Issue February 18, 2009

Fairness, phase one

I have relatively few pet peeves. I’m just that great.

However, a few minor annoyances really, really peeve me. The first one that comes to mind: a monkey dressed in people clothing. I hate that. I also generally dislike most postcards from Florida.

A close second are those “One man, One woman” bumper stickers left over from the 2004 election. Not only do these stickers show a lack of imagination and creative ability on the part of the designer, and are annoying to drive behind (especially after unwittingly letting one into my lane), they illuminate the hypocritical nature of a lot of the people driving those cars. Case in point: a neighbor of mine who always said hello when he saw me, always smiled, even offered his help when my car wouldn’t start, and yet he had one of those stickers on his car.

I felt betrayed when I saw the sticker on his car, like he had lied to me somehow through his kindness (somewhat similar to the feeling of totally getting into a song on the radio that turns out to be Christian rock). I abhor the “Hate the sin, love the sinner” frame of mind. It is cheap, easy. If you’re going to hate or oppose something so intrinsic to a person as sexuality, you should at least have the guts to stand behind your conviction, the strength to be honest about your feelings. If you hate the sin, there is no way you can like the sinner. (Oh, and on my list, bad analogies come in third, Mr. Jack Westwood.)

But I do believe in redemption. I know people can change, that who someone is and who they were can cover a distance as vast as the Pacific Ocean. Experiential knowledge can change the world. Sometimes it just takes one new idea to start a revolution.

I am told that to legalize gay marriage in a state like Kentucky, we must change opinions. We must convince. I have learned and have been told that the best way average citizens can effect statewide change is not through court action. The fastest way to legalize same-sex marriage is by convincing one person at a time.

So, like Harvey Milk said, “Once they realize that we are indeed their children and that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and for all.” In other words, be bold, be brave, be Out! If you can’t tell everyone, tell one person. I challenge all gays to come out to one new person this week, even if you feel you’re totally obvious, or if you’ve been out of the closet for 30 years.

And while I kind of disagree with the idea that challenging the anti-gay marriage law in court (Welsh v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, for example) will set our state back at this point, I do believe in the strength of story, the wisdom of Eleanor Roosevelt and high school yearbook quotes. People rarely realize the amount of power they have to change their lives (the lives of others). If you need ideas on how to come out, outproud.org is a good place to start. 

Another step we can all take, in one form or another, is protest. You can remain seated. There are petitions and letters you can sign online. A more effective way to remain seated, and take action, is write an e-mail or letter to both state and government officials. You can even send the same letter to everyone. And now that George W. is gone, if you send one to the president, there’s a very good chance it won’t end up in the shredder.

On Feb. 25, there will be a rally in Frankfort (in the Capitol rotunda) in support of a statewide fairness law. Louisvillians are already covered under the fairness ordinance, but most of the state is not. A statewide fairness law would prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Which means, in most of Kentucky, it is legal to fire someone for being gay. And there is no legal recourse; an employer needs no other reason.

I came out later than most people I know. There are many reasons for this. I wish I could have come out earlier. Before I was out, I felt more ghost than human; I could never understand how everyone was capable of being (so) happy. You could not pay me enough to return to that place, even if you offered to pay back my student loans (which, incidentally, are growing rapidly with interest).