[EDITOR'S NOTE:] The following guest post comes to us from Waymon Hudson. Waymon is President and Co-Founder of Fight OUT Loud, a national non-profit organization dedicated to helping LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) individuals fight discrimination and hate. He is a vocal community activist and LGBT rights advocate. He is also a political columnist for the online magazine GaySoFla.com. Waymon has been one of the leaders in the fight against Mayor Jim Naugle of Fort Lauderdale and his recent string of anti-gay comments.
We must be tolerant of others. It is something we hear far too often from political leaders. It is an issue that has come into sharp focus as we move into the height of the political season. It is preached at every campaign stop, every debate. More often than not, it is aimed at the LGBT community. Even those within our own community jump on the “tolerance train” and say that our fight is for “tolerance and respect.” I disagree. Our fight has not now, nor has it ever been, about the need for others to tolerate us. It is about full acceptance into society as a whole, with full equality and rights under the law.
The word “tolerance” conjures up some very negative connotations and when used in regards to the LGBT community, it carries some very serious and damaging baggage. When you say we need people to tolerate our lives, it suggests that we are vastly different and alien than others, something “out of the norm.” By playing into this suggestion, we have already made the efforts against us that much stronger. We must accept and show that our lives, relationships, and families are no different than anyone else’s and have just as much value. We have to start pushing that fact out to the forefront. If we happen to love someone of the same gender, does that somehow lessen the love we feel? If we express our gender identity in a way some might not fully understand, does that make it any less true? Of course not. The very word tolerance puts our relationships and lives in a lesser category than others. It seems to suggest that who we are as LGBT citizens is something to be merely “put up with.”
The battle for equality is not about simply being tolerated. It is about full acceptance. It is about making ourselves part of society. Our lives are just as valid and meaningful as everyone else’s, even if some may have some religious-based or moral objections to it. I realize we can’t change everyone’s minds and opinions about LGBT people. That is not what I am suggesting. What we can and must change is how the rest of society views those who would use their small-minded views to keep us from full equality and acceptance. By arguing to be tolerated, we have already lost half of that battle. We have played into the hands of the enemy by conceding that being LGBT is something bad, something to be ashamed of. The LGBT community must keep pushing for greater visibility and acceptance of our lives into society. We must fight for full acceptance under the law and not settle for anything less.
I know that asking for acceptance is a much longer road to go down, but it so much more important than simply being tolerated. The argument that we must take small steps and not ask for too much is completely flawed. This notion that we have to fight just for what is easily attainable instead of what we truly want and need is laughable! A good example of this “attainable versus desirable” debate is the fight over civil unions versus full-marriage. Gaining full marriage rights will be a longer and tougher battle than settling for civil unions, but do we really want to accept “separate but equal” status? Full marriage rights may not be immediately "attainable", but by demanding them, we have by default gained momentum for civil unions. Even most republicans now support some form of civil unions. If we just pushed for the easier goals, we would never make any real movement. We cannot settle. By demanding the rights that we deserve, we are drawing a line in the sand and giving society no choice but to catch up to us.
It is time that we really changed our way of thinking as a community. While it may be a hard fight to make society accept us, ultimately it is what we must do to reach our true goals. To be tolerated is nothing more than being looked down upon. We will never get the rights and freedoms we deserve without first demanding acceptance of our lives and relationships. I want full recognition and acceptance of who I am and who I love. I will not tolerate or accept anything less.