“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today, I was digging through the copious quotes on the Internet honoring the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The man certainly was quotable and a visionary. The quote above stuck with me and after about an hour of reading, I came back to it. Those words ring so true, we hate what we fear and fear what we hate. I have never experienced horrible injustices because of my skin color. I'm Caucasian, dirty-blonde hair (I love my hairdresser. She is the queen of color,) and blue eyes. Thanks to good guidance from some awesome adults as I grew up, I was taught to believe that the content of one's character was much more important than where you came from, what your parents' do for a living, how much money you do or don't have, the color of your skin, how much education you have, etc. You get the picture. I listened to Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders as a child and thought they had a point. Separate is not equal, any six year old (my age at the time of his death,) can tell you that. I understood and finally America did too. We grew and are growing in our understanding of the words this country was founded on, "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."
I know that some people don't want the LGBT community's struggle for equal rights compared with the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties. Okay, I won't do that here. What I will do is reflect on the quote above by the great Civil Rights leader himself, "People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other." King knew that if people began to know each other as human beings, then it would be so much harder to hate someone. So, what can we do in the LGBT community to allay the anxieties of those who fear and hate us? I suggest we speak up, at least those of us that can without fear of reprisal, and make a new LGBT ally every day. I suggest we show people that our everyday lives are not much different than theirs and we are not to be feared. After all, what some people think they know of our community is what they’ve heard spouted by hate mongers. They fear us because they really don’t know us.
For example; I’m a lesbian fiction writer. When I tell people that, I get the look. You know, the look. The, “OMG! You write porn,” look. Trust me folks, my novels are about as vanilla as they come, according to my voracious lesbian fiction reading friends. I blush when I read a scene in public that fades to black before the action starts, simply because my imagination knows what is about to happen in the character’s world. In my explanation to the shocked onlooker that I do not write porn, or erotica, I try to point out that sex is generally not the center of our lives. It is a big part of it just like it is in the hetero world, but so is doing the laundry, buying groceries, and going to work. I write about human beings getting on with life, they just happen to be lesbians. “Oh,” accompanied by a doubtful look, is usually the response.
We have to do a better job of letting the public know that we are not a deviant bunch that spends every waking minute seeking the next sexual encounter. Okay, yes, some of us are on the hunt 24-7, but in my case, I’m chasing my wife around the house. That also seems to happen in healthy hetero marriages. I am extremely happy that after almost 25 years, I still like to chase my wife around and I don’t need Viagra. (Sorry guys.) We’re healthy adults with normal sexual desires. We are not pedophiles stalking the school parking lots. (Being lumped in with pedophiles is one of my biggest pet peeves. Hey folks, the Penn State dude is married with children. Claim your own.) The only difference between my marriage and hetero marriages is that mine has lasted longer than most of theirs.
There is no need to fear us. We work, we play, we eat, sleep, dance, sing, and we love just like other humans. I can’t imagine a creator that would put this wonderful human being on the earth, somehow let us find each other, and then not want me to love her. I just can’t wrap my mind around that. I think ignoring the gift of love I was given would be a bigger sin, than living this happy life we’ve led. My wife and I are not alone. Millions of LGBT people live quite “normal” lives. Our lives can be as routine as the next family on the block, simply getting by, living and loving.
So, the next time your neighbor waves and smiles, spend a moment to just be friendly. You don’t have to start every conversation with, “Hi, I’m gay. Gotta problem with that?” I rather like it when someone says, “Oh, I didn’t know you were gay. You’re so normal.” I smile and say, “Yes, I am.” Sometimes the person can’t believe they’ve befriended a gay person and you see the light come on. Suddenly, we don’t seem so scary, so much of a threat to “normal” people. We are teachers, doctors, lawyers, clerks at the market, policeman, military personnel, artists, writers, dancers, singers, preachers, your neighbors, your friends. “Get to know us before you fear us,” is my message to the haters. “Help them understand,” is my message to the LGBT community. Make an LGBT ally everyday. Dispel the fear and teach them. Dr. King was right, “…they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other “ Open the lines of communication today.
I'll close with another King family member quote, one of my all time favorites:
"I believe all Americans who believe in freedom, tolerance and human rights have a responsibility to oppose bigotry and prejudice based on sexual orientation." ~ Coretta Scott King