Sunday, October 24, 2010

It's Like We're Watching A Phoenix Rise Up From The Flames...

Something is unfolding in this country right now that is giving me tremendous hope. I should know better than to grow too hopeful by now, having been sorely disappointed too many times to bother remembering all of them, and being more than a little mercurial in temperament to begin with. But something is definitely going on, and regardless of how it plays out, you have to be made of stone not to notice it and be astonished at the reception it's been getting.

I'm talking about the sudden surge of support for gay teenagers in particular and gay people in general coming from other people all over the country. It almost seems like we've reached critical mass, and it's no longer a question of if we'll win the same equal rights everyone else has, but when. I've been saying, within ten to fifteen years, we'll have those rights, but deep down, I've had my doubts -- there are still millions of bloodless, backward-assed people in this country running around loose who yearn to have the entire LGBT community rounded up and exterminated, I reasoned, but they can't get away with that anymore and they know it, so they will grudgingly settle for making our lives as miserable as possible. It's people like them that have kept me from growing too hopeful about... well, about anything.

Then, one day, an 18-year-old college kid named Tyler Clementi jumped off of a bridge. I think that horrible tragedy was where this awakening, if I can call it that, began. It galls me to no end that this poor kid, and countless others, had to die before more people would wake the fuck up and start to acknowledge the incessant harassment, bullying, and demonizing we've had to put up with all our lives. It galls me because the only reason Tyler's suicide has gotten everyone's attention concerns the circumstances that led up to it: he was video streamed over the Internet having sex with another male, and he didn't know it at the time.

That bothered trainloads of people who normally wouldn't give a second thought to a news item about a gay kid killing himself or herself to escape constant torment. Why? Well, what would you do if you found out you were video streamed having sex with another person without your knowledge, much less your consent? Worse still, what if you were 18 and gay to boot?

Yeah. That's why trainloads of previously obtuse individuals suddenly give a fuck about us.

But amazingly, it didn't end there. Fort Worth, Texas Councilman Joel Burns seized on this uptick in support and delivered his own message of hope to gay teens. He took the crack in the ice Tyler made and turned it into a spreading spiderweb. Mr. Burns is a saint as far as I'm concerned, for getting the snowball rolling.

Then Dan Savage took that cue from Joel Burns and produced the It Gets Better Project. From there, the snowball started turning into an avalanche -- and I started thinking, wait, something is different this time.

Things are different. Have you visited Savage's site lately? He's a one-man wrecking crew when it comes to dealing with the bloodless and the obtuse these days -- and believe it or not, this hit is actually winning.

Check this progression out. A reader says this about Savage's frustration with Christians who are anything but Christ-like when it comes to gay people:

...As someone who loves the Lord and does not support gay marriage I can honestly say I was heartbroken to hear about the young man that took his own life after being humiliated by people who should have known better. I think you need to be aware of your own prejuduces and how they might play into your thinking. At best I think your comments were hypocritical.

If your message is that we should not judge people based on their sexual preferance, how do you justify judging entire groups of people for any other reason (including their faith)? There is no part of me that took any pleasure in what happened to that young man and I know for a fact that is true of many other people who disagree with your viewpoint. Please be aware that your words are powerful and people are listening to you...



Savage responded, appropriately, "Fuck your feelings, pal"...

Being told that they're sinful and that their love offends God, and being told that their relationships are unworthy of the civil right that is marriage (not the religious rite that some people use to solemnize their civil marriages), can eat away at the souls of gay kids. It makes them feel like they're not valued, that their lives are not worth living. And if one of your children is unlucky enough to be gay, the anti-gay bigotry you espouse makes them doubt that their parents truly love them—to say nothing of the gentle "savior" they've heard so much about, a gentle and loving father who will condemn them to hell for the sin of falling in love with the wrong person.

The children of people who see gay people as sinful or damaged or disordered and unworthy of full civil equality—even if those people strive to express their bigotry in the politest possible way (at least when they happen to be addressing a gay person)—learn to see gay people as sinful, damaged, disordered, and unworthy. And while there may not be any gay adults or couples where you live, or at your church, or at your workplace, I promise you that there are gay and lesbian children in your schools. You may only attack gays and lesbians at the ballot box, nice and impersonally, but your children have the option of attacking actual real gays and lesbians, in person, in real time.

Real gay and lesbian children. Not political abstractions, not "sinners." Real gay and lesbian children.


Game.

This prompted a response from a second reader...

...In my experience, the majority of Christians are apathetic or "tolerant" towards people of alternative sexualities. But there are certainly Christians who fully accept and believe that our society should be truly equal, just as there are those who truly hate anyone who differs from the norm. What I'm trying to say is that it really upsets me to see such a small minority being given so much power and attention, which just serves to widen the rift between gay people and Christians. Why not give some time and attention to the churches that welcome and love gay people? For someone who is gay and Christian (or any other religion with some element of anti-gay rhetoric,) I can't even imagine how heartbreaking it would be to feel you have to choose between two strong aspects of who you are. Wouldn't knowing that there are churches that believe that it's normal and okay to be both be more beneficial than reinforcing the need to choose?...


To which Savage replied...

...I'm sick of tolerant, accepting Christians whispering to me that "we're not all like that." If you want to change the growing perception that "good Christian" means "anti-gay"—a perception that is leading many people to stop identifying themselves as Christian because they don't want to be lumped in with the haters—stop whispering to me and start screaming at them. Until there are moderate and "welcoming" Christian groups that are just as big, well-funded, aggressive, and loud as the conservative Christian organizations, "welcoming" Christians are in no position to complain about the perception that all Christians are anti-gay. Your co-religionists have invested decades and millions of dollars in creating that perception. You let it happen...


Set.

Then a third reader chimed in -- and, basically, gave the game away...

...I'd love to get into a debate with you about this. I'd love to be able to argue that you're wrong. I'd love to lay out my proofs that the majority of Christians around the world are working our collective asses off to support and celebrate gays and lesbians and folk who are bi and transgendered... but I can't.

Because you're right.

That isn't to take away from the individuals, groups, congregations and denominations who do stand up—both in the world and with our "co-religionists"—and scream, "SIT DOWN, SHUT UP AND LISTEN, there is nothing wrong—nothing sinful—about being lesbian, gay, transgendered or bi." It isn't to take away from the Christians (like the United Church of Canada) who argued in front of the Supreme Court of Canada in favour of Same-Sex Marriage. It isn't to take away from Christians (of what ever sexuality) who are doing all they can to create places that are NOT simply tolerant, but celebratory. Because there are. And they are working their asses off, and putting their money and their life into that fight.

Sadly, I believe that a majority of Christians world-wide, here in Canada, and in your own country either tacitly or overtly support homophobia.

It hurts to recognize that. It hurts even more to know that our voice is always going to be drowned out by the majority of our Christian siblings. Because we don't have the numbers or the money to build the "moderate and 'welcoming' Christian groups that are just as big, well-funded, aggressive, and loud as the conservative Christian organizations..."

And, yeah, it hurts that people are going to be pissed off because we're not doing enough and others are going to be pissed off because we're doing anything at all...


Match. Period.

This is what I meant when I said I didn't care whether or not I got the same equal rights everyone else has. All I really want is for the stalking harassing, beating, and killing of gay people for being gay to stop. Yes, getting those same equal rights will go a long way in making that happen. But it's not the struggle for those rights that moves me.

It's the suicides. I've stood at the edge of that abyss and looked down. What I saw scared the shit out of me. The fact that far too many gay kids have looked into that same abyss and jumped anyway...

Man...

The bullying must be stopped. That's all there is to it. We're all human. We all deserve a chance -- even the neanderthals who habitually make our lives miserable.

It gets better. Believe me, it gets better...

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