Wednesday, November 5, 2008

On exclusion

Nancy and I were enjoying dinner with Walter Mayes last week, and he was telling us about YALSA's William C. Morris Young Adult Debut Award. (Walter sits on the committee.) Apparently, a book that involves a collaboration between a writer and illustrator is only eligible for the award if it is the debut work of both parties -- if either the writer or the illustrator has been published, the book is ineligible.

My initial impulse was to cry foul, because I was looking at it from the perspective of the artists, and not the book itself. I thought that it was unfair to exclude e.g. a new author who had the good sense to work with an experienced illustrator, and that some promising new writers would be overlooked that way. But the award is really for the book, and it's easy to see that a book that has a seasoned pro working on it has a leg up on one that doesn't. So I can grumble that YALSA ought to make it more about the artist(s) and less about the book, but they have a case. And those promising writers will continue to be promising, and with good collaborations will be just fine, so I needn't worry, huh?

Then there was yesterday. A different (and much more pernicious) sort of exclusion was taking place. Voters in three states - California, Arizona, and Florida - decided that they needed to make a special effort to prevent gays from having the same civil rights as straights.

I could happily veer off to a diatribe about these half-assed state referenda, and how we have a representative democracy for a reason, but I'll leave that alone for now. Instead I'll try to step into the mindset of the selfish, dim-witted homophobes who voted to ban gay marriage in their states. (If you voted for one of these bans, feel free to selectively remove as many as two of those characterizations.)

Look, I get that some people wish there weren't gay marriage. I wish there weren't New York Yankees, but I'll vigorously defend their right to exist. (Well, maybe not vigorously.) Some people find the thought of gay sex distasteful, but if we carefully analyze straight sex, it's something less than dignified itself. Hormones make us do weird things, OK? Deal with it. Or just ignore it and don't worry about it. When you get up in the morning, the intimate goings-on in the house down the street the previous night will have zero effect on your life. Same for the legal status of the couple.

And there is no reason that said couple should be denied the same protections that any married couple has. If you're concerned about the sanctity of the union between a man and a woman, don't be. All you need to do is look at all of the curious customs that have existed around the institution of marriage --would you care to have Dad watching you consummate yours? -- or look at the huge number of ill-considered, abusive straight relationships that nobody has any problem sanctifying with marriage. We're exalting those why?

What this is really about is that the ridiculous referendum system allows people to react on the spur of the moment, and effectively say: "I wish other people were just like me. I vote for comfortable sameness over uncomfortable otherness."

I'm about to enter into marriage with Nancy. I don't see what should make our partnership any different from a gay couple's, except for the plumbing. If two men or two women love each other the way Nancy and I do, they damn well should be together, and have the same sorts of rights that we will.