Wednesday, August 27, 2008

High on a mountain top: putting 'those' people in their place.

Do the police target stings at heterosexual couples in popular make-out spots? And if they did, would those arrested be subjected to having their names and photos displayed by the local news station?

Monte Sano park in Huntsville is a beautiful place from my memory of it. As a kid, I went there with my cousins when visiting them in Huntsville. There was a pretty cool playground, but I liked it mostly because there were cliffs and rocks to climb, geographical features missing from the landscape around my house. When we were teenagers, we would sneak off up the cliffs so they could smoke or make out with girlfriends. They would tell me scary stories of how it was dangerous to go there at night because satan worshipers gathered there, but we mostly laughed at these accounts. We were no longer spooked by the drug users that we had been warned frequented the park when we were kids, since at this point someone with us was usually smoking pot. It is always funny to find that you have become the bogey man you were so strenuously warned against.

Again, it seems that I'm the bogey man that haunts that park, though not the pot smoking teenagers. I never knew about the cruising areas, probably because the public spaces that gay men frequent for cruising are usually those at the edges where other people rarely go. Guys trying to find someone for casual sex usually don't go places that are filled with kids and families; they don't want to be seen by anyone who isn't looking for the same.

Honestly, who fucking cares if someone has sex in a corner of a park. The guys positioned themselves in a place so they could see the parking lot and avoid being seen by outsiders, and the police and tv station go to extreme lengths to voyeurize the activity and take it from the fringes of the community and force it into every home via the nightly news. Why is the activity of consenting adults so news worthy? Because the people involved are gay (different) and refuse to submit to the desires of the authorities. And why is it ok for the the police and the tv station to subject these people, consenting adults, to public humiliation and extra-legal punishment? Because gay people matter less under the law.

This is what the gay marriage battle is about. This is what ENDA is about. This is what the fight to allow gays in the military is about. The fight is about having or not having laws that say, "You don't matter as much because you are gay. The law will not protect you. We do not have to treat you like you are fully human."

These men were consensual adults, participating in a non-violent, victimless crime. That the police find it necessary to go out of their way to harass and target these men with stings is offensive enough in and of itself, but to bring in the local news crew and work to exact an extra-legal punishment is disgusting. Why bring in the news, why publish faces and names? To shame them. To go beyond the law and exact punishment above and beyond that called for under the law. They feel emboldened to do this because the limits of the law are not the limits of the public's jurisdiction over the queer amongst us. Those people don't matter as much to the law, and because of this, the law is not seen as the boundary around how gay people should be treated. The law is for the real people, the good citizens, not the faggots.

This is why it is ok for the local news station to act as a branch of enforcement, to act as police and judges in this case. Gay people shouldn't be able to get married because law shouldn't treat them as real people or full citizens. Gay people shouldn't be able to serve in the military because the law shouldn't treat them as real people or full citizens. Gay people shouldn't have the same protections in the workplace because the law shouldn't treat them as real people or full citizens. This is the message.

These are hot button issues for the right wings because they do not want to be bound by the law in how they respond to the gay community. They do not want to be limited by the law in how they exact punishment on these 'others', we the bogey men.

Towleroad's article on this is full of comments about how the men got what they deserved or how they shouldn't expect to be exempt from laws. I'll forget for a moment that personally I don't think that having sex in public should be illegal unless it is some kind of disturbance of the peace. My argument here isn't that these guys should expect special treatment under the law. Instead the fight is about equal protection under the law, and limiting the jurisdiction for punishment to the legal system. The frequent, targeted stings were specifically enacted because the targets were engaging in homosexual behavior. For the police to go by and issue tickets wasn't enough, because the law was not the limit to the enforcement the police and others in the community felt entitled to. This was not a situation of "Do the crime, do the time." This was, "Get in your place, boy (or in this case, 'faggot'), or someone might put you there." It was meant to be intimidating and it was meant to exact a punishment for more than just the crime. It was meant to remind the public that gay people should not expect their rights to be the same under the law.

We can't fight for the right to marry and then turn our back on the rights of everyone to be treated the same under the law. The ability of the police and media outlets to participate in intimidation and demonization like this emboldens our opponents to treat all gay people like we aren't full citizens and aren't deserving of full protection under the law. Get out of the best-little-boy-in-the-world trap: "If we just act good enough, show them how like them we can be, then they'll treat us like we are real people too!" Bullshit. Capitulating to and encouraging the belief that individuals should be subject to punishment (legal and otherwise) for not conforming to majority approved roles and that personal expression and identity should be subject to public control only emboldens these fucktards to further try to mistreat anyone who is different.

This sting isn't just about some old closet cases fucking in a park; it is about me and every other gay person in this country. This is about me because I want to be able to expect the same treatment under the law as everyone else, because I don't want to have to worry that my behavior is subject to extra scrutiny and extra-legal judgement and punishment because I am gay.

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