On paper, Arizona’s Bill SB1062 – the controversial measure that has crossed Governor Brewer’s desk allowing businesses to refuse service to LGBT people on religious grounds – isn’t even worth a reappropriation to toilet tissue. Plain and simple it is discrimination, no matter what the Libertarians or Republicans want to cite about “religious freedom.” It is gross misconduct, a backwards step in our history, and should be fought, teased, and reviled by anyone who gives a shit about truth, justice, and the American Way. A person elected to look after the interests of ALL of her constituents shouldn’t need tacit threats from important corporations and a possible economic windfall to do the right thing.
Yet, if I take a step back and look at the larger picture here, remove myself from the political ramifications of such an action, and forget for a second that it is designed to keep out people like me and my husband, I understand and even agree with its sentiment: human beings feel more comfortable, more safe, and maybe even happier around other people like them.
This weekend was bursting with these types of feelings. On Saturday, I accompanied Julian to his Gay Basketball League’s draft party. We sat around eating pizza, drinking, and playing pool while a small group of team captains deliberated and traded players. One of these players, seated on the couch next to us no less, leaned in with a friendly handshake to introduce us to his…girlfriend. Julian and I shared one of those married looks, those silent “Did you hear what I heard?”s, putting me if not us both on watch; our group had been infiltrated by…one of them. Within those first few seconds, the familiar question of “How should this change my behavior?” washed over me. I thought, “Does everyone else know there is a hetero among us? Do they also think it is odd? Why would a straight guy specifically join a gay group? Is he bi? ‘Ex-gay’? Does he have a gay brother and is trying to prove something to his bigoted family?” Or maybe he just likes to play basketball with his friends. I kept drinking and it went to the back of my mind. I could continue with my gay behavior. We could all continue with our gay behavior. Obviously he is OK with us and accepts our many shades of Shade.
We left the draft party to go play Mafia at my friend’s house, a gay friend. Going from such a homosexual event, minus the token straight guy and his beard…I mean girlfriend…I was unsure of how this would go down. Would we be the token ones here (minus the host of course), trying to figure out which versions of our gayness to exhibit? Would it be full of obnoxious hags, the absolute worst of the feminine gender, constantly proving how comfortable they are with the interracial gay couple across the room? Or would it be an assortment of people – just people – playing a game?
Last night, Julian and I had a RuPaul’s Drag Race premiere party and very specifically ONLY invited gay men. Not even lesbians (the whole two we are friends with) were welcome. Of course, women and some straight men like Drag Race; there were enough of them at the Battle of the Seasons show to prove that. But we wanted to share this experience, our yearly joy, to build upon the innumerable great memories we have of RuPaul with other gay men. To sit around, snap our fingers, purse our lips, and All T All Shade, call not only the queens on the screen but the queens in our living room out on their bullshit. To connect with people like us.
Part of me thinks I should harbor some kind of guilt about these feelings. That I have no right to be a hypocrite. That yes, we should embrace all types of people. Yes, we should specifically seek out people that are different than us in order to grow, to evolve, to learn. Yes, we should see past the things that separate us and focus on the things that unite us. But there is also something beautiful, something intangible, something nurturing about surrounding ourselves with others who share a common experience. Every group – whether the borders are drawn along religious, racial, sexual, or other lines – have magical things about them someone outside of the group cannot understand no matter how much integration or empathy or well intended political correctness one can muster. However, those borders get really shaky when the lines are drawn on Hate. There is a delicate balance between celebrating one’s group and putting down another by keeping them out. I think we have to embrace this balance, never forgetting what it’s like to be on the receiving end of having the door closed in our face. To be proud of who we are, to celebrate what makes us different, but never to let fear or hate or feelings of superiority make our decisions for us.