I remember, about ten years ago, walking with my wife down the boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach, accidentally following two (admittedly hot) 17 year olds in their new string bikinis. We passed Queen Street, which--without any irony I can ever detect--is the unofficial separation between the gay and straight sections of the beach. There was a spirited volleyball game in progress, with about six buff guys on each side, slamming the ball around.
Our two would-be beach-bunny debutantes locked eyes on this assemblage of adorable man-flesh and did everything except take off their tops and flash themselves in order to be noticed.
Not surprisingly, they got no takers, although two women sharing a blanket just below them went into a coughing fit that not so convincingly covered up their laughter.
With a haughty shake of the head that only a bottle blonde teen queen can muster, one of them finally said, "Let's get out of here. These guys must all be gay or something."
We like to pretend to ourselves that we live in a civilized nation, wherein even those who disapprove of someone's sexual orientation do so by looking down their noses or denying somebody a promotion or a loan. We like to believe, as one commenter on DelawarePolitics asserted a couple of weeks ago, that
Steve Newton said we must protect all American citizens. Steve we do it is called the 14th Amendment, and any law that gives added protection such as hate crime laws or laws that give more protection in hiring to certain groups are merely for political gain, and un-necessary.
But unfortunately, that's not true.
Here are couple of all-too-typical anecdotes that exemplify what gay, lesbian, transgendered, bisexual, or queer American citizens face on an all-too-regular basis.
The first is from Postmodern Politics and Sexuality:
Last night I took a cool guy out to downtown. It's our favorite place to go. I planned the whole night as a suprise to him. I took him out to Indian food at this upscale resturant. Then we walked to a starbucks and sat in the corner talking about life and faith and the people we saw pass by the window. Then we walked back to our car where he gave me a box of See's candy. For the final activity I took him to the local IMAX theatre to see U23D! It was better than being at a concert. So amazing! Bono was popping out of the screen right infront of us. :)
Afterwards we walked back to our cars and stood there for awhile . We were close. It was late so we were both tired. At one point we were just standing there, facing each other when a big black truck drove by. The driver rolled down his window and yelled "faggots" as loud as he could as he drove by.
I hope he feels more of a man after that.
I went through a range of thoughts/feelings. It made me sad that people hate like that. And that I experienced bigotry. It made me angry that this isn't easy and that probably won't be the last time I experience that. And it made me scared. I'm not a small, wussy guy. But what if he and his friends decided to stop and get out and mess with us? Do you have to life in fear because of peoples bigotry?
Don't these people realize it is them who push people into the activism that they so hate? I've NEVER wanted to be a gay activist. But after last night I want to speak out all the more just so no one else has to experience that. And that was such a small event! Its caused me today to place myself in the shoes of those who have to experience that on a regular basis.
The second is from some guys are normal:
Let me start by saying that I've never been involved in any type of anti-gay confrontation. I've never had anyone call me a fag, like pomo recently did, I've never been threatened, and I most certainly have never been beaten up because I'm gay. That's not to say that these types of things don't happen. I've just been lucky enough to not have them happen to me.
Obviously, not everyone's so lucky. Recently LZ Granderson, a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine, wasn't as lucky as me, and now that it's over, I'm sure he's just feeling lucky that he didn't have to go to the hospital. Just last week while in New Orleans for the NBA All Star Game, the sports writer literally thought he might die at the hands of an anti-gay crowd. While walking through the craziness of the French Quarter, LZ was picked out of a crowd and berated for being gay. As he tried to ignore the taunts, they got worse and more people joined in. Soon enough, Granderson was surrounded, and had it not been for some nearby police officers, violence would have been next.
All because he's gay. What an unbelievable phenomenon.
In the article, Granderson calls for the NFL to take a stronger stance against homophobia (a call I've heard gay people make to other organizations recently too), and he unabashedly tells his readers that he does have an agenda. He "want[s] a country where it isn't OK to get the snot kicked out of you because you're different."
I love that he came out and said it, because for all of the rhetoric coming from the far-right and the anti-gay folks, the reality is that gay agenda has nothing to do with trying to turn kids gay or destroying the morality, history, and traditions of western civilization. It's all about wanting to live in a world where getting beaten up just for being gay isn't a concern. It's about not having to worry that walking down the street and just looking "too gay" might turn into a black eye. It's about human decency.
So, let me go on record with LZ and say that I've got an agenda too. Call it the gay agenda--the real gay agenda. I'm here to show people (in this blog and in realy life) how normal gay people really are in hopes that someday I won't have to read these kind of stories anymore. In my little way, I'm going to spread the gay agenda.
I'm not in favor of hate crimes legislation; I happen to believe that assault or attempted murder or terroristic threatening are "hate" crimes by definition. I also believe in free speech, not matter how painful or even hateful the ideas expressed.
But that's not what's at issue here. What's at issue here is that we still live in an America where it remains acceptable to single out groups of citizens for violence, intimidation, and disrespect.
And while I favor adding sexual orientation to the list of human characteristics for which no American citizen should be discriminated against, I'm actually not a real big believer that laws change social perceptions.
Instead, I tend to agree with science fiction writer Robert Heinlein, who gave this piece of dialogue to the nation's first black, female president [hopefully NOT having in mind some bad Hillary-Barack morph]:
"Discrimination? Certainly there is still discrimination--but you can't kill prejudice by passing a law. We'll make it by how we behave and what we produce--not by any trick laws." [Expanded Universe, p. 563]
Laws are easy; personal moral courage isn't.
A black friend once posed to me a pointed riddle:
Question: When does a black man become a nigger?
Answer: When he leaves the room.
The same riddle applies to gay men and faggots, jews and kikes, women and cunts, latinos and wetbacks.
It's a riddle that asks you to ask yourself how often you were complicit by doing nothing, saying nothing.
The explicit promise of America is a society wherein each person can rise based on his or her abilities, set free from the prejudices of the Old World. It's an ideal, of course, but it is an ideal toward which we have made arguable progress in the past two centuries.
Just something to think about.