Over in America, each of the states, as United as they stand, is forging its own way through the divisive issue of gay marriage. A relentless struggle between progressive civil rights and old fashioned traditionalism, with strong voices in both camps. It's a battle and it's happening right now. It must be remembered how far we've come though, and that a massive amount of change has already happened due to our LGBT predecessors and their hard work and utter determination. Today, there is less to fight for in this regard and marriage seems like the last big hurdle. I believe, however, that the determination is still as strong as ever and that the fight will be won -- sooner or later. There's a definite air of inevitability, despite the recent setbacks.
Here in Britain, it's a very different scene. On the legal side of things, there's almost nothing left to fight for; we have laws to protect us from hate crimes and laws to ensure we're not discriminated against in our workplaces, we have laws that allow us to adopt and we've abolished all traces of anti-gay legislation apart from one niggling issue -- gay men are still prohibited from donating blood. The 'gay blood ban' to this day, however, relies on the fact that a higher relative percentage of gay men carry the AIDS virus than straight men, so it remains a tricky problem to overcome. On the marriage side of things, us Brits have been appeased and soothed and otherwise placated by the introduction of civil partnerships which offer same-sex couples all the benefits of marriage. It essentially is marriage, just by a different name.
In my opinion, the gay rights movement is generally a muted movement as a result. The subject isn't on the airwaves, nor is it in mainstream publications, nor even is it in the consciousness of most LGBT people in Britain today. Is this like checkmate? We know we've won, so we'll walk away content in the knowledge that there's little left worth fighting for. If so, then maybe that's fine. Maybe that's the sensible stance. We're not really into all that confrontation and general fuss-making anyway. We'll just indulge ourselves in the odd moan about the portrayal of gays on TV and how the gay blood ban offends us as a community. A cathartic whinge every so often does just the trick, after all.
I'm by no means a gay rights activist and I do agree that the militant-style of campaigning of the past has no place in the future. We're beyond that now. However, it has to be said, that there is one major challenge still ahead of us as a minority. Maybe time will, in the end, render this sequence obsolete but for the foreseeable future it seems that every LGBT kid will be forced to go through the coming out process if they are to live free and open lives.
It's a social hurdle. A minor complication. It's something that we each build up our own procedure for. A tac. A strategy that generally works. It's a repeated process that you learn to execute smoothly -- and for those of you who haven't yet come out, I promise that it really does get easier as you grow older and more worldly wise. Yet, the problem isn't necessarily the inconvenience or the doubt in the back of our minds as adults. Far from it. We're big enough, ugly enough, and we all have our own challenges in life.
But what about that teenager who has yet to make the first step? And you -- grown-up gayer -- remember back to when you were that teenager looking to make that colossal step; remember how it felt? Few of us were brought up in households where homosexuality was open, discussed, and accepted. Most of us go through that paranoia and fear of telling our friends and family -- even those of us who were raised in very open-minded settings. Coming Out firmly remains an admission, a telling of a secret, or worse, a weighty confession. It's an initial process that none of us ever forget. For most teens, this isn't simply a challenge, it's a traumatic experience.
It's an experience that I think puts many at an immediate disadvantage to their peers. Only the lucky few live near resources like LGBT youth clubs or have the the freedom to use websites like QueerAttitude.com. And of those lucky few, how many are strong enough within themselves to use these resources to help them figure it all out? And how many go through it all alone?
It's very easy to be a QA member, or a member of an LGBT youth organisation, or even to be a an adult member of the LGBT community and simultaneously believe that being queer isn't that a big a deal these days. It's easy because for a lot of us, the world is a pretty welcoming place and we don't run into many problems that concern our sexuality -- and that's amazing -- but until coming out ceases to be a process, and ceases to be an event, we need to remind ourselves that there is still work to be done.
QA's vision statement is Finding futures of freedom and acceptance™, and an important vision that is. We've come so far, yet we're nowhere near the stage whereby kids can easily and thoughtlessly proclaim their interest in the same sex. Kids should be expected to make up their own minds without the hard-wired assumption of heterosexuality. Adults, similarly, shouldn't need to invoke their learned strategy for coming out to new people. Sexual attraction needs to be seen by the general population as something as unpredictable as wether your new neighbour will follow football or cricket; there's always going to be more footy fans but you'd always ask the question rather than making the presumption. Until that's the case, we're always going to have a vision to push for.
We shouldn't need to be break out of closets in order to be free. We need to be free from the outset. When we've exhausted all other battles in the war of sexual freedom, the final battle can be for nothing less than full and unhindered liberation.
Graham's blog: politics, poetry, and introspection