Monday, March 15, 2010

Why are gay pride celebrations still needed? ('88)

[OK, so I'm cheating a bit with the "best letters" tag below. This isn't exactly a letter, but it's my best article (so far) on the need for being out and speaking out.]

This appeared in The Occidental April 22, 1988:

Rodney Hoffman

Maybe you're saying, "Lesbian and Gay Awareness Week? Why? What more do I need to be aware of?"

Let me tell you a story. This is a story from the bad old days, say 20 years ago.

You're in high school. Dating and sex are even more confusing than they were supposed to be. Something isn't right. Your hormones are raging, but not always "correctly." Your eye is caught by the "wrong" people and pictures. Your daydreams veer in unintended directions, no matter how you try to keep them on course.

You try to talk to friends, family, clergy, but they don't want to hear about it, or they don't believe it, or they just condemn it, or they say, "Ignore it. It will go away."

But nothing seems to work -- not prayer, not counseling, not cold showers. You try dating much more often, but it's clear your date's feelings and expectations don't match yours. You fear you're just using people, and you worry about hurting them.

You know what "homosexual" means -- queer, cursed, sick, sinful, criminal. You live in a society that hates you. You begin to hate yourself.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Well, I won't stay with the story; you get the idea. Pretty depressing. It was a pretty common true story. Those of us who lived through something like that don't enjoy remembering it. After I fought my way past all that confusion and hatred, I was still bitterly angry, and I asked myself, "What can I do to make life easier for others? What in the world can help a sexually confused 15-year-old?"

"But," you say, "that was 20 years ago. Things are different now." Yes, a little bit, but not enough.

Thankfully, one difference is that many colleges now have gay and lesbian student groups like Oxy's GALA. GALA offers a safe support group, a source of friends and social activities, a resource for learning about the outside lesbian and gay community, and a place to work for further needed changes.

Another difference is political. We've successfully changed some of the worst laws, educated some politicians, even elected some of our own. We have non-discrimination laws in some cities like Los Angeles. But the opportunistic hate-mongers are still with us. Look at Proposition 69 we'll be voting on in a few weeks. The state defeated it less than two years ago by more than 70%, but it's back on the ballot again, a little worse. State Assemblymember LaFollette wants to blackmail the Los Angeles School District into stopping its groundbreaking gay counseling program, Project 10 at Fairfax High. There's lots of work still to do in politics.

What about other institutions? Religion, psychiatry, media, schools, the arts, employers, .... In every field, there have been some positive changes, and there is plenty of work still to do.

Still, all of this desperately-needed work with institutions and organizations is only a small part of the answer. As one gay writer has put it, "We demand only the freedom to be who we are. The fact that this demand, which takes away nothing from anyone else, is met with such obstinate resistance is a noteworthy indication of how deep-seated is the hostility against us."

People feel such hostility because they were brought up that way. To really help that anguished 15-year-old, I have to reach his or her parents and family and friends and clergy and .... you. The hurt can only stop if the world around that 15-year-old changes. THAT'S why we have a Lesbian and Gay Awareness Week. THAT'S "what more" there is to be aware of.

When I was younger and more idealistic I wanted to change the world. I still do. Join me.

No comments:

Post a Comment