Tuesday, February 02, 2010

If you are uncomfortable, don’t ask. If you are happy, do tell!

Ending the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the military is an idea whose time is long overdue. Obama has pledged to put an end to it, and there will be plenty of discussion today, when his top defense officials tell the Senate they won't be disciplining gay service members whose sexual orientation is revealed against their will.

So, you still can't tell. You still shouldn't ask. But if someone tells on you, you won't be kicked to the curve. Oh, that's much better. Isn't it?

Or is it? You come back to base after meeting with your lover, you're beaming with happiness and you tell that old story of boy meets girl. Boy loves girl. Boy and girl make love. Boy tell the story to a room full of boys (don't they always), girl tells the story to her best friend. Boy and girl write letters to each other to and fro a dusty corner of the Iraqi desert. If the players change, if boy meets boy or girl meets girl, the celebration of love becomes an infringement of the law. And this is the most inconsequential of the problems. Imagine to dream of a family, to be lucky enough to live in a civilized state that has legalized same-sex marriage, to learn that your partner just had a car accident and is in the ICU. All of these situations would jeopardize your career and your life opportunities, as if you were an untouchable, a pariah of sorts.

But, if a friend from your unit sees you in a bar kissing another boy and tells on you…Well, actually that may almost be a blessing, because you won't be penalized now, and, since everyone know, you can then openly keep a picture of your partner under your pillow.

To me, without a doubt the rights of gays and lesbians are a top civil rights issue of our time. Equality is only so if is equal. Freedom is only so if we are all free.

I couldn't help by laugh at Charles Cooper, the lawyer defending Proposition 8 in the California trial, when he judge Walker ask him "how it (same-sex marriage) would harm opposite-sex marriages." His answer was, one has to admit, more straight forward than we usually get from the anti-equality crowd: "Your Honor, my answer is: I don't know. I don't know." (Read A Risky Proposal)

As a black Latina, I am particularly hurt by the reaction of both of my communities to the fight for equality of the LBTG community. A good African American friend told me that some of the reaction may be from the history of black rape at the hands of white owners. Of course, this black rape was not limited to the violation of black women, but to the doubly traumatic experience of the rape of black men.

Before anyone screams, I don't mean the rape of women is not the most horrendous possible crime with indelible scars that are difficult to comprehend. But in a patriarchal society, a black man being rape carries the added burden of being reduced to the supposedly worst, lower thing you could be: a black woman. On top of that, black men had to witness the rape of their women. Needless to say, there sure are examples of white women sexually raping black women – beyond the regular violation of their whole beings that was the slavery system.

In that sense, maybe the black community is particularly sensitive to issues related to same-sex relationships. Of course, the messages from the pulpit play a role too. But, those messages also allowed for the HIV epidemic to wreck havoc in the black community, and the stigma to settle over it.

At this point, the discussion of choice or genetics should be just as outdated as the one about race as a biological entity. Does it really matter? Assuming it was a choice or a lifestyle, does society has a right to discriminate against a group of people because they chose to be gay? Can society discriminate against a group of people because they chose to be Christians, or Jewish, or have pets?

The tactics used to stimulate homophobia are the same they have used to instill the fear of the black man, and to despise the welfare queen. We have seen this in operation before. Why do we allow it to go on when is not against us? "Gay men will touch you in the showers." "They will make advances onto you." "They will turn our children gay." "They will teach it in the schools." "They will raise gay children." As with race, it does not matter how much science shows regarding the lack of factual support for any of it, prejudice remains. And prejudice (or its impact) can only be curtailed by action, affirmative action to actualize the equality we say to value so highly.

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