Suppose I were a teenager in America in 2021 and I got my picture on the local nightly news marching in a Gay Pride parade. My cousin saw the news and next day he and 6 or 8 of his friends met us coming into our high school. They were holding a banner reading PROUD TO BE STRAIGHT. In all our classrooms they had written the same motto on the boards. Suppose this followed incidents in our town of bullies picking on gay kids.
How would I feel that day?
Well, being me (as I imagine this scene), I’d feel vulnerable and embarrassed. But some other gay kid with a different personality and experiences might feel frightened and even suicidal. Another gay guy might feel enraged.
It is unlikely I’d feel, “Wow! It’s great that my cousin is exercising his right to freedom of expression!”
Now suppose this happens to be the day a new high school principal arrives and there is an assembly to introduce her. In her remarks she says, “It will be school policy from now on to highlight the contributions and heritages of minority groups in our school. That will include LGBTs, Native Americans, Hmong, and Cubans.”
I think I’d be feeling a little encouraged that we were going to get a chance to shine instead of hide. I’d be looking forward to special programs in addition to Black History Month. I’d already be thinking what we’d like to have in behalf of LGBTs like me.
But my cousin would be burrowing down into his discontent. Somehow he would conclude that honoring others dishonored him. He would suspect he was about to be diminished. Next, he’d be sure, would come suppression of speech. “They” would prohibit him from being honest. He’d have to watch what he said. It was already beginning.
Later that day my cousin exploded. “Where was ANY MENTION of us? We matter, too! We’re proud, too! There will be gay posters but never any straight posters. This school is going to …” (he turned his head away and I didn’t hear exactly what nether region he was thinking about).
As a teenager in this fantasy, I doubt if I would immediately see how sad it was that my cousin could be so oblivious of the circumstances and feelings of others as he squirmed back into his comfort zone full of entitlements.
[Backstory: a gay friend in the USA thinks “All lives matter” and seems unable to imagine how his saying so aggravates his Black colleagues. He asked my response to an account of a high school student who felt he was discriminated against for demanding equal time for White American Christian Patriots. I doubt any reply will change my gay friend’s mind, but this story is what I tried.]
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.