Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Crisis! (exclamation duly deserved)

Everyone has a right to his or her own religious beliefs. But we all have and equal duty to work for the dignity of all human beings. (Elke Kennedy)

Crisis, edited by Mitchell Gold, subtitled '40 stories revealing the personal, social, and religious pain and trauma of growing up gay in America', is my latest read. (9781929774104, Hardcover, $23.95)

This book takes the "confessions" of scores of people personally affected by the predominance of hateful teaching concerning homosexuality from churches and schools across america, stories spanning most of the past century and up to today.

Let me be clear: I suffered more fear and numbing anxiety from my "secret" as a teenager than I did from racism and segregation in Philadelphia in 1950. I can only imagine how my life would have been transformed and enhanced without the cloud of religion-based bigotry punishing me because I was born black and homosexual. (Rodney Powell)

Living in liberal Milwaukee, it may be hard for us to really understand the epidemic (and it really is one) that affects vast tracts of the country, but this book hopes to educate those of us who it doesn't immediately concern (as well as those who need to change their views). We should be concerned by the staggering numbers of LGBT people who fear, to their very cores, alienation, damnation and violence from their spiritual communities, peers, leaders and even their own families. Fearing their own parents' reactions should they come out.

To label as sin a person's sexual orientation is an act of spiritual violence. It defines the personal core, the very essence of a young person's identity, as sinful. Believing you're a sinner because you're LGBT creates a severe emotional and mental anguish, especially for young people. (Jimmy Creech)

From representatives of past generations who were unable to be themselves until decades of their lives had passed, to teens of today sharing their current woes, to reformed church leaders who've realized the error of their ways, to parents who've lost their children due to violence or suicidal depression - this book contains a plethora of evidence demanding only that something has to be done to evoke change.

Misinformation from a church that probably taught her she could somehow hate the sin but not the sinner... from an education system that never gave her accurate information about the nature of sexual orientation... from a community that made her intolerant of difference and afraid to accept her son as he truly was. In the end, it was not her fault alone. (Kevin Jennings)

The most poignant essays are those explaining the confusion when growing up of not being able to define ones feelings, for years (and still today in some areas) homosexuality was just NOT discussed, and as a result young people literally didn't understand their own thoughts. They were lost in their own heads.

The most harrowing stories detail the emotional and psychological torture caused by parents and religious leaders advocating "reparative therapy" and touting other "ex-gay" hate speech. I found my stomach turning just learning of what some people have had to go through.

For those of us who never had to face these situations, there is a duty owed our peers to prevent future infractions. I had the good fortune, despite 6 years of Catholic schooling, to avoid any real danger. I've known I liked boys since I was 5 years old, and as soon as I learned what that meant I had no problem with it as a fact, but I was still terrified of being alienated from everyone I had grown to love once they found out. Frequently even the most accepting parents are unprepared to have a gay child, simply because the possibility is never presented to them, this is another central point of Crisis.

What is often overlooked is that straight people also have conversations in which their attraction to the opposite sex is discussed, but in their case it is not called coming out - it's called talking. (Barney Frank)

At times the book sacrifices intelligent and commendable writing ability for the face value of the writers, but this is the only real fault I can find with it - and the sacrifice is absolutely justified if it causes wider recognition of the epidemic. Overall I found Crisis powerful and frightening, evoking fears I didn't know I had and passion I didn't expect.

Although this book isn't exciting or fantastic, and it certainly isn't a book for rainy weather, it is something to be passed around, and it is necessary to educate anyone who forgets that we are all created equal.

Since new parenthood is in the air lately, let's make sure to tell our loved ones (children, peers, whomever) that we love them no matter who they are, and encourage others to do the same.

I don't want parents to feel they must tell their children not to be who they are in order to keep them safe. I want them to know that the healthiest thing they can say is, "Be who you are, and we'll work to make the world safer together." (Tammy Baldwin)


sarah marine said...

These are the kinds of reviews that encourage independent booksellers to look beyond "bestsellers", to discover books that affect individual people in incredible ways.

You're on my porch talking about comic books and democrats-yay!

Jay Johnson said...

Here, here to all that!

Even my twelve hour old knows Obama won...

And she thinks that Black Canary is the coolest member of the JLA.

sarah marine said...


we shelved SO MANY books today in honor of your new love!

Obama. Obama. How cool and level.

Lisberg, Jordan, Godsave and I raise our pints in celebration of your twelve-hour-old Charlotte Claire and the great senator Barack Obama.

jordan said...

so - this debate didn't cause me to appreciate either candidate any more, it only supported a further hate of politics.

does no one understand how to ANSWER a question anymore?

babies need healthcare. that's what i learned.

StacieMichelle said...

A post that is so eloquent means my comments are handicapped. Mostly I will just be envious of the Gower-Marine-Godsave-Lisberg contingent drinking and discussing cool things on the porch. I need to move back to the East Side.

Brian said...

I was at a party this past weekend where one of my two toddlers was really into a ride-along toy car that belonged to the daughter of the host. A fellow guest, a woman and a parent whom I didn't know well, made a lot out of the fact that my kid is a boy and the car was pink.

I thought, do we have to start this already? At 2 1/2? Can't the kid have a shot at enjoying a color before it's decoded for him?

And, in re: politics and as said on The Wire, don't hate the player, hate the game.

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