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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Our Heterosexual Problem

The mayor of North Maimi (who happens to be a gay man) has invited Tim Hardaway to spend a day with his family.

"I don't expect [Hardaway] to be waving a peace flag anytime soon, even after this," Burns [the mayor] said Friday. "But maybe he'll be less likely to say something bad about people if he knows them and understands a little more."

There was an episode of the Simpsons a few years back where the Director John Waters does the voice of a gay man who befriends the Simpsons, but Homer doesn’t realize he is gay right away and when he finally figures it out he goes crazy because he thinks Bart will turn gay. At the end of the episode, Homer finally comes to his senses when Waters saves his life. Homer tells Waters that because he has saved his life, he has changed his mind about him. And Waters responds:

“Well, Homer, I won your respect, and all I had to do was save your life. Now, if every gay man could just do the same, you’d be set.

I think it is great that the mayor is willing to invite this bigot into his house for a day. Maybe Hardaway will change his mind and he will then tell the world that he was wrong and the world will listen. And if only every gay man and woman could invite every homophobe into their house for a day...

Let's go back a few years. Remember when Blacks were thought of as second-class citizens and feared for their safety, if not their lives, on a daily basis? Yes, racism was (and unfortunately still is) a problem for Blacks, but it was a White problem. Blacks did not have the burden of proof of showing that they should be treated and thought of as equals, and neither do homosexuals. The responsibility to rid the world of homophobia rests at the doorsteps of heterosexuals.

"But people have the freedom to believe whatever they want to believe. If someone believes that homosexuality is wrong, that is their right, and they should be free to say it."

Technically, yes, we can't stop someone from believing something, no matter how morally repugnant it may be, and we certainly shouldn't punish such thought crimes themselves. But we do punish behavior, and that behavior can include incitement. Is saying "I hate gay people" incitement? How about "It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States"? OK, so he's not directly telling people to go out and persecute homosexuals, but I can't help but wonder how he intends to get rid of "it" throughout the world? Maybe if every heterosexual could just invite every homosexual into their house for just a day...

It's time to be proactive about our problem. We can't keep relying on gay men and women to point out our bigotry and then expect them to solve the problem for us as well. The mayor's offer is extremely generous, but it shouldn't have to be made in the first place. Proactive would be the NBA creating a public service announcement rebuking Hardaway's statements and then running it as a commercial during every game for the rest of the season. Proactive would be our most prominent politicians calling press conferences and telling the world that there is no place for such hatred in our country or anywhere else in the world and then immediately submitting legislation to give homosexuals equal rights in this country.

But you know what, I don't think that's enough. When we say "It is wrong to discriminate against homosexuals", what do we really mean? Is it enough that we create laws that force homophobes to treat gay people the same as everyone else under the law, but to be content that they will always think of homosexuality as wrong and that there is nothing we can really do about that?

If a teacher in a classroom gives a presentation on the Civil Rights struggles of the 60's and talks about the injustices Whites committed against Blacks and shows a video portraying a Black family in a positive light, very few, if any will complain. If the teacher tells her students "We once considered Black people to be second-class citizens in this country, but we have learned from our mistakes and now realize that that was wrong and that the color of a person's skin does not make him or her any less of a human being than anyone else", not only would we approve of that message, we would encourage it to be told. We don't merely tell our children that you are only required to treat Blacks equal under the law but otherwise you can still hate them because their skin is darker than yours, we actually tell them that it is not OK to hate people because of the color of their skin. It can be done. We can teach our children not to be bigots and we can expect people who should know better to overcome their bigotry or expect to be ostracized from society.

Now change that class presentation to the Gay Rights struggle and put in a video of two lesbians and their child enjoying family time at home and you'll make the evening news.

Gay rights is still allowed to be a political issue in this country. We heterosexuals feel that we have the right to vote on whether gay people can get married or whether they deserve insurance coverage or other benefits taken for granted by us normals. Hell, we'll even tell them if they can legally have sex (although we won't tell them that we do that stuff too). That we even consider it acceptable to vote on and legislate such things is a sad commentary on us heterosexuals and an affront to those unalienable rights we claim to uphold.

Yes, I will continue to applaud the efforts of mayors. Yes, I will continue to vote against the "sanctity of marriage". Yes, I will continue to support legislation the we heterosexuals so generously offer to those poor, confused homosexuals (my front door is always open if you want to come in). But homosexuality is not a political issue, it is a human rights issue and homophobia is a heterosexual issue. Until the President of the United States can stand up in front of the country and state "There is nothing wrong with homosexuality", we've got a problem. Until every major network news channel can end their Tim Hardaway coverage with "Hardaway is a bigot because there is nothing wrong with homosexuality", we've got a problem. And until every homphobic preacher is relegated to the Aryan Nations of Idaho, we've got a problem.

I don't buy the Christian cop-out "Love the sinner, hate the sin." If you don't support gay marriage, you hate gay people. If you don't want them teaching your children, you hate gay people. And if you are willing to treat them equally under the law but you still think homosexuality is wrong, you still hate gay people.


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