These past few years may end up being known as the years of “Conservatives Acting Badly”. At the end of last year the Republicans in Congress conducted a massive foot stomping, pout-out and shut down the government because they did not get their way on the previous healthcare bill. In the state of Utah, conservatives were shocked when the justice system intervened on the subject of marriage equality. Now, we have a couple of adult size tantrums in the works.
One is scary thug tactics. A group called The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association has called for an “uprising” against same sex marriage. The other is by a man named Trestin Meacham who is refusing to eat until he gets his way and marriage equality is again banned in Utah. He stated, “You can start a blog and you can complain on social networks until you’re blue in the face and nothing will happen, but actions speak louder than words and I’m taking action.”
As a gay dad, I am familiar with both these “actions”. The first one, by the “Sheriffs” has a clear name, pure and simple: “bullying”. They plan to intimidate their prey into submission through a combination of threat, insults, and mob action. Just as we turn to school administrations for bullying strategies, we need to call on Utah authorities. They need to react immediately to the promise of subversive action or run the risk law and order being severely undermined. LGBT citizens have the right to not be subjected to harassment and need protection.
The second “action” is one that has been deployed by each of my two sons in their infancies. They each tried belligerent refusals to eat, accompanied by tears and screams, over something they wanted but were not getting. It is a challenge that I think most parents face when our lovely darlings turn into single minded, willful forces of nature with which we cannot reckon. However, reckon with them we must.
The method that has worked for me has been one of positive discipline. First rule of this approach is that the object of the child’s tantrum may not, under any circumstances, be granted. If it is granted, you have set up a permanent pattern of behavior and you are the one who has been “trained” by the situation. Second rule is a firm objective delivery of the situation to the child, but without allowing your own feelings of frustration, anger or sense of futility to be integrated. Scream back, and you lose. The final rule is to not abandon the child even though he is as close to channeling Linda Blair in the Exorcist as you have ever seen. So, through the tears, firm stance and not reacting, you also communicate your love and affection. I know that doesn’t sound easy. It’s not.
In this gay dad’s opinion, Mr. Meacham’s actions fall squarely into the second category. I bounced the situation off my son Jesse (age 11) for a quick reaction.
Me: Hey Pal. Here is a guy who is refusing to eat until the government does what he wants them to do.
Me: Yeah. Really. I’m writing him a letter. What should I tell him?
Jesse: Tell him it never works. I know. I tried it. You never get what you want and you lose your video games.
Here is my open letter to Trestin Meacham from a gay dad perspective:
Dear Mr. Meacham,
I am probably an example of the last person on earth you would like to be hearing from right now. I am a gay dad with a same sex partner, who is raising two sons, adopted as young infants from foster care. I fight for the dignity of families like mine, and protection of the children in them, for their legal and ethical rights. I realize that your mission is to “nullify” families like mine out of existence, or at the very least, to disappear from view, stripped of protections or recognition.
The purpose of this letter is not to tell you that we do exist, and we will not go away, but rather, to give you feedback on your current state of self-starvation. In your blog you state, “This has nothing to do with hatred of a group of people. I have friends and relatives who practice a homosexual lifestyle and I treat them with the same respect and kindness that I would anyone. ”
The Massachusetts Supreme Court stated that whom one marries signifies one of the greatest acts of self-definition an individual can make in life. I would love to believe your sentiments as you state them, but your actions say differently. Starving yourself to prevent your fellow citizens from marrying is not respectful. Leaving our children without social or legal standing is not kind. Your reference to specific relatives as “practicing a homosexual lifestyle” is dismissive, superficial and, quite frankly, rude.
With your intent to starve, you are doing exactly what both of my sons have attempted at times. They each have tossed away their dinners when they were not going to get their way over something. It is not OK for them to do that, and it is not OK for you either.
The fact is, you are not going to get what you want. Equality is an important value, and it is the key ideal for which our country stands. Your religious freedom is another important value, but in order for you to have it, your LGBT neighbors must be equally free to practice their own religious convictions, otherwise it is not freedom at all, it would be the imposition of tyranny.
What you are doing, in a rather bizarre way, in your adult tantrum, is to have taken a human being hostage and threatened harm. The fact that you are both the hostage taker and hostage in this situation is almost beside the point. You cannot be allowed to succeed due to your behavior, not because your ideas are wrong (as obviously, I think they are), but because your action of harm is wrong in itself, and we as a society, cannot reward it with fruition.
As another thinking, breathing, loving human on the planet, I care about you. I do not want you harmed and would like to see you healthy to argue your, albeit misguided, ideas yet another day. I sincerely think you need to be in protective custody. If you take this much further, I can only hope people around you make those kind of arrangements.
I sincerely wish the best for you personally, but without you harming yourself or your LGBT neighbors. I hope you reconsider your actions and make a healthier choice.
Ideally, rather than starving yourself, I would rather you go out for a pizza with my family, or a family like mine. Get to know those whom you seek to “nullify”. I would like you to see the love, respect and joy that we share. I would like you to see that real family is bigger than the Constitution, bigger than Utah and not worth fasting over to prevent.
It may be time to grow up and broaden your horizons. Better to do that on a full tummy.
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Reblogged this on Rainbowman56's Blog.
As much as I loathe giving any attention to his man and his actions, your response was such that I am standing up an applauding you right now.
I have know many people who are Gay, Bi, Transgender and transsexual people and some I would suggest would be beyond stereotyping but this for another time! I see red when I hear “practicing a homosexual life style”. What they are doing a full dress rehearsal of their life? I think not. No one who has ever watched a friend or loved one wrestle with themselves to make sure this is who they are and consider the reactions of the people around them and in some cases spend years berating themselves as they fight the stereotype to love a man/woman, be a man or a woman. Many may never understand that as people, they make a lot of tough choices and do a lot of soul searching many will never be brave enough to do
It is not a choice when that is who you are but you did make a choice and very important one when you decided to have a family. By adopting kids in the foster system you have provided a loving home for a child who may not have had one. You have actually had an positive impact on a major social issue in the most basic practical way, you gave two children a home who needed one. How many kids are in the system due to neglect from Legally Recognized marriages? Worse still people who didn’t think about the impact that a child would have on their lives? You and your partner deserve the right to be recognized as a family in it’s truest form, a unit based on love and desire to bring up children in a nurturing environment no matter what the sexuality or gender of that unit.
I have far more respect for you than this man who as you very correctly point out is having an ‘adult tanty’ with his hunger strike. To borrow his words, I would say that your actions in this case really did speak a lot louder than anything else.
If you want to adopt another kid, I am a little older but house broken and I can cook that pizza for you! Oh.. and I LOVE the response of your boy. You are doing something right there they are lucky boys to have have landed in your home.
Reblogged this on Well Suited For Life and commented:
If you support marriage equality then you will love this blog. I can’t believe there is an adult childish enough in this country willing to starve themselves to death in order to revoke the hard-fought civil rights of another.
For record, I would like to correct your son. Hunger strikes can be quite effective at getting that you want if you are important enough for people to care about your actions. If you are not, as is the case with this man, nothing will come of it beyond mockery, indifference, and condescension.
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Your grace, kindness, and articulate, mindful intelligence made me cry. If everyone could be so lucky to have parents like you, the world might be a much nicer place to live!
Rob, thank you so much for that eloquent letter and the extreme degree of empathy expressed within. I do not feel I could put it better myself in any way, and I sincerely hope he does go out for pizza sometime soon.
I think your son Jesse really hit it out of the park here, “Tell him it never works. I know. I tried it. You never get what you want and you lose your video games.”
As someone who has been on the receiving end of anti-LGBT sentiments myself I really appreciate your kind words.
You are wonderful. Not only that, but you sound like an amazing parent to boot. Your sons are very lucky boys to have such a smart, caring, loving set of parents to raise them. I’m a straight (but not narrow ;D), married mother of one, and my family would love to have pizza with a family such as yours any day. Mmmmm….pizzaaaa! Thanks for writing this letter!
Martha in California
BOOM!! Well done.
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I was with my partner for over 40 years. We lived and acted like hetrosexuals and a lot of our(hetrosexual) friends loved us and got to know us as people and when they finally learned that we were gay – they did not turn their backs on us.
My partner passed away in ’08 and I miss him as much as anyone does, who loses a lifetime partner.
LOVE YOU, DUDE! Straight but not narrow!
Nicki Blake Chafetz, Esq.
A wonderful response. Truly wonderful.
You, sir, are awesome. I love your response so much I wish I’d written it. I wish I could give you a hug too! Your letter touched me deeply and renewed my resolve to continue to fight for injustice whenever and however I can. You guys are lucky to have one another and my sincerest hope is that others with find solace in your words and not give up on finding love and the chance to create a family where there once was none – as you and your partner have! Yay for families!!!! Sincerely, Hope
Arch-conservative Cal Thomas said it best nearly a decade ago! Los Angeles Times Syndicate. 5/20/04 “… Pro family groups have given it their best shot, but this debate is over. They would do better to spend their energy and resources building up their side of the cultural divide and demonstrating how their own precepts are supposed to work. Divorce remains a great threat to family stability, and there are far more heterosexuals divorcing and cohabiting than homosexuals wishing to ‘marry.’ If conservative religious people wish to exert maximum influence on culture, they will redirect their attention to repairing their own cracked foundation. An improved heterosexual family structure will do more for those families and the greater good than attempts to halt the inevitable.”
It’s so nice to read something that doesn’t attack and comes from the heart. Thank you for this.
What a gentle response to Meacham’s strange ultimatum. I am a pro-gay-marriage Mormon and am absolutely befuddled by the fear of and resistance to gay marriage my church has had in the U.S.. (Although like the commenter above, I’m also Canadian and so can confirm that there has been an absolute dearth of anyone’s straight marriage being affected by extending that right to everyone.) I cringe that Meacham believes that he is doing this for my good as a religious person, but your kind, reasoned response has reminded me about the tone and approach I should adopt as I try to nudge my church along from the inside.
This letter is brilliant. The paragraph where you break down his actions as being “not respectful… not kind” and simply “rude” were, as a man who recently married his partner of 7 years, words right out of my mouth. It recognizes his freedom to speak and act as he pleases, while pointing out the familial poison that is the nature of his motivation. It’s important to clarify that we recognize his right to express himself as he pleases, but we also have the right to express the negative consequence that his words have. It invites other Americans to put themselves in *our* shoes. How would they feel if a random stranger was advocating to have *their* marriages dissolved? That is, after all, what he is advocating for, as many same-sex couples are now married in Utah.
This powerful message gets a bit muddled by the comparison of the hunger striker to that of a child. Going on a hunger strike is a non-violent act, and is inherently non-aggressive, and so carries with it an aura of honorability. Criticizing such an act requires precision, making sure that the negative consequences of the cause are revealed, while the act of hunger striking is respected.
Those of us fighting for our rights should respond to such non-violent, non-aggressive acts with compassion and truth-telling. Inviting the person who is protesting the existence of our families to sit down at the table with our family and share a meal with us is a great response. An offer to break bread together is inherently non-aggressive and definitely non-violent. Hunger strikes only work if there is an aggressor which is targeting the person who is protesting, and the anti-gay special interests want nothing more than for us to be that aggressor. If we respond to acts such as this with compassion, we will deny them that.
As a lesbian mom of 2 girls I am so on board with your letter. My approach however would not have been so nice. I probably would have walked up and smacked him upside the head and told him to knock it off. It’s not about religion. Although I am shocked that Utah did pass marriage equality when they banned polygamy with severe repercussions. Our country was founded on religious freedom, and yet only “white, conservative, christians” are allowed to be truly free to live the way they want. If you don’t follow with in that orthodox, then your human rights don’t matter to the controlling 5%. It’s time we bring out the constitution and remind those conservatives that the country was not founded on religion but freedom from it. As well as separation of church and state. Time to get the religious fanatics out of politics, and let those of us who can make decisions about HUMAN rights without religion take over
Agreed roxi! Thank you for your comments!
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Hi, robw77. My name is JJ Vincent, and I am the Gender & Sexuality Editor for The Good Men Project (www.goodmenproject.com, http://www.goodmenproject.com/about). I am interested in reprint permissions for this article. I can be reached at jj.vincent at goodmenproject.com.
I sent you an email JJ!
I will join you for that pizza too. Nice work!
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Dear Mr. Meacham
Refusing to eat? Why not hold your breath too? Before you starve yourself i would respectfully ask you to google Bobby Sands. He did starve himself to death for ‘the cause in Ireland.’ Nothing changed except that he died. I assure you it is not a pleasant way to go, it is slow and painful. If you in any way value your Christianity you will know this goes against biblical teachings. Think again, value your gift of life more than this and value other peoples rights. We have had same sex marriage here in Canada for almost (but not quite) ten years. The sky has not fallen. The churches still have services on Sunday, as do the synagogues on Saturday, and the muslims on Friday. In fact every religion in Canada is chugging along as it always has and quite nicely to, i might add.. And marriage here is marriage not gay marriage and straight marriage. Just marriage. Please reconsider your values and judgements and have something to eat. You will feel much better for it.
Nice try. But I don’t think it will change many attitudes in Utah. Logic is not a common habit there – mindless belief is. Makes it tougher for an atheist like myself to believe in religious freedom, considering all the harm it does in the world. And what Meacham’s doing is just one more small example of that. I just wish more people would speak up on these issues.
Excellent! 🙂 Great job!
You are a delightful person. I’m a rather nice and kind woman myself and, quite frankly, you’ve taken the nice and kind bar to a level of perfection. I pity the man’s family having to deal with an adult that is choosing a route akin to holding his breath until he gets his own way and suspect he does belong in care with an extended term of psychiatric therapy.
Not at all sure how he’s attained the age he has without understanding that hunger strikes in adults are to aid in increasing human rights and freedoms and not to steal basic human rights from other people. As a rule people who would deny others basic human rights are not the type I would have dinner with or feel the least bit of sympathy for so, again, you are a delightful human being. Your sons were so lucky to have found someone so full of compassion and love.
Thank you Pax, for both the compliments and your ideas. Your points are very well taken.