Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Another Letter Critical of Johnson City Press

Seventy-eight of us signed a letter that was printed in the Johnson City Press yesterday regarding the "sex sting" business.

Here is the link. But the print is too small to read on-line as it was framed as an advertisement. Here is the complete text:

To the Editor:

The dramatic coverage of the recent "sex sting" and the moralizing comments by the law enforcement and city personnel should cause us to pause and pay homage to the power of media, culture, and government to determine the course of people's lives. It is a frightening and angering reality when the sexual choices between consenting adults continues to be the business and "moral whipping stick" of the powers-that-be. As a culture, we have demonized men and women who are bi or gay and made it impossible for them to live authentically. Then we criminalize their behavior. Can we not allow these men and women access to the same visible, vibrant, and accepted lives that many of us have access to every day? Is same-sex attraction really that frightening to us as adults, that we must make an ugly and shaming issue of men who might be interested in being with other men?

So, is finding a connection at local parks the best location? Of course not. We could put our energy on asking, "Why do these men do this?" But that is the wrong question? For these men, we should be asking "Why doesn't the culture allow them to live openly and authentically?" How can we create an environment in which theses men do not see a city park as their only option for connecting with a part of why they are and with others?

The local and national culture prevents many people from living the life they want in relationships with men and women of their choice. So, as with any oppressed need, it often goes underground, finding expression in ways individuals would not choose if they had the options others take for granted. In this area of the country, we are not open to men who love men and want to create a life partnership with another man. We fail to allow gay or bi men and women to live openly in their professions, their faith communities, or even in their own families. There is so much evidence about sexual/affectional orientation being clear at an early age and also being unchangeable. Whether an individual is lesbian, gay male, bi or heterosexual, their orientation is what it is and that is NOT a moral issue.

We were sadly disappointed at the ugly and blatant display of shame and homo-prejudice evidenced in the coverage of this article. The newspaper does not announce other misdemeanors in this same way. Why do you target this group? Do you not see that this targeting by this paper is exactly the kind of treatment that drives these men to these parks? Sadly, these men will now suffer even further rejection with their new label of "anti-social behavior". Some of them might lose the support of their families, their jobs, their faith communities or their friends. One of them has lost his life. The apparent suicide of one of the "suspects" only heightens the fear and sadness that gay men must face as another outcome of the big "sting". How much more pain and rejection do gay or bi men and women have to suffer before we come to terms with the reality of their value and worth as human beings? We grieve for each of these men, for their families and friends, and for the narrow-minded fear that promotes this stigma.