Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Matthew Lays It On The Line

The citizens advisory committee meets tonight to go over some more proposed changes to the eighth grade curriculum on sexual orientation. Some of the suggested changes have generated, you might say, some dicussion among the committee. I think that's fun.

One of the committee members sent a note to the entire committee last night, which summed up a lot of details, and has a lot of heart. Matthew sits next to me in the meetings, he's a funny guy, an affable and extremely knowledgeable guy. This letter is very personal and, I think, eloquent -- somebody used the word "magnificent," and I think that's OK. Matthew has given me permission to post it here on the blog. It's a little long, and I'm not polishing up his spelling or anything, this is how he sent it. I think you'll enjoy it.

[Note -- After seeing Matthew at the CAC meeting, I decided to do some minor editing here. I added one obviously missing word, and fixed a couple of spellings: JimK]

Here's what he said:
To: Members of the MCPS Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development Committee

As possibly the only openly gay member of the MCPS Family Life and Human Development committee (I apologize for making assumptions about anyone else), I wanted to share my thoughts about the upcoming discussion on sexual orientation. Unfortunately, despite the excellent leadership and stewardship of the committee chair, time constraints and the desire to let all speak have limited our ability to have full discussions of the issues and what they mean to the Montgomery County community. I ask your indulgence as I try to explain to you what the upcoming discussion will mean to me, and to put a face on the issue. I am more than happy to speak with you individually about this email if you have questions or concerns. For ease of reference and with no disrespect to anyone, please note that I will use the term "gay" to be all inclusive - gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, queer or questioning.

I am the youngest of eight children, having grown up in a very traditional, Catholic, Latino family in a city with five military bases. I attended parochial school for many of my formative years. If there was a more conservative environment in which to be raised I do not know of one. Yet, I am gay and I have a lesbian sister.

I don't know why either of us is gay, nor for that matter, why my six other siblings are not. While I personally believe that God made me this way - as part of His grand purpose - that does not and should not matter given that government's role is not to promote one religious view over another. Our role should be to figure ought how to make the education environment as conducive to learning as possible. What teachers say about sexual orientation can and will have an effect on how students see themselves and how they view and treat other students, especially those who are either openly gay or those who others "suspect" of being gay or lesbian (as if being gay is a bad thing).

Below are some of the key concepts/tenets/arguments which will likely be placed before the committee that I would like to address now so that others may have time to consider them and have ample time to voice their opinion during the meeting.

1) Being gay or lesbian is a choice. Research shows they can be changed into being straight. We need to let them know that they have that option.

No rigorous, scientifically valid research has every been published in a credible, peer reviewed journal has ever shown this to be true. What little research there is in this area has claimed that a very few number of individuals have, after "reparative therapy," chosen not to act on their sexuality, but by their own admission, the vast majority continue to have same sex desires, but have decided not to act on those desires. Does that mean that they have changed their sexual orientation? No. It only means that they have made a choice not to physically act on their sexuality. If "reparative therapy" did work as a very few claim, one should also expect to see research that shows that heterosexuals can go through a similar process and become gay. I may be able to be taught how to act on my sexuality, but my sexuality is more than physical intimacy - it is also the amazing emotional bond two individuals in love share with each other. How much of your relationship with your spouse is about sex? If research is accurate, very little. So, why are gay and lesbian relationships only discussed in terms of sexual activity (e.g. homosexuals as opposed to homosexual individuals), and rarely are the emotional bonds that sustain a relationship acknowledged. Soaking someone in an ice bath, administering electric shock therapy, or forcing them to watch pornography does not make someone straight. All it possibly can do is cause psychological damage to a person. Reparative therapy pre-supposes that I need to be "repaired." The only thing that is "broken" is the logic that society is better off when gays or lesbians are "repaired" and get married rather than letting them live their own lives. Would you want your son or daughter to marry someone who self-identified as gay until they were "repaired?" Do you really think they could have a truly happy marriage?

Underlying the assumption of reparative therapy (or the ex-gay movement), is that one makes a choice on their sexuality. Ask yourself: "when did I "choose" to be straight?" After all, if I had to make the choice to be gay, you had to make the choice to be straight. Did you sit down one evening and weigh the pro's and con's of each side and say, "given all that I know, I am going to be straight." No, you are what you are because your core being tells you that you are that way. Given all the discrimination that gays and lesbian face, even today, why would anyone choose to be gay? Imagine if the tables were turned. Would you want to risk being disowned by your family and thrown out on the street when you are 16 years old because they caught you kissing someone of the opposite sex? Would you want to be told by your family or hear in a house of worship that you are perverted, deviant, sick and going to rot in hell because you loved someone of the opposite sex? Would you want to be called "straight," "breeder" "hetero" or a whole list of other epithets because of who you love? Would you risk being denied housing, employment, or the ability to marry the person you love because of a choice? Of course not. Interestingly enough, people have made the "choice" to be gay in almost every culture in the world and since almost the beginning of time. It is not a new phenomenon.

3) We should not present homosexuality in a "positive" light or try to normalize it.

As a committee, we have an extremely important decision to make. Will we recommend a curriculum that teaches the students - some whom themselves may be gay or lesbian and others who may be questioning their own sexuality - to love themselves or be ashamed of themselves? What we say, and don't say, can have a huge impact on a student's self-identification and self-esteem. Statements about whether homosexuality is "normal" or whether homosexual activity is "dangerous" certainly will only lower the self-esteem of some students. Is that what we want to accomplish? Or should we be presenting the fact that there are gay and lesbians in the world, some of them may be students, and that all people, regardless of sexual orientation desire respect and tolerance. Notice I did not say acceptance. Acceptance is a personal choice. Respect and tolerance should not be negotiable.

Our school system is populated by a diversity of individuals, races/ethnicity, nationalities, genders, learning abilities, family structures, income, housing situations, and yes, sexual orientations. Should the school system, an authority figure to the students, be teaching students to hate themselves or should it be a place where students are made to feel comfortable about themselves as they figure out who they are?

4) We need to make sure they understand that being gay is "dangerous" to their health.

Committee members will try to convince us that we need to make sure the students know the "dangers" of being homosexual. Let me set the record straight (no pun intended).

Nothing about my being gay places me at risk for HIV infection and to imply otherwise is dishonest and unethical.. Being gay is not in and of itself "dangerous," any more so than is being straight. It is the behavior I engage in, not the gender of my partner, that may place me at risk for infection with an STI, including HIV. I could have 100 sexual partners in my lifetime, and if I don't engage in any behavior which places me at risk for infection with HIV, I will remain HIV negative. Yet, I could have only 1 sexual partner, and if he is HIV positive and I engage in behavior that places me at risk, I could become HIV positive.

Some will argue that we should include statistics such as almost 1/2 of all HIV infections in the U.S. are from same sex exposure or that men who have sex with men have higher rates of STDs than heterosexuals. What they will rarely state is that globally more than 90% of all HIV infections are through heterosexual exposure, and that more than half of all AIDS cases are in women. They rarely acknowledge this because it undermines their arguments that being gay is unhealthy.

Again, it is not who I have sex with, it is what I do that places me at risk which could be unhealthy. This only reinforces our recommendations that full information about condom use as a means to reduce the chance for infection with HIV or an STI was the right recommendation.

If we tell young people that being gay is "unhealthy" or "dangerous," we are not telling them the truth. The issue is behavior, not orientation. Not only is this common sense, but I know first hand because I have lived it every day for the past 25 years of the AIDS crisis. As importantly, for more than three years, I shared my life with a man who was HIV infected and later died in our home from AIDS. Despite the fact that we had a fulfilling emotional and physical relationship, I remain HIV negative to this day.

Let's be honest. The key issue for those opposed to having any positive portrayal of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, or transgenders, is that they do not want us to have sex. Pure and simple.

Some individuals on this committee would love to push an agenda that says that sexual activity should only occur within the "confines of marriage." They would argue that this should be the message of the public school system. At the same time they are pushing the "wait until marriage" mantra, they vigorously oppose my ability to be legally married to person of my choosing. In essence, they are saying that I should never be able to have an emotional and sexually fulfilling relationship during my ENTIRE lifetime. Could you do that? Is it right or realistic that this be asked of you?

Thank you for taking the time to read my message

Matthew MurguĂ­a


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Matthew,

I hope you are reading this. Thank you for sending this very important letter and allowing Jim to post it here. I believe that it is vitally important to teach our young people about sexual health in a way that includes all of them, regardless of their emerging understanding of their sexual orientation.

All sexual involvement has a certain "danger" to it; a person committed to a monogamous relationship can be betrayed and hurt. But the safest sexual relationships are those which are honest, respectful, committed, loving and informed. I have gay and lesbian friends who have been together for decades in just such relationships. They are healthy, happy, good people with the same concerns (lifestyle?) as the rest of us.

I hope the CAC does approve a curriculum that makes it clear to gay students that it is normal for them to want these kinds of relationships; that they should delay sexual activity until they are old enough to bear the responsibility of that level of commitment, but that as adults they will be fully capable of living in love with the unique individuals of their choosing. (Because even though we don't choose our orientation, we do choose who we love.)


November 01, 2006 8:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I hope the CAC does approve a curriculum that makes it clear to gay students that it is normal for them to want these kinds of relationships"


November 01, 2006 10:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Being gay or lesbian is a choice. Research shows they can be changed into being straight. We need to let them know that they have that option."

No one has said this should be part of the curriculum. The citizens for responsible curriculum only want the truth told- that no one knows if individuals choose their sexual preference and whether it is impossible to change sexual preference. While psychologists might say this, they also believe this about all desires.

That's the truth- even if you'd prefer to accept the gay agenda version, the truth doesn't change.

November 01, 2006 11:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonymous you have not learned a thing posting here peddling that PFOX bunk.

Are you Richard Cohen posting as anonymous?


November 01, 2006 11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Theresa said What am I missing here ?

Maybe a condom and full comprehensive sex ed program among other things.


November 01, 2006 11:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Theresa said What am I missing here ?

Maybe a condom and full comprehensive sex ed program among other things.


Ted, there isn't any data but its likely that condom use for anal sex is still quite risky. Ask the Surgeon General. 100 times with an HIV positive guy and you're likely in trouble. If Matthew is telling the truth, he's lucky.

November 02, 2006 7:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"anonymous you have not learned a thing posting here peddling that PFOX bunk.

Are you Richard Cohen posting as anonymous?"

The "bunk" that no one knows to what extent you choose your own desires and whether you can change them through conviction and will?

That's not just a PFOX idea. It's the simple truth.

November 02, 2006 7:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon said "Research shows they can be changed into being straight. "

Research shows no such thing. Research shows the simple truth -- that there are many more ex-ex-gays than there are ex-gays. Matthew is correct when he reported that the vast majority of the very few who claim (claim, as in there is no actual observable and measurable data, just self-reports -- and we all know how honest people are about their sex lives) to have changed their sexual behavior admit that their same-sex attraction remains.

A person who is intimate with a person of the opposite gender while longing for intimacy with a person of the same gender is not what is generally referred to as "straight."

November 02, 2006 7:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said:
"The citizens for responsible curriculum only want the truth told- that no one knows if individuals choose their sexual preference ...

Did you choose yours? Even the ex-gay groups agree with mainstream science that it's not a choice. If you tell students that "no one knows," don't you think that's a little contradictory considering they themselves know if they chose their own?

Do want some enlightening information?

Theresa said:
"Isn't having 100 sexual partners in your lifetime the definition of engaging in behavior that puts you at risk for an STD ?"

If none of the partners had HIV or any other STIs, then it wouldn't be risky behaviour. Having sex with 100 disease-free partners is safer than one HIV positive partner. That's the point I think Matthew was trying to convey, considering his comparison of numbers.


November 02, 2006 12:09 PM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

Anonymous at November 02, 2006 7:24 AM said "no one knows to what extent you choose your own desires and whether you can change them through conviction and will".

Anonymous if anyone said to you you chose to be heterosexual and can change that through conviction and will you'd think they were stupid beyond belief. You know intuitively that no one chooses their orientation, you'll repeat any lie to promote the oppression of gays, won't you?

Given the vast numbers of people going through "exgay" organizations to provide the handful Robert Spitzer was able to come up with who merely claimed to have changed its pretty clear virtually no one can change their orientation.

November 02, 2006 12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dare you to post Peter S.and Ruth J.'s comment to Matt

November 02, 2006 12:32 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Anon, you don't have to dare me. I asked Peter last night if I could blog his response, and he agreed, so I plan to do that this afternoon. Ruth's response doesn't really deserve the space, and I had not planned to post it. Peter though raises a number of arguments that I think should be discussed here.

My computer is giving me a hard time today, between Blogger and whichever one of the pipes in these Internets my computer drains into. Links don't work about half the time. So I'm not even going to try at this point. Give me an hour or two.


November 02, 2006 12:47 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

1. Haggard just resigned- MR HTT seems mighty guilty to me.

And whoever posted the line "the simple truth" -what it is is simple- but not the truth. Research hasn't shown that sexual orientation can be changed. You keep saying that but ignoring what the studies actually say. And Look at Richard Cohen-one of your poster boys- cuddling other men. This is your idea of straight? Okay, I get it then

November 02, 2006 9:54 PM  

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