Monday, March 29, 2010

"You Ain't No Son:" The Music and the Reality

Former Dixie Chics and sisters, Martie Maguire and Emily Robison, have released a new song You Ain't No Son. Emily says the inspiration was a television show about teenagers who were thrown out of their homes because they are gay. She said: "That idea, how can you have kids and love them so much and one day decide not to—it just boggled my mind."

The first stanza is the son saying to his father: "I've got something to say / I'm scared and so afraid / Can you take me as I am / Come what may our blood is all the same / I'm still your little man."

The rest of the song is the angry father denouncing his son. "You ain't no son to me / Eight pound baby boy I bounced on my knee / No, you ain't no son of mine / You ain't no son of mine."

The father tells his son that he can't come home "til you walk the straight line / You'll be out on your own."

The release of that song coincidentally coincided with three other stories currently taking place. I will first turn to the MTV show The Real World DC. In the reality show one of the house members, Mike Manning, comes out as gay. His family comes to visit and is quite accepting. Mike then invites ex-boyfriend Tanner to come see him because he realizes it was a mistake to end their relationship. Tanner does come out and the two reunite happily. Tanner goes home and tells his family only to find nothing but rejection.

Tanner said to his mother that he was in love and afraid to tell her. Her reply was that it "better be" a girl and that she didn't care what kind of girl. His father said that he couldn't live with a gay son. As the episode ended Tanner was on the phone telling Mike that he was driving home with some friends following him because he expected his parents to take away his truck because he's gay.

Next we move to Cochran, Georgia. And I have never expected anything good to come out of Georgia. Derrick Martin is a senior at Bleckley High School. In January he asked the school if would be allowed to attend his own senior prom with his date, Richard Goodman. (Photo: Derrick, left; Richard, right.)

Because Richard is from a different county permission had to be secured, according to school rules. The school panicked and went to the school board. The board investigated the matter and discovered that there was no policy forbidding it and that if they tried to forbid it they would probably lose legally. So the board issued a public statement about the matter.

The statement came right up to the border of being downright insulting. It said that the school was not endorsing a "lifestyle" and that the legal realities required it to respect Derrick's rights. Clearly they didn't want to do so and clearly they have contempt for Derrick. Once the board issued the statement all hell broke loose.

Derrick's father, Ray, is a teacher at Bleckley High School and was named teacher of the year. There is an obvious reason he was not parent of the year instead.

When Derrick's family learned he was gay they responded by taking away his cell phone and his computer so he couldn't contact anyone he was dating. That didn't work.

Derrick and Richard had met on Facebook, through a mutual friend. Richard is a high school senior in Tifton, 83 miles away. Oddly the media has ignored Richard while reporting on Derrick. In one message to friends on Facebook Richard referred to himself as "just the boyfriend" as if he had no identity to anyone, even though his Facebook page says he is in a relationship with Derrick Martin. Richard obviously had a journey coming home to himself since he has a two-year-old son. He and Derrick have been dating for nine months.

After the school board, in order to let the bigots know they weren't to blame, released their press statement the story grew legs. And as the media started paying attention things changed for Derrick. His father and mother told him they didn't like the publicity so he had to leave home even though he is still in high school. Teacher of the year??? I can think of a few awards I'd give the man, but that isn't one of them.

Derrick is staying with a girl he knows and her family. Last year he took her to the dance and they are best friends. So far Richard is having a better time of things.

Parents in Cochran tried to rally students against Derrick. One parent, Bobby Duskin, organized a rally and put his daughter, Amber out in front of the cameras. They whined that were upset the whole prom matter was getting publicity—which explains why they held a public rally and invited the media to the attend—because they don't like the publicity. Amber's solipsistic complaint was that it was her prom and how dare Derrick bring a date that caused her to be unhappy. He ruined her prom and she wants her ticket refunded. Of course, it wasn't Derrick's prom as well, just poor litle Amber's. Only about a dozen students felt motivated enough to join the protest. Derrick said: "The girl who organized the rally told me she didn't want to be associated with people like me. She didn't want any more gays to come to Bleckley County ( CLS: as if they aren't born there). She told me I wasn't a Christian. She said she didn't want to go to prom."

There are other gay students at Bleckley, of course. But they seem too afraid to attend the prom themselves.

Derrick says that the good Christian people of Cochran routinely insulted him, even before this story broke. But that now his life has been threatened. "Someone told me I should watch where I'm going when I ride around town, because they would be riding around with a gun. I'm looking into private security between now and prom, and I have an off-duty deputy that said he would go to prom with me [as security, not his date]. For now, in terms of security, I do things like drive home a different way every day."

Asked if there were any event that inspired him in this matter Derrick answered simply: "I just wanted to go to prom."

Earlier this month a woman wrote on Daily Kos about the drama in her own Southern family. Her 18-year-old nephew was being raised by fundamentalist nutters who had sent him to a Christian school. The principal called the boy in and demanded to know if he was gay. He said he was and was kicked out of school, just weeks before his graduation. When the boy returned him his parents confronted with religious nonsense about being cured and told him he had to meet with counselors who would cure him. He walked out and drove to his aunt's home, 12 hours away.

The aunt was told by the mother to refuse to help the boy. The aunt said her sister "commanded me to tell her son to go to a Tampa church that can "cure" him. I told her he didn't need to be cured and she hung up on me."

The aunt was required to return the boy's car to his parents, since it was in their name. She drove the 12 hours to return it because she wanted to pick up her nephew's belongings for him. He was now living with her and finishing school in her town. When she arrived at her sister's home it was filled with fundamentalists in collective mourning. All the photos of the boy were missing, save one siting prominently with a lit candle by it. "If I didn't know better, I would've thought he had died in a tragic accident," said the aunt.

The aunt sat with her hysterical sister and listened as church members pontificated on the evils of being gay. "One of the people from their church suggested that homosexuality could be caused by mental illness, or a chemical imbalance." Others said the boy was too athletic and good looking to be gay so he must be faking it in order to upset his parents. Others suggested he demonically possessed. The aunt ignored the mumbo-jumbo from the Dark Ages and said she would like to pick up the boy's belongings.

When she went to his room she found it empty. The parents decided their son needed to be punished for being gay and gave away everything he owned and wouldn't say where it was. All they left him was his birth certificate, his passport, a Bible, Christian CDs and Christian books on how he could be cured of being gay—which their church supplied. The aunt was upset. She had planned to rent a U-haul to takes the boy's belongings to him and said that now she only needed a flight home and asked to use a computer to book one.

She went to room of another nephew, a 15-year-old younger brother who was upset with his parents for what they had done. He begged his aunt to allow him to speak to his brother. The aunt called her husband who put the older brother on the phone. When the mother walked in she was furious. She said that they had forbidden the younger boy to speak to his brother as a means of punishing the older boy for being gay—she said he had to understand that being gay would mean he would lose everything in his life. That would force him to change into an heterosexual. This is what fundamentalist think is Christian love—does anyone wonder why I hold them in such contempt?

The younger brother found a family on the street who, knowing of the situation, will allow him to use their phone so he can call the older boy. The aunt says he she "honestly cannot understand my own family... I was witnessing my family turn on their own son. ...It is seriously beyond me that people can actually do this to their own flesh and blood." With faith anything is possible. And it takes a lot of faith to be this cruel.

Unfortunately this is common for Christian fundamentalists, who will engage in their own personal jihad to make their children miserable for being gay. And if they will do this to their own children, what would they do to people who are not their children?

I too find it mind boggling that parents can reject their children.

Many years ago Nathaniel Branden said something I will never forget. He was commenting on the biblical injunction to honor your mother and father. Dr. Branden said he thought it ought to say: Parents, honor your children. He said more harm has been done to children by parents than ever done to parents by children. I concur.

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