Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Obama sets precedent with mention of LGBT equality in inaugural speech
Everybody is talking about President Obama’s explicit mention of equal rights for LGBT people in his inaugural speech Monday, the first such mention ever in history. It will be hard for “social conservatives” to complain very much about it.
Equal rights are important for one very important reason: to stop others from excluding, bullying, or expropriating from gay people, or, more pertinently, people who appear disinclined to have children.
Anderson Cooper explained well on Monday night (both in reporting on CNN on the speech and on his AC360 show) that in the more distant past, LGBT people were often harassed even when they tried to assemble in their own communities, as he gave the history of the Stonewall Rebellion in NYC in June 1969.
I remember well those evenings at the Gay Activist Alliance of NY in the “Firehouse” on 99 Wooster Street in Soho around 1973, when GAA would make out checks for bills to the “New York Telephone Bigots”.
Probably, a lot of the “rationalization” for anti-gay attitudes is pretty well encapsulated by Vatican theology (as in that 1986 advisory taking about “objective disorders” and more recently in its handling of the priest abuse scandals). There is a notion that civilization is predicated on the idea that, in practice, people are never “equal” and must experience complementarity. Moreover, individuals must be willing to accept sacrifice, or at least personal risk, for the good of the group. Of course, such ideology makes people easy fodder for power-driven authoritarianism (and a cult of "superiority"), in the name of patriotism or social "solidarity".
Sacrifice can be in different modes or forms for different people. In older times, women took risks and sometimes died merely by childbirth. (The recent medical problems of Kate Middleton’s royal pregnancy in Britain remind us that the whole process is indeed still difficult for some women.) Men took risks by going to war, or by doing physically dangerous work, to protect women and children. It’s not surprising that a culture of gender conformity seemed necessary in older times. For those men who were “different”, abstinence then seemed like a morally appropriate expectation. The Vatican, as do most religions, know full well that some people are biologically less inclined to participate directly in giving the tribe a progeny and biological future.
So they invent another “sacrifice” that seems to make things fair. That is, sexuality is to be experienced only within marriage and intended procreation. They maintain that allowing anything else distracts (both economically and personally) married couples from their tribal duties. It’s hardly clear that this is a scientifically justifiable belief. But the resulting “sacrifice” previously expected of me – for primarily this reason – turned out to be considerable.
First picture: The Stonewall, NYC, March 2012, indoors.