I recently had a conversation with a co-worker about the election. She’s a Republican and she is supporting Mr. Romney. She also knows that I am gay, and we’ve joked about it; she has some friends she wants me to meet and do a little match-making. In the course of the conversation — which was friendly at all times — I said, “You know that you’re voting for a man who would like to enshrine gay-bashing into the United States Constitution.”
She said, “Well, I disagree with him on that.”
“And yet you’re going to vote for him anyway.”
She said there are more important things at stake, like the economy and stuff.
“More important than my basic rights as a citizen?”
She replied, “Please don’t take it personally.” And then we both went back to work.
But how can I not take it personally? We’re not talking about the trade imbalance with China or unemployment numbers. We’re talking about lives — my life, to be exact — and the simple fact that I and people like me do not have the same rights as a citizen of the state of Florida and the United States as those who are straight or live a straight life. And there is a candidate for president who would like to keep it that way.
Every time I’m confronted with this mindset, my response is “What is it about me and the gay community that makes you hate us so much that you would actively work to change the founding document of this nation to permanently make me a second class citizen? What is it that terrifies you so much?” And the response is pretty much what my co-worker said: “It’s not about you.”
Yes, it is. Because I’m a person. I’m a citizen. When the Constitution talks about “We The People,” I’m one of those people. I didn’t give up the rights enumerated in that document because I happen to be gay any more than I gave them up because I have brown eyes as opposed to blue. Lumping me into a demographic, along with being white and from a Protestant upbringing, doesn’t remove my basic core of being a person who has all of the same expectations of rights and responsibilities as the family that lives next door who happen to be heterosexual with the requisite proof playing in the back yard.
So when a candidate for president talks about preserving the “sanctity of traditional marriage” and “preserving family values,” the dog whistle becomes a blaring siren: Gay people, or those who do not conform to their measures of right and wrong to their exact specifications as defined by a book of myths, fables, and superstition do not belong among us. And people who support those candidates are just as much a part of that dehumanization, even if they do want to introduce me to their cute friend.
I have no choice but to take it personally. I’m a person.
It turns out that other people have had this kind of conversation recently, most notably playwright Doug Wright:
I wish my moderate Republican friends would simply be honest. They all say they’re voting for Romney because of his economic policies (tenuous and ill-formed as they are), and that they disagree with him on gay rights. Fine. Then look me in the eye, speak with a level clear voice, and say, “My taxes and take-home pay mean more than your fundamental civil rights, the sanctity of your marriage, your right to visit an ailing spouse in the hospital, your dignity as a citizen of this country, your healthcare, your right to inherit, the mental welfare and emotional well-being of your youth, and your very personhood.” It’s like voting for George Wallace during the Civil Rights movements, and apologizing for his racism. You’re still complicit. You’re still perpetuating anti-gay legislation and cultural homophobia. You don’t get to walk away clean, because you say you “disagree” with your candidate on these issues.
What about you?