Wednesday, August 8, 2012

When Silence Is Significant.

I'll start with a disclaimer. The world is full of stupid people saying and doing stupid things. Politicians. Reporters. Community activists. Religious leaders. Random people hiding behind keyboards and posting on blogs and other social media sites. There are truly countless reasons to feel outrage and anger. No one person can be expected to disavow it all. And that means...
Silence is not approval.
It isn't fair to blame the entire Democratic Party when a state representative says something stupid about gun control. It isn't right to judge every Republican when a local mayor attacks the gay community. And it certainly isn't appropriate to blame all members of a religious group because a small-town church discriminates against someone because of their race. People should not be presumed in favor of a statement just because they share something in common with the person who said it. Groups are made up of individuals, each with unique and varying opinions.

All that said, there also comes a time when silence is significant, when failure to speak up and out against the stupidity of someone else transitions to purposeful denial or, worse, tacit approval. In my opinion, with considering the ongoing attacks from the Religious Right against the gay and lesbian community, that time is now.

Gay men and women are used to being criticized by self-appointed moral and spiritual leaders. We've blamed for everything from the destruction of biblical cities to the attacks of 9/11. We've been called anti-family despite coming from and being part of loving families of our own. We've been called anti-Christian though many of us credit our faith for giving us strength to endure our struggles. And we've been called anti-American in part for standing up and demanding the rights enjoyed by the rest of our fellow Americans. Yes, we are well acquainted with the rhetoric of our adversaries.

But these days, the attack isn't just coming from Far Right and the Religious Extremists. It's coming from much more mainstream sources, as well. And with listening, viewing and reading audiences in the millions, these groups are dangerous to the mental, emotional and physical well-being of gays and lesbians. By demonizing gays, they make it impossible for our community to simply live our lives in peace. They disseminate half-truths (and outright lies), justifying their own bigotry and hatred with a barrage of discredited "experts" who share their same distorted and twisted views. These are the people at war with the gay community.

Sadly, there is little I can do to stop these groups. They enjoy the freedom to assemble with other like-minded people and the right to share their hateful words and bigoted ideas. But that does not mean I am powerless. No, quite the opposite. I do have power. I can educate my non-gay friends so they understand exactly what is happening.

For example, last night, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association (AFA) posted on Twitter that "... we need an Underground Railroad to deliver innocent children from same-sex households."

According to their website, the AFA is a "pro-family action site (that) promotes traditional family values, focusing primarily on the influence of television and other media on our society." I would like to hear them explain how stealing children away from their homes can possibly be considered "pro-family."

Without revisiting the Chick-Fil-A controversy in detail, I will say that I understand many people supported the restaurant because they felt Dan Cathy was only exercising his right to voice his opinion. I will also point out that his opinion, backed by millions of profit dollars donated, is:
We are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say ‘we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.'
And his donations have also supported organizations that are actively seeking to make homosexuality illegal, to deport gays and lesbians, and to convert them to heterosexuality through brainwashing. These are not just opinions, they are actions that affect the lives of everyone in the gay community.

"So what? He's a restaurant owner. Who cares what he says?" Would you say that about an entire political party in a state? What about the Texas Republican Party Platform for 2012? This is what they have to say about homosexuality:

We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle, in public policy, nor should “family” be redefined to include homosexual “couples.” We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. Additionally, we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction or belief in traditional values.
Breaking down the family unity? Tearing at the fabric of society? This is not a fringe group, it is a mainstream political party in one of the biggest states in the nation.

What is breaking down this society are parents throwing their children out into the street instead of accepting them as gay. What is destroying us are the suicides of our teenagers so despondent, so afraid, so sad about feeling like their lives are sinful that a bullet or a noose seems a better choice. What is killing us all is the widespread hate and anger directed at a community that deserves the same freedoms and the same respect as every other American.

When these people speak these words, publish these documents, and air these videos attacking the gay community, we need our non-gay allies to stand up and say, "no more." We need you to speak up to the person next to you and tell them that their words are unacceptable. We need you contact your local representatives and let them know that you do not approve of their anti-gay rhetoric. We need you to tell your local religious leaders that you expect them to lead by example and not support the bigotry and discrimination.

The time has passed when we could all stand by on the sidelines. Failing to speak out means that our opponents will continue to hate, to attack, and to work to shame our entire community.

We need people to speak up. At this point, silence in these matters IS approval.

Silence is significant.