Monday, June 29, 2009

it still matters...

I'd rather be writing about Michael Jackson at the moment. Instead, I'm greet by this first thing on this beautiful Monday morning. The day after the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, I've got to wake up to the news of police targeting a gay bar on this anniversary and assaulting patrons? WTF?


I've of two minds on this:

1) This isn't surprising or shocking. The idea that gay people matter less under the law is a message that is pushed aggressively from a thousand different directions in our culture. This is the specific point of all the defense of marriage act crap and every other stupid law about gay marriage. It has jack and shit to do with actual marriage. The point of the whole thing is to say, "Those people are... different." None of this protecting the children or sanctity of marriage or whatever other stupid idiotic crap people feed to themselves to feel a little less uncomfortable with their bigotry. Gay marriage shouldn't be the issue we all have to talk about. I couldn't care less about it in and of itself and would argue that we should be discouraging people from this institution rather than putting it on a pedestal and treating it all holy, but because it is used as a cudgel to beat us over the head and as an angle to codify our status as second class, less important citizens, I've got to fight for it. I at least have to fight against the anti gay marriage stuff, because it isn't anti gay marriage, it is (specifically and intentionally) anti gay people.

The reason police would expect that they can target this club and crack the skull of a patron is because they've gotten the message that gay people don't matter as much. That the law treats us differently, doesn't protect us the same as everyone else. And make no mistake, they aren't the only people getting the message. The economy is bad and people are unemployed and scared. Violence and crime will rise, and when a frustrated person is looking for an outlet for their anger, they often turn on the group they are told are worthless, are ruining this country, are threatening their marriage and their children. Gays aren't any of those things, but that is the message that has been pushed. That was a central message from republicans in at least the last three elections. bush won twice banking heavily on that crap.

A week ago, waiting on the dentist at Callen-Lorde, a community health center that focuses on the LGBT community but offers services to anyone, a lady stopped in the waiting room and began chastising us for being on our cellphones. I ignored her and kept reading my Lovecraft on my iphone, but one guy engaged her in conversation trying to be polite. She was rude and I was inclined to interject but know myself well enough to know that I couldn't enter this conversation without escalating things, and she seemed a little crazy and everybody knows you don't argue with crazy; you get away from them. After making a litany of disparaging remarks about gay people ("You all dress alike and look alike." -note, there were three of us in the waiting room, none of us looked remotely similar in dress or otherwise), she said her fake polite goodbyes and as she got in the elevator called us "faggots". This was in what is a safe space, a gay-oriented clinic. It kind of blew my mind and pissed me off, but she was just a crazy lady, happy to use our facility but just as happy to look down on those people helping her.

Later the same day, I went to midtown to meet my boyfriend for lunch. Walking back from eating, we had our arms around each other, sharing an umbrella in the rain. As we crossed the street in front of his building, someone stopped and rolled down their window to scream at us, "You should be shot!"

That evening as we got off the subway, we ran into a couple of our friends who live around the corner from us. They have a big back yard and I had some moonvine seedlings for them which had spent too long living in a cup on my kitchen table as our schedules had refused to coincide, so I invited them to come up and get the seedlings and check out my fire escape garden. As we crossed the street, from a passing car comes this greeting: "FAGGOT!" I live in New York City, don't look particularly outlandish and I've still got to put up with this shit, so no, it is not surprising that police in Texas are targeting gay people for violence during a raid.

2) On the other hand, I feel like we can fight back these days. Plenty of people comment that gay pride doesn't matter anymore, that the parades are silly or too commercial, that being gay is no big deal; but they are wrong. It might not be a big deal that Christopher Street fills up with gay people to the people who live in places where they can be out and open in their daily life without significant worry of harm, but it matters to people living out there in rural places or smaller cities or even here but in the outer boroughs. That people can walk down the street and say that they are gay is exactly why the people targeted in this raid can fight back. The police can't expect them to beg that their names not be mentioned or sign confessions and pay to get released as quietly as possible because we already march down the street and say that we are here and that they aren't alone and that being gay isn't a crime and isn't shameful. This shame was a powerful weapon once upon a time, and in truth, it still is in many places (it certainly was when I was growing up in Alabama), but its power becomes less and less each year.

The police in Fort Worth are about to find out how organized and not scared the gay community is. It isn't surprising that this crime happened, but thankfully today it is equally unsurprising that there has been a swift and aggressive push back. It wasn't drag queens with rocks and bottles this time, but public protest, elected officials calling for investigations, local news coverage, blog postings, and I'm sure the lawsuits will follow. People can still try to spread the message that we matter less under the law and they can try to codify it (e.g. DOMA) but when we don't believe it, we feel empowered to tell our family/friends we are gay or to march down the street shouting it and we feel like we can fight back. So we will.

No comments: