Monday, June 20, 2011

Saving My Pride

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

It's LGBT Pride. I should get out there, wave the rainbow flag, celebrate. Especially since our New York State legislators are on the verge of legalizing same-sex marriage, and the UN Human Rights Council finally declared lesbians and gay men shouldn't get stoned to death, beaten up, tossed out of our jobs, or hung by the neck until dead.

This is hugely important for queers internationally. Especially for activists like Wamala Dennis who's risking his life as the director of Icebreakers, a group fighting AIDS, and defending LGBT rights in Uganda. For the last couple of years, they've been beating off attempts to make homosexuality punishable by death. That anti-gay campaign is headed by David Bahati, a fundamentalist Christian linked to The Family, a group of U.S. evangelicals with deep pockets.

The UN council vote gives all us activists another tool. And I should be thrilled at these advances, including marriage, but every time I think about a bunch of het politicians or priests or anybody else sitting around discussing whether or not queers like me should have rights equal to theirs, I want to stop by the nearest farm supply store, pick up a couple tons of chemical fertilizer, insert a fuse, and POW! BLAM! KABOOM!

It may be part of the process, but c'mon. It's totally repulsive having people sitting around trying to decide if I'm as good as them, as adult, as human as them. Because that's what this sort of equality blab amounts to. A bunch of hets trying to decide if we're worthy of marriage's privileges and responsibilities. If we're worthy to walk the earth, or should be buried under it, and forgotten.

While I wouldn't mind getting a few of those little amenities hets have enjoyed so long, like immigration and inheritance rights, that come with same-sex marriage. And while I want us all to be safe in the streets and in our homes. I've got news for our hetero friends. We don't need your vote to join the human race, or be declared worthy of anything at all. So when you're slapping yourself on the back for your nice progressive vote, don't count on my applause.

I'm saving that for the real heroes. The LGBT people doing it for themselves, like the song says. Taking to the streets, speaking out. Like Wamala Dennis. And every queer kid brave enough to join the Gay-Straight Alliance and slap on a triangle. Or put on mascara when it's supposed to be a baseball cap, or wear a tux instead of some frilly horrible dress.

In France, my newest heroes are Aline Pascale de Raykeer and Stephanie Daumas who actually did an interview about their civil union (PACS) and desires for same-sex marriage, and let their regional newspaper use not just their names, but their faces. You want to know what a lesbian looks like? Here ya go. They're beauts.

We forget that it's not just violence that keeps queers invisible. It can be the weight of culture as well. The habits of silence. And shame. Until recently, French queers kept to their place, sticking to the usual d├ętente of the closet. There was a kind of unspoken agreement that if you were discrete your sophisticated compatriots wouldn't bother you much, and you could pretend you were morally equal even if legally you were something they scraped off the bottom of their shoes. When queers sued for civil rights, they did it anonymously, as Jane or John Does. We never saw their faces. Never heard their names.

Not any more. French queers aspire to more than tolerance. The slogan for the Pride march in Paris this year: "For equality: in 2011 we march, in 2012 we vote." That's more like it. No beseeching. No excuses. No blab. Demanding directly what they want. Even if it is equality. Aline and Stephanie talked mostly about marriage equality, and wanting kids. But in France, when you use that word, equality, it implies much more. Because the nation itself aspires to liberty, equality, fraternity. It's carved in stone on all the public buildings. You see it a hundred times a day. In France, equality implies a horizon beyond the straitjacket of legal rights. It is social, cultural, political, philosophical.

Not so much in America. Still, I shouldn't rain on anybody's parade. We're creeping forward. Sooner or later we'll win marriage rights across the board. People will get hitched, and when, as I suspect, society doesn't throw roses, we'll wake-up, reconsider our illusions, want more. And queer kids looking from het couples to gay couples may well shake their heads in disbelief and reject them both as prehistoric and gross. They should have that chance to dump it all. Imagine some new way to live their lives. Yeah, I can celebrate that.

Lesbians! Dykes! Gay women. Get your rriot on at the Dyke March, Sat. June 25, 5 p.m. Leaving from 42nd St & 5th Ave, Bryant Park. Guys support from the sidelines.

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