By Jamal Chevis
In the fall of 2008, a 47-year-old biracial presidential candidate by the name of Barack Obama looked Americans in the face and told them “yes we can.” When it came to the military policy Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which banned the service of openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual citizens in the military, many Americans took those inspiring words to be nothing more than a campaign slogan. Two years of debating, media coverage, testifying, research, investigations, and protests got us nothing but a Republican filibuster in the Senate of the Defense Authorization Bill this past year. However, none of this matters because the repeal eventually passed and was signed by President Obama.
What we have to look into and evaluate is what this means for us as MSU students, and what we have to do to move forward because the fight has only begun. It is one thing to have to fight for your rights, but you’ve entered another ball park when you have to fight for the right to fight for your country. I think the shock that people feel when they hear that this is going on stems from the fact that the discussion of gay rights has centered around racial and gender rights. Those who argue for gay rights tend to argue that gays are an identifiable group, just like black people and women, and deserve rights as well. Those who argue against gay rights tend to argue that because gays didn’t endure the type of abuse and discrimination that blacks and women experienced, they don’t deserve the same rights. Both of these arguments are problematic and don’t deal with the root of the problem.
The mainstream argument for gay rights presented above fails because it claims that gays are an identifiable group in the same way as women and blacks. It is true that gays are a group, but the reality is they are not identifiable in the same way blacks and women are, nor are they discriminated against on the same basis. Women and blacks are discriminated against because of their physical/visible appearance. Unlike blacks and women, gays can hide their identity and avoid any social resistance that may occur because of who they are (sexually). In the case of blacks and women, there is no hiding your identity; your identity is revealed when you exit the womb and enter the world.
The problem with the mainstream argument against gay rights is that it makes it seem as if a group has to go through catastrophic discrimination to receive rights. People shouldn’t have to be raped or legally lynched before we realize that the law is oppressing them.
Understanding the reality of these arguments is crucial to the defeat of discrimination against gay citizens. As future leaders of this country, we must be prepared to engage and include new ideas and new ways of thinking. It just may be that comparing being gay to race and gender is not the best approach to take. We might have to begin listening to activists like feminist Chris Cuomo, who suggests that we put freedom of religion, sexual freedom, and freedom of privacy at the forefront of the fight for equality for gay citizens. We must stand together and stand up against the exploitative, discriminatory, and traditional views of our parents and grandparents. We must stand up for the Constitution and the ideals that make this country great: that all men and women are created equal!
Guest Columnist Jamal Chevis:
Jamal Chevis is a Political Science/Prelaw major with a Theatre minor. This is his fourth year at MSU.