MR. BLANKENHORN: Yeah. That was the time for me, during that period of time in the late ’80s and ’90s, and that was the time when I was just wandering around the country speaking. MS. TIPPETT: So a story that I didn’t really know until I started reading about your work and your history is that, especially in the ’80s and ’90s, there was a flood of research and you became part of that research and writing and thinking about how marriage matters, how intact families matter. So there was this movement to support the flourishing of marriage and also to work against what felt to you like a movement, an idea that fathers were superfluous or disposable. I would just give you a talk about how children needed their fathers and that father absence was the biggest problem of our generation because it was the problem driving all the other problems. But if you live in poor communities, and these are your friends and neighbors and the people you’re working with every day, I was struck by the kind of hollowing out of the civil society and so many children growing up without fathers.
Dance floors were a nightly hotbed of interactions between people from all walks of life. And imagine how much more barren your life is, and that’s what that was like. Cinematic and pornographic representations of gay sex and gay life have regularly featured men sniffing from small glass bottles. “Instead of fighting gay marriage, I’d like to help build new coalitions bringing together gays who want to strengthen marriage with straight people who want to do the same.” Their friendship is, I think, a model of that coalition, so let’s explore it. And the answer is, it wasn’t. And I don’t know why that is, but I know I’m different. I’m sitting on a piano bench. I’m thinking to myself, “I don’t want to be gay, I don’t want to be gay, I don’t want to be gay.” And the reason for that is not that I am homophobic or anti-gay.
MR. BLANKENHORN: Yeah. I was coming out of the South and thinking a lot about the Civil Rights Movement as a kind of a model for me. MR. BLANKENHORN: I was born in 1955, so the big thing for me was the Civil Rights Movement growing up in the South. Younger generations are not the only ones interested; Fischer senses a widespread movement. For many men who have sex with men, alkyl nitrites are the only product that allow them to have enjoyable sex without injury,” says Len Tooley, Advancement and Evaluation Director of the Community-Based Research Centre. Today, young straight folks are catching onto the alkyl nitrite craze. The new huffing of solvents and propellants carries substantially greater risk both for death and for long-term neurocognitive damage than does the use of nitrite poppers. According to the Health Professionals Data Sheet, inhaling amyl nitrite causes a non-specific relaxation of smooth muscle, which can be found in the sphincter of the anus. The ban would see poppers placed in the same category as heroin and the sale, use and possession of amyl would carry serious charges. That same year, the first Aids-specific drug was approved for use and suddenly there was light at the end of this darkest of tunnels.
When I talk about this, I try to always start there with the moral imagination of asking people – most of you people here, you’re straight. And I want to start with you, Jonathan. I wonder how you would trace the earliest routes of your imagination about marriage, but also your civilizational imagination, if we want to follow on how Jonathan is putting those things together. MS. TIPPETT: OK. So I wonder if you would tell a story that you write about of this vivid memory that stays with you from childhood when you had, as you describe it, this realization that the institution of marriage was not there for you. So we were always picketing City Hall because there weren’t enough city service deliveries in poor neighborhoods, or we were fussing at the utility company executives because the utility rates were too high. You founded the Institute for American Values in 1987, you helped found the National Fatherhood Initiative in 1994. And that was happening and it was big and there were a lot of people involved in it.