The catch? This angry young Mississippian, a good friend of mine, is a gay man--a gay rights activist, in fact.
He was tired, he told me and everyone who was willing to keep reading, of hearing about how bad lesbians and gay men have it. Tired of self-pity. Tired of it all. He didn't want to hear it.
He wanted to see action. He wanted to see more of these people, who forwarded along insipid anti-homophobia chain letters to friends they already knew to be gay or gay-friendly, get up off their butts and do something. He wanted to see donations, volunteers, people who were willing to go out there and get their names and faces in public and maybe risk their jobs or their reputations or their physical well-being and stand up and be who they are. He wanted these e-mail warriors to stop saying "homophobia is wrong" and start living it.
There's an old joke that PETA protests fur and not leather because little old ladies in mink are less intimidating than biker gangs. The same logic applies to the politics of homophobia: Lesbians and gay men can be targeted legislatively because they make easy targets. There are at least three million lesbians and gay men living in the United States. Sexuality studies suggest that there are more likely eight to ten times as many. But even if we go with the conservative estimate of three million, that's:
- Greater than the population of Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, or Wyoming.
- Greater than the population of the Congo, Jamaica, Kuwait, Mongolia, Panama, or the United Arab Emirates--and more than ten times the population of the Bahamas, Iceland, or Belize.
- 50% more people than the active Chinese military, the largest standing army on Earth.
The only reason political candidates can still campaign on gay-bashing agendas thinly disguised under diaphanous euphemisms like "the sanctity of marriage" and "traditional values" without having to worry about losing elections, the only reason Glenn Beck can snicker as he says "starts with 'f,' rhymes with 'maggot'" on his CNN show without having to worry about getting fired, is because the sheer unmitigated power of lesbians and gay men in the United States has not been made manifest.
So to any fellow sometimes squeamish heterosexual onlookers reading this, I say: This is why you sometimes see things that shock you during Pride Month. It isn't because you aren't supposed to be shocked. You are. Don't take it personally. Fear of shocking you has made untold millions of people not hold hands with their partners like you hold hands with yours, to not take their partners to formal events like you take yours, to not have weddings, to run and hide and keep a low profile and stay out of politics and stay out of religion and stay out of anything else that might result in real power. Gay pride parades, marches, and rallies have the same basic effect as other parades, marches, and rallies--military or activist. They demonstrate power and solidarity. When our national leaders are as concerned about what shocks lesbians and gay men as they are about being shocked by lesbians and gay men, their sensitivities might be worth taking into account. Maybe not. Certainly not until then.
And as for the "homophobia is wrong" bulletin: It isn't just wrong. It's bad. And germs are bad, so we wash our hands. High blood pressure is bad, so we get it checked. Crime is bad, so we have a law enforcement system. Racism is bad, so we have a civil rights movement. Sexism is bad, so we have a feminist movement. Homophobia is bad, so we have a lesbian and gay rights movement. Are you part of it?