Or…”We’re not at the new normal yet.”
So, a little history, first.
In 1969, the police raided a popular gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village section, called the Stonewall Inn. The police claimed that the raid was based upon information that the place was serving alcohol without a liquor license, but it was both uncommon for law enforcement to “raid” an establishment for that reason, and, conversely, very common for law enforcement to find excuses to raid gay and lesbian gathering places.
For a few thousand years, and a few hundred in America, gay and lesbian people had assumed that it was their lot in life to hide in the shadows, fear established authority (both temporal and ecclesiastic), feel shame for how they born and who they were, and, in general, to “take” whatever the culture was pleased to dish out.
Certainly, it had been that way in America, the land of the free. We would do well to remember that the “land of the free” began its history by allowing the property-ownership of other human beings, and persisted in the belief that this was just fine for another 90 years before a civil war had to be fought to resolve the issue. For another 60 years after that, half the population – females – couldn’t even vote, and, once again, had to start what amounted to a “cultural civil war” to get that right.
In America, it’s never been easy if you’re not an Anglo-Saxon, white, Christian, straight male. I happen to be one of those, so I think it’s our responsibility to recognize the reality of American history, not the myth.
As much as black people left ownership in the late 19th century, it wasn’t until the late 20th century that actual civil rights became “protectable” for black people, and even then, it’s been a slow, halting, painful process, as the most recent headlines tend to demonstrate.
And yet with all of that progress, gay, lesbian and transgender people were so far at the back of the civil rights bus, that they were hanging on to the bumper. When the Civil Rights Act was heroically passed by the American government in the 60’s, gay, lesbian and transgendered people were specifically left off of it, because the same people that felt it was about time that we started protecting black people, religious minorities, ethnic minorities, women, the disabled and the elderly, didn’t feel that sexual minorities deserved that same protection.
And if that sounds like ancient history, it isn’t. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act or ENDA, which was first put up for a vote in the early 90’s, nearly 25 years ago, and which would have ended the shameful omission of the protection of sexual minorities in American Civil Rights Law, has still not been passed. Obviously, with a racist, sexist, homophobe in the White House who has surrounded himself with people of like mind, and with an empowered “red” congress slavishly kowtowing to religious right-wingers, federal protection for sexual minorities is nowhere in the immediate future, even if many enlightened states (like New Jersey) include such protection in their civil rights laws.
Don’t get the impression that just because gay characters now frequently appear on TV shows, that everything is “just fine.” We are not at the “new normal” yet. Yes, gay and lesbian people have always been about 10% of the population. That’s true biologically, and it’s been true throughout all of recorded (and unrecorded) history. It’s evident to any mammal behaviorist that watches any population of intelligent mammals long enough (you see it with dolphins, with all of the apes and monkeys, and with a number of four legged herbivores and predators). It’s clearly “nature” at work, not “nurture,” as some many ignorantly believe.
So sure, when my family now watches our favorite superhero shows on the CW (Arrow, Flash, Super Girl, Legends of Tomorrow), we see gay characters in very “typical” roles that have nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that they are “gay.” That’s how things are getting more “normal.” The character being gay is not about the “gayness” of the character. It just so happens that the particular character in question is gay, and so when they see their wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend, they behave exactly as straight characters do. It’s noteworthy for its non-noteworthiness.
So that’s a good thing, but as always, media surges ahead of culture.
And by the way, as “normal” as gay and lesbian characters have managed to become over the last 25 years, and as much as we’ve made progress in terms of equal marriage rights, the fact remains that trans people are still feared and ignorantly loathed by many people who no longer (or never) had any particular problem with gay or lesbian people. Transphobic Ness is far more common that homophobia, and so trans people are not even hanging onto the bumper of the bus, they are running quite a distance behind.
At the Stonewall riots, gay and lesbian people were appropriately outraged. They’d had enough. Drag queens were fighting police in riot gear. Those riots were recognized as the first major demonstration in the name of LGBT rights. Those riots inspired movements throughout the Country, most noteworthy of which were taking place in San Francisco, and spawned the creation of the gay liberation front and a number of spinoff civil rights groups.
Each June, there are recognitions, protests and demonstrations throughout the Country.
If you’re a straight, while, Anglo-Saxon, Christian male, or something close to it, go to one of those demonstrations. If you can’t, speak out in favor of the cause. Don’t do it because “you’re to blame,” along with everyone like you (like us). Do it because it is the right thing to do, because it is the noble thing to do, because it is the “manly” thing to do. Do it to make your children proud of who you are, do it to make them believe in the pledge of allegiance, do it because a very noteworthy ecclesiastic figure suggested that we shouldn’t be judging each other, but loving each other. Do it because it’s what “Americans” do, and it’s what America stands for.
Do it, because as much as there has been tremendous progress, until we have full normalcy, we haven’t made enough progress. Do it so that it’s easier for you to support woman’s rights, and equal pay, and civil rights, and ethnic equality, do it because one day, we’ll all be able to join together as Americans, pull in the right direction as an entire Country, and do all the great things that Americans once dreamed we’d do.
Do it so that one day, true equality will be “the new normal.”