Tag Archives: Same-sex marriage

“Eat Mor Chikin” – Nah, I’m good.

First, here’s the thing:  my immediate goal in life is to finish my dissertation.  This means everything that isn’t my dissertation is on the back burner.  Everything.  “Doing what I have to do so that I can do what I want to do” – I’m all about that life right now.

Over the next year, I suspect this is how things will go.  I’ll interrupt your regularly scheduled program with bits of social and/or political commentary, and I’ll slip back into seclusion.  My friend, who finished his Doctorate a couple of months ago, calls it “the bubble.”  The bubble is my reality from now until graduation day.

But before I go, here’s a nugget I’ll just leave here for your consumption.

My Beef with Chik-fil-A

Today is my early day.  Ideally, I’d go home to drop off my things, and head to the Chik-fil-A on Exit 13 – it’s my favorite location.  The nuggets there are always fresh, waffle fries are always crisp, and when I order a ‘half and half, more tea than lemonade,’ they make it perfectly every time.  The customer service is also great there – they respond to all of your ‘thank yous’ with ‘my pleasure,’ and they call you by name before bringing your tray over to your table.  And they’re always so well-stocked in those after dinner mints I love.

I don’t eat fast food often, but when I do, I eat Chik-fil-A.  It’s been my favorite fast food joint since I was in high school.  But I can’t go there anymore.  I can’t spend my money there.  And I’m not being petty about it; I don’t care that Truett Cathy doesn’t support marriage equality.  As long as the recipe for the nuggets and fries didn’t change, he and I could coexist at opposite ends of the spectrum just fine.  What eats me up is that Chik-fil-A has taken personal opinion into the political realm.  In politics, money contributed to campaigns translates into politicians who push policies that have real consequences for people’s’ quality of life.  As a general principle, lawmakers are supposed to create policies that expand opportunities for individuals, and ensure their liberty and dignity.  This idea is the most fundamental element of American citizenship and spirit.  We are free to disagree, but we don’t use religion disguised as tradition to impose our will.

Chik-fil-A and those who are misguided in their support of these supposed “traditional Christian values’ are doing exactly the opposite of what our Founders intended – blending church, state, and commerce to elevate their position.  I said in a Facebook status last week that  it’s important to remember when it comes to arbitrary moral designations, the pendulum swings both ways.  In other words,  one day someone’s arbitrary moral compass will devalue something or someone you care about and you’ll understand why claiming allegiance to ‘values’ which strip folks of their dignity just doesn’t square.

As it stands today, despite having the same qualifications and levels of experience, women in certain types of jobs are still paid less than their male counterparts.  For every $1 earned by their male colleagues, they make approximately $0.70.  If you support the logic of Truett Cathy, then support it all the way.  Technically, traditional Christian values affirms this inequality.  Eve is of Adam’s rib, right?  Thus, in all things, and for all time, She is His subordinate.  You’d be hard pressed to find a woman as qualified as her colleagues, who works as hard as her colleagues, who’d be willing to accept being compensated less than her colleagues, gender differences notwithstanding.

I’m sorry folks, the logic just doesn’t bear out for me.  Chik-fil-A’s political contributions equal outright discrimination that’s permissible only because it’s couched in the terms “traditional,” “Christian,” and “values”.  I don’t have the patience for this.  I’m sick of fighting these culture wars because progress wins, or society loses.  In that regard, I’ve lost the taste for the kind of chikin-shit Chik-fil-A serves.


The Romanticized South Redux: I’m Looking at You, North Carolina

Jennifer Cockrham, a nurse from Walkertown, N.C., holds her hand over her heart for the Pledge of Allegiance during a rally supporting a constitutional ban on gay marriage in Raleigh, N.C., on Friday, April 20, 2012. Voters will decide May 8 whether North Carolina will remain the only state in the South without such a constitutional ban. (AP Photo/Allen Breed) *sigh*

Being a Southerner in a major city has made me acutely aware of what I appreciate about my heritage, and those qualities I loathe about it. When I moved to the DC metro area 5 years ago, folks knew immediately that I wasn’t from around here. I learned quickly that the ease of my smile was welcomed precisely because warmth is an unfamiliar character trait around these parts. Likewise, the first time I visited New York a few years ago, I thanked a man for information and he called me back over to where he was standing to ask where I was from. When I told him I hailed from the great state of Alabama, he said to his comrades, “Told ya she wasn’t from here.”

Moments like these provide great perspective. Because to Yankees, southern hospitality represents a kind of charm and grace that you just don’t get everywhere. We say “please” and “thank you” and “ma’am” because somebody along the way told us that’s how decent people treat people. Now that I’ve had the chance to experience being Southern from the outside looking in, I’ll shred my usual diplomacy for what my parents called “constructive criticism.” Dear Dixie, I’m only telling you what I see because I still love you.

And what I see most often is a purposeful acceptance of ignorance that flows as mightily as the Mississippi. Sure, there’s some up North too, but Yankee know-nothings are more frequently confronted with the manifestations of their ignorance. It’s more difficult to degrade a person or a group of persons when you have to interact with them on a basic level everyday. It’s difficult to assume that all Arab-looking people are terrorists when one has invited you to his family’s home to celebrate a special occasion. It’s more difficult to conclude that all Spanish-speaking people are “Mexican” when you work with a gang of Guatemalans.

On the other hand, it’s easy to be against something that you don’t already know or understand. It is both easy and cowardly to convince yourself that you’re protecting tradition by discriminating against people who practice life differently than you.

Yet, not understanding or not knowing is never the ultimate offense; life is an exercise in trial and error, and triumph. The true crime lies in the South’s prideful incredulity about change and progress. There’s an undercurrent of “this is how we do it down here; this is how we’ve always done it; this is how we’ll always do it.”

The former governor of Alabama echoed a similar refrain in 1963. George Wallace stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama blocking the path of progress, both literally and figuratively, for Black Americans and for Southerners. I imagine that Wallace hoped to prevent Black students from integrating the University of Alabama, and White social psyches by proxy. Because it’s difficult to perpetuate the “lazy,” “stupid” narrative about Blacks when they sit right beside you in Chemistry class — when they have the same opportunity as you to succeed just as much as you. As soon as just one of “them” graduates with honors and just one of “y’all” doesn’t, then the superiority and entitlement you’ve grown so comfortable toting around, has holes in it. So does your superiority narrative.

Racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-elitism — these are but one aspect of the issue. I mentioned decency earlier, and I believe that’s the common delusion about southern hospitality. It’s not unconditional; you get it unless and until who you are is something different from what they (the majority) have deemed “normal,” and therefore acceptable.

Yesterday, voters in North Carolina voted to amend their state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. And to be fair, North Carolina isn’t the first state to pass a constitutional amendment discriminating against ordinary Americans in this way. There are at least 30 others. But we expected more from the Tar Heels. From a state that boasts pillars of higher learning and advancement like Duke and Wake Forest Universities, the University of North Carolina, and from a state that grows increasingly culturally diverse with metropolitan areas like Charlotte, we expected better from North Carolina.

Amendment 1 is not only disrespectful of human difference, it is unconstitutional, make no mistake about it. Reverend William J. Barber II, a pastor in North Carolina and head of the local NAACP, laid it out beautifully. “However you feel about same-sex marriage, ” he says, “religiously or personally or morally; you can be for or against, you should always be against division and hatred and discrimination being written into the constitution.”

The intolerance for difference in the South is a tradition, as is the comfort with not knowing or caring about what an amorphous “they” do wherever “they” are. In my view, the South goes kicking and screaming into the 21st century, and to its own peril, as it lags in virtually every indicator of intellectual, social, and cultural upward mobility. There are pockets of progress, but Atlanta simply isn’t synonymous for Georgia, neither is Houston for Texas, nor Charlotte for North Carolina.

Honestly, how much more “organizing,” hand-holding, pandering, and there-thereing do we need in the south before we just say ‘you are wrong’? Your traditions, like marching a Confederate flag across the football field at halftime (which I experienced in high school), are wrong. Can you imagine how it feels, as a Black woman, to be immersed in a celebration of the Confederacy when your intention was to show up for a football game?

I can’t keep giving out passes for incredulity about growth and social maturity. The south consistently votes against its own interests. “They don’t know no better” doesn’t work as an excuse in this case; these are conscious choices. If you’ll drift with me down memory lane, you’ll remember that Eddie Long and T.D. Jakes sure did lead Black folks to the George W. Bush promised land in 2004 precisely because G.W. was an avowed opponent of marriage equality. Bush wasn’t saying much about the dwindling prospects for middle- and lower middle-income Americans, but that was neither here nor there. At least he would ensure that the gays couldn’t marry. Unclouded by the haze of religious rhetoric, folks might have seen that GDubs’ ideological perspective would also ensure that they couldn’t marry either — because they couldn’t afford to once the economy tanked while they marched in opposition to a matter that had absolutely no bearing on their own lives.

Since I left home, I’ve been asked many times if I would ever move back, and the answer has consistently been no. I can’t. I don’t want to. I can’t live in a place where my personhood, the way I love, and the relationship I’ve built isn’t protected; where discrimination is tolerated because the majority is comfortable with it. I don’t begrudge anyone who has the courage to go back and fix what’s wrong where we’re from. However, the first step – the most important one – is acknowledging that there is a problem.

The challenge and triumph of diversity allows to you to see objectively. You’re able to measure who you are and what you think against something different. And while you may not always agree, at least the experience of meeting someone who looks, speaks, or thinks differently than you has opened you up some. It makes clear that how you do it, and how it’s always been done isn’t the only way to do it, nor is it always the right way.


The Hubris of Heterosexuality

We're queer. Get fucking used to it.

It’s amazing what people think they can say to you.

“I mean, I don’t accept your lifestyle, but we can still be cool.”

Whatchu mean you don’t accept my lifestyle, but “we” can still be cool?   Who the fuck do you think you are?

I’ve pretty much had it with benevolent acceptance of willful ignorance.  If cats are on stupid shit, I feel compelled to not only be intolerant of it, but also to call it out when I see it.

As a political scientist, I’ve learned that politics depends on an analysis of relationships — interpersonal ones as well as those between individuals and institutions (government, church, etc.). It’s the interpersonal ones that inform policies and can alter the ways we relate to our institutions. For this reason, I always find it interesting that Presidential candidates seek to pander first to the wholesome folks of middle America, and those good and honorable patriots in the South (whose schools and highways still bear the names of Confederate generals). The rationale is that these people consistently vote, and consistently vote conservatively. But do the politicos ever stop to consider why? In theory, conservatism is a fine ideological perspective, but it thrives on a fear of the unknown.  Ideological conservatism appears incapable of conceiving of an “unfamiliar” that isn’t also automatically construed as “worse and/or less than” that which you know.

I told my mother I was gay almost 7 months ago, and it has gone better than I had hoped in some respects, and worse in others. My father is rational and understands that having a girlfriend instead of a boyfriend doesn’t make me any less extraordinary as a human being, nor any less productive as a citizen of the world. My mother, on the other hand, has declared all out war with my sexuality and with me. Initially, I understood her hurt and her shock. Assumptions are comfortable until the assumption of your greatest fear gets confirmed. It takes people time to grapple with new realities. I get that, and I respect that position.

My tolerance ends at the notion that because I am gay, my lifestyle (I’ve grown to loathe this word) is less serious than the “normal” heterosexual lifestyle. This gay thing must be a phase, or I must hate men because of some awful affront they (yep, all of ’em) perpetrated upon me. Or perhaps I’m confused because I secretly want to be a man.

I call bullshit. Thinking this way is evidence of one’s lack of exposure to diversity, both cultural and intellectual.

It’s one thing to not know the various incarnations of everything in our vast universe. It’s quite another, however, to be so arrogant about shit you don’t fucking know. People have gone out of their way to ensure that gay men and women aren’t allowed to marry or adopt children, or serve openly in the military. This obstruction of equality indicates that the only legitimate kind of love exists between heterosexuals. This is the kind of logic that would support two crack heads getting married on a whim in Vegas, or a woman who meets, courts, and selects a fiancé from a pool of 25 on national television. And speaking of crack heads, I remember when the former mayor of DC, Marion Barry, weighed in on marriage equality. He was against it because…well, it doesn’t even matter why. This cat got caught trying to fuck around on his wife, while snorting a crack rock. But Mayor Barry and his constituents think they should be able to tell me that I can’t marry my girlfriend. “…but we can still be cool.” This is the hubris of heterosexuality, and fuck that.

Despite having had beautiful and fulfilling relationships with the women in my life, my mother is convinced that what I’m missing is a man to make me the “apple of his eye.” There is nothing more infuriating to me than the assertion that I need a man to validate me, my womanhood, or my person-hood.  The idea that a woman hasn’t yet reached her full potential until she’s the apple of some man’s eye … Yeah, fuck that too.

I’ve lost all patience with folks’ “tolerance” of my “lifestyle,” as if how I live is fundamentally different from the way most others live, or as if they’re projecting heterosexual benevolence and doing me a favor. And fuck that. My relationships are an extension of all that I am; they are loving human interactions with wonderful human beings. I don’t care what peoples’ religious, traditional, cultural, and personal dispositions are, or why they are. But I know that being gay has never defined me; being authentic about who I am as an individual, however, has. Thus, the proper respect for me and mine, is absolutely non-negotiable. And if one cannot accept that, then no. We can’t be cool. He or she has more life work to do.

And finally, because I’m gay doesn’t mean I automatically want you, ma’am, to ride this ride.  There are standards, and being a woman is merely the beginning.