A Call for Another Stonewall

By Mark Costello
Special to the Clyde Fitch Report
[email protected]

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PREFATORY NOTE:

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.

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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.

CATEGORIES: Politics

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  • Ben

    My best friends and my parents (obviously) are heterosexual, and they accept my homosexuality. I’d prefer you not to refer to them so derogatorily as “breeders”.

  • D.P.

    I can’t ever claim to be discriminated against. You know me. I’m a straight, white male who has lived a good life to this point. I went to a good high school, a good college and now I’m privileged to be on a good path. What I mean to say is maybe I don’t know hardship first-hand. I can claim to have been is a friend, or at least I certainly thought I was. And to meet with you recently and have you throw around the word “breeder” with such contempt and ease, and now to see you write it so repeatedly and call for violence…that I can’t claim to support.

    I look for the day that all Americans are treated equally too. I have many LGBT friends who have to fight the same fight that you do every day, to live as shadow pseudo-citizens in many legal rights — rights: things that should duly be yours and that of every LGBT citizen. I’ve supported you and been there for you. What I cannot abide is being called a breeder. What I cannot abide is being erroneously tagged for the hardships you unjustly face as a homosexual American. What I cannot abide is seeing you filled with such myopic hatred that blinds your normally accommodating understanding.

    I’m sorry for this lengthy “banal conversation.” This should be the last time this “breeder” cares to disturb you from your “call to arms.” Even though you are “through understanding,” I hope this has made its way past your wall. I don’t quote to show sarcasm — I quote to hold a mirror up to you, hoping you realize just what you’ve written here and how many people (yourself included) it might be hurtful to.

  • Thank you for this, Mark.

    On one hand, I’m sorry that the leavers of the above comments felt hurt. (And also surprised. Who knew straights felt so touchy about that term?) On the other hand, it takes a lot of effing nerve to call out somebody who doesn’t have equal rights on their intolerance.

    I also have to point out that those with privilege- of the hetero variety, in this case, but also in discussion of race, class etc- often have a knack for turning the conversation around to make it about themselves. DON’T LET THEM. Here is a tidy article on heterosexual privilege.

    http://www.cs.earlham.edu/~hyrax/personal/files/student_res/straightprivilege.htm

    Our movement began with a riot and maybe a riot is needed now. Even well meaning, straight allies keep telling us to be patient, but the time for patience is long gone.

  • D.P.

    When we think of the Civil Rights Movement, we think of Martin Luther King, Jr. We think of the Million Man March (curiously not a riot). We think of Brown vs. Board of Education. All this after Selma’s Bloody Sunday, after centuries of African and African-American oppression of horrid kinds both in this country and Africa.

    When we think of Women’s Suffrage, we think of Susan B. Anthony. We think of Alice Paul. All this after the Triangle Shirtwaist Tragedy, years of subjugation in the home as referenced by “The Angel In The House,” and countless other affronts.

    So tell me now, when we look back on successful recapturing of rights — tell me how these influential leaders fought violently? Tell me how the riots that certainly occurred in these movements won the result? Tell me how as a heterosexual man I just don’t understand. I’m not claiming to know what it feels like, to live with a lack of rights day in, day out. In fact, I admit the opposite.

    Gandhi once said “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.” Will you be the one to accuse MLK, Gandhi, Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, and countless others of going about things the wrong way, Josh? Will you be the genius history has been sorely missing?

    Everyone hurts when a member of the LGBT community commits suicide. Its the job of those of who recognize the hurt to bring that awareness to those who find it acceptable or apathetic.

  • DP, I never claimed to be a civil rights leader, so you can leave your snide remark about my place in history elsewhere. And I’m not condoning violence against people either, but there are many of us in the movement who feel that mainstream gay rights tactics are too timid. Civil rights have never been gained by waiting patiently and being nice to the oppressor. Americans have never- not once- willingly given a civil right to a minority with a vote. Too many straight people blithely ignore how much it hurts to be gay in America, and it’s time to hit them where it hurts. I never thought for a second that Mark was suggesting we physically harm people. It’s time to take off the kiddie gloves, and I think that’s the point of this post.

    Which brings me to what was ACTUALLY my point- the point you chose to ignore. I’m glad that you empathize with gay people who are genuinely suffering in this country. We need more straight people who do. That said, IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. So the next time somebody speaks to you about their struggle with inequality, how about just listen instead of talking about how much THEIR oppression hurts YOU?

  • Considering I have never heard the term “breeder” spoken without a wink or a tongue firmly in cheek, I’m just a little surprised that there is so much focus on that in the comments section, when a far more relevant question is: does the major civil-rights victory over DADT that came a mere hours after this polemic was posted in any way cause some reevaluation of this call to arms?

    Yes, that doesn’t change the fact that in most parts of the United States, there isn’t merely prejudice, but legal, state-sanctioned discrimination, or that the LGBT community is still one of the most targeted groups when it comes to hate crimes, or that these young people who took their lives were bullied only for being gay, but please, let’s steer the conversation away that one word and talk about what needs to be done.

  • TK

    Josh,

    For the matter, the first 2 comments were before the “Prefatory Note”, in which the point of the article starts off with reference to the suicides (which any youth suicide is a marring against society) and then states, in a bitter tone, LGBT community is seperate from breeders. That is the first thing we see, and that is the only thing we see. The article in it’s intent is a remark against bullying and the need to stand up to it, but that is not what is seen. The article only makes note of the invisible line, of how LGBT is within the community but not at the same time, and the author’s bitter resentment to the law-making institution as they are “breeders”. Not once in the article does he comment on support for the community by “breeders”. This is where the first two comments come in, and a few twitter disputes which then lead to the preface of this article. The way the article is presented, the bitterness of not being equal, overshadows the intent of the article, to stand up to discrimination. To start off the article in the way of sounding that it’s an “Us verse them” situation, is a slap in the face to those who supported the author. The question comes to mind “Were we not there with you in everything in your life? Are we not being supportive? Are we not there when you need someone? Are you just taking this support for granted?” That is why we are touchy, because the issue becomes close at hand because we are close at hand with the author, not some random blog surfers.

    So please, leave your intolerance of being called intolerant at the door, and the caps lock off.

    Onto the point of the article, bullying is an ongoing problem. Bullies find all sorts of weaknesses, and gay or not, will use the terms and derrogations and comments of ones self if it has an effect on the “weaker” children, and sadly, thanks to our schoolings and short intelligence of various children, they are quick to use these derrogatory terms. To be called something you’re not leads to much frustration and anguish, making you think “Is that how they think of me? Is that how I am presenting myself? Am I really that?” You feel as if you are alone in the world, because you don’t see how your parents could possibly understand, even if you are being made fun of if you are different. It doesn’t help that this feeling goes on with an entire community outside that of school bullying thanks to disputes over “definitions of terms”. As a teen, you can’t just leave the situation thanks to schooling. They are not going to situate the student body differently because, as they tend to downplay it, “feelings were hurt”. So often, it’s almost as if there is nowhere else to go. You only suffer day in/day out and that’s the only way you see it because that’s all there is with no hope in sight. And the added effect of social networking closes that window of society further, and once those bullies find their way on the internet with comments of your person, there almost is no escape.

    I’ve been in that situation before. I’ve been called thousands of names unjustly because i was the meek geek growing up. It was almost kill or be killed style bullying in grade school to a point after 6 years of being with the same children in grade school (a catholic school no less) I almost found myself becoming the bully. Once I entered high school, it was a vast ocean of people, but word still spread quickly if something happened. Not much happened with me, but not having many friends to start with, I found myself being the outcast again, quiet, by myself, and made fun of frequently to the point i was coined “Most likely to shoot up the school”, not because I had the intent or drive to do that, but because I was made fun of so much. Towards senior year I found a group of friends and “my place” so to speak, but that didn’t keep kids that were even younger than I was to call me names and spread it to their friends. I had been called gay before (unjustly in some manners of speaking) but never by a full table of people in the lunch room with various terms cast out without a second thought while laughing and pointing. It is the outcasting and isolation from everyone else, how they look down upon you that is the effect on one’s emotions while growing up.

    These instances in children are not going to change instantly, as child discrimination happens without a second thought of whether you are what they are calling you or not. If you happen to be gay, dress differently, have a darker or lighter complexion (even black on black), are richer or poorer (even if slightly), different in any sense of the person saying things, it is going to be said in a way to hurt a child. It is a problem difficult to deal with because many people have suffered only to overcome it and make themselves better from it, or it lays to waste emotions, minds, and lives. Often times there is bullying in cases that authorities cannot see, such as social networking now. It is a problem difficult to deal with, and thought of to only be in school… unfourtanately, some don’t mature at all and their ‘bullying’ turns into something else, and again, often times has no discrimination other than what they perceive as their victim.

    The discriminations against the LGBT community, be it in schools or by passers by, is not going to change due to laws. Racism still exists, whites against blacks, blacks against the man, mexicans being immigrants, etc.. even with laws in place to prevent it and promote tolerance. We would all celebrate finally the acceptance of the LGBT community for full rights in all matters of life, but the fact that this is an invisible line brings to point that the problem is not being perceived correctly, since as mentioned in this comment it is a “definition of terms”, especially since in many cases you don’t know if someone is gay unless you ask. It’s not like a scarlett letter.

    A crime committed in hate is a hate crime. A hate crime is just a crime.

  • I strongly disagree with you on a number of points, TK:

    “[Discrimination] against the LGBT community […] is not going to change due to laws.”

    No one has empirical data to support that claim. To be fair to your position, African Americans and Jews continue to be targets of an extraordinary number of hate crimes despite the fact that the law forbids discrimination due to skin color and religion- however, that does not change the fact that queers (forgive me, “LGBT” is too bloody clinical) do not currently have equality under the law. Sure, homophobia is going to persist even after the civil rights victories, just as misogyny, racism, and antisemitism continue to exist despite past civil rights gains- but the fact that the laws are discriminatory and that equality is considered up for debate is absolutely relevant.

    “[I]n many cases you don’t know if someone is gay unless you ask.”

    And what’s the point of this? That gay folk should go back into the closet where they remain hidden and unable to fight against unjust laws because at least there they don’t become victims of hate-crimes?

    “A crime committed in hate is a hate crime. A hate crime is just a crime.”

    Most crimes follow a personal agenda be it emotional or monetary. Hate crimes have an added dimension of odiousness because not only to they cause harm to the victim, but they are also an attack on the very pluralism that liberal democracy espouses: these are crimes not only against the injured party, not only against the community that the victim represents in the mind of the perpetrator, but against democratic society itself.

  • TK

    I’m in agreement of many of the things you presented here.

    “but the fact that the laws are discriminatory and that equality is considered up for debate is absolutely relevant.”

    Agreed. I’m just making a point of awareness that things won’t magically change for the better in an instant, or even 100’s of years. The fact that there needs to be laws and ammendments in place federally to grant equal rights of people’s own free wishes is a slap in the face of democracy. I understand the reasoning behind religious marriage denying a couple the right of ceremonial bonding, but the denial from the government (which you have to go before the government to legally wed, even if you are marrying in a church) is abhorent and only shows the flaws in the minds of lawmakers / voters, and the failed concept of keeping religious morality and societal morality seperate.

    “That gay folk should go back into the closet where they remain hidden and unable to fight against unjust laws because at least there they don’t become victims of hate-crimes?”

    You took my comment incorrectly. I was making a point on my ‘invisible line’ comment- that unless someone asks, or they tell, you don’t necessarily know if someone you see randomly on the street homosexual. It’s not something that is physically characteristic that is telling of someone’s background, like race or a religious sect due to their garbs (amish, jewish, muslim). One can make assumptions based on social stigmas, but even then they can be very wrong. I am not saying that you should not be open, I am merely saying that from a passing glance one cannot pick out who is gay and who is not, unless of course they made a gaydar app for the iPhone.