I have been holding off on this post, waiting for the right “feeling” to propel me to post it. Today, on the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birth, his impact on not just equal rights for non-whites but also on human rights weighed heavier on my mind that usual. Then this quote convicted me to step bravely forward with this post.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.
So, here goes:
Dear Straight Friends of Gays (SFoGs):
It’s 2012, an election year, and the cause for equal rights for gays is advancing. As such, I want to be very clear where I stand with respect to our friendship.
First of all thank you for being our friend, publicly. For many of you, you’ll generously say “no thanks necessary” because that’s just how you are; for others, I understand that it’s been a huge step for you—and I respect that. Attitudes and ideals grow and evolve individually. Not everyone not everyone is at the same place at the same time in their own journey—and that’s OK.
That said—and now I’m speaking generally, not just to my circle of gay-friendly friends—it is time for you reconcile the authenticity of your friendship and—to an extent—your character. You claim to love us and our parties and shop with us and have us into your homes and vice versa. But I have reached my tipping point and it is finally time for me, personally, to take a stand.
I can no longer call you my friend if you go into hate-filled churches that proclaim God’s love while at the same time demonize gays and espouse hatred.
And I can no longer consider you a true friend if you step into the voting booth in your local precinct on Election Day, close the curtain, and then vote for candidates who are against equal rights for all citizens.
If you do, then you are against me, personally. Not some ethereal bunch of gays, but me, someone you know and profess to love.
I realize it is a risk to mix friendship with either politics or religion–or both. Yes, we can disagree about political parties and certain ideologies, to an extent, but on these two principles, we can no longer disagree and remain friends.
Since I came out in 2006, I have generally tried to not be overly in peoples’ faces with my “lifestyle” and in particular my politics related to being an out, openly gay man.
[Keyword: overly. My outward identity alone has been just about more that many people can take.]
In all honesty, I don’t suppose any of my coming out has been done…lightly. But over the past couple of years, I have grown increasingly frustrated by what’s going on in the country today when it comes to equal rights for all citizens of our country and by friendships with people whose love appears suspect.
The civil rights movement and the gay rights movement are essentially motivated by the same principle: discrimination and inequality based on human characteristics cannot be tolerated. And just like I’m stunned that “good, Christian people” could have ever presumed to “own” another human being or regard someone as less than deserving of equality because if the color if their skin, it is beyond my comprehension that people think that homosexuals have less rights than the heterosexual majority.
To this day, I cannot imagine people sitting in churches week after week—people who had slaves or later “employees” who they regarded as less that equal (like those portrayed in the recent motion picture The Help)—while a preacher proclaimed the great message of Christ’s love and yet possessed such un-Christian ideals. I am stunned by the notion of people treating blacks like they did back then or for being eschewed—even vilified—for standing up for the rights of people of another race. [Can you imagine someone frowning upon you because you have black friends?!]
And yet here we are some 50 years after the fight for civil rights was won—which took the killing of children in a church for many white Christians to finally become convicted by their own hypocrisy—and people are still sitting in churches that preach hate and resemble the body of Pharisees Jesus decried. And we have a group of citizens who are up in arms about their “religion being under attack” by a president who, while not coming out entirely for gay marriage, does support equal rights under the law for all citizens. In the struggle for civil rights, I don’t know if people voted against JFK more because he was Catholic or because they knew he was a proponent for civil rights for all Americans, but history proves JFK’s election was the right decision. I fully believe history will bear out the same verdict for Barack Obama.
Politics is largely a matter of heart.
~R. A. Butler
I understand that many people are voting in the upcoming election based on the economy. We can argue all day about on whose watch this started and about which party has failed to fix it, never arriving at a consensus. But here’s one thing I [actually] agree with the evangelical right on:
This election is about social issues.
It’s time to really understand what the separation of church and state means. The economy will recover—regardless of what party is in control of whatever branch (see also big business, lobbyists) and, as history shows, it will get messed up again. But if you vote for candidates who are against equal rights for all people (this is not a blanket anti-republican statement), I am calling your friendship into question. You simply cannot be friends with someone who you think is less deserving of the same rights that you yourself have.
Moreover, I cannot be friends with you.
Americans cannot allow a party overrun with hate-filled, hypocrites on the wrong side of history to take control and undo the progress that’s occurred in the past couple years–despite setbacks and efforts to the contrary. (Thanks Mormon church, et al.) Last election, enough of us finally got behind and elected a man in spite of his color—a man who inspires that we’re all of us equal, regardless of our color, income level, or sexual identity. A stance against gay rights is no different than the sinful, offensive belief that whites were superior than blacks.
For my friends who are Christians but are having trouble reconciling your love for your gay friends with religious dogma over homosexuality, I would encourage you to study that scripture every day—particularly the words of the Christ you follow—and to bear in mind this encouragement:
“To be a Christian is to live dangerously, honestly, freely—to step in the name of love as if you may land on nothing, yet to keep on stepping because the something that sustains you no empire can give you and no empire can take away.”
~ Cornel West
Each one of us needs to err on the side of love not hate. With your witness and your vote—I believe these are precisely the same thing—you have the chance to model authentic love and equality. I’m not asking you to start going to Gay Pride parades but by loving gays and supporting their claim to equal rights, not only do you have access to outstanding styling tips and fabulous parties, you demonstrate true friendship.
In conclusion—and I say this with respect—you can’t have it both ways: claiming to be friends with gays but then supporting beliefs, ideals, and candidates that deny equal rights for us.
Otherwise, we must part ways.
And PS: if you are gay and vote Republican, then we seriously need to talk. There’s a whole other post coming for you.
PPS: Does this make me an activist now?