Tuesday, April 14, 2015
L is for LGBT
I am sure to have not been the only person to notice that when trying to have an intelligent discussion with a fanatic in the Tea Party, no factual information or historic references are necessary as they will only be dismissed or countered with an insistence that you are lying. They have been well conditioned for these arguments. They literally have a talking point for every single topic. I wonder if they do anything other than watch Fox while listening to the radio while trolling on the internet. It must be exhausting.
Sunday when Secretary Clinton announced her candidacy for President the trolls were out in full force. They had nothing intelligent to offer. They had a lot of 'facts' that were out of this world untrue. They left you to wonder if these people could be legally institutionalized. I'm not being mean. I have plenty of mental illness issues of my own, but I don't think a simple conversation with anyone would leave them questioning my capacity to exist in this world unattended.
They had a myriad of memes just ready to pounce. They hit every topic possible. The one that made me take pause, however, was about marriage equality. The meme was a picture and a quote from her Senate campaign in 2000. She said that marriage should be between a man and a woman. At first I was upset to see that she had said that. I then figured that it was 15 years ago. I have changed my ideas or formed opinions about different things based on life experiences. I honestly don't think I even knew that gay marriage was a question back then. Or if I did, it was something I had just heard about.
I managed to grow up not knowing what gay meant. In movies or television when we had gay characters, it all went over my head. Toward the end of my senior year of high school I was over at one of my best friends house and I met his older sister who had moved home with her girlfriend. She was a girl, that was weird. The thing that stuck with me, though, was that she and her girlfriend were living in the basement and I was made to understand that she was a secret and there seemed to have been shame around it. It was different to me that she had a girlfriend but it didn't make me think she was a bad person. She was really nice. Her girlfriend seemed nice, too, but the only real impression I left from having met her was that she was very shy. When I went home I couldn't stop thinking about them. I was really sad for them because they were supposed to be a secret their family was determined to keep. I felt so bad. I couldn't imagine that my family would want to keep me a secret from anyone. I can't explain it but I am often empathetic to a level that doesn't even make sense. It physically pained me.
I still don't remember having understood "gay" after then. I guess I didn't put the two things together yet. I know this sounds like absolute bullshit, but it's true. As proof of my naiveté, I was well into my 20s and even 30s when I understood the lyrics to Prince's songs. And just a couple of months ago I heard "One Night in Bangkok," on the oldies station and giggled in traffic at the idea of any horror my father must have experienced at my singing it around the house. I literally figured out the lyrics at 42. Anyway, I was naïve about what it meant to be gay at the age of 18 after having just met a lesbian couple. I just didn't care, I guess. I have always been the type of person to judge others on whether or not they're assholes. If someone is mean to me or someone I care about, I quickly attack, it is a very ugly defense mechanism. But I would never consider judging someone for something about themselves that was different that me.
I was in college when I learned that there was a "gay lifestyle." I saw a movie called, "And the Band Played On." It broke my heart for so many reasons. It was an incredible movie documenting the beginning of the AIDS epidemic and it depicted the extreme prejudices it's victims endured. I suppose that's why I never cared or thought much about what gay meant. I really came to understand it in the moment I learned of the discrimination the LGBT community experience(d). It was a section of society that people just hated for being themselves. It was infuriating. I later met and came to know people who were gay or lesbian. Some were lovely people and I liked them and considered them friends. And some I didn't like at all, solely based on the fact that I didn't like them for being rude or selfish or some personality trait I find intolerable. Who they dated was irrelevant to me.
As I started to make friends in school or work it never occurred to me that they were never married until I heard about it in political debates, then a light bulb went off, "Huh. Yeah. Why shouldn't they be allowed to be married?" Being agnostic I was quickly able to dismiss anyone who cited religion. We are a country where chuch and state are separate. You can't create laws based on your interpretation of your religion. I was genuinely disappointed in my party when they denounced marriage equality. I was so proud to be a liberal and my heart ached for every American who would hear that message and believe that no one was going to represent their interests or care for them as human beings. I hoped that they were saying it because they didn't want to lose votes, but it didn't make me feel better.
Marriage equality seems to have moved rapidly in societal acceptance. It is really beautiful. We are, obviously, not there yet. However, the fact that when assholes in Indiana or Arkansas try to create laws to discriminate, they are passionately torn down by their constituency in a way they had not anticipated. So many Americans are complacent and don't pay attention that politicians can get away with a lot. But this hit a nerve to so many that everyone spoke out and demanded a change. We are getting there. I know that by the time my grandbabies are in high school they will learn about the history of the LGBT movement and it will sound like something that happened centuries ago.
Last year when the little girl in Ohio killed herself by stepping in front of a semi truck because she was not accepted for being transgender, I literally held myself and bawled on the couch. The pain that she must have felt to determine that was her best option is unimaginable. The beauty of her life (tragically because she had to leave it for us to hear her) was the fact that the love America felt for her began a movement to create a law making it illegal for a child to be submitted to conversion therapy. David Axelrod, former political aide to President Obama, said that the President misled the people when he ran for the office in 2008. The President said that he did not support marriage equality, but that he really did. He was afraid that his constituency would not accept that and would cost him votes. I was again disappointed to hear that. But I understood it again, too. President Obama announced publicly last week that he supports the law banning conversion therapy. That is where the pulse of America has moved in seven years. I feel concern for every person who had to live in a world where that condemnation came from their President. I do not dismiss that at all. But I am glad to see that the movement is really going a lot quicker than I would have ever expected it to.
There are many facets of sitting comfortably on the left that I am proud of, but our capacity for evolution is, in my mind, our greatest strength. It is easy and obvious to point out the failures on the right and say they want to take our society back in time. This is true, to be sure. But the reason for that is their inability to evolve. They cannot learn a lesson. They cannot have an emotional or intellectual revelation that will move their party into accepting another position on an issue that would be closer to tolerance, let alone acceptance. At the core of those on the right is an ugly ego that needs to have power. To maintain that power, the collective ego needs to have others to see as inferior. It took me a long time to realize that. Sometimes I wish I had never figured it out. It is so sad to understand that a drive like that can be so pervasive as to deliberately condemn my country and its citizens to inequality. It is the responsibility of those of us with conscience and love to continue to move our country forward.