For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been ranting about the closet and those who chose its alleged safety for the sake of preserving political power (and perhaps personal privacy), and I’ve been raving about the possibilities for change that lie beyond the closet door. Well, this week was one that uncovered the risks of opening that door as well. But not in a way that even begins to cast a closets of Capitol Hill in a sympathetic light, because of the stories of two black gay men who had neither wealth now power to protect — but perhaps even more to lose — but came out anyway.
I was writing last week’s round-up when I heard about the death of Michael Sandy, after a gay bashing left him on life support. Black gay organizations rallied in New York on Monday. Keith spoke at the rally, and posted a memorial to Michael on his blog. On the heels of Michael Sandy’s death came news that Tyrone Garner, a plaintiff in Lawrence v. Texas, remained unburied 37 days after his death due to lack of funds for his funeral. It seems, still, that simply being out and daring to take a stand doesn’t defend against death or guarantee dignity. But merely the honor of having lived your truth.
- Jasmyne, justifiably, went off over the fact that LAMBDA, with a $10.5 million dollar budget, had somehow let things get far enough that Garner was about to get a pauper’s burial before acting. That is, “within hours” of getting the news of what was going to happen to one of the plaintiffs in what was arguably it’s most famous case.
- Finally employees from Lambda and the National Black Justice Coalition stepped in to make up any remaining costs to ensure Garner’s ashes would at least be handled with dignity.
For me, Michael Sandy’s death and Tyrone Garner’s treatment in death came together as a kind of statement about where I stand as a black gay man myself. As Jasmyne wrote in her EUR column, “It could have been you, it could have been me,” and it would have been met with the same lack of outrage from , save for the same few lone black gay voices. For Matthew Sheppard, the world stopped. For Michael Sandy?
There are, as this article says, no flowers at the site where Michael Sandy was murdered. There will probably be no plays written, and no HBO Original Movie filmed. There’s a better than average chance that the story will get the usual “ripped from the headlines treatment on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, as was apparently the case with the Kevin Aviance gay bashing.
- And Keith notes that the strongest objections to the Philadelphia school district’s observation of Gay and Lesbian History Month came from black parents who declared gay history a “part of a white racist agenda” and called for segregated schools to protect their kids from the gay kids. (Because, of course, none of their kids are the gay kids.) Michael Hinson, LGBT liaison to the Philadelphia Mayor’s office.
The same week that Michael Sandy dies and Tyrone Garner is dishonored in death, Wellington Boon accuses gay rights advocates of raping “his” movement, as though people like Sandy and Garner — or Bayard Rustin and James Baldwin for that matter — never existed or don’t have a much claim to the heritage of the civil rights movement as he claims to.
And in the same week that we learned about Tyrone Garner’s shameful posthumous treatment, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia — one of the dissenters in Lawrence v. Texas, in which Garner was a plaintiff — says same-sex activity should be illegal.
Of course, Scalia knows what every LGBT activist knows. If same-sex activity can be criminalized, than discrimination against LGBT persons is legitimized. So people like the North Carolina candidates Pam notes can repeal non-discrimination laws more easily, because if same-sex activity is illegal then those who practice are criminal.
- It means that LGBT employees can be discriminated against; denied jobs of fired from jobs because of their sexual orientation and not their abilities, as happened to a lesbian security guard at a Catholic school. She worked there for four years, though the school officials new she was gay, and was only fire when she penned an autobiography or publication.
- And given how many conservatives are opposed to measures barring anti-gay harassment, it would mean people like Michael Salvi would have difficulty making a case of anti-gay harassment on the job. Salvi was just awarded $640,000 for anti-gay harassment on job.
It means that LGBT business owners can be discriminated against, as Howard Daniel (a black gay man) was in Virginias’ Manassas County when he applied for a business license to operate a home-based massage therapy business in the home he shared with his partner of 22 years. Two other such business applications have been approved, but in Daniels case members of a local Catholic church (who don’t live in his neighborhood) protested and the county council ended up changing the city’s zoning laws to keep Daniel from opening his business. Daniel has received threats that his home will be picketed if his business opens. But probably not by his neighbors, since some of them spoke out it support of his application.
Yet conservatives like Michael Reagan claim that conservatives don’t hate gays, they just oppose the “radical gay agenda.” They don’t hate us. They just want us to be discriminated against. Or is it that they just don’t want us not to be discriminated against.
- Of course, he goes on to say that just as conservatives oppose the “radical gay agenda,” so do many gays themselves. Maybe I’m reading too much into this as a black gay man, but it sounds like the old “Our nigras are happy. Or they were until them outside agitators got ’em riled up.”
Reagan’s comments were echoed by “ex-gay activist” Alan Chambers who claims that most gay are “mortified” by gay activism. That leaves one to question how much an “ex-gay” would know about what most non-“ex-gays” think about anything, unless eh was spending an awful lot of time with them. This the same Chambers who urged conservatives to “stand up for gay people” when they hear “insensitive remarks” or “unkind words” said about gay people, but who also sat quietly while Wilson Boone did just that at “Liberty Sunday,” and who left left Boone’s comments unaddressed though he spoke shortly after Boone.
Chambers, however, has a dubious record when it comes to honesty. Just a few months ago he misrepresented data from a study on domestic violence in same-sex couples. Never-mind out many of the folks in the study were assaulted by their former opposite-sex partners.
- Chambers isn’t even as honest as some of his fellow “ex-gay” boosters. I’ve noted before that a number of “ex-gay” ministries are abandoning their efforts to change sexual orientation, and instead encouraging gay to “live chaste lives.” Some are even considering retiring the “ex-gay” label itself. But in his new book Chambers closes even that door, suggesting that even a celibate gay life is “sinful”. So either he doesn’t know that “reparative therapy” has a surprisingly low conversion rate, or he doesn’t care. Or both.
- But don’t take it from me. Take it from the former “ex-gay,” in an article that says “You can’t make a fish fly, but you can chuck them across the room and make them think, for just a little while, that they can.
That level of deception merely puts Chambers on par with certain wannabe presidential candidates who claim same-sex marriage is a danger to children, despite a new wave of research suggesting that children of same-sex parents fare as well as other kids developmentally. The article in the Wisconsin State Journal even goes so far as to say these kids may do better because they were undoubtedly wanted, since gay couples tend not to have “accidental” pregnancies, and have to go to great lengths (and jump through a lot of flaming hoops) to become parents via adoption of IVF.
- Of course, we’re talking about people divorced enough to think that being gay is “the root cause of AIDS,despite evidence to the contrary.
- Wisconsin has its hands full though, not only is it facing a vote on an anti-gay marriage amendment, but it’s also facing a growth in the population of gay couples. Let’s hope they’re all registered to vote and they all have a ride to the polls.
- And wclathe [DK] brings news that the pro-con gap for the Wisconsin amendment is narrowing, and there’s even been an increase in opposition to Virginia’s amendment.
Our kids, according to some of these people would be better off in single parent homes or in foster care than in home with two loving parents of the same sex. Maybe they don’t hate us. Maybe they just hate our kids.
And if they don’t hate our kids, they they at least hate gay kids enough to not prevent gay teen suicide.
But to get back to Scalia, criminalize same-sex activity and you put the kibosh on most gay families, because the criminalization of their relationships would be enough to deny them access to adoption or IVF. It might eve be used to take their children away, as happened to Sharon Bottoms who lost custody of her son back in days before Lawrence v. Texas, because Virginia’s sodomy laws defined her as a “habitual felon”.
- If they don’t hate us and our families, why are they working overtime in Oklahoma to restore a law that prohibited recognition of adoptions by same-sex couples in the state, or from other states? Imagine for a moment that crossing state lines means your child is not your child, and you have no legal rights as a parent in that state?
Families like the couples raising twin girls, that Chris Crain writes about and Mombian writes about wouldn’t exist. Couples like the older one that Gay Patriot write about might exist, but would have little to no legal rights as they approach old age together; no legal right to hospital visitation or to make medical decisions for one another, no legal right to inherit one another’s pensions, no legal right to make funeral arrangements, no inheritance rights, and none of the protections that support married heterosexuals through illness and other trials.
- And consider how the above affect the 3 to 4 million gay seniors, some of whom are in relationships that lack the basic rights and protections that help older married couples.
- Not to mention Randall Rex in Colorado, who had to rely on a birthday card in lieu of a will, because he doesn’t have inheritance rights in the absence of a will. What if he didn’t have the card?
- They even hate unmarried heterosexuals enough to undermine domestic violence laws.
- As pdq and John Campanelli [DK] points out, they hate us enough that the mere acknowledgment of our relationship inspires fits of apoplexy.
- The Termite [DK] gives us an up close and personal view of just what that looks like.
- Keechi [DK] clues us in that they’re rolling out the anti-gay robo-calls in Texas, to use Massachusetts and corporate nondiscrimination and domestic partnership policies to scare the base between now and November.
- Take all that in, and then consider that Texas cities have a high number of gay couples with kids.
- And pat of butter [DK] points out that they’re working to get candidates to sign a “Marriage Protection Pledge.”
- So when it comes to closeted gay Republicans working for politicians that advocate the kind of stuff mentioned above, I can understand Andrew Sullivan when he says “The victims are gay people – flawed, fallible, even pathetic gay people. But they are still people. And they deserve better.” But I tend to apply it to the gay people who suffer the consequences of anti-gay conservative policy more than I do to closet gays whose work supports those policies.
So, maybe some conservatives don’t hate gay people. But it’s more than clear that some do, and it’s clear which of the two holds the gonads of the Republican party in its clammy hands. And when I hear concerns about what the outing of closeted gay Republicans might mean in their lives, I remind myself people like Michael Sandy and Tyrone Garner. I remind myself of people like Laurel Hester.
Don’t get me wrong. I actually have some compassion for gay people Sullivan refers to, working to advance agendas counter to their humanity and that of other gay people. I’m sure they’re deeply conflicted, and that outing would probably cause them even more pain. But then there’s the pain caused by the policies of the party and politicians they work for; pain that’s visited on others who have taken the risk of coming out — an act that will go much further towards brining about a day when no one has to be in the closet than anything the Republican party or conservatives in general are likely to bring about.
There are two kinds of pain here. The pain of living a lie, and the pain of living your truth. And while the former is largely self-inflicted, if it helps to make the latter a reality, then how much should it concern those of us busy fighting the latter?