Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Falcon Read In

Each year the school has a day set aside for faculty, staff, and students to read short works. Some are original, some are not. In the past I've read Lewis Carrol, Jonathan Swift, and Dr. Seuss. I like to keep it light and quirky. This year my plan was to read the very clever short story "They're made of Meat." However...
Last week, we were discussing sexual orientation in my Ethics class. The topic of same sex marriage, and the new rules in Iowa and Vermont, came up. Most students tend to express a sort of laissez-faire, do what you like, sort of attitude, but several were very strongly opposed to the idea. And as we worked through the arguments, it was basically that old "pseudo-religious" hate. I say pseudo-religious, because people will say things like "I am Christian, so..." as though all of Christianity were in accord. Still, there is probably some truth, that they think that is how they are supposed to believe given their status.
We talked and the floor kept dropping lower and lower, until it started to involve words like "disgusting", "freak" and worse. Mercifully, the class ended and I have only brought it up a couple of times.
After that day, I thought about how a topic gets discussed, the bad feelings get aired, and then it gets dropped and we move on. It is somewhat unavoidable in a survey style class, but it bothered me, I wanted to do something more. At the same time I didn't want the class to become a scolding between me and these two students.
I did decide to read something on the issue for the Falcon Read In. It might seem odd that a college professor should feel nervous about talking about homosexuality on a college campus, but the environment here, and the economy out there, breed fearful people (like myself). I wanted something biting, satirical and devastating, but, other things came up in my life and my plan to do some serious research fell to the way side. I spent some of yesterday and today trolling the web for something good.
I ended up not quite satisfied with my selections. I erred on the side of funny. I picked the transcript of Portia De Rossi's "apology", a piece from several years ago entitled, "A lawful union can be stable and happy", and "10 reasons why Gay Marriage is UnAmerican." Not wanting to be too glib, I read a poem entitled A Love Letter to Matthew Shepard, which I thought was sweet and sad.
I was very nervous. The person before me read from a book of Christian Devotions of all things. Mercifully (I suspect), the majority of students in the class were from the Film and Theater Department, and from what I understand they are Fabulous.
I introduced the pieces first talking about my own wedding, how much love I felt. And how Laurie, Alexis, Jeremy, and Suzanne all came to share that love, but are not allowed, for the moment, to experience it the same way. How each of them had to hide, or face hatred and scorn. I could see, even with the jokes, that the topic made a lot of students uncomfortable, and some of the staff and faculty. But, I saw some smiles to... and there was a lot of applause. So maybe things aren't so bad.


At 1:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it might just be becausei got 5.5 hours sleep after seeing leonard cohen in concert last night, but your very sweet post is making me cry right now.


At 5:08 PM, Blogger jeff said...

Nicely done, Steve. Not only for the content of what you presented to folks, but for facing up to the very real fears involved regarding job and such.

At 6:59 PM, Blogger Amanda said...

I'm impressed not only that you did this, but that you did it without getting angry. Some issues I get very cross about, and anyone using antiquated tribal BS to justify their fear and hatred of another human being *should* be freakin' scolded... but that isn't helpful. Using humor to get people to listen and help defuse sensitive topics is a time-honored tradition. At the VERY least, there are people in that audience that now know they're not alone in their non-bigoted, rational beliefs. That's no joke in the South.


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