Imagine, just for a moment: A group of people, motivated by an extreme devotion to their religion, ban together and begin to plan action that expresses their rage against those whom they disagree with on religious, cultural, and social grounds. They carefully plot a strategy to act out that rage, carefully, systematically, secretly, and determinedly. They have as a goal to punish the group they dislike, on moral grounds, and to take away something the group they dislike holds profoundly dear to them. They are convinced they are acting in accordance with the laws of God. They carry out their deed, and the group they dislike is hurt, angry, traumatized, and vows to fight the group who took something away from them. The battle continues for years, with no real hope of total resolution for a very long time.
OK, now: What are we talking about above? The 9/11 attacks, or Proposition 8? Re-read the above twice, once for each of these.
You get the idea? For gay men (actually, all LGBT people, and indeed, all people, American or not), the attacks of 9/11/01 are a mix of emotions. Americans in general lost a sense of safety that day, that the safety they took for granted had been shattered by an ingeniously evil but destructively effective act. As one gay friend said to a straight friend on 9/11, “Welcome to my world.” In other words, welcome to a sense of non-safety and non-dignity in a place that you’re supposed to call home and be comfortable in.
The attackers on 9/11 were motivated by the idea that their religion was superior, and that anyone who disagreed with them was an “infidel” who deserved to be punished in the most extreme ways imaginable. Anyone who didn’t believe that women were inherently inferior, that alcoholic beverages were a sin, that gay people should be put to death, that capital punishment should be as barbaric as possible, and that the Arabic countries were inherently superior to all the world’s people. In essence, a superiority complex taken to extremes to oppress others.
And yet, Proposition 8 was in essence the expression of a superiority complex taken to extremes to oppress others.
I realize that comparing the deaths of over 3,000 Americans on 9/11/01 to Proposition 8 might offend some people. But I believe the principle is the same, just taken to very different degrees of social destruction. Anytime a group of people declares itself inherently superior to another group of people they deem inherently inferior, just because of who they are, and decides to express and enforce these feelings in legal, social, physical, or emotional ways, serious trouble ensues. You could say that about the 9/11 attackers, Proposition 8 supporters, Nazis, or early Americans who oppressed the Native Americans.
The remembrance today of 9/11 is a mix of emotions of fear, anger, sadness, determination, defiance, and resolve. And yet these are the emotions that gay men face every day in trying to achieve FULL equality in their own homeland, which we are yet very far from achieving, when gay men can be fired in most states regardless of job performance just for their sexual orientation, as there is yet no federal protection against this; or prevented from marrying the person they love, no matter how long they have been together; or denied federal benefits such as Social Security survivor benefits that they have paid taxes for, just like their straight countrymen; or being kicked out of the military for being gay, even if they hold Arabic language skills that might prevent the “next” 9/11; or prevented from adopting or fostering children, regardless of the quality of their parenting skills. Welcome to my world, indeed.
Many people have made very fair comparisons to Al-Qaeda, Muslim Sharia law, and the Taliban to the so-called “Christian” evangelists who work to actively take away various legal rights from gay people. Al-Qaeda’s mission to kill “infidel” Americans is not much different from some in Uganda who are working to enact federal laws there to systemically exterminate all gay people, who have committed no crime, and their supporters. So, it’s no wonder that today, on 9/11, gay people can really “relate” — with perhaps more anger than any of us in America. And most Americans don’t realize that a gay man, Mark Bingham, was one of the angry heroes who overcame terrorists and took down the plane in Pennsylvania that many believe was headed to Washington with a mission to destroy the Capitol.
The more progressive thinkers believe in the co-existence of all peoples of the world, regardless of nationality, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, physical condition, appearance, etc. These are the people who regard 9/11 each year as a day of remembrance, reverence, and hope that the kind of thinking and behavior that brought about the tragedies of 9/11/01 are never repeated, and that more enlightened, calmer, more rational, more tolerant heads prevail. We could say that about preventing future terrorist attacks, or about achieving full LGBT equality.
That’s my vision. That’s my hope. That’s my mission. Welcome to my world