Normally, I eschew Facebook “Like” contests and changing profile pictures en masse to show solidarity under the misguided notion that the modern equivalent of jingoistic chanting does anything to influence policy. Surprisingly, then, yesterday I changed my Facebook profile picture to a simple red square with a white equality symbol, as did seemingly everyone in the LGBT community I’m friends with, to demonstrate my support for opponents of Proposition 8 in California, who just wrapped up oral arguments in favor of gay marriage before the United States Supreme Court.
Originally started by the Human Rights Campaign, an organization I typically criticize for its lack of effect when it comes to advocacy and seeming dearth of actual programs helping LGBT kids, youth, adults, and seniors, this Facebook movement has grown to reflect that there are, seemingly, more of “us,” supporters of gay marriage, than there are of “them,” the opponents of gay marriage.
“At first you resisted. Now you’re all red, red, red,” messaged a friend of mine the minute I changed my profile picture. I admitted to him that I got on the Orwellian bandwagon, but I began to think about why, in this instance, I had a visceral, immediate desire to participate.
Frankly, I have a reputation in Philadelphia as a bit of a curmudgeon, the type of writer and critic who could have witnessed Jesus Christ turn water into wine and write down later, “The red was dry, the conversation was ultra liberal, and the speaker needs a haircut.” Yet, when it came to gay marriage, I was on board without a second thought, enthusiastically taking the lead of thousands of people before me. Upon reflection, I realize it is because I, like many others, am fed up with this false equivocation in American media and politics that, somehow, idiotic arguments deserve a seat at the table alongside thoughtful commentary.
For years, American media has strenuously attempted to give proper voice to those opposed to gay rights. Much like how those opposed to civil rights for African Americans had their arguments rooted entirely in their own queasiness with blacks, foes of gay marriage and, by extension, LGBT rights, seemingly have no proper argument aside from a red-faced, flustered, “But it’s…it’s…wrong!” And, much like how factually-challenged climate change denialists are given a speaking platform with nauseating regularity on Fox News, gay rights opponents are somehow put forth as though they have any substantive grievance or sound opinion that is rooted in anything aside from their own inherent bigotry. They do not.
At issue is whether or not homosexuals like I am should be allowed to, privately but officially, wed. This issue is not about whether or not you support leather chaps and bathhouses; this issue is not about whether or not you are conflicted on allowing transgender women to attend all-girls’ colleges; this issue is not about whether or not you are queasy about the fact that 40,000 children in California are currently living in same-sex households, as Justice Anthony Kennedy rightly pointed out this week; and, certainly, this issue is not about gay sex. Rather, this issue is about whether or not I as a human being am deserving of the same rights and privileges you are as a human being.
The fact that a conservative evangelical might find the fact that I like to kiss other men gross is irrelevant to this debate; the fact that, gross or not, this goes on and I cannot change this component of my identity as a human being is the essence of whether or not I deserve to be able to have my love publicly affirmed through marriage.
Contrary to the reprehensible, and completely discredited, notions propagated by gay conversion “therapists,” I cannot change my sexuality. In fact, if I could have changed my sexuality as a 13 year old gay boy growing up in a town called Quakertown, PA, obviously not the most progressive and cosmopolitan of rural Pennsylvania areas, I would have. Making the decision to live as a heterosexual would have been much easier; I would not have had to come to grips with the fact that society was telling me I was a faggot, an effete leftover from human evolution. If I could change my sexuality and produce a child with a woman naturally, I would be able to continue to pass along my mother’s DNA and my father’s surname; and, I could touch the hand of my son or daughter and feel my own blood, developed from thousands of years of mating on part of my German ancestors, my naval officer great great grandfather, my beauty queen mother, my NY Times crossword-puzzle addicted grandfather.
As reality would have it, however, my innate sexuality prohibits me from honestly doing this. Instead, I have, for years, had to figure out how to wed my physical attraction to other men along with my principles and desires as a human being. That is, try as I might, I cannot get pregnant by a man; and, as such, I cannot physically, bring together my DNA with the DNA of the man I love to produce a new human being worthy of the same rights and dignitites as my brother’s son, my nephew. And, while I can certainly, at least in some states that don’t outright ban gay adoption, adopt a child, I cannot produce one with the person I love just as my mother or brother have done.
While this is, at best, annoying and, at worst, tragic, I, and millions of other homosexuals like I am, have figured out that family is what we make it, that friendship is key to a life of happiness and love as a gay man, and that so long as the government concedes that I am not biologically inferior but, instead, biologically different than my straight counterparts, we can peacefully coexist, society and LGBT folks.
Today, however, and for the past several decades, there are entire segments of the American population who, despite these facts, have caused me and continue to cause young LGBT folks great sadness, anguish, and pain about their innate identities. We are told routinely that we are separate, different, and, logically then, inferior to heterosexuals. We are made to feel badly about the fact that we like to kiss other men; we are made to feel dirty for wanting to express our sexual and romantic identities publicly.
Specifically, I remember being called a faggot on Walnut Street for holding the hand of the boy I was dating when I was 18. And, immediately, we stopped holding hands; after all, it was totally inappropriate of us in this straight world to try to publicly affirm our affections for one another. Similarly, I was called a faggot and then punched in the face because I, unlike the 18 year old version of myself years earlier, passionately protested this slur last year. The difference between these incidents, along with their separation in time, is the fact that no reasonable or legitimately thoughtful person thinks either incident is okay today. Ten years ago, however, a good number of folks would say things like, “Well, you should be careful, you never know who is around.”
Everyday, we hear news that more and more Americans are supporting gay marriage. And, everyday, we hear news that more and more gay Americans want to get married. And, everyday, we hear the truthful argument against gay marriage coming out more precisely; that is, they simply have an issue with us faggots and their issue has nothing to do with public affirmation or love or extending rights guaranteed by the US Constitution to American homosexuals. Rather, opponents of gay marriage rely exclusively on their own personal “ick” factor in relation to homosexuality and pretty much every sexual and gender difference that isn’t straight, missionary style, and monogamous.
This opinion does not deserve a voice in thoughtful media or commentary. It belongs in the dust heap of history along with Plessy v. Ferguson’s “separate but equal” distinction in relation to different facilities, including drinking fountains, pools, and public schools, for blacks and whites. And, just as the Supreme Court overturned Plessy v. Ferguson with Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court is positioned to affirm what everyone knows but what American media still has difficulty conveying.
Gay people are equal and deserving of the same rights and dignities as straight people. So, I changed my Facebook profile picture. And, I suggest you do too.
This article first appeared on Josh’s own blog here.