Sunday, March 1, 2009

March 2009, article 1

Hi Poppets. Last month, I mentioned that I had been angry for a while. This month – okay, I’m still angry, who am I trying to kid – but I’ve also been mellowed a bit by a major professional success and a wedding. Yep, David and I did it; we got married. And yes, before you ask, we did indeed follow my own suggestions. We used a florist and baker who support the LGBT community; our officiant has performed commitment ceremonies before; and believe me, the function site is hugely LGBT supportive. We got married in our living room.

Being a new bride gave me some interesting perspectives on things. I have health insurance. We can pay taxes jointly. Both David and I have a societal recognition that we didn’t have, even as committed-sharing-lives partners, before the 22nd of February. I understand why marriage is such a huge issue within the community.

And I recognize my privilege. I am a straight woman marrying a man. I haven’t gone through the struggles to accept this side of myself, the way David has. Every state in the nation recognizes that we are legally and lawfully wed. Whatever that intangible is that comes with “marriage” over “domestic partnership” (if it should exist or not, which is a whole different column), exists for us. We aren’t partnered. We aren’t committed. We are married. Huge numbers of people are denied this very basic right and these very special intangibles. I get why marriage is important.

However, being a newlywed has also given me another interesting perspective. It is not the be-all, end-all. It is far from the only important issue within the community. David still can’t come out at work without fear of repercussion. The best situation would be some pilots and crew refusing to fly/work with him. The worst would be losing his job. They’d find a “legitimate” reason to fire him – and it would still come within weeks of his coming out. Already people are treating him differently, being warmer and friendlier since “those rumors weren’t true.”

His son started a new school not long ago. The first week, a young man that some of the kids suspected of being gay was beaten up in the lunchroom. In front of everyone, very publicly. The police were called; the school suspended the kids who did the beating. But you can believe the message was received by the student body.

A friend of mine, an incredibly talented author, has recently been asked for a complete list of his published works by the college where he teaches. It should’ve been something we celebrated. Instead, several of us spent a while thinking about and discussing if he could/should submit his gay erotica, as well as his straight fantasy. In the end, he decided not to because it was too risky.

Nationally, we had a major American corporation, McDonald’s, come out in support of us. No flash, nothing huge, no great publicity, nothing really in it for them. Just quietly, strongly, peacefully say that we as a community and as individual human beings are worthy. We let them take the hit in their books. In essence, we said we didn’t care enough for them to stand with them, while they were standing with us. No wonder they’ve backed down to pressure from the other side.

I’ve heard several people say or write “gay is the new black.” Really? First, let’s set aside the fact that most people in the LGBT community can pass when necessary, can stay closeted when it’s not safe – a gift that the vast majority of black people do not have. Let’s just look at the claim: Gay is the New Black.

Black Americans faced dogs, beatings, hoses, imprisonment and death in order to vote, in order to be safe in their workplaces, their schools, their very homes. In order to be allowed to work. Be allowed to walk and sit and live and stay wherever they chose. In order to be recognized as human beings. And yes, in order to marry whomever they loved. Still, these other tangible rights were far more important than the intangibles that come with being married. They understood this and were willing to stand together, support those who supported them, go to jail and, in more cases than is comfortable to admit, die for the right to be seen as complete and whole human beings.

Yet within the LGBT community, the one issue that has transformed us, that has rallied us, consistently and beyond the latest news cycle, is same sex marriage. When a child is killed for being gay or transgendered, we rage and protest and write our senators…until the furor dies down. We become members of the Human Rights Campaign and send in our checks and shake our heads. But we don’t even buy our coffees from McDonalds, let alone rise up as one when children get beaten, rather than killed, in their schools. We do not demand that our media outlets report it. We do not march on D.C. or Seattle or Atlanta demanding that we be safe from discrimination, in any of its ugly forms. Instead, we rally over…same sex marriage. But Gay is the New Black. No. It’s not. Not when the only thing that lights a fire under our collective butts for any length of time is marriage, and we sit silent otherwise.

Don’t get me wrong, Poppets. I do understand why marriage is important. I’m a privileged newlywed. Marriage, the tangible rights, and intangible emotions that come with it are important. They just aren’t, and shouldn’t be, the most important. Not while we’re still being denied jobs and homes and safety and lives.

And to anyone who would say this column is just subconscious community loathing, I would say, just the opposite. It’s my love of and respect for this community that makes me so angry when I see our short-sighted, narrow goals. We can be better than this. We are better than this. We must be better than this.

Until next month, Poppets, remember I can be reached at and take care of you.

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