My Mormon Study Buddy

I hung out with my undergrad study buddy yesterday (although technically we’re not study buddies anymore). We were supposed to have another Merlin Marathon (it would have been our fourth), but we instead decided to watch four episodes of Glee and only one episode of Merlin. I also showed her some clips from Verbotene Liebe!

I was with my study buddy when my high school bestie (the one for whom I’m the best man) sent me a text message telling me the news that Proposition 8 was overturned. I’ve known for a long time that my study buddy is (fairly devoutly) Mormon, but we had never discussed Proposition 8 or gay marriage until after I told her about the ruling yesterday. She told me that she had voted “Yes” on Proposition 8 because of the belief system under which she was raised.

My study buddy obviously doesn’t have any problem with gay people: she’s friends with me, and her best friend from college is gay. She would never want to hinder anyone’s happiness, but she believes (I assume) in the religious definition that marriage is a religious contract between a man and a woman. She acknowledged that the Mormon church helped fund support for Proposition 8, but she doesn’t believe that that is the same as denouncing homosexuality. For her, Proposition 8 is not an issue of morality but an issue of religious tradition.

While I don’t agree with her, I understand her position. Because I know her, I don’t believe that she is blindly following her faith, but religion and religious traditions are certainly very important to her. I would never try to convince her that her beliefs are wrong; that would be hypocritical. Likewise, she doesn’t impose her beliefs on me. I can’t take her stance on gay marriage personally, since I understand that her intention is not malicious or discriminatory. All we can do is agree to disagree.

I was, of course, excited about the overturning of Proposition 8, but I knew the Proposition 8 supporters would appeal the decision immediately anyway. Still, a small victory is still a victory, even if it’s just one battle in the war.

It Will Come

I’m not a fan of her husband (understatement alert), but I really like Laura Bush. I’m glad she’s speaking up about these issues.

It’s great that she’s strong and independent enough to disagree with the views of her husband and her political party. Congress these days only seems to see party lines. Democrats and Republicans alike will disagree with the other party solely for the sake of disagreeing, and nothing ever gets done. We need more people who will actually speak up and speak out.

She’s right, too. It will come.

Second-Class Citizens

The election truly was historic. I made sure to come home from work before the polls closed so that I could watch the election coverage as the results unfolded. I watched as the electoral votes from California were announced and Senator Barack Obama became President-elect Barack Obama. I listened attentively as John McCain delivered a very moving and gracious concession speech, and I eagerly awaited Barack Obama’s victory speech.

As I listened to Barack Obama’s speech, I kept thinking about how far this country has come in terms of racial discrimination yet how much widespread and accepted discrimination of gays there still is. There were many moments during the election coverage last night when I heard African-Americans feeling like they are no longer “second-class citizens.” Unfortunately, there does still exist a second-class of citizens. And I am one of them.

Even before the results of Proposition 8 were confirmed, I already knew that California would fail me (as much as I hoped otherwise). The unyielding determination of so many Americans to hinder the freedoms of one class of people is so strong that the passing of Proposition 8, I feel, was inevitable. I wasn’t at all surprised that all the anti-gay ballot initiatives around the nation were passed. As much as I’m glad that Barack Obama is going to be our next president, his victory for me is overshadowed by the sadness that so many people still feel so threatened by the “gay lifestyle.”

America was built on the idea that everyone has unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No law in America should be able to take those away. As Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote, in the Loving v. Virginia decision in 1967 to allow interracial marriage:

The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.

How is it that over 40 years later, the freedom to marry is still a “vital personal right” that can not only be hindered but even be revoked?

In researching the Loving v. Virginia case, I found out that Mildred Loving gave a public statement on June 12, 2007, the 40th anniversary of that momentous court case. Here is the conclusion:

My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God’s plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation’s fears and prejudices have given way, and today’s young people realize that if someone loves someone, they have a right to marry.

Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “wrong kind of person” for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.

You can find the PDF of her statement here.

I only hope that I don’t have to wait 40 years to see my freedom restored.

Discussing Proposition 8 With My Dad

My parents like to watch TV during dinner. Last night, we were watching the Chinese news, and a segment came on about the Chinese efforts to promote Yes on 8. I figured that was a good time to open up a discussion on Proposition 8 with my parents.

My mom isn’t very political (unless it’s Taiwanese politics, in which case she gets all riled up), so I asked my dad about what he thought. He said that he believes in traditional marriage and that the alternative is “weird,” so he was going to vote for the ban on gay marriage.

When my dad asked what I was going to vote, I told him that I would vote No on 8, because what does one couple’s marriage have anything to do with anyone else’s marriage? I also noted that “tradition” can change over time because of changes in society.

When the US was first created, only white males could vote. Black people were property. Over the years, black people became free and were given the right to vote (but still were segregated for another 100 years). Women were given the right to vote (but are still to this day often paid less in the workplace for the same job that men do). Yes, the right to vote is somewhat different than the right to marry, but my point is that tradition is not necessarily static. After all, interracial marriage was banned until 1967.

(Side note) In typing that last paragraph, I noticed that I wrote “were given the right to vote.” So, is voting (and marriage) a “right” if it has to be “given” to people?

Anyway. The conversation ended pretty quickly after that (agree to disagree), dinner finished, and I went back to listening to the Savage Love Podcast (also called the Savage Lovecast), which I newly discovered yesterday. Amazing podcast, by the way; I think I’m in love with Dan Savage.

One of the callers on a recent podcast was from an 18 year old guy who was contemplating coming out to his extended family as a way of saying “I’m gay” and “vote No on Prop 8” at the same time. Dan Savage’s advice was to bite the bullet and just do it. Not only will it be liberating to come out, but it might also mean a few more votes against Proposition 8.

Nervous out of my mind but drawing courage and inspiration from the Savage Lovecast caller, I approached my dad in the kitchen while he was washing the dishes and said “Would it change your mind about Proposition 8 if it meant that I couldn’t get married?”

At first, my dad didn’t really understand what I meant. I looked straight at him, waiting for him to understand. My mom came in and talked about something completely unrelated. I asked her what she felt about Proposition 8, and she said she didn’t know anything about it; she usually just votes for whatever my dad does.

After my mom walked into the other room, there was an awkward moment with my dad (or at least it was awkward for me). Then I asked if he understood what I had said. He said he did, but I’m not going to get married now anyway. He said “You can’t even support yourself, how do you expect to get married?”

I said that that wasn’t my point, and he said that I’m certainly not going to get married to a MAN (his inflection). If I want to marry a woman, it’s okay. I said it doesn’t really work that way, but then he just went back to talking about how I don’t have a decent job and can’t support myself, so how can I think about marriage. He started rattling off expenses that I can’t afford with my current salary (rent, car insurance, gas, food, etc.).

There was no arguing with him. My dad is probably the most stubborn person I’ve ever met. He changed the subject, and there was no going back. I gave up and walked off.

This was the second time that I tried to come out to my parents. The first time was in March of 2002 when I told them over the phone. They didn’t believe me, saying I was too young, I hadn’t met the right girl, it’s just a phase, etc. We haven’t talked about it since. My parents are traditional Chinese parents, where they completely ignore anything remotely shameful and only talk about the things that make the family sound good.

So, in the end, I tried to come out to my dad, and it didn’t really work. My coming out stories are never that exciting. Chances are, we’ll never talk about this again. And chances are I didn’t change his vote either.

This makes me wonder if I ever actually need to tell my parents that I’m gay. I don’t think they’ll ever approve or even really understand it. They’ll continue to ignore or sidestep the situation. But so what? I think I’ve reached a point where I don’t really care if my parents accept it or not. If their opinion on this doesn’t matter, why should I worry about what they think? Do I even need to continue trying to come out to them?

Prop 8 At Work

I have a coworker whose office is a couple cubicles away from mine. I can hear when she talks to her friends on her cell phone, I can hear when she watches YouTube videos during work, and I can hear when she yells at customers over the phone (she really doesn’t like to be bothered when she’s “working”).

Yesterday, I could hear her talking to some of my other coworkers about voting yes on Proposition 8. She said that if gays are allowed to marry, then “the next generation will be chaos,” and “the next step will be brother and sister marrying.” Again, today, I overheard her talking to a different coworker about Proposition 8 and how our kids will learn about gays in school and how terrible that would be.

Needless to say, I felt frustrated, shocked, and hurt. Reading strong opinions over the internet is one thing, but listening to a coworker talk like that really hit close to home.

I told one of my friends at work what I had overheard, and she was just as outraged as I was. I mean, I’m okay if a coworker has an opposing view on this subject, but do I need to hear about it during work hours? I tend to leave politics outside the workplace. We should maintain a professional work atmosphere. I may be in the minority, but spreading discriminatory remarks and moral judgement just doesn’t seem professional to me.

Even though I felt very hurt for the rest of the day, I didn’t get involved in the conversation. There wasn’t any way for me to change my coworker’s views on gays or gay marriage, so arguing with her wouldn’t have accomplish anything except causing a ruckus in our office. I decided I should take the high road. If I stooped to her level, I might give a bad reputation to all the No On 8 supporters.

Anyway. This wasn’t a victory for the No On 8 campaign, but I thought I would share this experience on my blog as an excuse to continue talking about Proposition 8 since it’s been on my mind so much lately. Plus, I wanted to participate in Write to Marry Day! I’m submitting this and my previous post.

This is one of the most important battles we will ever face in the fight for equality of gays and lesbians (and all people in general). Please vote NO on Proposition 8.

Proposition 8

For those who don’t know, Proposition 8 is a California initiative that, if passed, would amend the California Constitution to say “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The California Supreme Court overturned the state’s ban on gay marriage back in May, declaring that the ban was unconstitutional (which it is). Proposition 8 would negate the victory the California Supreme Court made. After all, how can a ban on gay marriage be unconstitutional if it’s written into the Constitution?

I’m so frustrated by Proposition 8. I can’t believe there are still so many people (possibly a majority) who oppose gay marriage, and so fervently. I always thought California was progressive and liberal (maybe it’s because I grew up in LA), but I’m really scared that Proposition 8 will pass. I hear the Yes On 8 ads on TV and  the radio all the time (even a Chinese language one), yet I’ve only seen the No On 8 ad on TV once. One of my neighbors down the street even has a Yes On 8 banner stuck into their lawn.

As part of researching this Proposition, I’ve tried to see things from other perspectives different from my own. From the legal perspective, the Yes On 8 group argues that banning gay marriage will not take away any rights that gays and lesbians already have. In particular, they argue that the benefits from a civil union or domestic partnership have the same legal rights and benefits as that of a marriage.

The question that I have with that argument is why define one set of rules for one group of people and another set for everyone else? From Wikipedia: “Separate but equal is a set phrase denoting the system of segregation that justifies giving different groups of people separate facilities or services with the declaration that the quality of each group’s public facilities remain equal.” Will we end up with restaurants that only serve heterosexuals? A drinking fountain only for homosexuals?

A different perspective (the “moral” one) is that gay marriage (as well as being gay in general) is “wrong and disgusting.” I read that phrase somewhere and I keep thinking about it. When I try to think logically in their shoes, my only explanation for this reasoning is that they cannot see outside their own eyes. I suppose for a straight guy, visualizing himself marrying another guy just doesn’t make sense. It feels wrong to him. Therefore, since being straight is normal, same sex marriage must be wrong (and somehow disgusting).

Being on the other side of that, I can’t imagine marrying a woman. It wouldn’t make sense to me. But that doesn’t mean I think straight marriage is wrong or disgusting. It’s just not for me. Being attracted to guys (emotionally, not just physically) is what is normal for me.

(Side note) Along this same logic is the notion that homosexuality is a choice. If people just took a step back and saw things through another person’s eyes, they’d understand that it’s not a choice. Personally, being gay was never my choice. When I was growing up, I prayed and cried so hard not to be gay. I wanted to be normal. What took me years of guilt, self hatred, and doubt to figure out is that I am normal.

I also don’t understand why so many people are against teaching kids acceptance toward gay people. In the same way that growing up in a heteronormative society didn’t turn me straight, a few conversations about and interactions with gay people are not going to turn our society’s youth into homosexuals. If your kid ends up being gay, wouldn’t it be better to have a society that accepts them? To have a state Constitution that protects all the rights that they should have?

In the end, I truly think Proposition 8 isn’t about gay marriage at all. Rather, it’s about everyone’s right (not privilege) to love and be loved. Voting NO on Proposition 8 would protect that right, which is certainly what I’m voting.

Michael And Ellen

Here’s a short news update from the few news articles I’ve seen today.

This must be old news by now, but Michael Phelps won his eigth gold medal at the Beijing Olympics! If anyone can be described as the greatest Olympian of all time, it’s him. I’m not really following the Olympics that much, but I have been keeping track of Michael Phelps’ medal count. He’s so amazing (and I love swimmers)! You can read an article here.

In other news, Ellen DeGeneres married Portia de Rossi! Congratulations to Ellen and Portia! Hooray for gay marriage! Hopefully Ellen will put some clips on her show so that I add a YouTube link in the future. There’s a link to that (short) article here. I love Ellen!