Saturday, November 28, 2009

"Where Are The Activists?"

That's the question asked this week by well-known black gay blogger Rod McCullom, who was lamenting the absesnce of activist voices in the wake of the recent rash of gay-bashings and killings around the country. I was pondering that question over Thanksgiving dinner, and it occurred to me that while not always visible, the activists Rod seeks are there. It's true that visible leaders like Harvey Milk or Don't ask/Don't Tell protestor August Provost are few and far between, but still, there are plenty of "activists" out there. These people would be you, you, and you. Think about it: would history remember Harvey Milk, Dr. Martin Luther King, or Mohandas Gandhi, if not for the tens and hundreds of thousands who marched, spoke and agitated with them? Their words, their calls to protest, and all the social changes they achieved would have gone for naught if not for people like you.

Speaking of social changes, another question I hear fairly often, from gays and straights alike, is, "why is gay marriage such an important issue?" With all the rampant gay-bashing, and the military's official policy of discrimination against gays, and the 30-year, ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic, gay marriage seems a minor concern, at best, to many people. Yet, gay marriage is a critical issue for the LGBT community, not least because there are profound issues of how gays and lesbians are seen as people, and whether the United States is following its long, rich history of Constitutional democracy. The Fourteenth Amendment to our Constitution begins with these words: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Yet, gays and lesbians do not now enjoy, nor have we ever enjoyed the "equal protection" of the laws. The anti-gay marriage laws on the books in 45 states, and the federal Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) are a direct assault on the Fourteenth Amendment, and yet people believe the gay-marriage issue is "minor"?

The gay-marriage issue speaks directly to our long-held, long-enforced status as second class citizens, and all the other ills which assail us in the LGBT community--gay-bashing, DADT, HIV/AIDS--are inextricably linked to this. The only way these challenges to our lives will ever be overcome, is through public activism. That means YOU doing all the things which bring about social and political change: voting in every election, participating in public discourse on LGBT issues, and if necessary, taking to our streets to say by our numbers "Here are the gay activists--each and every one of us!" Just something to think about while you're recovering from Thanksgiving dinner.

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