Cake, please.

I remember reading an introduction in a book written by James Cone, an African-American theologian, where he described the exhaustion of the civil rights movement, the ensuing application of the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and the summer of hatred of 1968.  I thought, at the time, what can take such a toll? I hit that wall today.

A news report out of a Knoxville suburb detailed how a lesbian couple, after enduring five years of harassment (including the poisoning of their lab puppy), had their home burned to the ground with the word “queer” spray painted on the detached garage. Fortunately, they were not home at the time. I’ve spent the day staring at my ceiling. These women were simply living their lives. They moved to east Tennessee by choice: for the beauty, the lower cost of living and probably a host of other reasons. They were greeted with hatred for being “the other.”

I can’t speak for every member of the gay community – just like I wouldn’t be brazen to speak for every woman, college graduate, left handed or green eyed person. I can only speak for me. What this couple endured as others watched: what they are going through now is my greatest fear. What happens if somebody decides to harm me because they find out I’m gay? How can I survive living in that terror?

The courage to publically say “I’m gay” is one that drives many to destructive paths. In essence, it’s the embracement of accepting adding to ones minority status or becoming a minority. As a college educated, white woman, I had a life that had its normal twists, turns, bumps and peaks. As soon as I said I was gay, friends fell away. As Ellen DeGeneres famously said on her show Ellen, “I mean, you never see a cake that says ‘Good for you, you’re gay’”. You become the object of hatred in its most vile forms and in the far subtler ones that seem to hurt much more.

I stared at the ceiling and thought of all the people who are dipping their toes out of the closet and hear stories like this and shrink back. I wonder where the courage is of leaders, athletes, actors to say “I’m gay. Cope.” I fail to understand how Barak Obama, Joe Biden, John McCain and Sarah Palin could only agree on one thing: they don’t want me to have the right to be legally married with the benefits extended by the federal government and protection under the law. I will let priests, rabbis, ministers, imams debate on the religious angle. With respect to all but Sen. McCain, the other 3 individuals all are barely a generation removed from legalized oppression based on race, religion or gender. How can the President of the United States, a product of the brilliance of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, say he believes marriage is between a man and a woman and continue to expect many of his supporters to sit in the back of bus?

I remember vividly asking a supervisor to ask a co-worker not to shout that she wanted to “go out with the gays and do gay things.” (Actually, really, I wanted to know what ‘gay things’ were).  I was told she had lots of gay friends and that wasn’t objectionable: I outed myself in the work place. I was offended. If anybody shouted those same words but using an ethnic minority? There would not have been laughter and I wouldn’t have been told to get over it, it wasn’t offensive.

I don’t want special treatment because I’m gay. I want the rights afforded my citizenship: to marry whom I choose, to live in my home without fear of harassment by neighbors, the right to openly serve my country in the military (ok, that is so not happening, but I’d like to at least have the right to do so.).  I was watching The West Wing earlier this week. They had an exchange from an episode that first aired in 2000 about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell:

“FITZWALLACE – You just don’t want to see them serving in the Armed Forces?

MAJOR TATE – No sir, I don’t.

FITZWALLACE – ‘Cause they oppose a threat to unit discipline and cohesion.

MAJOR TATE – Yes sir.

FITZWALLACE – That’s what I think too. I also think the military wasn’t designed to be an instrument of social change.

MAJOR TATE – Yes sir.

FITZWALLACE – The problem with that is that what they were saying to me 50 years ago. Blacks shouldn’t serve with Whites. It would disrupt the unit. You know what? It did disrupt the unit. The unit got over it. The unit changed. I’m an admiral in the U.S. Navy and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff…Beat that with a stick.”

We aren’t the same nation that was founded over 200 years ago: we have improved in so many ways. The underlying foundation of this country is all men are created equal: we legislated the changes for women to vote, provide the civil rights for racial minorities and have judiciary enforcement of desegregation all over this nation.

I don’t want that. It is exhausting. It spreads hate, fear, violence. We have not learned from our history.

I want somebody who dislikes me or any other gay person to look me in the face and say why without drawing upon religious texts. I want somebody to tell me why I can’t be afforded the rights given to me by the constitution.  

Until then, I’d just settle for some cake.

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One Response to “Cake, please.”

  1. ib Says:

    nice post

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