Sometimes there are bad weeks, weeks in which the steps backward, away from cohesion and community formation...and the dream of inclusion...are so extremely painful. This has been one of them.
Yes, there has been negative news (and a few positive notes, to be sure), for GLBT people. But at least for me, nothing has torn at my heart as much as the divisiveness which has resulted from this community's reaction to that news.
I'd hope that people could understand where each other are coming from as we try to keep the lines of communication open. The intention of this piece is to try to generate some of that understanding.
For all I know, however, I may fail big time, and if I do, the pain will surely intensify.
One of the most difficult life lessons that arose when I came out...and I know I am not alone...was learning about conditional love. Life lessons are never easy to negotiate and maybe even hardly to share. I can only speak for myself and the way I conceive the process.
For a little assistance, I refer to Maslow's Hierarchy, as mentioned by CatM a couple of days ago.
Self-actualization, for me, was where I was at on that ladder when I came out. The hard part of the coming-out process was that I was immediately moved backward, at least to level two (safety), although there was a definite fear about ending up at level one, worrying about where my next meal might come from. As a transwoman, I've been able to make inroads back up that ladder, but I still have to worry about the security of my body, my health and my property. Leaving that stage behind cannot happen without some sort of legal protection. Some sort of protection from hate crimes, in employment and equal access to housing would go a long way towards ameliorating that.
Can the people who keep saying that GLBT people should wait for these things to be addressed not understand this? That's what we glbt people are asking. At least from my perspective.
I also wonder if people realize that "homophobe" is not an either/or condition. I've recently been feeling that is not the case. So maybe another hierarchy needs to be brought to light. Riddle's Levels of Homphobia were developed by Tuscon psychologist Dr. Dorothy Riddle. There are eight or nine levels: repulsion, pity, tolerance, acceptance, support, admiration, appreciation, nurturance, and sometimes celebration is added. This scale can be be adapted for other groups of Others and this link at Safe Zone for All includes a more general statement of the stages.
Negative levels of attitude:
Repulsion: Anything not mainstream or different is seen as a crime against nature. All of these are sick, crazy, immoral, sinful, wicked, etc. Anything is justified to change them: prison, hospitalization, negative behavioral therapy, violence, etc.
Pity: The majority and mainstream is preferred. People who are different should be converted because they are wrong. They should be pitied.
Tolerance: Anyone not in the majority or mainstream is just a phase of development that many people go through and most people grow out of. These people are less mature than the majority and should be treated with the protectiveness and indulgence one uses with a child. These people should not be given positions of authority because they are still working through their adolescent behavior.
Acceptance: Still implies there is something to accept. Characterized by such statements as "you're not a minority, you're a person" or "what you do is your own business" or "it's fine with me, just don't flaunt it."
Are you at one of these? If you are, then Riddle's scale considers you at least somewhat homophobic. GLBT people encounter a lot of people in at the tolerance and acceptance levels. If you feel you've been unfairly called homophobic, is it because you are at levels 3 or 4 and think you are being accused of being at levels 1 or 2?
Would it be of use to see what could be better?
Support: Work to safeguard the rights of all people. People at this level may be uncomfortable themselves but they are aware of the oppressive climate and irrational unfairness.
Admiration: Acknowledges that being different and non-mainstream in our society takes strength. People at this level are willing to truly examine their biased attitudes, values, and behaviors.
Appreciation: Value the diversity of people and see minorities as a valid part of that diversity. These people are willing to combat discrimination and oppressive influences in themselves and others.
Nurturance: Assumes that minority people are indispensable in our society. People at this level view minorities with genuine affection and delight, and are willing to be allies and advocates.
Even people at the Nurturance level need a goal, so one more level is sometimes added:
Celebration: The last, final, and most powerful stage in diversity education. At this final stage one celebrates everyone and everything. All human characteristics, conditions, and circumstances are celebrated.
I could go on from here and talk about how stupid it is that I could be a heterosexual man married for 24 years, have some surgery, and now not be allowed to be married to a woman. I could talk about being the target of violence on at least five occasions because I changed sex...and that doesn't even count the violence done to my property. I could talk about being shunned by the community in which I transitioned...to discover that it could be worse to be shunned by the lesbian community I wished to then become part of. I could talk about being denied medical care because of the transphobia of some people in the medical profession.
But does any of that matter if the communities I now wish to be a part of shatter because we have lost the ability...or the desire...to communicate?
None of what has happened to me in my life makes me any better than anyone else. And none of it should make me any worse, as far as I can see. And I hope that none of it would provoke anyone to call me a "whiny ass titty baby," which I have seen being thrown around the web at GLBT people with impunity recently.
I'd like to remind GLBT people that Barack Obama is not our enemy. He probably isn't to the Support level yet. At least he hasn't demonstrated that he is. But he is what we have to work with in the here and now and trying to nurture him to the level of support would be better than alienating him and his admirers. I know that conditional love, the kind that says, "We'll support you if you shut up," is not something you or I can accept. But instead of quitting or walking away or fighting with the people who say such things, let it make you more determined. Express the pain as positively as you can.
Raise your voices, by all means. But let this chorus work in our favor, not to our detriment.