Note: The following post quotes a story that has since been corrected. Apparently, the statement that homosexuality doesn’t exist in South Williamsport was not actually said. This blog, unlike the majority of those on the other side of the spectrum, does care about silly things like facts. I am keeping the post up because the principal’s decision is still repugnant, and I am sure there are people living in the Williamsport area, and in my own Altoona area, who believe homosexuality is something found only in the evil Sodom like lands of the large metropolis. Just because this principal didn’t proclaim the delusion doesn’t mean others don’t hold it.
Everyday, we walk through a world populated with other members of our species. For all of us, the vast majority of humanity will forever be strangers, unmet and unnoticed. Most of those we interact with will also stay strangers, our knowledge of the fellow humans in our social circle increasing with the frequency and nature of contact, ranging from those we see under purely professional circumstances, to acquaintances, to friends, lovers, family. Those closest to us, we may feel that we know them very well, and we do, in a way. Yet everyone is a stranger at some level, for we only reside in our own head. No matter how well we think we understand their thought patterns, no matter how well we feel we can predict their actions, we can never see their actual thoughts. Each of us owns our own mind, if nothing else. Does the pastor truly believe the hellfire and brimstone he is spouting from the pulpit or is it just his tactic to fill the collection basket? Do the cast members honestly think Bigfoot could be in each forest they visit, or are they just grateful for the spot on television? Does Adam Sandler really think his last ten years of movies are good comedies, or is he on a quest to find out exactly how insulting of a film it takes for the American public to stop paying to see them? Some questions like this do seem obvious. For instance, I am fairly certain that neither Ann Coulter or Bill O’Reilly believe every inflammatory statement that they make, that they are to some extent performance artists. But still, where the actual line between honest belief and publicity seeking lies, only that individual actually knows.
Where am I going with this? A post over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars got me thinking about the delusions we harbor in our minds, how they remain hidden unless we ourselves call attention to them, and how well someone can function professionally and socially with a mind that, on some subject, has no grasp on reality. While I do consider it a delusion, I am not currently referring to religion; the honored place our society reserves for religious beliefs and the sheer number of believers turn a certain level of belief into a helpful delusion in the eyes of many, as long as the religion you delude yourself with is approved by the masses. No, here I am talking about stranger (although I will certainly admit that believing in ritualized cannibalism of God made flesh, and the idea of God sacrificing Himself to Himself in order for Him to forgive His creations their sins both fit firmly in the “strange” category) and rarer delusions. Some are mostly harmless. Does the librarian believe in psychics? Not likely to matter to me. Others can be far more disconcerting. I am willing to bet that at least one member of Congress believes that the Illuminati and the Freemasons secretly control the world. Perhaps only at the state level, but I am certain that some elected officials believe in reptoids. Those are delusions I am sure the electorate would wish to be aware of, yet unless they share the belief, it will remain hidden.
It never ceases to amaze me how certain delusions can survive intensive education, how some seem to grow stronger the more contradictory evidence is revealed. If my doctor believes that autism is caused by vaccines, I want to know so I can quickly find a new doctor, yet even direct questioning will not allow me to know her beliefs for certain. If I decided to reproduce and my child’s principal or teacher didn’t believe homosexuals lived in our area, I would want to know so I could pay closer attention to the schools policy on social issues. Which, amusingly enough, is the delusion that set my mind wondering what crazy shit the people I interact with believe. Here is another link to the post from Ed Brayton:
The principal of a school in Pennsylvania forced the drama department to cancel a production of Monty Python’s Spamalot because two of the characters in it are gay and, she claimed, there are no gay people in their small town so it would be inappropriate.
Dawn Burch, director of the school’s drama department, told WNEP news that Principal Jesse Smith wrote an email to her informing her that homosexuality does not exist in a conservative community such as South Williamsport.
As far as delusions go, this is just about “reptoids are running the government” level crazy. Ed chalks it up as the bigotry of a small town:
showing gay people in a play? Scandal! Outrage! And, of course, bigotry. Welcome to small town America.
But the delusion is worse than small town bigotry, because honestly, South Williamsport is not a small town. Pull up a map and you will see that it is fucking part of Williamsport, which is a city! I once lived in Williamsport. If you have Google Maps open, my apartment was on W.4th st, right across from the Bullfrog Brewery. I used to walk to work at Two Boys from Italy along Washington Blvd, and my significant other worked at Wegman’s, right across the river from South Williamsport. In fact, my downtown apartment, right beside the Community Arts Center, is closer to South Williamsport than my workplace.
This may come as a shock to you all, but there are homosexuals in South Williamsport. I actually knew homosexuals who lived in South Williamsport. My best friend in South Williamsport, who I knew at the time as Kevin*, now goes by the name Tiffany* and is in the process of reassignment. Does this principal believe there are no trans people in South Williamsport as well? Sorry. I’d tell the principal that I was in a coven at the time with members from South Williamsport, but I’m afraid finding out there are witches in South Williamsport would explode his brain.
I am willing to concede that South Williamsport has changed some in the decade plus since I lived across the river from it. I am sure it is a conservative area; my home city of Altoona, Pa is similar in size to Williamsport and is part of the ultra conservative county of Blair. I am sure that most homosexuals who grew up there got their asses out of dodge as soon as they hit legal age, just as the majority flee Altoona for more progressive areas, but fate and circumstance keep a population within the borders of the city. Unless every member of the GLBTQ community moved from South Williamsport to Altoona, this principal’s belief is indeed a delusion. A delusion that is frightening for a public school official to hold.
*names changed to protect my friend from transphobia.