Sunday, October 7, 2007

I saw an interesting bumper sticker the other day...

If God didn’t make homosexuals, there wouldn’t be ANY!

The words on the bumper sticker forced me into a double-take. On the other side of the license plate was another sticker: DANGER: QUEERS ON BOARD. Nestled all around the back of the small, economical import car were more slogans meant to say to the world, “I am here, I am proud, and you’d better watch out, because I’m not going to hide any more.”

Internally, I wanted to cheer, even though my car, lacking air conditioning, was sweltering in the stalled Florida traffic. My day was brighter because someone was speaking out in their own way.

While the national climate has improved for the Gay, Lesbian, Bi and Transgender community through greater awareness thanks in part to TV shows like Will and Grace, and high profile news events like Ronda Storms’s role in banning public displays of gay pride in Hillsborough County, it is clear that many religious and conservative groups are anything but supportive of the GLBT community.

A Google search of the name Matthew Shepard still brings up Godhatesfags.com on the first page of search results. The site, produced by Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, is counting down the days Shepard has been burning in hell since his murder in 1998.

When the issue of gay marriage was introduced, religious and conservative political groups worked to enact gay marriage bans in states across the country, including Ohio and Mississippi.

With religious and conservative groups trying to protect the world against the alternative value system of the GLBT community and the mainstream for a large part accepting GLBTs as normal and productive members of society, the question becomes, “How does the GLBT community view the rest of the world?”

There is no easy answer to this question. The GLBT community is so wide and diverse, it’s impossible to say the entire group believes any one way about anything. Instead, we have to go to individuals to give us their answers.

The driver in front of me clearly broadcasted his defiance to the world, as well as pride and courage. He is clearly willing to take some criticism to get his viewpoint out there.

For people like Nadine Smith, of Equality Florida, members outside of the community are students, and it’s her job to teach them about equality, diversity, and the need to accept everyone regardless of sexual orientation.

Nadine is open to the world about her life and faces vocal critics of her lifestyle often. She has debated Ronda Storms on national television and lived to tell the tale.

For Vanessa Ruiz, former University of South Florida Pride president and a member of many campus organizations that forward diversity and equality, the question of how she feels can be a little tricky.

While Vanessa works to educate those who don’t want to tolerate her way of life, she is also nervous about reactions she might receive, whether they come from an employer or a stranger on the street.

Vanessa is worried outsiders view her as a target, because of the political message opposing groups send to the rest of the country, that there is something wrong with loving someone of the same gender.

However, Vanessa doesn’t think the view of those outside her community is all bad.

“I think it will come back forward,” Vanessa says. “We’re more progressive than we were 40 years ago.”

Until the day she feels entirely free to live her life, Vanessa will continue to educate, using programs like Equality Florida and civic organizations as a springboard. She is optimistic the GLBT community will overcome to be accepted by everyone, someday.

2 comments:

extremejustin said...

Yes, the hate needs to end. No one should be discriminated against based on orientation or gender. I'm sick of people using their religious beliefs to excuse their hate. There is no excuse.

Marie said...

The hate is disgusting, and I'm so glad I don't face too much of it in everyday life.

Where I live we don't have the big hate groups like this godhatesfags thing - or at least, the extent to which they show their face in public is in the Letters to the Editor of the newspaper. We used to have Destiny Church, but they've retreated - scared off by the nasty deviant university town, I like to think!