As a gay queer male, I have known intense suffering at the hands of people who swore they felt nothing but love for me. As psychotic as it sounds, it was love that drove my family to their responses. But it was also love that drove two of the three of them to accept the reality I’d forced in front of them after they’d spent the previous 18 years happily denying my obvious sexual orientation, which was clear at least by the time I began elementary school if not earlier.
These days the remainder of my genetic family with whom I am willing to interact would prefer to pretend that now there is no discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals. Just like they’ll eagerly tell you they aren’t racists and racism doesn’t exist anymore (just before or after they themselves make a racist remark). That is how easily privileged individuals become complacent.
Back when I actually came out, one family member, the one with whom I’m closest, was devastated for, among other reasons, the fact that I would face such a difficult life. She believed I was making a choice rather than accepting my reality, and didn’t understand that my life would only be as difficult as people like her were willing to make it. But only a decade or so later and you’d think there had never been any discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals from the way she speaks. This is complacency.
Meanwhile, ever since the Supreme Court decisions extending marriage rights to the LGBTQ+ community, the far-right has been seething. And back then, in my euphoria, I was happy enough to urge them, the Limbaughs of the country, to go home and pout; they’d lost, we won. Love won! The end.
But bigotry is not so easily defeated, as I’ve come to recognize. Now we are seeing the response to US v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges, and to the general acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals within their communities. Threats to Pride events across the country are on the rise. But what makes this different is that violence is also being legitimated alongside this bigotry, being written into Republican platforms across the country following Texas’ lead, on the bigoted and obviously foolish claim that LGBTQ+ individuals are ‘grooming’ children; the discrimination is codified and political violence with it. There are stakes in this, now, again, for those susceptible to the messaging of the far-right: their children are under threat, they’re told. How do you think this is going to end? That means there are stakes in it now, again, for the suburbanite gays, the power lesbians, and all of us who may have become complacent in our individual pursuits, many of us within ivory towers.
We must all be awake to what is happening and we must circle the wagons around the most vulnerable in our communities. Now is the time to extend friendship to any LGBTQ+ person you encounter, even those whom you might have walked past, content that they, like you, were able to go about their day. You cannot be content anymore. Befriend that LGBTQ+ person today. Extend hospitality, give them safe places, but most importantly, build a bond between yourself and an LGBTQ+ person, as many of us as you possibly can. Soon enough we will need all the allies we can find. Be there for us with as much passion as we muster for you. By extending this friendship, you may be saving a life.
But most of all, given the hostility in the air: if you see anything suspicious, if you hear or suspect anything of even your loved ones, say something to someone with the capacity and preferably the will to stop it. We might all thank all of our gods for the smart citizen who not only noticed 30-some men in full tactical gear climbing into a U-Haul in Utah earlier this month but then also chose to call the police. That person, and the police who chose to respond with urgency, are the latest in a long line of heroes from among every day US citizens who did what they could to intervene.
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