[Mimi] Hurl Rice, Not Brimstone | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[Mimi] Hurl Rice, Not Brimstone

One day a guy wakes up and says, "You know what, today I am deciding to be gay. It will be so much fun. I'll tell my parents so they will shut me out of their lives and take away their financial support. Then the kids at school can beat me daily and scrawl death threats on my locker. And when I get older, I can look forward to an ostracized life from family, friends and church. Then there is job discrimination to contend with, unless I land that part on 'Will and Grace' or join the 'Queer Eye' guys, which kind of narrows my stereotypical career choices. And if I'm lucky enough to find love, I may be harassed on the street and in public places for expressing that love with the simple gesture of holding a hand."

"When I'm an old man, I will die scared and alone in an intensive care unit because my 'partner' of 30 years will not be allowed to sit by my side because he is not considered family. And when I'm gone, the same family members who condemned me will contest my will to keep my partner from receiving the wealth of a life we built together. Oh joy, why don't we all just wake up tomorrow and be gay. Come on everybody, it will be a breeze!"

It is baffling to think that people really believe that there is a choice in sexual orientation. And I'm not speaking of the episodic voyeurism of an MTV reality show. Any freshman anthropology student can tell you that homosexuality is prevalent. Birds do it, bees do it, and people in most all cultures and throughout history do it or did it. Maybe the taboo began with good reason: the cave clan didn't like Ug and Doug setting up house because that meant no chance of increasing their numbers in order to fend off the rapidly procreating clan with the big clubs on the opposite cliff. Well, you know what? We're OK now; we've got plenty of folks in the clan, way too many, if you ask Mexico City.

I think this nature/nurture issue is at the heart of a more open acceptance of homosexuals. If we think people just choose homosexuality as a lifestyle, then it gets lumped in the addiction category—a "vice" that's easy to kick with a 12-step program. If we think of homosexuality as an inherent fact of one's nature, then it would be no different than straight people accepting our heterosexuality as our natural state. Refusal of acceptance of homosexuality based on biblical interpretation is another story. If we see it as depravity and sin from a literal interpretation of the Bible, then we see it as a black-and-white issue that warrants no discussion, but if we place it in the cultural context of that time it can become a pretty gray area. A witty friend of mine pointed out that the Bible also suggests stoning uppity women, but quickly added, "Aren't we glad we don't do that anymore!"

Personally, I can say that as a happily married heterosexual Christian mother of two boys who proudly works with a church that is in open dialogue with this issue, I do not believe in judging or denying the legal expression of love as long as it is between consenting adults. I don't see how committing your life to another in love is in any way a "breakdown of the family" as some conservative Christian groups believe.

But I guess it depends upon your definition of family. If you are James Dobson or George W. Bush, the American family should consist of Ward, June, Wally and the Beav. But you may be one of the American families struggling to survive in a society that deems you less than acceptable: the single mom, the child left to be raised by grandparents, the inter-racial foster family, or the lesbian couple fighting to adopt a special-needs child. These are the marginalized. Are they any less deserving of the label of family? Maybe it's time to reexamine our definition of family.

There is a cultural shift occurring in this nation that may have hit some of us a little too fast, especially in the South. It is change, and we naturally fear change, good or bad. Homosexuality doesn't have to be considered a cultural norm by the majority of Americans as long as we acknowledge the fact that this minority is being denied the rights we heterosexuals take for granted. This oppression was not OK for those pesky women who pressed for the right to vote or for people of color who got tired of the back of the bus. Today we look back at those struggles and our children marvel that those civil-rights movements were even issues that were considered controversial. Fifty years from now we may look back at this movement the same way.

I read somewhere that you get the God you deserve. I believe in this really nice Guy that came to teach the world that the most important thing in life is love and acceptance. I don't see California and Massachusetts as Sodom and Gomorra. In fact, if Jesus came back today, I believe he'd throw on a pair of Gucci sandals, head to San Francisco, shake Mayor Newsom's hand and hurl rice instead of brimstone.

He always did love a wedding.
Mimi Holland-Lilly is a writer and anthropologist in Jackson.

Support our reporting -- Follow the MFP.