08 March 2014

Society and Scenery

It started out with a comment I heard on the news the other night.

"THEY are taking away our rights and treating us like second class citizens!", he shouted on the steps inside the rotunda of the Utah State Capitol building. This was the clip ABC 4 played over the evening news as they explained that many Utahns believed that non discrimination laws were good for business and the economy.  By and large, it was a very positive story, showing how many businesses favored non discrimination laws and how people as a whole just wanted to show respect for their neighbors.

But for some reason I just couldn't get over that first comment.

"THEY are taking away our rights"


Let me begin by explaining that I am a very optimistic person.  So much so that I think it defines me more than any other of my characteristics. As such, I am a humanist. I believe people are generally good and that most people really just want to do the right thing, what ever that may be. I like people. A lot.

My biggest reservation about ascribing myself to the LGBT community is the "us" versus "them" mentality. In public addresses, you often hear speakers say that people on both sides of the fence need to be more understanding and sympathetic to the other side's view.  However at the end of the day, most in the liberal community see this as conservatives need to become more open minded on social issues and liberals need to welcome them onto the correct side.

But when it comes to the "us" versus "them" mentality, both sides are equally to blame. 

I can't really speak to what it is like to be on the more conservative side of this fence, so let me talk just a moment to my own people.

The LGBT community in my opinion is a misnomer. A community is a group of people that you primarily interact with. Your kids play with other kids in the community. You get people from your community to watch your kids or take care of your pets while you are out of town. You probably have common social events like church, parties or barbecues with your community. A community where you have chosen to establish yourself and it should hopefully be where want to be.

It was a frigid December night where I first heard the term "LGBT family". A few days in to having marriage equality in Utah, a large rally was organized outside Salt Lake's City County Building on Washington Square in downtown. One of the speakers, a radio host, was addressing the audience. He talked about how in his profession he regularly travels across the country, and how frequently when he mentions that he lives in Utah and is gay people immediately react, "Isn't that so hard?". The short answer for him was, "No, not at all". He remarked that Utah had one of the strongest and closest LGBT Families that he knew of, and that for him it wasn't hard.

So I like to think of it a little bit more like that. A family is the group you share commonality with based on circumstance. You don't choose your family-- you are a part of them because you share a key biological identity. And you grow up with them. You change and become different from them. You learn and become and understand better by being with them. But inevitably you separate, always knowing that you share something special with them.

For the LGBT family in Utah, that is very much true. An overwhelming proportion of us come from an LDS background and have all had very similar stories. But we are part of many other communities that take a higher precedence-- work environments, ecclesiastical organizations, schools and universities, neighborhoods and service groups. It doesn't mean that we aren't a part of the same family, but we are often in noticeably different communities.

That being said, I find a lot of frustration with victimizing the LGBT family. Don't get me wrong, discrimination happens. It has happened to me personally and is is hell. But that being said, I don't think it happens to such a degree as people often proclaim. I don't think it is ever appropriate to ask for special attention or recognition specifically because you are part of a minority group. Having to treat someone nice or make them especially comfortable because they are a minority is just as much discrimination as harassing them because they are a minority. It then becomes as sort of pacification-- patronizing them for being too much a part of a minority to be able to earn their own respect.

I want people to respect me and to care about who I am as a person rather than because I am part of a discriminated against minority. I think think there is an importance in letting people know your identity during the coming out process, and then there after to let the world know you for who you are as a person. That's why I get incredibly frustrated when I see on twitter and instagram the following, #gay #gayboy #instagay etc. I find that just as out of place as seeing #blackguy #whitekid, etc. You are so much more than a label. So why the hell would you go out of your way to ascribe yourself to a single title that could come to define how people see you.

Don't get me wrong, I am all for non discrimination laws and ordinances. But that being said, you are so much more than a title. And unlike other discriminated groups like racial minorities and women, LGB people aren't visually marked by their differences. You have the opportunity to make an impression on people through your work ethic, your attitude, your productivity, friendliness, optimism, etc, before the topic of your date with that nice person last weekend ever comes up over a lunch break. 

I love you guys. I think I've have enough of a monologue for now. Have a good one. :)

1 comment:

  1. This is interesting, though I'm not sure I agree with your line of reasoning, at least as a concept that extends universally. If I may make a totally unsolicited comment: First off, I think "the gay community" makes sense in two ways. First off, LGBT people are a political community - many of them share some political interests, and there are others who oppose these interests.

    I also think that there are gay communities as you've outlined them. I feel like I am increasingly in this sort of community. In my city, if I go to a gay bar or club, I know that I will likely run into friends and acquaintances. We chat about what is going on with us and our mutual friends. I play in a concert band with other LGBT people. A lot of the gay people in my city play in a kickball league. We're like a small subsection of the city with a lot of interactions among ourselves. Even more than that, we're likely to have connections to the same people in other cities. I ran into a (gay) friend tonight who said he was working with a (gay) guy I went to school with and that guy had asked how I was doing. I know I used to not believe in it either, but I think it really is a community in a lot of meaningful ways.

    In terms of referring to yourself by a gay label, I think it's because being gay might cause you to have different experiences than other people, primarily as a result of dating guys and knowing other people who do the same. This applies to other labels as well. As an equivalent, if you are LDS, you would be concerned with things like general conference weekend and temple recommends. If there are activities tied to your identity, that makes it more salient and you might bring it up more. This is especially true if it that identity is "marked" (differing from the "standard"). You wouldn't say #whitekid because there isn't anything different from the "standard" that you would do as a white person.

    Anyway, that's probably more opinion that I should give. I think you make a lot of good points, I just think that there are a wider range of experiences that lead to many ways of dealing with these sorts of issues.