My Photo
Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Doing my part to irritate Republicans, fundamentalists, bigots and other lower life forms.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Having issues with being an issue

I like straight folks. I really do. Granted, there are some I wouldn't mind seeing dipped into honey and left bound near a nest of fire ants ... both those are a separate subset of straight folks generally called the religious reich. Forgetting that group for a moment, there are plenty of other straight folks out there that are truly allies. They really get the struggle for LGBT rights.

Then there is a huge middle ground of straight folks who, in general, support gay rights, but only in the most superficial way. They'll make statements like "It's wrong to discriminated against gays" or "Same-sex couples should be allowed to get married," but they don't give a lot of thought to really understanding why discrimination against gays and lesbians is bad or why allowing same-sex couples to marry would be a good thing.

Take, for example, an online conversation I had with a straight person last week. It was on a progressive political message board and I had posted a comment on a news story about a group within the Methodist Church starting a petition to "disinvite" Emily Saliers, half of the lesbian due The Indigo Girls, from a Methodist women's conference. Saliers, according to the article, should be disinvited because her "open practice of lesbianism and her promotion of the acceptance of the lifestyle is contrary to church teaching."

The article went on to say:

The United Methodist Church does not condone homosexuality, though the church also says gay people should not be discriminated against. Consequently, both sides are citing church teachings to justify why Emily Saliers' invitation should be sustained or rejected.

Noting that both sides were using the same church doctrine to back up their argument, I posted: "I guess that's what happens when you have one of those namby-pamby denominations that speaks out of both sides of its mouth at once."

Almost immediately my comment drew a response: "'speaks out of both sides of its mouth' or a denomination that's divided?"

The discussion went back and forth and remained civil, though it was apparent the straight poster and I had very different opinions. He opposed confronting the conservatives within the church, while I perferred to go after them with the ultimatum that they either join the 21st century or go form their own church. "I favor remaining together so that time can heal even if it takes millenniums," he posted. That is a favorite patronizing position among unenlightened straight folks who seem think we have millennia to wait for our rights while they enjoy all of their rights.

While this person was working his way under my skin and doing a tap dance on my very last gay nerve, I decided that this was a better opportunity for education than cyber ass-kicking. I explained that it was the Methodist Church's nonconfrontational approach that prompted me to leave the church. "Having grown up in the Methodist Church and felt first-hand what it's like to have one's church struggle with deciding whether you are worthy enough to be a member, I hope you understand that on a personal level I chose not to hang around to see what the final outcome would be. I've seen adulterers, thieves, child and spouse abusers, and a whole host of other 'sinners' welcomed into full participation in the church. When the church in effect says, 'Whoa ... we've got to figure out whether you're good enough to be one of us,' it was time for me to go."

That brought a response of: "People leave their churches all the time for various reasons. However, that's a personal decision and separate from leaving a denomination intact so it can discuss divisive issues."

Before I could craft a response, another gay poster chimed in with a heated response that started with "Excuse me...but we are talking about someone's life and identity here and there is nothing that irritates me more than a bunch of straight people who gossip/debate/discuss others as if they aren't in the damned room." That was only the opening sentence of his post and it got far more fiery from that point. The straight poster's response was simple and to the point: "Thanks for your opinion. Have a nice day." At that point communication was shut down.

That's the trouble with modern pseudo-liberals today ... they talk down to you and refer to you as an "issue" rather than a person. They strip away your personhood and reduce you to being just another issue. And if you challenge them, they become dismissive and cut off communication.

Taxes, Social Security, military funding, cuts in social services, national security, foreign policy debates on isolationism vs. internationalism are all issues. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks aren't "issues." They are people. And when the pseudo-liberals see us as only "issues," it's their attempt to minimize our concerns and see us as not quite equal.

Such people are the figuritive grandchildren of the pseudo-liberals who advised blacks to be patient and continue sitting at the back of the bus during the Civil Right era of the early '60s. That was wrong then and the same approach in dealing with GLBTs today are equally wrong.

Bless all those straight folks who really, really understand our issues and care enough to offer their support. If gay activists were the first wave of the movement seeking equal rights for LGBT folks, then our straight allies constitute the second wave. If there is to be a third wave, we need to get all those heterosexuals who support us in theory, but haven't spent a lot of time thinking or confronting any of the problems we face, to see us not as issues to be moved from the back burner only when it's politically expedient, but as real flesh-and-blood people who are affected by prejudice and discrimination and homophobia.