Saturday, June 25, 2011

6 Down.....

44 to go.

Yesterday, New York became the sixth State to legalize same sex marriages.  This is huge, because of New York being one of the larger States in the country.  One more place that friends of mine in a same sex relationship can legally get married.  I celebrate with them today.

Before I go any further, I just want to say that I am not writing this blog to try and convince anybody to think the way I do, I am just telling you how I feel.  I also want you to know that being unmarried doesn't make me gay, not that there's anything wrong with that (thanks Seinfeld).  If you are offended by anything I say, all I ask of you is to keep an open mind or stop reading, because I am not going to make any apologies for how I feel about the topic.  I am proud that today I can stand by the people I love and be happy about their victory.

Rewind back to about 25 years ago and I may not have been celebrating this day.  I would have been thinking to myself, "Legalization of one more sin."  All I knew then was what I was taught.  I was taught that it was wrong for two people of the same sex to be in any kind of relationship other than a casual friendship.  I remember the feeling of horror I felt when watching the movie Deathtrap, and seeing Michael Caine lock lips with Christopher Reeve.  Anyone who remotely exhibited any kind of leaning toward being gay were mercilessly ridiculed.  Somewhere deep inside I knew this was wrong, but didn't have the words or the reasoning to articulate it.  I knew that people with the inclination to love someone of the same gender felt that way because they didn't know any other way to feel.  But because everyone was doing it, I just stood there as a bystander and watched gay people being tortured for who they were.  I didn't do anything about it.  I didn't know what to do or how.  And I still believed that being gay was a choice.

As time went by, there were circumstances and situations that led me to meet so many people, some of whom were gay. I had come to the point in my life where I had learned not to judge people.  It didn't matter anymore to me what their sexual orientation was.  I began talking openly about the questions I had in my mind.  One of the questions was how and when they knew they liked people of the same gender.  The responses I heard were quite astounding even to my perceived open mind.  I learned that some people knew all along.  Not when they were teenagers, but when they were as young as three years old and it felt better to sit on the lap of the parent who was the same sex as they were.  It had nothing to do with that parent loving them any more or any less than the other.  It just was the way it was.  I learned from another person that they were in numerous opposite gender relationships which never felt right.  The way it was described to me was that it would feel the same to a non-gay person to be in a same sex relationship.  This was my a-ha moment.  The thought of me physically being in a same sex relationship repulses me, only because that is not who I am. That is why I truly understood what it was like for a gay person to be in an opposite sex relationship.

One thing that dawned on me was of all the friends I made, the friends who were living in same sex relationships were the kindest, most openhearted and loving individuals I had ever known.   They had known hate and they didn't want to pass it along. They had come to terms with who they were and they were happy.  It didn't matter to them anymore if their lifestyle was accepted or not. Many of them were in relationships that lasted longer than marriages.  Which brings us to the topic of the word marriage.  Many people argue that gay relationships can be legalized by a civil union instead of defiling the word marriage.  I am not sure I understand this.  How does a word get defiled?  How does the sanctity of marriage become any less because of who is allowed to be married?  I am not married so maybe I don't know from a married person's standpoint.  If there is anyone out there that can provide a reasonable argument for this, I am more than willing to hear it.

Then there's the question of a straight person being approached by a gay person to be in a same sex relationship.  That happened to another one of my friends.  I don't pretend to understand how that makes anyone feel.  I know it makes a straight person question their own sexuality and makes them wonder if they are giving off some kind of gay vibe. I don't have an answer to that question.  But I would imagine that it would be the same as my being pursued by a man I don't want to be in a relationship with.  That, to me, is more than traumatic.  In no way would I want to trivialize what my straight friends feel or may have felt at the time.  Again, I hope this opens up a dialog that can bring healing or resolution into this type of situation.  I am willing to hear from either side of the table how this needs to be addressed.

Anyway, for now I hope that more states join the existing six in  legalizing same sex marriages.  Because when you get down to it, all it is about is love.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Whose Ethics?

Dr. Jack Kevorkian died yesterday.  He was 83.  No stranger to controversy, Dr. Kevorkian came into the spotlight in the mid 1990s.  He was the first proponent of physician-assisted suicide.  After he was paroled in 2007, he promised not to help end any more lives. 

Back in the 90s when I first heard about Dr. Kevorkian, he swept into the news with an arrogant and unapologetic opinion of what he did.  When I read about him, my first thought was "Murderer!"  My second thought was that I didn't know any part of the Hippocratic Oath that condoned what he wanted to do.  All I could think of was the fact that someone seemed to take pleasure in ending a life.  Why else would he do it?  I was quite certain I knew how I felt about the issue.  It was wrong, just wrong. 

At the time that the Kevorkian controversy made the headlines, I didn't think about having watched a movie about a decade prior, called "Whose Life Is It Anyway?"  If you haven't watched it, I definitely recommend that you do.  The central character, superbly played by Richard Dreyfuss, is a former sculptor who becomes a quadriplegic from a car accident.  No longer able to live the quality of life he used to enjoy, he fights for his right to die.  Toward the end of the movie, the emotion-charged speech he makes to the judge hearing his case had me bawling a river of tears as I agreed with everything that was said.  Someone who had become a shell of their former self, who would be entirely dependent on life support and an army of medical staff just to function in a normal world, didn't want to live anymore.  The argument was compelling and made absolute sense.  But wait a minute.  When I remembered the movie, I came to a realization that my thoughts about it were in total contradiction to what I believed of Dr. Kevorkian.  How could that be? 

As I mulled over this obvious conflict, it didn't help that other controversial news stories added to the confusion in my mind.  I remember a story I came across in the Readers Digest about a family that had a daughter dying of a rare form of leukemia.  The 16 year old desperately needed a bone marrow transplant in order to live.  Unable to find a match and running out of time, her parents made a highly controversial decision to conceive a child who could potentially be a bone marrow donor to their ailing daughter.  The entire medical community was up in arms over the fact that this solution sounded so morally wrong. To conceive and give birth to a child for the sole purpose of saving another?  How could that possibly be right?  One argument that was made in favor of the child was that they would have no say in the matter.  The child wouldn't be asked if this is what it would want, to be a bone marrow donor or to be operated upon.  This, to me, was a very valid point. But then again, how could parents helplessly watch their daughter die?  Especially when they felt there was a solution to their problem? 

So, how do you address ethical dilemmas such as these?  My beliefs don't allow me to even contemplate suicide.  How then, could I agree with the argument that someone has a right end a life that has become unlivable?  How can I even wrap my head around someone making it their life mission to actually help people accomplish this?  How do I justify bringing a child into the world on the off chance that they may be a bone marrow match for their sibling, then subject their fragile little life to the pain and discomfort of surgery?  How could any of this be right?  All of these aren't even questions I can think of because they are so against everything I believe in.

But that's the point.  These questions are not mine to ponder, because of none of this is happening to me.  I don't know any of the people that choose to end their lives.  I don't know what circumstances cause them to make such a drastic choice.  I didn't know what Dr. Kevorkian's moral compass looked like.  I don't know how it feels to be so desperate to save your child.  In case you're wondering, the little girl conceived as a potential bone marrow donor was a match and was able to save her sister's life. Yet I can't even imagine what it must have been like for the parents of a baby sit by the child's post-surgery bedside, wondering if they had done the right thing.  What would I do if I found myself in any situation like the ones I just described?  I don't know.  I would hope that my faith would help me live the best life I could.  I still don't have the answers, but one thing I realize is that I need to live my life guided by my convictions, because that is all I have to guide me.  The only thing I can do in any situation is do what feels right to me.  Each person's  reality is their own, and has nothing to do with anyone else.  I need to allow each individual to be guided by their own convictions.  As long as they have exhausted every option, as long as their actions don't bring harm to anybody else, as long as they truly believe their decision is the right one, it isn't my place to pass any judgment on the choices they make.  Those may not be choices I may make, but I need to respect them.

Which brings us back to the story of the baby.  How could the decision of her parents to put a baby through surgery not cause her any harm?  The only person who could possibly have an answer to that one is the baby herself.  Interestingly enough, the update to this story was aired on The Today Show the same day that Dr. Kevorkian died.  The girl named Marissa is now 21.  She appeared with her sister Anissa, now 36, whose life was saved.  Both sisters brought to the show a behind-the-scenes view to their story.  Anissa talked about how Marissa's conception and birth helped their parents focus on something else besides her illness. Marissa brought a positive energy to a situation that was anything but. How could that not be a good thing?  Additionally, when asked about how she felt about being born just for the purpose of saving her sister, her answer was simple but very eloquent.  "Without her illness I wouldn't be here."  So no, it doesn't seem like the surgery did any long-term damage.  Marissa talked about the wonderful, loving family she was born into.  At the same time she believes everyone is entitled to their opinion about the circumstances that brought her into the world.  It was really wonderful and strangely comforting to see a happy ending to this story.

Live well.