So I’ve been thinking.
First of all, I am straight and cis, as well as white, able-bodied, middle-class, and highly educated. I have privilege coming out of my ears. It’s NOT my right, responsibility, or intention to speak for or over queer people. Ever. I hope very much that that’s not what I’m doing here, and if it is, please tell me, so I can fix any mistakes that I’ve made. What I’m trying to do is sort out what is my responsibility.
The United States Supreme Court is doing some stuff right now, in case you haven’t noticed. There has been a lot of extremely important criticism about the way the marriage equality movement works in America. There has been a great deal of trans and non-binary erasure, glossing over people of color or people with disabilities or people in poverty, and just generally highlighting the easiest-on-the-status-quo couples. Meanwhile, millions of queer and trans* people are in desperate need of housing, employment, healthcare, legal representation, but their stories and needs are pushed to the side. I don’t think I need to point out the problems with this. People absolutely deserve the right to marriage if they want it – and they also deserve the right not to die before their time at the hands of a violent, oppressive society.
I support marriage equality, while acknowledging the faults in the movement. This is not because I think that marriage is The Most Important Institution, but because I believe that institutionalized discrimination contributes to the violence and oppression of those who are faced with that discrimination. Creating lesser classes of humans is the same as creating class of nonhumans, psychologically speaking. Dehumanization leads to all sorts of violence and danger. That’s Social Psych 101, and no great insight on my part. (However, I have no right to try to change the mind of any queer or trans* person who needs to break with the marriage equality movement entirely because of the aforementioned problems. I’m not directly affected by any of this.)
One thing I’m sure everyone has heard, from family to neighbors to (sadly) lawmakers, is “I don’t hate anyone,” usually followed by a justification for supporting some measure that furthers oppression. But here’s the thing: hate doesn’t have to be active. Hate can be the most inactive thing in the world. Supporting any system that leads to an environment of hatred – or even just ignoring that system – is in itself hatred. If you are straight and cis, you don’t get to support institutionalized oppression and say you don’t hate. You don’t get to deny trans* people access to restrooms or jobs or homeless shelters or their own names and say you don’t hate. You don’t get to use slurs or ignore someone’s orientation when they reject you or keep queer literature away from children and say you don’t hate. If your thoughts, words, or actions make it easier for anyone to view a group of people as beneath them, and commit violence against that group, then it’s as though you have committed that crime yourself.
Love, however, is active. In order to love, you have to do something. The first thing you have to do is listen to those who are oppressed in ways you are not. I’ve tried very hard to do this, with as little of my own ego getting in the way as possible. I’m not perfect at it. Everyone thinks they’re right; everyone wants people to recognize that; everyone wants to be the one to save the world. I try to keep those narcissistic fantasies to myself. I hope that writing this does not seem like a call for attention or accolades. That honestly is not what I want. I just want to love actively, however I can.
So I’ll yell at people when I need to, and shut up when I need to. I’ll sign and spread every damn petition I can. I have little money to give right now, but I can badger people who have more to spend it on housing, employment, healthcare, legal representation, and hey, even marriage. I will use my creative work, my greatest passion, to challenge systems of oppression. If anyone ever wants me to show up somewhere, picket, scream, whatever, let me know and I’ll support your voice with mine, for whatever it’s worth. If you ever want me to spread the word on any subject, please send it my way.
And I’ll tell everyone I know this: the Messiah of a certain religion with a subset of followers who tend to speak pretty loudly about things like this was pretty clear on the active nature of love. I did my time in CCD. My theology is personal and not for public consumption, but I will tell you what philosophy I got out of it. Hating a single person means hating everything. Again, that’s not my insight, that’s straight from the Bible. As I’ve already said, passive contribution to a hateful society is hatred just as real and powerful as violent aggression.
Love won’t be simple because our world isn’t simple. And if anyone even thinks the phrase “hate the sin, not the sinner,” you better think it very far away from me, because that is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard in my life. When I was preparing for my first Confession, I was told that a sin is something that takes you farther away from God. I didn’t really understand what this meant, because I was seven years old. But if God is love and you must love the creation to love the creator (as you must, as told by the Gospels) – or if any other god or divinity or power or the universe is loving or is love – or the brilliant, extraordinary, mind-blowing fact that the cells in our skulls make us care about one another means anything to you at all – then I think it’s clear that the only way you can possibly sin is by harming another person. The existence of multiple sexualities and genders is harmless. (Which is not to be confused for meaningless – it’s extremely meaningful, and a cause for celebration.) Contributing to a culture of oppression is harmful. That’s sin.
So I will love actively as hard as I can until the day I die. And in doing so, I hope I can get someone else to love actively, as well. I think that’s my job.