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What Future is Theirs?


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In light of recent events, I thought I would share an essay I wrote for my local Gay & Lesbian Paper. It is a topic of interest to all of us, and especially since the fiction we create often mirrors our real life desires. Let me know what you all think.

Paul :)

What Future Is Theirs?

by Paul Bishop

The Dockside Writers Group

Editorial Special to The Washington Blade

In April, the Virginia General Assembly passed an amendment to Virginia?s 1997 Defense of Marriage Act, overriding an executive veto by Virginia Governor Mark Warner (D). The new law took effect July 1st, known as the Marriage Affirmation Act, has gay activists quickly mounting a campaign to boycott the state's tourist industry. Some are going so far as to promote altering the ?Virginia Is for Lovers? official state slogan by adding the phrase "as long as they are straight."

Assembly delegate Robert Marshall (R, Prince William County), the bill's original sponsor, has decried the reaction by the greater gay community as "Divisiveness at its best, using the media as a forum of self-serving politics, by an immoral minority of persons, most of whom are not residents of the Commonwealth." A spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, based in Washington D. C., released a statement that denounced Delegate Marshall's remarks as "Unfortunate and an example of the intolerance of the political agenda of the far right."

What concerns me more than the constitutional issues and legal challenges that have yet to arise is that the bill adds to the already-chilly atmosphere of legally sanctioned bias against the gay and lesbian citizens of Virginia. Another concern is the bill?s nullification of legally performed same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships of other states, should the couples chose to reside in Virginia. The message is clear and quite hateful: "We don't want you here if you're queer."

The Commonwealth of Virginia has now joined a growing list of states that have taken this draconian measure to ensure the so-called "sanctity of marriage." What is often overlooked in this debate is the effect upon gay and lesbian teens and young adults who are struggling daily to cope with their identity as gay individuals.

This latest blow to the freedom and civil rights of gay Americans will have a far greater impact on the young than possibly many people can grasp. Recent events and news articles confirm this fact. In many ways, this is a return to the 19th century post-Civil War reconstruction laws. The poisoned fruit of the "Jim Crow" laws of 20th century legalized discriminatory practices against African-Americans and gave rise to the civil rights movements in the late 1950s and the 1960s. I see no difference here, and I hold all organized religious groups and political parties as culpable as they were in those times past.

Intolerance, legally defined and now lawfully upheld, sends this message to the youth of our nation: "Do not be queer if you want to live here." This is just plain wrong, and it is indefensible for any intelligent person not to see this message as a corruption of good personal values, ethics, or moral code of conduct, be they Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or otherwise.

Physical and verbal violence against gay and lesbian youngsters is on a documented increase, as is a noticeably higher percentage of suicides among young gays and lesbians as compared to the overall population. The younger members of the community face mixed messages as they determine whether or not they should be "out." This choice is made tougher by the fact that our society apparently embraces the stereotypes as presented by television shows such as "Will & Grace,? ?Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,? ?Queer as Folk,? and some of MTV?s presentations.

While we as a society should be sending a message to youngsters that tells them it?s okay to be gay, it has become all too apparent, with the passage of laws such as Virginia's, that some states would add ?but not in my back yard? to that message. A reasonable person can see the conflict this creates for a teen or young adult. In a larger sense, society is placing the upcoming generations in the classic "Catch-22" of you're damned if you do, and you're damned if you don't (come out). Why are you are not allowed to love the person who makes up the sum of your life and completes you as a person and as a partner?

Finally, is a boycott an effective vehicle for creating change? If we place the marriage issue and other gay rights issues into an economic arena, are we failing to address the very core of our issues and arguments? What is the future for the younger generations and those who will follow if we remain silent? How can we compel our society as a whole to stem the tide of bigotry that has been unleashed upon us? What Future Is Theirs? I would say that we need to pro-actively push this marriage debate, and not just by boycotts.

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Thanks Paul for sharing your essay with us:

It is easy for the conservatives to demonize a group as "immoral and evil" as long as that group is "them."

It is yet another thing when gays and lesbians turn out to be members of their own work, church, community and even family groups. Other than the personal freedom gained by the individual, that seems to be the biggest argument for coming out.

Learning that someone close to them is gay or lesbian -for many- puts a human face on homosexuality and is often the deciding factor in accepting the concept of diversity.

Everytime a person, young or old, comes out to family or friends, he or she faces the danger that relationships could be altered permanently, sometimes for the better, but often for the worse.

Coming out is not an option for everybody, but each time someone does... it makes it just a little easier for those yet to do so.

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That's a great article. I have a slightly different take on it, expanding on a couple of things, with maybe a difference here and there. I'll post it in a while.

But yes, the core issue, deep down, is not only how do others perceive or tolerate or accept youth and adults who are different in this way that our society finds so unable to face, but also how do people who are, who have, that difference view themselves. Then, what the heck do we all do about it? How do we find some middle ground on an issue that, at its heart, involves a judgment of what is moral, right, and wrong?

Yes, particularly for the youth struggling with these questions (and all the things that go into them) it is just as tough or moreso now as it was when I was a teen. Those cable and TV shows you mentioned send a mixed message. When I was a teen, the mixed messages were there, but they were much less obvious. (Or were they? Something to think about.)

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Posted: Wed Jul 21, 2004 12:41 am Post subject: Let them marry, gays already won (opinion)

Let them marry, gays already won

By Matt Hardigree

Every time I hear someone say "federal marriage amendment" or "we've never written hate into the Constitution," I hear, "blah blah blah."

The gay people have already won, and all of this talk of gay marriage is just the final battle, a Waterloo for the homophobes. The legions of poorly dressed Republicans have just realized the hopelessness of their situation and are now trying to catch up for years of ignoring the fashionable hordes.

The talk of "homosexual conspiracy" that I once viewed as ignorant and narrow-minded, I now see as prophetic. They sneaked into society and are now almost completely ubiquitous.

Those who wish to restrict the freedom of individuals have two major problems. The first problem is that discrimination against a group requires you be able to identify it, and it is becoming harder to differentiate between gay and straight.

Sure, in the old days you could pick out your homosexuals from your straights. They so clearly identified themselves with flamboyant personalities, hot-pink shirts and cut-off jeans. They were men who would give the rest of the world the courtesy of dressing sharply, dancing well and being ignorant of sports so that we could easily pick them out of a lineup.

They worked at our salons, they cut our hair and they starred in our musical theatre productions. But now, all of a sudden, they've started to blend in. They are no longer a special breed that would hide themselves away in their own bars, their own trendy nightclubs and their own well-appointed loft-style apartments.

There are ugly gay people, poorly dressed gay people and boring gay people. They don't just fold jeans at Gap anymore; now they are Congressmen, engineers and football players (though, how much of a stretch is that?).

Even trickier is how they are slowly turning us gayer and gayer. "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" is just the television realization of the straight man's desire to look and dress well, "Iron Chef" has tricked us into watching cooking shows and "Express for Men" makes really nice stuff.

The people who get a hard-on denying rights to homosexuals have the same mentality as people who tried to deny opportunities to the Jews. How did they overcome such discrimination? In many ways they have become such a part of society that they, too, are less distinguishable from everyone else. This works to their advantage because people who discriminate are, in addition to being narrow-minded, incredibly lazy.

Which brings us to the second problem facing the forces of discrimination: This is America. President Bush was smart to label himself a "uniter instead of a divider" because, in this country, the dividers never win. Hell, they couldn't even keep Ross and Rachel apart on the television show "Friends" for an entire series.

And while it is important that we do not have Congress approve measures to explicitly restrict the lives of Americans, and while the struggle for civil rights and equality is never over, we must always remember that our history and our spirit are always on the side of freedom in the end. And that is a pretty "fabulous" concept if you ask me.

Hardigree is a government and geography senior, president of the Student Events Center and a Democratic campaign worker.

Daily Texan Online

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