Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Finger-Pointing Must End

Struggle and oppression are nothing new to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) community. The gay rights movement has had its share of ups and downs over the past few centuries. At one point in time, two men or women who shared a romantic or sexual relationship were violating most state laws. If a person were to label him or herself as a homosexual, this person could be declared mentally insane. A man who dressed in women’s clothes because this is how he truly felt about his gender identity would have likely been arrested for violating his state’s cross-dressing ordinance.

But in 1962, Illinois became the first state to decriminalize homosexual acts between consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes. In 1973, homosexuality was removed from The American Psychiatric Association’s official list of mental disorders. Around the same time, cross-dressing ordinances began to lose their legal validity.

This year’s election was monumental, not only because we elected the first African American president, but because of the issues at stake. For the GLBT community, one of the most critical issues was quite justifiably Proposition 8. Earlier this summer, the proverbial closet door began opening in California, only slightly, to allow gay and lesbian couples to move forward into the world of equality.

But after the election and after Proposition 8 was passed, the closet door slammed shut, and the GLBT community once again has been forced to revel in a reality which consists of second-class citizenship and inequality. Gay and lesbian couples-many who have been together for longer than many heterosexual marriages even last- rushed to the alter after California began allowing same-sex marriage, but are now being told that the declarations of love and devotion they made in front of friends, family, and society at large, are no longer valid.

Let me just begin by saying that I am just as outraged that Proposition 8 passed as everyone else. If this is the way that America treats its citizens-all of its citizens –by granting rights to those who pass some ridiculous “normalcy” test and denying rights to those who just don’t correctly fit the mold-then I am no longer proud to be an American.

But regardless of how outraged we are as members and allies of the GLBT community, all of this finger-pointing has to end. Leaving flaming bags of blame on the doorsteps of our opponents is doing nothing to further our cause and is only pulling our society farther away from equality. We may know that Mormon churches dedicated millions of dollars to hinder opponents of Proposition 8. And we may even know that the African American vote contributed to some of its success.

Nevertheless, both sides have gone too far. The militant gay group, Bash Back, interrupted church services in Lansing, Michigan by pulling fire alarms and screaming things like “It’s okay to be gay” and “Jesus is a homo.” In other parts of the country, anti-Proposition 8 protesters have also resorted to similar strategies.

The way to defeat our opponents is definitely not to become them, using questionable morals and scare tactics to further our cause. Sure, these things may prove that the GLBT community is no longer willing to just sit back and continue being treated like the plague of society. In the long run, though, this will get us nowhere. Change and progress come slowly. The GLBT movement has faced challenges before, and the post-Proposition 8 world has already proven to be one of these challenges. The only thing we can really do is keep plugging away at our cause and show our opponents (nonviolently) that the GLBT community and its allies will not be forced back into the closet. Connecticut and Massachusetts have taken the lead in this struggle, and even though a great deal was lost in the passing of Proposition 8, there still exists a beacon of hope that some day in the near future, the GLBT community and its allies will finally secure the equality for which we have long battled.

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