When I was in high school, I was called “The Bulldog” by a real-life judge on the Mock Trial circuit. I loved to debate. I would wail on and pick at your arguments until they were annihilated. It was a rush. I was good at it.
One of the bigger arguments I can recall was when I took a resolution that I wrote for my 9th grade Civics class to the School Board and requested that condom machines be installed in our bathrooms. That was a little progressive for our conservative school district circa 1991, but I felt vindicated when I got to Macalester four years later and they were giving them out in candy dishes in the campus health center.
Condoms for high schoolers was a shocking concept. I don’t recall being taken seriously at the School Board meeting, but I do remember being allowed to state my case. I have to give the school credit for that—not only did my class vote this case to be the one to be presented to the School Board, but the School Board didn’t censor the presentation. Kudos all around.
The request for condom machines was denied. Providing condoms would lead to more teenagers having sex.
Would it? No, it would not. That’s fallacious. Teenagers are already having sex; therefore, it would give them the safety measures that are necessary to do so safely. Making condoms available doesn’t force or encourage someone to have sex—or even use them if they are having sex. That was a preposterous argument, in my mind. I didn’t want to see even an iota of validity in it, because I wanted to win my case.
Putting a bowl of candy on the table doesn’t mean more people will eat them and gain weight; it means more people can have candy. Putting Bibles in drawers at hotels doesn’t mean people will have to convert to whatever religion the Gideons are part of; it means that you can look at a Bible if you’re bored or curious in your hotel room. Putting bright green bikes out for rental on city streets doesn’t mean that we’ll all be forced to exercise and give up our vehicles; it means that you have a healthier option for transportation.
There are plenty such arguments like this that the 15-year old Andy could make. All day long. Until your ears bleed.
But, the 35-year old Andy has caught on to the validity of the School Board’s point. Presenting an idea or option can be seen as endorsing it.
Allowing kids to take condoms is a stark contrast to condemning underage, premarital sex. By not condemning teen sex, it implies that it can exist–it might be saying that it’s okay. You won’t go to hell. Shockingly, nothing at all might happen to you (especially if you use the condoms).
Is that how it works for coming out or approving same-sex rights and marriages? By not condemning same-sex relationships, it implies that this community can exist—it might be saying that it’s okay. People who are attracted to people of the same-sex won’t go to hell. Shockingly, nothing at all might happen to you.
Where the two arguments depart is in the next step: encouragement. Providing condoms for kids might encourage them to have sex: Not true. Acceptance might not mean encouragement. Providing rights for people in same-sex relationships might encourage them to come out: True.
I hope so.
It’s like a problem posed in a Philosophy course. Ethics, morals, dichotomies…a whole lot of grey area and conjecture. I don’t necessarily hope that teenagers see a bowl of condoms as an encouragement to go have sex…but I hope that people who have been in the closet see acceptance of the GLBT community as an encouragement to come out. The difference is that one argument might lead to an action; having sex. The other argument might lead to the recognition of an identity; coming out as GLBT.
Teen sex is nothing new. Same-sex relationships aren’t new either, but with some people, it seems like they just sprang to the fore. And the subject is scary to those people because it’s unknown. One of the many problems with this situation is that despite how long same-sex relationships have existed, people who are new to the concept are being allowed to vote on the subject. They have followed the argument to the point that to allow these relationships could encourage them, but haven’t made the next step to see that coming out is good. They don’t understand that encouraging people to claim their identity is healthy and it benefits our culture. They’re mired in fear.
And, because they are afraid, they seek a fallacy of protection:
Put an amendment in the constitution limiting marriage to one man and one woman. Tell the parishioners that their eternal salvation is at risk if they don’t stop seeking equal marriage rights for same-sex couples–bully them into choosing this legislation on their ballots when they exercise their right to vote. By not allowing it, it won’t exist.
Really, “The Bulldog” might not be in retirement. 35 is a little young for that. But, I appreciate that age has given me more perspective to be able to have more conversations than arguments. Whether calmly or with a bite of debate, people need to be told the basics: There is a separation between church and state; this will not affect heterosexual marriages; accepting homosexuals will not turn you into one. And, really, bullies need to be called out on their shit.
With hope and thanks,