Saturday, October 16, 2021

Pride Week celebrations are important to all

March 28, 2001

If there’s one thing I love, it is gayness. My blood is actually rainbow colored. When I look in the mirror every morning, I exclaim to myself, “Brian, you look incredibly gay today,” and I smile.

That is why next week is so exciting. It is the annual Pride Week, sponsored by the Alliance of Lesbian-Bi-Gay and Transgendered Students, part of ASMSU’s Programming Board and a host of other organizations.

Now, one might wonder, “Why do we need a Pride Week?” The answer to that question is simple. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and straight people all need to make special efforts to celebrate minority sexual/affectional orientations and gender identities to counter the rampant heterosexism and transgender-hatred in this society.

Only a few states in the United States disallow discriminating against someone for being lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgendered in employment, housing and public accommodations. Same-sex sexual expression is still illegal in 21 states. FBI statistics show attacks based on sexual orientation make up the third largest group of hate or bias crimes - and those are just the reported crimes.

Millions of LBGT people face discrimination in adoption, foster parenting and even maintaining or getting custody of their own biological children. Moreover, same-sex marriage does not exist in any state, which causes problems with inheritance, taxation, insurance coverage, hospital visitation, immigration and many other legal areas. Problems with high rates of suicide, alcoholism, drug abuse and homelessness of LBGT teens driven from their homes exist within communities all over the U.S.

The legal inequalities are only strengthened by the disgusting way LBGT people are treated on a daily basis. Imagine having someone shout the slur “fag” at you while walking to a car with your mother, who’s visiting for your birthday. Picture waking up and seeing “fag” carved into your door.

Think of what it would be like to have swastikas scratched into your truck bed for having a gay pride symbol displayed in the window or on the bumper. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who is told, “I’m cool with you being gay, just as long as you don’t touch me because then I’d have to kill you.” These are all things that have happened to me personally or people I know here at MSU.

In the media, LBGT people are constantly denigrated for rebelling against restrictive gender roles and gender stereotypes. They are maligned for being too masculine, too effeminate or too androgynous, as if that had any relevance to their worth as a human being.

Lesbians are characterized as man-haters or fetish objects. Bisexuals are depicted as greedy or confused. Gay men are portrayed as sexual predators - especially in sitcoms where people worry about being grabbed or asked out by gay characters. Transgendered people come off as clownish, demented spectacles. Haven’t you ever wondered why there are so many LBGT people on Jerry Springer and so few on “Love Connection?” Despite significant progress in positive portrayals, the media still reeks of heterosexism and transgender-hatred.

The reasoning behind such prejudice and inequality is neither satisfying nor rational. There are basically two types of excuses for heterosexism and transgender-hatred. First, there is the reasoning for those who do not like to think too much. They do not like LBGT people because they are “gross” or “weird.” Now, it seems hard even for me to form a defense against such a scathing, fourth-grade accusation of “grossness.” Considering the society we were raised in, it is not surprising, but that sort of basic, learned hatred is inexcusable.

Then, of course, there is the intellectual - and I use the term loosely - approach to heterosexism and transgender-hatred. This approach explains disliking LBGT people by casting them as sinners or unnatural deviants. This logic, or lack thereof, often cites the Bible as condemning lesbians, bisexuals and gays. Portions of the Bible that promote slavery, the subjugation of wives to their husbands, stonings or any number of ancient customs and values are conveniently ignored by this righteous reasoning.

The Bible has been used to justify hatred toward blacks, Muslims, Jews, women and many other groups. Anti-semitic pogroms, witch hunts, the Inquisition and the Hametic myth of black inferiority all had people driving them and saying, “Look right there, it’s in the Bible.” Well, I just hope they finally got it right about which group this God of love wants us to hate, look down on or deny equality.

The accusation of being unnatural becomes even more ridiculous in light of how many animals exhibit same-sex attraction or the fact gender identity has little grounding in nature to begin with. It seems doubtful the dogs and flies that engage in same-sex sexual expression have any devilish motivations. Further, the meaning of gender changes across cultures and through history. How natural is it that we have people scraping their legs with razor blades or wearing differently shaped clothes based upon their genitalia?

Obviously, there is a need to celebrate LBGT people and culture. Pride week speakers include Judy Shepard, mother of bias crime victim Matthew Shepard; Kate Bornstein, a transgendered activist and author; and Keith Boykin, a commentator on race and sexual orientation. Other events include a National Day of Silence and a civil rights rally for the passing of a non-discrimination bill protecting sexual orientation and disability minorities in Michigan.

Brian Emerson Jones, an interdisciplinary studies in social science sophomore, can be reached at jonesb20@msu.edu. For more information on Pride Week, e-mail alliance@msu.edu.

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