In one of my history classes, my professor remarked that everything in history produces its opposite. For every progressive movement, every new idea, every once-radical concept, there is a reactionary backlash. I can only hope that the measures banning same-sex marriage in California, Florida, and Arizona, and the measure in Arkansas banning all single-parentand therefore gayadoptions is somehow a mark that the United States is moving toward acceptance. Homophobia is running scared.
I admit to a sheltered viewpoint. Born right outside of Boston to liberal parents, I grew up with family friends that included couples like Steve and Mark right alongside those like Phil and Anna. Ive had a gay Congressman my whole life, and I feel entitled to cheer every time my state is mentioned because it was the first place in the country to allow same-sex marriage. My mother walked out of our church when she saw an anti-gay petition, and hasnt been back since.
I am now at a progressive university in another state on the brink of same-sex marriage, and I have surrounded myself with open-minded and accepting people of all races, classes, genders, and orientations. The one homophobic incident that hurt me personally was the constant use of gay for stupid by an acquaintance last year.
I have lived a life where gay people are celebrated, loved, and accepted. And I can only imagine how much that scares the voters who legalized homophobia in California, Florida, Arizona, and Arkansas on Nov. 4. If a person can get through almost 20 years without being taught that homosexuality is a sin, or dangerous, or perverted, then homophobia is losing its battle.
But the fight is still on. Just this semester, Everyone Allied Against Homophobia has worked countless hours to fight the return of NROTC to campus because of the militarys Dont Ask Dont Tell policy. Last March we ran a conference for high school students and heard about issues like no homo and schools that wouldnt support student groups of gay-straight alliances. This summer I interned for a LGBT youth theater troupe. Many of the teenage actors were homeless because of homophobic parents.
And there are less tangible problems: A gay- or lesbian-themed TV show like Queer As Folk or The L Word is still an oddity; LGBT youth lose role models when gay and lesbian teachers are forced into the closet; celebrities like Clay Aiken are spectacles, while no one cares that Kelly Clarkson is straight. And on campus a few weeks ago, a Spectator editorial suggested that Queer Awareness Month should tailor its activities to straight participants, implying that LGBT students should restrict their self-expression according to the comfort of a straight society. This exclusion of LGBT people and LGBT life from mainstream society makes it harder for people struggling with their sexuality to accept, announce, and celebrate that they are gay, or queer, or transgender.
Nov. 4 was wonderful. I was on the streets of Harlem for two hours, screaming with strangers and waving signs at honking taxis. I celebrated the end of an eight-year era. Then I heard that Proposition 8 had passed in California. My friends and I stood frozen on the street.
On Nov. 6, I read in the New York Times that a young boy announced his intention to be the first Latino president. I started to cry, overwhelmed by a sense of possibility. Then I sobered at the thought that a lesbian president is still unimaginable.
Still, I take heart; gay marriage is legal in Connecticut. Keith Olbermann released a special comment pointing out the absurdities of supporting Prop 8. We refused to elect a Republican president and vice-president who catered to the worst of the nations intolerance, and chose instead a president who included gay peopl in his victory speecheven if he isnt prepared at the moment to fight for gay marriage.
Looking at history, I feel pretty confident that homophobia is going to lose. That doesnt mean that California, Florida, Arizona and Arkansas didnt hurt. But they reopened a conversation. Everything in history produces its opposite. Homophobia is shouting loudly because its getting threatened. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, queer and allied voices are gaining strength and numbers. Someday soon, well win the shouting match.