D Gregory Smith

A Response: 'Quit flaunting your lifestyle'

Filed By D Gregory Smith | November 01, 2011 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Media
Tags: Alice Cooper, bigotry, Bozeman, ignorance addressed, letter to the editor, LGBT, Montana, response to ignorance, silence

Almost all LGBT persons experience ignorance in the form of public attack sooner or later. Those of us in rural areas tend to get it even more regularly - especially in the local newspapers.

newspapers.jpgFrom the Bozeman Daily Chronicle comes the following letter. I've transcribed it for your convenience.

To the Montana Gay Pride group and Tom Marsh, director:

A few questions:

Why do you have to openly march on the streets of Bozeman? Not all people flaunt their lifestyles before the public. Can't you quietly live your lives the way we do? Just live the lifestyle you've chosen and keep quiet. If everyone with grievances to air acted like your group, our news media would be very busy.

Why were you unhappy before you came out? Why does it please you that Bozeman officials condone your actions? Can't you live among us and remain silent and happy?

Alice Cooper
Belgrade

I don't know where to begin- but I must say, no, it's not that Alice Cooper. I will also say, Tom Marsh is a dear friend - and I don't respond well when people personally attack my friends because, by extension, they attack me.

So, I took a few days, cooled down, and formulated a few salient points in a letter. I thought I'd share it with you.

Dear Alice,

You asked a lot of questions in your letter to the editor in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle on October 21st, 2011. I would like to address them

People do not choose their sexual orientation. They acknowledge it. It is not a mental or physical illness to identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex. Both the American Psychological Association and The American Medical Association agree with me - and they have for decades. Science is with me on this. Firmly.

We openly march, because we have to. Somewhere there is a child who doesn't understand that people don't choose their sexual orientation - and that child may grow up miserable, tortured and conflicted. And, according to statistics, will probably think about and attempt to take their lives as a result of that conflict and torture. I did. We march so that people will see that it is a part of the human condition to be LGBT. We are your neighbors, members of your family, in every occupation and human situation you can think of. We're here, and it's okay to be. And we march because there are still people who think it's okay to hate us. We march so that maybe those people will realize that we are not monsters. We are human beings. And maybe there will be less children who think that God hates them, or that they're less than other children simply because they are LGBT. If so, then one little annual parade is a small thing...

We would love to live our lives quietly - but there are laws (and lack thereof) and attitudes that prevent that. We don't always feel safe. We aren't always treated with dignity and respect. We don't have equal protection under the law. Believe you me, I would love nothing more than to live my life quietly - and I will - when I am treated like every other person in this country and this state because it's hard to live a normal life when there are people just like me who are threatened with violence all over this country. It's hard to live a happy life when you're afraid.

If you want to know why we were unhappy before we came out, it's pretty simple: because we were lying. Lying makes people unhappy. Stopping the lie is cause for celebration. And so we march and dance and celebrate being honest together.

And yes, it pleases us that Bozeman officials recognize the struggle to live a normal life in the face of being labelled a freak by a significant part of society. It pleases us to not be seen as freaks. Because we're not. We're just human beings who love and work and struggle just like you, Alice. Human beings of faith, spirit and purpose. Human beings with families and pets and houses and churches and favorite restaurants.

I also wonder if, in your letter, you substituted the word "Christian" or "Irish" or "Black" or "Woman" or "Immigrant" for the word "Gay", would you feel the same?

We do live among you. We do. And we're not going to do it silently. That's not how a democracy works. I live in The United States of America, and I have a right to free speech - as do you. Silence is not an option. Because you have written the above letter to a public newspaper, I'm sure you understand.

If you have any other questions, I will be happy to answer them as openly and honestly as I can.

Sincerely,

D Gregory Smith, MA, stl, LMHC

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You forgot one thing, in my mind: The whole 'Why do you have to flaunt your sexuality? WE (str8s) don't!"

Which is, of course, malarkey. It's just that expression of heterosexuality is so pervasive, that it is like the air we breathe, from the level of society (media, laws, regulations) down through groups and communities (geographic ones) to individuals.

If I talked about women the way the women I am around (all str8) talk about men or the way men I know talk about women, ppl would be disgusted. And I would be considered to be 'flaunting' my sexuality.

twinkie1cat | November 1, 2011 9:34 PM

Rural communities think they are so pure when they are so full of individual differences. My son found plenty of guys to date in Gonzales Louisiana (southeast of Baton Rouge in Ascension Parish). Then there were the teachers at one of the high schools there talking about how fine a woman looked riding her motorcycle leading her brother's funeral (Iraq veteran).(What the family will say when they are a little drunk.) And I will not forget the obviously gay man working at Walmart in Natchez Mississippi. A whole drag show full of queens works in Alexandria Louisiana. And there were many family members who came from the rural areas to the bars in Savannah Georgia as well as to Pride in Atlanta. A real long time ago there was even a gay club near Clanton Alabama (halfway between Birmingham and Montgomery) We're Everywhere! We're Everywhere!

D Gregory, straight couples holding hands and kissing in public is "flaunting it" as far as I'm concern. Why isn't Alice upset about that? I've heard lame excuses from straight people when they flaunt it. We want to be able to hold hands and kiss in public as well, without getting kicked off a plane or other things. For wonderful places like Bozeman, we need a parade for that one day to do that, because it is frown upon the other 364 days of the year.

Pastor Scott | November 2, 2011 9:00 AM

D. Gregory: Your letter to Alice can make us all proud. Thoughtful, honest, direct, even kind. You've articulated what is in so many of our hearts, yet we often have difficulty expressing because of our outrage at the seemingly rank stupidity of the questions. I guess we sometimes forget that not only did many of our own families make these same inquiries, we've all made them as well on our journeys to embrace of our truest selves. Thank you for giving such eloquent voice our tribal soul.
Pastor Scott
West Hollywood, CA

I've always used the shortest sweetest answer:
Statement: Stop flaunting your lifestyle.
My answer: I'll make you a deal. We will when you will.
Very simple. EVERY movie, sign, commercial, public place, social more, on and on and on flaunts heterosexism. And I don't have a "lifestyle", I just used the word for this example--the way ignorant self-satisfied breeders do.

How about this for a response:

"I'm not flauting anything ... I'm just being who I am and refusing to hide it like you want me to."

that's a beautiful letter, man. awesome!