Friday, December 29, 2006

Sir Isaac Newton's revenge

An interesting article in the New York Times reinforces what I’ve long suspected would happen, the religious right and this current Republican administration have become the “gift that keeps on giving” for the GLBT community and the gay rights movement. The more these people open their mouths and push draconian legislation designed to deny equal rights to gays and lesbians, the more energized and powerful the push-back becomes.

This article focuses on a most unlikely place to see such a dynamic playing out: Kansas. But sure enough the push-back is happening there as well and in a big way ----- and it’s showing up in the census data as proof:

… a 68 percent jump in Kansas households headed by same-sex partners between 2000 and 2005. In 2005, 11 out of every 1,000 couples living together in Kansas reported themselves as same-sex, according to Mr. Gates’s review of the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey data, a figure closer than one might expect to those recorded in New Jersey and New York, where 12 and 14 out of every 1,000 couples, respectively, are same-sex.

Kansas! Who would have thought? People who never dreamed they’d one day be out of the closet are now coming out to their friends, family, and neighbors --- in record numbers. And by doing so they are using the best weapon in the fight for gay rights: visibility. Good for them!

What the increase suggests, Mr. Gates said, is not so much that gay Americans are flocking to the state, but that the ones who live there have been galvanized to declare themselves to their neighbors and communities.


The spirited mood here evolved, leaders say, in particular reaction to the disparaging views expressed by several well-known clerics during the campaign over the amendment, and since. Two of them, the Rev. Joe Wright of Central Christian Church and the Rev. Terry Fox of Immanuel Baptist Church, both in Wichita, led the move to introduce a ballot in the state legislature that gave rise to the popular referendum.

At the same time, the vitriol of the Rev. Fred Phelps, of the 80-member Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., has grown more extreme in the past two years, as he has begun to protest the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq on the grounds that they support an army, and a nation, that tolerates homosexuality.

“Every time Fred opens his mouth, it’s good for us,” said Stacey Haynes, an account manager for a technology company who lives in Lenexa with her partner and their adopted daughter. “He’s creating bonds between people.”

It is such an amazing act of courage to come out of the closet. But what makes this article even more of an eye opener is the number of people, “well into midlife and ensconced in long-term relationships”, who decided to come out, apparently “in reaction to what many see as the anti-gay climate that led to the marriage ban [in Kansas].” These are people who are already established in their careers and quite comfortable with their quiet lives in one of the most conservative states in the union. To make such a dramatic and potentially life-changing decision at this point in their lives is both commendable and brave.

My husband and I are not gay, but when we found out we had a gay son our first reaction was to retreat into the very closet our son had just exited. We got a brief taste of the claustrophobia of the closet and irrational fear of detection and it was awful. Though I would guess our initial behavior is not all that unusual for parents in our shoes, we are not proud to admit to it even today. But we also got a very real sense of the balancing act around which our son’s life revolved while he grappled with the reality of his sexual orientation. And more importantly we realized just how much he lost while trying to live his life in the shadows of other people’s expectations.

When we found out about our son, George W. Bush was in full swing campaigning for re-election. A federal gay marriage ban was his tool of choice for whipping his base into a blind frenzy. The anti-gay climate he created was palpable and for us, terrifying. Every emotion we had was heightened by the poisonous homophobia that became so pervasive during that shameful campaign.

Initially it strengthened our resolve to close ourselves off from everyone and everything. We told no one, not even family members we knew would have no problem with our son’s sexual orientation or close friends who themselves had gay children. We avoided everyone for fear of potential cracks in our “everything’s normal” facade. But a funny thing happened while living in hermit-ville ---- we got really pissed. The more people used our precious son for political or religious gain, the more furious my husband and I became. How dare they use our son - those bastards! Slowly our need to come out and squash these creeps like grapes overpowered our need to remain in seclusion. And we knew our best weapon was visibility. We had to put the face of our family and our son on their boogie man.

And so it is with the delicious taste of revenge in my mouth that I point out the ultimate irony, George W. Bush used homophobia to eek into office, but in doing so he unleashed a force that will one day lead to the very thing he used to scare the ignorant: full equality for gays and lesbians. I guess he missed the day his physics teacher taught Newton's Laws of Motion because if he hadn’t, he might have learned that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Hat tip to PageOneQ


No comments: