I’m sure that I don’t know

So what search term finds a Family Values Lesbian?

The last time I looked, it was “lutheran funeral jello“.

This time, it’s, “what does a boston red sox hat mean for the lesbians”.

How does that find the blog of a St Louis Cardinal fan? I’m sure that I don’t know.

 


PS: To this lesbian, it means the wearer is a Red Sox fan.

But my ignorance of lesbian culture (clichés?) is near total. Next month, I’m going to marry the first girl I ever kissed. I’m the first girl she ever kissed. Nobody has taught either of us the secret handshake.

Or what a Boston Red Sox cap means for lesbians.

Pride: A paradox

Pride, to me, is pleasure in one’s achievements, or pleasure in the achievement of another. Pride in a genetic gift, or from anything else one has no control over? That, to me, would be conceit or vanity.

I’m very intelligent. I’m not proud of that, nor am I ashamed of it. My intelligence was a gift from my parents and from God. I am proud of what I have done with my intelligence. I would be ashamed if I did not use it to the fullest.

My fiancée’s intelligence is formidable. I’m not proud – or ashamed – of her for it. I am proud of her formidable accomplishments with her intelligence.

Similarly, I’m not proud (or ashamed) of my (or my fiancée’s) body, although I do take some pride in keeping myself in shape. And I certainly take pleasure in my fiancée’s body (and in her pleasure in my body).


When I was young, I fought being a lesbian. When I became an adult, I buried it. But I have never been ashamed of being a lesbian. I just am a lesbian.

Now, I’m glad I’m a lesbian. If I had the choice, I would choose to be a lesbian.

I’m not proud that I’m a lesbian. I didn’t do anything to make myself a lesbian. I just am a lesbian.


My lesbianism hasn’t been heroic.

I grew up in the most conservative part of one of the most conservative states. A state constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage passed by a two-to-one majority – three-to-one in my county. When I lived there, I was deeply in the closet.

But I was never afraid, and I’m not afraid now that I am out of the closet. I’m not even afraid to walk down the main street of the tiny, rural town where I grew up, holding my fiancée’s hand.


Lesbianism has been heroic for many.

I am proud of the lesbians who have gone before me, whose lesbianism was heroic.


My ability to just be a lesbian – without shame or fear – owes everything to those who can justly take pride in being lesbians. To be slightly paradoxical about it, I am proud of them – and they should take pride in themselves – for my lack of pride.

 

Paradox: The incoherence of common sense

My musings on mathematicians and engineers were provoked by my Love’s reaction to something I saw in a quotes file:

There’s no way to develop an ambitious, broad-ranging, self-consistent metaphysical system without doing serious violence to common sense somewhere.
Eric Schwitzgebel

When I saw that, I laughed. It sums up what I’ve always thought about metaphysics. It sums up what almost everyone thinks about analytic philosophy.

I quoted it to my Love, who was trained as a pure mathematician. (For those of you who have never spent time with a pure mathematician: They make Mr Spock seem illogical.) She smiled and said,

Of course, sweetheart. Everything in mathematics, everything in science, did serious violence to the common sense of its time. That’s why we remember Galileo and Newton and Euler and Einstein. They defied common sense. Common sense is always wrong, unless it’s based on science that did violence to the common sense of its time.


The perils of quotes files: They lack context.

After that conversation with my Love, I read the whole interview with Professor Schwitzgebel. He said essentially the same thing as my Love said. He’s not criticizing metaphysics. He’s criticizing common sense. I still think metaphysics (other than Kant) is mostly silly, but he’s devastatingly right about common sense.

In context, Professor Schwitzgebel says,

Common sense is incoherent in matters of metaphysics. There’s no way to develop an ambitious, broad-ranging, self-consistent metaphysical system without doing serious violence to common sense somewhere. It’s just impossible. Since common sense is an inconsistent system, you can’t respect it all. Every metaphysician will have to violate it somewhere.

Common sense is an acceptable guide to everyday practical interactions with the world. But there’s no reason to think it would be a good guide to the fundamental structure of the universe. Think about all the weirdness of quantum mechanics, all the weirdness of relativity theory. The more we learn about such things, the more it seems we’re forced to leave common sense behind. The same is probably true about metaphysics.

You don’t even need to get into the weirdness of quantum mechanics. The Sun orbits the Earth? Common sense. A heavier stone falls faster than a lighter stone? Common sense. Species were as God created them in the Garden of Eden? Common sense. Newtonian mechanics? Crazy. Invisible animals cause disease? Insane! Send pictures through the air? Get this guy a straitjacket.


Even in the most abstract pursuits, there’s a place for common sense. Professor Schwitzgebel again:

But here’s the catch: Without common sense as a guide, metaphysics is hobbled as an enterprise. You can’t do an empirical study, for example, to determine whether there really is a material world out there or whether everything is instead just ideas in our minds coordinated by god. You can’t do an empirical study to determine whether there really exist an infinite number of universes with different laws of physics, entirely out of causal contact with our own. We’re stuck with common sense, plausibility arguments, and theoretical elegance – and none of these should rightly be regarded as decisive on such matters, whenever there are several very different and yet attractive contender positions, as there always are.

Paradox: Westboro Baptist Church

If you’ve never heard of Westboro Baptist Church, I am sorry to have to introduce you.

Westboro Baptist was founded by Fred Phelps. Westboro is most famous for parading at funerals of soldiers killed in action, with signs saying, “GOD HATES FAGS” and “THANK GOD FOR DEAD SOLDIERS” – claiming that God killed the solider to punish the United States for tolerating homosexuality. (Their websites, which I recommend you avoid, and which I will not link, include godhatesfags.com, jewskilledjesus.com and even godhatestheworld.com.)

But I want to thank Westboro Baptist Church. As I said in a comment the other day,

Westboro Baptist Church has done more for acceptance of gays in my home state than all the Pride marches, Supreme Court victories and anti-discrimination statutes put together.

Why?

I come from the most conservative, rural part of a conservative, rural state. If you aren’t a conservative Christian, you’re a conservative Mormon. You go to church every Sunday. I’m probably the first openly gay person you’ve ever met.

You think I’m going to Hell. You think that what I do is unnatural or degenerate or perverted or disgusting or depraved or just plain icky. You take an unwelcome interest in my bedroom.

But, if you are from my home state, you really hate assholes. A lot more than you hate fags.

[If my mother ever finds this blog, and figures out it’s my doing, she’ll be out here with a bar of soap to wash out my mouth.]

All right then, I’ll go to Hell: Huck and me

One of the ironies of being told that I’m going to Hell (for being a lesbian) is that it takes away the threat of Hell for my other sins.


My irreligious friends:
Please bear with me over the next few posts.
You might find this interesting, too.


In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck travels down the river with Jim, a runaway slave. Jim is captured. (He is held by a man named Phelps!)

Helping Jim escape would be a sin. Jim is property. Freeing him would be stealing. To prevent himself from that sin – to save his soul – Huck writes a letter to Jim’s owner, telling her where to find Jim.

I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now.

Before Huck sends the letter, he thinks about all the things Jim has done for him. He starts to think of Jim not as property, but as a human being.

and then I happened to look around and see that paper.

It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

“All right, then, I’ll go to hell”—and tore it up.

It was awful thoughts and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming. I shoved the whole thing out of my head, and said I would take up wickedness again, which was in my line, being brung up to it, and the other warn’t. And for a starter I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as I was in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog.


I’ve not read much literature (that’s my Love’s department), but I’ve read Huck Finn a half-dozen times. Children of an impressionable age – say, younger than 30 years old – should not be permitted to read Huck Finn. Other than the Gospels, it may be the most subversive thing ever written.

We see the screaming irony here: Huck thinks he’s going to Hell for freeing a slave?

More to my point: Huck decides that, if he’s going to Hell anyway, he’d just as well “go the whole hog” of wickedness.


I, a gay Christian, am in Huck’s shoes.

If I’m going to Hell anyway, what incentive do I have to be good? Atheists (gay, straight or other) don’t have any religious incentive to be good, either, but Hell doesn’t frighten them (or Heaven tempt them). When they’re dead, they’re dead. For a Christian, it’s more fraught. There is a real consequence to sin: Hell.

Why should I be good at all? I’m going to Hell anyway. If I obey the civil law (or don’t get caught), what difference does it make how good or bad I am?

It’s bizarrely counterproductive to tell me I am going to Hell. My lesbianism hurts no one, but if I have no fear of Hell, I have no religious hesitation about hurting others.


In coming episodes, guest appearances by
Immanuel Kant, Martin Luther and Fred Phelps …

Gay: A paradox

Being gay put an end to being gay.

My home town is in many ways a century behind the times. Language evolves languidly. Words have the denotation and connotation that they had a century ago.

When I was a little girl, “gay” was one of my favorite words. It was how I described myself. I was a lighthearted, happy.

I learned its contemporary meaning about the same time as I realized that I was gay in that sense. Being gay put an end to being gay.

Until now. I am happily gay and gayly happy.

Sexual orientation: A paradox

My sexual orientation isn’t sexual.

Neither is my Love’s.

I can find a man aesthetically or intellectually interesting. But I’ve never felt an emotional or sexual attraction to a man.

From an early age, I appreciated the aesthetics of women and was emotionally attracted to them. I was too young for it to be sexual.

I didn’t have a sexual desire for anyone, man or woman, before I met my Love. I had dreams and waking fantasies of women. They were chaste – being close, talking, holding hands, perhaps kissing or snuggling. No sex, however broadly defined.

Maybe it was just that I had never even held hands with or kissed a woman, and my imagination was too impoverished to supply a sexual context.

But I don’t think so. I wasn’t ignorant. I had sex with men in high school and college.

My Love suggests that aesthetic, physical, intellectual and emotional attraction are, for us, logically prior to sexual attraction. We can’t have a sexual interest without aesthetic appreciation, physical attraction, intellectual engagement and emotional passion.

Perhaps that’s why the (relatively limited) sexual activity that we’ve had has been so explosive for both of us.

I am in my mid-30s. When I was in high school and college, I tried to sublimate my yearning for women by having sex with men. That sex, all of it, was tawdry and degrading. It had no meaning for them; its only meaning for me was disgust. I loathed it even as I went back to it, trying to exorcise the grave depravity of wanting to love a woman.

My Love is in her late 30s. When she met me, her entire sexual experience consisted of having her breasts fondled by a respectful high school boyfriend, and cuddling and having her breasts fondled by a college boyfriend. It was not meaningless – she had affection for both. But she had no desire. It was mechanical and unerotic.

Calling us babes in the woods laughably overstates our lesbian experience.

When my Love first touched my cheek, I almost fainted. Pricks of light danced in my eyes. When she first touched my breast, I stopped breathing. I am certain that my heart stopped. Until that moment, I had been an unemotional woman. Then, I wept in ecstasy at the simple warmth of her palm through my shirt and bra.

When I first touched her breast, she crushed me so hard into herself that I struggled to breathe. Was the scream I heard an actual scream – hers or mine – or the rush of blood in my brain?