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12:50 p.m. - Saturday, Jul. 31, 2004
News Flash! I Agree With the Pope!
I just heard on an NPR newscast that the Pope has issued some sort of statement that included this assertion: "Equality between the sexes has made heterosexuality indistinguishable from homosexuality."

You know, he's got a point....but what's the problem, Your Holiness?

Some time ago Sam posed the question to his readers: When did you realize you were homosexual, or heterosexual, as the case may be? As usual, my memory failed me. In the case of us straights, of course, it isn't as easy to remember that moment of enlightenment, usually because it never happens; human psychology being what it is, you rarely have the sudden, blinding insight that you are just like everybody else. But I couldn't remember, either, exactly when I became aware that there was any sexuality in the world besides hetero. I think that knowledge came through a series of educational accidents when I was about 12 or 13 years old: an overheard conversation among some boys at my school; a glimpse of a film; a dream I myself had. What I do remember clearly, though, is my emotional reaction to this dawning awareness I was absolutely delighted.

I've often wondered why I had that reaction, and I think it relates to what I saw around me of heterosexuality. My parents' marriage looked to me like a nightmare. My father was openly contemptuous of my mother, my mother was endured it because she had no money, no education, no job skills. She was subservient to his face, but made bitter remarks behind his back. Looking at the marriages of my friends' parents, I could see that they weren't always so bad, but every mom I knew stayed at home.

I myself always had the feeling of being limited by being a girl. My brother was allowed to range all over town on his bicycle, hopping freight trains and getting chased by the police; I had to ask permission to go buy penny candy at the drugstore half a mile away. I remember one argument I had with my mother on a summer morning, when I wanted to go outside with no shirt on. I was about six or seven years old and my chest was indistinguishable from a boy's, but my mother flatly insisted that girls could not go around without shirts that's just the way things are end of argument. "That's not fair!" I said, but I put on the shirt.

I was brought up on the assumption that my life's work would be to marry and have children. Without much thought I accepted that as my destiny, but looking at the examples around me, I could see it only as a long imprisonment. If you're a girl, you fall in love and marry, and it is the best thing that can ever happen to you. You marry, you have children, you spend your life cleaning house and hoping that your husband won't come home in a bad mood. Your husband insults you, and you endure it silently not simply because you have no money, no education, no job skills, but also because if you leave him you will be nothing.

In other words, I saw an unbreakable link between love and restriction, between love and disrespect. And then I found out that sometimes men fall in love with each other. Do you wonder that I was delighted? Here, for me, it was as if love had been pardoned and released from an unjust imprisonment.

Now comes His Holiness to say (if I got that quote right) that the salient characteristic of heterosexual relationships, the one thing that distinguishes them from a state of sin, is inequality. Apparently he, too, sees a link between love and disrespect. So we agree, up to a point.

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I wish I could rewrite this whole thing and make it better, but I have to go clean the goddamn house.

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