by Theresa Reichman
“I used to watch her – Ellen Degeneres – I liked her,” my grandmother sucked as hard on her cigarette as the emphysema would allow. She stared at the silky swirls of smoke that sprouted from between her fingers and curled up into the air between us, “but then… Well, you know.”
“No,” I pressed, knowing full well what she was referencing, “What?”
“Well…” she dragged on her cigarette in slightly too quick of a succession – a sign that I was treading on uncomfortable territory – I had never discussed politics with my grandmother before. I could tell that she was unnerved at the prospect that my standpoint could be liberal in contrast to hers, “I can’t condone that lifestyle.”
“If you liked her before you knew her sexual orientation, then really, why can’t you like her now? Despite it?” I watched her trained fingers flick ash into a brown glass tray and her green eyes hastily locked mine. We always had identical eyes.
“Because Jesus says it’s wrong; it goes directly against God’s word,”
I studied the way her argument stumbled out of her mouth; it was familiar. She was grasping for a reason for her hate and discovered nothing but defensiveness. Fear.
I nodded and changed the subject.
I love my grandmother. Deeply. Her knee-jerk reaction was so forgivably Roman Catholic; so forgivably a product of her upbringing. But it also was reminiscent of a place I had just been. Yet, I struggled to understand why I so vehemently would have prayed for the repentance and salvation of someone as happy and as loving as Ellen Degeneres. I knew the doctrinal reasons, but it went deeper than doctrine.
I was scared to let Ellen be gay.
Until I had a daughter. I cradled her helpless soft flesh against mine and I wondered: “What if my daughter is gay?” And the answer reverberated through my brain: “So what? So what? So what?”
Should my daughter turn out to be gay, may God almighty help the soul who tries to change this being; who tries to tell her she is not precisely who God made her. May the Lord help the one who impresses original sin into her undeniable perfect head. What right do they have? What right did I ever have to hold my religious book over someone else’s head? After all – when I was a Christian (and even still) – I would have passionately opposed any Muslim holding the words of the Qur’an over my legal rights. Separation of church and state, home slices. Separation of church and state.
While I may not implicitly believe that the right to bear arms is the answer, I understand self-defense. While I may not implicitly believe that the rights of an unborn child outweigh the rights of a grown (or in many cases a not fully grown) woman; I understand speaking for the unspoken for.
There are many things that I don’t implicitly understand. For all of them, my heart beats, “harm none, harm none, harm none.” Never before has my heart felt such fervor in this mantra than when in regards to homosexuality. Because the undeniable truth is that you are harming someone who is harming no one if you stand in opposition to gay rights.
The argument is that “gay hurts God”. Despite the obvious notion that God is love, and homosexuals are practicing love unharnessed by social stigmas (much as Jesus Christ did). God has fried bigger fish than homosexuality — let’s be honest here. Homosexuality does not hurt God in the same sense abortion hurts a baby, or a lack of defense hurts a victimized family. In the matter of gay rights, God is far too frequently used as an excuse to hide behind hate; to hide behind fear of what we don’t know or fully understand.
The unending debates on classic issues (the second amendment, abortion, and gay rights) will not be resolved in a singular column. But my heart still beats, “harm none, harm none, harm none.”
And my grandmother and I? We still have identical eyes.