I know you’ve heard the old stereotype that gays are promiscuous? It’s been around for a long time, and it’s been used to justify the denial of basic human and civil rights. In fact, I was just reading a blog written by the son of a gay man. Because of his experiences being raised by his father, he wondered if gays should be permitted to raise children. As he tells it, his upbringing was one of serial abuse – a horror show of his father’s numerous lovers and overt sexual activity in which he was made a party. It must have been traumatic growing up under those circumstances to say the least. But, I wondered why he thought a significant portion of gay fathers abused their children – such a significant portion as to warrant forbidding gays from parenthood.
The abusive behavior this young man experienced is not confined to gay men. Heterosexual men have been known to abuse their children too. Children suffer from the sexual behavior of their parents not because of their parents’ sexual orientation, but rather because their parents can be sexual predators or their behavior can range from criminally abusive to immature idiocy. Gay fathers come in all types, just as their counterparts in the heterosexual community. Stupidity is an equal opportunity trait affecting both the gay and heterosexual communities. There are good and bad parents, caring and uncaring parents, smart and stupid parents. Sexual orientation is not the deciding factor.
Nevertheless, there are many out there that might still argue the existence of a greater percentage of overt promiscuity in the gay community than in the heterosexual community. I don’t know the percentages. What I do know is that our society has provided no incentive to the gay community to build committed relationships, because it has for so long denied the community the right to marry. Marriage, the commitment made between two people to each other and to their resultant family, strikes me as society’s attempt to, among other things, curb promiscuity. If not at the heart of the commitment, it’s pretty damn central to it. If you believe the stereotype, then you should support same-sex marriage for no other reason then the marital commitment is in the best interest of the children. How can you say, “no”?
Image Courtesy of: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-07/gay-marriage-gets-supreme-court-review-for-the-first-time.html
Generalizations and preconceived notions – pretty innocuous. Since we all have them, they can’t cause harm. Really? Think again. Even before we’ve spoken word one to a stranger, we’ve formed fairly clear ideas of who this stranger is. Say, for example, you meet a young man on the street corner. His clothes alone might tell you whether he has disposable income or if he is a criminal. His hair style might tell you whether he is immature. Add to the mix that this young man is African-American. What do you now know about him? It doesn’t matter what you are – for example, Caucasian or African-American – you still know nothing of any consequence about him. The clothes may be borrowed. The hoodie may keep out the cold. The dreds may be the valid choice of an adult seeking a cultural identity different from your own. This young man could be anything and anyone. Until he lets you into his world and tells you his truths, you know nothing.
That feeling of fear you experience upon seeing the young man, may lead you to discount the very person who will pull you from harm’s way as a bus speeds around the corner. That feeling of safety you experience upon seeing the young man, may lead you into a life-threatening situation. Notwithstanding your preconceived notions, that young man may one day be the doctor who saves your life or the burglar who breaks into your home. You have no idea who the young man is or who he will become.
Preconceived notions are the stereotypes that we all carry around inside our heads. They simplify our lives, by lessening our need to think, because we feel we already know. But, we are at our best when we think. I will admit, though, that on rare occasions a preconceived notion or stereotype accurately portrays the truth. As they say, even a broken clock tells the right time twice a day. But, more often than not our preconceived notions and stereotypes are inaccurate. That inaccuracy not only does a disservice to the people we meet, but it does a disservice to ourselves, because it inevitably leads us into an unhealthy ethnocentrism – a “we/they” attitude. We assume that people like us are okay, and people different from us are to be distrusted. That assumption can have dire consequences, as we self-inflict a blindness that makes it impossible for us to see the worth in others. Unless, however, they look somewhat like ourselves.
Image courtesy of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereotypes_of_African_Americans_in_the_United_States
Reproduction of a 1900 William H. West minstrel show poster, originally published by the Strobridge Litho Co., shows the transformation from white to “black”. From Wikipedia