December 2nd, 2008

Is Gay The New Black? I Don't Think So.

While out shopping this past weekend with my partner and best friend in Barnes & Noble, I was told by my incensed family to walk over to the news and magazine section to see the cover of this month's Advocate. It was clear to me from their expressions of pained outrage that I was going to be offended and angered by something. As soon as I saw the cover with its pronouncement that "GAY IS THE NEW BLACK", I felt my entire body tense up. My initial hope was that I was right and that my intelligence would prove this was a means of grabbing attention with shock value, which sometimes works, albeit distastefully most of the time. The mere notion that civil rights struggles shared by GLBT people were on the same par as that of an entire race of people is incredibly offensive to me - just as the misogynistic attitudes of men (and even some women) do who presuppose standards of gender inequality as legitimate means for acceptable traditional role playing in the public arena.

I am a product of the southern United States, I know a thing or two about racism and my area of this country's historical racist terrorism. I do not use that word lightly. When I consider Selma, Emmett Till, The church bomb murders in Birmingham in 1963 (I could do this all day), I think of terrorism. I have written about Matthew Shepard, Brandon Teena, and Gwen Araujo, and terrorism feels like the appropriate label to use. I have written about Richard & Mildred Loving, Andrea Perez & Sylvester Davis, and the fictitious Jim Crow, from which it is believed the term Jim Crow Laws was derived. I'm still living in an area where racism is very much a part of people's lives just as homophobia is - regardless of commonality.

That brings me to my main point for this. While the civil rights struggles of black people in this country and that of GLBT share certain commonalities, it is patently false to make the leap from commonality to side by side comparison as a means for legitimizing the claim that gay is the new black. Not even close. Homophobia is no more on the same level as xenophobia as ageism is on par with sexism. These things are different for pointed reasons - because they are not the same. Commonalities aside, it is disingenuous as well as misguidedly dangerous to draw comparative lines on issues such as these and ultimately solves nothing aimed for; in fact, it only serves in most cases to invalidate your positions.

Let me make myself clear as a founder of this community. I started this with a group of people who share a vision for what is right and fair in the eyes of the judicial system, NOT in the eyes of those with a particular bent - religious or otherwise. We have no power to change people's hearts and minds across the board, though I believe we should try where we can, but we can change the way we are treated in the eyes of the law for the best reason possible, for the reason that was the spark that fired us up in the first place: BECAUSE IT IS RIGHT, AND BECAUSE IT IS FAIR.

We will not be served well by making generalities equating racial inequality with sexual identity. We further divide ourselves in such ways and create greater chasms than we are able to traverse later when it is necessary and more to the point, it doesn't matter how different we are. It is not just self defeating, it is inefficient and frankly just not very wise. We will continue to kick in doors that have already opened and carry ourselves and one another through those doors because it will be the natural progression just as water finds a way to carve out a river from a single drop to the bounty of an ocean - with time and tenacity. We will feel defeated at times and that is normal. We will feel that the proverbial finish line is nowhere in sight when we haven't the energy to carry on. We will remind ourselves and each other that it is okay because feeling defeated is not the same thing as being defeated, just as seeing no finish line in sight from the vantage point of weary eyes is not the same thing as having no finish line to cross.

Just as gay is most certainly NOT the new black.

(cross posted to engayge_america)

In The Company Of Mormons

I was paid a visit by two young Mormon missionaries this past Friday evening. They asked me if I would be willing to discuss the lord with them, and I told them that I was an atheist but would love to have a discussion with them - just not at that time as I had family in for the holiday and it would be inappropriate. I asked them if they could come back on Thursday of this week and they agreed to come then.

I have every intention of being gracious and hospitable to them when they come on Thursday to talk with me. I have every intention of being an out of the closet gay man who believes that religion is destructive, dangerous, and divisive. I will bring up Prop 8 in California as well as the community I am working on (engayge_america) and give my reasons why I'm working on this issue.

I know I'm not going to change their minds. I know I'm not going to make them like me. I have no interest in either. I'm doing this because I believe it is important to sit down with people who are your opposites and discuss what is important to you because it matters. I could learn something from these two polite young men, even if what I stand to learn is just more of what I already know to be true. They could learn something from me as well.

I'd like to know from you guys what you think I should discuss with them, but please be serious and only post serious responses in comments.