Good evening and thank you for listening to “Viewpoint” on Eye on the Triangle. My name is Evan Garris, and in no uncertain terms, I’m gay. I’d like to state that for the record, so that the reasons for my unconditional terms of your cooperation might resonate a little harder. That’s right—I’m out, and I’m pushing my agenda straight through your speakers.
An article in last Friday’s Denver Post caught my attention. Focus on the Family—a powerful arm of the anti-gay Christianist lobby—is taking issue with “anti-bullying bills” that are popping up in and being passed by state legislatures across the country. Focus on the Family education expert Candi Cushman would have you believe that these new laws encroach upon religious freedom by pushing a nefarious agenda designed to teach tolerance and diversity, ideals sometimes contrary to the status quo, and by that her organization obviously cannot abide. In reality, these bills are written to prevent what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Department of Health and Human Services have shown to be a public health crisis in our schools, and not just one prevalent amongst gay students, where, incidentally, nine out of ten report experiencing harassment. A 2008 report by the CDC found that 30 percent of American 6th to 10th graders report being involved in bullying, either as victim or as bully.
My initial reaction to Candi Cushman’s claim of gay agenda pushers attempting to strip Christian fundamentalists of their right to practice bigotry in public elicited an interesting reaction; one of agreement. I’m sure I won’t be the first to admit that there is a gay agenda; however it has no interest in putting your church out of business, only out of my government. It also couldn’t care less about destroying your family and their Victorian sensibilities, or converting your children—they do that on their own, and in quite sustainable numbers. No—our agenda is one of rationality, built on the same principle as the United States Justice System, which holds that no tyranny of a majority will ever suppress the rights of a minority. All we ask for are the same civil rights and constitutional protections allotted to Candi Cushman and the wing-nuts at Focus on the Family.
After releasing my inner gay militant, I realized that while I hold the fundamentalists and homophobes completely accountable for their evolutionarily stunted belief systems, I can’t necessarily blame the poor souls for acting in accordance with them. Instead, the targets of my criticism should be the members of my family, my friends, and my gay community—some of whom are employed by this radio station—that choose not to speak out and stand up for who they are or who they claim to support. In the face of clear and present bigotry they remain silent, except when behind closed doors. It’s no wonder that the struggle for gay rights has taken so long to produce any results; the fire ignited by events like the Stonewall Riots in New York City has all but died out. Once gay men and women were compelled to take to the streets with their demands in hand, but now they can outsource their activism to lobbying organizations like EqualityNC and the Human Rights Campaign that promise results and a trendy bumper sticker in return for privately made financial contributions. There’s a glaring paucity of much needed action, especially amongst gay youth of my generation who believe that civil rights are hereditary or purchasable rather than fruits of a difficult struggle.
I treat my sexual orientation like I would any other of my personal characteristics; it’s nothing special, and it’s really my business and no one else’s. However, there are powerful people that want to make it their business, and I’ll be damned if I let them treat me differently because of it. It’s exactly for this reason that those of you who sympathize must grow a backbone and voice your concern loudly and in public at every opportunity. When livelihoods are at stake, political quietism is the lowest form of cowardice. And to those of you who are still in the closet and too afraid to open the door—you owe it to your community, you owe it to me, and you owe it to yourself to get the hell out and start fighting for your dignity.
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