A Call for Another Stonewall
By Mark Costello
Special to the Clyde Fitch Report
Stare into the abyss for too long and it will stare back through you.
The Written Word is a horrible bitch-goddess. It is created by one, left on its own and interpreted by many. It is a terrifying thing to see your words live beyond you, and humbling. To have your words fed back to you with new meaning imbued by third-party interpretation. That is the strangest bit.
You sit down every day to read the news and see more and more reports of teenage queer suicides, of gay bashing, and sad reports from a nationwide struggle for equality whose reason you cannot discern. Line five queers and five straights up and you won’t be able to tell one from the other, yet by speaking their preference they are split into two groups: those with full rights, and those without.
The ludicrousness of the battle has set into my bones. What other preferences might we discriminate based on? Those who majored in the liberal arts can vote but not own property; those who majored in the sciences can own property but are not allowed to run for office? Those who like cheese pizza are to be summarily executed; those who like pepperoni are to be given a tax break?
And all those kids dead because they were gay. It’s enough to get angry over. It’s enough to get blindingly, venomously, hatefully angry over. It’s enough to make you start sounding like…well, to start sounding like them, if you don’t check yourself. You want peace so much that you call for war.
Consider this forward my checking myself. Straight allies exist. They are wonderful, caring support networks for queers like me going through the daily fight.
But by no means is this an apology for the argument below. Queers, it’s time to stop being nice. It’s time to push back and start asserting our innate dignity and rights. It’s time to be a little, or a lot, gruff. Just remember your straight allies.
One should not go tiger-hunting alone.
This is a call to arms.
This is not a metaphor, nor is it an antagonistic send-up of the rational and thoughtful responses produced by the LGBT community in response to this year’s rash of youth suicides.
This is a call to arms.
Its need has become obvious. If you’re queer, you’re a nation apart from the breeders who make our laws for us. We are not second class citizens-we are not citizens at all.
We sometimes look very much like the citizenry: we’re respectable, voting, job-holding, income-squandering, fucked up house-owning men and women who eat at fine restaurants, smoke big brand cigarettes, do drugs and drink too much. We’re in AA, NA, AAA, Al-Anon, the Catholic Church and other groups that let us feel like we belong. We voted for Obama. We drink Diet Coke.
But we cannot marry our partners. Breeders can from coast to coast; we cannot-it is illegal for same-sex partners to wed in 45 states and contrary, according to state and federal attitudes, to the shared experience of U.S. citizens. The American system is intrinsically homophobic and as such, we are not citizens, nor are we Americans. Many of us cannot share medical benefits with our partners, and many cannot visit them in the hospital the way family members are allowed to.
We do not belong here. We are an oppressed people.
There should be no reticence in admitting our separation. Our desire to be full-fledged Americans is so strong that we rarely step back to realize that the pain we feel when we’re still bloodied in our bars or beaten mercilessly by neighborhood thugs is the pain of the failure to assimilate. We have tried for decades to be like these breeder assholes only to constantly have our efforts rebuked. We clamor endlessly for them to recognize our worth, carrying rainbow flags labeled “equality” or “unity.”
We have never stopped to wonder if it is worthwhile trying to assimilate at all, if we should want to join their club.
Those five children did not commit suicide because of bullying. These six people committed suicide because they realized, or felt, the impossibility of assimilation. We live in a country in which people think it’s commendable to call a child “faggot” until he kills himself, and only after his or her death do we care and only then because a child died.
We are a beleaguered nation whose suicide rates increase. It is our burden as an LGBT people to see the curious result of our war: in war-waging and war-torn countries, suicide rates usually drop, but ours is a war of the soul versus the horde, of individuals facing a system of institutional bullying and cruelty. We cannot carry on this way. We cannot turn the hate we receive inwards. Though our country will not let us wed, though our churches refuse to recognize our unions, though our armies refuse to let us serve openly, though our bullies terrorize us for what we do in private, there is no reason to resign. They will find reasons to hate and kill us; we do not need to do the work for them.
Bullies are not talked away; looming clouds of ominous intent are not wished into being brighter. There is no coping anymore, there should be only action. Time spent wishing for a better future is time wasted; time spent working toward it is time made golden.
We must own our lives and our community. Anything less is tantamount to following around those breeders like lovelorn puppy dogs, begging for the rights Americans are owed simply for being born.
Fuck that. We must fight again like we did at Stonewall. We must quiet the progressive urge toward banal conversation and sensitive discussions that seek to root out the causes of our problems. Queer bullying will kill our children so long as it is institutionally acceptable for it to do so. It will only be institutionally acceptable so long as it is only our blood being spilt.
Enough is enough. I am through understanding. I am through being peaceful. The conversation has ended.
This is a call to arms.
A militant queer, Mark Costello is a playwright by trade who additionally writes for various outlets, including Phillyist and Patch.com. He holds an MA in Theatre from Villanova University. Follow him at twitter.com/markjcostello.