This last week a blog post by Kergan Edwards-Stout went viral. It was a very simple but direct statement, actually: If you plan to vote for Romney and rob LGBT people of rights and dignity, defriend me. Like me, Kergan is a gay dad, and I think we tend to run on the same blogging biorhythm. A month or so ago he beat me to the punch with a well-written open letter to Rupert Everett just as I had written a piece with a similar sensibility. The two were so aligned that when I read his piece, I found myself thinking, "Wait, I haven't posted this yet...."
I am following his biorhythm again, as are thousands and thousands of LGBT people. Max von Essen made a similar appeal. The point is simple, and it is not new, and it is not even unique to us. It is the point that Peter Finch made in the movie Network: "We are human beings, God damn it! Our lives have value! We are mad as hell, and we are not going to take this anymore!"
Why are we mad? Because for too long LGBT people in our society have been stripped of simple dignity and decency. We have been denied all the things that we are supposed to deserve in a country based on "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The extent to which we LGBT people can enjoy those three overriding rights pales in comparison to the extent to which our heterosexual compatriots enjoy them.
In case you don't believe me, I have compiled a little list of the 10 biggest indignities committed against LGBT people. Not included on this list are the battles we have been and are fighting. What we're fighting for aren't decencies; they are rights. The fact that we have to fight for them is in itself an indignity. I am not going to put that on this list, however. You can have that one as the "starter indignity." Also not on this list is the war on LGBT people as enacted by the Republican Party this past year. That particular attack includes (but is not limited to) heinous bullying by Rick Santorum, the ex-gay therapy practices of Michelle Bachmann's husband, cocky anti-gay ads by Rick Perry, Mitt Romney's attack on the children of gay families, the completely unforgivable silence of the whole dais of Republican presidential candidates when gay soldier Steve Snyder-Hill was booed by an audience of Republicans and the gay-civil-rights-attacking Republican Party Platform.
So here they are, the 10 biggest indignities committed against LGBT people, in my opinion, arranged from from least to most heinous:
10. We are defined by some people not as human but as sex acts. This is why the term "homosexual" is so grating. It is often pronounced "homosexual" to really emphasize the concept that gay people are all about sex. Stripped from the perception of us is the fact that we love, feel romantic and want to partner and bond as much as any heterosexual. We are people, not sex acts.
9. We are prevented from due process and the ability to defend ourselves. Our rights are voted upon and used as pawns by Republican strategists; therefore, we do not get forums to stand up and defend our lives and our dignity. Early in this millennium the aggressive Republican attack moved like a juggernaut in rural states, where there was no voice for LGBT rights, stripping defenseless LGBT people of rights they had not even started to get assertive about.
8. Our relationships and futures are in constant uncertainty. Romney seems intent on stripping LGBT families of the "benefit" of visiting each other in hospitals. North Carolina stripped LGBT families of the means to build familial foundations and legally protect themselves. Republicans threaten to amend the U.S. Constitution and thus invalidate a hundred thousand marriages, and to force gay servicemen and servicewomen back into the closet. LGBT people face a tenuousness in life that no heterosexual can really imagine.
7. We are not allowed to speak for ourselves. Well, we are, but no one but us listens. In order for LGBT people's case to be heard, it has to be presented by a straight celebrity or ally. Witness the pro-gay-marriage ads without gay people in them. Witness the commotion surrounding the straight man who pretended to be gay for a year (even "coming out" to his family and friends) to find out what our struggles our like. (Gay people come out every day without commotion.) Witness gay celebrities who become spokespeople just after coming out because they still carry the public-relations benefit of having been perceived as straight very recently (and the longer they are out, that credibility starts to wane). We are people with lives, not people defined by a "lifestyle." If you want to know about our lives, ask us, not someone else.
6. Our families are allowed to be demonized or subjected to their own versions of "don't ask, don't tell." What is the biggest argument against same-sex marriage in state campaigns? That children will have to be educated about LGBT families. And here is the worst part about that argument: The pro-marriage side's answer to that is, "Oh, no, that isn't true." Like hell it isn't. The real answer should be, "We are a society, and there are different families in society, and your children need to both recognize that and accept it." My sons have a gay dad. We should not feel like we have to hide that fact from the other kids in their kindergarten class. Do those kids need to have sex education? Of course not. They seemed to get the concept of Cinderella and the prince being heterosexual without knowing what happened on their wedding night. Our children should not be silenced regarding the makeup of their family.
5. Our families may not move. Marriage inequality puts us under house arrest by state. Heterosexuals can move from Boston to Salt Lake City without a thought. Gay families have to research the legalities, protections and vulnerabilities of moving across states lines. We are not free.
4. We do not have the protections that allow us to die with dignity. The Westboro Baptist Church has declared war on gay funerals, and have for almost two decades. In the big picture, this has actually helped awareness of how awful the hate community is toward LGBT people. Their atrocious behavior toward the dignity of LGBT people was not getting enough attention, however, so they changed strategy and went after fallen military heroes. The attention worked, and now there is legislation in the works to prevent protests at military funerals. That is good. Those events deserve dignity and protection. So do gay people who have passed away. Where are the laws protecting the dignity of our funerals?
3. We are denied our religious freedom. Marriage has been denied gay people for one reason only: Major religions are against it. Period. There are many that are not against it, however, and those religions are ignored and gutted of power. Those who enjoy religious freedom in this country are those who are in religions with money. Our spiritual and religious beliefs should be allowed to run our lives freely and without hindrance from another person's religion, no matter how well-funded that other religion may be.
2. Our lives are allowed to be characterized as a violations of others' "religious freedom." Speaking of religious freedom, when has any group in recent history been allowed to be characterized as a threat to religious freedom? There are religions who believe women to be inferior, but they are not permitted to strip away hiring protections for women. We are people. We are not violations of anything. The fact that anyone entertains that notion for even a moment is horrendous. LGBT people's rights are not "values issues"; they are "civil liberty issues" and deserve to be regarded as such.
1. Our very existence is questioned. There is a prevalent point of view in the anti-gay and hate community that LGBT people simply do not exist. To me, this is the most basic and the most obvious violation of the decency of LGBT people. Gallup just did a dubious poll that found that 3.4 percent of the U.S. population admits to being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (they stated that 3.4 percent are LGBT, but we know that the closet and fear make that number a minimum). Even those who know we exist feel the need to ask, "Why? Are they born that way? Is it nurture or nature? Is it a choice?" It is beyond me why the dignified path to getting an answer is not followed. If you want to know whether a person was "born" a certain way, ask them. Don't ask a scientist. Don't ask a preacher. Ask them. In most cases, the person will have a pretty good sense of the situation and will most likely tell you the truth. Better yet, don't ask at all; accept people for who they tell you they are.
There they are, the 10 biggest indignities that LGBT people are asked to endure, in my opinion. Some of us are getting mad that we are asked to endure them. It is my hope that we get madder still. As mad as hell.