Wednesday, May 14, 2014

They're not just religious bigots

While homosexual bigotry doesn't necessarily have to be rooted in religion, no matter when you witness it, it's offensive. This past Mother's Day, I got together with my family and had a pleasant day, despite the near constant praising and thanking of a deity (and don't even get me started on the forced involvement in grace, despite everyone at the table knowing I'm an atheist and feel thanking a man-made invisible god is akin to writing a letter to Santa Claus).

I was grateful the conversation turned to football during dessert, at least at first I was grateful. The NFL Draft was last week and we discussed the picks our favorite teams selected. But eventually the topic turned to Michael Sam, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, selected by the Rams in the seventh round (the final round).

Now, you may be asking yourself, why would the best defensive player in college football's best conference have to wait seven rounds to be picked by a team? Well, Sam is gay. He is trying to become the first openly gay player in the NFL.

It's clear the league isn't entirely on board with homosexuals in the locker room or on the field, as evidenced by this fine player slipping to almost the final pick in the draft. It's a sad commentary on the state of the league, but what was even more sad were the comments that got passed around my brother's dinner table.

You see, ESPN had its cameras at Sam's house when the phone call from the Rams finally came. An emotional Sam cried, as most draft picks do, as he had his discussion with the Rams front office. He then kissed his partner on the lips and got hugged by a few other guys, who may or may not have been gay.

My family all ganged up on Sam's reaction. At first they simply just mentioned the kissing, and you could see the disdain in their faces, but they eventually realized how offensive they sounded (after I defended Sam and said there's zero difference between his reaction and anyone else's who was straight) and said the kissing was OK. But it was what happened later in Sam's celebration that my family couldn't contain their bigoted comments.

The cameras continued to roll as Sam and his family and friends celebrated with cake. Sam cut a piece and smeared it on his partner's face then kissed him, a la every wedding cliché in America. Everyone at the table (but me) was religious, so their comments aren't surprising, but I don't think all of their comments were rooted in religion. My brother and father are tough guys, so they just cringe at anything that's not heterosexual. I'm not entirely sure they are against homosexuality, it's just not something they readily embrace.

But my SIL, the one I have had all of my religious debates with, is a conservative right-wing religious nutjob. She said things such as, "If you're trying to make a statement, that is not the way to do it," and "They should not have done that. If they want us accept them they shouldn't do that in public."

I can't remember all of the offensive comments because I wasn't in journalism mode at my family's home, but it's safe to assume they were basically saying keep your affections private because it disgusts them, and if you're straight there's nothing wrong with the exact same display of affection. This is what we refer to as a bigoted double standard. It's all right as a man to make out with your woman, but if you are gay then keep it behind closed doors because it's wrong and we don't want to look at it. So sad.

Ultimately I got them to realize this was in his home and he had every right to do whatever he wanted, and it could have been on Main Street USA, too. He is a free man and this is a free country. There is no difference between what two consenting heterosexual adults can do and two consenting homosexual adults can do. Time to wake up and smell the 21st century.

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