Today, 22Feb10, I was making my way to the fifth floor bathrooms in the student union (they are spacious, clean and low traffic) when I saw a rainbow banner with an information table about LGBT issues and an invitation to lunch. A friend of mine who is in one of the campus gay organizations was in there and I waved on my way by. A bit later I was coming back the other way and stopped to look at the literature when a campus coordinator (whose name and official function I forget) came out and invited me in. Being the libertarian and politically interested sort of person I am I did join them.
I put “Q&A Lunch thing” as the title, but I believe there was more than one group there. The sign out front gave the impression it was an informal lunch thing, but there were a couple of faculty sitting opposite what I took to be representatives of maybe three different LGBT groups speaking with them. There was some personal relations of issues and some general talk about advancing understanding and acceptance at the school, with particular emphasis on a desire for a dedicated facility.
I spoke up toward the end and gave some perspectives from a heterosexual. After all, the group is called Queers and Allies. I am a middle aged, white, heterosexual male (and I usually vote Republican), and I hesitate to speak or give opinions in certain situations because I realize there is a stereotype of exactly that kind of person being pushy and opinionated. A room where half the people were lesbians probably was the worst place to forget that negative image, so I held on to it and tried to do the polite thing. But while I don’t like to think of myself as pushy, I am opinionated, and I have some damn good opinions from time to time, so I did speak eventually.
Mostly what I talked about was “mainstreaming”. I brought up the fact that “gay culture” is intimidating to mainstream, heterosexual America. Not in a, “we’re coming to make you gay” kind of way, but in a “this is our place, you are not welcome here” kind of way. One of the problems with minority subculture mentality is that it builds defensive social mechanisms which sometimes end up hindering reconciliation in the long run. Your average person might not have a strong opinion about gay folk, but one look at a pride parade could freak them out permanently, even though it is nowhere near representative of how the average gay folk live their daily lives.
Another thing I brought up was suggesting that a good way to promote tolerance and understanding for the gays the LGBT community is to help the hetero majority understand that LGBT rights are their rights. Denying the humanity and equality of another damages the person doing it. Our Founding Fathers did a fantastic job when they said, “all men are created equal”, but sort of lost the plot when they started rationalizing slavery a bit further on. A later generation said, “OK, slavery was wrong. We admit it. Still, we’re keeping it illegal for a black person to marry a white person.” It wasn’t until a Supreme Court decision in 1967 that interracial marriage was legal in every state. Many of the same, tired, fear fueled arguments are being used again, even as some fighting to keep two men or two women from being legally married incredibly enough believe they are fighting the same good fight that made “Separate But Equal” a legal memory for Blacks.
I don’t obsess about any other person’s sexual preference, and I don’t see why it has to be such a huge deal. I’ve taken flak for dating non-white girls, and based on that I can only begin to imagine what pressure gay folk are under. I look forward to a day when “gay” and “straight” is something that ceases to be so divisive. I would like to see the next generation of gay folk feel comfortable enough being gay, and their neighbors comfortable with them being gay, that we can all move on with our lives and discuss more realistically important things, like making America free and great.