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Take Off the T-Shirt!

By: Karen J. Allen
Co-Publisher, On the Gay Horizon

I actually wrote that headline quite innocently, because this is not about what you have all assumed it is. But once I did realize what I had done, I figured it probably got your attention so.....

Several months ago, I met some friends for a long weekend in New York City. One of the highlights was the AIDS walk. We wore On the Gay Horizon t-shirts and it was a wonderful experience. In fact, the whole weekend was great --- but then I made my big mistake. Foolishly, I let them take those t-shirts home.

You see, my friends are straight. And they simply don't get it.

One of them even told me she wore hers to the grocery store. Now, I love the fact that they want to be supportive, but you and I know better than to wear that shirt to Kroger's. Or to walk down the street in it. Or pretty much wear it anywhere other than around the house.

Ten Years Hasn't Changed That Much

Judy Shepard gets it. Ten years ago this week, her twenty-one year old son, Matthew, was beaten, tied to a split rail fence in a remote area of Wyoming and left to die in the frigid October night. Eighteen unimaginable hours later, he was found by someone who at first mistook him for a scarecrow.  Five days later he died.  Because he was gay.

Although few have received the same notoriety, thousands of the GLBT community have been attacked since then. I was thinking about all of that this week. But not only because it's the ten-year anniversary of Matthew Shepard's murder.

I've also been thinking about it because of the rage and rhetoric being stirred up by the McCain campaign.

Last week in Florida, Sarah Palin's references to Barrack Obama "pals around with terrorists" elicited shouts from the crowd of "treason," "terrorist," and even, "kill him."  Right before she spoke in Ft. Myers, the Lee County sheriff took the stage and whipped up the crowd by referring to Obama with special emphasis on his middle name, Hussein.

Us Against Them

Since 9/11, the Bush administration has worked relentlessly to create a climate of fear and "us against them" in this country. It keeps us distracted from the administration's failures, while making it appear that their policies are loudly supported. 

But stirring up hate-inspired emotions, for any reason, is not only despicable but frighteningly dangerous. It's a genie impossible to control once released from the bottle.

Look.  We can talk about hate crimes and the need for appropriate legislation later. What we need today is to make it clear that we simply will not tolerate that behavior.

How do we do that?

With our votes. And in our everyday conversations --- whether it be to correct gay slurs or racial epithets. And we do it in our blogs and online communications.

We simply draw the line in the sand and say "enough."  

...because the alternative is something that you can see in Michelle Obama's eyes and has had us all holding our breaths since this particular race began.

[Ed. Note: Want to make a different kind of statement? Check these out. I'm thinking of offering to trade them for those t-shirts. Erase Hate Wristbands ]

 

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Reader's Poll: What do you think about the issue of race in the presidential election? Do you believe it will play a significant role in the way people vote? Tell us what you think at admin@onthegayhorizon.com.

And what about the "flip side of the race card"?

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The Wrong Side of History 

Advocates of gay marriage claim that their opponents will find themselves on the wrong side of history one day....

Does it matter to us, the first generation of  GLBT baby boomers?  No.  When that line in history is finally drawn, it will be too late for us.  No lost rights or property will be restored retroactively.

Besides, Californians don't seem all that concerned with history's judgment. Proposition 8 teeters on a thin edge of homophobia.  Like the race card in the presidential election.

While it's politically incorrect to openly express homophobia or racism in this country, when we get to pull the curtain and vote what's truly in our hearts .... ah, there's the rub.

Homophobia is alive and kicking, not just in our pesky opponents, but in our friends as well.

Think about the straight folks you know who have you over for dinner and buy you joint gifts at Christmas and tell everyone that "some of their best friends are gay."  How would they react if you were as affectionate with your partner in front of their kids as they are? They might smile through it but......

And who can  blame them?  Our own internal homophobia is not yet a thing of the past. We'll be supporting our therapists for years to come.  Just knowing something is right or wrong is not enough to undo all that programming.

Which brings us back to taking care of ourselves. We cannot afford to rely on future legislation. We must take full advantage of the laws currently in place. Life can change in a heartbeat. Where do you stand with your medical and financial directives, will, powers of attorney, estate planning, life insurance, guardianship issues, etc?  Does a domestic partnership trump a will in your state?

What are you waiting for?

[Ed. Note - if you are not sure where to start, take a look at A Legal Guide for Lesbian & Gay Couples from Nolo Press]

 

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