Posted by: MC | July 12, 2010

Here in the Waning Days of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

I was raised by straight parents.  I benefited from that.  I continue to benefit from living as a heterosexual adult.

People don’t ask about my sexual orientation or identity, but there’s no law saying they can’t.  I can write this stuff down here and not offend any law or anyone at all.  I’ve never been afraid or harassed because my romantic affections go to men.  Every bit of that is privilege.

Today my friend Leslie sent a photo of the bill board pictured above.  I wondered which edge of U.S. highway served as its home.  On investigation I found out it’s nowhere in our lands and it’s also not new.  In December 2006, this brief report showed up in New Zealand:

“A new poster and billboard campaign is hitting New Zealand.

“A group called Godmarks is spreading messages that they hope will promote Christianity in new ways “that make people laugh, twist their perceptions and deepen their thoughts.”

“One of their many messages includes one about gays:

“‘Contrary to popular belief, I don’t hate anyone who’s gay.’ -God.

“Other messages include ‘If you want, you can email me at, it’s not my address but I can still check it,’ ‘Isn’t it weird how most people think I’m white,’ and ‘Every day I get more prayer requests for carparks than anything else. You people need to start thinking bigger.’”

Even though this billboard wasn’t in the U.S., popular thought relative to public policy affecting homosexual people is well underway in this country.  In his June 4, 2010 NYT Op Ed entitled Gay? Whatever, Dude, Charles Blow gave the data.

“Last week, …, Gallup released a stunning, and little noticed, report on Americans’ evolving views of homosexuality.  Allow me to enlighten:

“ 1. For the first time, the percentage of Americans who perceive ‘gay and lesbian relations’ as morally acceptable has crossed the 50 percent mark. (You have to love the fact that they still use the word ‘relations.’ So quaint.)

“2. Also for the first time, the percentage of men who hold that view is greater than the percentage of women who do.

“3. This new alignment is being led by a dramatic change in attitudes among younger men, but older men’s perceptions also have eclipsed older women’s. While women’s views have stayed about the same over the past four years, the percentage of men ages 18 to 49 who perceived these ‘relations’ as morally acceptable rose by 48 percent, and among men over 50, it rose by 26 percent.

“I warned you: stunning.”

Don’t know what’s shifting things among the older generation.  Maybe it’s partly due to the crazy behaviors of public figures, especially men who are elected leaders.  It’s hard to know if the sensationalized upset with these men is most inspired by their compromise of marriage vows (most were married at the time the news broke), their decidedly homosexual indiscretions, or their hypocrisy in the face of loudly and repeatedly stated political and religious values.

Whatever the case, the discriminatory basis of heterosexism is eroding.  In early 2009 and across the 100 days of EX:Change, evidence of this change showed up in both likely and unlikely places.

Brett and Tara – repairman, receptionist; Mike’s Autobody; Walnut Creek, CA.

B:  “Change now days relates to politics.  It’s a political statement.  It’s about what people don’t want.  We don’t want the government in gay marriage, in steroids in baseball, in religion.”

T:  “Yes, I hope people stop caring so much about other people’s personal issues.  You know like, really there are so many bigger things.”

B:  “I can remember my grandpa telling about my grandma talking about black bathrooms.  She was living in Tennessee.  There were black water fountains.”

T:  “My grandparents had black slaves in Tennessee.”

B:  “I can’t fathom that and I believe that we’ll be saying some day, ‘Can you believe that gays couldn’t get married?  Can you believe that?’  It will be the same type of thing as the Civil Rights Movement.”

Jane – dean; her kitchen; Santa Barbara, CA

“We had an election night party here.  We had a visitor at the time who is one of the major gay activists in San Francisco. We were all so caught up with the Obama thing that we completely glossed over the Proposition 8 issue.  I have beaten myself up a bit about that.  I’ve tried to move past it.

“To me a very concrete sign of change would be for gay marriage to become a non issue and for the whole crazy cultural focus on sexual orientation to go away.  That would be a significant part of the country really learning acceptance.  It would be a sign of moving into focusing on goals rather than on what’s different about you and me.

“What’s dangerous about an Amish person wearing a different dress?  Still, they’re attacked and harassed.  There’s nothing dangerous about their clothing, but people construe it in a way that’s threatening. And for all of our gay friends, what’s dangerous about another lifestyle? Like what our friend Chuck says, ‘What is the agenda you think I have?’  It is not incumbent on the person with the difference to justify they are not dangerous to self or others.  It’s incumbent on us.”

Margaret – retired activist & artist; her living room; Albuquerque, NM

“If some of the more flagrant abuses of human rights ceased, and there are many of them.  If states suddenly decided that same sex marriages were OK as is the case in Buenos Aires, in Mexico City, in Spain, in countries of the world that, 20 years ago, one would not have assumed would be as forward looking as ours.  If one of these things were to happen, if some of the hypocrisy was to suddenly disintegrate.  Those would be positive signs of change for me.”

Marsha – barrista; Starbucks; Jackson, MS

“In terms of programs and structures and systems in the country, thinking about change has been very interesting to me.  I think we’re actually going to arrive at that place where there is no real black or white – a time when our country is multiracial, and multisexual.  I think that we’re moving towards that.”

Paris – Starbucks; inspirational speaker; Seattle, WA

“Another thing would be how we define marriage in this country, insurance rights and partner rights and all those things.  There’s a lot of change that can be made with regard to those things.  Good change.”

Change is underway.  Exclusionary privilege systems are increasingly evident and under scrutiny.  Maybe we’re getting to what that other bill board in New Zealand read and starting to think much bigger.

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