At our wedding a little over a year ago, my mother gave a speech. It was not the standard wedding speech, about me and my husband and our love. Rather, my mother, historian, 60s revolutionary, woman, gave a rousing barnstormer. She celebrated and reminded all of us present of all that had been achieved in living memory to make our same sex wedding, surrounded by friends and family, possible. And she ended with a warning, a warning that none of these things that had been achieved were set in stone. That there were forces set on taking them back. We all loved the speech; it is one of the things that everyone remembers from the day. But after today, I find myself looking back on my mother's speech, and wondering at her prescience.
Two men set out to kill LBGT today, in the midst of our month of celebration, in our safe places. One of those men failed, thankfully. The other succeeded, horrifically. Their stated reasons were probably radically different. And here lies a deep, sad, awful truth of today: there are many, many voices in the world today that will preach murderous hate of LBGT people. And many of those voices have great power and great reach. Some are adherents of violent Islamic sects, some represent strands of Christianity in Africa, or the US, and some are simply political viciousness. We cannot pretend those voices are not there, are not loud, do not have power. We cannot pretend that those that would harm us have been kept in check by recent changes. We cannot pretend those changes are not still weak, and could not be taken away.
And so, there is work to be done. Have some of us become complacent? Perhaps, but let us not be too harsh on that. The illusion of normalcy, the scenery of security, how long some in our community have yearned for those. It was tempting to buy into that. I doubt there is an LBGT person in the US who still feels secure today, no matter how blue their postcode, how nice their wedding album. It is a hard awakening.
What is to be done? We must, in our communities, our schools, our families, oppose those voices, even if they are just whispers. We must affirm those who do righteous work, who support and embrace the humanity of queer folk of all stripes unequivocally. And in our communities we must censure those, no matter where they come from, who equivocate on this. Note I said censure, not censor. This is not about legislating hate speech, or tiresome debates about freedom of speech. This is about the values which we choose to uphold. We cannot allow these voices of hate to nourish the actions of those who desire to spill blood for infamy.
It is unacceptable that the humanity, indeed survival, of LBGT people are used as political tools in Africa and the Middle East. It is unacceptable for Islamic clerics, or evangelical church leaders, to preach death against non cis-hetero people. It is unacceptable when the Catholic church denies the full love of God to its gay members, and ignores its responsibility in their suffering as a result. It is unacceptable that the Anglican communion has chosen a fig leaf of unity at the expense of upholding the humanity of its LBGT congregants. It is unacceptable that the dignity of Transgender individuals has become the political tool du Jour in American culture wars.
And conversely we must affirm what we believe. If your school does not have a PFLAG chapter, found one. If your congregation is not explicitly inclusive, demand change or leave. Do not sit through homophobic sermons, or speeches, or thanksgiving tirades. Do not let children learn cruel patterns from the adults around them.
Some of these changes will require law, and we must agitate for that. But others, many, will require instead the difficult work of changing a culture, changing what is acceptable. And we must support all those who affirm our humanity, as much as we censure those who do not.
The epidemic of American mass shooting indeed has causes outside homophobia, or racism. But those who commit these acts do so in a complex cultural bath that involves gun culture, notoriety, and social rhetoric about who is other, who is less than, who is to be hated. We must fight those who provide justification for violent hate, and stoke the fires of murderous rage.
The arc of history does not bend toward justice; we pull it there.