Monday, April 12, 2004

To Know Me is to Love Me

I'm solidly convinced the way to get gay rights in America is to humanize ourselves. That doesn't mean "mainstream" ourselves - we should be who we are whether that is flamboyant, conservative, campy, quiet, partiers, 9 to 5ers, urban dwellers, country folk. I'm solidly against trying to Aberclone ourselves or fit into some preconceived notion of who we should be. Although I've made the point before, it was saddening to hear at a recent talk on gay marriage a student in the audience ask, "What's wrong with our community? Why do we fight and label ourselves? We call people circuit boys or ask in our personal ads for no fats or fems." We need to start accepting the diversity within our community if we are going to ask American society to accept us as a whole.

But I think the best way to fight any "isms" is to make ourself known, to let others we work and play with, let others in our families know that we are gay. If people can put a face to what they hate, it's harder to hate. Probably a gruesome analogy, in Silence of the Lambs, the senator whose daughter is kidnapped starts repeating her daughter's name "Kathryn" on a television ad. Jodie Foster's character comments on how smart that is because it makes the victim a person and not just an object. A similiar principle holds true here. If people can see that we're not freaks, or at least no more freakier than they are, then they are less likely to view us as such.

Another example comes from when I was a graduate hall director. One night I had a white freshman guy screaming racial slurs constantly and loudly in the middle of the hallway. One of the black residents on the floor, whom he knew, looked like he was on the verge of hitting the guy (and rightfully so). I pulled the white guy into a room and pointed out, "how do you think your screaming that word makes your friend feel?" His reply? "Well, he's different; he's not like the others." Okay, maybe the guy didn't quite get the point. But, he was at least beginning to see that not all black people fit into his tiny world view. His object of hate had a face that he couldn't hate or reject. As for extending his worldview, well it was nothing a good sledgehammer couldn't cure.

Being out also builds allies. They can help put a human face on what seems to be a ponderously huge metaphysical and legal entanglement. One of the smartest things I ever did was come out to my sister early on. My sister has been a wonderful supporter of me. She's never waivered in her devotion. She has actively advocated for me and gay rights. She is the inspiriation for this particular entry. A photographer, she recently did a photo project on gay marriage for one of her college classes. One particular student was being fairly aggressive and provocative and asked her, apparently spoiling for a good debate, "well, why did you choose gay marriage?" My sister simply stated, "because my brother is gay and I think he should have the right to marry just like I do." Her questioner immediately shut up with an "oh."

It's hard to argue with love.

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