June 11, 2009

can't we just wait a little longer?

i don't often do long, ranty blog posts, but a friend of mine sent me this article today, asserting that gay rights have benefited from a relative fast-tracking to social acceptance. "Their decades-long battle for social parity," he argued, "pales in comparison to the centuries-long battles of some other groups."

since i'm his closest touchpoint to the gay community, i felt obliged to respond:

This is a big debate right now within the gay community, and I'm asked to answer polls every week about whether I think we need to fight now or chill for a bit.

While I understand the point folks make when they say gay rights have been "fast-tracked" relative to other groups, I find it a little offensive when you really breakdown its meaning. To say Process A has happened faster than Process B is to say the time between the "beginning" and "end" of Process A is shorter than the same for Process B. I think a lot of people (mistakenly) count the "beginning" as the point when people took to the streets and really started to publicly fight for equality. But I think that in the debate about civil rights (and human rights) we need to count the "beginning" as the point at which women, minorities, gays, etc. first were entitled to said rights, which, should theoretically be the beginning of time.

Given my definition above, gay rights are not coming "faster" than the rights of other minority groups, in fact, you could argue that they've come the slowest. Part of the reason it seems to be moving so fast to us now is that the publicly-accepted infrastructure and processes have been established for the gay rights movement to pursue. Women's rights activists in the 19th century were seriously beaten and dragged off to jail when they protested in front of the White House. However, it can be easily argued that had a gay rights group done the same thing at the same time, they would have been beaten to death on the spot. It's that kind of fear and hatred that has kept the gay rights movement "in the closet" for centuries, and only recently have we been lucky enough to have a society that accepts their right to even ask for rights in the first place.

It's a difficult debate for me because while I definitely understand the importance of building consensus and taking care not to rush into something that sets the movement several steps back, it's not as if the gay community is asking to be invited to some party and their feelings are hurt that they have to wait. The rights they're asking for are truly fundamental to a human being's pursuit and maintenance of happiness (if you disagree, let's talk). It's very difficult for me, as a person who's taken those rights for granted my whole life, to look the gay community in the eye and say, "Can't you just wait a little longer?"

1 comment:

Chris said...

Amen to that! As the 40th anniversary of Stonewall approaches, it's also important to keep in mind that our movement started much earlier than at the Stonewall Inn in 1969. The (modern) LGBT rights movement arguably began after World War II in California with the inception of the Mattachine Society and ONE, Inc. And thanks to Prop 8, we've been galvanized and called to action for 21st-century, Gen Y techno-activism! What a great time to be alive.