The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear held October 30 here in Washington, DC, sure was a lot of fun. The weather was gorgeous, the people polite. The signs folks made and carried were the best part—from absurd (“Has anyone seen my car?”) to pointed (“I am a gay man, not a hell beast”) to crafty (“Reasonable people don’t incite fear or fear insight”) to cute (“anyone up for Scrabble after this?”) to the downright crass. One or two even verged on the sublime (“Groceries and birth control for all!”). But I must confess to feeling a palpable absence at this gathering of several hundred thousand seemingly tolerant and liberal-minded human beings on the National Mall. The truth is I just didn’t feel the love.

Now I know some people simply aren’t big on grand shows of affection or camaraderie. Humanists in particular may suffer from too much emphasis on ethical propriety and reasoned objectivity to revel in them. We may even be excused for feeling a little intimidated when it comes to the idea of love. After all, while we espouse the Golden Rule of “do unto others,” Christians are called to “love thy neighbor.” And who among us isn’t slightly humbled by the laudatory claim that “God is love”? On the other hand, we humanists are often ridiculed as bleeding hearts for our edict affirming the inherent worth and dignity of each human being.

Of course none of this is quite right. Because some of the biggest-hearted people I’ve ever met are humanists, and theirs aren’t bleeding—they’re pumping right along. A “bleeding heart,” after all, is a person considered excessively sympathetic toward those who claim to be underprivileged or exploited. The implication is that the bleeding heart is somehow being duped. But who’s to say what an excessive amount of sympathy is? And what if a person has evidence to support the contention that the folks for whom his or her heart pumps truly are getting a raw deal? Skeptics, freethinkers, and humanists are notoriously resistant to deception, so when it comes to our perspective on same-sex relationships and postmodern family dynamics, can we just sum it up as evidence-based love? Why not?

Here’s where we’re at with the issue at hand: “don’t ask, don’t tell” has long last been repealed; the fate of California’s gay marriage ban is unknown; longitudinal studies show that children of gay parents don’t fare worse than those of straight ones, and that nonheterosexual youth are 40 percent more likely than their straight peers to be punished by schools, police, and the courts (girls are especially at risk). Oh, and the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery has pulled a video installation on the AIDS epidemic from a privately funded exhibit after House Speaker-designate John Boehner (R-OH), incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), and Bill Donohue of the Catholic League raised a stink. Seems they didn’t like the sexual themes of certain portraits or the video’s eleven seconds of ants crawling on a statue of Jesus. Ironically, the exhibit intended to focus on “how art has reflected society’s evolving and changing attitudes toward sexuality, desire, and romantic attachment.” We aim to explore that same evolution in the pages before you (and it is my hope that with the evidence, you may also feel the love).

“Nature knows no indecencies,” Mark Twain wrote in 1896. “Man invents them.” The tall tale that homosexuality is a social evil that must be suppressed continues to be told, but medical and scientific authorities reject it, as do big-hearted humanists.

Jennifer Bardi is the editor of the Humanist.

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