After my last post describing my adventures in downtown San Antonio while attempting to gather signatures to the Open Letter to Obama, I took to the streets again. It was about 10:30 p.m. when I, along with three others, pulled into the parking lot near a local gay bar. The crowds were coming at full force and we could have used several more people to try to obtain everyone’s signatures. It was windy and cold, but our reception was warm and tender… for the most part.
We split into two groups of two people, each with pads of signature pages, the letter and pens. As people walked toward the clubs, we would stop them and ask for their support. Many were anxious to get inside into a warmer climate, but those that took time to hear us out were grateful for our involvement and some offered their stories. One kindly gentleman took a look at the letter and advised me that it hit very close to home for him as he had lost his job due to his sexual orientation. He told me about his lawsuit and how difficult it was for him. We discussed the Tennessee man who was recently fired for his sexual orientation as well. I learned that, in spite of my very comfortable and supportive employment, I wasn’t immune from the reality of sexual orientation discrimination in my own employment. After our conversation, he thanked me for what I was doing. It was a very touching experience and I learned that in my zeal to make a difference, I must not forget compassion.
I then spoke with two ladies who were members of our military and serving under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (“DADT”). We discussed the policy and the efforts to revoke it – and the likelihood that the Obama Administration will do away with the discriminatory policy [at 4:15]. I then inquired as to the murmurs I’ve heard from other military personnel that DADT protects LGBT soldiers from discrimination and aggressive acts by other members of the military. They were stunned by the representation and completely disagreed with the argument. They did state, in summary, that lower ranking military members may feel that way, but the truth of the matter was that the DADT was not a protection but a discriminatory policy. I learned that we must continue to work to repeal DADT and hold the Administration accountable should it remain in effect.
Many LGBT people have made several comments that the African American community is not supportive of LGBT rights and issues. While working the streets downtown, we approached three African American ladies in a group. They had a small child with them. They listened to us and reviewed the letter. As one of them read the letter, she saw the portion which requested that DOMA be repealed and said, “That’s what I wanted to see.” She grabbed the pen, pointed it out to her friends and they all anxiously signed the letter. Overall, the “group” that was seemingly the most responsive and most interested in the issue was the African American population. Not one African American we approached refused to sign the petition. One of the ladies was wearing a shirt that said, “All we need is love.” That is what I learned from them.
I noticed that many of the younger people had no interest in signing the petition, even young LGBT people at the clubs. Most were in too big of a hurry to meet up with their friends inside or stated things such as “I’m not political”. The older generation (late 20’s and above) seemed much more receptive and had many stories to tell about things that have happened to them. I learned that, until it happens to you, you probably won’t care too much about it. I also learned that I miss the ignorant bliss of youth.
Many of the LGBT people I spoke with had never heard of DOMA and required a bit of a history lesson on the subject. I learned from them that we have a lot of educating to do of our own community.
Some of the more trivial things I learned were: that when it is cold outside, you should wear gloves even if you don’t think you need them; when people have to “pee” you shouldn’t ask them to sign a petition, even though you have no access to a restroom and have had to go for over an hour; that you can never have too many pens; and that people wear too much cologne to the clubs.
Perhaps the most defining thing I learned was that I am s till frightened. I thought I had overcome my fear of reactionary people and what they may do to me as a gay man, but instead of being the strong, self-assured person I thought I was, I was shaking inside everytime I approached a heterosexual couple and asked them to support LGBT equality. In that I learned that I was “heterophobic” by the strictist definition.