I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN…
I was working in the kitchen the other day, on the TV screen was a news report showing the demonstration about prop 8 being upheld by the Supreme Court while honoring same-sex marriages. With the Latina housekeeper in presents, it didn’t take long for me to be confronted yet again with unintended racism; “…you know what I mean…” needs some disambiguation!
Over the years, I have come to accept that my family of friends will never understand the dilemma from my perspective; a violation of my basic rights, the LGBTQ’s political unequally to partnered with anyone of my choice, be it a woman or a man. I quietly accept friends carelessly voicing that the ‘choice’ of being gay feels unusual or, worse, unnatural. Co-workers, seemingly comfortable with my pacifistic character, ask me for advice: ”…would you vote for that Schwarzenegger…” or “…do you think a black Obama has a chance…? Or, “…I heard he is gay, what do YOU think?” …as if my being gay relates to that strange individual.
I know they talk about me the same way: “…you know – he is smart and successful, but… you know what I mean?” You know! As if to affirm that being black is not “easy” or having an accent might not purvey smart… and acknowledging that gay is a handicap – why making that choice? Ignorant that skin color, or sexual preference, unlike speaking several languages, is not a choice!
The inability to realize you are a racist makes no difference to the fact you partake in hateful bigotry. I have long encouraged education when confronted with a lack of understanding and seemingly lacking compassion about basic biological facts and general rights bestowed upon all US citizens. I get it; you did not know… but the way you word your ponder is still painful and ignorant. It’s these people I fear the most, especially when they assure their idiocratic viewpoints by combining it with the “…you know what I mean….” They have it all thought out after giving two minutes of their brainpower: To understand the topic that involves a gay, an immigrant, or physically challenged person living amongst narrow-mindedness, requires a bit more effort. Assumptions are like lies; they’re rarely justified.
Let’s look at my point – gay rights – closely.
Simply enough, people get married in the United States. Hence, they have specific, technical partner rights: including community property protections, control over funeral arrangements of a spouse, and an obligation to pay child support. The legal conundrum becomes personal when opponents argue that the constitution clearly defines marriage between women and men. That is the same constitution that defined black people as 3/5 human or slaves to be property. We did, however, change that, finally, late in our history – with the last steps of the 15th Amendment in 1965…
A lousy argument is that a married couple must be a man and a woman when raising a healthy family. US statistics show that 1/4 of all married couples have no children; or have chosen not to have any. 1/3 of all married people get divorced, although they were sworn in the presence of God to stay together (I purposefully fuse religion with politics here…). We have 400’000 homeless and orphaned kids in the US!
See, I was against calling it gay marriage and wished all along it could have been presented on the ballot as ‘equal rights amendment.’ It is that very wording of the constitution that is being thrown about by the opposition. My basic rights as a human being living in the USA are well established. I can marry any partner or not be married and live together. Odd with smart, old and young, multiple wives even… and with the consent of parents get married to a 14-year-old in some States. To some, however, these “rights” are reserved for straight people only. All other misbehaviors are acceptable, just not two of the same; you know – gays! Polygamy, jail weddings, arranged weddings… Old man wedding teen-girl… all okay.
When explaining to the housekeeper that the court decision is a huge insult to basic rights for gay, lesbian and transgender human beings, she asked, “I get it, and it’s because they wanna have a ceremony?”
“Oh, I see, it’s because they want to adopt children?”
Well, that is partially a right that would be available; still, considering the hurdle of bypassing the ignorant notion that all gay men are also child abusers… Yes, tons of children could grow up in fabulous households! I don’t respond; it’s my workplace, it’s too complicated to have to explain…
“It’s about money, is it?”
“No.” …and that was an invitation for her to look at me with kind eyes:
“But you see, marriage is really something between a woman and a man. You know what I mean?”
“No, I don’t.”
Clearly, the idea of gays dressed up as men and women and running to the local church makes a few religious Christians uncomfortable. I find some behavior on both ends insensitive. But heck, let’s not ‘drag’ religion into the hate-brew. It’s in nobody’s business what their nuptial preferences, decoration taste, or fashion choices are. I’m fighting on the gay side to uphold a Constitutional established right; only in 1967 was Loving v Virginia’s miscegenation law overturned. That’s my parents’ generation (I was already walking…)! Clearly, the stronghold of prop 8 supporters consists of old folks and religious fanatics. Sadly, many foreign-speaking ‘new’ US citizens and lesser-educated peers voted on the presented ambiguously titled ballots, which added to the confusion (the yes-means-no question was purposefully confusing).
Yes, I am a stickler when it comes to the lack of basic education. For all we have available in this flourishing Nation, Jay Leno’s best moments are when he highlights the stupidity of US people with a microphone stuffed into their faces. The lack of general knowledge, current world affairs, or recognizing any face beyond Madonna (and she is a chameleon) or any Kardashian (they too changed their looks) is a gruesome reality for me: the very problem I blame for this anti-gay marriage hate. Ignorance. When aided with a correction, usually they express, “…oh, I know what you mean…” To stop the discussion.
Anyone should have the right to unity, to love each other in happiness and sadness. As it stands, some cannot visit a lover in the hospital even if they’d lived thirty years together. Privatized hospitals can set regulations and hide behind that undefined law. The founding fathers “simplified” the draft of the constitution and allowed that the details would amend their brilliant framework. However, they failed to imagine that hate, under-educated quarrel, and political money could mandate clauses that deviate from their all-inclusive “we the people” vision.
Same-sex couples cannot be guaranteed that their lover could inherit as stipulated in a will. The law can be interpreted as “non-inclusive” by estranged family members. Gay couples living in the same space still experience discrimination and endure physical danger in public spaces. We recruit individuals into the police force that are outspokenly “anti-gay” – shocking in 2009. Imagine you would have to explain to someone – like such an officer – that you were the victim of a hate crime… “I know what you mean…” and beyond that, there is no help. Yearly, the US records over 2000 serious hate-related crimes against gays that never made it beyond a police report! That’s in a nation promoting democracy to other lands!
An engaged woman can visit her husband to be and even legally inherit him… LGBTQ identified individuals could not receive equal medical care, even if their partner works for a firm that guarantees equal benefits for spouses (non-married too). A loving LGBTQ couple may raise a child as a legal guardian, but if something happens to one of the parents, that adoption can be overturned. We lack a clear legal, protective directive to parent our child. It’s that ‘homosexual’ word that gets some really steaming. Oddly, the loudest racists are hatched from simple nests or claim to be very, very God-loving.
“…I know what you mean…” – It has actually nothing to do with being gay. All thoughts beyond this simple amendment of forgotten rights were no prominence to the founding fathers. Back then, gay men “willingly” were hiding in public, forced to align. Throughout history, homosexuality was weaponized as needed. Modern society forced most men to hide what women seemingly were allowed to express… In America, LGBTQ communities prayed, demonstrated, fought, and demanded that we be included in a refined definition of the law. We are people too. In 2009 to fear that two men or two women could be a threat to one’s moral principles is silly. To voice silliness, in this case, is hateful, educated or not.
“Marriage between a man and a woman” is a sentence drafted and written by humans, not Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Adams, or any God. The US Constitution provides no citizen of any gender or orientation a Constitutional right to marriage. The Constitution is silent on the issue of marriage. It is not mentioned.
“I think you should have equal rights, but maybe – getting married is a bit extreme for some, you know what I mean….”
“No. You’re a homophobe. You are a racist – you know what I mean!”
Enjoy a great summer, chef raphael