Listening to the radio in the car this morning, I got to hear people call in and justify why they voted yes on Proposition 8 and why they continue to support marriage inequality. One man said he had supported it on purely biblical terms. He stated over and over and over again that there was no other reason than "biblical" for him. As if that makes it all OK and that blaming it on the bible magically absolves one of all responsibility for anything he or she might do. I took away your right to marry purely for biblical reasons. I lynched you purely for biblical reasons. I stoned your sister purely for biblical reasons. I dragged you behind a car, strung you up, and left you to die purely for biblical reasons. I set your church on fire because your biblical reasons are not my biblical reasons. It's OK, though, because it's biblical. Seems like a slippery slope to me.
Even more frightening than that, though, was the next caller. This self-described 57 year old African American man put forth that homosexuals should instead have put on the ballot an initiative giving themselves the same rights as marriage but just calling it something else. He said that he would be happy to vote for hospital visitation and property ownership and insurance benefits as long as it is not called a marriage. It was a powerful statement for me. Is that all marriage is? I found the words being juxtaposed in my mind so that now he said he would be happy to vote to provide separate drinking fountains and separate schools and separate seats on the back of the bus as long as they are not called drinking fountains, schools, or seats. Instead they would be named civil water dispensaries, civil education centers, and civil transitory resting locations. It's still the same thing, right?
It is ironic to me that these words were spoken by a man old enough to remember the way it used to be before all those court decisions recognized his equality, but who still sees absolutely no similarities between the struggles of homosexuals and the struggles of African Americans or other minorities. Struggles for civil rights are, by their very nature, defined by what is being withheld. Homosexuals have had to fight for employment protections and housing protections and hate crime protections just like any other group,but what makes us a unique minority, rather than an amalgam of all those other groups, is our sexual orientation. And it is because of that very uniqueness that we need recognition of certain other civil rights that all straight people, regardless of their minority or majority status, enjoy. Whether they are Caucasian American, African American, Mexican American, Native American, all straight men and women are secure in the knowledge they can get married, join the military, adopt children, and file joint tax returns without ever having to ask for permission from the government or their neighbors. They are Americans, and that is their right.
So I say that it is no longer enough to just be gay. In the same way other minorities have defined themselves in order to further their own struggles for equal rights, it is time for homosexuals - for US - to define ourselves, too. It is time to become Gay Americans. There is something powerful in that identification. Being an American implies certain inalienable rights and a level of equality with all other citizens. It is an affiliation to be proud of and one for which many people have fought and died to provide. It is time for our people to reclaim being American. It is time for us to pull together under a common banner that signifies our status as equal members of this society with the full rights and responsibilities afforded to others. Changing from gay to Gay American is one step in that journey.
In the past, the task was for homosexuals to come out and be visible to family and friends, coworkers and neighbors - and we did. The success of that strategy is evident in the struggle of today. That the argument is no longer for us to keep quiet and stay out of sight is in itself a powerful reminder that we have already come so far in this struggle. However, it also proves that we have the ability to go further, but like all things in life, we have to evolve. It is no longer enough to come out only to those in our immediate surroundings. We must do more. It is time to shake off the shackle of being a "community": the GLBTetc Community. A community is a place where individuals of similar interests come together. We are not a place, and outside of the desire for equality, we don't always have similar interests! It is time to embrace that we are a beautiful, amazing, well-defined group of LIVING PEOPLE within the larger population, and as such, we deserve the recognition and the rights given to all others. Being gay is no longer enough. We must be Gay Americans!
And the greatest beauty of being a Gay American? You can still be an African American, a Latino American, a Native American, an Asian American, or any other kind of American. That is part of what makes us strong!