When I look back over the news this week, one thing jumps out at me: the number of stories involving anti-gay violence. Was it just weeks ago that we were protesting LIFEbeat’s decision to headline a concert with acts who advocated anti-gay violence and murder in their music? Was it just a few weeks ago that some of us were listening to arguments that anti-gay violence wasn’t a real or significant problem, and that we were all making a big deal of out almost nothing?
It’s hard to address, or engage many people in discussing the underlying cultural values that are the foundation for these attacks. How does someone get to the point at which they see another person as undeserving of humane treatment? How does someone absorb the idea that another person is an acceptable target for violence because of who they are? Who’s responsible for reinforcing a culture in which those values are readily absorbed? Who silently (or not) stands behind the attackers? Who tacitly approves? I’ll confess right now that I have more questions than answers.
- I’m talking about stuff like the gay man in New Mexico who was brutalized and tortured for hours (kicked, stomped, beaten, etc.) by three attackers who taunted him because of his sexual orientation.
- I’m talking about stuff like the five separate attacks on six men at San Diego’s gay pride festival, that left one victim with a fractured skull and another in need of a tracheotomy to help him breath.
- I’m talking about stuff like the teenagers who yelled anti-gay epithets when they attacked a San Diego security guard, and were arrested when they came back for more.
- I’m talking about stuff like the anti-gay attack and shooting that happened during Detroit’s black gay pride celebration.
- I’m talking about stuff like the lesbian couple in Maine who’s house was vandalized by teenagers who had harassed them for months. The teens scrawled anti-gay slogans on the walls, urinated on the walls, defecated on the bathroom floor, and destroyed pretty much everything the couple had, including their car and a box containing the ashes of one woman’s deceased father.
- I’m talking about stuff like the gay bars that were torched in Texas and Arkansas, and the gay-supportive UCC church that was vandalized in Virginia.
- I’m talking about a whole town turning against a family — including death threats, comparisons to Nazis, and attempts to run them out of business — just for flying a rainbow flag. The family is straight, by the way, and the flag is a gift from their son; their dead son, who gave it to them after a visit to a Wizard of Oz museum. The flag has since been cut down by anonymous members of the community.
- Unless you lived in the areas where they happened, chances are you didn’t hear about those outrages. You probably heard about Mel Gibson’s tequila-driven, anti-semitic meltdown. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, if you ask me, given his anti-gay tirades of old. Since when have you know a bigot to be biased against just one group?
- Scratch an anti-semite, and you’ll probably find a homophobe, a racist, a sexist, or some combination of them all, as RichardR points out in a diary that encompasses the Gibson debacle and the Israel-Lebanon situation.
- But can we even call Gibson a bigot? If his derision of gay people is based in his faith, does that give him an out? If you take someone to task for political opinions based in faith, do you risk being called an anti-religious bigot? Or can you counter with a different understanding of their faith as Firebird did in her diary?
- For that matter, what do you call a Georgia Attorney General candidate who suggests gay/straight student clubs are “Future Pedophiles of America” clubs?
- What do you call a conservative organizer who claims that gays have sex with infants?
- What if, as dysfunctionalgadfly points out in surveying the Christian Coalitions checklist for Georgia judges, their supposedly faith-based political positions appear to have little in common with the professed faith?
- And how do you defend the progressive values like the ones VLWC Member points out — separation of church and state in all matters pertaining to relationships, households, and families; access to government support programs regardless of marital or citizenship status; and lobbying efforts to prevent state regulations from adversely affecting individuals’ “sexual lives and gender choices, identities, and expression” — that the other side claims are anti-faith?
- There’s also guyermo’s response in the form of a letter to the editor, upon discovering a former physics teacher is opposed to same sex marriage and believes sex is only for procreation.
- How do you respond to people like the one’s sick of it all mentioned, who honestly believe that gay people are the real bigots for seeking marriage equality.
- What is the proper response to bashing? On an individual or a community level? Is it right to give back as good as you believe you’ve gotten?
- How do you respond to black christians who say that leaders should put gay issues on the back burner and focus on minority issues instead? (Did they mean to say “real minority issues”?)
- How do you address people who, as RichardR points out on his own blog, can’t seem to exist without someone to demonize? How about a whole culture?
- How do you begin to change a society that looks at acts of violence like those mentioned above, and is still capable of blaming the victim? How do you convince yourself it isn’t already too far gone?
- Maybe you take into account some of the positive things that are still happening. Like the South Dakota poll pointed out by SouthDakotaBlue, which shows nearly half (49%) of those polled rejecting the proposed state constitutional amendment which would ban same-sex marriage, domestic partnerships, civil unions, and “quasi-marital relationships.” In a state like South Dakota, 49% showing is some kind of victory.
- Maybe there’s hope in the Archdiocese of San Francisco finding ways to help gay adoption, despite the Vatican declaring that Catholic Charities could no longer facilitate gay adoptions. Maybe there’s hope in the Archdiocese even wanting to find a way to help same-sex couples adopt.
- Maybe there’s hope in a mainstream christian denomination, as Firebird notes, narrowly rejects a measure that could have blocked gay ordinations. Even a narrow victory shouldn’t be discounted, particularly given mostly positive reception Firebird reports getting as an out gay member of the denomination.
- Maybe there’s hope in Florida Democrats reaching out to gay voters, rather than running from them.
- Maybe there’s hope in Wisconsin’s labor unions joining the fight against an amendment to ban same-sex marriages and civil unions.
- Maybe there’s hope in a formerly anti-gay minister, who even once ran an ex-gay ministry, having a change of heart through encountering gay members of his church. This is the same minister who officiated at the wedding of a gay couple I mentioned earlier, one of whom is now deceased. He lost his church partially over that, but it hasn’t dimmed his degree of support support.
- Maybe there’s hope in couples like Ray Vahey and Richard Taylor, together for 49 years before Richard’s recent death at the age of 89, coming forward to testify against an anti-gay marriage amendment. There’s hope in their courage and their commitment.
- Maybe there’s hope in couples like Joe Melillo and Pat Lagon, whom raatz points out were one of the couples who sued the state of Hawaii to obtain marriage licenses, and who were together for 30 years until Joe’s recent death due to throat cancer at the age of 59.
- Maybe there’s hope in recent polling that shows 53% of Americans support legal arrangements that allow same-sex couples many of the same rights as married couples. (How many? Doesn’t say.)
Or maybe I’m particularly looking for hope because today was one of those days that my family was on my mind. We’re in the process of finishing our paperwork for our second adoption. This morning the hubby, Parker and I recorded our video profile for our adoption file. It’s one of the last hoops we have to jump through, along with wrapping up our home study, before we go on the waiting list for another baby until another set of birth parents chooses us. So I guess I find myself looking at all of the above, wondering what it means for my family, and trying to find hope.
I found a bit of it today when we went to see our videographer. He’s the same videographer who did our video profile for Parker’s adoption, so it was particularly nice to be able to go back there with Parker. We didn’t have any problems with him for our first profile, so I didn’t go in expecting any, but I was moved by the response when we arrived. This time, the videographer’s wife and daughters were there, and what struck me about the hole family is how unfazed they were by two gay men adopting a child. They all seemed genuine happy for us and happy to be helping us. His wife practically beamed when we told her the story of Parker’s adoption, and the daughters had fun playing with Parker while the hubby and I finished the part of the taping without Parker. It was just so, not strange.
Of course we consciously chose to live in a progressive community where our family was likely to be accepted. So, it’s not a surprise. But right now I think I’ll take hope from wherever I can find it.
(Note: If you want to be notified of future QueerlyKos postings via email, drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org with “QueerlyKos” in the subject line.)