Rights for Gays – oh yeah!

A few nights ago, I sat in the Federal Hall reading room of Tenley Campus, American University in Washington D.C., when another student, a girl of maybe 19 or 20 years, decided to have an hour long and loud skype-conversation with a friend right outside the room, making it impossible for me not to overhear every word she was saying. “I mean, how am I supposed to know that this is right? Especially when so many gay men have AIDS; or is it HIV, and what’s even the difference?”

Half in shock because of the open display of ignorance, half annoyed by the distraction and a hundred percent amused, I followed a conversation that would take up every imaginable path that a gay rights` discussion could possibly take. Do gay people have a right to be gay and is it right to be gay? That was one of the questions discussed, and it reminded me instantly of that John Maus song Rights for Gays, especially because student Jane Doe then went on talking about whether God would send all those gay people to hell – one line of the Maus song goes like this: “coming out and then going to hell. These homosexuals – tie ‘em to a post fence”.

In a society that prides itself of being enlightened and open-minded, it is pretty fascinating to still see people struggling with sexuality. Well, I guess, it shouldn’t really surprise me, since it took us almost 2000 years to accept PDA between people of different sex; it took us about 2000 to emancipate women from men; it took 2000 years to overcome racism; and it took 1800 years for people to realize that God wouldn’t be very mad at us, when we separated state and church affairs. This list of accomplishments sounds great, if only all was true. In a CNN-opinion poll in February 2010, 48 percent of Americans answered the polling question “Do you personally think that homosexual relationships between consenting adults is morally wrong, or not a moral issue?” with “Yes, it is morally wrong.” Public opinion is apparently as divided about the issue as student Jane Doe is.

But really, the issue isn’t really what people think or don’t think, but what rights gay people have, and how openly they can live out their same-sex partnership according to the rule “live and let live”. It’s a very pacifistic rule, to mind one’s own business and not hate or discriminate against people who act or feel differently from how you feel and act. But unfortunately that’s not what the real world is like. Homosexuality is not better accepted in our modern society just because we talk about it a lot in politics or TV series with LGBT (short for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-, and trans-sexual) characters. If at all, shows like The L Word raise ‘normal’ people’s suspicion for the differentness and otherness of gays. It doesn’t include gays; it excludes them and puts them on public display. The market is overflowing of ‘gay’ products.

Gayness is in style, but for the people that doesn’t make it more right. Jane Doe doesn’t know whether God would be alright with people being gay. What are the two sexes made for, if not for procreation? I wonder if Jane Doe has sex for procreation reasons only. Just because gayness is advertised in popular culture, it doesn’t mean that people regard it as more normal and natural. Nature is a very interesting concept when it comes to sexuality. What exactly is natural? I would argue everything that feels right. But obviously for roughly 50 percent of Americans, it feels right to condemn homosexuality as something abominably wrong. It’s wrong because it is different from what they and everybody close to them are and were taught to be.

I was taught to treat everybody with respect. That includes giving people their basic rights, the American Dream of having a family and a home. I wasn’t taught to believe that it is only right to respect someone when he has the same interests, the same religion and the same sexuality. If you’re not respecting everybody for what they are, how are you supposed to have a society that is functioning on the base of mutual trust and respect? Media and politics make it seem very hard to respect people for what they are.

It’s a vicious circle. Politics represent the people, media represents the people, but politics and media sometimes over-represent the people too. So, what everybody things is public opinion, is really only the opinion of a few people in power. Power is what matters in that conflict of homo and hetero. Power is what mattered in the conflict between black and white and it was what mattered in the feminist rise of power in 20 century. Rights for Gays mean rights for people. But what it does not mean is rights for another race or species. Of course, men and women are different, and of course, black and white people look differently. But it all comes down to being human.

Gay men aren’t less masculine than heterosexual men; gay women aren’t more masculine than heterosexual women. These stereotypes, like the stereotypes of women, men and people from different races, religions and countries, don’t really help making gays more included. Stereotypes of all kind are an instrument of discrimination and a tool of power over the other. Whatever the Jane Does of this world don’t understand can’t be right. And whatever LGBT series tell us about gays, is true to the grain.

No matter how much we evolved technologically, our intelligence when it comes to human understanding, stagnated. Gay People are….Straight People are…. Generalizations didn’t bring us far in a war against terrorism and they won’t bring us far in our war against ourselves.  For a modern open-minded society we really haven’t made it far. But will we ever make it farther? My prognosis is pessimistic.

Jacqueline Dagdagan