Over the next few months, cities across the nation will host dykes-on-bikes, drag queens, leather-men and just plain run-of-the-mill gays and lesbians as they sashay and celebrate their way through Gay Pride 2005.
The party 'til you drop annual event is all about reminding the world that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folks deserve the same rights as others-to live their lives free of judgment or hate. It's the one time of the year when GLBT men and women come out in droves, throw on a feather boa and say to the world, "We're here, we're queer, get used to it."
The gay community has come a long way since it held its first Gay Pride parade in 1969. But, because every good pride parade needs something to rain on it, we've compiled a Gay Unproud list, to remind us of a few things the gay community has to shamefully continue to endure.
Gay people still have no rights as spouses, period. No matter how many kids they have, how many years they've been together, and how many "richer or poorer, sickness and in health" moments they go through together, gay partners simply don't get no respect.
When a man and a woman get married, they gain a whole bucketful of instantaneous benefits and privileges. Insist if you will that a marriage between a guy and a gal is a holy bond given by God, but the tangible, life-changing benefits of getting hitched come not from the church, but from the United States government.
In fact, the U.S. General Accounting Office has identified 1,049 federal laws which provide benefits, rights, and privileges based on marital status. Same-sex marriage isn't about having a white wedding. It's about having the right to visit your partner in the hospital when they're sick, being covered by your partner's health insurance if you lose your job, receiving Social Security benefits and all the other "special rights" that the government gives to heterosexual couples when they say "I do," simply because, well, they're heterosexual.
It is perfectly legal across most of the United States to fire someone from their job solely because of their sexual orientation. In fact, you don't even have to be gay to be fired for being gay. Even if you are straight as an arrow but your boss thinks you play for the other team, he or she can fire you for perceiving you as gay, and there's nothing in the law to prevent it.
According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Idaho-based corporations that have written non-discrimination employment policies covering sexual orientation include Albertson's Inc., Boise State University, CH2MHill, Micron Technology, and Washington Group International. Good for them.
On the flip side, major employers like the State of Idaho and Boise City do not.
Don't ask, don't tell
Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue and Don't Harass allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military as long as they abstain from homosexual activity and do not disclose their sexual orientation.
Unfortunately, since the policy was approved in 1993, a total of 9,488 soldiers have been discharged from the military for being gay, lesbian or bisexual. Ironically, in this age of terrorism, many had intelligence-related jobs, including more than 300 who spoke foreign languages, including Arabic, Farsi, Korean, and Mandarin, which the Pentagon has called critical skills amid threats from terrorists.
The late U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater once said, "Everyone knows that gays have served honorably in the military since at least the time of Julius Caesar." He noted, "You don't have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight."
More than 20 years have passed since the discovery of AIDS, and the gay community has done more than its fair share of grieving, fighting, and moving forward. If it weren't for pissed-off gay activists who got sick of seeing their friends die due to inaction by the government and the medical community, who knows where we'd be now.
But, still, after all we've learned, men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to account for the largest number of people reported with AIDS each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that attitude and behavioral changes among older men regarding HIV are not carrying down to young gay and bisexual men. In 2000, more than half of the reported HIV infections among young males aged 13-19 and cases among men aged 20-24 were attributed to male-to-male sexual contact.
Recent data suggest that young gay and bisexual men are now less concerned about becoming infected than in the past and may tend to take more sexual risks. This is not something to be proud of, for sure.
Men who have sex with men must support, encourage and teach each others about safer sex and risk-reduction strategies. The community needs to work together to reinforce social norms that include safer sexual activities while reaffirming, with pride, the right to love and be loved.
- P.L. Murphy