Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Biased Thinking

How often do you think about your biases? I was raised with biases - weren't you? Born into a commune, I grew up in San Francisco, the offspring of hippie parents with clear ideological tendencies. Even when my father took a position contrary to my own - which is usually the typical bleeding heart viewpoint - I'm pretty sure it was to stir up debate and get everyone thinking, not because he actually did vote for Reagan. That's just the kind of Libra he is.

So, when I read this article, and then did a little research on Rick Riedel, it took me awhile to get over the fact that a minister from South Dakota wrote it. It really never occured to me that someone from South Dakota - anyone, let alone a minister - might write such a clear-headed defense of gay families. Isn't everyone in the flyover states adamently opposed to homosexuality? Don't Christians believe it's a sin?

Me and my knee jerk reactions had to consider the possibility that assumptions were getting in the way of real thought. Because this minister from South Dakota - a Christian man unbiased by the force of the gay and lesbian families that inhabit every block in my neighborhood - sounds more sure in his conviction that we shouldn't be biased against gay and lesbian families than I am.

Rick Riedel's piece bitch-slapped me with my own biases. I'm biased against South Dakotans and gay families. Say what!?

I think we're more accepting of those we love than we are of ourselves. Or maybe that's just me. I'm pretty sure my family doesn't struggle even a little with the fact that I'm a lesbian (honestly, I think they believe it's cool to have a lesbian in the family). But I do. I question my sense of entitlement every day.

I'm in love with A----, plan to grow old with her. I have chosen to commit to this person, even recognizing that as easy and wonderful as it is now, it probably won't always be so, and I have committed to myself that there won't be any easy outs from this relationship (something I'm frankly not so sure many straight people commit to when they marry, given the divorce rates). If I could marry her legally, I would in an instant. And there are plenty of folks in our lives who would celebrate such a thing.

But when we decided to formalize our commitment, diamond rings and vows and all, we did it privately, just the two of us. Why? Well, in part because it felt more personal that way, an incredibly sweet moment shared only by the betrothed. And because we're cheap and didn't want to spend all that cash on a party. There was also the fact that A----'s family is still coming around, and we weren't sure if they would show up to the wedding (although you should see the progress they've made - we're so proud! But more on that another day).

In the back of my head, though, is the main reason I didn't push for a wedding. This sad, niggling little doubt. The one that wonders if all those people in the middle of the country - the ones I biasedly assume hate me - are right. Do I deserve to marry A---- just because I love her? I wonder, secretly, if all our supporters would be thinking the same thing, cattily chatting among themselves about our pretense at reality.

Frame it around any of my gay or lesbian couple friends, and I would tell you without hesitation that they have as legitimate a right to get married as my straight friends do. Like I said, it's easier when you're talking about someone you love, rather than yourself. But there's something to this need on my part to acknowledge and think through my biases, whether they're about South Dakotan Christians or marriage-minded queers. In this endless debate we seem to be engaged in as a nation (and it goes well beyond the questions around marriage and sexuality), how often do we each step back and recognize our biases? How often do we question them? When was the last time you really considered where the "other side" was coming from?

I have an incredible stake in this marriage question. The tax ramifications for us would be huge. The legal ramifications instant and gratifying. And I am brought to tears at the thought of the personal implications - what it would mean to feel accepted by society like that. It is easy for me to ignore that voice in the back of my head, to close my ears to the arguments against gay marriage without even considering them, because I know, I know, I should be allowed to marry A----.

But then how would we ever get anywhere? If I take that position, those who oppose gay marriage have no obligation to question their biases, to pay attention to the voices that may be niggling at the back of their head, to really listen to the arguments in favor of allowing gays and lesbians to marry. And, so, in my commitment to really thinking through the ramifications of gay marriage, I am going to explore more than my own perspective, and I am going to examine my biases, and I am going to consider the arguments very carefully, both for and against.

Next post, I'm going to consider the liberal case against gay marriage.


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