This is not another article complaining about homophobia in America. This is not another plea for us to lobby for human rights, write our congressional leaders, or combat the religious right. This is a wake-up call, to take a good hard look at our own community and acknowledge the ways in which we sabotage ourselves.
I am a lesbian. I spend a lot of time communicating with other lesbians, both over the Internet and in person. In the process of exchanging information and ideas I have come to the sad conclusion that we, as a group, are bound by fear, shame, and apathy. Too many of us are not indignant at the lack of justice toward the gay and lesbian community in this country; we are not interested in changing our lives, even if it’s for the better. Our principal goal is to try not to draw attention to ourselves. When we gather in numbers, we do not use the opportunity to form a cohesive infrastructure of power. Instead, most of us would rather party among ourselves and return to our don’t-ask don’t-tell lives.
We are in the closet to varying degrees and most are satisfied to be there. We make statements like, “it’s just a small part of who I am, I don’t tell people my salary either,” and the ever-popular “it’s none of anyone’s business.” When challenged, we become extremely belligerent and will fight for the “right” to remain oppressed. “You cannot force me to be out,” we say, “it’s my choice.”
Yes, it is, but the question is: Why? Why do we choose to live in fear and not freedom? Why do we suppress, instead of celebrate our lives? Why do we censor our speech, deny our lovers, and disown our passion? Why are we satisfied to have superficial relationships with our parents, our children, our friends, and neighbors? Why are we so full of shame and guilt that we willingly forfeit our basic human rights? Why do we shake our heads, click our tongues and use the word “radical” at those who are visible and vocal.
For every lesbian who lives authentically and consciously on the front line, thousands more lurk in the closet, and denounce indiscreet, banner-wavers. We believe that this attitude keeps us safe, but like a cancer, it destroys us individually from the inside, and collectively works against those of us who are unafraid to be visible. Does no one wonder why, when there are so many of us, freedom does not come faster? It’s time to WAKE UP!
It is impossible for mainstream society to dismiss us without our cooperation and collusion. They count on our fear to keep us oppressed. They count on our shame to silence us. They count on our apathy to put people like George Bush and (could you just imagine) Mitt Romney in office.
Without building a true sense of pride inside the gay and lesbian community, society will successfully continue to use their most powerful weapon against us. And that weapon is US. We are our own worst enemy. We must develop enough courage and self-esteem to stand up and refuse to be a pawn in the game. Those of us, who have somehow managed to escape this bondage, need to become activists, turn our sites inward and work our local LGBT communities furiously to raise the collective consciousness and dispel homophobia where it is most pernicious.
Of course we must be ever-vigilant in combating the religious right, which actively strives to erase the slightest bit of progress we make, but writing letters and making phone calls to mainstream institutions to beg for our rights will never be enough. We must face the awful truth that without strong individual participation, we will be baited and switched to death without ever attaining federally mandated equality.
It must be universally acknowledged that LGBT Pride is not a flag that we dust off and wave at our annual Pride March. Pride is a state of being, a matter of self-esteem, a sense of entitlement, an inner voice that tells us we’re good enough. The stronger it gets, the more powerful it becomes — powerful enough to quell our fear, conquer our shame, and express ourselves fully and joyously as whole human beings. Only when we accomplish that, is it possible for real change to occur.
Denise DeSio -Author of Rose’s Will, a novel about one woman who refused to be stuffed into a closet.