Saturday, June 22, 2019

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, June 22, 2019 - Being Normal

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City and the birth of the modern LGBT civil rights movement. Back in the mid-20th century, police had made a habit of conducting regular raids of the city’s gay bars. On June 28, 1969 the gays had had enough. They fought back. For two nights the riots raged, and simmered for days after, bringing public attention to an issue that had mostly gone unnoticed by mainstream society.

Each year during the month of June those nights of revolt are celebrated around the world with festivals and parades which use the word “pride.” For some it’s hard to imagine why that would need to be so. The argument of, “Why should there be gay pride parades? Why not straight pride parades?” is as equally a tonedeaf response to the LGBT movement as the reply, “all lives matter” in response to the statement, “black lives matter.” Of course all lives matter. Of course we should all have pride in ourselves. But that’s not the point. And it’s not a proper response to the sentiment.

Those statements aren’t for the mainstream. They are for the minority. They are reminders to those of us who have been historically marginalized that we do matter, that we are worthy. Because for generations, people of color as well as those in the LGBT community have been deliberately instructed to believe they are less worthy than others. And we have believed it.

The idea against the term “straight pride“ is not an encouragement for heterosexuals to be without pride. It’s that they were never instructed to believe they should be ashamed in the first place. They don’t need a reminder to have pride in themselves for being straight. The LGBT community needs the reminder. We still need public opportunities to reclaim the pride which was taken from us. Until we are accepted as part of the definition of the word normal, that need will continue.

If we were to ask the real founders of the gay rights movement what their ultimate dream would be, they might not be able to answer you truthfully. Not because they would be lying, but because what we all really want, deep down, is to forget we were ever un-equal in the first place. Ideally, it would be to not know discrimination at all. To be simply accepted as a part of the fabric of the human experience without question, without interrogation, without comment. As normal as an arm or leg.

While it’s important to remember the hard work, it’s also important to remember that the purpose of it was for us all to move forward with ease. This might seem insulting to those who risked and even lost their lives so that we could be accepted into common society just like everyone else. But that’s what acceptance into common society means: becoming common. Becoming part of the definition of the word normal.

That’s what our forebrothers and sisters fought for, really: to be simply accepted, to be taken for normal. No extra rights, no special privileges. We just want the same things that everyone else wants. We just want to become another beautiful thread in the fabric of humanity. Unique, perhaps, but not special.

In some ancient aboriginal cultures, we were considered the “third gender.“ We were the shamans, the culture-bearers, the healers, the caregivers, the teachers. Not typically bearing children of our own or forming hetero-normative relationships, we were free to place our energies toward tasks and disciplines which those who bear children have little time for. It means we all had our place in society. We all had something to contribute to the tribe.

In separating us from what is considered “normal,“ we were pinched off from that gift, and the rest of society lost out as well. We were segregated from contributing to the tribe. If you choose to observe cultures which are not being allowed by others to live up to their potential, have a look at the prevalence of addiction among them and wonder why that is so. The LGBT community is only one among many who have been sidelined from normalcy. Society always pays a price for excluding others. Addiction and disease cost us all dearly. Not just those who suffer from it directly.

What will society one day be like when we have forgotten that there were those who were ever considered abnormal in the first place? What will it be like when diversity is accepted as part of the norm? That’s when we will know we have arrived. At what, remains to be seen.

Honor those who fight for freedom, because the fight is dear and costly. Respect the freedoms you have, because they have been paid for with blood. Vote. Volunteer. Participate. Welcome others. It is not just a right, it is a duty.

We are on the right path, never forget that. The struggles we see are struggles worth having. They have come because we have, all in our own ways, decided that the world we live in tomorrow shall be better than the one we lived in yesterday. And we can all take some pride in that.

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