03 March 2011

Gay Heroes and Gay Rights

Who is your gay hero? Who did you look up to when you were growing up or coming out? That is the question that I was asked recently, and after thinking on it, I realized quickly that I never had one, and for good reason. Sure, there was Harvey Milk and Harvey Fierstein whom I respected greatly, and many others I looked up to, but that was not because they were gay, but because of whom they were as individuals. Same with Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln and a myriad of others, people who did great things for the good of many, saw the wrong in the world and fought to make things right, but their sexuality or their skin color had little or nothing to do with it.

I do not believe in a gay hero or even gay rights. OK, I know this sounds a bit unusual, if not downright traitorous, but follow my logic for a moment. First, while I am a gay man, being gay is not the end-all, be-all of who I am. I am also Jewish (non-practicing), Caucasian, a movie lover and many other things, but why should the term gay be the tag that I should be solely associated with? And what’s more, why would anyone else want their sexuality to be their entire description of who they are?

If someone fights for “gay rights”, they are doing a disservice to not just gay people, but anyone who identifies themselves as a minority or other type of class. We should all be fighting for equal human rights. If I get special rights because I am gay, that suggests that there is something wrong with my sexuality that it warrants special treatment, as though I am not deserving of the same rights as my straight neighbor. It does not; who I sleep with has nothing to do with who I am as an individual. Gay heroes do not really exist; of course there are numerous individuals who did great things for our civil liberties, and yes they were gay, or straight, but why choose that label to identify them with?

Martin Luther King was a great man who fought for equal rights. Yes, he was a black man and his cause was for all black people to be treated equally, but he did not stop there. He believed in equal human rights, regardless of skin color. Abraham Lincoln believed that slavery should have been abolished and was willing to let the country tear its self apart with a civil war in order to win freedom for slaves. But let me ask you this; does this make either MLK or Lincoln your heterosexual hero? Mr. King was also a Baptist; does that make him your Baptist hero? Of course not, he was a human being who fought for the rights of other humans to have clear, equal rights without it being based on color.

So how can I look up to someone as my hero and base it on their sexuality? As a kid, my hero was Superman and Luke Skywalker. It didn’t matter that Superman was straight or that Luke had a thing for his sister. What mattered was that they believed in freedom, truth, justice, and for one of them, in wearing tights and a cape. Fashion statements aside, they were symbols of good, regardless of any labels. So why should we be any different?

I did not want a gay wedding, I wanted to get married to the person I loved. I don’t want special rights or a parade because I prefer same sex coupling, I want to be treated equally as a human because I am a person, that I do love other humans, and believe we all have the equal right love, respect and whatever success we desire. Asking for special rights because of our sexuality, or looking up to someone as a hero because of one label does not make us any better or worse, but it does set us aside from the rest of the mass populace.

Would you ask a straight man who their straight hero was? Sure, the testosterone fueled over compensators might answer with “John Wayne” or “The Rock”. But most would be confused by the question.

Yes, we needed the parades and flags to get our point across that we are here and not going anywhere. But why fight for gay rights when we should be demanding equal rights regardless of our orientation? Would you ask for special Italian rights? What about Irish rights, or ask who your red-headed hero is?

Sorry Supes, but a cape does not a hero make, nor does their sexuality. Yes, I have heroes, but I could care less if they are gay or straight, black or green. That is not to say that our differences and uniqueness should not be expressed or embraced. But they should not be all we are, either. So, who is your hero? Or better yet, do you have what it takes to be a hero and fight for the right to be equal?

Point of the conversation: Appreciate the fight, not the cause.

- Shaun Taylor

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