Thu. March 21
Macho Men, Bullies, and Gay Marriage
There’s nothing worse in the world than bullying. It not only traumatizes the victim, but often makes that victim become a bully himself later in life.
This is the dilemma that American society will have to deal with as it becomes increasingly accepting of gay marriage. The Washington Post recently reported that more and more “macho men” in the sports and entertainment worlds are speaking out in defense of gays and gay marriage. The list includes rapper 50 Cent, Baltimore Raven Brendon Ayanbadejo, and Minnesota Viking Chris Kluwe. Washington, D.C., sports broadcaster Brett Haber this year joined with the pro-gay sports group Athlete Ally, started by former University of Maryland wrestler Hudson Taylor.
It is important to celebrate tolerance, while keeping watch to make sure that the tolerance itself doesn’t become oppression. It’s crucial that the virtues of forgiveness, kindness, and humility play a part in the new balancing act that people are trying to achieve with modern gay issues.
To me it seems like a lot of the testosterone geysers mentioned in the Washington Post article are catching up with the way I was raised. In fact I can’t believe I’m saying it, but my Irish-Catholic parents may have been way ahead of their time, at least in terms of how they taught us to treat gay people. While they would have thought the idea of gay marriage bizarre–to say the least–they taught us that it is a man’s duty not only to stand up for himself, but to defend the weaker. And, while acknowledging that this is a stereotype, those weaker people included gays.
Now, I was far from perfect. It was years ago, and I was a girl-crazy jock at an all-boys Catholic prep school; like a lot of kids at that time trying to gain acceptance, I used the f-word with abandon. But my parents and my brothers, although straight, were a gentle counterforce preaching tolerance. I still remember the revelation I had when I saw my brother acting in a play for which he would win the Helen Hayes Award. My God, I thought, watching him sweat and emote for three hours on the stage, he’s just as much of an athlete as I am, and so are his actor friends who are gay.
One night a friend of my brother’s, a talented actor, was mugged and beaten, or “gay bashed,” while he was walking through a neighborhood in our hometown of Washington, D.C. I came home to find my mother on the couch crying. She just kept saying “Those bastards beat him to a pulp.” My mother does not accept gay marriage–“why do they want that word so badly?” she asks–but she would be the first one to intervene on behalf of a gay person who was being mistreated. I can still remember when I was a teenager and my father, who died in 1996, heard me imitating an effeminate gay colleague of his. Dad came in the room and came face to face. “He’s one of the kindest souls I’ve ever known,” he said, “and you, my friend, sound like a jerk. Real men don’t pick on weaker people.”
Of course, dad may have been wrong to generalize about gays being “weaker people.” But I would argue that if not always physically weaker, twenty years ago homosexuals had a weaker position in the society. And, according to my parents, that meant that it was our job to protect them.
This is why it was quite jarring when a couple years ago I heard that sex columnist and gay marriage advocate Dan Savage had mocked another man for being effeminate. The man is the husband of a well-known politician, but that doesn’t matter. Dan Savage was doing what I used to do before my father told me not to–he was bullying someone who is different.
The philosopher Roger Scruton once observed that Christianity asks us to “step outside of the circle of retribution.” I believe that gay and straight Americans of goodwill want to do this, even as they remain at odds about the question of homosexuality. But sadly, Dan Savage’s kind of bullying, an echo of my own when I was younger, has become common among some supporters of same sex marriage. And it can be quite hysterical. People–like my parents–who would give a gay person the money in their wallet but think that marriage means a man and a woman are now “haters.” Dissenters from marriage equality are not just wrong, they are evil. I would only say to Savage and the other more emotional gay marriage activists that someone who would put himself between you and an attacker is not a hater, even if he isn’t as cool as 50 Cent.