Pride Month should be about celebrating diversity and promoting tolerance. Now that it has become too political, at the very least it can expose bigotry and hate.
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Did you know that today is not only National Cheese Day but also International Corgi Day? If you prefer another furry friend, then you’ll be delighted to hear that June 4 also happens to be Hug Your Cat Day. And, perhaps because the person who puts together the calendar of these special events has a sense of humor, it is also National Old Maids Day. Cats and spinsters unite!
Chances are that you were not aware of any of this, and who could blame you? These special days, weeks, and months are mostly useless, are pretty silly, and most of them go unnoticed.
But not this Pride Month.
Meant to be a joyous time that celebrates the fabulousness of Americans of all sexual orientations, there is a good chance that it will devolve into something much darker than the colors of the rainbow flags you will undoubtedly see throughout June.
That has different reasons. First and foremost, on the annual calendar of special occasions, Pride Month has become the most political event. That top spot used to be held by Black History Month because of all the idiots who would complain every February that there isn’t also a white history month.
To varying degrees, both sides are to blame for this.
Above all, when conservatives look at that rainbow flag, they only seem to see red.
In a world that has become too tolerant for their liking, there just aren’t a lot of groups they can be openly hostile toward. So, when it comes to being bigoted, LGBTQ Americans, and especially those who are trans, are the only game left in town.
This hostility manifests itself in different ways.
On a governmental level, Republican lawmakers in red states are passing discriminatory laws, many of them under the guise of protecting kids from “grooming.” In reality, these laws just serve as a vehicle to be cruel to “others.” Some of them make it easier to ban books, while others prohibit performances of people in drag, or restrict transgender health care.
Then there are conservative news outlets and pundits who stoke the flames of bigotry by railing against “woke” companies that are trying to “sexualize children,” and by focusing on news stories that portray LGBTQ Americans in a particularly bad light.
But there is also plenty of opportunity for regular red-blooded patriots who want to do their part to fight the gays. They can suggest which books should be banned, go to school board meetings to yell at educators, boycott stores, and then take to social media to make their feelings known about all of the ways in which diversity makes their lives miserable somehow.
While it is pretty clear that none of the above needs any encouragement to feel animosity toward LGBTQ Americans, there are segments of the queer community that take it upon themselves to fuel that bigotry, try to silence their critics, or stage their own boycotts.
Here is the thing: Over time, Americans get more tolerant. Sure, that progress is often slow, and there are plenty of holdouts who will never come around, but things do get better.
Interracial couples are a thing now, segregation is officially over, most people don’t lose their minds when they see a couple of dudes holding hands and, heck, women are even wearing pants these days.
Granted, plenty of work remains to be done in every one of these areas, but all of the above were unthinkable not terribly long ago.
However, change and changing minds takes time… sometimes more than others. In fact, when it comes to gay marriage, that collective change of heart happened incredibly quickly (relatively speaking). Not even 20 years ago, a solid majority of Americans was opposed to these unions. Now, more than 70 percent of them support same-sex marriage.
The point is that, while exposing bigotry might sometimes take blood, sweat, and tears, you can’t force people to be tolerant. And if you try, it will often backfire.
Yet a small but vocal minority of LGBTQ Americans and their “allies” seem determined to do just that.
While it is understandable that every queer person wants to be embraced right now for who they are, it just doesn’t work that way, particularly not if there is an organized campaign from the other side with the goal of ensuring that doesn’t happen.
Obviously, that’s not fair, especially because many members of the LGBTQ community are among the most vulnerable members of society.
But the solution is not to get into America’s face and yell “YOU HAVE TO ACCEPT ME FOR WHO I AM AND SUPPORT EVERYTHING I DO!” at them. Especially not if that is followed by “AND IF YOU DON’T, THEN YOU ARE THE BAD GUY!”
As these things go, it took remarkably little time for the country to embrace the Ls and the Gs and the Bs. A big reason for that is, as rights were granted and societal acceptance increased, more and more people came out.
As a result, an increasing number of Americans realized that they had gay family members, friends, and co-workers. That is probably the main reason why perceptions changed so rapidly.
Because, all of a sudden, gay marriage was no longer a “scary” and abstract concept involving two burly, possibly HIV-positive, guys from San Francisco. Instead, it became about that family member, friend, or co-worker and the question of why they shouldn’t be with the person they loved. And of course they should be.
That’s why it’s going to take more time for the Ts and the Qs. Fewer Americans know someone who is transgender, and the concept is simply more foreign to them, especially older Americans, no matter how sympathetic they are or will become.
Or, as, Amit Paley, the CEO and executive director of The Trevor Project, an organization dedicated to suicide prevention and mental health among LGBTQ youth, recently said: “The clear association between adults knowing someone who holds a particular LGBTQ identity and feeling comfortable with that identity emphasizes the need to amplify trans voices.”
But, in order to be effective, amplify has to mean saying to people “This is who I am. Get to know and understand me,” instead of shouting at them and demanding blind allegiance.
In addition, just from a practical point of view, there is now a new set of issues that has to be addressed. And some of them are pretty tricky.
Should transgender Americans be allowed to get married? Of course! Should they be discriminated against because of who they are? Of course not!
These questions are easy. But there are plenty others that are not.
They involve age limits and parental consent, special health care and who pays for what, showers and athletic scholarships. These are complicated issues and, as they are being resolved, the solutions will be complicated as well.
And anybody who doesn’t realize that, wants to turn a blind eye toward them, or whose solution is, “Here is what I want, and you just have to give that to me,” is probably going to make things worse.
Because they will give new ammunition to all those people who want to legislate hate or stoke divisions.
And right now, those people feel as though they are “winning” their culture wars. They see that because of their “activism,” Bud Light sales are down, Target removed some items from an LGBTQ collection (because of threats), and the Pentagon pulled the plug on a drag show.
All of these “victories” are then blasted out on conservative news outlets and on social media, and, as a result, it emboldens the haters to do more and to find the next target (or Target, as it may be).
What they don’t realize is that these victories are not victories at all because they show the rest of the world how intolerant the “winners” are. Shooting beer cans and costing a company billions because they worked with a trans influencer is clearly insane, as is issuing threats to a retail chain that dares to display onesies with a rainbow on them. It’s straight-up nuts, and the reaction is in no way proportional to the “offense.”
That’s how you win civil rights: By exposing bigotry, you get the majority of Americans on your side. And then change happens.
The wrong way to go about it is to tell Americans that they have to get on board with unpopular positions on fringe issues or otherwise they are part of the problem.
In other words, if you want to win in the court of public opinion, then don’t make this struggle about issues on which the public is not on your side.
Understanding that it takes longer for some people to come around is a form of tolerance, too; and demanding that they change their minds on your time table rather than their own is in itself a form of intolerance.
The LGBTQ community has rightfully taken pride in the fact that its movement for equal rights is about love.
To win this Pride Month, LGBTQ Americans and their allies should focus on that, celebrate diversity, and leave the hate to the other side.