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Posts Tagged ‘Equality’

Faggot

My heart is broken.

Last month, six young men decided that death was preferable to being gay.  Two were only 13.  The oldest a mere 19.

I’m hearing a lot of talk about bullying and intolerance.  The focus is on their classmates and the institutions to which we entrust our children.

I’m glad.  But that is not the whole problem.

The real bullies are not on the playground.  They are not yelling the F word, but they have found a thousand other ways to make us hear it by word and deed.

I heard that awful word most every day of my life from sixth grade through college.  Prior to sixth grade I was called queer and sissy, but with puberty came that odious word.  I was beaten daily at the bus stop and on the bus.  I was harassed and tormented in school.  I was sexually assaulted by a group of boys in gym class in the eighth grade.

Such was my childhood.

As a grown man, I was once struck in the head in the first class compartment of a Delta Airlines flight into Columbia, South Carolina by a man who aiming that word at me.  Last Christmas guests leaving a neighbor’s party shouted that word at me and pelted me with eggs.  The F word is a big part of my life.

I’ve survived.  I’m old enough that I can embrace the word without serious injury.  I wave at people who yell it out their car window when passing through my oh-so-gay neighborhood.  The scar tissue has grown strong on that wound, opened so often, so very long ago.

I’m one of the lucky ones.  I lived through it.  I matured enough that I can endure the pain of US Senators, local politicians and the President himself, speaking of me as though I was some sort of subspecies.

I am thankful for the debate.  But, rising with the tide of change are the number of cruel and hateful things being said in the press by people who only know to hate me because I am gay.  Every hurtful thing they say about gay people, they say about me.  That’s how it feels.

When Prop H8 passed in my home state, it was hard for me to go out of the house.  Which of the people at the grocery store hated me so much that they thought this of me? More than half of the people at the movie theatre thought that I was not entitled to the same rights they would grant a convicted murderer. I will never feel safe in a Christian Church.

I have learned to live with never feeling safe or free.  I have endured never being young and in love.  I have come to accept that, as bad as this is, it is better than it was just a few years before I was old enough to understand who I was.

I have learned to find joy and take pride in this half-life that is all I am offered.

Six young men didn’t make it, last month.  Six children were exposed to the constant, casual bigotry of folks like Senator McCain and the tacit prejudice implicit in the Obama administration’s practiced inaction.  Six lives were ended before they’d begun when those boys were unable to see hope for a life worth living.  There is no difference between bullying and the hateful rhetoric that has risen in direct proportion to the tiny advances in civil rights for gay people.  Those media-amplified taunts are crushing to children.  They’re young but they know the code.  It’s all the F word.

Every time the President takes cover behind political expediency, I hear the F word being screamed.  There is no difference between overt and subtle bigotry.  Either you are for equal rights for all Americans, or you’re not.  We’re not just whining, we can tell the difference.  So can the children.

Asher Brown, from Texas, shot himself, he was only 13 years old.  Seth Walsh from California, also 13, hanged himself.  Billy Lucas a 15 year old High School Student from Indiana, also hanged himself.  Justin Aaberg, a 15 year old from Minnesota thought that hanging himself was his only solution.  Raymond Chase, a college student in Providence, Rhode Island hanged himself at 19.  And the hideous case of Tyler Clemente 18, a promising student at Rutgers tormented to death by those given permission by the overt hatred of lunatics like Tony Perkins of American Family Research and those hiding their evil behind Christianity and political self-righteousness.  And that’s just September.  And it’s probably not everybody.

The children are listening.

All of them.  Not just the straight ones.  The gay ones can hear us, too.  Our gay children are being plunged into despair in this growing, anti-gay atmosphere.  But we are also educating a new generation of bigots.  Nobody is born hating people for the color of their skin, or their faith or the politics they practice, or who they love.  You have to learn to be a bigot.

Being a gay kid is especially hard when you are young.  You don’t go home to a gay family or a gay neighborhood or a gay church.  You are more likely to go home to an anti-gay environment than a gay one.  It feels as though you are the only one.  The information all around is that who you are, down deep where no one can see, is the worst thing you can be.  You believe that you must keep it secret at all costs.  If you can get beaten just for being suspected of this “awful thing” how fearful would it be to tell the truth about yourself?  What if you really are the F word?

I would beg if I thought it would make any difference.  I would give up the fight if I thought it would help.

All I can do is what saved me.  I can live a life that offers hope to those children being beaten at the bus stop.  I can use the talents and abilities that I have to try to get word to those who I’ve never met that there is hope.  I can try to be the change I hope to see in the world.  I can appeal to those on both side who would use the issue of rights for gay American as a political ploy to activate the bigot vote — consider the cost to the only truly precious and irreplaceable resource that this country produces – our children.

We’re six short.

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The 11th

That awful anniversary is this Saturday.
I think the part that shook us the most was the realization that we were hated so very much. The act itself was so unspeakably cruel. But the dancing in the streets froze our blood, stopped our breath.
We are a good-natured people, for the most part. The whole “live and let live” thing underlies all that we believe. Though we periodically lose sight of it, as we have these nine years since, our true north is an unshakable belief in the best in each other, that our best is always yet to be.
Our spirit of optimism has been under attack for a while. Advertising took over politics in the early 80’s and, as any good ad man will tell you, the easiest thing to sell is fear. We have been fed a constant diet of fear by politicians too lazy or maybe just not bright enough to come up with any original ideas.
Be afraid of the poor, the foreign, gay people, straight people, black people, Hispanic people, country people, city people, immigrants, conservatives, liberals, your neighbors, your government. Be afraid. We’re told over and over, cause that’s how advertising works. “They are the problem. I am the solution. Vote for me.” Dirt can’t hide from new improved Tide. It’s all the same.
Be afraid.
The relentless message eroded our best sense of ourselves and our essential goodness. Our growing fear took away our belief that we were loved like spoiled children, adored in spite of our faults. So, when the planes hit the towers and the images of people delighting in our pain filled our televisions and our front pages, we were convinced.
For a moment, when it first happened, the world was filled with a shared sadness for our loss. Love poured in over our borders. But as we slammed our borders shut to protect ourselves, we also began to wall out the love and support of those who did not hate us. Aided by the craven, the greedy and the self-interested, we have been urged to believe that “they” are our enemies and that we must band together to protect our American dream. Even against each other.
I’m sure we have enemies. We use ¾ of everything in the whole world. That’s gotta produce some hard feelings.
But honestly, we are the world’s great experiment. We are a little bit of every country in the world. We are everyone. We are attempting to live everyone’s dreams. Maybe not the crassness or the hyper-consumption, but the ideas of freedom and tolerance and compassion, the notion that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights. Everyone, even the people who really do hate us, hope that’s true and in so doing, hope that we succeed. If it’s possible here, then maybe they too can live free.
The only way we can fail is to give up on those ideals. If we make Saturday a celebration of hatred, fear and intolerance, we have lost. Probably not the war, but certainly the battle.
I know how tough it is to believe in yourself when people keep telling you that you’re over, worthless, an abomination. I have lived through the fear that everyone hates me.
I’ve been gay in school in small towns in the south. I’ve been an artist in a world full of accountants. I’ve been over 50 in West Hollywood. I’ve been told by word, deed and law that “they” were my problem.
But my problem is me. If I go out into the world wearing my shit stole, I’m going to get a markedly different reaction than if I’ve got vanilla extract behind my ears. If I want to be loved, I have to be first in line. If I want to stop fearing people, I have to start treating them better.
If we want to stop being afraid of the world, we have to stop being afraid of each other. If we want to be loved, we have to behave like people we can love.
The good news is, this is an area where we already have a lot of experience.

The Prince’s Psalm and other books I’ve written are now available in all formats and platforms here: http://thedinnerpartyshow.com/albums/the-princes-psalm/

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Prop H8

The closing arguments in the Prop H8 federal trial will be heard today.

Proponents big argument is that gay people would not be good parents.  I can hardly believe that teaching hatred and intolerance is considered a good parenting skill.  And what about the gay kids? They can hear you, you know? Is this an example of how you would take care of children?

This is personal.  It hurts when people get up in court or congress or on the campaign trail and say mean, ugly, untrue things about me.  I can only imagine how deeply it hurts scared little gay children, hiding in plain sight with no one to tell or confide in.

Maybe that’s next.  First we tell people who they can marry and then we tell them who is allowed to have children.  I don’t really see much difference.

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