Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Good News!

So first, J and I went shopping last night and bought nearly $500 worth of alcohol!  No, i'ts not what you think.  We're not lushes.  (Well, J is, I'm not.)  Twice a year, one of our local (and favorite) wine shops promotes "Dollar Days" - when everything in the store is $1 above cost!  Wow!  So we decided this would be an ideal time to purchase our Champagne for the ceremony.  So $300 of our spending was for 3 cases of Champagne :) Only $200 was for our personal consumption.  Our liquor cabinet is well-stocked for the first time in a looooong time (we had no money for the last "Dollar Days" 6 months ago).

In other ceremony news, however, MD is one step closer to actually recognizing our union!  Today, Attorney General Doug Gansler released his long-awaited opinion regarding out-of-state same sex marriage recognition in  MD.  And it looks good for us!  His opinion is that there is really nothing stopping MD from recognizing out-of-state same sex marriages, even though MD law states that only male-female, monogamous relationships are recognized.  His opinion, however, is based on past precedents: 1.) Common law marriages - which are not legal in MD - are recognized when the couple has a common law marriage from a previous state of residence, and 2.) A Rhode Island uncle and niece have their marriage recognized in MD, despite the fact that MD law does not allow for blood relative unions.

While this is great news for us - it's just the beginning of an uphill battle for sure.  No doubt Republicans are already working hard to create a bill that would preclude this decision from getting off the ground.  Likewise, the Democrats are no doubt crafting bills which will ensure protections for out-of-state same sex married couples.  We'll see.  One thing's for sure: this is a good step in the right direction!

I do wonder what Ron George thinks of all of this? :)  I just sent off the email (a slightly edited version of what I posted in my last post) to him this morning, complete with an attachment of a 2008 Swedish study that showed differences between gay and straight brains.  I'll let you know if he responds!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Getting Onboard with 'the Gay Agenda'", or "Getting Slimed by Association"

Last night, my partner and I jumped a little deeper into the political action pool.  Last year around this time, we attended Equality Maryland's Legislative Day rally, which featured Gene Robinson, the openly Gay Episcopal bishop of good or ill repute (depending on your source).  Afterward, most of the attendants broke up into smaller groups and visited their own representatives.  J and I, I think, felt just a little too overwhelmed to do anything more than get our feet wet by attending the rally.

This year, however, we were eager to sign up and talk to our legislators:

Maryland House
Maryland Senate
Now, I'm not going to name any names, or point the finger to isolate either party, but there were a few moments where I literally felt like I was sitting in the presence of sleaze.  I detest talking to used car salesmen, but you know, you do what you have to do to get the job done.

We have several bills that are up for Committee discussion in this current session, so we tried our best to field our legislators' positions on these important issues (which include marriage equality, and protections afforded to transgendered people in the workplace, among several other things).  

For the most part, it seems that our legislators are on our side, with the exception of marriage equality.  One legislator (can you guess who?) is firmly against it.  And I had to ask him the question 3 times before he would firmly admit so much.  Now, the fact that Ron George - our only Republican delegate - is against marriage equality is not surprising at all.  What shocked me was his reason for being against it!  He stated that it was neuroscience which led him to this conclusion.  He bolstered his view by proclaiming his strong background in clinical psychology.

I sat silent for a few moments while he droned on about other things.  But being a psychopharmacologist, I couldn't let it go.  I returned to the subject, and asked if he could expound.  In summary, he stated that the brains of men and women are different, and that there is something unique and special about the complementarity of them.  I suggested to him that gay brains might be different, and would provide him evidence to support that point, which he quickly poo-pooed - again sounding out his strong background and review of the neuroscientific evidence - and circumvented the topic once again.

I left without pushing the issue further, but J and I do plan on sending him an email and discussing neuroscience further.  (The email is below.  Tell me what you think about it!)  I do look forward to hearing back from him.  From my vantage point, this simply seems like a reworking of the "Adam and Steve" argument, except instead of arguing complementarity of parts (penises and vaginas), he's arguing complementarity of brains ("penis brains" and "vagina brains"??)  Honestly, I am - in a word - nonplussed.  I do hope that he has some better reasoning than meets the eye.  I'll post a reply if he supplies one - which, I'm pretty sure I'll insist that he does.  If he does not respond, I'll be sure to supply counter evidence to more receptive delegates, to ensure that balanced testimony is heard during the hearings.

Coincidentally, you may be wondering why I'd bother to wrangle with someone who has such a strong background in neuroscience.  Well, it turns out that his "strong" background is actually in acting and jewelry making.  He does happen to have an MS in clinical psychology, which he attained from a Catholic institute in Virginia.  Now, I don't bring this up to diminish the quality of his education.  For all I know, the Institute of Psychological Sciences is a reputable program (though, admittedly, in my professional experience, I've never heard of the place - and it's not far from here).  And maybe they do a good job of putting an unbiased slant on neuroscience - rather than a conservative, Catholic one (though admittedly, the school's programs do not appear to be accredited by the American Psychological Association - or any psychological body, for that matter - so I'd have to grant them a rather magnanimous benefit of the doubt on that one).  But what I find interesting is that Delegate George's resume does NOT include any relevant psychology work - either in research or in clinical psychology.  So his very "strong" background in neuroscience seems dubious to me, at best.  I guess we'll see . . .
Dear Delegate George,

Thank you for making the time to meet with Equality Maryland this evening. My partner, [J], and I (we were sitting directly on your right) are new residents in Annapolis, and we think it is important to have a relationship with our elected representatives, particularly as we prepare for the elections this November. We appreciated the chance to get to know you a bit.

We are sorry that you do not support full marriage equality for gay and lesbian Marylanders. We appreciate your psychological perspective, but for us, this can never be merely an academic issue. Our experience as gay people makes this a full-spectrum issue, touching all areas of our lives and persons. For us, marriage equality is intensely practical, affecting our lives every time we sign a contract, file our taxes, or consider any one of myriad issues of family life.

At the same time, I do find it meaningful to pursue academic concerns, as they become the basis for legislative action for many people.  What I did not mention in our meeting (because I didn't want to sound pretentious) is that I am a psychopharmacologist.  So naturally, my interest was piqued when you stated that your concerns about gay rights were rooted in neuroscience.  I would really appreciate it if you could expound a bit more about your neuroscientific background, and what you feel neuroscience says about civil protections for gay people.  I would also appreciate some scholarly references which back up your claims.  (No need to bother with supplying articles, citations will do, as my employment at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy gives me access to endless primary, secondary, and tertiary resources.)

It would be especially helpful if you could describe your argument (in as much detail as you feel comfortable) in a format that is more or less as follows:

1.) What you think the vast neurological and neuroscientific evidence says about sexuality
2.) What you think this evidence says about heterosexuality specifically
3.) What you think this evidence says about homosexuality specifically, and whether or not it seems to be - in your opinion - a disordered version of what you describe in 2 above, or whether it seems to be a variant across humankind and/or mammalian species
4.) Given 1-3 above, how should this evidence dictate our determination of civil rights (specifically gay rights)?

I ask in this way, because my current understanding of your argument is that you are of the opinion that there is a such thing as a "male brain," and it's complement (the "female brain").  Thus, marriage should be based on this complementarity of brains.  From my vantage point, this seems like a reworking of the indefensible (and now defunct) "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" argument (i.e., marriage is based upon the complementarity of the physical parts, specifically genitalia).  I'm sure I don't need to bore you with the philosophical complications of such an argument, and why it really has no place in determining civil marriage protections.  Yet, it seems as though you've simply made a similar argument, but instead of positing penises and vaginas, you've posited "male brains" and "female brains."  How exactly do you feel that your neuroscientific argument is superior to the "Adam and Steve" argument? 
Furthermore, if there is a sort of harmony between "male brains" and "female brains," what do you make of gay people? If your supposition is that gay men still have (heterosexual) "male brains," then you are really saying that gay people CHOOSE to be gay, and thus should not be allowed to marry other men.  However, if gay men do not choose to be gay, then you must conclude that the "gay male brain" is somehow different.  And if so, should there not be some suitable provisions in the law allowing for the union of "gay male brains"?  (The same, of course, could be asked of lesbians and "lesbian female brains.")

Finally, please be aware that I am a blogger, so if there is something that you would not want me to share publicly, please indicate that.  I will certainly respect your wishes.
Once again, we do sincerely appreciate your time yesterday evening, and your willingness to speak with us. We look forward to hearing from you soon, and we hope that we can come to a better understanding of ourselves and each other in the process.

DF and JC
[address hidden]

Monday, February 15, 2010

God of Love/God of Wrath . . .

I'm only in about the 3rd or 4th Chapter of A New Kind of Christianity.  Thus far, the ideas are mostly reviews of some of McLaren's other material, but he's putting it together in a slightly different way.  After the intro, he starts off talking about the Western Christian metanarrative as one that is largely Greco-Roman in origin, and Platonic in philosophy.  He asserts that it has actually supplanted the Jewish, Biblical metanarrative.  Jesus, instead of emerging from a particular culture and carrying the story of man and God forward, is actually now someone we look at in retrospect - through the eyes of Paul, and Augustine, and Martin Luther, and Billy Graham.

I really love the way Brian weaves larger themes of history, theology, philosophy, and literature to show us how we arrived at the Christianity many of us currently own.

What it got me thinking about is this question I've always had about God.  I know that orthodoxy has us spouting the cliche that "God is the same yesterday, today, and forever."  He is unchanging.  He is eternal.  But I couldn't possibly be the only good, Evangelical kid who grew up fearing the God of the Old Testament, and loving the lamb-cuddling Jesus of the New.  I couldn't possibly be the only one who was discombobulated by the God who says "please kill that whole tribe of people - and don't neglect the women and kids - or I'll kill you!" and then turns around and is full of grace and truth not but a few books later.  Even practically speaking, the only really baffling "act" of God in the New Testament that's remotely like the God of the Old is when the Holy Spirit rids the Christian community of Ananias and Sapphira.  But never again do we see anything remotely resembling the fearful God of the Old Testament.

At least, that's how I've always thought about it.  But today, I realized that the God of Old and New didn't so much change his wrath as he changed the way in which he meted it.  The Old Testament God was merciful, yes - but only to his "chosen people", and even then he could be pretty cruel (killing off the dude who tried to keep the Ark of the Covenant from shattering anyone?)  But what he did not do was threaten eternal damnation and eternal, conscious torture.  But the God of the New Testament was just the opposite: graceful and loving to those in this life (again, just those "chosen" by some means), but ever threatening to destroy the immaterial souls of those not in the fold by torturous hellfire. (Of course, this is merely the prominent, Western interpretation of the Bible . . . McLaren argues that it's actually a Platonic superimposition on the text).

Thus, the God of Love and the God of Wrath is an element that is preserved in both Old and New Testament.  But why this change in modus operendi?  Why the God of Wrath to earth-dwellers, but soft on eternal damnation in the Old, and God of Love to earth-dwellers, but nearly sadistic to those in eternity in the New?

Have we perhaps misconstrued the Biblical narrative all along (as modern day, born-and-raised Evangelicals)?  Has Plato's dualism muddied our lenses?  Hmmm . . .

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

McLaren's New Book . . .

Brian's new book ("A New Kind of Christianity") has just been released today.  I'm very excited to read it!  I actually pre-ordered it MONTHS ago, and my order was shipped.  But I don't know when I'll get it, since Snowmageddon 2010 has blanketed Maryland with 30'' of snow, and another 8-24'' are due tonight!  (Seriously, God?  If I wanted this much snow, I would have moved to the Midwest - at least then I would have the company of Joe and C!)

Well, anyway . . . as I said, I'm excited to read this.  It's been a couple of years since I've had the pleasure of Brian's beautiful, evocative thoughts in a book (I last read "Everything Must Change" a couple of years ago).  He has been a controversial figure for years - some have even used the dreaded moniker "heretic" - but I probably would not be a Christian today if I hadn't read his "A New Kind of Christian" Trilogy.  They revolutionized - nay, salvaged - my faith.  Brian has this amazing way of casting Jesus and the Gospel in such a light that not only makes sense, but makes you go "Aha!  That's why it's called good news!"  And you really want to get on-board with it.

Brian tells me that this book will be his boldest yet.  For quite some time, he's been (intentionally) ambiguous about various things in order to foster meaningful, soulful conversation.  So I'm interested to see if he's more explicit in this work, or if he's simply found a novel way to get his audience steaming mad, or enraptured in the sweet mysteries of spirituality and the Way of Jesus.

Stay tuned for percolating thoughts, and perhaps even a review.  I've already got tons and tons of thoughts on Phyllis Tickle's "The Great Emergence" ruminating . . . perhaps Brian's thoughts will give some shape and shadow to what's churning.

Friday, February 05, 2010


I find it somewhat bizarre that some of the same Republicans that insist that gay marriage is in violation of the majority's right (i.e., the mantra "Let the people vote!"), would then turn around and obstruct the overwhelming majority of elected officials' plans by way of filibuster.

Discuss . . .

The Honest Journey continues . . .

My fiancee and I have been having an argument for quite some time now. Long before we even thought of being romantically entangled, he argued that Blogspot was the far superior blogging venue, while I - a longtime friend of Xanga - stayed true to my beloved blog home, especially since most of my friends were blogging there too.

But things have changed. All those bygone friends, and all that drama I once knew are no more. If you were to go to those pages, you'd see the chronicles of my "honest journey" to discover how to live out who I am as both a spiritual person, and a gay person. There are joys and sorrows, laughs and tears on those pages. Those who commented on those pages are either still around (like my friends Joe and Pomo), or we've grown apart, or they've dissociated with me because I affirm both my Christianity and my sexuality.

And yet, the journey has not ended. The drama is not the same to be sure, but it's extant drama nonetheless. And the joy is different too . . . both in abundance and quality. I'm still unsure what the destination is, yet willing to grow into the man God has made me to be.

Since so many of my friends are now posting their thoughts on Blogger, I'd say it's time for an upgrade. Since the journey has taken a bit of a different leg, it also felt apropos to express these new adventures in a different way. So here I am, finally taking advantage of the profile I started way back in 2004!  It's a new blog, with a new pic - which is itself apt.  The pic is of my trip to France in February/March of 2007.  It proved to be a seminal moment in both my life, and my fiancee's, as those 5 magical days marked the nascent stage of our romance :)

Peace and Love to you and yours :)