Nothing to fear

Jan 21, 2009 at 6:00 am

I want to name my two new (and by new I mean “possibly future”) Betta Splendens (Siamese Fighting Fish) Sodom and Gomorrah. Has a nice ring, no? And fitting, yes?

The cities Sodom and Gomorrah were burned down because they were unkind, cruel and inhospitable; somewhat like Siamese Fighting Fish, which eat fish smaller than an inch and bully those who are too slow to escape. Also, my favorite: Fish with long, flowing fins tend to trigger aggression. So when they see themselves, as when an owner puts, say, a mirror in front of the tank, guess what happens? 

I am not sure of their sexuality or turn-ons, but those are entirely irrelevant. I do doubt their desire to rape angels, but what-the-hay, I’m a forgiving God: Sodom and Gomorrah will live (in different tanks) in my heavenly house.

I will be totally honest: I’ve actually not read that much of the Bible; only went to church for the doughnuts. It took me 30 minutes of searching on the Internet to find the interpretation of this biblical story of sinful cities I liked the best. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong — I’m already going to hell. However, the strength of certainty people on the Internet feel they have concerning the “true” meaning and interpretation of the Bible is amazing.

What I find interesting about that tale is how it illustrates what fear of difference does to people; the argument could be made that difference and the unknown scares my conceivable fishies as much as the people of their namesakes.

If I’ve learned anything in this life so far, it’s that bridges, walls and language might be the most deceitful of all things humans can encounter. Language is malicious. Words are in a constant state of reproduction. I mean, wasn’t half the enjoyment of the movie “Juno” its wordplay? Wizard, right. And walls are illusions materialized: You can always hear people talking in the session before you, sitting in the waiting room at your therapist’s office, a fact you conveniently forget once you’re in and the doctor closes the door.

The confrontation of difference and the experience of new are hard on everyone (you’d be surprised at the number of counselors who cry the first night of sleep-away summer camp). Difference is frightening — it disrupts, makes us acutely aware of our deep-seated desire for stability, solidifies our fear that what we perceive as absolute or unchanging is no more sure or secure than a bridge, which can only promise the intention of stability.

I’m not being dramatic: The search for certainty has led many people to drug addiction and evangelical churches.

A couple of days ago I was subbing at a specialty high school. I heard faggot, fag, gay, queer — all day long. One student was so bold as to quietly call me a dyke, and his classmate was nice enough to repeat it for him so I could hear. I think I had asked the boy to quit talking. I might have even told him to do his work. At one point, two boys were calling each other fags, and when I told them I didn’t want to hear that language again, one of the boys said, “It’s OK, we’re friends. We do it all the time.”  (I really didn’t know where to start with this one.)

Fag, dyke and queer are labels that can’t be used by people who classify themselves as straight. Like the n-word when used by white people, these words are offensive when used by people who consider themselves something otherwise. I know it’s not fair, but life isn’t fair.

Gay, straight and queer are merely names, terms with no inherent meaning — just like straight.

That we should consider with whom one sleeps to be a difference valid enough to divide beings, who are the same otherwise, into groups was — and remains — an active choice.

If gays are hellbound because their sexy time doesn’t end in procreation, then all you straight people having sex who can’t conceive, don’t want children, are past menopause — you are going to hell, too. It is fear of the unknown, or perhaps fear of our own desires, that makes the idea of two men having sex seem wrong, gross or evil.