Originally Heard on the John Selig Outspoken Podcast
With gay pride celebrations taking place throughout much of the country throughout the Summer I have been thinking about what gay pride means.
Certainly it is fun to partake in the parades and festivals that celebrate the historic Stonewall revolt. But for me gay pride goes much deeper. Being an activist and a writer I believe that gay pride is more important than an annual street party. Gay pride means staying informed about the issues that impact our community, overcoming the complacency that things are okay the way they are and not giving in to inertia by standing up for our rights rather than waiting for somebody else to do so for us.
Gay pride means making sure that the next generation has an easier time in school than we did, has families more accepting of their sexual orientation and gender identity than our families were. Gay pride means changing laws so that same–sex couples receive the same rights and benefits as heterosexual couples and that gays are safe from bashing and can’t be fired from our jobs. Gays have made tremendous progress since the late 60s but we still have a long way to go. Pride is continuing the process of coming out to friends, family, and coworkers. Straight people who know gay people are more supportive of our rights than people who don’t.
According to a Gallup telephone poll conducted this May, tolerance for gay rights is at the highest level in 30 years. 59% of those taking the poll believed that same–sex relations should be legal (up 13 points in just 5 years). 57% believe that homosexuality should be an acceptable alternative life style (I despise that term). Furthermore, 89% of responders believe that gays should have equal rights when it comes to job opportunities. Still only 49% of the poll participants believe that homosexual relations are morally acceptable and only 46% were in favor of same–sex marriage being legal. Women tended to support gay rights more than men as did younger people, folks that identified politically as Democrats or independents and those that were less religious. The trends in the poll are encouraging but challenges still abound.
Voting in elections is a must. People who don’t exercise their vote cede power to our opponents. If you think your vote doesn’t count, had 600 more gays in Florida voted for Al Gore in November 2000, he would have been in the White House instead of George W. Bush. Send e–mails and phone elected officials concerning gay issues. These actions take just a few minutes and yet too few of us make the effort. Right–wing fundamentalist organizations are out en mass fighting against us. Opposition to abortion and gay rights are their rallying cry for raising money and gaining power. We are up against mighty opponents; none of us has the luxury of complacency.
By the way, gays don’t usually choose our own battles. The battles typically pick us. Some gays have argued that gays in the military, the Boy Scouts of America not accepting gays or same–sex marriage have been all that important to them. Every battle that arises is critical to all of us! Any win is a step towards acceptance. Any loss empowers our foes to gain power and take on yet other limitations of our rights!
Take advantage of the power of your keyboard. Email a letter to the editor of your local newspaper to put a face on gay rights and move more readers to accept us.
Gay pride goes even further than participating in the electoral process and writing letters to the editor. Civil rights are typically granted in the workplace before working their way into judicial decisions and legislation. Fully 86% of the Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their non–discrimination policies. In fact, only one of the top 50 Fortune 500 companies does not – ExxonMobil! Why would any of us purchase gas at an Exxon or Mobil station, yet many gays do? More than half of the Fortune 500 companies now provide domestic partner health benefits, which represents over a 250% increase in just 7 years! Companies haven’t made these changes out of the goodness of their corporate hearts! They know that happy employees are more productive.
Companies are aware that of gay consumer market is huge. According to a recent report from Witeck–Combs, a respected public relations and marketing company focusing on the GLBT community, the value of the gay market in 2006 was $461 billion which is slightly more than the cost to American taxpayers of the war in Iraq to date. That’s a lot of buying power! More than two–thirds of gays indicate that they take a company’s workplace policies towards their GLBT employees into consideration when deciding where to shop. So be sure to vote with your wallet as well as your ballot.
Make your computer your best friend when it comes to keeping up on important issues. You’re listening to this podcast so obviously you are a seasoned user. Stay current and put the feelings of unity and excitement that you feel at your local gay parade or festival to work for increased rights for our community. That to me is what Gay Pride is really about!
© 2007 John R. Selig. All rights reserved.