We have seen the National Defense Authorization Act 2012 pass in the both houses of Congress and signed into law by the president of the United States that allows for indefinite detention of American citizens without habeas corpus. We have seen basic human rights ignored and denied by our fellow Americans through bans on gay marriage. We have seen basic health care and housing denied to our population because they haven’t the money to care for themselves. We have seen corporations evolve into entities that are considered individuals deserving rights. What this all means is that we have forgotten who we are. Any society, Roman, Ottoman, Egyptian, or any other, that forgets what it is, is doomed to reduction into oblivion so that something more aware and healthier can take its place.
When we removed ourselves from under the rule of King George III of Great Britain, we codified several facets of the lives we wanted into two documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
United States of America Declaration of Independence
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Most people discuss the “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” part of this sentence. A word at the beginning is much more intriguing – “self-evident.” They could have used the word “clear,” or perhaps “obvious,” but they chose “self-evident” in this beautifully-crafted statement. The authors made it clear that we as individuals are supposed to assume that all members of our society are equal and deserve the same treatment and benefits as every other citizen in our country. These rights are not issued with discretion by any other citizen; they are a natural part of being a citizen of this country. Not only are they a natural part of being American, we cannot be alienated or separated from those rights in any way by anyone or any entity, including our own government.
This first section is the part we all know; however, there is another part of this paragraph that we tend to forget:
“— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
Most people discuss the rights identified in this section as pertaining to themselves, missing the broader picture. Individuals have the proclivity to protect their own land, property, families, and rights. It may be an instinctual process; however, by focusing on one’s self alone, one misses a larger responsibility as a citizen of the United States – to protect our nation as a whole. We rightly value those who serve in our military as protectors of our liberties, yet we forget that we, too, have a weight on our shoulders as well. We must assume the rights of all citizens and fight to correct anything that disallows members of our society from their freedoms.
In the Preamble to the Constitution, the first words, “We the People of the United States in order to form a more perfect Union,” reiterates what we found in the Declaration of Independence. The authors said again that we as a whole must come together to work hand-in-hand to achieve the most unified citizenry and society we can. It didn’t say, “We the governors…” or “We the few…” or “We the wealthy and powerful…” It says “We the People.” All the people. Everyone single one of us inclusively has a role to play to elevate ourselves toward the hopes of those who began our country.
Preamble to the United States of America’s Constitution
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The question for us becomes this: Which single individual in our country deserves less than everything promised in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution of the United States? Which person out of the millions born in our land or who have chosen our country as their homeland, requires or deserves fewer freedoms than any other? Any thinking person will, of course, respond that there is not one person that deserves less. Some might say non-Christians, gays, Muslims, the disabled, the mentally ill, or those born in other countries deserve fewer freedoms. Certainly those who would say this are wrong according to our nation’s establishing documents. They are acting contrary to our national intention. And who is responsible for defending these individuals who have lost their voice and their first-class citizenship in our country?
In the same way as our founding fathers intended, each one of us is responsible, wholly and without abjuration, to ensure the full and irrevocable rights of all American citizens through word and deed. Anything less is contrary to who we are as a people. As we’ve learned in other fallen civilizations, we must remember who we are if we are to survive as a nation.
Yes, I stole the title of this piece from a paraphrased quote in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but no other title fit more profoundly. A recent study shows that self-described straight men who, by their answers to certain questions, can be identified as homophobic, respond to gay male pornography by growing increasingly tumescent. In other words, when they look at nekkid men, their willies grow as hard as the rocks they throw at gay people.
Specifically, the abstract from the study by the University of Georgia, and published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, states,
“The authors investigated the role of homosexual arousal in exclusively heterosexual men who admitted negative affect toward homosexual individuals. Participants consisted of a group of homophobic men (n = 35) and a group of nonhomophobic men (n = 29); they were assigned to groups on the basis of their scores on the Index of Homophobia (W. W. Hudson & W. A. Ricketts, 1980). The men were exposed to sexually explicit erotic stimuli consisting of heterosexual, male homosexual, and lesbian videotapes, and changes in penile circumference were monitored. They also completed an Aggression Questionnaire (A. H. Buss & M. Perry, 1992). Both groups exhibited increases in penile circumference to the heterosexual and female homosexual videos. Only the homophobic men showed an increase in penile erection to male homosexual stimuli. The groups did not differ in aggression. Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies.”
If their results are correct, what can we assume by these new data? Should we estimate the number of gays in the country by adding the number of homophobes to the count? If so, that would make the percentage of gay folk in the United States enormous.
Of course, the last line of the study is an important one. Those men identified as homophobic are clearly in denial of their sexuality or experience a complete lack of awareness that they are subconsciously attracted to other men. Whether in denial or unaware, these men require our compassion because they are either deluding themselves or completely self-unaware. Either way, it’s a challenging way to live.
So, to those men who shout at the top of their lungs epithets and derision toward gay folk, carry placards decrying the end of American culture because gay people can be seen in public, or excoriate homosexuals from the pulpit or political platform, just know that we hear you. And, after this study, we hear you even more clearly now. In a way, every time you exhibit your homophobic rants and rages, you’re coming out just a little bit more to the rest of us, aren’t you? Welcome to our world… grrrrrl!
Over the last couple of days, I have been contemplating the end of the federal government’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. With DADT gone, anyone who otherwise qualifies to be in the military may now join any branch without concern regarding the enlistee’s sexuality. The United States of America has taken a step forward with the change, but I must admit, as happy as I am about this fact, I’m feeling a bit ambivalent about the celebration.
Since the days when Lieutenant Gotthold Frederick Enslin was discharged for sodomy from the Continental Army in 1778, American military policy regarding gays has consistently banned homosexuality among its soldiers, but the structure of that disapproval has changed many times, most often in the 20th Century. During World War II, the psychiatric component of the military evaluation began, at which time homosexuality was considered a psychopathology. Thereafter, several categories of discharges were established, such as the blue discharge which was neither honorable nor dishonorable, although it held a stigma in society after the individual left the military. In 1942, if an individual was not found to have sexual contact prior to the court martial, they were given an undesirable discharge. A dishonorable discharge was given to those who had sexual contact with individuals of the same gender. General discharges were also offered to some servicemembers. Interestingly enough, the Crittendon Report in 1957 determined that gay people did not pose a security risk, but that the anit-gay policies should remain because homosexuality was “evil.”
When DADT began on December 21, 1993, there was a mix of hope and disappointment in President Bill Clinton’s choice to go this route. Although he promised to be the president for all American citizens, his initial attempt to eliminate the gay ban in the military was shot down by Congress. He was advised that full permission for gay and lesbian individuals to serve in the military was unthinkable. He chose to establish a policy of “ignorance is bliss” instead. I know many people were happy with this policy, but it seemed that any codified ignorance would not be a good thing. I mean, what did the policy really do?
Prior to DADT, a servicemember could not openly state that he or she was gay. The soldier could not openly date a partner, be seen in public holding hands with an individual of the same gender, and they could be asked whether he or she was gay. If the soldier answered, “Yes,” then court-martial proceedings ensued, after which the soldier was ceremoniously removed from the military.
After DADT, the same things could happen, except the military was not allowed to ask the question in the first place. If the soldier admitted to being homosexual, the same process began as before DADT. Ask many soldiers, such as Lt. Daniel Choi, if there was any difference. DADT was hailed as a step forward toward full equality for Americans, and I suppose at some level, it was.
Here’s my issue: I have known family and friends who served in the military who are gay; one of whom served during World War II. He was a decorated veteran and served honorably for several years overseas. The thought that had he served during DADT and it became known he was gay, the same thing that would have happened to him during WWII, would have happened to him during the 1990s as well if his superiors discovered he was homosexual. The only difference is that during DADT, no one would have asked in the first place. The bottom line is that gay folk were personae non grata in the military until yesterday.
Something has changed now, of course. Gay people can enlist in the military as they can in many western countries, such as England, Canada, Spain and Italy. They can serve beside their straight counterparts and all of them will be called soldiers… sort of. For a while, at least, we know that because we are neither gender blind nor sexuality blind, these soldiers will continue to be called gay soldiers and lesbian soldiers among the rank-and-file and in the country as a whole. The other salient thought is that married and registered domestic-partnered gay soldiers, will have no benefits for their spouses because of the Defense of Marriage Act.
We should call this event as it is: Another step forward. It is not the end of the journey for our service members who happen to be gay. A group of our soldiers will know they cannot support their spouses with health insurance, death benefits, or be ceremonially recognized if they should die as the spouses of straight soldiers are. They will give the same service, but not have the same benefits. This is not equality.
So, as we celebrate this movement forward, let us stay aware that until full equality is achieved, work still must be done to ensure our American soldiers… all our American soldiers… are treated equally.
As I listened to CNN report on the possibility of New York being the fifth state in the country to allow same-sex marriage, a question popped into my head: If one is fully an American citizen, why is it possible for him or her to have different rights than other American citizens? Should my status as an American supersede every other subgroup title I carry, including gay, Latino, Native American, European, dark-skinned, heavy-set, short, parent, grandfather, adoptee, or anything else? I suggest it should.
When I attended school as a child, I learned the Pledge of Allegiance. We said:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, [under God (added in 1954),] indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” ~ Francis Bellamy (1892)
I cannot imagine that when Francis Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance in 1892 that he, as a Baptist minister and christian socialist, would have imagined that this statement would mean Blacks, Asians, Latinos, women, gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals; however, it does. Bellamy did write, after all, that “[a] democracy like ours cannot afford to throw itself open to a world where every man is a lawmaker, every dull-witted or fanatical immigrant admitted to our citizenship is a bane to the commonwealth; where all classes of society merge insensibly into one another (Beato, 2010).” Much to what I’m certain would be Bellamy’s chagrin, we are merging into one distinct American society. So, why then are there different levels of citizenship in our republic?
Nothing is simpler than layering a group by status. The “haves” have more than the “have-nots.” Land owners had more power than the slaves. The European-based pioneers in the West decimated the indigenous people across the American territories. Experiences like these repeat themselves time and again because the status of one group is perceived as higher or lower than another. We face an issue of status today as gay couples are disallowed full marriage rights in the United States of America.
One issue I have with those who support equal marriage rights is that they perpetuate the current lexicon by claiming we are fighting for same-sex marriage rights. The discussion should be about making American citizenship the same for everyone by allowing every individual the right to marry whomever he or she chooses to marry. I understand the questions about relatives marrying, even though the current science does not support many of those arguments. I understand the age requirements for marriage. Children cannot make a healthy choice about marriage, and they should not be asked to be in that position. The paternalism of government has continued to encourage the placement of the gay and lesbian community within the same spectrum as children: the LGBT community apparently cannot make a healthy choice to marry any more than children can.
If one is an adult American citizen, one should be able to marry the person of his or her choice. That’s the whole concept in a nutshell. This is true marriage equality. It has nothing to do with religion. It has nothing to do with region or history. An American anywhere in the United States may marry the person of his or her choice. Which individual or group has the right to deny anyone that right or any other right? Our only job as a country is to ensure that all rights are assured in every state of the union. That is freedom. When we assure everyone have the same rights, then we can sleep soundly knowing that we have the “liberty and justice for all” promised in our Pledge of Allegiance and our Constitution.
Beato, Greg, (2010, Dec. 16). Face the Flag, Reason
Bumper sticker (2011) “Love is gender blind.” Retrieved from http://middleagedqueers.com/?p=5575
The National Equality March in Washington, D.C., scheduled for October 10-11, 2009, presented Americans an opportunity to offer their three-minute speeches for selection for this event. They called it “March Equality Idol Auditions.” They asked that the theme reflect the reasons why it was important for the speaker to attend the March in Washington. The voting between the top five speeches will be on Facebook and YouTube. I only found out about the competition yesterday afternoon and I had to write the speech and get it filmed and sumbitted by today, Thursday September 17, 2009 at 5:00 PST. My video turned out very nicely, I think. Because of the lack of sufficient technology, I couldn’t find a way to download it onto my computer from the camera I have, and therefore, I didn’t submit it. I must admit I am deeply disappointed right now. I will always wonder if my speech would have been selected, even for the top five finalists.
First, I am proud that my husband, David, figured out how to get the video onto our computer so that I can share it with you here. Second, the text of the speech follows.
Here is the text of my speech. I hope you enjoy it.
A Family Tradition of Hope
by James C. Glica-Hernandez
Written September 16, 2009
Three weeks before my tenth birthday in 1969, the Stonewall Riots erupted. Being an avid reader of the newspaper even at that age, I knew what was happening in New York. Men in dresses were fighting against the tyranny of bigotry and second-class citizenry in the greatest metropolis of the United States. The truth is, I didn’t know what to think about seeing gay people in the light of day because I had already been questioning my own sexuality in the haze of shame that every young, gay boy felt back then, and probably still does.
A mere nine years later, then having a wife and child, and having come out to my family, I found myself marching under a drizzly Sacramento sky, in my first gay pride parade at the urging, and in the presence, of my beloved father, Floyd Glica. When I protested about marching in the rain, Dad told me, “Jim, if we don’t stand up for who you are today, you will always be trampled upon by those who don’t like you just because you’re gay. We have to march.”
That day in 1978, I learned about gay pride from my fearless, remarkable Dad.
I am now the patriarch of my family, including my husband, five children, and nine grandchildren. I have seen someone in every generation of my family, as well as my students, wrestle with questions about their own sexuality. Sadly, they’ve learned that they will have a lesser experience in the U.S. as a gay, lesbian, or bisexual person than a straight person would.
My presence at the 2009 National Equality March is borne out of my love for my family, friends, and students. Together, we demand the necessary leadership from President Obama and Congress that creates a voice, like my father’s, that mandates equality and freedom for all.
The late Senator Edward Kennedy, arguably the most valiant warrior for equality ever to have graced the Senate floor, made a vital statement in 2007 regarding ENDA. He said, “America stands for justice for all. Congress must make clear that when we say ‘all,’ we mean all. America will never be America until we do.”
The Chávez-Glica-Hernandez family thanks you for this opportunity to join with your families in a community of hope, power, and vibrant leadership to ensure that we all… Senator Kennedy’s all… my father’s all… are able to participate and contribute to our society as free men and women; free from the branding of sexuality, gender, color, religion, national origin, disability, or economic status, as it must be in these United States of America.