Monday, February 22, 2010

Words that Start with the Letter "i" like "impatient" and "inalienable"

In her State of the Union Plenary Address for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Rea Carey said: "I suggest, to those who say don't push so hard, just wait — that sounds like advice from someone already enjoying the benefits of equality. Someone who can marry who they want; someone who can serve their country freely; someone who can enter a nursing home without having to go back into the closet; someone who doesn't have to face the indignities of filling out form after form, deciding if they will cross off "mother" or "father" and write in a new word just to reflect the reality of our families."

I was reminded of her address when my ipod Shuffle (it's as technologically advanced as I get...) rolled to Melissa Etheridge's "Tuesday Morning" while I was skiing this weekend. For those of you who aren't familiar with the song, the lyrics are here:

and a live performance of the song is here:

The song is dedicated to Mark Bingham, one of the passengers who tried to stop the terrorists on board his flight on September 11, 2001. As a gay man, Bingham could not freely and safely teach in our schools, serve in the military, or be legally married; but he was every bit an "American" when he tried to save the lives of his fellow passengers.

To me, both Melissa Etheridge and Rea Carey are saying that "inalienable" rights are too easy for Americans to take for granted. And yet these rights are not inalienable for many Americans. The American Heritage Dictionary defines inalienable as "incapable of being taken away." But since lesbians and gays do not have, for instance, the right to legally marry at the state (in all but a few cases) and federal levels, it's impossible to take away what we do not yet have.

I do not enjoy being labeled "impatient" when I argue that the time for full fairness and equality under the law is NOW. I do not believe that we should wait until our issues are "politically viable" and I am not satisfied by looking at "how far we've come." I do believe that patience is a luxury I do not have. keeping with the title of the blog, how can I turn this frustration into positive change? Faith. Faith in my work and the work of others to produce change. I can have faith in the work that has been done in California and Massachusetts to challenge marriage equality at the Federal level. I can have faith in the power of the music of Melissa Etheridge to change hearts and minds. I can have faith in the power of my own conversations with folks. And I can have faith in the legions of allies who are straight friends, family, and students (!) who support full equality for LGBT citizens.

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