Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Thoughts on Gay Rights Progress ... or Not?

I just finished reading a book called "The Tin Box" and it left me with a lot of thoughts and fears.  The main character of the book is given a job as caretaker for an abandoned insane asylum that is slowly being restored. It's in disrepair with few funds available for restoration, but it's on the Register of Historic Places, so can't be destroyed. The protagonist lives in a small apartment in the asylum while working on his PhD dissertation.

The Tin Box left me in tears with lots of thoughts about
how our 'educated' society treated homosexuals in
our recent past. 

Exploring through the echoing halls and abandoned rooms, he comes across a small tin lunchbox that contains letters never sent from a patient institutionalized in the late 1930's for the crime of being homosexual. The main character slowly moves towards acceptance of his own sexuality while reading through the letters. The story of this patient and his 'therapy', which was accepted therapy for the times, led me to thinking about how far gay rights have come over the past 70+ years. But we have so much more to do.

This picture is of the County Insane Asylum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Just
look at the size of this building. Were there really that many people
who were insane in one small area of the US? And there were
asylums like this throughout the nation. 

Homosexuality is no longer illegal in the United States, so arresting a man for the 'crime' of homosexuality and sentencing him to jail or, as in this case, to a mental institution for a 'cure' no longer happens through the court system. But "Pray for Gay' camps still exist, as do many parents who refuse to accept their gay children, turning them out of their homes and onto the streets to make their own way.

Although the ad has an old-fashioned look, it is modern - dating from 2011.
Frightened yet? Maybe you should be. This is one of two products sold
in drugstores around the nation. 

Sexuality is not a choice, it is hardwired. The type of body that causes a sexual response from another varies from person to person, and can be a member of the same or the opposite sex, tall or short, skinny or overweight. Some people prefer blondes, others gingers or dark and sultry. Men can be attracted to other men or to women, women can be attracted to other women or to men. The attraction is not criminal, it is natural. Yet, over the years and in other nations and lands, this basic fact is not acknowledged and, in some cases, is still criminalized and punished by imprisonment or even execution.

Maybe it's time we start admitting that all sexuality is legitimate
as long as it occurs between mutually consenting adults. 

In the past it was perfectly acceptable to imprison a person for 'deviant' sexual behavior. It was common to link homosexuality with pedophilia. Those accused of the 'crime' of homosexuality could legitimately be sentenced to prison or asylums for their crime. Within those institutions they were free to be 'cured' in numerous ways including cold therapy, insulin therapy, castration and lobotomy. All of these 'cures' were centered on destroying the desire of the patient for a lover of the same sex, and all destroyed the patient or prisoner instead.

Embrace your inner queen. 

As you go about your day today, cleaning up the trash and recycling for Earth Day, spare a thought for those who have paved the road to sexual acceptance with their blood and bones. Work to eliminate prejudice and homophobia around you and remember that sexuality is a universal human condition and that it should be a joy, not a path to fear and pain. Actively try to make sure there are safe places for teens who no longer have a home. Work against child marriages and governmental sanctioned punishments for homosexuals. Work for equality - it benefits all of us.

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