Over the last few days I have watched the story of the police raid on the Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth, Texas unfold. Unlike my fellow blogger and friend Jay, I don’t live in Texas. In fact, I have never been to Texas.
I joined the Facebook group, I’ve read blogs from the Huffington Post, the Washington Blade, local and national news sites about this story, trying to understand the real facts of what happened. I noticed a trend in a few comments and realized that I, too, had revealed yet another form of prejudice.
It looks something like this.
What do you expect? It’s Texas.
I’d like to pretend I’m above stereotyping but I wasn’t. And while in my mind it was meant teasingly, that doesn’t mean it’s ok. Don’t believe I’m capable of that? Oh, but I am. On the Sunday morning after this police raid, a Texas church invited it’s congregation to bring a gun to church day. I made the sarcastic remark, to Jay in an email that, after what happened at the Rainbow Lounge, no wonder it’s legal to carry a loaded weapon in Texas and maybe people need to take them to gay bars. (Don’t try this at home. Not even in Texas.)
Those of us who think we live in what we like to believe are more progressive states are thinking, “This couldn’t happen where I live.” “This kind of thing only happens in the South.” “This kind of thing only happens in Red States.”
This kind of thing happens everywhere. A few facts, as always, from Geekgirl.
So how does that compare to a supposedly Blue State like my own, Wisconsin? We have two Democratic Senators, a Democratic Governor, the first out lesbian Congresswoman, Tammy Baldwin. Here’s how.
In 2006, almost 60% of Wisconsinites approved that states amendment. But less than three years later, recent polls indicate that percentage would be significantly lower now. Only 55% of people in a nationwide poll conducted by Quinnipiac University said they were opposed to gay marriage last month. And 57% said they favored allowing gay couples to form civil unions that would provide marriage-like rights.
Not much different. Oh wait. Do they have this law in Texas?
Wisconsin is a state that imposes criminal penalties on residents if they enter a marriage outside the state that would be prohibited in the state. The law was created to prohibit underage couples from crossing state lines to marry, but it could be interpreted to apply to same-sex marriages.
That’s right folks. If you are gay and get legally married somewhere else, you could be a criminal in Wisconsin.
But how does Wisconsin compare to Texas with respect to crimes against gays and lesbians?
Right now, about 80 miles from very liberal Madison, there is a Christian group suing to burn a school library book about a gay teenager who experiences homophobia and bullying. You might be thinking, but that isn’t beating up people. No. But there could be a gay teenager for whom that book would be a lifesaver.
Last summer, two gay people were attacked coming out of a bar in one of our nearby, liberal suburbs. Last fall, my husband and I went to the Nov. 15th protest against the results of Proposition 8. I was waiting for my husband to run and put more money in the parking meter and we lagged behind the march for a few moments. A young man came up to me and asked what was going on. When I explained, he said, “Disgusting faggots,” spit on the ground and walked away. I was so stunned I couldn’t even respond. I was still stuck with “In Madison? We don’t have those kind of people here.”
Oh yes we do. And so do you.
If I were not involved in gay activism, I can tell you what my reaction to this news story would be.
The requisite liberal moment of compassion, outrage and smugness.
Then I would have moved on. “That’s awful. Honey, what do you want to do today, it’s Sunday?” We acknowledge these terrible things that happen but we don’t feel them. Too many terrible things happen in a day. And if we aren’t gay, it doesn’t get past our liberal intelligence and politically correct emotional response.
But what if you are LGBT?
I have a young friend, who is centuries wiser than her mere 19 years of age, who wrote this to me in a recent letter. I was so moved, so heartbroken, that I am keeping this letter for life.
I mean, just TODAY I heard (John’s) friend ran away from home just for being gay because his parents were going to send him back to (a Middle Eastern country) to probably get him stoned to death – just for being gay. He’s not even trans! He didn’t even sleep with a guy! He was just honest!-An hour later, my transfriend posts another note on his facebook crying for help/venting his frustration with his oblivious family who forces him in dresses, to which his family of friends all responded with speechlessness and ‘less than three‘ hearts. -Three hours later, I’m reading about my gay friend’s exboyfriend who committed suicide, a year ago tomorrow, for being some kind of member of the LGBT community, too young to figure out which.
This happens every day to me, to everybody, everyday, everywhere.
We hear about these things in our own personal localized lives as much as most adults hear about wanted criminals for theft, rape, kidnap, and murder on the local nightly news. Only, we know the victims personally and we know the suspects just as well, if not better then the friends – who, for most, ARE our only family – who we lose in these hate crimes of varying degrees.
Actually, I think the only difference between seeing a drawing of a criminal on your local news every night and hearing about things like that every day is when it’s personal, it’s not nearly as desensitizing, but still just as frequent. So even though you see it happen all the time, you don’t think of it less because of that. (Emphasis added)
Hate does not have boundaries. Not by state, religion, political party or sexual orientation.
For one minute. An entire 60 seconds, watch the clock, you are gay. Let it soak in. Think of how much you love your heterosexual partner. Only now, the only difference is that your sweetie is the same gender. Would you be willing to do the experiment of pretending to be gay, in public, with a friend of the same gender, gay or straight? Would you let your body language betray that you are lovers, not friends? Would you show affection to that person, publicly?