by Michael Raitt -
SGN Contributing Writer
Culturally it is a historic time for the residents of Washington. Families and communities here, and around the country, are talking about the implications of legally recognizing same-sex marriage. Here are my thoughts, from personal and psychological perspectives, supporting Gay men and Lesbian women in getting legally married.
When families are beginning - even during the planning phase, before a child has been conceived or adopted - most parents start hoping and dreaming about the lives their children will live. Mothers and fathers across the world fantasize that their children will experience success, happiness, and love. Parents dream of the day that they will witness their adult child joining someone they love and building a family. Parents visualize in their minds the weddings, spouses, in-laws, and grandchildren they want in their future. This is a cultural cycle.
A CORE EXPERIENCE
Have you ever seen little children playing 'house'? Almost all children, at some point, begin to dream themselves about having a family and being in love. These children are already beginning to understand and live out this natural phenomenon. There is an instinctive drive towards love, bonding, and family-building. This intrinsic drive is reinforced through stories, families, fairy tales, modeling, and religious teachings. Dreams are for everyone - they are not exclusive to certain people.
A cornerstone of American culture is exactly what this is about - pursuing and achieving the American Dream. Without question, part of this dream includes being in love and building a family. Marriage is the legal and culturally sanctioned recognition of a loving, romantic bond and it is this bond that cements families and communities. Whether people want to admit it or not, being Lesbian/Gay is about romantic love. As I've said in previous articles, Gay is an emotional orientation. It is not singularly about an act of sex, and it never has been - it's only been talked about this way.
Psychologically, it is well-known that love is one of our strongest bonds. It is this love bond that brings happiness and peace and affects our perceptions of ourselves. We are happier when we know we are loved and accepted by another. It is love that creates a family, and families are essential to community. Communities make cultures, and cultures create a diverse country. This is a core experience and process of being human. At our essence, we know this! Parents, children, brothers, sisters, and grandparents all fundamentally know this.
For many of us, this is a non-issue. We get it. We support it! We know in our hearts that what I've outlined above is true. These are neighbors, friends, brothers, sisters, parents, and children who know Gay and Lesbian men and women who are in love. They know that supporting us getting married is a way in which they show their love and acceptance of us. It is an act of inclusion.
Some people, however, are truly conflicted. These are not the citizens who stand in blind, defiant opposition and who will never be open to anything different than what they believe. Rather, these are individuals who are honestly toiling in their thoughts, feelings, and values about what the right thing to do is. They value love and community and want their Gay and Lesbian loved ones to be happy and live the dream as well. Yet, they face questions and concerns that exist deep within them.
Some of the deepest, most caring, thoughtful people in the world have been deeply conflicted when faced with extremely important social and emotional issues. There is no shame in this conflict and no need to criticize it. This conflict is reflective of depth of character. It is a willingness to challenge oneself and be open to growth. This struggle is sometimes based on religious beliefs, mixed with fear. These people face change themselves and potential ridicule and social sanctions from others in their social circles. It puts these people in what seems to them an agonizing position. For this group of people, what is needed, in my opinion, is respect and acknowledgment - a recognition that they are open to a different perspective and a willingness to take a position for others they care about, even though it may expose them to harsh judgment from people they currently consider friends and/or leaders of their particular communities.
If this describes you, in my opinion your struggle is a noble one. You want your Lesbian/Gay loved ones to be happy. You recognize that you want your Gay son, daughter, mother, father, or friend to be accepted for the love they feel for their partner, and you know that social acceptance is conveyed through the legal recognition we call marriage. Most of you profoundly know that your love of God and the love you have for your Gay/Lesbian loved one can co-exist. You realize that your act of loving your God is reflected in the act of granting legal standing that recognizes the love between two people, even if they are of the same gender.
IT'S ALL ABOUT LOVE
Love is a fundamental experience of all humans. I see it every day. I work with people who want to find love within themselves or who want to love another adult. I work with people who are in deep pain because they have lost love. I know parents who have always loved their Gay/Lesbian child, yet have been in conflict because their dream is changing from those earlier years. I recognize that love is the foundation of all the great religions of the world and that many people look to the teachings in these religions to live love daily. I know, too, that fear is the biggest enemy of love.
Being Gay/Lesbian is about being in love. Marriage is the legal recognition of that love and it provides rights to couples who are in love - rights that our counterparts are given. This is what Referendum 74 is about. For those who are in support, thank you. For those who are conflicted, I encourage you to find that place within yourself where you know that acting on behalf of love is the right thing to do. In supporting love, you are supporting strong, connected families and cohesive communities. Find that place within yourself where you pass through the trepidation, and never let irrational fear deny the rights of others, disregard genuine love, or kill a dream.
Michael Raitt, M.A., L.M.H.C., is a therapist whose column appears bimonthly in SGN. If you would like to comment on this column, ask a question you'd like him to write about, or suggest another topic of interest, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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