Thursday, May 10, 2012

Congratulations, Mr. President

When Pres. Obama announced yesterday that he personally supports gay marriage, there was general joy in the GLBT community, general dismay among the Far Right and Literally Religious everywhere, and very possibly a huge sense of indifference on the part of people with little or no interest in American politics and social issues.  Given that this is an election year and the President is a politician who very much wants to return to the White House next winter, I have no doubt that his decision to make this announcement at this time was somewhat calculated.  Indeed, what seemed to be VP Joe Biden putting his foot in his mouth last week with the same sentiment may in fact have been a political weather balloon intended to gauge public opinion.

But whatever the circumstances, I believe Mr. Obama was sincere in his personal struggle and the viewpoint he ultimately expressed.  And the fact that the President – the first sitting president ever – made this “radical” statement is very important for the millions of Americans who are G, L, B, or T, as well as their family and friends of any and all orientations.  It matters because we’ve all been taken further out of many still-extant closets, and for young gays especially, gives them increased comfort, rather than shame, about who and what they are.

Reliable polls show that over 50% of Americans support gay marriage, which means that nearly 50% do not.  Why not?  I think the answer boils down to a nasty combination of ignorance, status, fear and fundamentalist faith.

Ignorance: because millions of Americans (many of the same folks who don’t believe in Evolution and other science-based ideas) still haven’t gotten the memo that homosexuals are born, not made.  They still view gays as immoral perverts whose real agenda is not civil rights, but “recruiting” people, especially the young, into their fold.  You can no more lure someone into homosexuality than you can “pray the gay away,” but they don’t get it. 

Status: because to some straight people, “marriage” is a term reserved for them and their “traditional” unions, so to give dykes and faggots the same status diminishes their own.  Fear: because lots of people don’t know openly gay people and they’re afraid of what they don’t know.  They’re equally afraid that their own gay children will stop succumbing to intimidation and discrimination and find the courage to openly be themselves.  Fundamen-talist Faith: because Judeo-Christian scripture calls homosexuality an abomination, and they take those ancient scriptures to heart.

There is one anti-gay-marriage demographic, however, that must be viewed a little differently, and that's African-Americans.  For many of them, the reasons of ignorance, fear and faith apply, but there's another component that's not hard to understand.  Black Americans are still recovering from hundreds of years (beginning pre-Slavery) of being deeply oppressed and barely regarded as human.  They see this history as a prime reason that so many black men (past and present) have been socially emasculated.  They don't want to trade "nigger" for "faggot" as the newest slur to overcome.  And there's already considerable resentment that a significant proportion of black men reject black women in favor of women of other races.  For blacks, gay marriage feels threatening to their continued existence and growth as a community stabilized by solid traditional marriages and strong families.  This is not an unreasonable concern, but, blacks will nonetheless have to struggle with this important social change along with everyone else.

In the larger, over-all sense, gay marriage is abhorrent to many in the same way that racial civil rights and women’s rights went against much of the American grain – because they signaled significant change in how America would look and function.  There’s also the matter of a prevalent human instinct to feel superior to someone, and since it’s become “politically incorrect” to feel superior to women (although that’s sure making a comeback) and blacks (although that’s nowhere near over), gays and illegal aliens now bear the brunt.  Hispanics and Asians can’t escape the hate-mobile either, but the “immorals” and the “illegals” are much more acceptable targets – essentially in the same category as terrorists.

I (like many others) wasn’t too pleased that the President made a point of saying that the legality of gay marriage should come under the province of states’ rights – but that’s a matter of law, not personal opinion.  The President’s opinion (as well as his fairly decent policy record regarding GLBT citizens) is strong medicine, even if it’s not a cure for ignorance, status, fear and (simplistic) faith.  It may take a while, even a few more presidential administrations, before GLBTs win the full rights and social acceptance we deserve.  But look at it this way: as recently as the 1960s, homosexuality was viewed as a mental illness and a crime.  Progress takes time – and we should celebrate our victories along the way.


Nadine B. Hack said...

We are rejoicing at the President's stand on this! Let's hope for a time when every American has full rights.

sweliky46! said...

A very full exposition on the subject. Thanks,Jeanne.

MizB said...

Thank you, Nadine and Suze!