Conflict of interest
By Linda A. Prussen-Razzano
In March of 1991, I had the honor of participating in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Manhattan. As Miss Irish American of Nassau, Suffolk, and Queens, I was given a prominent position in the Irish American Society's marching line up; right behind the bag-pipers, the banners, and the organization leaders. Crown on my head, sash on my chest, clad in a traditional wheat sweater and plaids, I was in a row all by myself.
From the time I won my title until the day I marched, the Irish American Society had worked furiously to raise funds for our various appearances. They held dances, dinners, and social events at the hall. The money was used to sustain the organization, our transportation, our insurance, our banners, our flags, our bag-pipers, provide Gaelic lessons and dancing lessons, etc. Each event was meant to further the recognition of our proud heritage, to encourage new membership, and to support the other active Irish groups throughout the New York region.
In 1991, Mayor Dinkens and the courts forced the Ancient Order of Hibernians to accept gays and lesbians into the parade. As my group waited, with many others, on a side street in Manhattan until we were called into the parade, the gays and lesbians, surrounded by police, walked by. Our group did not call out foul names or childishly hiss; in near perfect unison, they simply turned their backs, pretending that the gays and lesbians did not exist.
I did not.
I have had, through the course of my life, several gay and lesbian friends. I'd known these people for years; I was present when one of my dearest childhood friends "came out of the closet." Typically, I was very sympathetic to the painful challenges they faced: rejection from friends and family, exclusion from their church, being looked at as if they were somehow no longer human beings.
Still, in this instance, I could not support them. I would not turn my back on them, but I could not support them.
Even though I had, through my title, "earned" the privilege of being part of the parade, it was still a privilege not a right. The gays and lesbians who demanded a spot in the parade didn't, in my opinion, want to be there to celebrate their Irish roots. They could have joined any number of Irish organizations and become part of the parade in that manner. They didn't demand a spot in the parade because of their religious affiliations or musical accomplishments. They could have joined any of the Fraternal Orders or bands and been given a spot. They demanded a position in the parade based on the concept that they had the right to be there when, in fact, they didn't.
The demand for rights where none exist is the crux of many problems between the homosexual community and the heterosexual community.
Let me be crystal clear: I reject the assertion that gays and lesbians have made a lifestyle choice. Through frank and sincerely honest discussions with my homosexual friends, I have concluded that they came into their sexuality in the same fashion that I did. I did not wake up one and "decide" to be heterosexual it was a natural inclination. Over time and during puberty, boys stopped being pesky monsters and started being interesting counterparts. The same holds true for them, except the attraction was towards their own sex.
I reject the ridiculous assertion that gays and lesbians were the victims of sexual abuse. None of my homosexual friends was sexually abused. They came from loving, stable households, often with strong, religious, model parents, and secretly agonized over their sexuality for years before revealing their inner heart.
I reject the ludicrous assertion that religion forced them to turn to homosexuality. None of my homosexual friends ever alluded to this; almost all of them are still practicing Christians, struggling to reconcile their religious beliefs with their inner heart. One of my friends has abstained from any romantic relationships altogether, holding true to his religious convictions.
I reject the outrageous assertion that homosexuals cannot be good parents. One of my closest friends, a Stonewall veteran and lesbian activist, actually tried to "go straight" because of her strong Catholic upbringing. She married and gave birth to a daughter. Despite her wishes, the marriage ended. She retained custody of her child. Her daughter is successful, beautiful, happily married heterosexual. I would trust my child in the care of any of my friends, gay or straight. If they weren't the kind of people who honored children and that I could trust implicitly, they would not be my friends.
I reject the fanatical assertion that homosexuals are all liberals. Several of my friends are Independents, and two are staunch Conservatives.
I reject the disgusting assertion that all homosexuals are supportive of NAMBLA. All of my friends recoil at the mention of this group and are mortified at the agenda they espouse. They want nothing to do with NAMBLA, or groups like them.
All this being said, I cannot justify some of the steps being taken by the radical fringe of the gay and lesbian movement. I reject videos that teach first graders that being homosexual is "the norm." This is a lie; it does a disservice to the gays and lesbians who have suffered physical abuse and harm in their quest to be treated as human beings. Their sexual orientation is different from the mainstream; a frank recognition of this situation should take place in Junior High School, along with a discussion about the sexual development of all young people. The Constitution guarantees an individual's rights under the law; acceptance of one's sexual behavior, no matter the flavor, is not a right.
I reject radicals who call for religious groups to be silenced or to embrace homosexual marriages. Religious doctrine specifically states that being homosexual is not aligned with God's wishes. The First Amendment guarantees a person's right to free speech and to freely exercise their religion (presuming, of course, this exercise does not violate the constitutionally guaranteed rights of others). It does not demand that anyone listens or follows a specific set of beliefs. Nevertheless, all individuals still have a right to speak their peace, no matter how disagreeable others may find their opinions. The Constitution does not guarantee our right not to be offended.
I reject "hate crimes" legislation because it implies that Justice is not blind; that the victim's status is somehow more important than the actual crime committed. If someone kills me specifically because I am a white woman, does that make me any less dead?
Obviously, Matthew Shephard's family grieves for his loss. He was the young man tied to a fence, cruelly beaten, and left to die in agony because he was gay. It was a vicious, terrible crime. Was it any less vicious and terrible than the death of Jesse Dirkhising, the 13-year old boy who was allegedly drugged, bound, gagged, and repeatedly raped by two gay men, only to die several hours later? Doesn't his family grieve for his loss, too?
We should be fighting for equality for all people in the courts, not preferential treatment because there might be a disparity in any area between the perpetrator and the victim. My right to live is no greater than, nor less than, that of my fellow citizens.
I look to the day when private matters amongst consenting adults are once again private, when individuals are regarded for their integrity, their labors, and their valuable contributions to society. If we, heterosexuals and homosexuals alike, continue to drag our bedrooms onto the streets for public display, can we really cry foul if the passersby stop and comment on our actions? What I do in the sanctity of my bedroom is my business alone; I don't have any "right" to make the public accept it or condone it and neither does anyone else.
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