Saturday, August 28, 2010

"What if's"...All Our legislation Passed.

Marriage equality....Don't Ask Don't Tell...the Employment Non-Discrimination Act....together they have often dominated the conversation about gay rights and equality. We poor tremendous amounts of energy into them. Indeed, they are important pieces in the greater movement toward full equality for GLBTQ Americans. But today, I asked myself what would happen if Christmas came early and I woke up tommorow with those goals had come to fruition?

First would be the encredible feeling of celebration....that the world had changed in incredible and wonderfull ways. Gays and lesbians would be protected in ways that we had never been previously. We could meet and marry someone we loved, perhaps make a family and hopefully never have to worry about losing out jobs or homes because of our sexual orientation. Being able to do those basic things paves the way for more positive change as we have more energy and support to turn to other areas of our lives.

However, sometimes I thing that we hang our hopes on passage or repeal of these issues and forget their status as waypoints along the journey...not the end. So what would happen if Christmas came early this year and we woke up to find that all our legal/legislative hopes had come true...then what?

In my opinion, equality begins with accepting ourselves...even in the face of the hostility of the world. Those are Stonewall moments. We learn to respect and honor ourselves as we are. Then we no longer accept being treated differently...or as "less than". One day we find the courage to fight and we have been fighting ever since. We stand on the edge of achieving some very important goals that will help ensure that neither we nor future generations can be treated as "less than"...but it will not be the end. the final destination is what we already face everyday from our families and members of our community. How we are treated in the everyday world at large. A great example of this is found via Towleroad and the Courier-Journal  regarding a wave of violence and psychological intimidation in Covington Kentucky.

Gays and lesbians in Covington have seen a huge upswing in physical violence and discrimination in the form of being called gay slurs(you can imagine the usuall suspects)...beatings and stabbing. Also, in a recent development in the northern Kentucky town resident woke up to find anti-gay flyers posted all over the city and on peoples windshields. The flyers refer to gays and lesbians as "a parade of perverts" and suffering from a mental disorder. The flyer lists as a contact an organisation known to be a white supremacy group even though they deny involvement.

This event brings to mind just how far we have to go yet in the journey to equality. It dawned on me that there are layers to the struggle with legal protection being just one of those layers. Another important one is the level of acceptace we recieve from our freinds and neighbors....from the clerk at the grocerystore, your childs teacher, the people we deal with day in and day out. Even if we gain all the legal protections we hope for we still have to deal with everyday people who just don't like us. That includes slur slinging, flyer flourishing psychopaths as well as the lady at the bank that gives you the evil eye everytime you walk in. We will know the world has changed when these event happen and whe WHOLE community stands up to condemn them....or the day we know longer have to be afraid to hold hands in our home towns.

I am kind of lucky to live in a part of California where no body bats much of an eyelash when they see gay people going about their daily lives. I can shop with my husband and kids and don't recieve much attention. However, thats dynamic does not continue to remain true in all of my state. Several places can be nearly as hostile as Covingtons example. Where I live tends to be pretty accepting, but that does not mean that we dont have our share of people who just don't like us...they just know that they are in the minority here and express those opinions behind closed doors. I usually know those people by the stony cold shoulder you get when they realise that Jay and I are a couple...a sudden attitude shift that closes off all warmth. Suddenly we are "other" again no matter how legally protected we may be.

This is nothing new to anyone in the gay community. Its something most of us have to deal with everyday. You hold you head up high, know who you are, and largely ignore what these people think because you know theres always going to be someone out there like them. But you also know that the world is not always a safe place for you and a certain amount of caution is still neccesary.

Growing up in the 70's television was flooded with the social change of the time. Black civil rights, Latino civil rights, womens was an inescapable theme of the 70's that we were all a part of a larger world and deserving of equal treatment. I realise now, how much I took those messages for much I expected us to be past such blatent injustices....and how much of those messages failed to reach so many people leading us to still be fighting issues of racial and gender equality years later. The laws to protect people had been painfully earned by those who gave their blood, sweat, and lives to see a day when Blacks and whites were the same...or when women had all the same opportunities as men. They saw those laws pass...and celebrated those victories...and then  got up the next day to face the mountain of prejudice that still remained in the hearts of their fellow men against sharing the workplace with women or those of another race...interracial relationships...a whole handfull of tiny battles that continue long after legal civil rights had been won. And so we find ourselves today, still not in a post-racial, post-sexism society...imperfect, but improving.

 So it will be for us in the gay community. When we are allowed to marry, keep our jobs when outed, serve in the military, there will still be that mountain of prejudice to whittle away at in the minds and hearts of the people around us. We still will not yet be at a place when we can walk hand in hand with our loved ones without fear of being called a faggot or beaten where we stand.  We will still have to dig ourselves out from under a mountain of shame to find the strength to come out. We will still have to steel ourselves for the possibility of utter rejection when we do come out. It will be sometime yet before we see the day when we no longer fear these things....but it's dying by degrees and getting closer with every generation.

Its THAT world that we fight for. The one for which the legal battles may be only a precursor. A world when gays, Lesbians, Transgendered and bisexual people, whoever you are on the sexuality spectrum, can live a life without fear...without risking everything to live it. A world in which we are an integral part of the everyday fabric of life. Then mayby we will have arrived at our ultimate destination.

until next time dear readers....


  1. I think even more important than equal legal standing is equal societal standing. If the general consensus is that gay, black, etc. people are people and deserve to be treated equally, then the laws will be forced to conform: if no one is enforcing the law, then it is essentially null and void (the same, as terrifying as it sounds, is applicable for the reverse situation). If only we could somehow figure out a way to convince the majority that, despite our differences, the minorities are just as human as they are.

    At least things are getting better. Sixty years ago it was still legal to have separate bathrooms for whites and blacks. Ten years ago no gay couple could marry in the US. I have high hopes that my (younger) generations' tolerance will continue to better the situation.

    Even we, however, seem to have our limits. Though Racism is generally seen as bad, there's still some gaps with sexual minorities. Though it's unpopular to belittle these people, there also seems to be the silent understanding that it's fine only as long as they don't show it. Hopefully we will change our minds. If not, then perhaps it'll be the following generation that will pick up our slack.

    Regardless, the movement towards 'progressive' ideologies (maybe the word tolerant is better) is obvious. Just a few days ago, as I was walking down the street I saw a gay couple holding hands and even outwardly showing affection! I literally stopped dead in my tracks I was so surprised; not in all my 20 years had I seen a gay couple that held hands in public.

    There's always hope.

  2. People deciding to come out are inspirations for every type social cause.
    being straight and living here, i used to try to hide what I really thought of homosexuality. i thought i wasn't really 'my issue.' also,i didn't want to attract a lot of unpleasantness (the word 'gay' is always associated to the word 'sex' which is more or less an awkward topic). I assumed there were gay people here, hoped they had a network, wished everyone was OK, that's all. and i believed bringing up the issue will inevitably lead to hate crimes which is an unknown concept yet. guys (presumably straight) can hold hands in public, wear pink. transgendered people are tolerated. the violence is more latent and structural.
    then I was watching season five of queer as folk where they are all campaigning against the 'prop' and i suddenly realised how much of a coward i was being. real peoples' lives are at stake here and i'm pretending to be apolitical.
    so now I talk about it whenever there's a chance. it's still not my cause, really, but whenever i am afraid of expressing my allegiance in any issue, I remind myself of nine the black kids who went to the same school as whites, the female sculptor who worked on a enormous piece right in the middle of my city..before i was born, so brave...and of the people who do not hide being gay.