On rainbows and empathy

It has been a good month for LGBT rights. Ireland votes YES (Cheers, by the way) and the supreme court apparently decided that everyone has the right to put a rainbow over their profile pictures on Facebook (don’t get me started on that).



So recently the supreme court of the USofA has decided to join the 21st century and finally (FINALLY!) passed a ruling that guarantees the right to same-sex marriage. A decision which is, let’s be clear, nothing but good. Great, in fact. Finally, people are guaranteed a basic right and can avoid discrimination, at least in the eyes of the law.

Sweet, right? So let’s put on our rainbow T-shirts and wave our rainbow flags as we march down the street being happy – gay, if you will. But if you’ll allow me, I’d kindly ask that we take off our rainbow-tinted glasses off for a minute and take a good, long look at all the facets of this situation.

It has been a good month for LGBT rights. Ireland votes YES (Cheers, by the way) and the supreme court apparently decided that everyone has the right to put a rainbow over their profile pictures on Facebook (don’t get me started on that).

Yes, it’s great, but when what we’ve accomplished in the 21st century is to pass a law admitting that the Greeks were right over two thousand years ago, we haven’t really advanced as a civilisation. We’re just playing catch-up.

Speaking of Facebook, it was there that I proposed that straight people celebrating the victory of equal right (singular) for same-sex people might be a tad hypocritical and perhaps – dare I say it? – undeserved. Instead, I advocated humility and that we bow our heads in shame and apologise. I may not have said it in quite so polite a way at the time, but the idea remains the same. Instead of putting rainbows on Facebook as if we deserved it, let’s replace our profile photos of our grinning heterosexual faces with black, blank pictures in memory of those who died for us to come to this decision.

Call your lesbian friend and apologise to her. Walk up to the first transvestite you see on the street, give him or her a hug and tell them how ashamed you are to live in a world where it’s still ok to say on Television“that’s so gay” like it’s a bad thing. Seriously, do it now.

We – that is straight people – those of us who were born with our wires crossed in such a way that we are attracted to the opposite gender, we represent the privileged majority who have been guaranteed the right to get married since we were ushered into this world. And many of us will happily leave the way we came in – ignorant and ungrateful. How many people you know went down to city hall or literally down the aisle and put rings on each other’s fingers then said some malarkey about till death do them part, and never once spared a thought to the gay couple living on their street who couldn’t do that because some white dudes in unironically wearing black dresses decided that was offensive to their personal beliefs?

How does that not make you angry?

So congratulations to all my gay friends who can finally get married legally in the US and Ireland and everywhere else. But what do I say to those who still can’t? Better luck next year? Move to Ireland?

Are you fucking kidding me?

I’m sorry. I can’t be happy. I can’t afford to because I remember what happened up to this point and I know that this changes little. People will continue to discriminate because that’s what people do, and because they are taught to do so from early on. Religious parents will continue to terrorise their gay children with the wrath of some dude who couldn’t procreate except through parthenogenesis. I’m still going to have to tell children in my classroom that it’s wrong to call their friends “gay” like it’s an insult – only to have their parents berate me later because I’m apparently indoctrinating their children – and they will continue to bully that one kid who’s a little different. I cannot be happy because my own friend refused to tell me he was gay because he thought I wouldn’t talk to him anymore if I found out. I can’t be anything but angry because when I see pictures of lesbian couples holding hands in celebration of these decisions I am reminded of my friends who are insulted and spat on in the streets for doing the same.

I will be angry until this stops. I will continue to rage at the injustice and I will not offer a free pass to anyone because we, the straight people, are not off the hook. We do not deserve to pat ourselves on the backs and celebrate this victory because it’s not ours. A friend made a snide remark about empathy allowing them to be happy for others. Empathy is what makes me angry. Empathy keeps me up at night when I see discrimination. Empathy makes me want to walk up to the first white middle-class straight dude and punch him in the face. Even if it means punching myself.

Far be it from me to tell someone not to be happy. Be happy if it makes you happy. I’ll be angry for the both of us, then. I’ll be happy when I wake up in a world where discrimination has stopped stopping people from being able to live their lives – and yes, be happy.

Which means I will go angry to my grave, and that’s something I can live with.

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