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Tuesday, July 02, 2013

It's Not Over--by a Longshot

Rev. Steve Kindle, Ex. Dir
Clergy United, Inc.
My friend and writer for the Ex-Gay Watch, Michael Airhart, visited Judson Memorial Church in NYC on Pride Sunday. The sermon  found here from Community Minister Micah Bucey reminded the congregation that the struggle for gay dignity is far from over. Here's a salient quote from the sermon
We, as a queer community, even as we celebrate immense progress, are in danger of inactively disappearing our own people. Our Marriage Equality campaigns have embraced the institution and ignored the less easily assimilated members of our queer community. Our visibility is helping kids to come out at younger ages, but some are being kicked out of their homes, coming to New York City to find community and, in a terrible twist, being booted off of the piers by the very residents of the Village who came here decades ago to find their own safely queer space.
There's a general impression that with the right to marry, LGBTs have achieved full equality. Setting aside for the moment that full equality means 50 state participation, and employment protection, as well as myriad other goals not yet achieved, this victory is only for those who are easily assimilated into the wider culture.  There are many others not yet the focus of concern and, as Bucey points out, are becoming rarer even on the  radar screens of the gay community.  These include the young, poor, and queerer, especially the "I's and Ts."   Intersexuals, transsexuals, transvestites, transgender, and transitioning still have miles to go before they can rest in the security of public acceptance and equal rights.

Only recently have the "Is and Ts" been welcome in the movement, an ironic situation, since the historic moment of Stonewall was largely accomplished by transvestites refusing to be abused by NYC police. They have been on the outside looking in for most of the decades of the rise of the gay rights movement. Casual observers of social change aren't aware of the animosities that existed, and still do in some areas, between gays and lesbians, and LGBs and Ts.

I was attending a cocktail party hosted by a prominent gay organization where a transexual was a featured speaker.  She was mingling in the crowd when a gay man approached me with a question. "Is she (formerly a man, now a woman) straight or gay?"  "I don't know," I said. "But she definitely is queer!"  Thus the acronym is expanded to include Qs, people who don't normally fit into neat categories.  And because they don't easily fit into nicely received gender roles, they struggle for acceptance, even among those who should know better.

Another story will help illustrate my point. When I was a pastor of a church in Honolulu, our church president was a pre-op transsexual.  Formerly, Jane was a Marine who fought in Vietnam and still was a hulking, imposing figure. My wife was not as familiar with Ts as I, and her comfort level was low.  She was full of anxiety as to what to say to her, how to say it, and didn't want to embarrass Jane or herself. But she made the effort. One day she confessed to me that she no longer had any anxieties. She discovered, in the midst of a conversation about fingernail care with Jane, that the "otherness" completely disappeared and she was simply talking with another woman.  My point? Until we as a society can get as comfortable with those less like ourselves, as we have with gays in general, the Is and Ts and Qs will remain on the edges of society, even on the edges of gay society.

So, let's not rest on our victory laurels just yet. In fact, we need to double down on our support of Is, Ts, and Qs. Martin Luther King's standard is still true that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." LGBTIQ is not just an acronym.  It represents a people who deserve the dignity inherent in all yet still denied to some. The cause continues.

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