Dan Savage, columnist for The Stranger, has created a viral video entitled It Gets Better, in response to the recent rash of suicides by LGBTQ youth.
It's a good video. It's touching; it's inspiring; it's honest; it contains personal stories. And as for myself and my girlfriend, I can certainly say life has indeed gotten much better since middle and high school. And, for most teenagers, LGBTQ or not, life is probably significantly better after high school.
But, is society getting better? It would be easy to say yes. There are more openly gay people, in my home state we can get legally married, there are some anti-discrimination laws on the books, and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is something that quickly is looking like it will be a thing of the past.
But, then, I hesitate. I live in New England. Things are better...here. Things are better...among young people. Things are better...when you're talking to liberals. But, once I try to un-insulate myself, travel down south, speak to those who are religiously conservative, talk to the over forty or over fifty crowd, things don't seem much better.
Actually, they seem kinda worse. The openly gay hate is not just accepted; it's celebrated. With each step forward toward equality, civil liberties, and social acceptance that the LGBTQ community takes, the louder and the angrier the conservative right be
comes. If you were living within a deeply religious community forty years ago, would it have been easier, day-to-day to be gay? While you felt the need to closet your identity, would you not have had to stomach weekly prayers led against homosexuals?
But, to steal more analogies from the struggles of the African American community, I feel like we are now facing our own version of the KKK. It is our 1920s - and we are free, but not equal. We are accepted by more, but the radical groups are only angrier and more determined. We have our own Jim Crow Laws; DOMA, DADT. There are businesses that want to turn us away, not cater our weddings. There are churches who don't want us inside. And there are some of us who 'pass,' who pretend we are straight in order to gain more opportunities and advancement.
I'm looking forward to our Civil Rights Act, to our 1964.
(Note: In no way do I want to belittle the struggles of the African American community, nor do I wish to say that we have suffered in exactly similar ways, or have exactly similar histories. It has been historically difficult to be gay, but we have not suffered the atrocities of forced servitude and bondage. Please understand that I find ALL people deserving of basic human rights and of dignity. We turn toward the African American Civil Rights Movement for leadership and guidance. Thank you for standing up, demanding to be heard and counted and making it easier for the rest of us to do the same.)