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December 1, 2005

9 Questions for Hazel Juell


At the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors' next meeting, Dec. 6 at 9 a.m., the board will decide whether or not to support a resolution that advocates for gay marriage rights. In advance of the upcoming vote, Humboldt County's Republican Central Committee Chairwoman Lori Metheny came out swinging last week, issuing a statement announcing that marriage -- the kind between a man and a woman -- is "under attack." So we called Hazel Juell, EdD, MFT, a 78-year-old, straight-talking marriage counselor regarded as a bit of a marital sage. "But she's not into this new-agey crap," one married source told the Journal on the condition of anonymity. As for why some folks can't get on board with queers tying the knot, Juell figures, "some people just have a hard time thinking about two women screwing." But there's a little more to it than that, of course.

1. Why do you think some people assume gay marriage would threaten traditional, straight marriages?

I think that's poor logic. As far as the Christian thing goes, originally it was a health issue, because sodomy of course was frowned upon in the Bible. They didn't have a whole lot of water; people weren't doing a whole lot of showering every day. So if you have some mixture of anal germs and whatnot mixing with the vaginal -- well, women don't do well there. It's like some of the Jewish things, like eating pork. Well, pork gave you trichinosis so they said it was unholy. But it was actually just a way of helping people be healthy. Now we're finding out more about how the brain works, it's interesting that the gay brain turns on with same sex people and not with the opposite sex. All those things are coming to light now, but that was not common knowledge before that there was a physiological basis for being homosexual.

2. So, gay marriage is obviously a religious issue, but it's also a political one. The Humboldt County Republican Party recently took a stand against gay marriage. What are they so worked up about?

I think the far right has found out how to band together and get their way. Often they will go after something that that they think is wrong and they will make a big point of it. Like abortion, it's considered wrong and they make it a big point. So the far right thinks that morally we've gone too far and like any revolutionary, they are often going too far themselves.

3. Do you think that people who don't consider themselves "far right" still feel that gay marriage is wrong?

I think that some do and it's probably from ignorance. If you know gay people, well, you know how much they long for permanency and commitment and to have a family and to belong to someone. As my nephew said, he had a partner there for a while, he said it was just so wonderful to have someone to go on a trip with -- that companionship, that known other, that significant person. Most people think a gay person could find a mate in the opposite sex and they would be well off. They don't understand how strong a draw it is. My nephew once told me he just wished he could be bi[sexual] so he could have a family and a regular life, but it just doesn't work that way.

4. Have you ever counseled gay couples that would benefit from getting married, not just financially but in other ways?

I'm trying to think specifically... For some [gay] people, the family rejects them or rejects the partner and they want to get rid of the partner. So, when there is an illness, or someone is in the hospital or dies, then the family says, 'Finally, I've got my rights and I can ostracize this awful person that stole my daughter or son.' So the families have a lot to do with that. If the couple could be legitimate in some sort of legal way in the eyes of the family, the family might make that adjustment sooner. It's a great loss for a family when they have a child that's gay and they know they won't have grandchildren. They fear for the life that that person is going to lead; it's not an easy life usually.

5. Why do you say that -- why is a gay life not an easy life?

Well, they have to hide in the workplace, they have to hide on vacation. I know one male couple, they've been together 25 years and they take separate vacations. So I said, why not take a vacation together? And they said, 'We look like a couple and it's dangerous.' I know another gay couple that won't have a garage sale because they're afraid of the people who might come by. They don't want to be open. So usually, if you have a son or daughter, you don't particularly want them signing up for that kind of thing.

6. Regardless of sexual orientation, do you think marriage is still important or even necessary for the longevity of a relationship?

I think it is important. There are so many things that rituals help. People who have been living together and devoted for years, when they get married they say, 'This is different.' There's a contract there, a responsibility, there's a safety and there's an intention and there's also an acceptance -- this person will accept me for the rest of my life. The statistics say that just living together is not as successful as marriage. By the way, I'll be married for 60 years next June -- like I don't know about this stuff, huh? At any rate, if you're not married it's easier to break and run. Just the legal ramifications and the intention and getting all your people together for a ceremony and your families having memories together and Christmases and all that, it builds and cements people together. So I think marriage is useful and good, and necessary actually, certainly for children.

7. So, should the Board of Supervisors take up the resolution to support gay marriage?

I don't have any idea what they should do or what they will do. I don't have an opinion in that direction. If you get ahead of the curve, you're in trouble. If you get behind the curve you're not forward thinking enough. But here in Humboldt, I don't really know what the sentiment is. We have Arcata over here and it's way out there in the future. I don't know if that is good or bad, but we are. That's one happy thing about having a lot of life experience, you just know that sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. Like making rules, legislating something removing McKinley. I mean, what the heck? I don't think that legislation is always the answer.

8. What is your best advice for married or non-married partners to maintain a long-term relationship?

Generally speaking, if you have a three-quarters decent partner I'd stick with it. If you break up and start over you're going to have another stranger and they will have some flaw, too.

9. So is there no such thing as a soul mate or a perfect match? You've got to love what you've got, in other words?

Yeah, I always went for poets and philosophers but I wouldn't want to be married to one on a bet. I married an engineering-type who keeps stuff together and we have a good life. I can read my poetry on the side.



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