Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gay activism

I'm really not much of a political activist.  I do have a very strong sense of where I stand on most political issues; although, I don't generally try to influence others to my political leanings.  If people ask me questions about a political issue then I'll answer them honestly; but, I don't generally bring it up.

That said, on the subject of gay rights, I've added a new gadget on the sidebar to show several gay news and commentary blogs that I follow so as to keep my finger on the pulse of what's going on in the gay community.  I certainly don't always agree with everything said; but, I like to read multiple points of view before forming my own opinion.

What I am sensing is that many in the gay community are increasingly feeling like the democrats are throwing them under the bus - that they gladly accepted their political contributions, but have since been sitting on their hands when it comes to gay issues, like DADT, DOMA, ENDA, and others.

I'm not trying to suggest that republican should be the party of choice for gay folk - there is certainly rampant homophobia among those of conservative leanings.  But, at least, we know where we stand with conservatives - instead of hearing nice words with no action behind them.  The unfortunate truth is, while the democrats may be throwing the gays under the bus, it's often the republicans driving the bus.

This is a bit dated; but, John Aravosis on AmericaBlog has an interesting oped in which he says
"When conservatives are standing up for gays, and Democrats treat us like we are an embarrassment, there's a problem."

"No one wants Sarah Palin to be President. But we're talking about our civil rights. I think a lot of straight Democrats don't get that. They see out and proud gay people, a lot of us have good jobs, nice clothes, get to travel the world (and a lot of us don't, but they don't ever meet them), so they think our civil rights battle is some kind of champagne party to us, as if we're doing it for fun because we really have everything we could ever want. Well, anyone who thinks that didn't grow up gay. They didn't grow up thinking they were a pervert. That they were sick. That they'd never find love, never get married, never have children or a family of their own - because God made them wrong. They didn't grow up thinking they'd have to kill themselves once they hit the age of 30 because they'd be single, and people would 'figure out' that they were gay, and then they'd lose all their friends and family and their job and career. And they knew they couldn't live with that."

"That last point is important. Pick any political issue, any political constituency, and ask yourself how many of those issues, how many of those people, considered killing themselves over their issue. Not a lot, I'm guessing. Now you're starting to understand why gay civil rights advocates, why gay people, care so fervently about their "issue." It's not just an issue for us. It's our lives."

"We're talking about our lives. And when the Republicans increasingly say the right things, like repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell now, and even supporting marriage, and all the Democrats show is political homophobia, gays get the message."
Now, I think asserting gay activism to be a matter of life and death is a bit over the top - but I do think he makes a good point in that gay rights, or lack thereof, generally has a more profound personal effect on it's supporters than other political issues.

I also think that, with a few exceptions, straight folk generally do not have much understanding of what gay rights is all about - which makes it easy for opponents of gay rights to spread so much FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) without having any substance to back up their claims.  I mean, seriously, do people actually believe all of that drivel about homosexuality that gets spouted over podiums and pulpits?  Sadly, the answer is 'yes'.

I don't know what the answers are; but, I will say that Harvey Milk's 'coming out' speech has haunted me ever since I saw the movie Milk
We will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets... We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I'm going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out. Come out to your parents, your relatives
- Harvey Milk in a 1978 speech
So why am I so afraid to step out of my closet?

3 comments:

Konrad said...

I never used to care about gay rights, even when I completely identified as gay, until recently. Now I think that it is something that is important and there is so much intitutionalized homophobia that if people are not working against that, nothing will change.

Anonymous said...

Abe,

I can think of at least five reasons I stayed in the closet as long as I did:

1) Fear of the unknown.
2) After a while my closet was not all that uncomfortable.
3) Never having been out of the closet, I hadn't a clue what price I was paying for staying closeted or how much I was missing.
4) I had been influenced into believing coming out was somehow bad or inappropriate.
5) My focus re: straight people was on those that hated gays and wanted to do them harm.

Basically, I was not uncomfortable enough to change the status quo.

The catalyst for my coming out was a kid's suicide and my realization that he had died because he didn't know anyone gay even though he was surrounded by gay people.

I realized then that silence and invisibility costs lives.

It wasn't easy coming out.

I was terrified I would be fired.

I was afraid people would reject me.

I was afraid, afraid, afraid of all sort of things that might happen.

But then I thought of how he killed himself and I told myself that nothing I went through could be as bad as what that child went through.

So I came out and to my surprise found that all (not some - all) of my fears were unfounded.

I think most gay people have positive experiences coming out but there are always the exceptions.

And it's the exceptions that most closeted gays focus on.

I know I did.

Regards,
Philip

this blog author said...

Abe, I know you are a math-teacher at heart. Here is a chocolate quiz for your future classes:

1. Write down how many times a week you want to eat chocolate. Your number must be greater than one and less than ten.

2. Times your number by two.

3. Now, add five.

4. Multiply the result by fifty.

5. If you have already had your birthday this year, add 1,760. If you have not yet had your birthday, add 1,759.

6. From this result, subtract your four-digit birth year.

7. Your answer will have three digits in it. The first number will be your original number, how many times a week you want to eat chocolate. The remaining two numbers will be your age.

And, in regards to this post, you are probably more of an activist than you give yourself credit for. I think a lot of us are. The mere fact that we have blogs, share our ideas and thoughts leads to the idea that we are hoping and trying to make differences in peoples' lives. We are trying to eventuate change by expressing our ideas, sharing our experiences, and by writing about our vulnerabilities, especially as gay folks, and within the church.

Happy night!