Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Here, Queer and Becoming Visible

Just 118 years after Oscar Wilde’s arrest for sodomy, the LGBT struggle is finally being validated as a worthy cause. The news is full of LGBT issues, from a lesbian military widow being denied spousal benefits, queers being thrown out of restaurants, denied marriage venues and wedding cakes, anti-gay prom efforts in the Midwest and the Associated Press Style controversy over whether the words husband or wife should be used for same-gender couples. Even Obama refers to us with some regularity, linking Selma and Seneca Falls to Stonewall.

This is not to imply that we are winning these battles, actually, in many instances, the backlash has become stronger. Soul-numbing slights have been an expected occurrence for queers for centuries. But it takes public validation for many heterosexuals to be able to see the forest through the trees. And, as in the Black civil rights struggle, people are coming of the woodwork claiming they supported us all along. Well, they say that hindsight is 20/20 and that is definitely preferable to total blindness.

In the bad old days, as an inveterate leftist, mostly what our community faced was invisibility. Bringing up the subject of our oppression would sometimes elicit accusations of “bourgeois decadence” or in some way imply that we were diverting attention from class and racial struggles as though we didn’t occupy places in all other groups.

When a brave non-queer stood up for us, more often than not the comment would have been preceded by an “I’m straight but…” disclaimer. Even in the early gay pride parades straight folks could, more safely, employ the option of marching together as “straights for gay rights.”

But we have persisted and in the geological timeframe of historical change. Will we eventually see full equal rights in this country and perhaps even in this world? I can only live in hope. Still, we have to brace ourselves for the end game struggle. The laps directly before the finish line tend to be the most draining and exhausting of the entire race.