Monday, December 19, 2005

Timidity of allies can hinder gay rights

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A North Carolina native writes in the Times-Standard (Eureka, CA) that now is not the time for straight allies to be 'timid' about their support for equal rights. Chip Sharpe writes that vocal support from straight allies will go a long way in the road toward full equality: Now is not the time for timidity By Chip Sharpe (source) 12/19/2005 04:27:32 AM I grew up in North Carolina in the midst of civil rights contradictions and challenges. When I was called “a traitor to my race” for standing and marching with black demonstrators, I reexamined my motivation. Yes, I was moved by the array of humiliations and agonies that black folks suffered. And I was propelled by youthful commitment to principles of fairness, equality, patriotism and religious duty. Yet, I knew, too, that I was standing up for my own race. I had experienced the limitations of bias and felt how race hatred poisoned the spirit. I was marching for the mental and spiritual health of white folks as much as for black folks. As Lyndon Johnson said, addressing his fellow southerners, “you will find that a burden has been lifted from your shoulders, too ... men cannot live with a lie and not be stained by it.” Now we in Humboldt County confront the controversy of civil rights for those of us with different sexual orientations. Our Board of Supervisors has taken an honorable position in declaring marriage as a civil right, letting wedding celebrations be conducted in accordance with the wishes of the parties and of the religious or civic organizations asked to conduct the ceremony. Yet many people are upset. (The denomination to which I belong, Unitarian Universalist, is one of the religious bodies which conducts wedding ceremonies for both hetero- and same-sex partners. To deny the legality of some of these marriages is an infringement upon our practice of religion.) I do not address this primarily to those who hate gay people or who fear that someone else's marriage can somehow threaten their own. Others have ably answered all the anti-gay arguments: Scientists have revealed that homosexuality is a genetic inheritance, rather than simply a choice; and theologians have provided Jesus-guided interpretations of passages previously used to justify hatred; and the enrichment of our communities and our culture by the gays among us has been observed and reported. I write this primarily to those of us who, not being gay, may feel that this is not our business. Another thing I used to hear frequently in North Carolina was, “I wooden mind colored livin' next door, an' I wooden mind their kids goin' to school wi' mine, but I wooden want my neighbor to know that; he wooden understand.” How sad that the timidity of good people continued to stall the acceptance and understanding that integration would bring to our community. Let us not be similarly timid. Let us reach out and befriend others, without regard to whether they are gay, lesbian or heterosexual. Let us get to know families with same-sex parents. And let us meet the challenge of speaking up to our friends, neighbors and co-workers about greeting all our neighbors with not only tolerance but with genuine appreciation. In “No Future Without Forgiveness,” Desmond Tutu writes about the African word for the essence of human connectedness: “A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.” ======== Now... being a North Carolina native like Mr. Sharpe and still living here I can totally agree with his sentiment about allies who are just a little bit timid when it comes to speaking out for equality. I have many friends and colleagues who are fully supportive, but the extent of their support lies solely in our friendship; they do not speak out about it. I kind of took a little offense to how Mr. Sharpe made fun of us North Carolinians (by the way, we don't all have bad grammer and improper speech, that is a stereotype my friends), but he made a wonderful point. Just as the fight for African-American civilr ights oculd not have been won without the support of fair-minded and supportive white citizens, the fight for LGBT equality cannot be won without the support of fair-minded and supportive straight citizens. Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,