Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Recent events around the country remind me that we of the LGBT community are still very much regarded as "less than" the "normal, well-adjusted" members of society with whom we must co-exist. It appears, for example, that gay-bashings and killings are increasing, as witness the assault against my transgendered neighbor, virtually at my very doorstep, or the murder of gay Navy sailor August Provost, or the pair of gay-bar raids in Texas that left one Fort Worth patron in a coma and the cops using the ubiquitous "Gay Panic Defense" as justification for slamming the unfortunate patron headfirst into a wall.
That the "Gay Panic Defense" is in use at all, and more to the point, that it actually actually works with juries much of the time, is more than a little disturbing to me. It spells out in unmistakable fashion, the degree to which gays and lesbians are still looked upon as "deviant", disgusting", "abnormal", and "less than", or inferior, to those who need some person or group they can feel superior to. Consider that Fort Worth police chief Jeff Halstead co-signed his officers' use of force and the "Gay Panic Defense", says a lot about the comfort level public officials have with this justification for violence against the gay community.
As I've noted before, the rules of society with regard to gays and lesbians are often crystal-clear: Do not express yourself in any way as gay or lesbian. For sure, do not show any display of public affection towards your gay or lesbian partner. Do not wear any clothing which even suggests you're gay or lesbian, or as is relevant to me specifically, don't dare express your sexuality through creative means such as writing books, acting, or creating works of art showcasing LGBT life. Any violation of these strict societal restrictions is considered a valid justification for beatings, harrassment, even murder.
Lift the veil of ostensibly "gay-friendly" overtures by elected officials, corporations, and the religious groups, and a darker, uglier truth receals itself: institutionalized homophobia is alive and well in 21st-century America, and still widely condoned. Even in the up-to-the-minute issue of heathcare, gays and lesbians find themselves abused and ignored. New York City's Public Advocate, Betsy gotbaum, recently released a report detailing how gays and lesbians must contend with a healthcare system that is "heterocentric and gender-normative", and further states the obvious, that "LGBT individuals experience hostility and discrimination in care". I've experienced that myself, on several occasions.
Indeed, in all areas of people activity (a phrase coined by black advocate Frances Cress Welsing, who, ironically, is anti-gay, even as she cries for an end to anti-black discrimination[!]), I find that homophobia is getting worse, not better. WE like to comfort ourselves as a society with platitudes like, "We've elected a black President, see how unbiased we are?" But that's missing the point. A person of color is almost always visibly so, and most rational people at least pretend to acceptance while in their presence. Not so gays and lesbians. For us, our whole world is often one big "don't Ask, Don't Tell" zone, and we are invisible as a result.
In a recent conversation with my friends DJ Baker and DexStar G, both lumiaries in New York City's gay community, I was asked whether I characterized myself as "multiethnic gay", or "gay multiethnic. I replied that I was gay multiethnic. When pressed about that choice, I replied that I would be excoriated by others for being gay even before the color of my skin was considered. I believe the level of hatred towards gays and lesbians is that severe. Even communities of color, who should know and understand the importance of tolerance and understanding, slammed me for suggesting a link between black gays and the Civil rights movement. How dare I use something as inconvenient as historical fact!
I'm STILL banging my head into the wall over this...