There Was a Time When Don’t Say Divorce was the Don’t Say Gay
If we’re to be truly honest about protecting our children’s mental health, then we have to admit that the number of divorces these days has a much, much greater impact on our children’s lives than the mere mention of gay marriage as a human right or a viable choice. You can’t tell me that the gay couple down the street are of any real concern to your children. Nope! Mom and dad fighting, divorcing, and dragging a series of boyfriends and girlfriends along with their kids into the house is the social norm that’s making our children anxious and depressed.
It’s become such a free-for-all out there that many children can’t tell their teachers who the people living in their houses are and if they’re related to them or not, but the history of divorce is ever grimmer. I wouldn’t want to go back to the good old bad old days. That’s for sure!
Divorce is part of the American definition of normal at last. It was long overdue, too. There was lots of needless suffering in the past due to unfair laws and social standards. Normalizing divorce has come with a cost, however. We’ve had to learn to deal with the consequences as well as the advantages.
Yet, there’s that segment of the population who have gladly embraced a new moral high ground to replace the old one. They’re completely comfortable with prohibiting another group of people from living their best lives.
This kind of disgustingly predictable human behavior is as old as the hills. Humans have always hurt, demonized, and destroyed others through unfair laws and even worse deeply rooted cultural expectations. Unfair laws are horrible but at least you can identify them. Cultural expectations designed to restrict autonomy and promote inequality in order to maintain a hierarchy that keeps the tribe in line are far more detrimental.
Cultural expectations successfully limit our freedoms without most of us even knowing that there’s other perspectives or choices.
We accept what our ancestors, parents, teachers, preachers, and neighbors have modeled for us as the truth. Thus, we’re destined to live out a life not of our own choosing.
To say I am the master of my own fate is a fairy tale.
It should be of no surprise that the religious need a moral high ground on which to stand. The whole point of religion is to define what constitutes a chosen people. Identifying who is worthy and who isn’t of entering that big gated community in the sky promotes a kind of elitism that is rarely challenged. I mean who wants to challenge a god. Churches have long had enormous influence over not only cultural expectations but also public policy.
We like to think that church and state were successfully separated by our forefathers, but I’ve seen little evidence of that.
There was a time when divorce and mixed marriages were scrutinized and demonized. They were condemned from the pulpit, through our cultural expectations, and even prohibited by laws, making it either impossible to get a divorce or impractical.
Things have changed.
Which proves that things CAN change, even gods and dying cultural expectations. Divorce and remarriage is the new happily married or at the very least a viable second choice. The rate of divorce among Christians is equal to or even slightly higher than that of unbelievers. It would seem that once our culture removed the stigma, the deeply held beliefs of the devout disappeared.
That being said, Christians no doubt have experienced a moral dilemma. How do they differentiate themselves from the unwashed masses?
Depending on your age, the above title may ring a bell. I was born in 1951, just around the time that we doubled the average lifespan. Women had won the right to vote thirty-one years prior to me entering this strange old world, but not much else after that. My mom didn’t have her own credit card. There were still places where booze was served and women weren’t welcome. Jobs available to women were limited and great paying jobs almost non existent. Men were still entitled to as much sex as they were able to get while women were divided into good girls and bad girls. The father was seen as the head of the house. Marriage and having babies were pushed by the heavy indoctrination of the post war era. Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best were modeled as THE life to achieve.
The gold standard of parenthood at the time was clothing, feeding, and putting a roof over your child’s head. After that, a parent’s responsibilities ended. Oh, except for one more thing.
DIVORCE was frowned upon.
Prior to the 1960s, divorce was a difficult proposition. The Catholic church, a world power on its own, condemned divorce and frowned deeply on any kind of female autonomy. Suffering was seen as a virtue, especially the suffering of others. But make no mistake about it, lots of protestants condemned divorce, too. A divorced woman was looked upon as a threat to communities. Plus most states made it very difficult to get a divorce in the first place.
Surprise! Surprise! The church influenced those old laws. Oligarchs, preachers, and priests have always had the power to shape the world.
Divorce on demand was not the norm. There were a few states where a person could buy a divorce. Indiana was one of them. Weird, eh? And, what were women to do who actually managed to get a divorce and face their judgmental families and neighbors. I mean if they were like my mom with six kids and no work experience, most gave up the idea and just lived with their situation.
That doesn’t mean that people were happier by any means because they bit the bullet and stayed together until death do us part.
Yeah. Remember those vows. They often came back to bite us in the butt. I’m a firm believer that divorce hurts a lot of kids. I’ve seen it firsthand over and over again as an elementary educator. It often helps kids to realize that their friend’s extended families look just like their families.
Teachers teach about families in schools. Books talk about families.
You can’t get around it. The family is central to everything. But families today come in all shapes and sizes. In the past, a child might feel very sad and weird if their mom and dad were divorced. Nobody talked about it at school. The family was always presented as Dick, Jane, and Sally and two parents or Ward and June Cleaver and their kids. Even It’s a Wonderful Life portrayed the traditional family as the only kind of family there was, and at the time, it almost was the only type of family.
To say gay, isn’t an effort to indoctrinate. It’s evidence of a natural progression in cultural expectations and fairer laws.
Children are surprisingly good at handling the truth. We depend on them to be that way because we’re always letting them down in one way or another. Tell them that mommy and daddy don’t love each other any longer but that they’ll always love them, and we hope that’ll do. The fact that they may have to meet a half dozen strangers who spend the night with mom or dad along with a gaggle of kids that pop in and out of their lives is pretty much overlooked. Never mind that they’ll be expected to live the rest of their childhoods between two homes, moving back and forth at the whim of the courts.
We want to believe that they can handle it.
But so much as mention that a gay couple is a family as well and the need to feel holier than thou springs into action. Oh, no! Our children can’t handle the truth. Not that truth anyway.
So we do what humans have always done. Ostracize a whole segment of the population by convincing ourselves that we’re morally better and therefore, better equipped in the hierarchy to be assigned power and prestige.
Our reward extends beyond this life into the next world where we’re sure to keep everything just the way it is. We’ll receive admittance into that gated community in the sky and the “others”? Well, they’ll burn in hell.
Fun stuff being human. Isn’t it?
With friends like this, who needs enemies. Humans are destined to destroy themselves from the inside out. Rather than say gay and acknowledge gay people as human beings with the same rights and privileges as anyone, they choose to kick them out of the social circle, limit their access to tribal rights, and sometimes even try to wipe them from the face of the earth.
Gay isn’t the word that keeps our children awake at night. Trust me. I know. I grew up in a religious cult where I was traumatized for life.
Teresa is a retired educator, author, world traveler, and professional myth buster. You can find her books on Amazon.