Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Dear Garrison Keillor, your apology is accepted, but I'm still sad.

By Diane Silver

Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor has issued an apology for his ill-thought-out piece slamming gay parents. He says it was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek humor, but didn't work so well. Keillor writes that he really does respect gays and thinks we can be good parents. You can read his apology here.

I accept his apology and his explanation, but I still wonder how he could be so off. Did he really not know that the religious right is working darn near every day to take our children away from us?

The right claims that we aren't fit to be parents, so a "joke" claiming the same thing isn't terribly funny, not if you're a mother or father terrified of losing custody of your child.

Was Keillor so uninformed that he didn't know about the political, verbal and sometimes physical attacks we endure? I'm sure he didn't miss the fact that states are passing bans on our right to marry.

Dan Savage has a good, detailed rundown of what is wrong with Keillor's apology. I won't spend time repeating what Savage wrote.

I believe Keillor is a good man who meant no harm. What strikes me, though, is that Keillor is like so many other straight people I know. They're our friends, our coworkers and our neighbors. Sometimes they're our brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and cousins. They don't have a homophobic bone in their bodies, and yet, they just don't get it. They seem to be blind to what we face.

Because of their inability to see, they often vote against us. And that has tragic consequences.

By the way, I'm not saying that Keillor does that. I'm also not saying that every straight person is blind to our pain. I know for a fact that isn't true. Many heterosexuals work hard for the Kansas Equality Coalition, for example. Others are personal friends who know exactly the dangers and problems we face. However, far too many have allowed themselves to be lulled into thinking that everything is really OK; after all, they think, it's just a couple of crazies like Fred Phelps who cause us problems.

I remember when we fought the ban on same-sex marriage here in Kansas. I remember straight friends saying that of course they support us, but what's the harm in the ban? Straight folks I love and care about have told me that they don't see why I need a law to protect myself from discrimination. They ask: Don't we all have the same rights?

Well, actually, we don't. If you're a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered person in this nation, you have few legal rights. Here's a "fun" one people tend to forget: We don't even have the right to visit our spouses in the hospital. We can be kept away from an injured or dying loved one by a bigoted nurse, a doctor or another family member.

I am not going to attack Keillor for not being smarter than the folks I know here in Kansas, but I am going to ask him and all the rest to wake up.

We are your neighbors, and we are being bullied to death. It's time for you to see what's happening, and it's time for you to stand with us.

Once again, I accept Keillor's apology. I am sad, though, that it was even needed.


Nancy Jane Moore said...

You know, I thought the Keillor piece was also pretty insulting to single parents, the divorced (especially if remarried), and anyone who dares to both have children and pursue what they want in life. (I guess we single people without kids were insulted in abstensia, because there's certainly the implication that the ideal life involves being partnered and raising kids.) I suppose we were supposed to take it as satire because Keillor certainly hasn't lived the conventional family life: his two children are 29 years apart in age, for example, and he's been married three times.
I think Dan Savage gets it right when he says "Garrison pines for the days when life was simpler--when straight people stay[ed] married for life, when kids were always in the foreground, and when no one had to keep track of a gay relative’s current partner...." Part of what makes Keillor's storytelling and humor work -- when it works -- is because he does sort of pine for that conventional 50s life, while being completely unable to live it.
I also often find a mean streak in his work, usually aimed at people who are trying (unsuccessfully) to be something other than the ordinary people their parents and neighbors expect them to be.
My point is that I don't think the piece was completely satire, though I also don't think he intended to single out gays -- they were just another example of people not sacrificing everything they want out of life to meet conventional expectations (for the sake of the kids, I guess). But, as you and Dan Savage point out so well, what he said was way too close to the kind of attacks gay families get all the time. Anyone with as many gay friends as Keillor claims to have ought to have realized that.

Anonymous said...

You both express a lot of what I thought when I read Keillor's piece.

My dad could have written Keillor's piece and he's shared a part of my life along with my various partners on holidays, etc. But he's 72 and I don't think he's going to get used to it. It makes me sad because there is a disconnect directly related to his inability to accept me. He also longs for the good old days.

Maybe that's what I took from the column and the apology--that I know and understand that line of thinking all too well; it's just that my family never expresses it quite so blatantly.

Seems like there's just not enough time to fix everything. We're all here for such a brief moment.