So the news the last few weeks has been kind of bad. Between the bigot who blasted my family on Facebook and trans kids being bullied to death and Indiana going bat shit crazy, it’s easy to get caught up in our national back swing. Never mind that rapid social progress is always followed by conservative blowback. Never mind that any seasoned activist will tell you it’s always two steps forward and one step back. Never mind that for every crazy politician spouting hate there’s two more moving closer to full inclusion. It still hurts.
I’ve been out for fourteen years. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but I still feel the burn of shame in my cheeks when I hear a pastor rail against my family. My stomach clenches when I have to explain to my son why he’s not a boy scout. My shoulders still tighten in anticipation every time someone I don’t know asks me what kind of books I write. It’s not that I think these people are right. It’s not that I’ve bought into the bigotry. It’s not that I lack the courage of my convictions. It’s the opposite. It still hurts because it’s personal.
To the man who railed against queers on my uncle’s Facebook wall and then said he wasn’t talking about anyone personally, yes, yes you were. To the governor of Indiana who says he wasn’t motivated by a desire to hurt anyone specifically, yes, yes you were. To people who say, “that’s so gay,” then say they didn’t mean “gay,” yes, yes you did. Your pretending like you didn’t mean anything personal doesn’t change the fact that those things are personal. We are people. I am a person. My wife is a person. My son is a person. My uncle is a person. Our church members are people. Your words, your laws, your discrimination are all personal to each and every person who is gay, or questioning, or loves someone who is gay or questioning. We are real people with real feelings (and real dollars to spend) and real families to care for. Every hurtful thing you say about gays and lesbians is about real people.
But you know what? The responses are personal, too. From my uncle, Mr. Blue-collar-union-electrician and all his blue-collar union friends who verbally beat down the Facebook bigot, they are real people, too. The CEOs who pulled their companies out of Indiana, they are people. The people who pull their own kids from scouting, or create alternative activities that our family is welcome to join, those are real people too. The students who march and hold candles for trans kids they never met, they are people. The straight man who read Heart of the Game because he likes books about baseball, lesbian characters or not, he’s a real person. The women at my church who clipped out an article about my book in the local paper, they are people. They are good people. Honorable people. Loving people. They aren’t gay, or necessarily liberal, or highly educated. They don’t live in trendy neighborhoods or always know the pc terms. But they are people who take our feelings, our rights, our lives seriously. They take issues that aren’t their own and they make them personal.
That’s why we’re going to win this fight, why we’re already winning it. To us, the big tent collective of not only queers but also anyone who’s ever loved a queer, this time it really is personal.