I’ve failed to mention the horrifying suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi yet on this blog, or the attention it has brought to the fact that LGBT-related suicide and violence are an epidemic in the United States and around the world. My excuse is that the tragedy happened in the midst of some intense traveling on my end, so there simply wasn’t time to write about it in the manner it deserved. I also felt that by the time I had a moment to write about it, anything I really had to say was already being said. Take this tweet by Harvey Fierstein, which perfectly encapsulates my basic feelings on the subject:
“In the wake of the Rutgers student’s suicide there has been a renewed call for tolerance. I say Fuck Tolerance. Time to silence the voices of hatred. Throw out the politicians who think it is all right to deny us our equal protection under the law. Empty the pews of institutions who preach hatred against us. Call bigots out for their lies and superstitions… And any parent who does not tell their child that they are loved whether straight or gay or undecided should be shunned from decent society!”
Because, to me at least, the issues here are pretty obvious and have been said time and time again: The world remains a remarkably tough place to be for many LGBTs. Some places are most certainly and horrifically worse than others, but we clearly by no means live in an issue free culture here in North America. And while DADT, gay marriage, gay adoption and the wide variety of other legal and political disparities are important, they are generally just small potatoes compared to the overwhelmingly vast issue of homophobia. Sure, legalizing gay marriage might make a few people reconsider their bigotry, and allow a few LGBT youths to breathe a sign of relief that their government at least technically considers them equal to everyone else… But just like sexism and racism remain huge issues despite all the laws that have been changed in relation to them, homophobia isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And it’s killing people and destroying psychological and emotional well beings, seemingly every day. I don’t know what the solution is to this problem, nor am I even remotely optimistic I will see the abolishment of homophobia (or sexism or racism) in my lifetime or the lifetimes of my (imaginary) great grandchildren.
This is such a ridiculously endless topic to start in on, and it’s not the point of this entry. I believe in what Fierstein and the many other fantastic LGBT role models and spokespeople have been preaching: Fuck “tolerance” and fuck anyone or any corporation or any political party who is even remotely homophobic. 100%. I believe it and I practice those beliefs in my everyday life. But the reason I even decided to go here to begin with is that today is both National Coming Out Day and Canadian Thanksgiving. And that just seemed like too much of a double whammy considering what’s going on right now to not drop a little note here.
Like many folks have on television the past few weeks, I could illustrate the intensity of homophobic bullying with a few examples from my own past. But for me to complain about the horrors of my own homosexuality would be kind of ridiculous. Because I am certain I am one of most privileged homosexuals to have ever walked this earth. And on this Canadian Thanksgiving-National Coming Out Day hybrid of a not-quite-holiday, I feel like it’s really important for me to be ever so endlessly grateful for that fact. I exist in micro worlds that are filled entirely with non-bigots that have very much adopted a “fuck tolerance” attitude. There’s my professional community, which is pretty damn gay in general and at the very least essentially has a “friend of gay” pre-requisite to exist in (some of the most gay friendly heterosexual men who ever lived are in the independent film world, I’m sure of this). And there’s my family and friends, the former of which is basically the kind of open-armed, homophobia free family that the entire world should work toward being and I don’t go a day without realizing how dark my life could have been if they hadn’t existed, and the latter of which are similarly awesome but less personally remarkable as I did choose then to some degree.
If reading that last paragraph reminds you of your own life – whether youre queer or straight or whatever else – then count your blessings. Because that is a privilege. And I think it’s also very important for us to be aware of where that privilege comes from, because I personally feel that “queer identity” (or whatever) comes with a hierarchy that isn’t too far from what exists in general society. Ask yourself these questions: Are you white? Are you male? Are you comfortable financially? Are you comfortable with your physical appearance – and do you feel like society is as well? Are you partnered with someone who is similarly privileged? Because these factors are HUGE. If you’re a hot, rich, white dude with a hot, rich, white boyfriend I don’t want to hear you complaining about how you don’t fucking have gay marriage. I want you to think about the issues that DON’T affect you. The ones that are really terrifying. Like the huge number of gay youth – a large majority of them non-white and of a lower class – who are prone to suicide, severe drug use, homelessness and HIV infection. The ones that couldn’t care less if they get married someday. They just want to be happy and alive sometime in the future.
So if you’re happy and alive, raise a glass this Canadian Thanksgiving/National Coming Out Day. And then spend the time between now and next year’s Canadian Thanksgiving/National Coming Out Day doing whatever you think you can do to make sure some other folks can say the same by then. Like telling a random youth on the street that it’s okay to be gay – especially if they seem kinda queer. Or wearing queer positive clothing or buttons. Or having as many chats as possible with a homophobic person in your life until theres either a) progress or b) it becomes clear he/she is a lost cause. This is essentially just an extension of what countless gay activists have preached the past, but it’s still clearly the best way to ignite change as an individual.