A quiet war for acceptance

It’s taken me a long time to begin this post.

What finally sparked its genesis was Ellen DeGeneres and her impassioned speech on the death of Lawrence King. Because one male expressed his love for another at Valentine’s Day, the object of affection murdered the speaker, both eighth graders in Oxnard, California. One is now dead; the other likely bound for jail, because Larry King dared to openly acknowledge he was gay.

Most of us are aware of Ellen’s journey as she stunned the entertainment world by coming out during her very popular television show. She has staunchly supported gay and lesbian rights as long as I can remember, taking a private issue very public. The acceptance of gays as part of our culture needs to be a public issue. We need to talk about and acknowledge it. Ellen says, “It’s okay to be gay.” Others have said, “We’re here, and we’re queer.” Most gay and lesbian couples want no more than any of the rest of us take for granted: a nice home, meaningful work, an accepting church community. Benefits we earn to protect and care for our loved ones. The right to marry, or not, as we choose. Children, who may or may not grow up sharing our lifestyle.

Doesn’t sound unreasonable, does it?

For many years, this issue didn’t particularly touch me. I have always been of a liberal bent, never rigid about specific life choices. I don’t object to people who want to live communally, people who smoke pot, people who are (insert religion here), or people who are gay. Even Republicans! You know, as long as they don’t tell me what choices I can make, I give them the same courtesy. But not everyone believes the same way. There are many people in this country who believe they have to right to tell others how they must live their lives. Apparently, those who fall outside the norm not only risk discrimination and governmental harassment, they now risk death. Perhaps even at the hands of a child.

This scares me. The very real danger comes home to roost because my daughter K is a lesbian. She didn’t tell anyone for a long time. She didn’t even tell me. I had my suspicions when she and her partner lived here for the summer after K graduated from high school, and it slowly became clear that, although they were the ultimate in discretion, they slept together. K’s partner is a lovely young woman, bright, attractive, and I am happy as hell for both of them that they’ve found each other.

I don’t believe either of them has openly told their fathers, though. How sad is that after four years together. It’s a terrible stigma. If you can’t believe your own mother and father would support you, how can you possibly trust the rest of the world to accept what is a natural part of your being that you cannot change?

One of my long-time Internet buddies is a young man in Pensacola named Jordan. We talk about his life as a “gay geek,” and how he essentially uses the Internet in support of his lifestyle choices because he lives in the South in a community where he’s as likely a target as young Larry. How sad that is, too.

I’ve spent 20 years as a divorce attorney. One thing I know for sure is that there is NOT enough love to go around in this world. Anyone who finds real, meaningful love anywhere should take it to heart and run with it. I am thrilled that K found her special someone, whether he or she is white, black, purple, Jewish, Martian…I don’t care. I’m happy for her. And I’m proud that she can be who she is without hiding in the shadows. I’ll stand up anywhere with her and say, “It’s okay to be gay!”

For those wanting more information about how to support gays and lesbians you may know, see these websites:

GLSEN: Gay, Lesbian Straight Education Network –
Human Rights Campaign
PFLAG

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “A quiet war for acceptance

  1. Isn’t it sad that people are judged essentially on what they prefer in the bedroom? I was raised Southern Baptist so you know what I was taught about gays. Thankfully I opened my mind and heart to find that way of thinking is ignorance pure and simple. Your daughter is blessed to have a supportive Mom like yourself 🙂

  2. You’re a wonderful Mother. My parents were very supportive one of my older sisters (the other ‘refugee’ from my trailer park) came out midway through her PhD program. i had known since high school that my sister had girlfriends, but she was terrified of our parents finding out – even though i told her that i was pretty sure they’d be ok with it.

    bottom line – it’s a difficult journey. parents who judge and don’t make an effort to understand their children only make it worse.

  3. Hi all,

    I’m the Jordan that Awalkabout mentioned in her piece “A quiet war for acceptance”.

    I think Awalkabout’s nailed it on the head – for a long time, i’ve struggled with not only getting people to recognize GLBT folk to not just tolerate our right to live and exist but to accept us as well. Funny thing is, i’ve had my own ‘acceptance issues’ of my own.

    First off, i’m GAY, which brings in it own host of issues but i’m also a NERD and a GEEK. For a long time, i’ve struggled with this trifecta because i’ve always felt that in order to be accepted as a Gay, a Nerd or a Geek, I had to be one thing above all the others. Well – real life doesn’t quite work that way as i’ve slowly learned over the years. To be Gay, it’s assumed that you’re going to be into things that identify you as “Gay” but I never quite bought into that. I’m more interested in doing nerdy or geeky things like going to Sci-Fi cons or collecting Sci-Fi books/movies/toys/what have you (although I do enjoy gay clubs/movies/literature) and i’m certainly nerdy because i’m into space exploration, model rockets, whatever – i’ve been to the Kennedy Space Center twice allready so that should be some indication right there, i’m a total nerd.

    But i’ve always had a hell of a time balancing all of this – ask Awalkabout – she’ll tell you! – and I never really felt that I belonged exclusively to one group or the other. So over time, i’ve learned to accept things as they are, never really saying i’m just one thing over the others but rather i’m the sum of all my parts, warts and all.

    I think overall – that if we are to approach GLBT issues by talking about acceptance and tolerance, I think we probably need to focus on weither or not we’ve accepted ourselves first because once you have, the rest will attend to itself.

  4. YOU GO, GIRL! You are spot on. I think people are so in need of love – why should we care where it comes from? It drives me nuts that people don’t have anything better to do than worry about that stuff. Grrr. Good for you for speaking up.

    🙂 D.

  5. First off, Hihi Jorjor! *flyingtacklehugs* And now to the serious part.

    Another beautiful posting.

    As for myself, I’ve always been of the opinion that no one has the right to tell someone else who they can love. Or how you express that love, for that matter. (What happens between consenting adults is their own affair, thank you very much.) What has happened with these two boys is the worst kind of tragedy. They are children! Would it have been so hard to say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” rather than to resort to murder?

    Over the years, I’ve had some friends and one of my cousins who were beat up because they were gay. My cousin was actually at a Gay Rights activisim event when he and some of his friends were dragged off and beaten. It’s been almost ten years since that happened, and it still makes me angry. At the time, I wanted to take my baseball bat and my daddy’s rifle and go after the people who did it. They would have lived, I would have aimed for a non vital organ. Yes, even then, I realized that retaliation would have solved nothing. The matter was left to the law, and the people who did it are still sitting in a state prison in IL.

    These kinds of things need to stop. I believe there are things worth dying for, but this is not one of them.

  6. As I’ve come to expect, a very well-written post. Great comments, too.

    I liked what Jordan said about accepting ourselves. I believe that so many people “hate” others because they hate themselves inside. Most ridicule comes from the same thing, at least to a degree. How many people trash someone verbally for any other reason that to make themselves look better? It starts as children, and some people never get past it. Then they do it IN FRONT OF their children, so their children learn it. How else can a child wish to murder someone who is gay? Some parental-type figure had to be the model for him. Maybe they didn’t support murder, but I believe parents really need to pay attention to their opinions and their JUDGMENTS that exit their mouths.

    This isn’t just about gays. There isn’t a group in society that isn’t hated by someone.

    Maybe before people can accept themselves as who they are, they need to recognize who they are. I’m sure many people say/do things without giving too much thought to the consequences. My parents used to say (because there’s a segment of my very Irish family dating/married to African-Americans), “I don’t care what they do themselves, but the kids are the ones that suffer.” While that might have been a true statement at the time, the mere saying of it (repeatedly) in front of children almost assured that the kids WOULD suffer. It left me puzzling–thinking something MUST be wrong with the situation. Thankfully, my brain was bigger than that, and I recognized what was happening. But they set me up to treat children of “mixed” couples differently than other children. I didn’t, but it was in my belief system to do so.

    I guess my point is that people need to do a lot of soul-searching. And when they’re finished, as Jordan said, the rest will fall in place. The way to fix problems in society (problems in general–not “problems” as defined by those who tend to hate certain groups), is to be a better example. BE the change you want to see in the world. Unfortunately, I’m afraid many people will never get there.

  7. Ah, if only every parent could be little bit more like you are. Talking to your parents is easier said than done. Sometimes, it feels like there is bounderies everywhere. Culture, Religion, race,… and now love. What a crazy world we live in.

Comments are closed.