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Monday, February 25, 2013

It's All the Same Love, So It's About Time For Me to Raise Up

Speaking out once and for all about my support for LGBTQ rights (with apologies to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis for the title).

DISCLAIMER: The following is the opinion of myself and myself alone. It does not necessarily reflect those of the staff here at Patch or anywhere for that matter, but it is possible. You may not like my opinion, but that's fine. That's your right. I don't agree with it, but I respect your right to have an opinion. 

I’m tired of being silent about my support for LGBTQ rights. 


Yes, I said it. I support equal rights for LGBTQ people. I had been silent about my support for years (at least publically) because of my own fears of being labeled as a lesbian because of the way I dress. People already suspected that I was to begin with since I tended to dress in a manner that was more masculine in nature, but to say I support it would make them really begin to think it. I wanted to make it clear that I was straight despite the message that came across in the way I dress normally.

Now I realize that my reasons for silence were actually just as prejudiced as those who bash gays because they don’t like the way they live. I was treating it like it would make me a lesser human being and that it was inferior. In actuality, it’s not a bad thing to be gay at all. It’s just not my thing. And those who labeled me as such aren’t necessarily bad people, unless if they tried to fight me about it or were incessantly mean to me. I understand the mixed messages that it may send due to the preconceived stereotypes of LGBTQ people. That being said, I still stand by this one statement: It’s just clothes. The only labels that should be put on clothes are brand names and sizes. Not someone’s genetic dispositions. 

I believe that the reasons for the silence traces back to when I was bullied for being perceived as gay due to an unfortunate haircut and my usual manner of dress. And I felt like I didn’t have any allies anywhere. Most folks were asking me why I never dressed like the other girls did and that maybe if I did then the bullying would stop. I never dressed like them because I wasn’t comfortable in most clothing designed for girls. I would get dolled up if I had to, but I never had to in school. So I just wore what I felt comfortable in, minus a hat. The haircut was a mistake since it looked awful to begin with and while I wanted really short hair, I didn’t realize how short it would be in hindsight.

During 8th grade, I have to admit that I did wonder if I was. I thought that there was a whole checklist of stereotypes about what constitutes one was being gay. And I had a few of the stereotypes I did fit into -- masculine dress, hatred of sappy love stories, likes to play sports (I sucked at them though), video game fan, would prefer to hang out with guys. It seemed like a clear cut case. Hell, most of the other folks in school kept trying to tell me the same thing, though in a rude manner. 

The only thing was that I was attracted to men in the way that most women were attracted to men. I found them very appealing in all ways. And yet, people were trying to dictate to me about what I can and cannot like. This tore 14-year-old me up inside. I felt really alienated and upset because I was being perceived as something I’m not just because of some preconceived notions. 

Once I hit high school, I became secure in my sexual orientation but I still got very defensive when people would question my orientation. I would be angry not because I found anything wrong with being gay, but instead because I felt like they were giving me a label that didn’t belong to me. They were putting me in a little box to make their own conceptions of the way the world is a lot easier to define. 

This wasn’t how I should’ve acted whenever it would happen, especially since I was being a hypocrite in a lot of ways. I was pretty much acting like it was an insult to be gay but yet I called myself a supporter? That was wrong. And I apologize for that. On top of that, I was someone who was true to myself, but yet I didn’t have the balls to be outspoken about it? That was dumb.

I especially feel guilty about this because I feel like I could’ve done more when one of my closest friends came out to me in 10th grade. I could’ve stood up for her when others would call her homophobic slurs. I could’ve made myself more accessible for her to open up to me. She never would tell me of those things because she didn’t think I was trustworthy since I had such a non-reaction to it all. I kept silent all those times, disgusted at the words that other would say. 

I did nothing, though because of my own fears of being labeled as gay if I stood up for her. I wish I was more brave and not as afraid of what others would perceive me as. I hope that my friend ends up coming across this and reads it, let her know how sorry I am for that. 

Even though I relaxed when it came to that, I still kept silent. I still was very hesitant on voicing any of my beliefs. It was the hypocrisy striking again. I mean I supported LGBTQ rights but yet here I was silent in my support because of what the peanut gallery would think. I mean, for goodness sake, I’m 27 years old! Why was I succumbing to peer pressure now?! So what swayed me to speak up? Three things. 

The first thing was Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe’s open letter to Maryland State Delegate Emmett Burns. Burns had written a letter to Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti about putting a gag order on Ravens linebacker Brandon Ayanbadejo over his support for same-sex rights. The letter was written with a combination of profanity and eloquence that I could only aspire to. He called out the hypocrisy of the delegate, called him out for “hating freedom” and how the legalization of gay marriage does not mean that...well you can read the article to find out what he calls him exactly. I’m not even a football fan but I am definitely now a Chris Kluwe fan (Sorry, I’m a baseball gal at heart).

The second thing was hearing that Rhode Island House had passed the gay marriage bill. RI is the only New England state that has yet to pass the bill, which I find actually insane when I think about the way that Rhode Island was founded. This was a state that was founded on the basis of religious freedom. Roger Williams was kicked out of Massachusetts for his religious views and he made his own state where it was free to practice whatever you preach. 

And he stressed on the separation of church and state, and it wasn’t for reasons of state at all. It was because he believed that religion was sacred beyond all sacredness. There was no need for religion to get itself dirty in the stately affairs. And at the heart of the gay marriage issue, the folks whom are against it seem to be mostly against it for religious reasons and talking about the sanctity of marriage and all this other mumbo jumbo. I refuse to live in a world where my cousin and his husband’s marriage is considered less sacred than the mayfly lifespan marriage of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries. 

And I refuse to address the ignorantly insane troll logic about how gay marriage will lead to child marriages and animal marriages. That argument is beyond ignorant and I find it insanely offensive that you would even begin to equate LGBT folks to pedophiles and bestiality. However (other than the whole equaling it to pedophilia and bestiality part), if you believe that it’s wrong, then that’s your right. 

I respect your right to have the opinion but I still don’t agree with it and find it ridiculous. Rhode Island still has to get it through the Senate, which could go anyway, but I hope when it comes down to it, the majority leaves their biases at home and votes for it.

The final thing was hearing the song “Same Love”-Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (featuring Mary Lambert) for the first time. I had heard all about the song done by the Seattle rapper and producer. I had heard “Thrift Shop” as well and liked what I heard. I only just heard this song for the first time about a week or so ago. From the very first verse of it, I found myself captivated by this song. Macklemore was like me -- perceived as being gay, had questioned himself about it but realized that it was really just a predisposed notion that he was basing it on and not what he really was. 

As he went on, he called out hip-hop stereotypes of misogyny and homophobia and making it seem like those whom are women and/or gay were like second class citizens to everybody else. And he finishes off by saying that the change starts with us most of all, but the legalization of gay marriage is “a damn good start” and just the fact that underneath it all, it’s just love that we’re all up in arms against. Macklemore is right. Love is love, regardless of the gender, race, creed, ethnicity, and other things. 

Each of these three things knocked out different facets of my hesitancy of speaking out. The Kluwe letter made me realize that it did matter a lot more than I originally thought. The bill passing in the House helped me remember the state history and how on a technical level nationwide, it’s hypocritical to be against gay marriage when there should be a separation of church and state. 

But it was “Same Love” that really inspired me to write this and speak up once and for all. It knocked out the fear of being thought of as one way and showed me that my silence was wrong and hurtful in a lot of ways. I always knew it was the same love but I felt like it wasn’t my battle. How wrong I was. 

So yes, I am an LGBTQ rights supporter who has finally decided to voice her support loud and clear. I’m done with being silent about it. While I’m not going to be an overt blabbermouth about it in future columns, since I like to write about many different things, I will call out anything that seems wrong to me and I am going to stand up to those who try to force ignorant opinions down my throat. 

No more hiding, no more fearing labels. I’m moving to the front of the lines in this battle, weapons in hand. You can have your opinions and that is your right, but I have mine too. And I refuse to apologize for being a supporter of LGBT people. 

To close it out, I thought I’d quote the song that gave me the inspiration to write this out. So here’s a line from “Same Love”-Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (featuring Mary Lambert):

When everyone else is more comfortable remaining voiceless
Rather than fighting for humans that have had their rights stolen
I might not be the same, but that’s not important
No freedom till we’re equal, damn right I support it

About this column: Mel went to Narragansett High School, and she has managed to survive - so far. Join her as she shares snippets from her high school and current life.