Friday, April 23, 2010

Does Not Compute: Homosexuality=Pedophilia

If you travel back a little bit in my family tree, you’ll find that the white bread last name Reed can be pushed aside rather quickly by my mother’s maiden name: Comparetto. Yes, on the maternal side, I am Sicilian and being a Sicilian, there is no other church I was going to be raised in other than what my family called the Church. I was baptized, confirmed, went to catechism, and was raised in a strict Catholic household.

And now I feel the church is a place I am not welcome, where I am shunned because I am a gay man. I have a spiritual side but it cannot be nurtured in the religion and tradition that formed me as a child and young adult.

And lately, the Church has been flapping its jaws and getting a lot of press because they are attempting to hide their too-numerous-to-mention scandals involving priests molesting young boys by saying things like what the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said recently at a news conference in Chile, “Many psychologists, many psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relationship between celibacy and pedophilia but many others have demonstrated, I was told recently, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia. That is true. I have the documents of the psychologists. That is the problem.”

No Cardinal, the problem is you being vague about your “documents,” when even Rev. Marcus Stock, General Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said, “To the best of my knowledge, there is no empirical data which concludes that sexual orientation is connected to child sexual abuse….In the sexual abuse of children, the issue is the sexual fixation of the abusers and not their sexual orientation.”

This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart because I suffered personally because of this mindset. I have a son and while I was going through my divorce with his mother I was given only very limited visitation (supervised—at my parent’s home) simply because I was gay. There was no other evidence to support this rigid and unreasonable ruling. Even though I had an adult male partner and had never exhibited the least interest in children as sex objects, I was subject to having my time with my son severely limited. The good news is that, after the trauma of the divorce died down and my son’s mother and I were once again on speaking terms, we tossed out the court ruling and allowed my son to visit me unsupervised every weekend. But it will always sting me that the unspoken assertion in the courtroom the day the ruling was made was that I could not be trusted with my child.

This issue formed the basis of a novel I would later write, Mute Witness (MLR Press, October 2009), where a young boy is abducted and sexually assaulted. Many of the people in the small town where the book is set immediately suspect the very loving and upright father of the boy, a gay man. Here’s a small excerpt to demonstrate what I’m talking about:

    “Are you leaving him alone with Jason?”
    Shelley shrugged. “Sure, when he comes over, I give him some time with Jason. Is there something wrong with that?”
    “Don’t you think there is?”
    Although she knew very well what her mother was getting at, she said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
    Her mother snapped. “I think you do.” Then softened her tone. “Well, you know, Sean’s a, um, homosexual. You know.”
    Shelley could practically hear her mother squirming on the other end. She knew how hard it must have been for the woman to pronounce the word homosexual. Throughout her divorce, Shelley had listened to the woman’s railings against Sean, the quoting of biblical scripture against men laying with men and most hurtfully, the urgings her mother made to her to deny Sean any kind of visitation based on the fact that he was, um, homosexual. Used in Estelle’s arguments were the fears that such men could not be trusted around little boys, and how Sean had deliberately duped her when he married her. After all, Estelle had asked her, hadn’t there been men in his life before he came along? Shelley herself had told her mother that. He was just using her when he married her.
    “I just think, with his...desires...he might not be so safe around the boy.”
    “I think I can judge that.”
    “No, Shelley, I don’t think you can. You’re in a fragile state of mind. And God only knows why, but you’ve always given that man the benefit of the doubt.”
    “Sean loves Jason. He’s his father.”
    “I know that! But doesn’t it ever cross your mind that it might have been him? After all, Jason was, oh, I can’t bring myself to say it. But that’s what men like Sean like.”
    Shelley sighed, groping on the counter for her cigarettes. She lit one and sucked in hard on the smoke. She felt a perverse desire to shock her mother. “Sean likes to fuck other men, Mother. Not little boys.”
    The statement got the gasp Shelley was after. “Oh, Shelley. I hardly think we need to use such language.”
    “And I hardly think we need to be having this discussion. Sean would never do anything to hurt Jason.”
    “Leaving him wasn’t hurting him?”
    “No, I mean...” Shelley stopped herself, flustered.
    “And even if it wasn’t Sean, how do you know you can trust his...friend? What’s his name?”
    “Austin.” Shelley conjured up an image of the blond young man, handsome, broad shouldered, with the kind of blue eyes that once would have made Shelley stop and stare. Her competition. The one who had stolen him away. Except that wasn’t true. When she and Sean split up, there was no one in the picture. Austin had come along after the final divorce papers had been signed, after, in fact, she had started seeing Paul.
    “How do you know it wasn’t him?”
    “I just do.” Shelley wanted to slam the phone down, but she could never do that. Estelle was, after all, her mother.
    “I think your certainty is blinding you to the danger of those two men. I think they, or one of them, probably are responsible. And you should at least consider that. Even if they’re not responsible, I think you should at least consider it. Think about your child, honey.”
    Shelley suddenly felt trapped, as if the weight of this whole tragedy had suddenly come down on her shoulders. She knew Sean would never do such a thing to his son and Austin...well, that just wasn’t what homosexuals were about, was it? Wasn’t there a word for men who liked children? Pedophiles. Homosexuals were not pedophiles.”

I just hope the day comes when it will seem absurd that a gay father has to fear allegations of pedophilia simply because he is homosexual. I hope the day comes when reasonable, right-thinking people will see that homosexuality is linked to pedophilia about as much as heterosexuality is.

Buy a copy of Mute Witness here.

3 comments:

  1. Being gay I can't say I've experienced much more negativity than vague amusment, which can be insulting in itself, but I know I'm one of the lucky ones. I don't have a particular faith but I would hate to think that I was not welcome ANYWHERE just because I'm a lesbian. But the fact that people would LET themselves be confused between a gay man and a pedophile is shocking to me. Ignorance is no excuse in this case.

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  2. It just doesn't make sense because if being a gay man = liking little boys then being a straight man = liking little girls right? Because men just want sex, doesn't matter how old. If you "like" men you like them from 2 - 82, so inversely if you like women you must be chomping at the bit to get your 3 year old naked right? The logic should run both ways. Sigh. Stupidity knows no bounds.

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  3. Raised Catholic, I myself have my own issues with the Church and refuse to "come home" as the commercials say. My friends are my family and the fact that they are not accepted angers me. The Vatican's ignorant, narrow-minded,hateful attitude toward homosexuality disgusts me all the way to the quarks that make up the atomic structure of my molecules. It helps perpetuate the prejudice. Ignorance has reigned supreme in the Church since Peter and probably won't change anytime soon. Thanks for your thoughtful post, Rick.

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