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Don't Put Up With It

Help is available to fight sexual discrimination

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When I first began writing this column in May, I had very simple goals. I wanted to realize a dream of having my writing published, and I specifically wanted to write about my two favorite subjects: Sex and Charlotte.I didn't realize at the time that some of the e-mail responses I would receive would expand my awareness that nothing is ever "just sex." It's different things to different people, and we all make our own choices in life. To some of us, sex is an almost religious expression of love and affection, and to others, it's a recreational sport. The variety of people's sex lives almost exceed the number of people themselves, as each person can, in essence, lead a double sexual life.

This is how I came to know of a non-profit organization called the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) in Washington, DC.

Laws that are sexually based have come a long way over the course of our history. I recently took a trip to Charleston, SC, and on a horse-drawn carriage tour of The Battery, I learned that the "welcoming arms" stairway was specifically designed so that young gentlemen would not accidentally see up a young woman's dress as she ascended the stairway -- or else he would be compelled by law to marry her on the spot. As a remedy, they would go up the stairs on opposite sides.

When I was in college, I took a class in common law where I learned that at one time a man could actually be jailed if he coaxed a woman of "previous chaste character" into bed by using the ammunition of a promise of marriage, and failing to keep up his end of the deal.

We laugh at these laws that were in practice as little as 75 or 100 years ago. However, society is dealing with a whole other set of issues that face the court system every day: consenting adults who engage in homosexuality, swinging, BDSM activities, nudism, and a host of other activities.

There are radically conservative organizations out there such as Concerned Women for America that feel that any woman who is of sound mental health is still being abused if she willingly engages in S&M activities with her husband, or anyone else she chooses to play "games" with.

It was only as recently as December, 1973 that the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. Since then, they openly encourage all mental health care professionals to do everything they can in their communities to remove the stigma of abnormality from homosexuality.

When I started writing this column, I wasn't aware that there are people out there who lose custody of their children, get arrested, lose their jobs, are denied housing, and are victims of violence -- all because they choose to love differently. Hate crimes involving alternative sexuality go far beyond cases like Matthew Shepard. It's important here that I make it clear that the NCSF does not support any type of sexual activity that involves any exposure to children or other minors, or any sexual activity that is not 100 percent among consenting adults.

The NCSF not only works hard to help people who find themselves in a legal battle because of their private sexual choices; they also work to get rid of state legislators who continue to pass new laws or support existing laws that do foster and feed the discrimination that is already rampant.

In 2001, the organization worked to legally assist over 461 parents who were facing child custody issues, where the estranged partner charged alternative sexual expression as the reason for the denial of either visitation or custody. They assisted another 392 people who were demoted, were denied promotions, or fired from their jobs because it was discovered that they participated in sexual activities that deviated from what is commonly accepted.

I shudder when I hear about radical conservatives who refer to regulating any sexual activity as being in defense of "morality." Individual sexual practices are no different than individual religious practices. This country has no laws that make it illegal for someone to be an atheist, or demands that they practice Christianity, or even fines them for worshipping something other than God. In fact, in California, the Christian majority in that federal district is facing having to cater to the atheist minority by removing "Under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. I'm surprised we haven't had to replace all of our currency in order to keep from offending that minority. However, I hear they're working on it.

Why aren't we so quick to protect the sexual minority in this country? When you think about it, every law that has been passed to keep from offending atheists automatically infringes on the rights of the Christian majority to practice their religion. However, there's not a single act of sexual activity, assuming that it's performed in private, that stops another person from maintaining their own set of moral beliefs and practices.

I couldn't care less about what my neighbors do in their bedrooms, or any other room in their house. By the same token, I can't imagine having the level of audacity that it takes for conservative extremists to dictate how I choose to have sex. The only person we should have to justify our private sexual practices to is ourselves.

If you feel you have been a victim of discrimination or a hate-crime based on your participation in an alternative sexual lifestyle, contact the NCSF through their website at www.ncsfreedom.org or call 202-955-1023.

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