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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


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 6th, 2008 02:08 am (UTC)
I am so sorry. I voted against the proposition in my state, but I should have done more. I'm sorry.
Nov. 6th, 2008 02:29 am (UTC)
Lori, you're the last person in the world who should be beating yourself up over this. :(

And don't lose heart. Frustrating and unfair as this seems, we do make progress, however slowly, however haltingly. This is a fight that is far from over.
Nov. 6th, 2008 02:38 am (UTC)
What Barb said. All those who give support and their votes against, that's the best we can do. If anything, I should have done more in my state -- but I didn't, and there it is. The fight is just beginning, right?
Nov. 6th, 2008 02:37 am (UTC)
I wish there were something I could say to make it better, but the truth is, you're right. And I hate that people who share my sexuality and walk through life seeming more or less like me are such assholes and get to make decisions about things that should never be questions in the first place.
Nov. 6th, 2008 02:39 am (UTC)
On the other hand, though, Obama! I really am overall happy; I was just so gobsmacked by California (I always expect the best and so am often gobsmacked) I had to pour it out somewhere, and that's what LJ is for!
Nov. 8th, 2008 12:46 am (UTC)
Yes, having California take a step backward is dishearatening. ::hugs::

I'm hoping the ACLU will give it the smackdown in the courts.
Nov. 8th, 2008 03:13 am (UTC)
But it was SO close.

And if anyone can smack 'em around, it's the ACLU.
Nov. 6th, 2008 03:38 am (UTC)
Goddamn, that's good writing.
Nov. 6th, 2008 04:06 am (UTC)
Ah... *blush*
Nov. 6th, 2008 04:19 am (UTC)
I'm right there with you. Boy am I there with you.

However, one of the rays of hope for me was found while I was reading today. Of people under the age of 25 years of age who identify themselves as conservative evangelicals, 55% are in favor of gay marriage, and 60% feel abortion should remain legal. We know that history is on our side (as Elizabeth Edwards pointed out when her husband was still a candidate), but it's not just the future of the country as a whole, but even the future of the evangelicals...
Nov. 6th, 2008 01:16 pm (UTC)
I know that things DO move along and generally in "our" favor, but the backsliding always discourages me... (I really do need to be more of a pessimist initially; then my hopes would not be dashed so often... *g*) It's like, I know even the Catholic Church does make changes and apologize for being wrong. It just takes them centuries, sometimes.
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 6th, 2008 01:19 pm (UTC)
You know, I can't help but think that was part of why I was so crushed about it--because in the wake of the joy of seeing something so wonderful and affirming, to have this happen. I mean, I know intellectually that the black community is very religious and opposes gay marriage... but my heart just can't help but wonder WHY??? All the things you said about how one group who has experienced intolerance being able to sympathize with another's just rings so true. And yet!

But like I said to Nutty, I just needed to vent a little. I don't blame anyone I know. Everyone's been so supportive and so hard-working; if anything, I should have done a lot more here in my own state.

Now I pin my hopes on the ACLU (and I want to tell people about the million-dollar refund the State owes, too... *g*).
Nov. 6th, 2008 04:55 am (UTC)

I'm not a fighter by nature -- my interpersonal and intellectual talent is finding common ground and building consensus. Most of the time I think that's a good tactic for progressive change, especially in the classroom.

In terms of gay rights, though, I want to become a fighter. I want to write songs and sing them as I march down the street carrying signs. I want to change my habit of qualifying everything I say with "I think" -- hate is hate, wrong is wrong, and I want to call it like it is. I want to be like my younger cousin bluebombardier, who can rant in the CAPS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS like no one else I know.

Sexual orientation isn't a choice. But even if it were -- so what? We shouldn't persecute people for converting to a religion, or marrying a person of a different race, or wearing green, which are conscious choices by reasonable adults that DON'T HURT OTHER PEOPLE.

Things are going to change. They have to.
Nov. 6th, 2008 01:22 pm (UTC)
Well, I thought to myself, knowing my history, that eventually, no matter how loud the bigots scream, rights are MADE right in this country. Think how loud the shouting was when the Civil Liberties Act was passed -- that would have been voted down by "the people," but the government finally knew that right was right, and there was nothing else to be done about it. I'm hoping that will come to pass here; although it's going to be a long, hard fight!

I'd prefer the Ghandi methods, myself, but in some cases talk just doesn't do anything. People aren't just bigots; they like to crawl into their bigotry and wrap it around them like a cocoon, as though it keeps them safe at night, hating someone else.
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 8th, 2008 01:27 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Nov. 7th, 2008 10:11 pm (UTC)
Brilliant post!
I was directed here from OCICBW... and MadPriest. Utterly brilliant post. I just read the whole thing out to my hubby (because I know if I forward it to him he'll never get round to reading it).

As has already been said before, the fight is not over, this is just a minor setback. :-)
Nov. 8th, 2008 01:29 am (UTC)
Re: Brilliant post!
Thank you so much! I've geared up for the fight after going through my "five stages" here (in my "anger" stage I figured the State of California owed a combined $1,656,000 to the 18,000 gay couples who got married if they try to invalidate those marriages - I know it cost us $92 for the license, so am assuming the same for the rest of 'em!).

Nov. 8th, 2008 04:11 am (UTC)
This was a brilliant post
Thank you for this post -- it is excellent.

The Three Legged Stool blog
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