Pittsburgh Blog for Equality Day 2008 – a lesbian perspective

I've been wracking my brains all weekend for an approach to this day. You've read all the facts about the legislation attempting to amend the PA constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.  It has the potential to hurt a lot of people, gay and straight alike. 

You've read all the arguments from those who want to impose their Christian-interpretation of marriage on the rest of us.  And those who believe gay rights are not a civil rights issue (check out today's Post-Gazette for more on that).  You've also heard from thoughtful Christian leaders who do affirm individuals who are LGBTQ.  There was also civil rights luminary Coretta Scott King's affirmation.  We can trump card each other until the end of the day.

What you may not know, particularly if you are heterosexual, is the impact that all of this has on day to day life.  All of what?  All of the constant negative discussion about the gay community — of course, there is a connection between the rhetoric that people hear in the pulpit and the way they treat gay people, or teach their children to treat gay people.  Love the sinner, hate the sin is not the American way.  Treat people poorly who get between you and what you believe is yours is a bit more accurate, particularly when there is a relentless drum beat about their being “one” way and “one” truth in a land of religious freedom. 

I live in Pittsburgh, a fairly gay-positive place considering how socially conservative most Catholics can be.  Still, there are probably three public places in the entire region where I would be comfortable holding the hand of my partner, Ledcat.  We spend entire weeks where we only touch each other inside our home or our vehicle.  I'm talking the most simple gestures — and believe me, I'm very aware of those right now.  We lost our beloved pet this week and I've been inconsolable. You know that feeling of grief that sweeps over you unexpectedly … imagine that the person you love is right next to you, but has to be careful about the things she says or the way she touches you when consoling you about a deep loss. 

It is horrible.  We have been fortunate to only have experienced a few frightening incidents — mostly kids and mostly being stupid.  But it is still frightening to have anyone try to menace you because they think you are gay.  They get that message from their parents, their preachers and their peers — gay people are fair game.  So they use whatever power they have — intimidation, verbal harassment, even constitutional amendments — to keep you down.  It happens at all levels — I once had a supervisor send me an email with an embedded photoshopped image that degraded lesbians.  He thought it was funny.  It might have been funny coming from my friend Bob, but not someone with power and authority over my career. 

We have to pick our battles.  I fought back against the supervisor because I had protections in place.  I walked away from the menacing kids and found a public space because I had no protection from their ignorance other than the brightness of public opinion.  I'm fighting back against this amendment because I think we have to draw a line in the sand on this one.  Let the bigots stew in their own hatred and fear if they so choose.  That's why they have their own churches.  But just as they are free to practice their religions, I am free *from* their religions. 

Change is on the horizon.  Children grow up surrounded by cultural gay images — television, music, movies, video games, etc.  They have gay friends in school and know gay neighbors.  This chips away at the mantra of fear emanating from those who seem to have the most to lose if we are granted our due equal rights.  OK, so I  still don't understand who that is, but I'm trying to allow bigots their due.

I want to hold Ledcat's hand.  Ultimately, I want to hold her hand in mine forever.  But I'm content to start with holding it at Target. 

Just this morning, I read my favorite comic strip, For Better or For Worse, and there is a reference to gay marriage (Michael's friend Lawrence is gay and has a partner, Nicholas). It is a casual reference, but I thought it an auspicious omen for this first ever Pgh Blogging for Equality Day. 

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