Bil Browning

3 things that made me cry today

Filed By Bil Browning | November 17, 2008 8:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: African-American, blame the blacks, gay protests, racism, rioting

Today has been one of those days. I've found myself welling up three times already today over bits and pieces from our community. Each time I've felt these things so deeply they've made me ache inside.

1. Mexican Is the New Gay

Without going into much details on this first one, I was flirting with a guy online; he's latino. I asked him where he was from and he said, "I'm from Mexico. I hope that's okay." Okay? Okay!?

Apparently, if gay is the new black, Mexican is the new gay. Does this damned merry-go-round ever stop? Why would it not be okay what country he was from? France, Japan, Mexico or East Timor? I just can't imagine what it must be like to follow it up with, "I hope that's okay."

Maybe it's just seeing the whole "Blame The Blacks" meme whip through the queer community recently, but I'm feeling really sick about some of the overt racism that's floated through my world lately.

2. I Feel the Anger In His Voice

A mob of queers chased a group of Christian proselytizers out of the Castro last night. Video was promptly uploaded to YouTube, of course. I have to admit that my first instinct was to say, "They shouldn't have been there" and dismiss it as that. I feel the same anger at the religious right; they've stoked the embers of this confrontation for centuries. And going into the Castro to preach after nights of protests? Idiotic.

I think the first thing I said to Jerame on the morning after election day was, "I hope they riot or something to show people we're not fucking going to take this shit anymore." Of course, I didn't really mean it, but it was the base instinct - the primal urge. Last night the mob bayed and I have to admit to a certain thrill as I clicked the video this morning. See the guy yelling directly into the camera at 1:58? I couldn't watch past him without bawling.


iPhone users: Click to watch

I feel his anger deeply. I want to scream and shout - not just about marriage, but about the blows I've taken for being queer, the lack of basic housing and employment protections most of our community still lacks, the queer youth selling themselves on the streets after their "loving" parents kick them out, for all of it. I want retribution.

But what would it solve? There have been plenty of violent revolutions in the history of the world and very few have ever had a positive ending. This would be no different. I feel his anger, but I also realize how crazed he looks; he reminds me of the Arabic men I see on the TV whooping and yelling in the streets of the Middle East as they bay for blood. It shocks me back to my senses and I'm terrified at how deeply I feel that anger.

3. Vindication

At my lowest moment this afternoon, I got an e-mail from a regular reader and commenter. I asked him if I could share some of what he wrote, but I'm not publishing his name; if he wants to share that, he can do it in the comments section.

His e-mail reduced me to tears; I couldn't finish it in one sitting.

StLouisProtest.jpg46 years old and I attended my first rally for ANYTHING this past Saturday! I have to tell you, I have never been a very political person. Having been tied up in the 'gay scene' and more interested in how I looked than what was going on around me. Because of blogs like yours and a few others, I am more politically aware than I have ever been in my life! Yes, it is about time that I grew up... If there were rallies for anything in St. Louis previously - besides the occasional Union picketer - then I wasn't aware of them.
...
I tried to rally my gay friends into going, but most people had better things to do or were working or just weren't interested in going to a rally. It was pretty sad to get so little interest from friends. I had never been to a rally, and being the wallflower that I am - was a little scared to go down there by myself; I didn't know what to expect. My only point of reference was the yelling and screaming I see on TV at other rallies for whatever across the nation...some getting violent. I talked to my friend Jay, and he said he would go with me if I wanted to go. Jay and I walked there from his loft apartment downtown and it was very cold and windy on the trip there.

I was pretty nervous about going to my first rally....and when we rounded the corner, we saw a huge crowd gathered around the Court House in downtown St. Louis... Upon seeing the crowd, my mood immediately changed from skepticism to exuberance! In addition, the freezing cold I felt before completely disappeared! With the St. Louis Arch in the background, we could see hundreds of people gathering on the steps of the court house and on the sidewalk... We had about 1500 people at the peak of the rally, and while I expected a lot of chanting and the like, I didn't hear any chanting at all! Only speeches - one after another.
...
There were high school students talking about the support of their parents who were also in the crowd. Mayor Slay of St. Louis talked about his two gay sisters and gay brother and how proud of them he was. Actor Chad Allen, who was in town working in a theatre production, talked about his partner of 3 years and how much he loved him. The speeches were moving, and I had tears in my eyes on more than one occasion.
...
Didn't mean to rant, but it was a moving experience for this first-time rallier!

He gets it. My faith is restored. We are rising up and demanding our rights. We're doing it peacefully - time after time, bit by bit, and person after person. The protests around the country have been 99.9% non-violent - and the last one didn't turn violent after the police stepped in to escort the Christians out of the Castro.

Peaceful, non-violent demonstrations can cripple an empire. See "Gandhi." See "Martin Luther King." I'd rather see "Gays" on that list than any other accounting of civil rights struggles. I don't want us to be listed with "Irish Protestants vs Catholics," "Palestinians vs Israelis," or any of the insurgent rebellions happening at any moment on the globe.

My e-mailer gets that. He doesn't want our civil rights to be tainted either, but he's upset enough to hit the streets for his first rally. Many of us - across the nation - are finally willing to hit the street. We feel the anger.

But vindication? Vindication is getting more and more people - from all gender identities and sexual orientations - to stand with us to say "No More." We do it peacefully. We change the world with our deeds and actions; we have to meet the example set by Gandhi and King.

I see the violence we cause each other in my Mexican friend. I see the violence that eats us up inside in the Castro mob. I can see the brown and black whirls of smoke and shit winding around us as we feed our own coals with seething resentment and fling insults and derogatory stereotypes like monkeys in the zoo cheerfully greeting visitors.

Sometimes we're no better than the very same groups we condemn - we just hide some of our business a little better. Seeing honorable individuals like my e-mailer stand up for justice, well, it makes you want to cry.


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That video did not show violent queers. It showed angry queers.

And I think queers have every right to be angry right now.

People who march in the Castro to preach against us, should be driven out by force.

If that video had shown violence, I would have been with you -- violence is not the answer -- But I'm all for a little anger right now.

Sarah,

I thought I was clear in saying that the video didn't show violence...

The protests around the country have been 99.9% non-violent - and the last one didn't turn violent after the police stepped in to escort the Christians out of the Castro.

My point is just this... Look at the rage in that man's eyes and tell me we don't all feel it inside us too. I'm just afraid of what that anger is capable of - because while anger is a necessary part of moving forward now, it can also turn back around to bite us in the ass if some members of our community take it too far.

I worry that I could easily become one of those people. If I were in the Castro that night, I'd have been one of those blowing whistles and surrounding the group of Christians. While it would have made me feel better, would it have accomplished anything really?

If you think that you are discriminate by being queer, this post just proves it. So you do not think Christians should have less rights then most. You should be a white straight male that has never seen prison, worked hard and done what is right. What am I talking about? Take the city of Indianapolis. They can not recriminate if you are queer. In getting a contract for a project in this city, you get extra points for being of the minority status, if you now hire convicted felons you get extra points. If you are a female that owns a business that is applying for a contract you get extra points. If you are straight, white and hire hard working middle class people, you get nothing. Now you want to ban the Christens from giving their views because they do not match yours.

Bil, I am with you on the idea of violence. Violence begets more violence. The SFPD did a very good job of keeping the anger in check. Had they acted like storm troopers things could have quickly gotten out of hand.

Sarah's point about angry vs violent is worth expanding on. The people of the Castro (and other neighborhoods) are angry. Religious folks coming into the Castro to preach anti-queer theology are doing so for no other reason than to be confrontational or controversial. It looks to me like someone itching for a fight.

Anger needs a release. Unabated, it will explode at the most inopportune moment. I saw the crown marching down the street whistles screaming and thought of another group of queers who had had enough of having their "back yard" invaded. I'm afraid that the anger we're seeing is the tip of an iceberg. We need a collective vent, and we need it soon.

(((Bil)))

A hug from a PFLAG mom!

Bil,
Now is the time for righteous anger. This can be expressed without our actually and physically striking our oppressors (but I am convinced that is inevitable).
We need to lear (or relearn) how to protest/demonstrate effectively. It's really an art form.
I am siding with those who think it is a good idea that the gay community become extremely inconvenient by attending and disrupting hetero marriages in churches. You take your place in the pew. At some point you unfurl a banner or begin a chant or holler out your protest if and when anyone with any objections is invited to speak now or forever hold his peace. You leaflet the other attendees. You get into the photographs in front of the church with signs in hand.
Some will say that this is misdirected, but the objective is to sandpaper the resistance to gay marriage and to highlight the injustice.

Agreed, Tony. Righteous anger is justified, but when does that anger overtake reason?

One major drawback to this tactic is the penalty for today's activist arrest for "trespassing." People need to know that the fines and sentences for the array of possible charges are way heavier than they used to be -- even the misdemeanors, which can usually get you up to a year in jail. State conspiracy charges can make it a felony.

Unfortunately many new activists are not being told what the score is, and their lives are up in smoke on their first arrest. Everybody who is pondering your suggestion should read my September backgrounder on what has happened to the right to peaceful protest.

To continue -- my backgrounder is at
http://www.bilerico.com/2008/09/we_must_end_attacks_on_the_right_to_peac.php

It's titled "We Must End the Attacks on the Right to Peaceful Protest."

Melanie Davis | November 18, 2008 1:00 PM

Insurgent rebellions? I wonder who would become an insurgent for the queer rebellion, all of our fruit fly heroines?

Emo kids?

The Militant Metrosexual Militia?

Actually, I like that last one. Pink triangle armbands and matching pink pistols for everyone!

Bil.....what is happening right now IS that release and it is needed.
Prop 8 raised the ante..no longer about denying rights but actively taking them away. I am so for demonstrations such as been happening and in total agreement with Tony about creative protest.

It's way past time the religionist bigots learned that we will only turn so many cheeks before taking action. It will be a while before they invade the Castro again you can bet and that is the point.

Go to the streets, give vent to the anger but keep your wits about you. We did this in the sixties without violence for the most part. It can be done again. It must be done again.

BehindTheCurtain | November 18, 2008 3:18 PM

Like so many wrong-headed attitudes, you believe that because your ox is gored, you're owed.

Face it, Bil: with 10,000 children dying of malnutrition every day, the problems we have are small. If you truly believe in social justice, you can't confine it to people of the rainbow-- everyone must share in it.

Yeah, queers get shafted. Welcome to the Club of Humanity. Like Debs said, and I paraphrase, we're jailed until we're all free. The new gay you cite is just another member of the club looking for their justice, like we do. And we owe that justice to everyone, period.

We owe this justice to the misguided supposed voices of God that try to hate. We owe this justice to the fearful. We owe this justice to the plainly stupid. We owe it to all, man. You and I as non-straights deserve it, so do straights. Get off your disadvantage horse. Instead, fight for justice everywhere.

The vindication you cite is the first step on the road to just that-- the sense that we're all one, and not disconnected from each other because of our qualities and cognitive choices. But it's only justice in a pretty narrow overall problem, manifested by the excellent response to a call for action. Bravo, that.

Being a member of the rainbow community is fine, so long as it doesn't get in the way of being a human first. Ruling your life by sexual orientation diminishes your effectiveness of the primacy of your life-- as just another 'meat human', as Vonnegut might say. Maybe I'm Irish American, or Black American or Gay American. Notice the common denominator there.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1290842731133226060&hl=en

These are the people who were in the Castro that night. Joel's Army.

IMO, way too many people are saying "enough" with the protests. Way too many people are shocked at the expulsion of the Thumpers from the Castro. Well i say its not enough. We have had it up to here. We dont have to take it anymore. The old gaurd has sat on our rights long enough. They have done nothing for us but bluster for the past 20 years. Its time to take what is ours. I am not advocating violence. But on the other side of the coin, if I am attacked, I will defend myself. I strongly urge others to do the same. Dont attack. Defend. We have been attacked over and over and over, and what has the HRC done for us? Not much. We gave them our money and they wasted it. Its time for us to take what is ours.

Reformed Ascetic | November 19, 2008 5:11 AM

Thanks for posting this link. I found it useful and interesting. I grew up around churches like this. I haven't listened to this kind of stuff since in years.

I share many of your sentiments, but here is where I differ:

Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of travel protects everyone. Joel's Army or not, they quite literally had the right to be there. I believe I understand how they made people feel. I believe I have experienced similar things. But we can't fight for our rights and deny others theirs.

Those people looked like little more than children. Even if they are 100% lying about poor (or illegal) behaviors on the part of the people in the Castro, they were still chased by an angry mob held at bay by riot police. It's not unreasonable to believe they feared for their lives.

I'm all for the protests. I want more in fact. I'm all for anger and indignation. I think it's way past time to hold people accountable for their actions. Among other things, I want strong representatives to publicly call out our opponents for their lies and fear-mongering whether they are religious leaders or not. I want leaders who are not afraid to put the fear-mongering in their place.

But can we really defend putting people who are barely adults in fear for their lives.

Can't we stand up for ourselves and still be better than that.

Bil.

"Children" or not, they were old enough to go into a known gay enclave and stand there and tell them they were "sinners" ect ect. They deserved every little bit of "scared" that they got. Maybe next iem they will actually think before they do something stupid. So yes, I can defend putting these idiots in fear for their lives.

You said "But we can't fight for our rights and deny others theirs." ummm Yes we can. That is EXACTLY what they ARE doing to us! That is EXACTLY what they have been doing to us, for way too many years. Its talk like yours that has been keeping us in this giant hole we are in. "oh, dont offend them! maybe we will get equal rights someday" bullpoop. It is way past ime to not offend. Its time to become offensive. Its time to stand up and say ENOUGH DAMNIT. The peacenicks have had their day. You failed. Its our turn.

Reformed Ascetic | November 20, 2008 1:52 AM

I hate to resort to such a simplistic argument, but:

I guess the next time LGBT people go into a known "religious enclave" and get chased down the street by an angry mob, I assume you will be supporting the right of the holy rollers to do that.

The next time a gay couple gets attacked for holding hands in public, you're going to say, "They should've thought before they did something so stupid."

Or will you be among those saying, "That's wrong, that's against the law."

There is a lot of room between what someone is able to do and what they should do. There is a lot of room between being able to stand up boldly and risk being offensive and an angry mob chasing people down the street.

For instance, I clearly knew that I would offend some people with my post.

And I am not a "peacenik" by any means. But there a a vast and important difference (including legal) between self-defense and mob justice.

Reformed Ascetic | November 20, 2008 1:58 AM

I accidentally erased it from my reply, but I'm guessing that you intended to reply to me rather than Bil from the context of your post.

//snip//"The next time a gay couple gets attacked for holding hands in public, you're going to say, "They should've thought before they did something so stupid."

Or will you be among those saying, "That's wrong, that's against the law."//snip//

lol youngster. you have no idea how many times i've been one of those "couple holding hands" in public places just hoping someone would say or do something rude. i started doing that stuff back in 1976.

i stand by my statement. the fools were in the Castro. they deserved more than they got.

Thanks for publishing that letter from the 46 year old first-time rally participant. Speaking out (or standing around) for your community is a natural anti-depressant. That morning I was cross, not looking forward to being cold, and going downtown to the Old Courthouse out of a sense of duty, but by the end, it was a sunny day in May.