Louanne Cole Weston is a sex therapist in Northern California and a widely-read columnist on matters relating to sexuality. She graciously agreed to let me post her thoughts on Proposition 8 on the blog as a guest post. Even though we are nearly a month past the election, her thoughts are just as relevant and insightful today as they were on November 5th, when she wrote this)
On Wednesday I went to pick up my kids from school. I was a little early and I ran into a woman I’d met two years ago when our kids were in adjacent classrooms. We’d stand waiting for our then second graders to come dashing out at the end of school. Now our kids’ rooms aren’t close, but there she was among the few early arrivals and I knew that I wanted to talk to her. She and her partner are the only lesbian couple that I’m aware of at our school.
As I approached her, she saw me and called out ahead of my arrival, “How are you doing?” I said with a smile and a wince, “Only half happy.” She and I had never discussed her relationship or what I do for a living, but on this day, we had to talk. She smiled back and said, “Yep, that pretty well sums it up.” We then dove into a 10-minute conversation about how happy we were about Obama winning the presidential election and how sad we were about the passage of Proposition 8 in California that removed the existing right of same-sex couples to marry.
She told me that she and her partner had decided to get married on Monday, the day before the election. It wasn’t a rash decision. They’d been together for 20 years and had been parenting together about nine. She said that she didn’t know whether she’d still be married by Wednesday according to California law, but at least she’d have been married for a day. (As of today, Attorney General Jerry Brown stated that the same sex marriages that have occurred will stand.) She was philosophic about it and said that she knew she would keep on having this relationship with her lover.
I’m guessing her age to be in the late forties/early fifties. She said that our country had come a long way in her lifetime. That certainly was true. She also said that she had the patience to wait this out and that she was grateful that little by little people were coming to understand that people attracted to the same sex are just born that way. I said to her, “Yes, who in their right mind would choose this path?!” She laughed and said, “Yes, this path can be quite difficult at times.”
I then mentioned that I was currently working with a married woman in my therapy practice who in her thirties was coming to the strong realization that she was very much sexually attracted to women and only very slightly to men. I mentioned that when her female friends would talk about some exciting sexual experience they’d had with their husbands, she would just wonder why they were making such a fuss. Not until she had a sexual relationship with a woman, did she really understand what they were talking about and how exciting it could be.
My friend at school nodded and implied that she’d been through similar dilemmas herself. Then our conversation drifted toward the question of why Proposition 8 passed.
The morning radio talk show I’d heard was tackling the question of whether it was about hatred. My friend offered up that it was about lack of education and accurate information.
I link it to fear. It’s fear that leads to hatred. I often find myself saying to couples in my office, “Hatred is not the opposite of love. Indifference is.” Hate occurs when there is a deep rift in the connection between people who matter to each other. Hatred of people of a different sexual orientation exists in part because it causes self-doubt and that matters. Self-doubt is in no way indifferent. It taps into one’s sense of self and if that isn’t secure, there is fear — fear that I am not who I think I am, fear that I am somehow diminished by those who are different from me.
People often fear getting accurate information about sexual orientation because it might prompt them to change the way that they think. We’ve seen sayings like, “Please don’t upset my opinions with your facts.” Well, that’s what happened in California on Tuesday.
But, the proponents of Proposition 8 figured out the most strategic way to advance their position — remind parents how uncomfortable they are talking about sex to kids. Having marriage between two men or two women was going to beg the question that parents explain the nature of romantic and sexual attraction to their kids. Many sex educators know that adults who were part of “the summer of love” are only a little better at educating their children about sex than their own parents were.
When we look at the data about how Californians voted, we find that when children live in a household, the tendency to have voted for Prop 8 increased to 64% from 44 % in homes with no children. That’s quite a swing and it must mean something.
Most yes-voters probably forgot that marriage is about love and commitment as much as (if not more than) it is about sex. They likely got themselves all tangled up in how to describe sex between two men or two women to a child. They forgot to say (in their mental rehearsing) that generally when people get married, they do it to create a home together and because they love each other. That’s how my six-year old understands it.
That’s also how my nine-year old understands it. At school, somewhere during recess yesterday, a classmate said to my fourth-grader, “If you’re against Proposition 8, then you’re gay!” I asked him if he said anything back. He said, “Yes, I said that people should be allowed to be what they want and love whoever they want — and it’s not anybody’s business but theirs.” When he said that I got those big motherly tingles of pride that you only get once in a while.
As one of my gay male clients sadly said today in my therapy office, “The chickens had a better day on Tuesday than I did.” Proposition 2 in California was passed by 63%. It holds that animals being grown for food deserved to be in larger pens and treated more kindly before being slaughtered. If Proposition 8 weren’t such a violation of civil rights, this would almost be funny.