Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Right To Remain Silent

When an individual is protesting society's refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him.
Bayard Rustin

Everybody's journey is individual. If you fall in love with a boy, you fall in love with a boy. The fact that many Americans consider it a disease says more about them than it does about homosexuality.
James A. Baldwin

Hope will never be silent.
Harvey Milk

Earlier this week the Lakers' Kobe Bryant yelled "f--ing f--got" to referee Bennie Adams out of frustration over a call on the court. He was fined $100,000 by the NBA. His use of the "f" word to denigrate another human being is part of a long-lasting legacy of scapegoating gays. Back in my junior high years, we played "smear the queer" and were utterly petrified of ever being called "fem," "fag" or "gay-wad." Kobe's verbal antics just show that the junior high years last a lot longer than most of us care to admit. His heterosexual celebrity privilege shines through by getting away with this "apology":

What I said last night should not be taken literally. My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period. The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone.

The notion that Kobe yells "f--king f--got" at a ref and that it can somehow not be "taken literally" and not "meant to offend anyone" is absurd. Kobe himself would certainly not take it even remotely seriously if this was an apology from a white guy who called someone the "n-word" and then claimed it should not be taken literally or offend anyone (you can just imagine this white boy's next pathetic move: "look, I've got black friends!"). His words--both his on-court epithet and off-court counterfeit apology--are offensive to the LGBT community and their straight allies.

Words are never uttered in a vacuum and Kobe's words (like all ugly terms of derangement) are rooted in a anti-gay climate that claimed the lives of far too many gay teens this past year. This is not a matter of "political correctness," but instead the reality show of at least 4% of our population who are not only repeatedly slandered for being born with a sexual orientaton that is different from the other 96%, but also obnoxiously denied both basic human dignity and equality of rights at the same time. As Harvey Milk once said, "If I turned around every time somebody called me a faggot, I’d be walking backward..."

Tomorrow is the 13th Annual Day of Silence to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools. Thousands of students will pledge to say nothing in solidarity with these marginalized and vulnerable brothers and sisters. We choose to be silent tomorrow because the special few among us who are transgendered, gay, lesbian or bisexual continue to be silenced without their consent. Nearly 90% of all middle and high school LGBT students experience bullying and more than a quarter of all LGBT college students report being harassed on campus.

Despite some progress, the LGBT community continues to live in fear and inferiority in our society. As too many on the right fearfully purport a "gay agenda" sweeping the nation and too many on the left just give lip service to the LGBT cause, we would like to stand with the third way that pleads for a much-needed gay agenda that brings with it more gentleness, more creativity, more sensitivity and more tenderness (Jesus called this "the Kingdom of God"). By not uttering a single word tomorrow, we can symbolically give a shout-out to this group of fellow human beings who are meek, persecuted, poor in spirit, mourning and pure in heart. Through our collective silence tomorrow and consistently strategic advocacy after that, may God bring them comfort, hope, fulfillment, peace, dignity and equal rights & status in our world.

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