Apropos of an Earlier Entry Today

Ohio Senator Rob Portman’s son Will on coming out to his parents and to the world.

49 Comments on “Apropos of an Earlier Entry Today”

  1. Goal: To live in a world where sexual preference between consenting adults is absolutely uninteresting to anyone but the consenting adults directly involved. In the meantime, good article, Will Portman, and thank you for the link, Mr. Scalzi.

  2. lif strand – I am right there with you, now. I found the link uninteresting and could get past the second paragraph.

  3. Sigh. He thinks we should “think twice” before calling someone “bigoted” for opposing marriage equality. Sonny, we’ve thought twice. Thrice. Whatever the word for four times is. It’s what they are, and it’s ALL they are. There are no reasons for opposing marriage equality that don’t boil down to bigotry. Sometimes it’s based on some text—but it’s a bigoted text, and also, people who cite Leviticus as an argument against Teh Geyz, but don’t even keep kosher themselves, aren’t arguing from obedience to the book, they’re just being bigoted.

    I note also that while Democrats change their position on marriage equality based on anything from thoughtful contemplation to a shrewd reading of polls, Republicans change theirs only (so far as I’m aware) when a member of their own family is affected. I hope I’m wrong about this, but it goes along with what I think of Republicans generally: they’re not overly concerned with the rights and well-being of strangers.

  4. I’m with lifestrand. I don’t care!

    I was a mid-level NCO when DADT was repealed and we were all supposed to give these briefings about discrimination and diversity and on and on and on to our late teen/early twenties troops. My thoughts, when asked, were that my personal feelings about another’s sexual orientation were irrelevant in combat. So long as you pull fucking security like everyone else, this particular SSgt could not care less whether you like dudes, girls, watermelon; or prefer inflatable latex partners. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m not going to be watching melon porn, but you can feel free. That is also a right we defend.

    I keep hoping we can all agree that sexual preference is going to be a meaningless issue in a collapsing economy. And then I laugh and wake up.

  5. Good for you, Krusatta! …though I must say I’d rather have sexual preference be a meaningless issue in a booming economy. (Yes, I know what you meant. Just riffing.)

  6. Myself, I think putting someone in a box named ‘Bigot’ has a lot in common with putting someone in a box named ‘Gay’. It allows you to ignore everything else about them – which is sort of the problem, isn’t it?

    It’s not that bigot and gay are the same things; one is morally reprehensible and one is not. The one that’s morally reprehensible is the one that involves sticking a single word label on people and saying that’s all they are.

  7. Xopher:

    Yeah, pretty much. I’m also less-than-impressed by his parents being “supportive” before being for equal treatment under the law. Granted, it sounds like they were pretty good, compared to far too many parents. And that’s something to acknowledge. But it’s a limited sort of supportiveness that also supports second-class citizenship.

    My standards have changed. It used to be that I was *thrilled* to hear a (presumed) straight person express *any* kind of support for LGBT folk. But at this point, I’m mostly, “Yeah, thanks … what took you so long?” … whether it’s a Republican senator or a Democratic ex-Secretary of State. I suspect part of it is that I’m privileged to live in Massachusetts. We kicked this damn subject to death *years* ago, we’re doin’ the right thing, end of story. C’mon already.

    (Mind you, I’m not at all impatient with marriage-equality supporters elsewhere; I save my impatience for their opponents.)

  8. Oh, come on. Yeah, how mean of us to label them…after all, they’re only trying to deprive us of basic human rights. They can get the hell over it.

  9. I was a mid level NCO when DADT was implemented. I was one of about three people on a ship of thousands that really didn’t give a rip who you dated. If it shortened up my rotation by increasing staff availability, I was all for it. I felt the same way about women on combatant vessels, too.

    But oh how times have changed. We had a congressman come on board to “investigate” and people lined up out the hangar bay to testify they didn’t want no homos looking at ’em in in the shower. Now no one except the dinosaurs care, and that is how it should be.

  10. margaretorgankeen:

    There’s an important difference between calling someone a bigot, and saying that they’re being bigotted. Please note that — unless I missed it — nobody here did the former. The latter is self-evidently true.

  11. @ margaretorgankean – I’ve always subscribed to the idea that if one’s sympathies go more toward the feelings of those who might be oh so hurt by the fact that their actions are getting them labeled as bigots, rather than the people being affected by said bigoted actions, then one needs to have a serious re-evaluation of one’s priorities. There is, of course, a pretty simple antidote for those people who don’t like being accused of bigotry: Don’t want to be called a bigot? Then don’t act like one.

  12. I wish every conservative in this country would find out they had a gay relative.

  13. @Xopher: I will freely confess that I am not an insider in the gay scene. However, I know from previous exchanges with you that you are old enough to remember the 1980s, and the appearance of AIDS. (I am from that era as well.)

    You probably recall that when the news cameras toured San Francisco in the early 1980s, they found that multiple sexual partners was pretty much the norm for gay males, sometimes multiple partners per night. (This was widely reported and is, I think it’s safe to say, beyond dispute.) I understand that even in the post-AIDS world, gay men still tend to switch partners a lot–when compared to either heterosexuals, or lesbian females (who are mostly monogamous, from what I understand). The difference is that now they are more careful.

    So here is my question: While this undoubtedly represents a political victory, to what extent is it a *practical* victory? What percentage of gay men do you think will actually want to get married, and will their marriages follow the norms of monogamy that are accepted (if imperfectly) in the heterosexual world?

    Also, can you reconcile the documented promiscuity among the gay male community with the marriage drive? When I think of San Francisco in the late 1970s, I can’t help wondering if there are really all that many gay men who would want to get married even if it were legal tomorrow.

    Once again, I admit to being an outsider. I am giving you my frank impressions, but I present this as a question.

  14. @Kevin Hicks “I wish every conservative in this country would find out they had a gay relative”
    Most of them, including Portman, have female relatives and that doesn’t stop them trying to shrink government small enough to shove inside a woman’s vagina.
    Also Portman isn’t exactly a profile in courage when it comes to gay rights, nor is Dick Cheney. Our own leader of the Opposition in Australia has a gay sister, and that doesn’t mean he’s going to support equal marriage before there’s a female pope. (Not to mention, our atheist Prime Minister cites ‘tradition’ – aka the right wing of the left wing Labor party – as her reason for not supporting equal marriage even though she has gay colleagues and friends, and enjoys swanning around with the likes of Ellen and Portia.)
    Portman’s grandstanding. Not impressed in the slightest.

  15. Xopher –

    I think you’re failing to credit and differentiate between people who are actually homophobic and those who grew up in a cultural situation (religious, social, whatever) that was passively or actively homophobic, and therefore default to that worldview, but are decent human beings who can reason past their pre-existing biases and change.

  16. Todd: What the hell does any of that have to do with the rights of people to marry whom they wish?

  17. georgewilliamherbert: The difference being that when you point out that the opposition to marriage equality is sheer bigotry, the first group will ignore you and the second will discard their opposition with shame?

  18. Todd –

    What you are describing is horrible, bad propaganda about gays, not any sort of accurate reflection of the lifestyle.

    (speaking as a SF Bay Area straight guy with plenty of gay and lesbian friends)

    There was a pocket of highly promiscuous gay men in SF which as I understand it grew out of the late 60s empowerment movement and finally becoming acceptable enough to not be raided by police, including the gay bathhouses. What’s not as well remembered now is that this was the 60s and 70s and early 80s and there were equivalent pockets of promiscuity among hetrosexuals in SF and NYC and Miami and the like. Into this mix was thrown a very poorly understood HIV virus.

    That was not the typical gay lifestyle around here at the time. Trying to understand early 1980s sexual and drug mores in the US by interviewing people at Studio 54 in NYC would have resulted in an equivalently biased viewpoint.

  19. Xopher –

    The first set will hate you even more, and the second set will begin considering whether there’s something wrong with their value system.

    The outcome of that consideration is not predictable, but it’s always heartening when it turns out well.

  20. Todd:

    So, just to be clear, you’re trying to use sensationalist media portrayals from 30 years ago, and from a different era in the US in general, to posit a question about gays and lesbians of today — a question, which, incidentally, is utterly irrelevant to the question of whether gays and lesbians should have the same rights as everyone else.

    Uh, yeah, I’m calling complete bullshit on that, and am going to suggest that you sit out the rest of this particular thread. I’m pretty sure you’re not at all aware how completely bigoted (and ignorant!) you’ve just made yourself look, and I’m not entirely sure you could dig yourself out that hole without making it worse for yourself.

    Don Hillard:

    “I can’t quite see the ‘civil unions’ bit by Woodman as a Libertarian Dismount”

    You haven’t seen as many Libertarian Dismounts as I have, I suspect.

  21. @Scalzi: Oh, plenty. Between a childhood around the aerospace industry, military service and almost a decade as a merchant sailor – not to mention SF fandom – I can guarantee you it ain’t an Internet-only phenomenon.

    But in the words of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe, “Even a blind pig finds a truffle now and then.”

  22. John: Uh, yeah, I’m calling complete bullshit on that, and am going to suggest that you sit out the rest of this particular thread.

    Thank you. I refrained from giving him the flaming I felt that merited because I knew, I knew I could count on you. I didn’t know what you would do exactly, but I was pretty sure it would be appropriate. I’m learning, slowly, to let you handle this sort of thing.

    Not that I didn’t also appreciate what georgewilliamherbert said.

  23. To be fair, John, before you trash Todd’s statement as dated (or, as someone else suggested, propaganda), you ought to check out the recent post on Gawker about the Black Party: http://gawker.com/5992234/finding-light-at-the-black-party Not so much thirty years ago as just the other day…

    Aaaaaanyway. I personally fully agree with lif strand, can’t we just get on with not giving a shit what a person does in the privacy of their bedroom? I know I would if I wasn’t being bombarded with yet another story damn near every day.

  24. Xopher – to be fair, there were Republicans in the NY legislature who voted for same-sex marriage without having family members to blame for it; some of them even paid the price of sacrificing the careers. I consider them worthy allies.

  25. With all due and sincere respect, lif strand et. al., it’s really awesome that none of this is relevant to you. It might be useful to considering what kinds of privilege mean you don’t have to.

  26. To be fair, unless I missed something, lif strand was not saying that they thought it irrelevant now, just that they were expressing a wish for a world in which sexual preference was irrelevant to any but the involved parties, as a goal to which the world may aspire. E.g. (and now I am filling in interpretation), one in which coming out is totally unnecessary because no one cared what orientation anyone else was except when participating in a relationship with that person.

  27. Yeah, lif strand was wishing for that world. It was UpTheButt and Jason Doege who are talking like they just don’t want to hear about our rights anymore.

  28. @Xopher: “They can get the hell over it.”

    Here in London, UK, I recently saw an ad on the side of a bus which just said (in meter-high letters), “Some people are gay. Get over it.” I don’t know if it will change any minds, but it made me smile :-)

  29. can’t we just get on with not giving a shit what a person does in the privacy of their bedroom?

    Oo, while we’re wishing for impossible things (hint: you’re in the rough position of asking Martin Luther King if “we can’t just ignore this race thing.” Well, no, MLK says, we can’t.), can I have a pony?

  30. I somewhat think that’s an unreasonable world to hope for. I mean: i’m *interested* in the romantic lives of my friends, even if i’m not involved in their romantic lives.

  31. Jason:

    Fair to whom, exactly? Fair to Todd, who tried to draw broad generalizations based on decades old sensationalist reporting? Fair to the gay community, who still has to deal with these generalizations?

    Todd called promiscuous sex among gay men “pretty much the norm” and “beyond dispute”. To defend that, you cite an article about a once-a-year event that even the gay male author of the article describes as unique and uncomfortable and not nearly as outrageous as advertised. And are you under the impression that sex parties are something only gay men attend? Are you completely unaware of the nation-wide cottage industry of “swingers” groups, for just a single example of promiscuous straight behavior? Or are you too busy clutching your pearls over the idea that gay men are having sex, in public, with more than one person!

  32. before you trash Todd’s statement as dated (or, as someone else suggested, propaganda), you ought to check out the recent post on Gawker about the Black Party: http://gawker.com/5992234/finding-light-at-the-black-party Not so much thirty years ago as just the other day…

    For pity’s sake, there are at least ten such parties for straight people for each one of these. And that’s not counting all the parties where they don’t care who or what you boink so long as everyone’s on board with the idea. I don’t see anyone using that as an excuse to prevent straight marriage.

  33. ….Uh….that comment should have ended, “I don’t see anyone using that as an excuse to prevent straight marriage, so the ‘but look at the weird parties’ thing doesn’t hold water anyway.”

  34. Interesting responses informed largely by personal bias, I think. I was just pointing out that the sensationalist media image is not 30 years old, but still occurring, so to say that Todd’s opinion is based on dated media is not really a correct argument. Personally, I have no idea what is “the norm” for personal behavior amongst gay men or any other segment of society. Much happens behind closed doors that none of us are privy to.

    Insofar as how I interpreted lif strand’s statement and my agreement, I think I’ll clarify a little. I grew up in another country, largely unexposed to bigotry as it was a time before globalization of TV media and there just wasn’t much opportunity to experience it. I moved to the U.S. 30 years ago and it was at that time that I became aware of the American cultural sensitivity to race, sexual orientation, etc. and, moreover, was being told what to think about it from many directions. My natural inclination is to ignore such personal characteristics as irrelevant to the character of the person. To me that should be the goal we seek.

    But, what I’ve found over the last 30 years, is that, not only are the bigots spreading their filth, but many of those lobbying against bigotry too seem to do what they can to inflame it even as they condemn it. Stories hit the news-media and popular culture, tailor made to inflame even those not pre-disposed to be so. It makes a perverse kind of sense. I mean, if/when bigotry disappears, then those involved in the various lobbies will no longer have power. It is a common problem.

    So, yes, I would like to live in a world where we just don’t give a crap what other people look like and what they do consensually in privacy. That should be our goal: try to make no one care and remove the power to cause harm from those who do. This is not very well accomplished using current tactics.

  35. Jason Doege:

    “so to say that Todd’s opinion is based on dated media is not really a correct argument.”

    Actually, no, it is, since he in fact referenced dated media in his argument. You’re grafting on an unrelated observation about the fact sensationalist stories continue to exist in the modern day.

  36. I think the best comment so far on Portman was that he should adopt a poor kid, so he might develop empathy to poor people, too.

    Yes it’s a very nice story that he didn’t disown his son, but if he had an ounce of empathy before his son came out, he should have been in favor of gay marriage in the first place. I’m amazed Portman didn’t know already – when my cousin came out as gay in his 30s, all his dad (and the rest of the family) said was “we already knew” and that was that.

  37. Anyway, who cares if most gay men don’t want to get married (assuming that’s true)? Some obviously do, and besides, what are lesbians, chopped liver? Legal same-sex marriage limited only to women would obviously be illegally discriminatory, so it’s not as if that is a live proposition.

  38. @Matt McIrvin: “chopped liver” is not all that far off. You could almost make a Bechdel Test for arguments like Todd’s: do they acknowledge that women actually exist, much less matter? (Of course, for some, the belief is not “oh yeah, forgot women can catch the gay too” as “there’s no such thing as a REAL lesbian.”)

    @Jason Doege: do you think the existence of the swingers’ community, which is all about married straight people, means we shouldn’t allow straight people to marry?

  39. Republicans change theirs only (so far as I’m aware) when a member of their own family is affected. I hope I’m wrong about this, but it goes along with what I think of Republicans generally: they’re not overly concerned with the rights and well-being of strangers.

    Um, Xopher, have you actually read or heard anything Ted Olson has had to say about the chain of reasoning that lead him to represent the plaintiffs in Perry v. Schwarzenegger?


  40. cranapia: I have. I think it’s true of Republicans generally, despite the exceptions like Olson and the people who lost their political careers in NY.

    What I’m saying is that principled people like Olson are exceptions to the rule that Republicans don’t care about other people’s kids; Portman is not.

  41. @mythago: lovely knee-jerk you have there. I am happy to allow any two people to form a loving, committed, legally recognized union. For that matter, I am happy to allow any two people to form a hating, promiscuous, but nevertheless legally recognized union. Whatever floats their boat. I don’t really have a problem with polygamy or polyandry, either. It’s not what I choose, but that’s really irrelevant, isn’t it.

    @John and others: upon re-reading, I have to agree that Todd’s argument seems based in history, but most of the responses seem to imply that state is no longer the case: that media not longer paints a sensationalist picture of gay culture and I thought it an interesting counterpoint that I had so recently seen evidence that was not actually the case.

  42. Jason, people aren’t denying that there have been, and still are, some gay men who are highly promiscuous. What they are denying is that this has ever been widespread, or that it is a unique feature of gay men. As Mythago points out, there are also pockets of highly promiscuous heterosexual people, and yet we never hear that used as a reason to reject opposite-sex marriage, so why the hell are we hearing about promiscuous homosexual people in a discussion of same-sex marriage? If people’s promiscuity isn’t important to you, as you claim, then why bring it up?

    You have to understand, these stereotypes aren’t brought up innocently, but as a tactic in the ongoing campaign to discredit gays and lesbians, and to discredit the fight for LGBT rights, including the fight for marriage equality. That’s why people are so adamant in fighting these stereotypes.

  43. @Jason, I’m not sure what “knee-jerk” is supposed to mean in this context. You’ve defended Todd’s silly and bigoted argument by posting a link to another story about Those Wacky Gays of more recent vintage. If your point really was that “sensationalist” media is a problem, then surely you can explain why salacious coverage of the sex lives of straights is not equally relevant.

    Also, a suggestion that when you post “I don’t care” over and over again, you create the impression that you do actually care – else, why bother commenting?

  44. The real point about the “promiscuous gays” thing, wrt to the point of the OP, is “SO FUCKING WHAT?” The promiscuity, or lack of same, of some gays does not justify denial of the basic right of marriage. Bringing them up is just an anti-gay, anti-equality tactic for going “eww, teh geyz are icky.”

    I actually have a lot of thoughts about promiscuity (and other forms of transgressive behavior) in the gay community, but they’ll wait for a thread where they’re more directly relevant.

  45. I have to agree with Xtopher – so what? All the straw-man arguments brought up to oppose the marriage of loving gay couples start with making them seem perverse. Then it’s easier to oppose any attempt to treat them as other human beings, due the same rights that heterosexuals are. We don’t condemn the straight couples because of the wild behavior of others – how could it matter when we consider gay couples?

  46. Concerning Ohio and public opinion, it’s interesting to compare these two maps from Wikipedia:


    Public opinion is way out ahead of the law, not just in Ohio or California, but in a large chunk of the country. The dark-blue states in the second map are states where a recent poll has shown majority support for same-sex marriage. Now it may be that some of those are outliers, but, still, we can assume that it’s at least close there. As you can see by comparing the two maps, in six of those states with majority support, there are constitutional bans in place. Three of them are so strong that they even ban civil unions.

    Opponents of same-sex marriage knew they only had a little time to get their preferences locked into state constitutions, and they took full advantage while they could. I am afraid that it will be a while before it’s as easy to get the constitutional amendments repealed as it was to get them passed.

    If the Supreme Court were to invalidate all the state bans in the Prop. 8 ruling, that would get rid of them in one fell swoop, but that looks unlikely; at best their decision, or absence of same, will probably overturn the ban in California. Of course, California being so gigantic and important, that’s no small thing.

  47. To spin the topic of marriage equality a different direction, I direct people to Statistics Canada’s website. Canada has had gay marriage for a decade now and been included in two censuses (every 5 years in Canada).

    Stats from 2011:
    Nation wide 9,389,700 census families were counted.
    The census counted 64,575 same-sex couple families in 2011. Of these, 21,015 were same-sex married couples and 43,560 were same-sex common-law couples.
    Same-sex couples accounted for 0.8% of all couples in 2011.

    Married-couple families accounted for 67.0%, common-law families 16.7%, lone-parent families 16.3%.

    Households comprised of couples without children 29.0%, households comprised of couples with children 28.5%, one-person households 27.6%, non-couple multi-person households 14.9%.

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