Monday, July 29, 2013

Is It Really Getting Better?

Sometimes, it just doesn't get better. Even with DOMA going away and Prop 8 being dismantled, reality is tough. Bullies are fierce, worming their way in under defenses, negating positive messages that parents might be giving, if the parent's are even aware there is an issue, and stomping on the souls of kids everywhere.

When I read that Carlos Vigil, a gay teen from Albuquerque, New Mexico, took his own life, I cried. In October 2012 I was in Albuquerque for Gay Rom Lit, a reader conference where fans of gay literature can meet their favorite authors. It hurts to hear that a young gay man in that city felt so overwhelmed that the only option he had was dying. I was just there to celebrate gay literature and yet I couldn’t help this one kid who needed to take to heart the message that it gets better.

The damage wrought by bullies and perpetuated by government is pervasive. When countries like Russia pass laws making it a crime to even say the word gay, people are hurt. Yes, England has passed laws making gay marriage legal, and yet discrimination still happens in that country. Even with DOMA dead, we still have issues here in the USA. Around fifty percent of Americans support gay marriage, but that means about fifty percent don't.

I live in the south, the Deep South, where corn pones, and sweet tea are a staple at dinner. Churches dot the landscape of every city and people talk about God openly. The bigots feel perfectly comfortable expressing their disgust about gay rights. There are pockets of acceptance where gay men and women can be themselves, talking about their partner or their same sex spouse without fear of being bashed, but the opposition is strong. Kids are taught that gay people aren't acceptable, but soulless creatures hell bent on destroying "traditional marriage". Parent's talk about hurting gay couples and the kids take heart, trashing gay people because they honestly have no clue that their words are evil and harmful.

It reminds me of my childhood when there were no black families that lived on the "Right" or white side of the tracks. Then one black family dared to buy a house on The Hill. Scandal hit the city. Property values would plummet and we'd all have to move out of town because they'd "ruin" the neighborhood. That was thirty years ago. The neighborhood wasn't ruined. The black couple were normal people who went to work, had kids, and supported the local football team. They wanted a chance to live like everyone else and they took a leap of faith, moving where they were unwelcome only to become part of the neighborhood. After a few years, no one cared, or they didn't voice their displeasure about the couple. Their kids were accepted at school and people stopped complaining.

But racism didn't die out when black couples began moving to predominately white neighborhoods. Many black children had to work twice as hard as their peers to achieve the same recognition. Even today, the barriers of race are harsh realities in many areas of the countries.

Today, gay people are the scapegoat. They are blamed for everything wrong in society. Weather systems, which have been happening for millions of years, are blamed on gay people. Every part of the bible is twisted by pastors, giving them ammunition to support the pastor's particular bent on sin and how gay people are the root of all evil in our current society. Hope is taken away, and no matter how many times we say It Gets Better, reality steps in and the kids don't see anything changing.

Recently, I posted on Facebook about Steve Grand's music video, All American Boy, and one poster took exception, saying that Mr. Grand's video was a step back for gay men and not a step forward. His assertion was that the images in the video that portrayed a gay man being attracted to a straight man only fed the fears of straight men and would create backlash. That any ground gained by having a gay role model for young men would be negligible because of the overwhelming negative effect this video would create.

But if young gay boys are to find that life gets better, they need to have role models. Not everyone has to like Steve Grand's music or agree with the message of his video, but based on the support on his page, many men have found themselves in similar positions of wanting the unattainable, longing for what they couldn't have and now there's a song about it, just for them. Add to it the fact that Steve Grand is another successful gay man, it gives hope to those who long for something more than hiding behind a fa├žade of being straight, concealing their sexuality by trying to act like everyone else, never drawing attention to themselves or pursuing their dreams the way that they want to pursue them.

Eli Lieb is also another new music artist that has released a video featuring a gay theme. I like that Eli Lieb and Steve Grand have come on the scene at this moment, showing the world that gay men singing about gay men is perfectly acceptable and even valued. I wish Carlos Vigil would have stuck around. I wish Carlos could have seen that he wasn't a freak and that he was perfect the way he was. We've come a long way, almost to the point that coming out isn't a big deal, but we're not there yet. There's more to gay equality than marriage equality. Our gay sons and daughters need equality in school and at recess. Our transgender friends need acceptance without having to deal with which bathroom to use or if they can even use the restroom without being arrested.

The issues of the gay community are spread wider than any one specialty group. More money needs to be given to gay charities. Services need to be developed. HIV education is lacking based on the number of young gay men contracting the virus.

While the spotlight is on the gay community, it's time to work even harder. Yes, constant work on the issues is exhausting, but life doesn't stand still. Young gay kids at risk need support. Older gay couples need support. Gay men and women in the Bible belt need support. Gay marriage may be more acceptable now, but there is much room for progress, improving the lives of all gay individuals so gay teens really see that it does get better.


Lisa G said...

Unfortunately, it takes a long time for true change to happen. I too live in the deep South and see so much wrong, but things are improving so I think it's important not to give up hope or to stop working to make things better. Maybe in another generation or two we'll be able to look back and wonder why it took us so long to change.

Sara York said...

We do need to keep working. Kids don't see that it gets better. They are so in the now, their lives so polarized by the crap they put up with day in day out that Dan Savage's It Get's Better isn't reaching the people it needs to reach.