Coming from a small town and growing up in the 70s and around a lot of people who had problems with those who were different, I kept my homosexuality to myself. I knew that if the fact I was gay came out my life would never be the same; I’d be ostracized, ridiculed and possibly even face great danger.
I also had to listen to the jokes and snide remarks about not only gay people but African-Americans, Hispanics or anyone that was different. Being defensive in those days could get you deep in trouble too so it was best to just keep your mouth shut.
There is one difference that gay people have over other minorities in general and that is the fact that we can hide who we are. I’m sure for many gays it was just the way we lived our lives; hiding who we were for the fear of what would happen if we were discovered. That was at least 70s culture as well as the decades before.
Being that we hid in plain sight also meant we had to listen to the insulting gay jokes and epithets that came with it. That was the case for gay men at least; lesbian women may of had a different experience, so I won’t speak for them.
Bigotry toward gay people was an accepted norm in those days. Someone who was homosexual was a deviant and belonged put away in jail or some mental institution. Our jobs were at stake and our lives would never be the same if we were exposed.
Now don’t get me wrong, gay people were in plain sight and always had been. It was those who weren’t afraid to stand out among the crowd and wear their gayness on their sleeves that may have caused embarrassment to some in the gay community, but we owe the gay rights we have now in no small part to the “Queens” in our community.
Bigotry is no longer the accepted norm, and now that gay people are coming out of the closet, and equal rights for African-Americans, Hispanics, Muslims and many other minorities are protected by our Constitution and our laws, bigotry has gone into the closet. Not entirely of course; we’ll always have those who are not ashamed of their bigotry and don’t mind spouting derogatory epithets whenever they’re in the mood, or burning a cross on someone’s lawn in protest of someone’s skin color or some other trait about them they just don’t like.
But when it comes to some of our politicians and even some of our judges, bigotry hides in the closet. It does stick its ugly little head out occasionally but for the most part, it stays hidden.
You would think that we should be able to count on our elected leaders to be beyond prejudice and exploitation of it for political gain. And our judges – those we rely on to uphold our law and our Constitution should be the last stalwarts of our society that we should expect bigotry to breed.
A judge in Montana, the honorable U.S. District Chief Judge Richard Cebull, sent out a racist email about President Obama to his friends. The email he sent became public and thereby exposing Judge Cebull as a racist.
Surely this is the tip of the iceberg as far as hidden bigotry in our justice and political system. There is obviously an old racial grudge that has long been held by a segment in our society, those who have never been able to accept the fact the South lost the Civil War, no matter how far we are removed from it.
It’s a wonderful fact that society has grown more open over the course of the development of this great nation of ours. I believe that we will continue to grow more enlightened as the decades go by and new generations grow up to replace old generations.
Yet I believe there will always be that intolerant malignancy lying just beneath the surface for some of our citizen’s psych, wanting to reach out and hurt and destroy lives because of their ignorance and their hate.
We become a stronger nation the more enlightened we are as a whole. The walls of intolerance in this country have been torn down stone by stone and brick by brick, and that is because of laws we’ve made and constitutional amendments we’ve passed and rulings by our federal courts, which have upheld our rights and protected our freedom and our equality.
Bigotry, hate and ignorance – all birds of the same feather – grow less influence over our hearts and our way of life as a nation. Still, we have ways to go. Gay people still cannot get married in most states and there are laws, state constitutional amendments and even a federal law that blocks our rights to equality as far as marriage. I also have faith the Defense of Marriage Act law will soon be repealed in the next few years if Obama is reelected.
Bigotry no longer rules the hearts of the majority of Americans and we are a better nation than we were fifty years ago or even twenty or ten years ago. Yes, we’ve still got ways to get there but the road is now clearly marked.
This is a republish from my website: Fidlerten Place