Haters in the Heartland

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A few weeks ago, I gushed enthusiastically for the enormous strides this country seemed to have taken over night in its struggle to recognize gay and lesbian Americans as full citizens. I swore I must have been dreaming when President Obama, in his inaugural address, historically promised me, us, his “gay brothers and sisters”, a seat at the table, not as third-class citizens prohibited freedoms taken for granted by so many, but as equals, as allies, guaranteed the rights, we few, have been denied for so long: the right to marry the man or woman of our choosing and to live our lives free from fear and persecution.

That was then.

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Well, today, friends, I am wide-awake because, like a cold slap in the face, I have learned that bigotry hasn’t died but is still alive and well in America’s Heartland. Praise Baby Jesus.

A group of students, parents, and one very close-minded Special Education teacher in Sullivan, Indiana-population: 4,249-foiled in banning gay and lesbian students from this year’s prom have decided to devise their own “traditional” prom, a kind of “separate but equal” dance of dogma and discrimination. After years of struggling to bring about acceptance and tolerance in our public schools, this one puny little Podunk town thinks it shouldn’t have to evolve and stand on its hind legs like the rest of the country.

(Screen capture from YouTube video.)
(Screen capture from YouTube video.)

Special Ed teacher Diana Medley, who says she councils gay students with “their problems”, states for the record that she finds homosexuality “offensive”. “I believe that it was life circumstances, and they chose to be that way; God created everyone equal,” said Medley. This twisted bit of logic insinuates, I guess, that, since gays and lesbians have, obviously, made some very poor life choices, they are less deserving than those good heterosexuals that just went along with God’s flow. She makes it sound like we’re spiritual hooligans, a bunch of Dead End queers.

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Medley went on to say that “God puts everyone in our lives for a reason”. A nice enough, if not thoroughly bland and clichéd, sentiment, I suppose, but when asked if she believes “the same goes for gays”, she physically cringes, offers up a patronizing smile (see photo) and says,

“No, I honestly don’t. Sorry, but I don’t. I don’t understand it. A gay person isn’t going to come up and make some change unless it’s to realize that it was a choice, and they’re choosing God”.

A moment of respectful silence, please, for all the Special Ed students of Sullivan High School. Imagine the poor teen that has to endure the bitter judgment of this rancorous plaster saint. I shudder to think about it.

(Screen capture from YouTube video.)
(Screen capture from YouTube video.)

But the grownups aren’t the only ones spewing intolerant poison. Self-satisfied student Bonnie McCammon justifies banning her gay peers from the “traditional” prom by saying,

“We want to make the public see that we love the homosexuals, but we don’t think it’s right nor should it be accepted”.

Ah, there’s nothing more comforting than knowing you’re loved by people that reject and alienate you at the same time. It makes you feel all warm and runny inside, doesn’t it?

(Screen capture from Facebook.)
(Screen capture from Facebook.)

Elaborating on young Bonnie’s words is one Curt Bedwell, whose very name boasts of his sexual prowess. Now Curt’s affiliation with Sullivan High and its prom is unknown to me, but he ends a lengthy treatise supporting the “separate but equal” prom on the group’s (now removed) “2013 Sullivan Traditional Prom” ” Facebook page with the following:

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“Please keep in mind that we love those who participate in homosexuality but that does not mean that we love homosexuality. Just as it has become their civil right (according to our society today) to attend the Grand March as a homosexual couple, it is our teens right to speak out against such a public demonstration. Many believe, as our teens do, this is not the venue to demonstrate a homosexual lifestyle.”

Okay, I’m gonna get this out of the way right now: I reject the despicable “embrace the sinner but not the sin” justification observed by Bonnie and Curt and so many other fundamentalist Christians. My parents pulled that bullshit on me years ago, and it didn’t make me feel anymore cared for and supported than this current pile of manure in Indiana does. This excuse, this passive-aggressive ploy is the most galling of all anti-gay rhetoric because it gives Christians a way out. It gives them permission to hate-yes, hate-that one itty-bitty part, that nasty ol’ gay part-that crucial and biological part, I might add-of me, that sins, that gay-sins, and yet miraculously, to love all the rest of me.

The rest of me that’s not gay, of course.

Oh, Peter, RuPaul, and Mary! It’s so goddamned sanctimonious and smug! It’s nothing more than bigotry disguised as charity. And a begrudging charity at that.

And please, Curt, we don’t “participate” in homosexuality like you “participate” in Parcheesi or bowling. It’s not a game or a sport. Though many gay men take their sexual playtime as seriously as you, apparently, take segregation and intolerance, being gay is more than just whom we fuck. Ye gods, it’s 2013! Is it still necessary to have this conversation? Being gay is not a “lifestyle”!! It’s a life. Perhaps you should get one.

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Look, I’m gonna calm down and speak directly to all you Christian and non-Christian haters out there. I have a feeling there may be some learning challenges to overcome so I’ll say this as simply and as slowly as I can:

The issue isn’t about whether you agree if gays and lesbians are equal to you or not. We are, but you don’t have to agree with that. Hell, we don’t have to agree on anything in order to live, work and go to school functions together. Believe it or not, we can genuinely love, care, and yes, even respect, you despite the difference in our opinions. We’ve suffered your bad taste and bad manners for ages so we can hang on a little while longer.

Now I can honestly say that, despite everything that’s been thrown at me in life because I’m gay, I still value and respect all people, religious and non-religious, and I will defend to my dying breath every hater’s right to spout their insufferable homophobia till they die and go to that eternal nothingness they so richly deserve. But I will not allow anyone-anyone that devalues me and my gay brothers and sisters and views us as third-class citizens, anyone that wishes to segregate and quarantine us and keep “separate but equal”-I, we will not allow anyone to hold us down any longer.

So, more power to those Sullivan High kids that go to the “untraditional” prom, who roll their eyes and say “Whatever” to the Melanie Medleys and the Bonnie McCammons and the Curt Bedwells of the world. Keep on keepin’ on. Be strong. As Dan Savage says, “It does get better“. There is a world beyond Sullivan, Indiana, and in that world, no one cares who you take to prom as long as they bathe, dress nice, and don’t embarrass themselves by knowing all the dance moves to “Gangnum-style”. That’s so lame.

And you haters out there, if you think you can prevent us from taking part in our birthright because your shallow belief system doesn’t allow you the ability to share in our fabulousness, if you still expect us to stay in our closets like good little faggots… well, Sullivan, Indiana, we’ve got news for you: Those days are officially over. Just ask the President of the United States.

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Thus ends my catechism.

PS: If you social activists would like to show the students and teachers of Sullivan High School that you support equality and the rights of all people to dance awkwardly to bad music together, “like” their Facebook page and send them a message of encouragement and support. And visit the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network’s special website, Prom is For Everyone.

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And write Melanie Medley an email. Be nice. We don’t want to play into the haters’ feelings of persecution. There’s an online petition calling for disciplinary action to be taken against Medley too. Let’s do this properly, people.

The same goes for Sullivan High School’s principal, David Springer, and assistant principal, Sarah Hannon. They’ve not come forward with their personal views regarding the “separate but equal” prom, but show them you support an all-inclusive prom and the state’s decision not to give in to the haters.

And as a special assignment for you Christians out there, it couldn’t hurt to let the folks at Sullivan’s First Christian Church-nicknamed “The Grace Place”-know how you feel about their lending support to a group of haters pushing for a “separate but equal” prom. Remind them that Jesus mingled with all peoples, and they should follow his example. Or simply give them a call at (812) 268-4348.

Let the folks in Sullivan know we’re watching them.

There. That oughta do it.