Do you know where that phrase comes from? A love that dare not speak its name.
It is a line in a poem written by Lord Alfred Douglas in 1894 called “Two Loves.” Douglas intended it a romantic message to another person you may have heard of: Oscar Wilde.
Lord Douglas’s father despised his son’s relationship to Wilde. The year after the poem was published, 1895, the father — a twice divorced man with several illegitimate children– orchestrated criminal charges against Wilde for “indecency.” In Wilde’s time, Victorian England, it was illegal to be gay.
The love that Douglas and Wilde shared was far from conventional.* When they met, Wilde was an international celebrity; often considered the most famous man in England outside the royal family. Wilde was famed for his style—-he never went anywhere unless he had a green carnation protruding from a button hole on his chest–but he was also a literary genius. A combo David Foster Wallace and Lady Gaga.
Wilde’s fame and genius were no help when he stood before a judge in May of 1895. The man on the bench exclaimed Wilde’s “crime” of falling in love with someone of the same sex “akin to murder.” The judge growled, “It is no use for me to address you. People who can do these things must be dead to all sense of shame […] I shall, under the circumstances, be expected to pass the severest sentence that the law allows.”
Oscar Wilde was immediately led from the courtroom and served several years of hard labor in prison. A bankruptcy sale was held while behind bars; he lost everything.
Prison was insufficient for Victorian England. He was released on May 25, 1987 around lunch, but it wasn’t until 4 a.m. that he found an actual place to lay his head. No boarding house or hotel would allow someone of his “character” to stay. He fled to continental Europe the next morning, securing passage only through the charity of a small band of friends. Two years later, living in the streets of Paris, an old friend happened upon Oscar at a cafe . Wilde was uncharacteristically silent. He soon realized that Oscar had lost most of his front teeth, had no money to fix them, and was embarrassed to open his mouth.
He died two years later, surrounded by the small group of friends who never deserted him (mostly closeted gay men). Twelve people attended his funeral service.
Oscar Wilde turns 159 years old next month. This year, on his birthday, representatives in Illinois will meet in a veto session and perhaps vote on a bill which would treat same sex love equal under the law. The love that dare not speak its name.
After his conviction, Wilde was a laughingstock, called a “beast.” He responded: “the true beasts are not those who express their love, but those who try to suppress other peoples.”
When same sex couples are allowed to marry–and they will be allowed–it won’t be a mere victory for gay couples. It will be a win for Oscar Wilde. It will be a win for millions of others who lived, suffered, and died in communities where their love was not just invisible, but poison. How many people went to their grave in shambles…because of love?
Lawmakers who vote on marriage equality must know that this vote will be part of their legacy.
Do they truly want to explain to their grandchildren why they resisted it to the end? Do they want their name enshrined forever in the long history of injustice?
*Reams are written on Douglas’s good looks–and greed, immaturity, selfishness, and temper. But from the time they met until Wilde’s death, they could never quit one another.
**The best that I could tell, running for re-election next year, Rep. Kate Cloonen does not have an active campaign website.
Earlier this week a GOP State Representative from the Naperville-Wheaton area, Jeanne Ives, said this in a radio interview with the Catholic Conference of Illinois:
“ It’s a completely disordered relationship and when you have a disordered relationship, you don’t ever get order out of that. So I’m more than happy to take a ‘no’ vote on the issue of homosexual marriage.”
“They’re trying to weasel their way into acceptability so that they can then start to push their agenda down into the schools, because this gives them some sort of legitimacy. And we can’t allow that to happen…To not have a mother and a father is really a disordered state for a child to grow up in and it really makes that child an object of desire rather than the result of a matrimony.”
Today, Chicago Representative Greg Harris–the man leading the fight for equal rights in the House–has this on his agenda per Facebook…
In other news, while many some Illinois Democrats are showing their allergy to courage, the first sitting Republican Senator announced he has changed course and supports the right for all couples to marry – Rob Portman of Ohio (whispered to be a possible 2016 GOP Presidential candidate). In a touching interview he explained how the reversal was caused entirely by his son’s decision to come out to him. His son is now a junior in college. One person at a time…
Just like Rio de Janiero stole our 2016 Summer Olympics, it looks like another South American country (damn Argentina!) has swiped our chance at the first American Pope. This week the archbishop (“really big bishop”) of Buenos Aires was magically transformed into Pope Francis I (do we even use I or do the numbers start at II?). Catholic friends whose judgment I trust are reportedly happy about this development as Francis will be the first Latin American vicar of Christ–and a Jesuit to boot! Most of my Catholic friends are Jesuits, so obviously their opinion is biased.
Confession: I attended a Jesuit law school. I even took a small law school class led by a Jesuit priest with whom I had a private lunch at Ralph Lauren. He paid. Long story short, my opinion on the matter is also suspect. I wouldn’t blame you if you stop reading now because this blog post was being written at the command of my Jesuit masters. I’m easily bought.
I digress. Being a one-dimensional person, upon hearing the glorious news of the Pope’s naming (how we survived a few days without a Pope still baffles), I immediately Googled to get his opinion on gay rights. I know what you’re thinking. That’s like Googling to find out which of the Dixie Chicks is the talented one. The answer is obvious: all of them. Why bother Googling Pope candidates on gay rights. They are all against it. That’s what you were thinking, wasn’t it? And you’d be right. But I didn’t know that at the time, so cut me some slack.
After a Google search that returned 250,000,000 items and took .13 seconds I learned from the Huffington Post:
In 2010 Bergoglio said about a gay marriage bill in Argentina that “At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”
He went on to describe it as a “‘move of the Father of Lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.” In John 8:44, the Father of Lies is the devil.
I wasn’t expecting an archbishop who has “Gay Pride Parade Grand Marshal” on his (“her” is not a pronoun that could ever apply here) resume. But I was at least hoping for a guy who was a little more subdued on the sexual issues. Dreams shattered.
Normally I could pick up the pieces after this disappointment by remembering: “I’m not Catholic, so what the hell do I care what their leader says?”
But I couldn’t shake it off this time. Why? Because I read news like this on the same day that Bergoglio became Francis:
[In a discussion about the prospects for the gay marriage bill in the Illinois House]…One House Democrat I talked with last week wants to vote for gay marriage, but his strongly Catholic wife is absolutely, completely dead set against it.
Read that sentence again and then take a moment to bang your head against the nearest solid object four or five times (whatever number seems appropriate to you). What should I discuss: why it is idiotic for a legislator to vote to deny equal rights because his wife says so OR why it is idiotic for a legislator to vote to deny equal rights because one particular Church doctrine thinks those people are influenced by the devil? I don’t have time to discuss both. I’ll just go with the church one, because this whole post is mostly about Popes.
Believe it or not this anonymous Democratic legislator’s wife is not the only Catholic working to ensure gay couples are never allowed to marry. For example, Chicago’s own archbishop, Cardinal Francis George (totally different Francis) penned a letter which said:
[Allowing gay marriage would force people to] “pretend to accept something that is contrary to the common sense of the human race.”
Sheesh Cardinal Francis George, tell me how you really feel. I don’t recall every saying a bad word about you…at least before this post. You’ll be happy to know that after reading your thoughtful letter I sat down and seriously contemplated whether the most important, intimate relationship of my life was indeed “contrary to the common sense of the human race.” And while I cannot speak for the rest of the human race, for my own sake I concluded that you were full of shit.
Making matters worse (I’m no longer writing as if I’m talking to the Cardinal), this letter was required to be read in virtually all Catholic churches in Illinois. Besides talking about the human race, it called on parishioners–everyday Catholics; good folks–to call their legislators to ensure that state law only allows people to get married if the Catholic church deems them worthy (divorced people?).
So where are we now?
Awaiting a final vote in the Illinois House which would end one more vestige of enshrined legal discrimination. But depending on who you talk to we are either one or five or ten or twelve votes behind. Everyone agrees that it’s a bit shaky.
Keep in mind, this is in a chamber made up of 71 Democrats when only 60 votes are needed for passage. Even if we assume that not a single Republican will do the right thing (*sigh*), that still means that one to two dozen Illinois Democrats are prepared to permanently put their names in the history books with a vote for discrimination. (In a few decades I’m sure they will have good excuses worked up for why they had no backbone when it counted most).
What on earth are they thinking? My guess: they are scared of angry church letters. And wives. It’s mostly the wives fault. Which is why I have taken a vow to never marry a woman.
P.S. In all seriousness, I do wish Pope Francis the best. May he use the position he’s been given to heal more people on the planet than he harms.
P.P.S. Statistics actually show that wives generally support marriage equality at far higher rates than husbands.
“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts transform the world.”
My dear family & friends-
I spent the first twenty years of my life berating myself over whether I should keep quiet about my sexual orientation. What would people think? Would I be ridiculed? Who would joke about me when I wasn’t around? Who would be disappointed? Would my life be worse?
Guess what happened? A lot changed. And I’ve never been happier.
The people that matter most in my life didn’t just support me: You became my biggest defenders. There is nothing so sweet as having others standing at your side, ready to challenge those trying to bring you down or treat you unfairly. Every day I am humbled by those who stand up for love, fairness, and equality–even when it isn’t popular. I know you don’t have to do it. But you do. And it means the world to me.
No good deed goes unpunished. If you have any gas left in the tank, I would be so grateful if you could take one last step to finally end this battle in Illinois and ensure our state treats everyone the same, including people like me. As you might have heard, in early January legislators in Springfield will vote on a bill that would allow same sex couples to solidify their loving relationship by way of a marriage.
The chief sponsor of the bill explains: “It’s very straightforward. We treat all couples with the same respect and dignity in the eyes of the law and we protect the rights of religious institutions to either consecrate or not consecrate marriages within their faith as they see fit. It’s very important that government not involve itself in religion on either side of the issue.”
Here’s the reality: Right now, internal counts of those legislators show that we may not have the votes. It is very close, but some representatives are unsure. They will make up their mind based on how their constituents voice their opinion.
That is why I am urging you to take 5 minutes to draft a very simple email and send it to your State Representative and State Senator, asking them to treat all Illinois residents fairly by supporting marriage equality.
It does not have to be long or time-consuming. But by typing out a few sentences and hitting the send button, you may be the tipping point. All you need to include is this:
1) Share you name, that you are a voter in Illinois, and indicate where you live. It makes a big difference if the lawmaker knows that you are a constituent in their own district. Say if there are multiple voters in your household (or, better yet, have each one send an email).
2) Urge them to vote in favor of marriage equality. You can say this in one sentence or fifty.
That’s it. More than at any other time, that simple act can make a real difference. This is not like casting a vote for President when you know what the outcome will be in Illinois. It is VERY close, and every single email counts tremendously.
It would be great if you could do this right now…as you are reading this. Because if you don’t do it now, you might forget. Life is hectic. Below you will find a list of legislators and email addresses.
Please send a message now explaining where you stand.
Not sure who your legislators are? Go to this site, type in your address, and get their names, then come back here to get their email from the list below….
1) Step #1: FIND YOUR STATE LEGISLATORS: HERE (Remember to look for your STATE Representative and STATE Senator)
2) Step #2: Find their names below (alphabetical) and send them a quick email. You should send one to your State Rep. AND one to your State Senator. If two email addresses are listed for that person, send them to both addresses.
NAME EMAIL #1 EMAIL #2
The latest 30 second spot in NH from the venerable National Organization for Marriage.
First, they said that gay people were just abhorrent individuals who should never be tolerated. That didn’t work. Next, they said that gay marriage was infringing upon the rights of religious individuals. That isn’t making much sense these days. Now, they are moving to what is often the golden argument, “But think of the children….”
I babble often on gay issues. The audience, I’m sure, are folks who agree with me nearly 95% of the time. Here is a remider that people all across the country, a majority in fact, disagree. Do they persuade you?
Peter Sagal sums up the whole gay marriage thing quite easily. If only common sense reigned…
1) God hates it.
2) It’s against thousands of years of tradition.
3) It’ll ruin marriage for everyone else.
To which the effective ripostes are:
1) Actually, He told me in a dream that He’s all for it.
2) So was abolishing slavery, outlawing polygamy, and making women citizens, and those have worked out pretty well.
3) No, it won’t.