Thursday, June 5, 2014

Has Your Marriage Been Watered-Down?

Marriage equality was first legalized in May 2004 and now there are 18 additional states and the District of Columbia that has followed suit.  When the marriage equality debate began, what now seems like a lifetime ago, many of the opponents began used the argument that same sex marriages would water down opposite sex marriages.  Of course that argument was crazy.   Some were of the thought that this would negate traditional marriage.  It was evident that some within the heterosexual community were looking at it from a different stance than those within the LGBT community.  No, we were not trying to be like heterosexuals.  We simply were attempting to get those same rights afforded to us. 

If I may use an analogy made by a pastor friend.  She stated that when Mercedes came out with the C – Class many of the loyal luxury automobile owners were in an uproar.  You see the importance of owning this luxury car no longer held lucrative value or prestige.  Now that you let others (that are viewed as “less than”) in the “club” our cars no longer have the honor afforded that the high price tag once afforded them.  

I can say the same thing about marriage equality.  Statements such as “Once LGBT men and women are allowed to legally marry each other my marriage will be devalued”.   Of course we in the LGBT community were fighting for equality and not some superficial status that marriage was thought to afford. 

It was evident that some in the heterosexual community were looking at it from a different stance than those within the LGBT community.  No we were not trying to be like heterosexuals.  We simply were attempting to get those same rights afforded to us.  What heterosexuals failed to acknowledge or probably were not even aware of is the fact that they are afforded 1,138 legal rights when legally married that are not afforded unmarried couples including heterosexual couples who choose not to get married.  The one major difference is those that chose not to marry had the option to turn down a right that we as LBGT men and women were never afforded. 

Now, marriage equality has passed in 19 states and DC and I have yet to hear any late breaking news come on the television interrupting my favorite program to announce that heterosexual couples around the country are in distress because their marriages have less importance/value now that LGBT men and women are allowed to marry each other in that state.

It is revolutionary that we have seen so many states approve marriage equality in such a short time.  Today many other states are debating the passage of Marriage Equality.  As history has shown recently, it is simply a matter of time before the other 31 join in and this is no longer an issue.   We are all going to be members of that same “country club” some never thought we should be members of in the first place. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Live Authentically….But, Not “To Much”

This morning I decided to pick up a Red Eye.  The Red Eye is a free news publication that is published by the Chicago Tribune.  It consist of some news, sports and entertainment.  I typically pick it up just to read the back page which has snippets of entertainment news…okay gossip.   This morning (Wednesday, May 21st) there was an article on page 3 about Michael Sam written by Nikki Lynette.  Nikki starts the article referencing a conversation she had after showing relatives a copy of the infamous kiss.  She received responses that she never expected.  Her relative’s remarks were jarring but not surprising (e.g. Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve).  Nikki was surprised at the comments for she considers herself liberal with a “to each his own attitude”.   In my head I am thinking nice article and how I looked forward to continuing to read because as a SGL (same gender loving) man I love to see my heterosexual allies.  This reminds me that not all heterosexuals are Neanderthals.

Well as I got to the third paragraph I could hear the tires on the car of progress in my head come to a screeching halt.  You see Nikki begins to state how she is glad that the OWN Network has postponed the Michael Sam reality show.  She states that such a program would just be another example of someone being “singled out” for being gay.  With her being a woman of African heritage making such a statement disappointed me.  For I thought, she just does not get it.  With that statement you are saying that this part of who he is should not be highlighted or acknowledged.  He made a bold stance, one that very few have done and while he is a great football player he is also a black SGL man.  He was telling the world accept all of me.  Not an easy task for anyone who is SGL and especially a black man. 

I was disappointed with this statement because I wonder would she write this exact same article when Dr. Clifton Wharton, Jr. became the first black CEO of a fortune 500 company (TIAA-CREF) or when Ursula Burns became the first black woman of a fortune 500 company (Xerox Corporation).   Would she say that they were being singled out for their race or gender?  Slavery was officially abolished 150 years ago in this country and African Americans and women are still being touted as “the first”.    It is a big deal because coming out to the world is a bold statement and one that can be very costly as a SGL individual.  A price that can be deadly.  It would be nice to live in a country where being the first black SGL person, or the first black man or woman in any category would not be a big deal.  However, that is not the world we live in by any means.  Michael taking that step has given license to so many others that are nameless and faceless to live their lives in an authentic manner.  What pains me is that Nikki as a “liberal” black woman in this country does not see that or have had that explained to her.   While her overall article was supportive of me and my SGL brothers and sisters I want her to know that we are tired of being told “what is the big deal” when we are not the ones that have been doing the ostracizing.   It would not be such a phenomenon if acceptance was a rule of the day.  However, it is that is not the case for SGL individuals, women, people of color, etc.  And until it becomes what the world considers a normal occurrence we will not make a "a big deal" out of it.   

Living in one's truth out loud  and authentically in a world that chooses to devalue and mock your very existence IS A BIG DEAL!!!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Awwww Nawl...Say It Ain't So!!

As I think about how far we as SGL men and women have come in my life time I am over joyed.   I think about our ability to legally marry in 17 states and the District of Columbia.  This was accomplished in just the past eleven years and several other states on the horizon.  Even more astounding is that on June 26 2013, DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) was repealed.  Not to mention the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell".  We have come a long way in such a short time. 
Even with all of the accomplishments we have made as a community there still seems to be this very harsh reality that we have not progressed as much as we think.  I say this because I continue to read some very disturbing things as it relates to dating someone that is Caucasian. 
I would never say that we are color blind or should be in a country where color of ones skin is clearly an issue.   However, just the other day Michael Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams and was televised receiving a congratulatory kiss from his boyfriend who is white.  When I saw it I could hear the screams and criticisms within the African American SGL community “awww nawl not a white boy…damn”. 
This was also the case when Derrick Gordon, the UMASS basketball player, recently appeared on the red carpet at the GLADD Media Awards with his white boyfriend, Gerald McCullouch.    McCullouch is much older than the 22 year old Gordon as well as an actor/director.   The comments after this public appearance were both of race and age.
I think back to the mid to late 70s when African American women were turned off by seeing a brotha with a white woman.  They would get very upset and feel personally offended by the fact that he would date a white woman.  White women were assumed to be the trophy to one's success.  So it is interesting to see similar attitudes within the black SGL community now.
Many would think that with all the oppression and discrimination we have endure that we would be the last to do the same to others.  However as humans, the oppressed always wants to become the oppressor.  It would be beautiful if we had become different from others and not allowed race to become a deciding factor in how we view someone's worthiness.  What is sad is that by focusing on those who love people that dont look like us we miss the beauty in their story.  Living and loving who you want to is what it should be about and not about the fact that he chose someone that does not look like me.  Lets be honest 99.9% of those who made those comments would NEVER be in the running if Michael or Derrick were to only dating within their race.   It is not as if you lost anything in the process or was cheated out of your possibility to catch a good man.  What ever happened to the thought that love and companionship is the goal of most us within the SGL community?  Finding a compatible mate is not easy to attain due of some of the other ills within the community. 
Once slavery was abolished back in 1865 our ancestors were allowed to move forward to make a life as free individuals.  However, we carried some of the slave owners characteristics where we judged each other on superficial things.  Reading some of the negative comments I could only make the parallel distinction between these two instances because today we have begun to be discriminatory or bigoted based on that persons choice to love outside of his/her race.  Not much has changed in these 149 years.
I think I understand the disappointment in not seeing Michael or Derrick with an African American partner.  Having two men of African heritage stand before the world and display their love is revolutionary as well as validating to the world that what I (regular Africa American SGL man/woman) have and aspire to have has worth.  I don’t condone the negativity and disparaging comments but I understand that place from which they come.  Just like I did not see the passage of marriage equality coming in 17 states only eleven years ago.  I know we will soon see an African American SGL individual with his/her African American partner publicly allowing the world to see their love for one another.   It is my hope that when that does happen we rally around them with much love and support.   Michael and Derrick deserve our full support as well.  Let's not allow who they love as a barrier but embrace the fact that they have chosen to love.