Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Funny, You Don’t Look Gayish

Every so often I agree with Andrew Sullivan. He may be a Republican and a supporter of George W. Bush, and his taste in men is certainly at odds with mine (that’s another story,) but certainly I’m on the same page with him on gay rights. And in light of the article in the New York Times last Sunday that profiled the virulent anti-gay movement within the fundamentalist Christians, Mr. Sullivan’s insight as to how gays are now seen by the Christian conservatives deserves consideration.

I think the arguments now made by some Christianists are replicas of the old anti-Semitism, peddled by so many Christians in the past: that Jews are to be loved, but loving them is dependent on their conversion to Christianity; that you can love individual Jews while disdaining Judaism; that Jews’ stubbornness in resisting conversion is evidence of their inherent evil; that such evil, at some point, has to be segregated from mainstream society as much as possible. Gays are not the new blacks. They’re the new Jews. And the Church, in both Catholic and Protestant variants, is dredging up its old anti-Semitism in new guises. The GOP is along for the ride.

I am wary of generalizations, but I have long seen similarities with how “polite” society has dealt with the issue of tolerating people of other faiths. I’m old enough to remember “restricted” country clubs and neighborhoods as the norm, and I remember elderly friends cautioning me when I moved to Miami in 1971 to attend the University of Miami that is was “full of Jews.” As I noted last week, the virulent anti-Semitism that was part of our American culture was largely pushed underground by the Holocaust. So now that it’s impolitic to pick on someone of faith, it’s now gender orientation that becomes the target, and as Mr. Sullivan notes, it’s picked up all the traits of the old anti-Semitism.

The difference is that no one is born Jewish. Faith is a conscious choice made by a person, handed down through the family or society, and someone born to a Jewish family can convert to Christianity without having to undergo a genetic makeover. Someone may “look Jewish” owing to their ethnic heritage, but the physical features ascribed to Jews are common to a lot of people from the eastern Mediterranean, and genetically you can’t tell an Orthodox Jew in Tel Aviv from a Lebanese Druse Christian in Beirut any more than you can tell a English Quaker from a Scottish Presbyterian through DNA.

Being gay is not a choice. It’s like being born left-handed; it’s hard-wired at the factory. We can’t convert, and those who say we can are deluding themselves. The sooner the Christianists accept this fact of life and learn to live with us, the better we will all be. I realize it will take a lot of wind out their sails, but have no fear — they will find another group to pick on. Watch out, left-handed people!