JaredAJB

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Special Comment

What follows is a special comment on the status of homosexual students at Saint Anselm College following the Statement on Inclusiveness and Sexual Orientation originally published on the cultural online magazine Lucubrations.org 7 October 2010.

N.B.: It is likely that the four months and 1200 miles that separated me from graduating from Saint Anselm gave me the candor to write this, for I discuss topics I found made me squirm in my seat during my time there; I know I was not alone when I found the topic of homosexuality taboo at Saint Anselm.  Feel free to leave in a comment a suggestion for a better title, in addition to any positive or negative feedback.

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I. Why the new policy on sexual orientation should be an expected and welcomed addition to the Saint Anselm mission of Inclusiveness

The statement itself makes clear that it is a logical extension of Scripture, the Catholic Catechism, the Rule of Saint Benedict, and existing literature on Inclusiveness. It therefore can be no surprise that the College officially “condemns any and all direct or indirect harassment, intimidation, or bullying of any person in regards to sexual orientation.” Nor should it come as any surprise that the statement was apparently passed by the Monastery unanimously. Such a logical extension can only be expected from an institution of higher learning.

What’s more, it should be a welcomed addition to the explicit policies and manifest behaviors of the Saint Anselm College Community. Frankly, and above all, openly homosexual students have made a significant contribution to the College. Indeed, this creative outlet, Lucubrations.org, owes its existence–to considerable extent–to openly homosexual students and supportive peers and faculty.  In sum, Saint Anselm has seen a Student Government Association president, various club representatives and leaders, scholars, artists and modest innovators from its openly gay population, and these have come only in the four plus years that I have been a member of the Saint Anselm Community.  One can only naturally assume that the College owes much to its closeted gay population as well.  It is about time that the College formally recognizes the dignity of these active members of its past, present and future community.

Finally, as a Catholic college community, Saint Anselm is responsible for the psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being of its students. This is affirmed by the character of the Task Force assembled by the President and his Cabinet: representatives from the Psychology and Sociology Departments, Campus Ministry, Residential Life and Education and Student Activities, among other significant departments.

II. The problems the statement poses

There is an obvious difficulty in sincerely upholding this “twofold teaching of the Church with clarity and compassion” apparent to anyone with significant common sense and foresight; putting this into practice is much more complicated than the ideology, which is consistent in its terms, suggests. This is why the President and his Cabinet have formed such an impressive set of minds to sort out its implementation, and it is my hope that their combined expertise will be fruitful.

In my time at the College, I formed relationships with students, faculty and staff whom I found to be open minded and accepting: people who would have accepted me as homosexual even if I never outright told them that I am gay. (Not that I advocate a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, but barely anyone ever informed me that they were straight; likewise I found no need to announce my own sexual preferences.)

There are thus many authentically accepting individuals among the faculty, staff, and student body. However, I do not doubt that there are members of the community who do not share this mentality, even if they make claims to the contrary or are unwilling to make an open admission of their own oppositional views. The role of the faculty is of particular interest to me, for their lectures and published work directly affect the intellectual life of, quite literally, thousands of young minds.

Emphasizing the need for sex (and therefore love, according to some) to remain between a married man and woman implicitly highlights homosexuality as particularly deviant, and therefore the statement—while progressive—is inherently self-defeating.Sex remaining between a married man and woman is not “good news for everyone,” as Professor Dale Kuehne has published and said publicly. It is certainly not good news for me, as I would be condemned to a life of either self deception, celibacy, or both; I am in his eyes doomed to a loveless life characterized either by an endless pursuit of self-gratification or the repression–likely resulting in psychological damage–of my authentic sexual preference.*

Given that a qualitative difference between man and woman in terms of substantial personhood cannot be established beyond such accidents as the organization of hormones, neural tissue, genitalia and the like, why emphasize sex and love between a married man and woman? Why is my particular brand of sin always going to be highlighted—directly or indirectly—by Christians?^  It’s said around 5% of the population is homosexual. By and large, the 5% of the student body that are homosexual ain’t gettin’ any come Friday night. I can guarantee that from experience. And the 95% of the students who are straight? There are more than a few rooms breaking parietals on any given night, if you know what I mean. Sex in a committed relationship regardless of gender should be emphasized on a college campus, for at a place like Saint Anselm it’s the straight students who fornicate in mass numbers each weekend. Faculty and staff to whom it concerns: even your favorite students have dirty hands, notably on Mondays after a good weekend; I’d wash yours before going home to your families.

III. Why it is important that more progress occur in the future, namely in the formation of an authentic Gay/Straight Student Alliance (GSA)

By now the reasons for the necessity for more progress should be effectively demonstrated given: (1) the responsibility of the College for its students discussed above and (2) the obvious aggression and suspicion I harbor after four years of being openly gay at Saint Anselm that is present in section II. The time has come for a serious discussion between all members of the community on this important subject, for the answers to the questions that many have will not be found by turning to the literature handed down by thousands of years of religious tradition.

Moreover, I’m sure that—in a certain light—there have always been GSAs at Saint Anselm. In the past, it has been precisely the extant, unofficial “GSAs” that have brought openly gay students and their supportive peers and faculty together in an enriching environment. In the past these have been fruitful, and have led to the benefits that the College has reaped described above at the end of section I. However, it is now time that the College Community discuss homosexual issues; at my time at Saint Anselm I had to discuss art, creativity, learning and dialogue and tried to fit homosexuality within these contexts. Now that I am gone, I would like to see that the next generation of strong, Anselmian homosexual and bisexual men and women have the right to openly discuss their concerns, insecurities, and—above all—their pride and self-esteem in an accepting forum.

IV. Why does the author even care, and why is he writing this?

It is my hope that my Alma Mater does me proud, affirms the values I have learned and ensures that the modest and mostly unseen accomplishments of myself and others have not been in vain. To care, after all, is to realize that you turned out well, and had it pretty good, but someone further down the line could turn out even better.

On the Status of the Dream

It is appropriate that this forum, “The Shape of Diversity,” is a project of art and of artistic visualization, for the future progress of American and global civil rights will originate in the collective eyes of the artists of our time.
It is in Vision–the vision of the Artist–in which the Shape of Diversity will be revealed; it is in the recognition of the shades of diversity unseen by the many in which the equality of mankind will eventually be realized.

This dream will not necessarily come from those who claim to defend the innocence and dignity of the “children of God” of our country.  For, politically and socially speaking, many on the Christian Right have not the sensitivity to see truly those whom they should defend; their definition, “children of God,” has become narrowed. No longer do they stand for the breadth of all children of God, but they defend to the death the values they deem most beneficial to their own racial, economical, and moral cause.

Indeed, the political and social agendas of our day, spanning all degrees of the ideological sphere, obfuscate the the goal of true recognition of diversity’s value and of the achievement of universal civil rights.  These political and social groups suffer from a respectable, forgivable ignorance.  This ignorance will be cured by those who have the dream that there may come a day when none discredit the dignity of one’s life nor the dignity of one’s love.  When none discount the value of a human life because of race, religion, sexual orientation, class or habits of behavior.  These dreamers are precisely the Artists to whom I have referred above.

Likely, it will not be in our time that our goal is reached. For cultivating a love for the diversity that is our country and is our globalized world is to come to know and love something so remote and outside of ourselves, that somewhere within us stirs the inclination to refuse it the designation, “humanity.”  Directly or indirectly, too many of us, the world over, refuse to honorably name the other “human, equal.”  So too, human as we are, our vision is humbled by our overextending minds; our ideals are ever out of reach.  We see points and the dream is a line; we see lines and the dream is a square; we see squares and the dream is a cube; we see cubes and the dream is a tesseract.

Our nature is to struggle to achieve new levels of understanding in this progressive fashion.  One generation’s unimaginable dimension becomes the level ground of the next generation.  An interracial, heterosexual couple expect to be married in the sixties given their mutual love and devotion?  Status quo rejects them.  But can one locate a discernible difference  between their union and a union of whites?  Generally, the status quo of our day declares wholeheartedly, “No!”

In the 21st Century, man and a man or a woman and a woman expect to marry given their mutual love and devotion. Can a single difference be given between their mutual devotion and that of a heterosexual couple? Can one discern a difference between these unions that does not arise from whence the myths of the virtuous murder of infants and the abstinence of pork and shellfish arise?  Diet, cleanliness, and the moral structures of civilizations of millennia past aside, our concern should be the human life and love of our era.  We are speaking of the emancipation of the human spirit and of human love, predicated upon the achievements of civil rights victories of decades past.

This week pundit Rush Limbaugh made racial slurs about the Chinese.  California State Senator Leland Yee, of Chinese heritage, called for a boycott of Limbaugh’s advertisers.  In response, Limbaugh intensified his hate speech, focused it at Lee, and consequently his listeners have sent their opinions to the state senator.  Death threats and violent words and images–”Rush will kick your–”, “Die, you Chinese–”, our president in a noose–have been received by the state senator’s office.  Evidenced by this localized case and the multitude like it, the challenges to our dream of true equality are as alive now as they ever were.

We have indeed made progress and, arguably, ours is among the most integrated and free societies the world has seen.  But we have reached no apex, nor have we reached the end of any arc of history.  We have now a president who has fulfilled one aspect of the dream, but we must ask ourselves: “Can we seriously imagine a woman president?  an Asian American or Latino/a president? a homosexual president? Are our elected leaders truly representative of the diversity of their constituents?  Have there been any true shifts and sharing of power and authority?”  If these can’t be imagined now, they will never come to pass.

This forum and others like it are vital for our imaginings to become articulated thoughts and definite actions.  Forums such as this will unite the strategic thinking of individuals, sewing together these threads into the united ideals of an authentic movement for the equality of which we dream.