The Billings NDUt-Oh…

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The Billings City Council is meeting tonight to discuss “updating” wording and definitions in their Non-Discrimination Ordinance (NDO), and the revisions suggested are somewhat laughable, but mostly reprehensible.

Here are two of the proposed definitions:

Heterosexuality: sexually attracted to people of the opposite sex
Homosexuality: erotic activity with another of the same sex

While the difference in definitions might seem slight, and perhaps somewhat funny to those paying close attention (that gay relationships are more “erotic” than straight), let’s get something clear: homosexual relationships are built on a whole lot more than erotic encounters. Pretty much just like straight folk.

When Helena was working on their own NDO in 2012, I was diagnosed with bladder cancer. My partner and I had been together for nearly a decade, and I went to the city council meetings while I was in pain from biopsies, anguished over my cancer diagnosis, steeped in chemo drugs, and losing my hair. Just about the time that my partner and I really needed the protections that weren’t (and aren’t) offered to us through the state or either of our employers (marriage or health insurance), it was imperative that we be involved with the city’s plans to draft an NDO for Helena. Pain or not.

In the meantime, my organs were scooped out, my body was marred, and chemo left me unable to think, work, or drive. I couldn’t take myself to the bathroom or feed myself. My partner and I, we couldn’t have an “erotic” relationship with one another if we wanted. In the darkest hour of our lives, what our partnership became was one that would have to endure despite our intimate relationship. She had to be there for me as a husband does a wife, as a wife does a husband, and as partners do for one another.

The cancer story is an important part of this discussion about wording because our relationship is:

1) built on trust, collaboration, honesty, responsibility, and accountability.

More often than not we are partners in a business, and the business is the way in which we live. Who will pick up the dog poop? Where do we take a weekend trip? Should we travel to see family? When all that falls into place just right, and when we are feeling a moment of carefree intimacy, hell, we might make time for an “erotic” relationship.

And our sexual relationship is:

2) no one’s business but ours.

If you’re heterosexual, you might be offended by the definitions, too. Heterosexual relationships are defined as “sexual attraction to the opposite sex”- meaning “attractiveness on the basis of sexual desire”, while homosexual relationships as “erotic activity between people of the same sex”- meaning they “tend to arouse sexual desire or excitement”. This according to the Internet Machine.

So let me get this straight: homosexual relationships are arousing and exciting? Heterosexual relationships are  a product of sexual desire? Perhaps yes on both accounts.

While the distinction between the two (or semantics, as some might point out) may seem like a compliment or laughable to some, the definition for homosexuals pegs our relationships as solely based on sex for the pleasure of another. The writing reveals more about the person who crafted the definitions it than the definition itself.

Listen, I’m thrilled to hear that Billings is going through the difficult process of writing such an ordinance, and the greater portion of the document is crafted with the best intentions. But even minor keystrokes or errors in words can cause misrepresentation. For instance, the writer also points out that heterosexuals are sexually attracted to “people” of the same sex, but that homosexuals are involved with “another of the same sex. Aren’t we all people here? Also, are straight people only “attracted” to other people, while homosexuals are strictly involved in erotic activity with others?

In addition to the distinctions between hetero and homosexuals, the Billings city council are proposing to use the word “transvestite” in lieu of “transgender.” “Transvestite”? What is this, The Rocky Horror Picture Show?

While the Billings City Council is out attempting to define and label groups of people, perhaps they should pick up a dictionary and use appropriate definitions like they did when they defined Bi-sexuality (page 32 of tonight’s agenda).

A bit of advice for civic leaders who draft these kinds of documents: if you don’t know the correct language to use, ask the people for whom you are crafting the document. Be willing to say “I don’t know” and have several someones share with you what’s accurate.

This is a problem, folks. Not just for us Montanans or Billings residents. Most of you don’t live in Billings and can’t attend tonight’s hearings which begin at 5:30 p.m., but you know what? You can send them your well-worded email.

The email address for the entire City Council is: council@ci.billings.mt.us.

Please consider sending a message to talk about why this is concerning. It’s really important that a policy moving forward value EVERYONE, and we all know words and language matter. ?#?BillingsNDO?

And it’s really important that we hear from our allies.

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About the author

Chelsiaann

Freelance writer, essayist, teacher, and cancer survivor. Let's dance.

9 Comments

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  • I do agree that the definition is pretty nonsensical.  But I don’t understand why these sexual behaviors which is, as you said, “no ones business but ours” need to be addressed in a public policy statement?  This appears obviously contradictory to me.  If you want the public to butt out, why should government need any policy concerning your personal relationships?  You just can’t have it both ways.

  • Thanks for your comment, Reverend Gordish.
    A friend of mine who is a very liberal progressive asked the same question of me the night I posted this. Why definitions? Why is public policy necessary? And I add to that, why can’t we all just be defined as humans instead of all these labels? Why not just protect everyone?
    We aren’t there yet. We have to have definitions because humans (of many distinguishing characteristics, but primarily those who are not of the Caucasian, judo-christian variety) are still being mistreated, discriminated against, assaulted, and murdered because of their partnerships and identity. As I said in my post, my relationship with my partner is so much more than personal/intimate/in-the-bedroom relations. It doesn’t look much different from any heterosexual relationship. The only distinguishing feature is our genitalia. That alone shouldn’t make us more susceptible to aforementioned issues.
    And I’m sure you can agree that me discussing the sexual activities of anyone in your congregation in a public forum is inappropriate… I think it is.
    Until we live in a country where my partner and I can’t be denied the essentials that are necessary to survive in this country–shelter and employment–these protections are necessary.
    Having personally experienced the loss of a job due to my orientation, the inability to see my partner in the midst of a medical emergency, and having had my house vandalized, names yelled at me, and my partner having been beat up while serving our country for her sexual orientation, I’d say we’re this is an important step in prevention of such occurrences.

  • I commend your mutual self sacrificial love toward your partner, may it ever continue.

    I condemn those who have mistreated, assaulted, and acted wrongly toward you, may that come to end!

    But I cannot agree that adding homosexuality to an ever growing list of human rights protections will accomplish the final goal of uniting humanity in mutual respect and harmony.

    Homosexuality is different from religion which must be protected because of the freedom of conscience.  It is also different from race and gender because unlike race and gender which are obvious to the eye, and discernible in DNA, homosexuality can only be determined by observing behavior.

    There are no obvious physical features, no blood test, and no X-ray that can distinguish one’s sexual orientation.   Someone has to tell you, or show you through their behaviors toward people of the same sex.  Unlike race and gender, peoples sexual behavior is not fixed, and they change have and do change over time.

    Behaviors are discriminated against all the time, and they should be.  Different behaviors deserve different treatment under the law.  For example we are not all identically taxed by our government dependent on our behavior in buying solar panels.  It is in the publics best interest that in various degrees beneficial behaviors be reward, and detrimental behaviors be curbed.

    Aside from the question of weather homosexuality is a beneficial behavior, or not, in law it should be treated as a behavior under the law, and not a right.  Otherwise we will be placing the government in the unreasonable position of judging not actions but intentions and thoughts.  Mind reading is not the business of  government.

    This point is not subtle, and is more important than most will realize.  Think about it.  Your insight on this point would appreciated by me.

  • Thanks for commending both our sacrificial love and condemning those who’ve mistreated us. Unfortunately a great deal of the mistreatment has come from those with religious convictions.
    We actually do protect a number of behaviors. Burning flags, going onto campuses and spewing hate, attending funerals in protest…In my opinion, since missions are served all over the globe in an effort to change the minds of those who need saving, religion and faith are also a matter of freedom of thought. I have both believed in a capital-God and a Mother Earth. I identify now as agnostic and have participated healing ceremonies that worship both Bison and God (Christian). What I’m saying is that I have the freedom to change my mind and practice of faith and religion and have that be protected so long as I am not hurting another. I believe that I should also be able to be change my mind about who I am attracted toward. I have been intimate with men most of my life, then women, then men, then I’ve finally made a commitment to someone who would stand by me regardless of my many flaws. That is why I chose her.
    Thankfully, my spiritual beliefs and powers stand by my decision to change mind about Whateveritis too.
    There is a problem with your argument that sexuality is taught, however. I actually was raised by lesbians. Perhaps I learned it from them-I’m okay with that-but I didn’t learn anything that is hurting another person (or anyone’s marriage for that matter). My partner, though, was raised by two Montana raised, right around Ronan in fact, by a very straight couple who has been together since they were sixteen. They raised two kids and one turned out gay. Are they to be blamed for teacher her that? I’m going to venture to say probably not. Especially since most children of gay parents are straight, and more often than not the gay people I know were raised by straight folk, who often tend to be very conservative in their ideology and practice. What to make of those exceptions.
    Science and medicine has not come far enough yet to tell us about biological determinism when it comes to LGBTQ persons. Heck, they didn’t know from where my cancer came (it only appears in the middle east) and didn’t know how to treat it, and the side effects from my treatment are also something science cannot solve. So, it makes sense to me why we haven’t found genetic markers yet. However, we have seen a good deal of science on intersexed individuals with regard to hormones. A compelling case is made in this Harvard study from 2011. http://isites.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do?keyword=k78405&pageid=icb.page414413
    I do agree with Osmundson’s final remark in his research:
    “Given the mixed empirical evidence and dubious bioethical nature
    of the science of sexuality, the innateness of sexual orientation
    is a poor metric upon which to formulate policy or law. Indeed,
    arguments for policies that affirm equal rights for all citizens,
    regardless of sexuality, need not rely on questions of origin. A
    biological understanding of sexuality may actually serve to further
    marginalize groups for which sexuality contains some aspects of
    choice and lead to reclassification of different identities as
    diseases. Sexuality is an integral part of human identity and
    should not be the basis for discrimination, its origins
    notwithstanding. Fundamental rights of minority groups should
    simply not rely on a scientific classification. Race and religion
    are given special protection under the law and yet remain perilous
    to define biologically. Sexuality should be treated no
    differently.”

  • Reverend,
    I must argue that religion is a behavior. How do you prove it? Is it in your DNA, is it in your genes, can I see it on your face? Yet your religious behavior is protected. Just as speech as behavior is protected, the behavior of press, the behavior of gun ownership, the behavior of assembly, the behavior of association. 
    If your argument is simply that homosexuality is behavior then it too should be protected. We never know intention or motive. I may not agree with your religious behavior and you mine, yet you have the freedom to behave the way you do? Saying some behaviors need to be curbed is simply a matter of judgement.

    I ask you this? Why does it matter who people love, sleep with, etc…? Isn’t your god the ultimate judge? Why is it that you and many others feel the need to speak for him? Isn’t your god capable of taking care of things on his own?

    chuck

  • Chuck and Chelsiaann,

    I also do not think that the origins of homosexual behavior is important, nor do I deny that chucks list of rights guaranteed in our Bill of Rights involve behavior.  All I am saying is that homosexuality, with respect to law should be treated as a behavior.  (aside- inter-sexuals are not at all in the same category with homosexuality, because theirs is a birth defect with physical problems often times requiring surgery to even save their lives.) 

    The solution to the problem I believe is better served when we regulate the destructive behavior of those who harm others for what ever reason.   Our country was founded on a few basic freedoms, but people abuse those freedoms, to the great harm of others, so we set boundaries.  Those logical boundaries have to do basically with thought, speech, and association.   It is not the governments prerogative to regulate such matters.

    The problem comes when people act in harmful ways with others.  Basically someone being beat up, for what ever reason demands a reaction for the sake of order and security.  The reason for beating up someone, is protected thought (and indiscernible by human means), and should not be in the governments purview.  All must be treated equally under the law, and those laws need to deal with behaviors, not protected speech and thoughts.  In this way we can remain free to express ourselves safely, and allow for opinions to be heard, understood.  We do not want to make the opinion the crime, or free speech is gone.  So your own beliefs about your sexual orientation is completely protected already, and so is your speech.   But sexual behavior is judged by the law in all kinds of ways according to each different circumstance.  We treat need to treat rape differently than we public masturbation, or private, or whatever else you can think of.  The law regulates public behavior, according to its various effects.  Private behavior remains private and is of no concern to others.  When two people are involved is it still private?  When you proclaim your behavior to others, is this to be considered private?  

    BTW, Chuck, God has taken care of his own affairs, and ours too.

    Here’s how:  Jesus said, “It is finished.” John 19:30 ESV

  • Reverend,
    So is your argument that we shouldn’t demand rights? I’m a bit confused. You seem to be saying that laws surrounding behavior are necessary. Are you saying that homosexual behavior should be regulated? Or are you saying that because we “say” that we are homosexual by announcing it or announcing a same sex relationship, and then asking for what many refer to as “special rights” the problem?
    And I agree with you. “The solution to the problem I believe is better served when we regulate the destructive behavior of those who harm others for whatever reason.” Hence the argument for the NDO, equality in marriage, protection in the workplace, etc. This is exactly what people are fighting for when they fight for homosexual rights. People fire people because they are gay (destructive behavior). People aren’t allowed equal citizenship laws such as the right to marry (destructive behavior). People are denied housing because of who they partner with (destructive behavior). Your argument IS the homosexual argument. When people are treated poorly or denied the freedoms that others enjoy for “whatever reason”, they must be protected by the law. 
    People of varying religions were persecuted for those religions prior to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison’s argument for the protection of religion. The 1st Amendment regulated such destructive behavior. Women were not equal under the eyes of the law and thus unable to cast a vote until 19th Amendment regulated this type of sexist behavior. Slavery of course legal until the 13th Amendment regulated that harmful behavior. The Civil Rights Act passed to end discrimination of blacks in voting and the horrible segregation of the Jim Crow era. Well, it’s now time to protect America’s LGBT citizenry from the bad behavior of others. You may not agree that homosexuality is right, but your basing that on your religious convictions, which of course you are guaranteed by the 1st Amendment. But honestly, the morality of homosexuality is a mute point. It is based on religious doctrine, luckily, a doctrine you are free to subscribe to. But just as your religious doctrine may say that homosexuality is wrong, the 1st amendment protects ALL religious and non-religious points of view. Freedom OF religion is also freedom FROM religion. Remember, religion was an excuse to KEEP slavery at one point. Religion was also a reason to DENY women the right to vote.  Remember, religion was also an argument to KEEP slavery as well as continue to DENY the equal rights of women.

    I certainly base no validity in arguments based from the Bible. To me it’s a piece of literature written nearly 300 years after the death of Jesus at the request of a King. Freedom of religion means there can be no state religion therefore no laws made on religious moral judgements. However, I respect that you have the right to follow your faith regardless of my non-belief. Homosexuality is no different. You don’t have to agree, but you do have to respect that even if a person is gay that they are a citizen and deserving of equal rights and responsibilities under the law. Right now those rights are being violated. The 14th amendment states- “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the
    jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the
    state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which
    shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United
    States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or
    property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its
    jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (due process meaning courts, not politicians or even ballot measures). Equality under the Constitution is undeniable. And because of religious freedom, the Constitution is the only law that matters.

  • Of course all must have equal right under the law, but making a persons sexual activity equal with the basic human rights we already share does not follow.  I can talk to a woman till I am blue in the face, but no new human life will be formed within her.  People can put their faith in all kinds of things, even imagining new religions, but books, and newspapers or even posters are not essential for humanities physical existence.   Free speech is also a human activity, but  human sexual activity is in a different category than our constitutional rights which describe our relationship to our government.  Therefore marriage has always been regulated in every civilization in every time.   Primarily because this type of human activity produces another human being who also has rights which need to be protected.

    The greatest danger in making every possible human sexual activity equivalent to marriage is that children suffer.  Like divorce, the children do not have any rights to keep a mother and a father.  This should be a universal human right, but kids don’t get a vote.

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