November 5th, 2008

Halloween Cat

History and Tolerance

Today we have a new president-elect. This is a historic day, because he is the first African-American to achieve that position. I had tears in my eyes as I watched Barack Obama make his acceptance speech. It was brilliant and inspiring, and for the first time in a long time, I was again proud to be an American.

But I’m not an American, not really. I’m a second-class citizen, despite having been born here to American parents and American grandparents, from diverse places like Nebraska and New Jersey. No, I am not an American. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, I’d be delighted to call myself an American if I were afforded all the rights of an American – but to call me one without those rights is like calling an ox a bull. He’s grateful for the honor but would rather have restored what’s rightfully his.

Because while the African-American community has made great strides and this proud son has taken this amazing victory, I, and many other Americans like me, are being put back into that “separate but equal” status.

When Barak Obama was born, his parents’ marriage wasn’t legal in all 50 states. His father was black, his mother white. Interracial marriage was illegal for a full century after the end of the civil war in many states, kept that way by good, God-fearing “Christians” who claimed that interracial marriage was against the laws of God and Nature. The same argument they’re still using today, only they’ve turned it against the gay community.

African Americans are appalled that the gay community dares to compare ourselves to their struggle. Is the murder of Matthew Shepard, and others like him, any less horrific than KKK lynchings? Why is our struggle somehow lessened, because people are still using the bible to justify their, let’s flat-out say it, hate and discrimination? Gays and lesbians also suffered alongside the Jews in the Holocaust, but no one dare give voice to that. How dare we compare ourselves to that suffering? No one chooses to remember the black and pink triangles gays and lesbians were forced to wear, or that they also were rounded up and put in camps, and they, too, died.

Because we remain second-class citizens. Even in America, where all are supposed to be equal. Instead we hear, “I have nothing against gays. This isn’t about hate. It’s about preserving tradition.” Nothing at all against us, but we can’t have the same rights as others. We can’t walk into a courtroom with the consenting companion of our choice and buy a simple marriage license and say our vows in front of a justice of the peace. Religion, which is supposed to be kept out of government, holds the reins, and forces the laws. Now discrimination and hate is written into the Constitutions of more than half the country, disguised as “protection of marriage.”

“Preserving tradition.” The traditions of marriage have changed numerous times over the centuries. Marriage was once about keeping wealth. Women were sold by their parents into marriages with strangers, dowries were paid, they were bought for horses or money or land. Marriages were arranged by parents and a third party “matchmaker.” Teenagers were promised to each other before meeting, or children were betrothed at birth to the person they would marry in adulthood. That was tradition. But as Tevye says in “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Our old ways were once new.” Tradition.

It’s not “protecting” marriage when you prevent people who love each other from getting married. What you are protecting is your discrimination, your fear, and your hatred for a class of people you do not like nor understand. But because anyone – and I mean anyone—can be gay, what will these people do when little Johnny grows up thinking being gay is “wrong,” but falls in love with Bobby? He can’t get married because his parents campaigned so fiercely against it? What about when little Jenny grows up and falls in love with Mary? Will they hate and fear themselves, become another generation of people frightened to be who they are, lest their own families ostracize them? They learn that they will be punished for falling in love, and so they have to hide? And if they DO admit to who they are, they still can’t get married, because hate and fear wrote it into the state constitution.

You cannot learn to be gay. Teaching that it’s okay to be gay will not make anyone “turn gay.” But it will might things better for those who ARE gay.

It’s a shame that in America we still not only have this hate, but are so adept at rationalizing it away. It’s still okay to discriminate against the gays. I had hope, once, that maybe this would change, maybe even in my lifetime. But it seems that hatred and fear are always going to rule the day. I hope you’re proud of yourself, America. You can pat yourselves on the back and say we elected a black man, we must have moved past discrimination. But no. It’s alive and well in America, a festering sore, and although my marriage does no harm to you and yours, you’ll still take it away from me. You’ll deny us basic civil rights that have nothing to do with you, because you hate, and you fear, and you discriminate. Stop dressing it up in pretty words. It is what it is: Hate.

x-posted at MySpace and my AZCentral blog