Columns » Boomer with Attitude

Mind your own business

Why does anyone care about another's sex life?


Well, a small town don't like it when somebody falls between sexes. -- "Cowboys are Frequently, Secretly Fond of Each Other" by Ned Sublette, sung by Willie Nelson.

It's funny, the little things that finally make you snap; the last, tiny straw that breaks your camel's back. For me, it happened recently during breakfast. I was going through the daily paper, and I read a letter to the editor from some guy in Matthews who was complaining about a Tonya Jameson column in which she bemoaned Charlotte's "lack of activities for older black lesbians." The letter writer concluded his gripe this way: "What's next week's column -- hot spots for white polygamists who want to 'go clubbin' with their seven wives?" (Never mind that the writer used a false analogy since lesbianism isn't illegal and polygamy is.)

The letter wasn't much, really. Just standard-issue homophobic nonsense, the kind of thing most of us were raised around, the sort of comments I've heard all my life. But this time, for some reason, I'd finally had enough.

"You idiot! Who f-ing cares if somebody is gay, straight, bi or whatever?!" I yelled in frustration. My wife was out of the room, and our dog, lying in her corner, merely stared for about a minute. Otherwise, my outburst went unnoticed, which I guess is good.

As the day went on, however, the stupid letter kept nagging at me. It wasn't just the Neanderthalish gay-bashing that bothered me; it was also the writer's "busybody-ness." Unfortunately, butting into everyone else's business is a trait our culture thrives on these days, from celebrity-watch Web sites to the Terry Schiavo case to simple everyday meddling. Deliberately minding your own business seems to be a dying art, which is disturbing, since a civil, free society generally requires an attitude of "to each his/her own."

I've found that people who won't mind their own business are often insecure about something. Either their own lives are boring and they have to live vicariously through others, or they have a narrow, constipated view of life and are afraid someone's going to get "out of line" with their limited take on the world.

As the Matthews letter writer confirmed, homosexuality is a prime focus of busybodies. It's been that way for a long time. I'm reminded of guys in high school whose jokes and put-downs almost exclusively revolved around homosexuality. Mocking queers, insinuating that others were queer, laughing at someone's shirt, shoes, haircut, whatever, because it was somehow, in some vague, unexplained way, queer. As a numb-nut adolescent, I often laughed along with the jokes, but the truth is, I never quite understood why others' sex lives should hold such interest.

I still don't. I know anti-gay bias is a social blight and a big political issue, and much research shows that sexual preference is genetically determined. But my point is this: beyond issues of justice or freedom or genetics -- heck, even if it wasn't a genetic thing, and all gays/lesbians/whatevers deliberately chose their preference -- it is none of my business. Nor is it yours or anyone else's.

It's a dark irony that conservatives who vilify gays the most also portray themselves as defenders of freedom. Again, my suggestion to them is simple: Mind your own business. It'll do you and others a world of good. In fact, one of the things being in a free country is all about is letting people be who they are as long as they're not hurting anyone.

Those guys in high school were, no doubt, going through a well-documented male teenage phase of defining their sexuality by acting macho and mocking feelings they were afraid of finding in themselves. As the Willie Nelson songs also says, Well, a cowboy may brag about things that he does with his women / But the ones who brag loudest are the ones that are most likely queer.

The question is why, for some people, homophobia keeps going for the rest of their lives, eventually evolving into a rancid hatred. I'm thinking here of local politicians who have peppered their careers with anti-gay rhetoric.

There was former County Commissioner Hoyle Martin who often got so seething mad during the cultural battles a few years ago over a production of Angels In America, he would appear to be on the verge of a seizure.

And there was Commissioner Dan Bishop who, discussing a proposal to add "sexual orientation" to the county's non-discrimination policy, said the plan was "a serious dagger at the heart of marriage," and apparently believed it.

And, of course, there's the Generalissimo of local homophobes, Commissioner Bill James, whose Web site features a wealth of information about the details of gay sexual practices. This is the man who, during the non-discrimination debate, came up with his now famous adage: "A man's rear end is not for another man's private parts."

And I say, a man (or woman's) rear end and/or private parts and what he or she does with them is absolutely, positively none of my, your, Bill James' or anybody's damned business. Surely we have enough real problems to keep our attention without peeking into others' beds.

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