Friday, May 24, 2013

The Gay Thing: Living With Success and Setbacks

Back when I started this blog (almost 6 years ago now), I did a series of Behind the Blogger posts to introduce myself to whatever scant readership was around in those early days. I titled those segments in a similar way, The Politics Thing, The Religion Thing, The Writing Thing, The Debt Thing and ultimately The Gay Thing. I started the blog as an outlet for my frustrations during the second George W. Bush administration, not as a gay rights blog, neither primarily or even secondarily.

As the blog has evolved, and as news has more often been about The Gay Thing, there have been days--hell, sometimes whole weeks--where it seemed like this was full-on gay rights news blog. For some reason, I feel compelled to apologize for that, and explain it away with humor. This isn't due to some sort of lingering shame or self-loathing, it's just not the mission I set out for the blog. But maybe it should be.

My turn was 1996. A lifetime ago!
Or rather, maybe I should just allow the subject to be more front-and-center. Oh, I doubt things will change too much around here. In fact the extent of the changes are thus: the banner above has been created, and will be used for most stories with this subject. And I'm not apologizing or explaining the reason for the posts anymore. They are just part of the blog. I started making banners for different subjects a few years ago, and continue to add them when I recognize that I'm continuing on a theme. It's time The Gay Thing was it's own thing here at Greenlee Gazette.

Being gay in America has always had its challenges. I became an adult in a very scary era for gay people, the birth of the AIDS crisis. It kept me fairly monk-like in my behavior through much of the 1980s, which I can credit for a very lonely early 20s, and with potentially saving my life. I also never experienced the mass death of a circle of friends, because I was not in or of the community. I was unplugged, and am in some ways removed from my own generation.

But I was always clued in to any scrap of news, so it's not like I didn't know what was going on. And by the time I came out to the world at large at age 30, America was an easier place to be gay than at any earlier time. Sure, we were still used as a wedge issue, a scare tactic. Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) had only been law--by Bill Clinton of all people--for a couple of years. But friends and family were immediately (or almost immediately) accepting and supportive. It was practically painless.

Married for almost 5 years now, legally, though not in NV.
One reason that it is frustrating to have the topic of gay
marriage treated as a hypothetical. We've been getting
married for almost a decade now.
There was a dark time not long after that, for gay people across the country. There were rumblings of activity in Hawaii, where it appeared that gay marriage might become legal. In a panic--or in a shrewd fundraising/electoral move--the right wing went into heavy demonizing mode. In states across the country, they started passing preemptive laws and constitutional amendments that barred gay marriage. Often times, the laws were redundant, where marriage was already defined as "one man, one woman." Didn't matter, it was time to make a stand. The biggest move--again, by Bill Clinton--was the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The most head-scratching was the constitutional amendment in Nevada, home of the quickie marriage and quickie divorce.

All through this, the right maintained that it wasn't an anti-gay movement, no, no. They were merely "protecting marriage."  This focus-tested phrase came straight from groups with likewise focus-tested names, usually including the word "Family." But their motives have always been transparent. It doesn't take much effort to find a "traditional marriage" crusader's core motives, if you simply engage them in conversation. It's largely a fundamental inability for them to separate holy matrimony from civil marriage. And an inability to truly get them to acknowledge a separation of church and state.

A lot rests in SCOTUS's hands. Not scary at all. . .
But the tide has turned! The wave of anti-gay marriage measures seemed to not only recede, but race in the opposite direction. In April, we were up to 9 states plus the District of Columbia with full marriage equality. In this month alone, we've gained 3 more, with the possible inclusion of Illinois by month's end, plus very likely regaining California in June.

June is when the Supreme Court announces their rulings on DOMA and Proposition 8 (the referendum that rescinded same-sex marriage rights in California). Most SCOTUS followers believe we will get modest gains for marriage equality at the very least, with the possibility for a broader ruling. And this happens on my 5th wedding anniversary, which is very cool!

But any celebration is tempered by reality. In recent days, there have been reminders that gay people are not fully equal, or sometimes even safe in our own country. There's a teenaged girl whose girlfriend's parents conspired with police to arrest as soon as she turned 18, because the girl was dating their 15-year-old daughter, the motivation being that they didn't want their daughter to be gay. A Texas lesbian with a child by a previous marriage was ordered that she cannot reside with her partner and retain custody. There was a man shot in the head in New York City, killed just for being gay. There has been a rash of assaults in that city, all motivated by anti-gay animus.

A veritable anti-gay crime wave has hit NYC
Read about it here.
Gays are routinely viciously maligned on Twitter, Facebook, message boards, blogs, letters to the editor, and any other forum when a gay related issue is being discussed. "Good Christian" business owners are fighting for the right to refuse the sale of goods and services to gay people, because they "disagree with the lifestyle." Organizations like the "Family" ones mentioned above and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) exist solely or primarily to actively fight gay civil rights. The Boy Scouts--who, to their credit just decided to allow gay scouts to be members--won't allow gay leaders. Arguments on that subject (and many others) falsely equate homosexuality with pedophilia. And finally, gays were used as a weapon again by the GOP, who held the immigration reform bill hostage, so long as it allowed gay married bi-national couples to be covered under it.

In short (I know, too late), there are still many mountains to climb for full civil equality.  And while I haven't been silent by any stretch, I have been reserved, timid even, though less so lately. I'm going to stop shying away. This is my blog after all, and it isn't as if I have an enormous and dedicated following anyway. So, expect to see the subject covered without apology from now on. Thank you.

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