Perry, meet Paul (and, you know, Jesus)

My governor makes me angry. In theory, I do not begrudge public figures the right to publicly have religious convictions. This does not mean I think it's okay for them to legislate morality for others based on those religious convictions, but if a politician wants to pray about his political decisions and tell us about it, that's fine with me. "Don't ask, don't tell" is a bad policy for anything, including religion, and we shouldn't pretend that a person's religion is some discrete component of their identity they can turn off at will. What is not okay with me is if a politician wants to pray instead of making political decisions, and encourage others to do the same, as if it were one of his official acts as governor. Enter Rick Perry.

This article reports on a speech Perry made a few months ago promoting The Response, a prayer rally he is sponsoring as the governor of Texas. If it were an ecumenical affair, I might be a little more sanguine about it (though I'd still find it just about as ridiculous as that time Perry ordered Texans to pray for rain), but when you bring the American Family Association into it, I start running the other direction. Also, there's this:

I tell people, that "personal property" and the ownership of that personal property is crucial to our way of life.

Our founding fathers understood that it was a very important part of the pursuit of happiness. Being able to own things that are your own is one of the things that makes America unique. But I happen to think that it's in jeopardy.

It's in jeopardy because of taxes; it's in jeopardy because of regulation; it's in jeopardy because of a legal system that’s run amok. And I think it's time for us to just hand it over to God and say, "God, You’re going to have to fix this." ...

I think it's time for us to use our wisdom and our influence and really put it in God's hands. That's what I'm going to do, and I hope you'll join me.

To which I say:


Letter to the Editor

From today's issue of The Eagle, Bryan-College Station's local paper (hyperlinks are my addition).

Homosexuality is a given, not freely chosen

Two readers have already responded with evidence refuting Rev. David Konderla's claim (Eagle, May 24) that changing one's sexual orientation is possible. I add that the American Psychological Association's Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation "conducted a systematic review of the peer-reviewed journal literature on sexual orientation change efforts and concluded that efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm."

I am not Catholic, but as a gay Christian, I have researched several denominations' positions on homosexuality. Many do not accept that different sexual orientations exist. They regard heterosexuality as the only possible orientation, and people who experience "same-sex attractions" are not gay, but "broken" heterosexuals.

The Catholic Church is more in line with scientific evidence than many denominations. A 1997 document from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Always Our Children," states: "It seems appropriate to understand sexual orientation (heterosexual or homosexual) as a deep-seated dimension of one's personality and to recognize its relative stability in a person. Generally, homosexual orientation is experienced as a given, not as something freely chosen."

It continues: "This implies respecting a person's freedom to choose or refuse therapy directed toward changing a homosexual orientation. Given the present state of medical and psychological knowledge, there is no guarantee that such therapy will succeed."

While not by itself damning of sexual orientation change efforts, this statement implies respect for scientific evidence, which, since 1997, has moved steadily toward affirming sexual orientation as immutable. If one accepts this, Rev. Konderla's organization seems misdirected and out of line with its own faith.

For more information, read the full text of "Always Our Children" and consult the website fortunatefamilies.com, which features an eight-part series on homosexuality and the Catholic Church.


This letter follows two others I have written to The Eagle in a similar vein: We must continue to combat negative images (November 9, 2010) and No need for a family and traditional values center (April 26, 2011).


Third Thoughts

Excuse me for a moment while I get a little meta and blog about my blog. I've inhabited this same small corner of the web since late 2006, and this is its third "reboot" after a prolonged absence. Each time, I've toyed with the idea of starting fresh with a shiny new blog, but each time I decide against it. For one thing, some extremely deep-seated aspect of my character rebels at any sort of redundancy. It's why I don't use Twitter (redundant to Facebook status updates), why I figured out how to transfer balances between Starbucks gift cards so I wouldn't have to carry more than one, and why, if I ever fulfill my dream of getting an iPhone, I will immediately ditch my iPod and camera. In general, I like my life to take up as little space as possible.

There's another reason, though. I like continuity. I'm the sort of person who periodically goes back and reads every journal she's ever written in. Yes, sometimes reading the thoughts of my former self produces a feeling similar to nails on a chalkboard, but that person was me, too. Except in the most egregious cases, I'm not interested in hiding it. So please, feel free to get acquainted with Hallie the college freshman, who wrote a lengthy and impassioned article on how to wear a bra. Even though I've since ditched bras entirely, it's still one of my most-trafficked posts. 

The same year, I wrote a preachy rant about the fashion industry, in which I complained about "fashion statements that ought to be censored" and labeled girls who dress in revealing clothes "tart" (not to mention the judgmental comment that "if you're going to wear a practically nonexistent shirt, at least go back and read my bra rant - there are some things we don't want to see"). I have since learned the word for what I was doing. It's called slut-shaming, and if you -- like I did -- think it's just fine to judge women for how they present their bodies, please go read this amazing speech right now. I cried. No, the judgmental impulse in the back of my mind that goes "wow, that skirt is too short" has not immediately shut up. But I'm working on it.

And that's why I keep this blog around. Just like my third-grade diary with the heart-shaped lock, it keeps track of who I've been and who I'm becoming. Even better than a paper journal, this blog lets me self-annotate -- when I figure out that an old version of me was wrong about something, I can turn right around and tell her so. That means, as this blog continues to age, the "meta" tag will probably get more and more use. Read on, and watch the evolution happen.


Sharp Edges and Fiddly Bits

Last week, I had the honor of giving an address at Upper School Awards Evening. I talked about my experience as a Saint Michael's student: finding a home there, going out into the wide world, and coming back as a teacher. In my effort to convey the uniqueness of the Saint Michael's experience, my metaphors meandered through fishponds and geometric objects, and the phrase "sharp edges and fiddly bits" really did occur. Several times. 
Upper School Awards -- May 26, 2011 
It’s been five years, almost to the day, since the last time I stood at a podium to address the Saint Michael’s Upper School student body. It was commencement, and I was delivering the valedictory address. Five years ago, we didn’t have this chapel. I was looking out over my friends and classmates from the lectern at Saint Andrew’s church, but the view from here is almost identical. It seems aptly symbolic of my return to Saint Michael’s: the scenery is different from where I stand now, as a teacher rather than a student, but everything feels wonderfully familiar. 


Armchair Activism

I've been signing petitions on Change.org for a while now -- at first I wasn't convinced it could possibly make a difference, but their Victories page says otherwise. If nothing else, I find out about things I care about but would rarely hear about.

Well, I read about Old Navy's new line of Pride shirts on afterellen.com a few days ago, and then I came across this article today, and I got a little frustrated. Apparently, gay pride is only marketable in 26 stores out of Old Navy's 1000+ locations in the U.S. Apparently, my identity and equality are commodities that are only a safe economic bet among less than 3% of Old Navy's customers, and they couldn't even extend the line's availability to their online store. Personally, I find this offensive.

So I decided to take my armchair activism up a notch and actually write my own petition. If I've done it right, it will arrive in the email inbox, not only of Old Navy's customer service department, but of the CEO of Gap Inc., which owns Old Navy. I didn't want to be obnoxious and email-blast my friends (clearly I have no such compunctions about the owners of Gap and Old Navy), but if you have a second and would like to sign, it would be much appreciated. You can sign below, or find the petition here.

Cross-posted from my Livejournal.