Dec 22, 2008

¨I have lost dozens of friends to suicide, alcoholism, and depression. I’ve lost friends to gay bashing, and to a disease that ran unchecked...

¨If you can’t stand with us, at least have the grace to stop giving us advice, advocating our silence, lecturing us about our behavior, or telling us who and what we are.¨ CK, AMEN!

It's not Obama I'm mad at; it's way too many of you

by Christie Keith

¨I have not been one of the “OMG Obama is betraying us” crowd. Once he was elected, I pretty much let it all go. Before the election and in the aftermath of the passage of Prop 8 I was over here 24/7, but it died down. I honestly didn’t even pay that much attention to his appointments and transition statements. I have a life, a family, dogs, my job, and my friends, all of which needed some attention.

But when I heard Warren had been invited to pray at Obama’s inauguration, I felt sick to my stomach. I cried. It wasn’t a judgment; it wasn’t an intellectual assessment; it wasn’t a political strategy. It was just genuine pain.

But it was nothing — NOTHING — compared to what I felt when I started reading diaries here on Daily Kos, full of smug, ignorant pontification on how we need to not be SO ANGRY or SO HURT, and lumping us in with the “What Obama is doing wrong” crowd, and ignoring that our response to the Warren invitation is a completely separate phenomenon.

Let me explain something very carefully, for those who don’t know: none of what’s going on in the fight for LGBT rights is part of a strategy, as should be apparent by our lack of a cohesive movement and any viable leaders. It’s a true grassroots uprising among people who got a taste of freedom and decided we wanted more. We were no longer willing to settle for a long, slow, state by state battle, for death by a thousand cuts, for an extended period of second class citizenship.

I’ve lived through a lot of watershed moments in this movement, including the assassination of Harvey Milk and the beginning of the AIDS epidemic and the rise of ACT-UP. I know like I know my name that this is another one.

Whether it’s “strategic” or not, whether it’s what our “leaders” think we should do or not, it’s pretty clear that real actual LGBT people are done with the closet. We’re seeing things in a new way. We’re no longer willing to settle for simply not getting beaten to death, for being able to live in our constricted safe zones without fear of baseball bats to the head and getting fired.

It’s not okay anymore to have to decode when and where we can be out, who can and can’t be trusted to really know us. We’re done with glancing around the restaurant or the street before taking our partner’s hand if we’re not in a gay bar or walking down Castro St. Done with paying for living fearlessly with broken bones or even death.

But to people outside of this struggle, I think that sea-change is invisible. Many of you really have no idea what just happened or what it’s done to us, both good and bad. It’s outside your circle of perception. So I can understand that our anger must be kind of scary to some of you. It looks like it’s way out of proportion to what you think happened. And it’s not like us, really, even if our movement was born at a riot.

So in the interest of building bridges, which apparently many of you are really big on, I’ll share a secret: my anger is scaring me, too. I haven’t summoned it, cultivated it, or even welcomed it. It’s just there, like the bricks and bottles thrown at Stonewall. It’s really like that.

At first I thought the fact that many of you had no idea what’s going on for us was our fault. We must not have been telling you our stories. We must have been burying our fears, trying to look smart and strong and successful and PROUD. Like kids with an alcoholic parent, we denied anything was wrong with how we were being treated by our families, government, churches, and armed forces.

So we wrote diary after diary explaining what it’s really like to grow up queer in America — to often find no safe harbor even in our own families, who throw us out, or in our churches, which call us sinners, or in our schools, which fail to keep us safe or even alive, or in the army, which uses Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as a license to rape female soldiers and cleanse the ranks.

We told you about how many of us are haunted by things that happened to us — like when I had my head smashed into a car windshield for being so utterly uppity as to use the ATM while lesbian — or to others — like Jennifer Gale, who last week died of the cold on the streets of Austin because the only shelter in town, run by the Salvation Army, wouldn’t let a transgendered woman stay under its roof.

We thought you knew, but in case you didn’t, we told you how our youth are being tortured, isolated, and abused in religious centers that claim to be able to change them into straight people — places people like Warren advocate and even run.
But I saw that to far too many of you, knowing our stories made no difference at all. There’s just something about the fight of LGBT people for our civil rights that makes a whole lot of you here feel uncomfortable.

You keep saying things like, “Just because someone is against gay marriage doesn’t mean they’re a homophobe or a bigot,” even though there are no non-bigoted, non-homophobic reasons to oppose marriage equality.

You say that equality for LGBT citizens is an “issue” that needs to take its place on the list of progressive causes, and not a fundamental civil right that is the very foundation and bedrock of our entire constitutional system: equality under the law.

You say we’re too angry and it’s not an effective strategy, completely missing that we’re not strategizing; we’re really this angry — even me, a 49 year old lesbian who lives in San Francisco and has a good job. I’m so furious I often can’t sleep, can’t eat, and sometimes I shake with rage.

You keep telling us we need to reach out and build bridges to the religious right. Do you really think there is any point at all in telling us we need to reach out to homophobes and bigots, to the people who run the churches that abuse our youth and shove us out the doors, that have brainwashed our parents into rejecting us, that tell us they “love” us while they knife us in the hearts with their laws?
Why don’t you tell them to reach out to us? We’re the ones who have been wronged and harmed, disenfranchised, electro-shocked, had our kids taken away in ugly custody battles, lost our homes when our partner died, been thrown out of the hospital rooms of our lovers, had wills overturned and benefits denied. We’re the ones who had our equality thrown up for a popular vote, and whose rights are denied us in the constitutions of 29 states. Telling us to reach out to them is like saying battered women need to reach out to their abusers, or children to the priest who molested them.

You lecture us not to hold this against Obama, but newsflash: at least for me, this has nothing to do with Obama. I knew he was regressive on my rights when I supported him; he always was, as was every viable presidential candidate. I also knew he had some weird idea that his religious beliefs were some valid explanation or even justification for his views on my civil rights. I’d like to see a Democrat get elected who can be for marriage equality and doesn’t have to be a devout Christian, but I live in the reality based community and none, absolutely none, of this was any kind of surprise to me. I’m not a sulking scorned supporter who thinks Obama owes me something, and my support for him has not changed.

No, the people I’m mad at are some of YOU. I’m angry at your ignorance of our lives, for your complete lack of understanding of what a claim for equality under the law is, for telling us to shut up or quiet down or stop being angry or stop making trouble for the progressive movement or stop drawing negative attention to our party or Obama.

You call yourself a progressive and swear you’re not a bigot? Well, if you’re not with us, completely in support of our full and unconditional equality with straight citizens including marriage equality, then you’re a progressive who’s also a bigot — even if your bigotry is a side-effect of your religion. And when bigots give advice to the people against whom they are bigoted, it is, at best, a form of concern-trolling. Your advice is not about us and our real best interests; it’s about you.
So stop. Just stop telling us not to be angry or hurt or so emotional. This happened to us. It damages us. It reminds us of our pain, which many of us put behind us at great personal cost. I have lost dozens of friends to suicide, alcoholism, and depression. I’ve lost friends to gay bashing, and to a disease that ran unchecked and ignored because it “only” killed fags. I live in San Francisco, and there are huge parts of this city I wouldn’t feel safe holding my girlfriend’s hand. Do you not understand what it’s like to live like that?

If you can’t stand with us, at least have the grace to stop giving us advice, advocating our silence, lecturing us about our behavior, or telling us who and what we are.

What we do as a movement now is in our hands, and those of our allies. If you’re not one of them, shut up and get out of the way.¨

Daily Kos, click here:

Thanks to Daily Kos
Thanks to Flickr Photosharing
Thanks to Christie Kieth


David G. said...

I haven't read you're post, yet ...

But I know where it is going...You Bitch!

You just wait till I'm done reading... I'll assume I have something to say, if I don't pass out while reading it.

(one of those nights)...Which you maybe can

I care too much for my old man health to endanger it, ...with aspects of still living after the fact.

Suicide is Final, ..there should be NO vegetative state.

That is why I keep close friends around, ..who can read my moods.

David G. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David G. said...

LOL...I love to BITCH!!

even if it accomplishes nothing, other than to release the pressures of life!!

Leonard said...

I assume, since I´m American, I worked all of my life since age 17, and I paid more taxes just in the State of California than many make in a lifetime of payrolls (we won´t go into my Federal Taxes and my NO DEDUCTIONS) that I still have the citizenship that I was born with in Washington...I lived in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Scottsdale, San Juan (and part time in New York) most of my adult working Mothers family was Pioneers to the West as well as notable early American Virginians, I´m a registered voter in Florida, a officially RETIRED Social Security and Medicare Card holder...maintain my residencey in Florida...what´s your question? Never did I not report/pay U.S. Taxes (including now)...what´s your question?

Anonymous said...

may you please respond to the issues raised by Leo and David?
That might give me an understanding on how to approach this post,
till next time,
easy does it :-)

Anonymous said...

and Merry Christmas to you :-)

Anonymous said...

You may disregard my first comment,
I hear you.

Tim said...

Wow. CK taps into a deep reservoir of pain and rage that those of us in her generation certainly must identify with. But for us the "issue" is how do we channel that to get things done? Angry howls and tying ourselves in knots until we can't sleep won't move us forward. Nor will retrofitting our past burdens and anguish on the generations behind us.

I couldn't agree more--it's vital we tell our story and impress on younger members of our community (and our allies) how far we've come and the price we've paid for the progress we've made. Yet we also need to be realistic. No matter how vividly we convey what we've been through, those who (thank God) escaped the early horror of AIDS, the pre-hate-crime days of killing us for sport, the illegal bar raids, job losses, etc., will never have the first-hand experiences required to summon such anger.

Abuses and tragedies, like the Austin one KC mentions, still occur, that's true. And we must all--young and old, gay and straight--do everything in our power to end them. But because we've not yet stamped out homophobia entirely doesn't mean we should discredit the enormous progress we've achieved. Nor should we overlook the fact that behaviors and ambitions that once gave us pause are becoming more commonly accepted in the cultural landscape. We have our younger brothers and sisters and straight allies to thank for that.

A lot of what intimidated us vis-a-vis the limits of how we expressed ourselves publicly doesn't faze these kids. And, frankly, CK's comments about holding her partner's hand and other reservations don't jibe with anything I've experienced for the better part of 10 years, here in Chicago, in major American cities, and in Europe--and, of all places, San Francisco. When I got to that section of her essay, it threw me in a time warp.

Our 35-year-old nephew and his husband just returned to their Atlanta home this afternoon. They left behind a gorgeous, hard-bound coffee table book of photographs from their wedding in San Francisco last September. Last night, they showed us their Georgia driver's licenses with their legally changed hyphenated surnames. Our nephew told us how he showed his wedding album to one of his coworkers, a straight woman who'd also recently married, and how envious she was of the photography and layout. Tonight, a straight neighbor of ours (female, 39) dropped by and thumbed through the album, repeatedly commenting on what a handsome couple our nephews were, etc.

This is as much--possibly, hopefully, a greater--part of present reality than what CK describes. That was past reality. And there's a huge difference between keeping the past alive and living with it; confusing the two results in the latter. I'm sorry CK suffered physical violence because she's gay. I grieve for the unresolved anguish she suffers now. But if she's suggesting what I think she is--continuing to salt old wounds instead of focusing on healthier situations--count me out.

A "movement" that marches backwards to reengage in long-fought battles, lost or won, isn't moving toward anything coming generations can use. Unless we've been lying to the world and ourselves, our objective has always focused on securing a place of respect in the larger society. That means we're going to have to learn to live with (and love) people we don't like (Rick Warren, e.g.) and agendas that don't consider our feelings more important than those of others. The younger kids get this because they've not been scarred nearly as deeply as we have--they've grown up to see themselves as part of a bigger world where "gay" is only one of dozens of labels. They realize we're not "there" yet, but they're also wise enough to know that "inclusion" is a myth if it doesn't encompass everyone, that our acceptance at the expense of others' rejection--even those who reject us--gets us nowhere.

They're a stealthy, savvy crew, these kids; that's what the times call for. Our times called for confrontation and outrage, and we did a fine job of pushing things forward. But if we're not canny enough to realize new days deliver new methods and messages, we're taking a huge risk of minimizing our profile and losing ground we've already won. And where are we? We're at the point where securing our full rights as equals depends crucially on our willingness to treat everyone as our equals. We have to cross that bridge.

Let it go, CK. Pick yourself up, turn around, and look forward with the rest of us. This movement is pressing ahead, with or without you, whether or not you like its strategies and style.