Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Unity is the key to Equality

A friend of mine and I were talking the other day about the disparity between cultures, he is African-American and I am Caucasian.  During the conversation I realized that these same divides exist within the gay community. Whether you are black, white, asian, hispanic or any other ethnic group doesn't really matter because first and foremost you are apart of the culture in which you are born.  Then comes the community where you identify yourself with sexually. These being Gay, Lesbian, Transgender or Bisexual, and this is where things start to get complicated.  There has been a comparison or synthesis created that likens the Gay Equality Movement to the Civil Rights movement or the Women's Suffrage Movement.  Now, I believe that there needs to be equality, but the comparisons are wrong. First off,  all segments of the population already have the basic freedoms that both the other movements created.  The gay segment of population is transparent and not readily identifiable unless a person speaks out about their orientation.

Bear with me here, because this is how I see things. First the women's vote grants that privileged to all women regardless of sexual orientation.  With WWII the trend of a stay at home mother started to shift, because as the boy's were overseas fighting, women took to the factories and kept America's industries and economy moving and fluid.  This gave women the taste of what it was like to be broken out of the stereotype that they had found themselves in for centuries.  As the 1950's and 60's passed on more and more women found themselves not only wanting to work, but did enter the workforce and started making money, by the 1980's many families had both parents working.  Now, granted there are still inequalities in the workforce, but as the years have gone by we have seen more and more of those barriers broken down.  A female can now run corporations, serve as Secretary of State, and be Heads of State.  Margaret Thatcher was a prime example how a woman who started out as a correspondent rose to power and was the Prime Minister of Great Britain.  My point being is that most of the social barriers that stereotyped women and kept them in the kitchen, so to speak have been broken down and discarded.

Keeping this in mind, lets look at the Civil Rights Movement and the great strides that have been made on that front.  Again, I am not saying that there still aren't inequalities out there, because I know there are, but great strides have been made to ensure that African-Americans are given the same rights as Caucasians, significantly with the right to vote, hold office, and the end of segregation.  There are still stigmas associated with interracial relationships, but those barriers are falling more and more each year.  Just as the Women's Suffrage Movement ensured all women the right to vote and hold office, so has the Civil Rights Movement ensured that all African-Americans have the same rights to vote, hold office, and as such the racial barriers have started being torn down. President Obama made history as the first duly elected African-American to hold the Office of the President of the United States, there are now Judges, Lawyers, prominent businessmen and women that are African-American.

We must thank those who came before us and stood up and fought for those rights to be granted, we must take into consideration the sacrifice, terror and even death that some of these early organizers and leaders suffered and faced.  I think of people like Martin Luther King, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Stanton and others that paved the way for these "Civil Liberties" to be granted to ensure that all men and women were treated fairly and equally. Each of these people either risked their lives or lost them in the fight for other people, to stop the oppression and fear and in some cases the poverty conditions that were forced upon them by a rigid so-called moral society that was largely presided over them by prejudice and bigotry and intolerance by the ruling powers.

As I look at the Equality or Equal Rights Movement that the gay community is seeking, I often wonder if it can be achieved.  Like I have said above, the majority of the rights and freedoms that have been hard won by the previous movements where because a social distinction was visible, tangible and easily seen.  We have fought hard and have come so far, there is now included in the anti-discrimination policy of the United States that there cannot be discrimination based on sexual orientation.  There are questions that employers cannot ask and there are protections now in place for legal recourse if someone is questioned or even fired because of such discrimination. There are also hate crime laws that exist in almost every state that help protect minorities, including the gay community under that umbrella.

I see that there is a major problem that still needs to be addressed by the Gay Community if they ever hope to achieve the Equality that they are seeking.  I look at the gay community as a whole, but unfortunately I am one of the few.  See even in our community, yes I am gay and consider myself as a member of this community, we have segregated ourselves, we have formed lines in the sand that separate us and keep us apart.  I hope that I can explain myself good enough to make you understand what I see.  First let me explain that when I came out in the early 80's the Pride Movement was well underway, but enter the picture of HIV and AIDS which helped change the face of the movement and it went more toward Gay Rights and Equality Movement than that of Pride.  I know some of you might disagree with me.  But, let me try to explain that the Pride Movement was started to remember the police raid on  the Stonewall Inn and the resulting riots that followed. According to Wikipedia "Pride is the positive stance against violence and discrimination against the (LGBT) people to promote their self-affirmation, equality rights, and increase their visibility as social group, build community, and celebrate sexual diversity and gender variance."

However, how can we expect others to see us as a community or a social group if we cannot even come together and break down the barriers that separate the defining groups.  Over the past few years I have seen a decline in the negative stance between gay and lesbian groups, but there is still a gulf that separates the transgenders that still needs to be bridged.  Bisexuals straddle the fence and seem hold themselves separate from any group and that might be because they don't feel like they are a part of any one particular group because they don't feel connected to them.  My point is this we need to embrace and espouse unity within our own community if we expect those outside of our community to respect us and grant us the equality we are seeking.   We need to break down the walls and social stigmas that keep us apart within our own community before we can hope to break them down in the world as a whole.  Maybe one reason why the Transgender group holds themselves apart is because just like the bisexual group they don't feel connected or a part of either the gay or lesbian group, and maybe the gay and lesbian group don't feel connected to each other because they feel that their gender is the separating factor and that they aren't connected at all.

Again, I am asking you to bear with me as I go down this road, because I think that we need to destroy the walls that separate us if we want to be accepted and achieve the social standing and rights our community is desperately fighting for, including the right to Gay Marriage.   The term Gay is a noun that is used to describe homosexual behavior.  Homosexual or homosexuality is sexual attraction, activity or behavior between the same sex. Therefore, utilizing that definition there is no real thing as Lesbians or Gays there is only homosexuals.  Bisexuals hover on the edge of that, and transgenders fall into this category regardless of gender assignment.  Overall, I guess what I am trying to say and probably doing a horrible job trying to make the points clear.  Because the Gay Community is compromised of all ethnic groups and cultures, this makes the group fluid and hard to see, therefore it is hard for lawmakers and others to see it as a separate group.  Internally we break ourselves into groups, or in other words we segregate ourselves voluntarily.  If we want to win the right to marry and ensure that the protections against violence and discrimination remain in place we need to come together and unify ourselves first before anyone else will do this for us.

As a community we need to learn the meaning of community, we need to figure out how we as a group can experience the fellowship and brotherhood that I have seen in the African-American culture. From an early age they learn that they are stronger as a whole and the community stands together as one, they can lean on each other, and they have each others back. Now, this might be a matter of perspective since I am on the outside looking into that community.  I will admit that I have been in interracial relationships before and that I prefer to date African-American men, but I have been always on the outside never truly understanding the subtle nuances of the entire culture.  Yet, I see that only way the Equality that the Gay Community wants and needs can only be achieved if we come together and unify, and we break down the barriers within our own community.  In all honesty the basic tenets and freedoms have already been granted us, protections against violence, discrimination, are already enacted into law.  Gay activists and lobbyist groups are already formed, we have organized marches and leadership and focus groups to demand greater awareness, training and funding for HIV/AIDS.  What is missing is the right to marry or have our unions recognized by the state and federal governments and the ability to have the rights and responsibilities that married heterosexual couples experience today.

Again, the only way that this can be achieved is through unity, and unifying our community by promoting a sense of unity, acceptance and love.  Promoting a true sense of community that is currently missing in our gay culture today because of our segregated ideals that we have placed upon ourselves is the only way we can achieve the equality and acceptance we are looking for.

I would appreciate your comments and feedback. I would love to hear if you agree or disagree with me.

As always my hopes and dreams are with you,

Uncle B