There are days when I’m really excited about the future of the gay rights movement, like when the Iowa Supreme Court bravely stood up for equal protection under the law and made marriage legal for us ‘mos. And then there are days when something happens that’s so debilitatingly depressing that I wonder what I even care for. A few days ago I had one of those moments.
My younger brother is a sophomore in high school in the simultaneously rich and trashy city of Asheville, North Carolina. Since he lives with my mom and stepdad (currently deployed to Iraq), I don’t see him that often anymore, and he’s really grown up to be quite different than the little brother I was raised with. He skateboards, loves Bob Marley, shaves his head super-close, and basically possesses every attribute known to man that would make him my complete opposite. Not that I love him any less, it’s just hard to find things in common when the lil guy I used to know has been so adversely affected by his surroundings and the brainwashing of his father. (That’s a whole ‘nother post. The man once told me that “the Anti-Christ will be someone just like me.”)
Well, the other day he Facebook friended me. I thought nothing bad of it, clearly, and added him. Exchanged a few comments on pictures, etc. It was actually really nice, feeling like I had some sort of window into what was going on in his life, especially since my mom and I haven’t talked for a few months. Yeah, there were some things that gave me cause for concern, but it’s not my job to police his profile, and I said stupid stuff when I was younger too. But then up came a status update calling someone who didn’t show up for a fight afterschool a pussy and a faggot. Now, any of you readers who know me will instantly understand how my thoroughly nonviolent self reacted to the proposition that my brother had become just another street thug in baggy clothes looking for a fight after school, but that’s clearly not what upset me the most.
If we’ve built a culture that is so accepting of discrimination and hateful language against gays that our own families use those words without a moment’s thought about the consequences or messages they’re sending, how are we ever going to achieve equal rights? If it’s so ingrained in our culture that degrading gays, lesbians, and transgendered people is acceptable, and even cool, where does that leave the movement? Yes, I realize that the words and actions of schoolyard bullies may not reflect their true feelings, but haven’t we as a society failed in a fundamental way if it’s still okay to use these words?
And so, just days after New York State Senator Ruben Diaz lambasted the gay marriage movement as threatening traditional moral values, I’m fighting my own personal battle. Not with a state legislature, or with a panel of judges, or with the National Organization for Marriage, but with a 16-year old boy so caught up in the swirling social forces of high school that he’s blinded to how his language affects even his closest relatives.
Where do we even begin?