Editor’s note: LZ Granderson is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com, and has contributed to ESPN’s Sports Center, Outside the Lines and First Take. He is a 2010 nominee and the 2009 winner of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) award for online journalism as well as the 2008 National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) winner for column writing.
(CNN) — On most mornings, my better half wakes up around 5:30, throws on some sweats and heads to the gym before work.
About a half hour later, I wake up my 13-year-old son, go downstairs to the kitchen to make his breakfast and pack his lunch. Once he’s out the door, I brew some coffee and get to work.
Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the “gay lifestyle” — run for your heterosexual lives.
I understand opponents of gay rights must highlight differences in order to maintain the “us against them” tension that’s paramount to their arguments. But this notion that sexual orientation comes with a different and pre-ordained way of life — as if we’re all ordering the No. 3 at a drive thru — only highlights how irrational groups such as Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, the American Family Association and others like them are in this whole debate.
Pro-marriage organizations try to stop two consenting adults from marrying. Pro-family groups try to stop stable couples wanting children from adopting unloved orphans.
And somehow, me doing something like going to the grocery store threatens the very fabric of society, as Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern spewed. She says “the homosexual agenda is destroying this nation” and “homosexuality is more of a threat than terrorism.” I’m not sure what her idea of a gay lifestyle might be, but with a growing teenager, buying and cooking food dominates my day-to-day.
I don’t worship Barbra Streisand, I don’t watch any TV show with the word “Housewives” in its title and I love fishing, beer and Madonna. But more importantly, I’m just a father trying to keep my son away from drugs, get him into college and have a little money left over for retirement. I’m no sociologist but I’m pretty sure those concerns are not exclusive to gay people.
In one of the most pivotal scenes in the biopic “Milk,”Harvey Milk, played by Sean Penn, gathers a group of community organizers and activists to come up with strategies to combat a 1978 ballot initiative that sought to ban LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) teachers and their supporters from working in public schools in California. As the small crowd settles down, Milk quickly glances around the room and says ..
“If we’re going to convince the 90 percent to give a —- about us 10 percent, we have to let them know who we are …”
“What” we are — be it gay, straight, black, white — is simply window dressing. “Who” we are is where the substance is, where the person is, where our humanity is.
Too often, discussions about gay people and gay rights focus on sex, as if a person’s entire being is defined by his or her Hollywood crush.
This fixation has been the crux behind attempts to link gay men to pedophilia — from John Briggs, a state legislator from Orange County who introduced the proposed ban on gay teachers in California, to the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue, whose recent attempts to excuse the church for its global scandal coverup by seemingly blaming homosexuality, is evil incarnate.
“The vast majority of the victims are post-pubescent,” Donohue recently said on “Larry King Live.” “That’s not pedophilia, buddy. That’s homosexuality.”
Actually, Bill, sexual predators whose victims are 13- to 17-years-old are called hebephiles — a la Joey Buttafuoco, Madeleine Martin and Heather Kennedy — not homosexuals. And that still doesn’t explain why the church opted to save face as opposed to, in the words of the infamous anti-gay figurehead Anita Bryant, “Save our children.”
Being gay doesn’t dictate how people live their lives any more than being straight does. There are gay people who go to church every Sunday and straight people who do not believe in God. There are single gay men who believe in the sanctity of marriage and married straight men who apparently do not — such as Gov. Mark Sanford, ex-Sen. John Edwards and Sen. John Ensign, to name a few.
The truth is the only thing all gay people have in common — you know, besides being gay — is that we face continuous rhetorical, social and legal attacks for simply existing, thus potentially making something as mundane as bringing a date to a work function a fight-or-flee situation.
And yet, even in the face of that discrimination, LGBT people all handle it differently.
Some of us live in the closet, some of us do drag every Wednesday night, some of us are Republicans hoping to be change agents within a conservative sect and some of us are apathetic Democrats too dumb to carry on a conversation about anything other than Lady Gaga.
In other words, we’re just as diverse, intolerant, upstanding and tragic as our straight counterparts and unless there is an annual meeting I don’t know about, the only item on the much talked-about gay agenda is an abbreviated passage from the Declaration of Independence — “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
In 29 states, people can be fired simply for being gay regardless of their education, experience or job performance; servicemen and women can be dismissed from the military regardless of their qualifications, dedication and courage; and partners are unable to see their better halves in the hospital regardless of the love, commitment and life they share.
Wanting to be judged by the content of one’s character isn’t a special right, it’s a constitutional one guaranteed by the 14th and 15th amendments.
And yet, 145 years since the abolition of slavery, 90 years since women were allowed to vote and 20 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act, we’re still involved in McCarthy-like investigations, holding Briggs-like elections and taking opinion polls based solely upon “what” someone is as opposed to “who” they are.
It’s sad. We’re such a great nation, still full of great hope and promise and yet we keep being tripped up by ignorance, which leads to fear and then eventually hate. Being gay isn’t a choice, but being a bigot certainly is.