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ASK MICHAEL: Marriage, Referendum 71 and Hate
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ASK MICHAEL: Marriage, Referendum 71 and Hate
by Michael Raitt - SGN Contributing Writer

Right now there are 3 significant stories in the news that impact us and they all have a common theme: the effect speech has in the LGBTQ community.

We've all heard about the controversy that Miss California, Carrie Prejean, created when she stated her opinion that marriage should be between a man and a woman. Then we have, in this state, people who are trying to get signatures for Referendum 71, which would repeal domestic partnership rights. Finally, the Senator from North Carolina, Virginia Foxx (R-NC), who stated that the Matthew Shepard murder was a "hoax" and that he wasn't brutally killed because he was Gay, rather, he was terrorized and murdered when a robbery went bad. What all of these have in common is freedom of speech and how it affects our lives.

Unequivocally, everyone is entitled to their opinion and to speak that opinion. With freedom of speech comes a responsibility to reflect upon how one's words can change the lives of others and to be aware and intentional about what one says so that innocent, law-abiding citizens are respected.

Without doubt, speech that promotes the isolation, marginalization, degradation, or vilification of any group makes that group a target for hate and violence. When public figures and/or groups say that GLBTQ men and women should not be given the same rights as other law-abiding citizens, they are making the GLBTQ community isolated and using false ideas to marginalize, degrade, or vilify us to justify their positions. The only way to argue that our community should not get the same rights is to say that we are not equal. There is no possible way for any individual or group to state that GLBTQ men and women are equal, yet they should not be afforded the same rights as everyone else.

Speech and laws that keep GLBTQ adults and adolescents in a group unto themselves gives permission to unstable individuals to perpetrate violent and murderous crimes against us. These individuals justify in their distorted minds their hurtful actions because they believe their actions are sanctioned by the social norm that keeps GLBTQ separate and unequal.

Just as horrendous is the fact that public policy and positions that segregate us also keep closeted GLBTQ individuals living in a state of fear where they experience profound depression, anxiety, and, sometimes, end up killing themselves.

The likelihood that Carrie Prejean, Virginia Foxx, or any of the supporters or authors of Referendum 71 have GLBTQ family members or friends is extremely high. I wonder how these individuals would feel coming home and finding a loved one hanging from the rafters in the garage, then finding out they did it because of the shameful messages they got about being Gay? How would they support a friend who found her 17-year-old son dead in his bedroom from a gunshot wound to the head because he was teased for being Gay? This is negative and this is real! How would they react if they knew someone who was beaten or murdered because they were Transgender?

It is far too easy for these individuals who "speak their truth" that GLBTQ men and women are not equal to disconnect from the reality of how their words impact us in the GLBTQ community. I bet none of these people have held a hysterical, crying, grieving mother after her Lesbian daughter has committed suicide.

What do we do with this? We continue to speak about it and keep it in the forefront of people's minds. For those of us who can be public, we publicly speak about it and continue to demand our rights. We continue to point out the inequities of proposed legislation that would keep us as separate and unequal. We continue to talk about the harsh reality that others' negativity has on us. We cannot turn away from the reality of what this speech and these policies do to individuals in our community.

This year, in every Pride celebration in the country, people should be marching and getting the word out. All of the various groups that exist in our community can promote their own cause while also supporting the common message of "Equality through Marriage."

For those of us who cannot be public because their situation dictates that they have to remain in the closet, they can get involved by signing petitions or providing anonymous monetary donations to organizations such as Equal Rights Washington (ERW 206-324-2570 or www.equalrightswashington.org), Join the Impact, (http://jointheimpact.wetpaint.com/page/Seattle), or the Decline to Sign campaign, that do speak for all of us.

For our straight parents, friends, and co-workers, we know you love us! Please also support us through donations, joining PFLAG (www.seattle-pflag.org), signing petitions, and voting down referendums and initiatives that would hurt us. Please stand up and take a position when you hear hurtful language and let others know that you have a loved GLBTQ family member or friend that you are supporting.

Finally, for those of you who exercise your right to free speech, I encourage you to think hard about how your words affect others. How can you hold onto, and speak, your beliefs while balancing the idea that your words will intentionally or unintentionally bring harm to us in the GLBTQ community? If you do not wish to invoke harm in our community, how can you speak your position and include the message that harm against us is intolerable? If you do wish us harm, how can you look at that sick side of yourself?

In my next column, I will write about what Gay marriage is also about.

Michael Raitt, MA LMHC, is a therapist and a contributing writer to the SGN. He writes a bimonthly column in the SGN. If you would like to comment on this column, ask a question you'd like him to write about, or suggest another topic of interest, please contact him at askingmichael@comcast.net.
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