Yesterday, I'm sure some of you saw the link I sent around about the stirring speech given by our Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before the United Nations, calling for international cooperation and support for LGBT rights. I was moved by her passionate words, which you can check out here if you haven't already: http://news.advocate.com/post/13844217337/watch-the-speech-youve-been-waiting-for
I am posting this again, here on my blog, because I want to spread these powerful words in every corner of my "world", but also to extend on what Mrs. Clinton said. It's imperative to me that we change the way we view the LGBT community, but in an even larger way, how we view ALL groups that do not belong to the "majority".
I do this because I know what it's like to be marginalized, or to feel embarrassed, ashamed and/or inferior. I know this because I'm a member of the LGBT community. Although I've never faced physical threats or feared for my life because of my sexual orientation (I'm a B in that acronym, in case you didn't know), I've certainly felt the pressure to hide my identity, particularly from those I am closest to. So I understand some of the pain that comes from having to hide who you are, and I steadfastly support our administration leading us towards full acceptance and enforcement of human rights for ALL citizens. I have been fortunate enough that the positive experiences and the number of supportive friends and family who know about this facet of my life has greatly outweighed the negatives. But despite all the good fortune I've had, I have also felt the despair which comes from knowing that some people will not or cannot accept who I really am...who I was born to be.
I am also an atheist, and this too has led me to hide my true feelings, particularly among my closest family, who are all mostly Catholic or spiritual or religious in some fashion. Atheists sometimes complain about being marginalized, and there's an element of truth to that (we're certainly under-represented in government, and believers definitely find it difficult to trust us) but by and large my own shame at my questioning faith has been what has crippled me from being more open about my lack of belief for so long, not pressure from outside. There are, of course, those who would love nothing better than to see atheists all leave the country, but it's been my personal experience that, at least in this country, those people are the minority. Most of my friends and family who are believers would not wish to force their beliefs on nonbelievers...nor do I believe that they would ostracize me for being more open with them about my viewpoints. I think they are simply uncomfortable with the thought of someone who doesn't need a god in their life to give them meaning.
However, I have faced the same kind of marginalization as a barefooter that I have felt as a bisexual man. The ostracism, the feeling of being unwelcome, the hateful looks. In a way, being a barefooter I have been more exposed to the negative side of other people's attitudes precisely because being a barefooter is visible. Being bisexual is not, and while I've not made a great secret out of the fact, I am also not broadcasting it as it really isn't most people's business. In fact there may be some people who read this blog and think "I didn't know that!". The same is true for my religious beliefs, although I have been much more vocal about those in the past few years.
But my being barefoot is an obvious and outward symbol of a facet of myself that I no longer choose to hide. If people miss the fact that I am shoeless, it's not for lack of me trying. :-) As a result, I have had many more confrontations with others surrounding my condition as a barefooter than I ever have about being either bisexual or an atheist. I'm not comparing the experiences, in terms of me asking for a campaign to end oppression against barefooters (there isn't even a hint of this).
I clearly know there's a vast difference between the experiences, in terms of level of acceptance and acts of violence against the LGBT community, which are shameful facts of life even in this country. However, I think the larger point, which is fair to make comparisons about, is that we have to pursue and explore our acceptance and tolerance for others: who they are and how they live. Basically, what Hillary Clinton said so simply: "Gay rights are human rights. Human rights are gay rights."
I guess I would simplify it even further to say: "Human rights are human rights". Who you love, what you believe, what you wear or don't wear - none of it matters, and none of it should be used to allow any of us to marginalize, discriminate against or abuse each other. Human rights are human rights. And let no one ever take them away.
EDIT: I didn't include this initially because I didn't feel it was relevant to the discussion of the topic, but based on some upset I have seemingly caused, I must include this postscript. I am happily married to a wonderful woman, and have been for twelve years. I realize it's tough for some people to understand, but it is possible to be bisexual AND have a rewarding relationship with one person. How we handle that relationship, and how my sexual orientation impacts that relationship, is between us, and no one else. However, I apologize for my oversight in not including this information in the original post, and I hope that this clarifies the situation and that it helps ease any hurt I have caused with my words.