During the upcoming week, 27 July to 4 August, Amsterdam will celebrate Gay Pride. We do this as increasingly disturbing news comes out of Russia about Putin’s crackdown on gay rights there. And yet, there’ll be dancing in the streets of Amsterdam. Should we be dancing? Yes, absolutely. Why? Because, unlike our friends in Russia, we have that right. And we should exercise that right, no matter our orientation. In support of the right of our LGBT friends to do so, if for no other reason.
Those who know me, know I’m a fervent supporter of Gay Rights. When a friend recently asked me why, since my lifestyle appears to place me solidly in the hetero category, the answer was easy: because I’m a fervent supporter of all Civil Rights. Your right to work, earn, vote, marry, get a fair trial…or win Olympic Gold… should not be determined by the color of your skin, your gender, your age, your religion, your sexual orientation, or anything other than who you are, what you can do, have done, and want to do. Your ability to reach for your dreams. Period. I’m a pretty flexible gal on a lot of issues, but I’m stubborn on this one. Because I take it personally. And so should you.
Another recent conversation: while discussing the Martin/Zimmerman verdict in Florida, a friend chastised me. “This isn’t about you or me,” he said. I disagree. Besides the fact that I suspect he wouldn’t have said that if I had agreed with him about the verdict, I think that verdict, like Gay Pride, is all about you and me. It’s about the kind of world you and I want to live in. And this week is the time to say: I want to live in a world where all of us have the right to celebrate civil rights for everyone, every day.
Maybe I feel this way was because of the time I was 16 and couldn’t understand why I was denied activities my brother had been allowed when he turned 16? Maybe it’s because of the time I was 13 and was told I couldn’t go steady with my sweetheart because of the color of his skin, or having to leave my father’s house a few short years later because I refused to obey that rule. And let me tell you: being beat up hurts just as bad when you receive it for the color of your lover’s skin, as when you receive it for the color of your own. Maybe it was the time I met a man who liked to hurt people who held my religious views? Or the lover I had in New York, who couldn’t date me in public (while I can’t live any part of my life in the closet), because she was afraid of losing her job? Or the times I have lost jobs over one or another of these issues.
So, yes, maybe it’s personal, this curmudgeony support of civil rights for groups I don’t appear to fit into. And maybe you should make it personal too.
Because – whether you’ve lived on the edge of as many groups as I have or not – I’ll bet you can remember at least one time when you didn’t get that job because you were a woman (or a man), when you felt uncomfortable speaking from the perspective of your religious beliefs, when you saw a friend hurt because someone else judged him or her by their outward appearance, instead of the inner beauty or intelligence or so many other amazing traits your friend had. Remember those times, and how they felt? Imagine it happening to you every day, as it does to some people. Imagine how that would feel, how it would shape your life, your dreams. And let it be personal. Because it is personal.
When we deny rights to anybody, whether we belong to their club or not, we are denying them to a person. Not a gay person, or a black person. Not a woman, or a man, or a transgender person. A person. With all the nerves, bones, blood, and dreams that you and I carry around in our bodies and hearts. This is personal folks. And that’s why we should get out and celebrate our right to dance our butts off during Amsterdam’s Gay Pride week, whatever our own orientation. And why we should be paying better attention to what’s going on in Russia while we’re dancing. Because this issue isn’t about Putin’s political policies. It’s about the people who have to live – and perhaps die –under those policies, and other policies like them all over the world. For every one of those people, this is very personal. As it should be for all of us living with the kind of freedom we enjoy in the Netherlands and other countries which have evolved so far that we can spend a week dancing about it all. So get out there and party, people. Like your life depends on it. Because, somewhere, someone’s does.