Guest Editorials

An Exercise in Community Building

In the whole of human experience, no question of ethic has been as inspiring nor necessary than that of the eternal struggle for a world where the desires of the individual clash with the expectations of a society. This eternal struggle is evident in our never-ending quest to escape oppression. Bible scholars and the staunchest secularists can agree that no matter the time, no matter the place, a perpetual battle for an end to oppression has existed. They may also be so inclined as to agree that this seemingly natural struggle that pits those who have and those who do not against one another has led to development and subsequent implementation of policies and ideas that have fundamentally eased the suffering of all who have and will follow afterward. To try to separate the internal human need for freedom from any other is to deny our very humanity, denial of which not only perpetuates oppression but justifies the destruction of all forms of interpersonal communication and community building. As I have further developed my identity as a member of the LGBT “community” I have began to witness a worrisome and wholly corrupt process within this “community” to which I belong and as a direct result, we have sacrificed the humanity that should characterize this minority group. We have forgotten what it means to be human and instead bowed to the very whims that have destroyed movements in the past. Rather than seeking to change the very fabric of the society which we live in, we are content with remaining outcasts and continually butting our heads against a system that has fundamentally wronged not only us, but all of its members. Although we are all minorities, we have abandoned the role of the minority in any society and instead vested all of our energies in using the very system which oppresses us in an attempt to change this same system. While I do not seek to inspire a rebellion against a society in which all of us can find our home, I do seek to fundamentally change the way in which we engage this society. Although, we believe that we are a just cause and that we stand on the side of progress, we have abandoned the mechanisms for bringing true change in order to chant slogans and attempt to seek only a change of law and not of being. We have rallied behind leaders who seek to rally us in order to bring us our rights instead of lead us to a future where not only do we have the law on our side but we have an identity that is unchanging and proud. This future is only possible if we build a community before we begin building a movement.

In order to begin building a community we must first seek to acknowledge differences and understand them. We must understand that the desires of individuals are far more important than the slogans of a movement. Look around at the people that you choose to surround yourselves with, do all of them agree with your choices in music and movies? Do each of them seek to do the same things as you? Do each of them believe in the same happiness that you seek? No! Do you still accept them wholly for who they are? Yes, because your need to be loved and accepted as a human being dictate that you be willing to educate the group about a small part of who you are in order to best serve the group as a whole and thus accomplish what you originally needed. If these types of interactions are acceptable in the more intimate interactions of our lives, how then has our community become known as a rude and confused group of individuals? It is because we have forgotten the most necessary role of the minority that I hinted at above. While it is the role of a society to bring all members into the fold and add another stitch to the social fabric, it cannot always accomplish this and thus the minority is born. In a way, every single member of a society is a minority, we are born as a minority and only through the mechanisms of change do we ever rise above our heritage as a vulnerable young child. As we grow into a society and begin to extend our hand to the figurative stove that a society is, we have a variety of experiences and whether we burn our hand or grab a piece of the figurative pie, we learn. This exchange with society is also reciprocated and as a result of our individual actions, our society learns. Thus the important task of the minority comes into play. While we may seek to gain a small piece of the societal pie for ourselves, we must also teach others how to reach the pie and make sure as to only take what we need and always be sure to rinse your plate afterward. The analogy of an innocent child taking pie from the stove is important for a few reasons.

Reason number one, rather than discussing any societal issue as though it is a taboo and only belongs in the hands of our elected leaders or intellectuals it is important for every member of our society to communicate their personal beliefs and opinions on the topic being discussed. This is important because it is the only way that true education can occur. As time has shown the goal of education has not been to show the individual what exists within their box of comfort, but rather to show what is outside that box and thus allow them to make an educated and understanding approach to the topic being discussed. The role of the minority in any situation of oppression is not only to agitate for a change in policy, but to actively bring about that change through the use of discussion and education. This applies to us as members of our community in a particularly important way. We cannot assume that society will change overnight and that people will believe that just because we have illuminated a blemish on the social quilt it will disappear. Rather than taking offense to harsh language or a poor report on the state of affairs, we must look to every achievement and disappointment in the same way. We must look to events such as the passage of Proposition 8 not as a failure but a chance to educate. Those who voted against marriage did not do so out of hate, they did so because they don’t understand what it is like to be who we are, to be gay. We must understand that hatred does not exist when there is understanding. Rather than trying to change a law in spite of someone, we must change individuals in spite of the law. How do we do this then, how do we change laws if we are focused on education? That’s it simply, by educating individuals on who we are as individuals we can realize an unfounded community, by following the advice of Gandhi and being the change we wish to see we can truly bring about not only an acceptance from our government, but an acceptance from our society. Which then is the ultimate goal? Do you want to be able to marry or do you want that marriage to be recognized in the minds and hearts of all those in our nation? Do you want to be able to hold hands in public free from police harassment or do you want to hold hands in public and have children run past as though there is nothing wrong with the scene before them? The beginning of all of our entire debate about gay marriage should begin with this mindset, that the acceptance of society is far more important than the laws themselves. How do we accomplish this change then? Rather than attacking those who disagree, accept them. Rather than lunging for the kill in situations of misunderstanding, accept your shortfalls as well. This power to change the society we live in can be given a situational example. The next time you are called a faggot or a queer, rather than simply telling that person where to go in vivid detail, understand that they are simply begging you to answer a question. When you are told that you are wrong, understand that they are simply asking you to prove to them why you aren’t. Hatred does not stem from a natural process, it stems from a misunderstanding. Understand that when people use hateful words, you have a power to educate them. When someone tells you that you are immoral, understand that they don’t know what it is like to love a member of the same gender and attempt to educate them. Know that as a minority you have an incredible power over your society. Either you can continue to be an outcast by continually showing members of our society that we are simply angry and confused, or show them that you are an individual, that you have worth, and that you as a person give meaning to the rainbow flag you carry with pride. Show the world the I, Turner Christopher Bitton, am more than the sum of your conclusions, that I love and I feel, that I am scared of the fact that were my lover’s family to say so, I would not be able to visit him in the hospital. Do not be afraid to admit that you don’t have all of the answers as to how you became gay, but never compromise that it is unique to you. Whoever you are, however you got where you are does not matter. By seeking to explain that it is not a choice we are merely taking away the value that your life has, do not demand that people accept you or respect you because society will not respect you until you can accept that you are an individual. Don’t get so caught up in defending yourself from being hurt that you are willing to hurt others. Live as who you are and understand that without differences, our lives are worthless. The next time someone tells you that you are going to die of aids, don’t hesitate to tell them that you are careful. Understand that the individual telling you that is simply misunderstanding of what aids is. Misunderstanding is what drives parents to disown you and understand that you may have to hurt in order to heal. Never forget that your parents are simply trying to help you live a successful and happy life. They simply do not understand what it means to be gay because they are not. They have fears that stem from a lack of education and it is our responsibility as the minority to educate them. Go and share yourself with the world, do not be afraid of not getting married, come out to everyone you know and show them that you are who you are, that you can bring them happiness through your happiness. Understand your power and make connections to everyone around you. Never take for granted that you are important, that you have the ability to get married when those around you recognize you and your loved one as a couple. Help bring a change of mindset as you fight for a change in laws. Only through education can our movement ever become a community.

Reason number two, when we have gained a sense of self it is our responsibility. Getting a piece of the figurative societal pie illustrates why our community is failing. We have not built a community and as a result we are having no success in changing the laws of our nation. Most of us were raised to believe that we are all equal and that we should always respect others. It’s rather ironic then to see that even in a small minority group like ours, we are drawing the same lines that characterize our struggle with the rest of our society. Our forefathers warned us about developing into factions and this advice has been proven time and again. During the civil rights movement, a series of factions developed within the African-American community. Personalities and groups such as the Freedom Riders, Black Panthers, Malcom X, and Martin Luther King, jr. all rose to prominence within the black community during the movement. The parallels between our community and theirs are stunning, we have a variety of groups developing and we are beginning to do what the black movement did in it’s infancy. Groups such as Equality Utah, the Log Cabin Republicans, and the Human Rights Campaign are all attempting bring about the same goal through different means and while all of these organizations are admirable in their work, we have forgotten their ultimate purpose and allowed them to compete too much to the same end. What we must begin to do is involve everyone of a sexual minority to feel at home in the community. Rather than entrenching ourselves in rigid systems of classification we must begin to tear down walls and build bridges. Rather than being apologetic about the lifestyles of others we must seek to education those who will only seek to understand these unique individuals through us. The next time someone tells us that we are “much better” or “less gay” than someone else, we must understand that the other person is just as valuable of a member of our community as we are. Understanding the differences between someone who is gay and someone who is transgender is an integral part of any community, but exploiting those differences for ones personal gain destroys the community and thus the change we hope to see. When we are willing to sacrifice someone else for the sake of our own happiness we have abandoned the humanity that I spoke of earlier and have thus become the very hatred we have sworn to destroy. When it comes to protecting the rights of ourselves, the only way we can truly do so is to protect the rights of all. Were we to abandon those who are between genders then we abandon all of the value that any gained rights would have. Our community must strive to become an all-inclusive, loving, and solid community built on the principle of fostering the growth and offering an environment where individuals can truly heal. We are such a small portion of society that it is interesting to see that we want to draw further differences. We may have a solid gay movement, but we must become a gay community. A movement is created in the hopes of moving forward into uncharted territory while a community should be created because it is where we come home to. Without the creation of a solid gay community then our movement will forever be condemned to wander around looking for holes in our society to hide in. When we create this community we can begin a full integration into the society that we hope to educate, only by bringing every voice to the table can we truly begin to understand what it means to be a community. When every voice speaks then the ears of the opposition must listen to all sides of the argument. Bring your friends, your family, and your acquaintances to our community. Help them understand that when we have understood that each of us have different needs and desires, we can truly begin to heal. When we have created an identity and a community to go home to, we will begin to change the society that needs to hear our voices. Only through the creation of an all-inclusive and loving community can we truly begin to understand what it means to be accepted and only then can we cease to be a minority.

Remember as we march, that we march in the name of community. Remember, that when we march we experience a healing power that no other source can give. When we march with those whom we disagree or those who we may not feel are the same as us, we are healing a part of ourselves. Only through this community that we are creating can we truly achieve our ultimate goal, equality. There is no greater achievement than for a community to embrace its differences, to accept its downfalls, and to bring about the inclusion of all those who are oppressed. The only way to overcome oppression is to stare it in the face and understand that you are hurting, that there are others out there who are hurting too, and the only way to end the pain, is to bring everyone you know to a level of understanding that truly creates the atmosphere of community. As an oppressed individual etched in the cement of the Berlin Wall and the walls of time, “Never doubt that many small people, who in many small places, and do many small things, can alter the face of the world”.

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