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LGBT Lessons for Straight People: Discrimination Ends at Home

November 30, 2009 By: geekgirl Category: Featured, LGBT Lessons for Straight People

Gay EducationSometimes I have questions that don’t have answers. Sometimes I have questions that I figure if I write about them, it will bring on a barrage of angry comments. Then, I discover I still have the question. Today’s question is about prejudice. Is it better when people are overt about their prejudice, or is it better when they hide their prejudice? For me, the answer has become more complex. I have always believed that I would rather have someone be honest, even if it’s ugly, because then I know where they stand. I found myself debating the value of silencing ugly speech, and I surprised myself.

Prejudice, bigotry, stereotyping; One of my favorites is “It’s reaching the point where a person can’t say anything about homosexuals without being called names.”

I grew up in the sixties. It was an every day occurrence to tell jokes regarding someone’s ethnicity, race or religion. People just couldn’t get that the jokes were hurtful. They would protest that they were only jokes and meant no harm. We still hear that today.  Worse were the comments intended to be blatantly derogatory. Negative stereotyping and generalizations about any group of people are typically  inaccurate and damaging. Slowly, as a people, we’ve learned that our words were hurting people, even when we thought we were telling innocent jokes. Many of those that purposely and knowingly practiced hate speech were on the end of enough social pressure to stay silent. It didn’t necessarily mean that their minds had changed.

And that’s the part that would bother me – knowing that bigotry still exists in people’s hearts, behind closed mouths, behind closed doors. I have always maintained that I would rather know someone is a bigot. After all, people are still finding plenty of ways to discriminate against people, they just hide their bigotry behind something else.

After reading articles about LGBT rights and readers comments for over a year now, I found myself pondering the question of the social pressure to refrain from making derogatory comments. (Please note carefully. I said social pressure, not legal pressure. I’m a big fan of freedom of speech. I don’t deserve freedom of speech if I want to take it away from someone else.)  I began to realize the benefit of making this kind of talk unacceptable. Our children don’t hear it. I want to believe that each generation of kids has become more open, that it is natural for them to have friends of different races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientation and political beliefs.

Do I really want my son to hear people making ugly comments about someone’s religion? Someone’s gender? Their race? Ethnicity? No. I don’t. So I have come to realize that pressuring people into silence has risks but also has value. When we don’t speak up against hateful words, we make it acceptable. We build a better society for all of our children when they aren’t exposed to prejudice and bigotry. When they don’t learn bigotry, they won’t move on to the next steps of verbally and physically harming people.

We learn prejudice and hate. We learn name calling and stereotyping.  Can we learn the meaning of human dignity acceptance and respect?  Does this mean I accept and support everything that everyone says? No. It means I look at each person for who they are as a person; their behavior, their values. Are they honest? Are they kind? Do their actions hurt others? Do they treat others with respect and dignity? Do they stand up for the weak? Do I judge people when I don’t like their actions? I would like to say I don’t, but I do. However, I tell them what I don’t like and why. I don’t threaten to kill them. Believe me, it twists them in knots when you refuse to stoop to their level.

We live in a society where divisiveness and sensationalism are so pervasive, we call it news. People on the extremes get the attention of the media. This creates impressions that cause us to make sweeping generalizations about groups of people. This is done to LGBT people every day. We shouldn’t lower ourselves to that standard.  Direct your voices to the individuals who have hurt you. Thank those that support you.

LGBT people have faced discrimination and brutality for too long. We can’t change the world through violence. We can’t change it by being silent. We can’t change it by asking nicely. We can change it through courage, an unwillingness to back down, and articulate and persuasive arguments.  But mostly, we can change the world by living our values.

“It’s reaching the point where a person can’t say anything homosexuals without being called names.” All I can say is – I certainly hope so!

To find that heart of compassion in brutal leaders and people in power situations is, I imagine, one of your greater challenges. Power by humiliation is an acquired disease, cultivated by thousands of years of pathological history. We need to find the antidote, which is compassion coupled with a firm, non-violent use of resistance and pressure

– Victor Zurbel, November 30, 2006, in a personal message.

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.

– Eleanor Roosevelt

jaysays.com contributor geekgirlgeekgirl: Jude is a straight woman, a mom and has been married for 32 years to the same wonderful man. She believes in Buddhism and attends the United Church of Christ. She is a molecular biologist, her best friend is a lesbian, and she believes that every human deserves equal rights, respect and a life free from hate, fear and discrimination. The only thing she hates is pickles. Her science blog can be found at LGBT Latest Science.

LGBT Lessons for Straight People: The Endangered White Male Species

October 21, 2009 By: geekgirl Category: Featured, iQreport, LGBT Lessons for Straight People

Gay EducationIf you are like me, you can always think of a great comeback to an offensive comment. One day later.

This last week was a whirlwind for me. One week past the National Equality March and I’m still processing everything that I experienced and felt. I felt so prepared to take on the world with such powerful words given to me by the speakers, with such energy and friendliness from everyone that I met.

So imagine my surprise when I was caught off guard by a man seated next to me on an airplane. It was fairly clear that he was relatively conservative. We kept the conversation light and delicately danced around controversial topics, as often happens in real life. A part of me had been longing for real life conversations. Because on the Internet, it is so easy to be rude. I often find myself thinking, would you say that to a person’s face?

Now it was my turn to wonder what I would say to a person’s face.  As the flight was close to its end, my fellow passenger stated that he was worried about his son’s ability to find a job after finishing college. Well, who wouldn’t be with the current economy? My son is in college and I said “I hear ya.”

He continued “Yea, I’m worried because there are all these special groups that want protection. Sexual orientation, Latinos. I worry about my normal white male species disappearing.”

I could see by his facial expression that my face already revealed my feelings. The tension rose. My mind went in several directions in those few seconds. Do I stay silent? Silence implies agreement. As a person who does not like conflict, who was raised to be polite and not start arguments, I wanted to fight that urge. My emotions wanted to oversimplify this person into a bigot and put him down. There’s a lot of indignation in the world these days. The media and the blogosphere thrive on it. It’s easy to be irate. I get irate all the time. There is a lot to be irate about.

This was in real life. What would I say to a person’s face? After all, here I am a self-proclaimed LGBT ally and supporter of human rights for all people. I, of all people, should have been able to remain clear headed and have the perfect persuasive response.  The right words that would open this man’s mind and heart in just 30 seconds.

I blurted out something like “I don’t care about a person’s race, sexual orientation, religion or politics when I hire employees. I want them to work hard, be honest and decent. We are all human. If your son can do that he will be fine.”

Awkwardly, I half smiled and left the plane. Was this man part of the “movable middle”? Did I make him think? Or did I lose that one and only chance that many people will give you? Did I anger him?   Will he be quiet, yet still have those feelings? I’m all for getting people to stop saying hurtful words. Knowing it is unacceptable is the first step to ending the cycle of bigotry and discrimination, but if children are still taught discrimination at home, it won’t really end.

So what did I think of a day later that felt like the perfect comeback? Not an answer but a question. A question asked in all sincerity. Because really, we should want to know the answer. It’s a question that all of us should ask ourselves. We find civilized discourse, honest reflections and soul searching to be boring and weak. Yet, they are the essential keys to changing another person. To changing ourselves. I don’t know how I affected this man because I didn’t ask him a question. I made a statement with a tone that said “This is final” and I missed my chance to know if I could make a difference. After all, I was not in any danger of physical harm.

I wish I had asked  “And how do you think you would feel if your son were Latino or gay? I’m serious, I would really like to know.”

Is this response perfect? I don’t know. But it is open and sincere. Without defensiveness.  Given in the hopes of letting someone feel safe enough to change before my eyes.

If you have arrived at this website by accident, if you don’t like gay people, or any other group, take a moment to ask yourself how you would feel if it were you.  Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes can be quite the wake up call. Take a moment to be human. Take the next moment to realize that we are all human. Then watch your understanding unfold before your eyes.

Next time, I’ll be ready. After all, now I am hoping you are the stranger next to me that strikes up a conversation.

jaysays.com contributor geekgirlgeekgirl: Jude is a straight woman, a mom and has been married for 32 years to the same wonderful man. She believes in Buddhism and attends the United Church of Christ. She is a molecular biologist, her best friend is a lesbian, and she believes that every human deserves equal rights, respect and a life free from hate, fear and discrimination. The only thing she hates is pickles. Her science blog can be found at LGBT Latest Science.

If Maggie Gallagher is Upset, Then So Am I!

September 10, 2009 By: geekgirl Category: Commentary, Featured, Thought of the Gay

nomMaggie Gallagher of NOM, the National Organization for [Heterosexual Only] Marriage recently said:

This is not an issue of free speech but of neighborliness. Fundamental decency requires that we treat each other with respect, especially when we disagree deeply on hot moral issues. Sadly, I’ve grown used to the reality that tolerance is now a one-way street for gay marriage advocates. It no longer matters how respectfully and civilly one makes the case for humanity’s marriage tradition.

You see, Maggie is upset that people think she is a bigot. She is upset that people tell her that what she is doing is gay hate. Maggie just wants to be your neighbor. Because she has been respectfully and civilly making the case for humanity’s marriage tradition.

And if Maggie is upset, then I am upset. Because I actually agree that fundamental decency requires that we treat each other with respect. I feel hurt. I am so upset that I cried, got out of bed and I am writing this at midnight.  So if you are reading this blog, I would appreciate it if you would send this blog everywhere you can. Tomorrow I will print it and send it to Maggie.

Dear Maggie,

Allow me to help you understand.  You are hurting real people. Real people that love each other. Do you know how many gay couples I know? Let me count: Five couples that are close friends. That visit us and we visit them. People I speak to and work with every single day. About another 20 couples at church. Another 20 or so from work or other social groups.

You have hurt them to the point where I have seen them cry. You have made ME cry! You have made me angry and my friends angry. How dare you hurt people you don’t even know? Then you cry victim? Poor Maggie! I’m so sorry Maggie. If I had known you were so sensitive, I would have…….. wait, I would have done nothing differently. No one is trying to take away your marriage or any of your rights. So just exactly what are you upset about?  But maybe someone should take away your marriage. Then you might see how it feels.

My friends are real people, with real names, lives and families.  They love each other, pay taxes, mow the lawn, go to church (or not), give to charities, and obey the law. You are denying them legal rights that any two people who are committed to caring for one another deserve. Marriage is a legal contract that entitles people to 1138 rights under Federal Law. You want to stop people from having the right to protect each other financially and legally, and you wonder why people call you a bigot? Do you really have to wonder? Traditional marriage? Marriage is defined in the social context of the times. It has been many things, some of them quite ugly. When two people love each other so much that they are willing to be financially responsible for each other, that deserves legal and social recognition.

Tolerance is a one way street?  I must read over 50 gay news sites and blogs. Have I just gotten lucky that most of them are people who are trying to explain that they are human and deserve, what was that word Maggie, “Respect?” Is it respect when Pastor Steven Anderson says that gays should be murdered? Is it respect when readers will write comments like “homosexuals are the turds that you can’t get to flush down the toilet?”  Is it respect when gay teens have a suicide rate four times higher than their peers? When they are bullied and taunted every day? Is it respect when your parents throw you out, or worse, beat you? Is it respect when your employer fires you because of your sexual orientation or gender identity? Is it respect when a couple is arrested for a peck on the cheek? Is it respect when you are a gay soldier and fellow soldiers abuse you, knowing that you can’t tell?

Wouldn’t fundamental decency mean giving everyone equal rights? Maggie, you are either naive or a master at whimpering foul. When you have made it your life’s work to deny people rights, they are not going to like you. It’s really that simple. Wake up and get the message. Because I guarantee you, the gay people who do grow up to be healthy and confident got there the hard way. They have been through the hell of fear and discrimination. They have thick skins and they are not afraid to fight for their rights. And in case you didn’t notice, 75% of the newest generation is with them.

Maggie, go home and take care of your own life. And let other people have their own life. That’s neighborliness.
jaysays.com contributor geekgirlgeekgirl: Jude is a straight woman, a mom and has been married for 32 years to the same wonderful man. She believes in Buddhism and attends the United Church of Christ. She is a molecular biologist, her best friend is a lesbian, and she believes that every human deserves equal rights, respect and a life free from hate, fear and discrimination. The only thing she hates is pickles. Her science blog can be found at LGBT Latest Science.

Arizona Lawyers Attempting to Reject LGBT Clients

December 28, 2008 By: jaysays Category: Discrimination, LGBT News

The Arizona Bar Association proposed changing the lawyers creed [pledge] to include sexual orientation and to read as follows:

I will not permit considerations of gender, race, religion, age, nationality, sexual orientation, disability, or social standing to influence my duty of care.

As if echoing the recently signed “Right of Conscious” Legislation allowing doctors to deny patients care due to moral reservations, a group of 30 lawyers from the Alliance Defense Fund (“ADF”) make claims that the proposal is “unconstitutional” and would require them to represent clients they find immoral. [On a personal note, does anyone else find it ironic that lawyers are concerned with morality?]

There are numerous potential problems with this sort of bigotry, including defendants’ rights to a speedy trial.  Assume for a moment that a person is arrested on charges (be they valid or not) and after weeks or months (or justice forbidding longer) the person is finally prepared, with their Court Appointed lawyer, to go to trial.  On a pretrial interview, the Court Appointed lawyer finds out that the defendant is a homosexual and decides he/she can no longer represent this person.  Trial is now delayed and additional time is spent in prison.  Or worse, trial resumes with a new Court Appointed lawyer who has not been able to properly prepare to represent the defendant.  Is this not also unconstitutional?

Oddly enough, the lawyers’ pledge already includes religion, which means a Christian attorney cannot deny an Atheist person proper legal representation solely based upon the religion of that person.  Would this not also be a valid, moral argument and thus unconstitutional?  Yet the ADF has taken no moral stance on this issue.

I have contacted the ADF and will be providing a follow-up report based upon their response.

Read more at 365gay.