Over at BJ, there was a vociferous debate on a thread about queer rights. I came into it late (though by the time the thread ended, apparently, I was in the middle), and it hurt. I was essentially in agreement with some of the main points, but I was bothered by the vitriol leveled at the queer community and the defensiveness of some of the posters. Yes, there were a few over-the-top commenters from the queer side (note to my side, NEVER compare yourself to a revolution, ok?), but for the most part, the responses were thoughtful and multidimensional. I may biased, ok, I am biased, but I was shocked at how little the majority wanted to listen to what the queers were actually saying.
I admit it. I cried. It was the tone of the arguments that really got to me. These are our allies, and they were so defensive and angry about queer issues. I couldn’t even imagine what the far rightwing reaction would be to such a discussion. I withdrew from BJ for the rest of the day to lick my wounds, so to speak, and I realized that I didn’t feel comfortable talking honestly about queer issues on the site. I have to give it up to the other queers with much more balls and patience than I have (gex and gbear to name two), not to mention much less sensitive about it.
I realized something, though. Part of the defensiveness of the majority is because of guilt. See, for most non-queer people, queer issues aren’t a priority. They think it should be, and they feel guilty. Once I realized that, I could then say, “Hey, ok. It’s not their priority (queer rights). Why should it be?” And I felt much better about it.
Let me give an illustration. My best friend has devoted much of her life to helping disadvantaged youth, mostly of color. She confronts racism when she sees it, even when it would be more convenient for her to ignore it. She questions her own assumptions, and she progresses. She devotes her life to her kids (she’s in charge at an alternative high school)–in other words, she’s walked the walk. The thing is, most people in a majority don’t do that. While most people are against discrimination and most likely would sign a petition or write a letter or donate money to the cause, it’s not something that someone who isn’t affected by it is necessarily going to give an undue amount of time to erasing the problems. Likewise, a straight person can be not homophobic and supportive of gay marriage and repealing DOMA, can give to the causes and write about them or write letters, and still, the cause isn’t in her top five list of personally important causes.
And that’s ok. It really is. To be even more personal about it, let’s take the Iran election. Now, it’s a cause celebre in the States what with everyone wearing green to support the Iranian protesters. We are all Iranians now, apparently, including the oppressed House minority–the GOP. Don’t ask, you really don’t want to know.
Personally, it’s not in my top five issues of importance. Partly, it’s because I have watched Taiwan struggle for independence for the last thirty years (longer, but I’ve been watching for that long) without America giving a damn about Taiwan. Partly, it’s because even if Mousavi wins, it’s still going to be a theocracy. For whatever reason, while I wish the people of Iran well, this is not an issue that engages me personally.
It’s not popular for me to say that, and I haven’t really proclaimed it loudly, but there it is. I am not as attuned into class issues as I could be because I’m not of the working class or the underclass. I’m not interested in the rights of mothers at work to breastfeed without having the time counting against their breaks–actually, I am against it not counting because I am tired, as a single person, to have families get all the flexibility. You all chose to have families (for the most part). I did not.
My point is, it should be ok for someone who’s not queer to say, I support you, but it’s not a top priority for me. I mean, as long as they aren’t actively trying to push further discrimination against queers, of course. Instead, it’s taboo for a liberal to rank concerns, as it were, which leads to the anger and the defensiveness exhibited over at BJ. In addition, they are, as a whole, more moderate than I, so they favor the middle road a bit more than I do.
It was really made clear to me by reading a newer thread on the health care plan unravelling. A few people said that if Obama didn’t get this passed, they would be against him or nonpolitical again. In other words, that was their own personal issue of importance. One idiot today even complained today that the queers think our issues are more important than the healthcare issues, which, by the way, is pure bullshit. But it illustrates the point that to most people, the issues that affect them personally are the ones they care about the most.
I guess my point is, I can accept that to non-queers, our issues aren’t foremost and front and center. I would even be fine (well, fine is not the word, but relieved) if Obama said, “I have a lot on my plate right now. LGBT issues are going to have to wait.” It’s just with the combination of him walking back his promise on repealing DADT, the knowledge that he is against gay marriage, the missteps with different pastors who were anti-gay, and the DOMA brief that was distasteful, it didn’t seem like he was in a hurry to actually do something to, you know, actually move along the repeal of DADT and DOMA. I know Congress has to get the ball rolling (and yeah, I know how difficult it is to get them to do anything), but if Obama had a sense of urgency around the issue, so would they.
It’s only when several prominent supporters started rumbling over Obama’s appearance of foot dragging on gay issues (and backing out of a fundraiser) that Obama did something. Since I have seen Democratic pols use queers time and time again, all the mealy-mouth talk on queer issues was starting to get me down. I am actually heartened by his clear confirmation of his commitment to repealing DOMA. I just want him to continue to match his words with his actions.
P.S. I knew he was against gay marriage before I voted for him. I voted for him anyway. I would do it again. However, many queers were leery of him from the beginning and aren’t as amenable. Just wanted to clarify that I am not a one-issue voter.