same sex couples having children and the 1997 Oprah show on which Ellen DeGeneres officially came out as a lesbian. She said she cried through both of them. She also said that it was hard realizing just how recently they both happened. She didn’t elaborate on why this was a hard realization, but I’m guessing it’s because she did the math and figured out that both her moms grew up in a time when being lesbian (or gay) was patently not ok, that when we got together in 1989 there was virtually no mainstream support for such unions, and that when we adopted her in 1999 we were heading into barely charted territory, even in Seattle.

Laura and I watched the 1989 Oprah show yesterday. The first third or so wasn’t too bad. During this segment Oprah talked with a gay male couple that wanted to have children if they could both legally parent them and a lesbian couple with two kids who were the biological children of one of the women from a previous marriage. Oprah was inquisitive and respectful, taking correction easily when she questioned the necessity of using both “gay” and “lesbian” instead of just “gay.” The women said they preferred “lesbian” and one of the men pointed out that women are oppressed for being women, and thus lesbians have a double whammy of oppression, so it’s not good to gloss over this by using a blanket term like “gay.” This exchange was actually pretty wonderful.

The parts of this segment that were harder focused on how the non-biological mom was constantly dealing with having her parental role undercut and not seen by schools, friends’ parents, doctors’ offices, etc. This was clearly distressing for both women and I imagine it was confusing and hard for the kids too. Weirdly, I had a taste of that myself Friday night at a social event. Someone we’d just met seemed to willfully ignore that I was chiming in and talking about our daughter along with Laura because later in the conversation she turned to me and asked if I had kids too. It was pretty stunning. And it was one of those situations where I had to make nice and assume she didn’t mean anything by it, but the facial hiccup she betrayed when we clarified that Laura’s daughter is my daughter too, belied her discomfort with us and our family.

Back to the show. The first part was nothing compared to when the three “expert” talking heads joined the two couples. One was Gloria Allread, an attorney who was and is a very vocal advocate for LGBTQ people. She was hard to listen to because she yelled a lot, but she was articulate and fiercely in support of LGBTQ families.

The other two, however, were absolutely toxic. Mona Charen, a journalist, argued that same-sex parents are bad for children. After some pushback she regrouped and said that such families are bad for children because there’s so much prejudice against gays and lesbians that it’s a stressful environment for children to grow up in and she was just thinking about the well-being of the children. She delivered all this uber-calmly and I had the impression that butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. Ever. It was also clear that her concern for the children was total horseshit. And then there was the other journalist, John Lofton. He trotted out all sorts of biblical BS about homosexuality being an abomination before God and sodomy being illegal in most states to support his argument that same-sex families, particularly those with children, undermine and make a mockery of traditional families.

The segments in this part of the show kept getting shorter and shorter as Oprah tried repeatedly to reset things with commercial breaks whenever Charen or Lofton got especially vicious. It was f*cking ugly. And it was only 30 years ago.

I’ve not watched all of the Ellen coming out show, but the Wikipedia page about The Oprah Show notes that this episode got Oprah the most hate mail ever. A prominent, well-loved celebrity courageously comes out and publicly owns that she is a lesbian and this garners the most hate mail ever. What is wrong with people?

And here we are in 2019 when it is a “class-1 act of insurrection” for US embassies around the world to display Pride rainbow flags or banners because Mike Pompeo refuses to sanction flying the Pride flag with the US flag. And here we are in 2019 when you’re still pandering to the religious right by trying to ban trans people from serving in the military and propping up “religious freedom” laws to allow discrimination against LGBTQ people and their families.

You know, the opposite of pride is shame and you and your administration are heaping loads of the latter onto yourselves.

May we all be safe to live out and loud.
May we all be willing to check our prejudices and get to know one another.
May we not use bogus “the health of the children” as excuses for bigotry.
May those of us who need to, make peace with the rich variety of love.

Tracy Simpson

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