Saturday, September 8, 2012

Burned alive in the American Melting Pot

You may be asking yourself, what America as a melting pot has to do with LGBT empowerment.  It is imperative that we evaluate the gay equality movement in a larger societal framework, and to begin a more honest discourse of the successes and failures of our journey to equal citizenship. Empowerment is not a linear concept.  It ebbs and flows, expands and contracts, yet it is often narrowly viewed as an individual notion.  It is my hope to help others see that the quest for equality is impacted by individual enlightenment, as well as a broader societal understanding of oppression and homogeny.
The 20th century notion that America as a melting pot is flawed and impractical.  The concept of America as a melting pot originates from a popular 1908 play called “The Melting Pot.”  The line from the play that inspired this way of thinking is "America is God's Crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and reforming... Germans and Frenchmen, Irishmen and Englishmen, Jews and Russians - into the Crucible with you all! God is making the American."
The countries from which people arrive to the United States have changed, but the American attitude of assimilation and melding into our image of a homogenous society still remains.  The notion of melting together so that diverse individuals, cultures, races, sexualities, ages and abilities are indistinguishable and each element granted the same optimism of pursing the American dream just does not play out in the daily lives of those who call the United States “home.”
The majority of immigrants coming to America in the 21st century are not European, they are South and Central Americans, and Asians.  And, much like our history shows us, America is quick to push our neighbors into the great American Melting Pot in order to create a country in which everyone has the same values, speaks the same language, and pledge’s an undying allegiance to the Red, White and Blue.
For those of us who are gay American citizens we too are pushed into the molten ooze of homogeny, and like our immigrant counterparts, are left without a sense of identity, access to justice, and equality. All of America benefits from the contributions of its diverse population.  We are the doctors you turn to, we are the social workers you call for help when things are tough, we are your children’s teachers, your pharmacist, your garbage collectors… It’s an exhaustive list.   As LGBT citizens, we are expected to contribute like our straight siblings through responsible citizenship, and taxation.  However, when we question the fairness of the American political & legal systems, LGBT people are looked upon by our straight counterparts as “having a gay agenda” and our religious counterparts as a “drain on American values.”  I assure you, and certainly science and history proves there is no “gay” agenda.  Furthermore, we were raised with the same set of values imparted to our siblings, and friends.  Like immigrants, all the hundreds gay men and women I have met, not one ever expressed an interest in dismantling the American way of life, in contrast we have all been looking for a way to fulfill our own version of the American dream.
The pursuit for fairness and equality under the law is a human rights agenda.  For gay men and women, it’s a movement that seeks the coverage of 1,100 federally legislated marital rights now only granted to our straight family members.  It’s a movement that wants reciprocity among state laws for employment, housing, family, and protections.  It’s a movement that seeks to end needless violence against America’s youth.  It’s a movement that asks why the constitution applies to some, but not all.  We are asking why it is okay for one state to recognize the value of ALL its citizens gay or straight, yet their neighbors can decide to ignore us. 
The great American Melting Pot has a crack in it, and it’s called the Defense of Marriage Act.  We live under the United States Constitution which declares “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.
All men are created equal.  This is not political ideology.  This is not propaganda to bring justice for the underdog.  It’s the truth.  I am as equal a human being as my brother, and sister… In America, the equality stops there.  I have personal stake in repealing laws that serve to discriminate against segments of a population that the constitution has deemed equal.  As a gay man, with a devoted and talented Colombian partner, I am especially aware of the securities afforded by lawful marriage.  If my brother were to meet, love, and feel completed by a woman from another country he could secure his future with her, and her citizenship through marriage.  Their marriage would be recognized in every state of the union.  If he needed to move from his home state for a new job, he would not fear their marriage would become void. 
It’s time for a more honest discourse in this country about equality and the pursuit of happiness.  It’s time for those in the minority to ask themselves what they can do to forward our movement, and it’s time for the majority to ask themselves why they get to decide what’s right for an entire country. 



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