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Fight or flight, queer edition

JamesB3 over at The Next Hurrah, has a thoughtful post up about the gay marriage “smokescreen” by the Right. They AmTaliban wants us converted, re-closeted or, well dead. That said, what should gays do? Escape to gay enclaves in big cities?

His position is that there’s nowhere to run. He notes that Clinton, while ultimately no friend of gays because of DADT and DOMA, at least wasn’t fomenting open disdain for gays and lesbians, which is what we are seeing now.

Bush has repeatedly singled us out as being different. As being a threat to tradition, to the family. He has ostracized us and stigmatized us and he has supported and enabled politicians and evangelists who have used extreme, divisive, and sometimes dangerous language against us (Tom Coburn, Rick Santorum, James Dobson, Lou Sheldon, and so on). The Republican Party seized on same-sex marriage to help shield the mess they have made of this country, and while I will never believe that Bush won the election because of equal marriage rights (he won because of ‘the war on terror’), it was successfully used as a tool to distract the media and to disorient and fire up the public.

Many people do not understand that these attacks are not about marriage. Marriage is a smokescreen for various zealots to rally against tolerance of the very existence of a gay person. We are supposed to hide away, deeply ashamed, or to “go straight” before we go to hell.

So does an escape plan make sense? The strategy that gay folks should escape from the Red and Purple states (Red states with Blue enclaves) to safety of Blue states is an illusion, according to James. He feels that our interests in the long run are better served if those in Purple states reclaim them by coming out, getting politically active and protecting their interests. In a deep Red state, I attend to also agree with him — there’s only so much open hostility you can take, never mind outright danger.

The idea that all you have to do to live a happy life is move to a liberal city or supportive state is increasingly naive. Aside from fear for your life, your basic civil rights can easily be stripped away. In “liberal” California, there is a very likely chance that domestic partnerships and co-parent adoption will be banned through the ballot box. You think that can’t happen in California? Just think to yourself how many people will get in that booth and believe that all they are doing is “protecting marriage.” They will have no idea what they are truly destroying, and the media will only encourage their ignorance.

My point is not to attack these cities or states, or to claim that their tolerance is a facade. And if you are living in a situation where you are constantly harrassed, taunted, or beaten, then you should get the hell out as soon as you can. My point is that I think it is time for gays and lesbians to stop buying into the fantasy that we should all move to gay ghettoes and everything will always be alright. I think that kind of delusion is one of the major reasons so many GLBT citizens don’t bother to vote. They assume that as long as they have their friends, or their local clubs, or supportive local laws, nothing that happens outside of their circle jerk will seriously affect them. I think that more gay Americans should consider staying in purple and red states, consider moving back to purple or red cities and states, and fighting at the local level to repeal restrictive laws and elect supportive people. You may not be able to come out to everyone, but you can probably find people you can trust and slowly break down the barriers of prejudice.

You do have to win people over one at a time, on a personal level. That is the only way to counter what these people hear in bigoted churches, and in local watering holes, and in the right-wing media. It’s a constant political battle though, working to keep allies in office and the balance of wingnuts in check. Inattention to voting and the issues by gay folks and their allies can mean the difference between a marriage amendment/adoption rights bill/domestic partners legislation (name your civil rights issue) passing or not.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding