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In the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict, his acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, 35 LGBT groups joined a ”call for justice.” ”We will honor Trayvon Martin by strengthening our commitment to end bias, hatred, profiling and violence across our communities,” the coalition wrote in its open letter. But they didn’t speak for the entirety of the LGBT community, some of whom refer to 17-year-old Martin as a ”thug.”
As Army Pvt. Bradley Manning sat imprisoned at Quantico Marine Base, awaiting trial for passing documents to WikiLeaks, some affiliated with San Francisco Pride announced in April that the gay soldier would serve as an honorary grand marshal for the city’s Pride Parade. At the other end of the spectrum, Josh Seefried, an OutServe-SLDN board member and an Air Force first lieutenant, spoke for many when he called that honor – which quickly evaporated amid the controversy – a ”complete insult” to those serving in the armed forces.
OutServe-SLDN, the foremost organization advancing LGBT equality in the U.S. military, faced friction of its own in June. Executive Director Allyson Robinson was nearly ousted, accusations flew. In the end, the board released a statement with telltale phrasing: ”As is the case with many of our partners at this critical time, OS-SLDN is facing real and significant financial obstacles, forcing the Board to look critically at all aspects of its operations and to consider difficult decisions, including cutting costs and staffing reductions.”
These examples of conflict in our community may not be directly related, yet all point to a bigger picture of a community at a crossroads. With the end of ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” with four popular votes in favor of gay rights, with the Supreme Court doing away with a crucial element of the Defense of Marriage Act, we have come very far, very quickly. Like a rocket we’ve rattled our way through the atmosphere at breakneck speed to find ourselves suddenly in the stillness of space, peaceful and floating, yet also ungrounded.
Should someone start the cheer, ”What do we want?” what would we answer? Equality? Justice? An inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act? Perhaps there are some who, while still wanting ENDA, don’t really care if the transgender community is left behind. Some might think we’ve more or less arrived and it’s time to push not for equality, but for lower taxes or ending poverty. Or for some other agenda that’s not at all LGBT-specific.
As someone who has reported on our LGBT community, from local bars to Bucharest, for nearly 20 years, I’ve never seen expression of such varied values, and with so many options.
As we brace for more LGBT organizations to navigate the same rough seas OS-SLDN is crossing and learn to appreciate new rights, my foremost hope is that the L, G and B will not turn their backs on the T. Sexual orientation and gender identity aren’t the same, but it’s no leap to feel political and social kinship with a trans person, even if she may be a straight housewife in Boise. Second, though I don’t share many values with the GOProud crowd, I will recognize that we nevertheless continue to have a shared interest in LGBT equality. But with a majority of Americans favoring marriage equality, the truth today is I’m more likely to be judged negatively for my atheism than for my sexual orientation – I promise not to take that for granted.
Please let us hold tight to some sense of LGBT community by choice, if soon no longer out of necessity. A decade on, when someone invites you to a Pride festival, don’t ask, ”Why?” Just grab that rainbow flag and go, if only to show gratitude for nonchalance becoming an accepted lifestyle choice.
Will O’Bryan is Metro Weekly‘s managing editor. Contact him at wobryan@MetroWeekly.com. Follow him @wobryan.