Happy Pride Month?
What a June we’ve arrived at in this spectacular, messed up country of ours — a moment of inspiring progress and terrifying regression.
Thanks to the US Supreme Court, same-sex relationships have been decriminalized, the right to marry can be enjoyed by gay and lesbian couples across the country, and the Civil Rights Act protects people from being fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Members of LGBTQ communities are so integral a part of the culture that their presence is now entirely and properly unremarkable. Our kids are growing up with gay Disney characters and an acceptance that love is love, and who you are is who you are, that is so fundamental, so obvious to them, that it barely requires discussion. Pride Month is now corporate branding.
And yet. This is also a country currently gripped by a horrific wave of anti-LGBTQ hate. GOP politicians playing to their bigoted base have enacted rules and laws targeting transgender youth, and prohibiting the special care they need. Under the guise of (some) parents’ rights and protecting (some) kids, they are shutting down any reading or discussion in classrooms that so much as acknowledges that anybody but cisgender, straight people exist. Fascist bullies menace drag queens at public libraries, and hateful mobs make corporations cower. Politicians and pundits call those who oppose their retrograde crusade groomers and pedophiles.
The state in which you live determines which America is yours right now. But there is liberation and repression everywhere, to varying degrees. We’ve even seen some pretty ugly stuff here, in the state where gay marriage was first legalized in 2004.
Back then, it seemed like there was no going back. Same-sex marriages were a thing of wonder at first, then they were routine.
But a backlash, fueled by political expediency, was always coming, said activist and historian Michael Bronski, a professor at Harvard University and author of “A Queer History of the United States.”
“We have made incredible gains,” he said. “This is kind of the nightmare for these conservatives, that there is ‘gay’ everywhere.”
He likens this moment to the late 1970s, when, a decade after the gay rights movement was born in earnest, states began enacting laws to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination. Conservative Florida crusader Anita Bryant led an opposition movement, along with religious right types like Jerry Falwell Sr. and Pat Robertson, to repeal the protections, characterizing gay men as predators, and conjuring the specter of gay teachers “recruiting” kids in classrooms. There followed a rash of laws reaching into schools around the country, prohibiting discussion of LGBT issues.
The difference between then and now, Bronski said, is that this is the revanchists’ last stand. Religion has nowhere near the hold on Americans now as it had then. A huge majority of people in this country support gay rights, and younger people embrace trans rights.
The children the reactionaries say they are trying to protect are their most formidable foes.
“Despite their attempts to literally eradicate queer visibility, what kid now in fifth grade doesn’t know somebody with gay parents, or an uncle, a cousin, a sibling?,” he said. He ticked off the hit Disney TV shows with queer and trans characters. Whatever information is withheld from students in classrooms can be readily had via the limitless resource in the palms of their hands.
They have already lost the war. But how many will be injured, or even killed, in the battles those politicians still insist on fighting? How many trans kids will be broken, or become suicidal, because they are demonized and denied care? How many families with the luxury to do so will be forced to choose between where they live and their kids’ well-being? How many victims will fall at the hands of shooters motivated by hatred Republican politicians stoke and leverage?
There are so many more of us than there are of them. Change will come for good, because the thing the blowhards fear most has already come to pass. Despite their best efforts, their own children are growing up with bigger, more tolerant hearts than they will ever have. And those kids will take over the world.
Let’s hope it’s one we all get to see.