Friday, December 23, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

“Lions and tigers and bears, oh my.” That line from The Wizard of Oz is part of pop culture now. I am reminded of it and the vicious animals it mentions as I think of some of the candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination. Bachmann and Perry and Gingrich, oh my! Singsong it with me. Bachmann and Perry and Gingrich, oh my!!

Bachmann. She won’t respond to an 8-year old who says his lesbian mother doesn’t need fixing, but she’ll certainly cast an icy glare at said mother. She’s a coward, Mrs. Bachmann. Maybe the child’s mother shouldn’t have put him up to saying those words to Mrs. Bachmann. Maybe the child thought them up on his own. Who cares? The child spoke the truth to her. To him, the lesbian is nothing more than his mother. Bachmann and her husband call the Kinsey Report a myth. That’s their defense when asked to respond to the alleged fact that 10% of the population is gay. It seems to me that the Bachmann’s like to make feather-ruffling statements to goad liberal-public outrage. They then stand back and watch or walk away and watch. I’ve always wondered how gay people getting married affects heterosexual people. I mean lets face it, heterosexual people getting married doesn't affect me. Bachmann has been asked by a gay-friendly, heterosexual man what her issue is with gay marriage. She has been quoted saying, "Public schools would have to teach that homosexuality and same-sex marriage are normal, natural and that maybe children should try them." Bullshit! That’s like telling a heterosexual person to try homosexuality if they really think it’s a choice. All people, children included, she be taught that all people are equal no matter their color, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. Gay is not a disease. It can’t be cured. I’m not sick. To me, being gay is normal. I’ve been gay all my life. Maybe if children were taught that being gay is as normal for some as being straight is for others we wouldn’t have so much gay bashing and bullying in schools.

Perry. He seems to think the country was better off when gay people couldn’t serve openly in the military. He uses his religious beliefs as a basis for his comments. You see, he thinks being gay is a sin. Doesn’t religious teaching come from man? Isn’t it man’s interpretation of God’s word? My question is, why is it better for someone to risk their lives for the country, in time of war, hiding the truth of who they are? Doesn’t the real problem with the repeal of DADT have to do with the heterosexual people who are scared of homosexual people? Let’s be honest. There are straight men who think that every gay man wants to sleep with them. I’ve worked with one of those men in my life. While living in Nashville, Tennessee I had a manager who on my last day of employment wished me well in my new venture, but said he still didn’t want to shower with me. What a confusing statement to make. I’m sure my face registered some sort of shock as I said I didn’t want to shower with him either. He responded to me saying, “Yes, you do.” Truthfully, I didn’t want to shower with him. I didn’t want to sleep with him. (Perry thinks we gays should just abstain from sex.) I might have wanted to see him naked, I will admit that, but it was nothing I ever would have acted upon. I thought he was handsome, but I knew he was straight. I also knew he was uncomfortable with me being a gay man. Everything about that situation was his problem not mine. I never flirted with him. Not even accidentally. I was very aware of my surroundings and his homophobia. Is my desire to see a handsome man - gay or straight - naked any different from a straight man’s desire to see a beautiful woman naked? As for that abstention, maybe Mr. Perry should abstain. No, that would be silly wouldn’t it. Who am I to say that because we don’t have the same kind of sex that I think you’re wrong and should just bury your desires somewhere in the back of the closet you wish I would crawl back into?

Gingrich. He’s a heterosexual man against same-sex marriage who thinks the government should be defending DOMA even as his record stands at: marriage - 3, divorce - 2. He cheated on his first two wives. So much for the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. What makes his current wife think that his desire to "uphold personal fidelity to my spouse" is really going to work this time? Maybe he wasn’t listening to those vows about honoring until this third marriage. Gay marriages have as much likelihood as straight marriages at being successful. People cheat, both gay and straight. People stay faithful, both gay and straight. One of my best friends from college - a person who has been in my life through tears and laughter, ups and downs, loneliness and companionship - has been with his partner more than 10 years. They have been husband and husband for 7 years. They’re faithful and loving. It’s a gay marriage that’s working. Love is what should matter, not the plumbing of the two people exchanging rings.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if we could all just treat each other as equals? As people? Instead of the governing few spewing their rhetoric upon the masses and trying to make it law? What if we could just respect each other instead of living in fear. What will happen in this country if we elect leaders who want to do nothing more than stop the progress of human rights for all people?

I realize that I live in one of the most - maybe the most - liberal cities in the country. We all live together - gay, straight, bi, transgender - in the biggest melting pot of races and sexual orientations around. I’m here, a citizen of the United States of America. I’m not invisible. None of the aforementioned politicians represent me and none of them have my best interests at heart.

The fight for equality is going strong and that makes those opposed fight just as hard to block it. There’s a heightened sensitivity to any comment, look or gesture that might be misconstrued as prejudice. I’m very conflicted about that sensitivity. It’s a fine line between allowing the bullies to walk all over us and realizing there was no harmful intent. We need balance. When will the road even out? I don’t remember necessarily being offended when someone said, “That’s so gay” before it became such an issue. I’m not saying we shouldn’t stand up against the big things, but being sensitive to every inconsiderate, ignorant, button-pushing person out there makes us look like weaklings, like tattle-taling children. That’s an odd statement, I know, considering how strong the gay community truly is. My dad used to tell me to ignore the bully and he will eventually leave you alone. That’s easier said than done; I know that. Shouldn’t we start ignoring some of the slanderous verbiage so that those who spout it will realize they aren’t affecting us anymore and they will slink off to pick on someone else?

Gay people in the 21st century have gained enormous strides. We are stronger and more represented than ever. We have more support from the heterosexual community than I realized. What scares me is the unsupportive who listen to the bile spoken on a national platform from the lions and tigers and bears mentioned above. They would have us back in the closet, sitting quietly in a corner, averting our eyes in shame. They would have us be second class citizens, unworthy of human respect and protection. There is no closet. There is no shame. There is no hiding.

I may not be wearing a neon button proclaiming I’m gay to the world as I walk down the street, but I am tired of the sexual orientation prejudice that divides us as people and families. Love is inherent. Hate is taught. How about instead of teaching the children of today fear, lets teach them tolerance, acceptance and love. Let's teach them courage. Let’s teach them that it’s okay to be you and me. How about we teach them equal rights for all.