I sat down the other day and penned “Murder of Gay Youths in Tel Aviv: I’m the One to Blame.” Although many have misconstrued the message to be an apology for “blaming religion” for anti-gay attitudes, it was really a call for us each to take personal responsibility in obtaining social and civil equality. We need to answer the call from “God” to ensure social and legal equality for all people.
While writing the post, I remembered, if only briefly, the slogan, “Silence = Death.” For those too young to remember, the slogan was about the HIV/AIDS epidemic sweeping the nation and our government remaining silent on the issue as people died. The slogan was later popularized by the group, ACT UP! At that time in our history, HIV/AIDS was considered a gay disease, having originally been named, GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency). While it didn’t take long for society at large to be infected by a virus straights thought they couldn’t “catch,” the damage was already done. HIV/AIDS was now an epidemic because no one was listening to the cries for help from gay community, no one cared about dead and dying queers.
I sat thinking about that and how the slogan remains applicable today, both in relation to HIV/AIDS and in the murdering of LGBT people in violent actions such as what took place in Tel Aviv. If we remain silent, we die. We just have to speak up.
This thought train took me somewhere else, to our religious opponents that claim morality is on their side. They believe they are answering a call from God with their bigotry and intolerance, but I offend by calling them bigots. They would have you believe that such a term does not apply to them because they condemn the action of being gay, not the person who is gay. The religious folks have made these sorts of claims in the past – that some group is beneath them, worthless, soulless, sinners and should be ruled by this “Christian God.”
It was then that I had a realization. Although I’m an atheist and a gay man, I am also answering a call from God because I am responding to their alleged call from God. There is a certain level of humor in that for me. It’s very difficult to respond to claims that some deity I don’t believe in dislikes me without just saying, “I don’t believe in the tooth fairy and I don’t believe in God.” After all, there is no requirement in this country that I believe in the same things that others believe.
But that doesn’t work in talking to our greatest U.S. adversaries, the Christian Reich. They can’t fathom the concept that people believe differently than they do, they can’t handle the fact that the “truth” they are speaking is actually only belief. I don’t believe that gay is a sin. In fact, I don’t believe in sin at all. I believe in right and wrong. It is wrong to hurt people. It is wrong to try to rule their lives based on your beliefs. It is wrong to steal my rights, just as wrong as it is for me to steal yours. Unlike our Christian opponents, I don’t need a belief in God to do the right thing. It’s not fear of an eternity in hell that keeps me from murdering people, it’s humanity, compassion, honor, dignity and even morality that stays my hand.
A great thing has swept the nation – perhaps we have Proposition 8 to thank for it – but LGBT people are starting to come together as a true community of people. We must not back down now. They are wrong and they will not win. Change is happening, but change needs your help. Whether your straight or not so straight, you must speak up or we will continue to have our rights denied. You must find courage in yourself and give courage to others. We can do this.
Imagine if you will a world where Rosa Parks said, “Yes ma’am, you can have my seat on the bus.” Or a world where Eleanor Roosevelt advised, “Why do I need to vote, my husband thinks the same as I do.”
We have to break free of the fear that the intolerant have bestowed upon us and just say no. No, I won’t hide any longer. No, I won’t be oppressed any longer. No, I won’t allow you to hurt me anymore.
My dream – that future generations will live free of the fear associated with being LGBT and I’ll continue fighting to realize that dream. Now, I ask that you dare to dream too. Release your fear and speak out against bigotry and hate. Call your local churches, your politicians, your anti-gay aunt and tell them, “We’re here, we’re queer, and we aren’t going to hide in the shadows anymore.”
“Every time we choose safety, we reinforce fear.” — Cheri Huber