Stand up for gays on Oct. 20. Wear purple. Do it in memory of Tyler Clementi, and all the other young people we’ve lost. In a harsh and often hopeless world, give hope, if for no other reason than because you can.
I’m no fan of silly color memes and Facebook games. I believe the amorphous thing we call “awareness” changes little in the lives of real people, and gives the public a false sense of security and satisfaction.
Cancer, for instance, cannot be willed away or “awarenessed” away any more than Tinker Bell can be saved by audience members clapping. But now — at last! — along comes a color meme that makes sense. In the wake of gay suicides, up sprang the It Gets Better campaign.
Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, also known as LGBT, are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. You could argue that all suicides are unnecessary, and yet they continue, long after the invention of hotlines and support groups like TrevorSpace.
Certain people are on downward spirals, for reasons obvious, and also for reasons the mind has yet to fathom. But some suicides are preventable. When I saw a poster of the 1975 Ntozake Shange play, “For Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf,” I asked a friend what the title meant. He said the rainbow symbolized ordinary hope.
Ordinary human hope. Do not underestimate its power.
A friend of mine is dying of cancer. She’s been in the hospital for weeks. The doctors say she has maybe a month to live. She’s had a colostomy, and now her kidneys have failed. She’s so short of breath she can barely talk. But she’s determined to continue “fighting,” and she refuses to sign any papers or make arrangements for the care of her son.
I’d be tempted to say her unique personality is to blame, except that I’ve heard this story before. I knew a stage IV colon cancer patient who would not sign anything until shortly before he died. And then there’s my own father, who waved away papers, saying, “There’s just one chance in a million that’ll be necessary.” Really? A 76-year-old man hospitalized with advanced cancer has only one chance in a million of dying?
Denial is so much fun. Till it’s not.
The cancer establishment loves to parade around with banners and cheery slogans like: “We’re winning the fight!” Sorry to be the skunk at the garden party, but, to quote Joe Wilson: You lie. The numbers do not back you up. There’s been progress with some forms of cancer, but not others. We’ve been fighting cancer for decades, and yet people are still dying in droves.
In the case of my sick friend, I can hope and hope and hope, but I cannot stop her cancer from progressing. She cannot stop it. Her son cannot stop it. He may, however, suffer the consequences of his mother’s unflagging hope.
But for the LGBT community, hope is another matter. Gays and lesbians have every reason to hope. You will never see rights for gays go backward, except temporarily. Gays are our sisters and brothers, our co-workers. Certainly our kids. We’re rapidly becoming a post-sexual-identity civilization.
Talk to young people. The millennial generation thinks interracial dating is the biggest so-what ever, and gay marriage is headed for the same fate. The WeTV summer series “Sunset Daze” profiled a woman in, of all places, ultra-conservative Arizona, who attended a gay rodeo with her son. He was on the show too, transforming his mom’s stoplight-red hair into a 1963 flip, and showing off his longtime partner.
Protest songs were all but dead by the time the Internet was born, but now this form of music has a new lease on life. People have things to say, and some are saying it in song. In “It Gets Better,” YouTuber LeaNowacki sings that she’s writing a letter to the world.
[originally published by Politics Daily in 2010]