I find diaries like this Why Everyone Should Study Slavery to be a Rorschach's test about unspoken assumptions on gay rights. It tells me more about writers and commentors than any direct conversation does.
The diary stated:
It's been in the back of my mind for quite a few days now, since the avalanche of diaries on Rick Warren, and Prop 8, and numerous comments and flames here about black folks, and comparing slavery as history to the status of GLBT battles for civil/human right.
There was never any significant number of commentators making this claim. So, why seize on this obviously out of the mainstream argument?
I asked why was it necessary to bring up gays in the context of a diary about the study of slavery? Unfortunately, I never got a clear answer. Were this just me, I could accept comments that it was just my take on the diary. But, it wasn't just me. Thus, I think I understand the problem. Gays must be denied historical metaphor. I don't believe this belief is intentional by most people, but I do believe this is a part of our implicit assumption that we do not question or even want to admit is part of the conversation.
Let's start with queer history to understand why we must be denied even metaphor. Gay rights did not begin with Stonewall. It's been an ongoing battle for a thousand years, especially since Christianity first outlawed it and the religion (along with Islam) spread the doctrine through colonization.
So, it's with irony that the forces that tried to extinquish our existence world wide now claims that homosexuality is not accepted in most cultures through out the world when it was the spread of religious doctrine which ensured the truthiness of the statement. Many indigenous cultures did accept some form of queerness (ie, Two spirits in some Native American culture, shamanism in others). But, that's a diary for another day. The key point is the denial. This denial is a powerful thing:
"When the international community sought atonement for the victims of Hitler's Germany at the Nuremberg Trials of 1946, neither the atrocities committed against homosexuals nor the anti-gay legislation and measures were mentioned"
If you want to understand the horrors of attempts to exterminate gays also read Granny Helen's incredible diary on the subject.
This denial allows people to deny our suffering ever happened, and any comparion to the suffering of others is per se "offensive" because we are nothing like other humans. The denial makes it virtually impossible to know the extent of the oppression. Nor has this denial of gays right to exist subsided:
"The United States refused to support the nonbinding measure, as did Russia, China, the Roman Catholic Church and members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The Holy See’s observer mission issued a statement saying that the declaration “challenges existing human rights norms.”
"The declaration, sponsored by France with broad support in Europe and Latin America, condemned human rights violations based on homophobia, saying such measures runcounter to the universal declaration of human rights.
“How can we tolerate the fact that people are stoned, hanged, decapitated and tortured only because of their sexual orientation?” said Rama Yade, the French state secretary for human rights, noting that homosexuality is banned in nearly 80 countries and subject to the death penalty in at least six.
France decided to use the format of a declaration because it did not have the support for an official resolution.
This process of denial is both internal (the closet, suicide and self-hate) and external (killing, jailing, maiming, socialized terror (repairative therapies, etc), firings, lack of housing, etc.). When I look at all of this, I am dumbstruck by how easy it is for others on here to ignore it.
"FBI statistics show there were 1,265 hate crimes based on sexual orientation in 2007, up from 1,017 two years earlier and 1,239 in 2003. That compares to 3,820 racially motivated incidents in 2007 and 1,400 in which the victim's religion was a factor.
Because not all states allow attacks motivated by anti-gay bias to be charged as hate crimes and because some victims are reluctant to reveal their sexual orientations to police, gay and transgender rights advocates suspect the numbers to be much higher."
The later sentence should give anyone pause in claiming to know the suffering of gays.
Much of our history is not taught at all and much of it has been destroyed or is not aknowleged. If we teach it, then we are trying to convert children to homosexuality. The oppressors have effectively wiped out gay history. So, when the leader of Iran said that Iran has no gays, he was making a statement of how the world has treated gay existence in general. We don't exist. Indeed, Iran is one of 7 countries where our existence is cause for us to be condemned to death.
Our suffering according to men like Warren and Huckabee also does not exist. That's how Huckabee describes why gay rights are not like black rights. Blacks suffered. Gays did not. Warren is similar. He compares us to pedophilles and supports men who have passed legislation that is the equivalent of the Nazi's Paragraph 175.
Nor is the destruction regarding our existence simple or easy to calculate. Terror is often used to reinforce social norms that hid the real damage. Recently, for example, in Brooklyn a man was murdered for appearing to be gay. Not that he was. Just the appearance. How many people hearing this story will now hide?
This denial can take even smaller forms of history. On the subway, I saw a woman scold her son because she felt the 4 year old was acting too effeminate. What willt hat boy think growing up about gays? Or himself? We are taught at an age before we have learned our ABCs to deny our existence because that existence is wrong. Yet, people here pressume to know the impact of oppression on gays? This to me is hubris.
When people say this terror is not true in the U.S. in general, I always suggest a simple test: Go to middle America as a gay man with your partner and hold his hand outside of a gay safety zone. Better yet- kiss him. What do you feel?
With a society so powerfully against our even existence, it is not a surprise that our use of metaphor becomes a problem. Contrary to recent beliefs by those who would deny gays the use of metaphors, the purpose of metaphors is not about exactness of facts, but, instead, about general lessons on which we can understand the world. Historical metaphors are to aid us in understanding Martin Luther King's statement, "Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere."
Yes, history can help us understand uniqueness, but it also helps us understand sameness. To paraphrase Maya Angelou: There is nothing so unique in your experience that we can not understand one other. Where history is denied its value for metaphor, we lose a way for understanding each other.
However well meaning people are regarding understanding the intricate diffrences of histories, without our ability to use history as metaphor , there is another truism that comes to mind: Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it. Here, our memory is shoddy because we lose a tool (historical metaphor) for analyzing what history is teaching us.
If we do not understand gay rights, women's rights, the rights of Jews, the rights of Native Americans, the rights of blacks and many others as trees in a greater forrest of the same rights of human rights- we lose the ability to remember why history matters to us all even when its not our history. This argument is not about what people should be. It's about what they are.
Metaphor is about breeding empathy for understanding how the plights of others relates to ourselves. Julian Bond understands this:
"Civil rights are not special rights, he says. They are "shared by all." "It isn’t 'special' to be free from discrimination. It is an ordinary, universal entitlement of citizenship." Most importantly, Bond takes on the ridiculous right-wing argument that civil rights for gays and lesbians somehow diminishes the black experience in the civil rights movement. "When others gain a civil right, my rights are not reduced in any way," he writes. "Civil rights are a win/win game — the more won by others, the stronger the army defending my rights becomes."
Bond continues: "People of color ought to be flattered, however, that our movement has provided so much inspiration for others, and that our tactics, methods, heroines and heroes, even our songs, have been adopted by or served as models for others."
He also says:
"No parallels between movements for rights is exact. African-Americans are the only Americans who were enslaved for more than two centuries, and people of color carry the badge of who we are on our faces. But we are far from the only people suffering discrimination -- sadly, so do many others. They deserve the law's protection and they deserve civil rights too. Sexual disposition parallels race -- I was born black and I had no choice. I couldn't and wouldn't change if I could. Like race, our sexuality isn't a preference -- it is immutable, unchangeable, and the Constitution protects us against prejudices based on immutable differences."
So did Coretta Scott King:
"Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union," she said. "A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages."
Contrast to those who would use black civil rights as weapon to deny gays their equality:
"To equate a lifestyle choice to racism demeans the work of the entire civil rights movement," the statement said. "People are free in our nation to pursue relationships as they choose. To redefine marriage, however, to suit the preference of those choosing alternative lifestyles is wrong."
So, who does the denial of the use of historical metaphors serve? That's the question that was not answered last night. It goes deeper than whether the diarist mischaracterizes the arguments of gay civil rights leaders and activists both at Daily Kos and elsewhere. I believe it serves those ultimately, regardless of the diarist's intention, who would deny me equality by denying my existence.
The use of metaphor is so powerful that it can circle back. As the NAACP Legal Defense Fund recently argued in its opposition to Proposition 8:
"We would be making a grave mistake to view Proposition 8 as just affecting the LGBT community," said Eva Paterson, president of the Equal Justice Society. "If the Supreme Court allows Proposition 8 to take effect, it would represent a threat to the rights of people of color and all minorities."
"We cannot become a society that picks and chooses who is entitled to equal rights," said Alice A. Huffman, president of the California State NAACP. "We should include all people from all walks of life in the entitlement to all freedoms now enjoyed by the majority of our population As a civil rights advocate, we will continue the fight of eliminating roadblocks to freedom."
Without historical metaphor, how do we expect people to understand the NAACP's meaning? Without metaphor, these events that occur to gay people are abstractions to those who do no suffer them,.
“By helping us frame meaning, metaphors provide us with a unique way of portraying the world.”
“Metaphors help us describe, visualize, and make sense of the world around us. For example, a possible metaphor for the brain is a computer. The images this metaphor creates help us to make sense of something complex -- many would consider the brain, like the computer, to have intelligence, memory, and organization, and perhaps even to be user-friendly."
Rather than continuing, let me allow the comment of one poster to describe the situation best:
Let me clear this up (10+ / 0-)
As best i can. I am a black man born and raised in 1950 and 60s Mississippi. I recall three incidents that happened to me personally. The first incident happened at the age of 9. Let me say first, these are only 3 of the thousands of incidents i experienced
My grandfather and i went to a five and dime. though we were there first in line, when the little white girl about my age came to the counter. One of the people behind the counter said to my grandfather "move back boy, don't you see that white woman". That person was a known white gay.
The second incident happened when i attempted to go into a library (which turned out to be on the wrong side of town), after i had been told by a white person, i could do so. And because it was a new library on the center line between the black and white communities. I told the white fellow behind the counter, that i wanted to checkout a book. The white man behind the counter told me,"niggers can't check out no dawn books here, get the hell out of here boy, scat". The man behind the counter was another well known gay man.
The third incident, nearly cost the lives of me and my family. a black classmate of mind, was accused of asking a white girl at one of the departments stores for a date. The white councel (kluxers) held a meeting that night. It turned out, they were told the person was me. The white man for whom my whole family picked cotton for many years (share croppers), came ahead of them and warned us, that "we had better leave right now, don't bother packing anything, because the mob was coming down the steet behind him". The person who said it was me, was another known gay guy that worked at that store.
These people were known to be gay, even in the 50s and 60s in Mississippi. They worked in places blacks could hardly dream of working. They were so comfortable in their whiteness, they treated blacks the same way the heterosexuals did. Yes, they were gay, but they had the trump card, they were white.
Please stop making the comparisons of gay discrimination to the jim crow south. Got news for you, thousand of blacks were killed whenever white people wanted to kill us. They worked us for free in jim crow, they raped us when they wanted too under jim crow. They put us away on county farms (me included, on parchman) under jim crow, where they really killed a lot of us. Not one of these racist ever paid for it and no one gave a dawn about it. For blacks gays, even though i don't believe in all this religious crap. GOD HELP YOU.
How quickly the conversation is a denial of gays what have happen to them. how quickly others agreed with this poster that his suffering was an excuse to deny the suffering of others. To deny their deaths, their lives ruined, their world destroyed. This poster says there is nothing in common between the terror he felt from Jim Crow and the terror gays feel across the world. Really? Do you still believe this after the information I wrote above? If you do, ask yourself is it really about the history.
When you deny the use of metaphor, you give license for poster such as this one to deny the death and destruction of others. A simple google on the death and destruction in the lives of gay people would have corrected the poster. But he felt emotionally justified after having read that he was justified in feeling no connection to gay issues. Others agreed enough to promote his post. Nor is this view some insignificant view. I repeatedly see this is the press and on this site. Unlike the diarist, I am prepared to provide links if people dispute this claim. What this poster is doing is saying he can see nothing of me in his suffering.
As I wrote previously, there is much that our suffering has in common.