In recent weeks, the opposition has been stepping up efforts in the effort to repeal the LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance in Kalamazoo to spread falsehoods about gay and transgender people, our motives, what type of lives we lead and if ballot proposal #1856 passes, how large the chunk of the sky that falls will be. Misinformation is, of course, the best, time honored and tested favorite of "anti-gay" organization tactics.
The following is my personal favorite:
Kalamazoo does not need a non-discrimination ordinance protecting Gay and Transgender people from discrimination related to housing, employment and public accommodations.
The party line goes something like this: "Those supporting the Radical Gay Agenda claim that Homosexuals are being denied fair housing and employment in Kalamazoo. It's a lie; there has never been a documented case of discrimination in Kalamazoo based on someone living a homosexual life style." It's so obvious, why do we need a law if no one is being discriminated against?
The problem is that without a law there is no recognized mechanism for reporting and documentation of discrimination. How very convenient.... It's the same "Catch 22" that gay and transgender people have been in with respect to violent crimes committed against them for no other reason than they are gay or transgender. Fortunately, it appears this situation will be changing soon. Once President Obama signs the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, it will become a federal hate crime to commit an act of violence against a person because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In Kalamazoo, the Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource Center (KGLRC) logs telephone calls and contacts that come to them about discrimination or violence, their logs however are not considered official. If you call the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, they might take your complaint but will not reference your sexual orientation or gender identity in the official report. The same is true for the City of Kalamazoo.
The sad, nearly incomprehensible truth is that without specific protections it is actually legal to discriminate against someone based merely on perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
Being gay could cost you your job. Being transgender can get you evicted. You can be refused service - legally - at a restaurant if the manager even thinks you are gay or transgender and, furthermore, you have no recourse. Subtler forces are at work here that almost never receive attention and most certainly they have never received their due.
Fear and the leveraging of power.
Many of us are fully aware of the fact that, prior to sexual harassment statutes, women often would be forced to choose between feeding their children and paying the rent or enduring oftentimes repeated humiliations from co-workers, supervisors, or managers. No one pretends that it doesn't continue to happen however, with legislation in place there is now recourse for the complainant.
No such luck if you are LGBT. Women who complained about sexual harassment "just didn't know their place," were "ball busters," and later, as the feminist movement gained validity, "feminazis." Today there is, at the very least, fairly comprehensive documentation of sexual harassment and that means it can be quantified and targeted for specific remediation. The hitch comes when a person is not in a position with enough power to survive reporting the harassment.
Gay and transgender people do not even have a means by which they can "officially" report discrimination or violence. If we did have such a means, would we use it? Maybe....
Fear is the strongest motivator, or, in this case, the strongest UN-motivator. Gays remain closeted, trans-folk take their own lives rather than face the potential scorn and violence they open themselves up to by transitioning. I personally know many gay and trans-folk who are not out to any one except a select few.
The opposition to Kalamazoo's ordinance #1856 know that they have the most powerful messaging tool on the planet--fear. Tell everyone how much of a threat we are and ordinarily well-considered individuals suddenly conjure images of predators waiting to rape or convert their sons and daughters. Businesses will fail because of the transgender receptionist. Churches will need to get their sermons approved before they can be preached. The misinformation list is too long to begin to fathom.
Let us assume for a moment that Kalamazoo's non-discrimination ordinance is upheld on November 3. The real victory will not be that there is now a law in place. The value of its passage will be the peeling back of one layer of fear. Along with that comes the ability to report and document-officially, instances of discrimination. The brightest point comes from the affirmative effect Kalamazoo can deservedly assume.
The message to the LGBT community is: We value you.
"Your Gal in Kalamazoo"--Amy Hunter