Letter One: Stealing lawn sign won’t change vote
On Wednesday, the New Ulm Journal published a letter from Ann Iverson, Stealing lawn sign won’t change vote:
Was the party that stole my "Vote No" sign politically motivated? Were they religiously motivated? Were they bored and just wanted to steal something?
The theft occurred on Saturday night when I was at work, earning a living. I am a tax-paying, proud American. One of the great things about living in a free country is that we have the right to have different ideas and philosophies and to speak and display them in public.
I've heard that others around town have had their "Vote No" signs stolen. Do you really think you're going to change our vote by stealing a sign?
One Journal reader wanted Iverson to change a lot more than that, and sent a letter to her home. Iverson responds in today's New Ulm Journal with Letter on marriage amendment sparks hateful response. It's hard to condense the letter down or paraphrase, so with apologies to the Journal, Bluestem is posting the entire piece here:
Since my previous letter to the editor regarding my NO sign being stolen from my yard, I've had people call me and contact me through social media thanking me for my letter. I even received a nice call from someone whose YES sign was stolen. However, I received a letter in the mail today that I felt requires a response and I have chosen to do it publicly because it is my hope that no one else who opposes the proposed marriage amendment is the subject of such angry and judgmental attention. I have italicized the letter's text and quoted it exactly as it was written to me.
Why are you so angry? The first paragraph of your letter stated "I read your article about your NO sign. It is not the sign that irritates me, it is your chosen life style. What gives you a right to push your misdirected life on others?" I don't believe I have ever met you and you obviously don't know anything about me.
"I have never met a Gay or Lesbian that doesn't have mental problems. I would love to know your story and how your mind was led to homosexuality. Was it drugs or alcohol? Was it religion?" You want to know my story? I am not gay, although I have several friends, male and female, who are. I was born in New Ulm, graduated from NUHS, attend church nearly every Sunday, was widowed at 45 when my husband died in a tragic accident, I have one son, I'll occasionally have a Grain Belt Light, but I've never done drugs.
"There is not ONE person in New Ulm with a NO sign that doesn't have some serious issues. Check them out, have a sex party and then talk stupid and go on with your miserable life. Remember, you cannot fix stupid." Everyone that I know in this town who has a Vote No sign in their yard is heterosexual and most are married. I've never been to or been invited to a sex party. Yes, I've been known to put my foot in my mouth a time or two; you got me there. I am not miserable, I lead a life of gratitude.
"You mentioned FREEDOM - you never earned the freedoms you have, the soldier gave you those freedoms. Turn your life around with psychological help and do positives work for the future of our country." No, I never served in the military but several members of my family have served this country from the US-Dakota War to the current war in Iraq. I work two jobs to support myself and to help put my son through college, so I pay income taxes. I own a home, so I pay property taxes. My tax dollars help the future of this country.
"Why don't you inform the citizens where these NO signs can be picked up rather than hiding in a closet and being dishonest like your kind is. Your sick and disgustful, Ann, a person always hopes somebody in the family cares but 95% of the time that is a failure." I will gladly tell anyone who wants a NO sign that they can be gotten at 208 S. Minnesota Ave. in St. Peter, inside the Four Seasons Mall, Monday to Friday, 9-5. You can also get a t-shirt, bumper sticker, or button at that location. I have no idea what you mean by that last line; I feel sorry for you that you have such anger in your soul.
"Take your stinking attitude and lifestyle to a place where there are many of you and enjoy life. Keep your disgusting s--- out of other peoples' lifes." I usually have a pretty good attitude towards life, even through the hardships I've endured as a widow and single mother. My family has been here since 1848 and I have no intention of leaving. I usually stay out of other people's lives, except to put a few simple signs in my front yard and a couple bumper stickers on my car stating my political and amendment choices.
I will vote NO to the marriage amendment on Nov. 6 because I believe that all people living in this state should have the same rights to marry as I do, to marry whomever they choose. Voting NO will not change anything. There is a state law banning gay marriage in this state. Although I hope that some day gays will be able to marry, voting NO does not make that happen. The state legislature would need to debate and vote on that to change the law in the future.
In response to my first letter, someone commented online that they might go out and steal a YES sign. No one should steal anything! People with signs are just publicly stating their choices, YES and NO. That is one of the great freedoms we have in this country and I would hope it's a freedom we have in this town.
Many people visit New Ulm because we have a beautiful, clean, friendly city. There are very strong feelings and emotions on both sides of this issue, but please don't dirty our city with mudslinging, cruel words, wrong assumptions, and vandalism.
Letter Two: Hope for those with disordered passion
The second letter, published on September 26, is from a doctor in Sleepy Eye who isn't about to write that LGBTQ people are disgusting. He'll settle for the sick part, and distort a recent study to do it. James J. Joyce of Sleepy Eye writes in Hope for those with disordered passion:
. . .A person who is ready to conquer a disordered passion needs hope. This person realizes that they need to master a passion for food, sex, gambling, alcohol, smoking, or shopping, etc. Other people can offer hope to the person, whether they have experienced the same journey or not, by assuring them they will be loved as a person if they fail but encouraging them to proceed with their purpose.
The Journal of Adolescent Health 2002; 31(4):305 carried an article titled "Suicidality in a venue-based sample of young men who have sex with men".[URL supplied by Bluestem] This study was carried out in Minnesota and it concluded that previous research that noticed increased rates of suicide attempts for young men who have sex with men was indeed accurate. Hopelessness was one of the common symptoms these young men gave as a reason for attempting suicide.
Courage comes from having hope. Courage is also the name of an organization of persons dedicated to helping those who wish to overcome their suffering from a disordered passion to act harmfully on their attraction to other members of the same gender. . . .
In Internet jargon, this solicitude would be known as "concern trolling." Same-sex attraction is a "disordered passion" that produces "hopelessness." Unlike Iverson's correspondent, Joyce oozes sympathy, rather than contempt, but both view same-sex attraction as a disorder.
Joyce also distorts the study he cites, implying that the "disordered passion" itself is the cause of hopelessness and thus the root driver of suicide for young men who have sex with men. Fortunately, there's a copy of the academic article itself online, and anyone can learn that the authors draw no such conclusions:
The similarities between attempters and nonattempters should not be misconstrued as evidence that suicide attempts are associated with homosexuality per se.
Instead, the evidence suggests that school enrollment was key factor and that bullying playing a part in students dropping out:
By way of explanation, leaving school may be a symptom of the underlying emotional and social difficulties that also predispose to suicide. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students often experience school problems, many of which have been attributed to verbal and physical abuse from peers [24,25].
Ann Iverson seems to have met up with several of those bullies, who imagine that because she planted a Vote No sign on her lawn, she's a lesbian and thus fair game to the abuse. But she's strong--and strong enough to acknowledge that a Vote Yes supporter reached out to her.
Matthew Sweeney responded to Joyce's letter with It’s hatred that makes gays feel suicidal:
Given limited space, I doubt I can refute all the proselytizing in James J. Joyce's latently homophobic screed in the Sept. 26 Letters to the Editor, but I can sure try. Within his sanctimonious diatribe, Joyce equates homosexuality with compulsive eating, drinking, gambling, shopping, smoking, and finally, sex addiction. In order to combat this "disordered passion," he suggests that gays and lesbians who are feeling hopeless seek out the Catholic organization, Courage.
. . . Joyce confuses correlation with causality. The hopelessness that gay people feel has less to do with their sexual impulses and more to do with hatred, especially that which hides under the cover of compassionate religiosity. If Joyce wants gay people to feel less hopeless, maybe he should stop referring to their sexual orientation as "disordered passion."
So, for anyone who is feeling hopeless because they are gay, here is the hope I can offer: it's not you, it's them. You do not have "disordered passion" but rather the less exciting trait of being gay. This is something you CANNOT change, as I and every other ex-Catholic adult gay man can attest to (if we could have prayed ourselves straight, we would have). Don't resign yourself to a life of misery, and don't let the bigotry of others turn into self-hatred. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you, and the sooner you accept that, the better.
If you are contemplating suicide and cannot find someone in your life to reach out to, I recommend contacting The Trevor Project (www.thetrevorproject.org/).
Finally, a married woman mentions in Do married couples uphold sanctity of marriage?:
I hope you will join me in voting no this November. And to the misguided folks who stole our Vote No yard signs on Sunday, we will replace them so thank you for your donation to Minnesotans United for All Families.
A Minnesotans United for All Families spokester told CBS Minnesota that respectful conversations rather than vandalism should rule both sides' playbooks:
Kate Brickman is spokeswoman for Minnesotans United for All Families, opponents of the marriage amendment.
“Whether you’re supporting the amendment or opposing the amendment, we should really make sure we’re engaging in respectful conversations and not resort to any actions like this,” Brickman said.
Photo: A Vote No sign on Bluestem's block in Hutchinson, MN.