Interview by Daniel Landreth regarding Equality

This interview was conducted by Daniel Landreth for The Macon Statement, March 16, 2012.

1. What do you think the major issues of inequality are and what do you see in the future if inequality isn’t resolved?

The major issues of inequality are the following:

  • Lack of protection against anti-gay discriminatory behavior by co-workers and superiors in the workplace.
  • Lack of protection against anti-gay bias-motivated violence and intimidation.
  • Lack of robust pubilc education in favor of welcoming and affirming peers of all orientations and gender identities or expressions and against intimidatory rhetoric or behavior.
  • Lack of legal and institutional recognition for domestic relationships (including marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships) for gay couples.
  • Lack of institutional provision and accomodation for LGBT people and relationships.
  • Lack of presence, clout or positive imagery for LGBT people in local telecommunications channels.

What I see as the future of any polity if such inequalities are not rectified is the continued intimidation of people of differing sexual orientations and gender expressions into silence and closeted darkness. I also see us staying in a state of ignorance or malice against LGBT people and relationships because of the lack of equality and equal treatment. I see LGBT people continuing to be demonized, dehumanized, dispossessed, ostracized and destroyed by their peers and authority figures because their sexual orientation or gender expression are misrepresented as “bad”, “loathsome”, “evil” aspects.

2. What government policies/programs affect the ability to resolve this problem?

The government, as the institution charged with the defense of its citizens and institutions from uninvited, massively-impactful dangers, is the top institution of power to look in regards to why any legal inequality exists. Right now in Georgia, there is no state-level hate crime law to more closely regulate crimes motivated by malicious hatred against sexual orientation or gender expression. In Georgia, there is no state-level recognition or protection for relationships between two people of the same sex; in Georgia, there is no legal protection from discrimination or firing by public or private employers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The state government practically pales in comparison to the protections being afforded in many states throughout this country: even Texas, the one of the largest states in the Union, has a hate crimes law which covers sexual orientation.

This inactivity towards protections for LGBT people has the effect of relegating LGBT people to second-class citizenship in the native state of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought against such in his lifetime for both African Americans and for low-income laborers.

Furthermore, pandering to reactive political movements which dehumanize and illegitimize whole swaths of the population as “freaks” who do not deserve so-called “special rights” does no one, not even the participants in such campaigns, any long-term good. The so-called “defense of marriage” amendment which restricted marriage to heterosexual couples in Georgia and many other states does no one, not even those who back such amendments, any good by forcing the government to remain legally oblivious and ignorant to close, mutual relationships between two persons who simply happen to be of the same gender. Such amendments are anti-marriage and anti-human, and fly in the face of the science which affirms and supports the humanity of LGBT people both in our neighborhoods and all around the world.

3. What could we as a society do to help?

We, as a society, can help toward recitifying inequality by reconsidering our past thinking and rhetoric about homosexuality, bisexuality, transgender people. We can at least begin building social groups of solidarity and affirmation around our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender family members, peers, neighbors and service custodians, as well as their mutual, consensual relationships. We can do such in our homes, our workplaces, our places of worship or reverence, our schools, our political chambers, our social and political gatherings, and so on.

We can also speak up for equality when we know that other rhetoric is being directed against LGBT people. We can also press our lawmakers for laws which affirm and dignify LGBT people and relationships. We can even press people in positions of influence to change their assumptions or rhetoric about LGBT people until they realize that sexual orientation is not a choice, a fetish or a preference, but an immutable characteristic which is not a bad or avoidable thing.

Frankly, if one feels that equality and equal treatment for all people are good things to embrace, it is no longer enough to say that we know gay people or have gay friends or coworkers. We actually have to be there for our LGBT citizens and act when they are in danger.

4. How does inequality affect families?

Inequality affects families in not only their treatment of their LGBT members, but also affects whatever positive developments or rhetoric that could occur between members. Family members who are not knowledgeable of what equality can be for LGBT people can give off wrong, incorrect or downright-terrible information to their younger or older peers, miscoloring their worldview and affecting how they treat openly-LGBT, closeted or simply non-conformative people both inside and outside of their families. Such can have a snowball effect of rolling from a simple naivete and ignorance to a full-blown malice against “fags”, “faggots”, “homos”, “queers”, “freaks” and others.

For families who consist of at least one same-sex couple, such misinformation ultimately snowballs into their relationships by affecting the confidence and integrity of the relationship, the treatment of their children at school, the treatment at the hands of neighbors and landlords, the treatment at the hands and mouths of other family members, and so on.

5. How have people who support equality of the LGBT community been affected?

Inequality provides a disappointment for supporters of LGBT equality. The lack of equality means that our society will continue to lack grace and dignity for our citizens, that our society will continue to ignore the plight of those who do not fit within antiquated, inadequate and diversity-averse molds. Such molds do not address the long, lurid and ghastly history of treatment of LGBT people by our government, our institutions of power or influence or our channels of conversation. Inequality also makes for the frustrating statistics of deprivation and despair of LGBT people in our society, aspects which taint and miscolor our society as being anti-freedom, anti-liberty, anti-empathy, and anti-human. Such views are not what we who support equality for American LGBT citizens should project or allow to be projected without a challenge.

But, at the same time, inequality also provides a continuing opportunity for advocates and supporters of equality to push even harder and reach even farther and wider for support. Inequality provides advocates and supporters the opportunity to expand their vocabulary and reclaim the language for hope and equality rather than shame or inequality.

Ultimately, inequality or the threat of inequality, once recognized, is the only reason for any civil rights movement to exist. When equality prevails, the whole society benefits, and the civil rights movement can either stay on as a vanguard for the gains of equality in the years ahead, or can expand to other long-running civil rights issues, or both. The movement for equality did not start nor end with women’s rights, it did not start nor end with ethnic minority rights, and it did not start nor will it end with LGBT civil rights. These aspects of equality affect us all both now and in the future, no matter who we are, and we and our children will be better off when equality is accomplished and enshrined as the norm of everyday living.

Answers to questions on the Middle Georgia State College Gay-Straight Alliance

This interview was conducted by Andrew Willis for The Statement, February 24, 2013.

1. What is the general purpose of the GSA?

The purpose of the Gay-Straight Alliance is to be a safe space of discussion and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning individuals. We say that “Yes, it’s OK to be gay, and who you love or what gender you identify as does not affect the content of your character.”

2. Do you have to be gay to be in the GSA?

No, it is open and welcoming for straight, transgender and bisexual individuals to join and participate, and we encourage straight students to do so. However, it is expected by myself and our organization that our discussions and actions will be affirming and welcoming of both same-sex and opposite-sex sexuality as well as gender non-conformity. We will support, not condemn, your sexual orientation or gender identity.

3. How would you describe the GSA’s involvement in MGSC? (What events have you put on in the past? Do you have any plans for the near future?)

Members have engaged in advocacy both on and off campus. In the past, our members have protested against anti-gay hate speech in our student newspaper, participated at protests against so-called “reparative” or “ex-gay” therapy as advocated by various misguided religious institutions, advocating before the Bibb County School Board for safer schools and, as done in February 2012 by our former president Amanda Studebaker last year, advocated before the General Assembly in Atlanta for the Georgia Fair Employment Practices Bill (HB 630), a bill which would outlaw employment discrimination against state government workers on the basis of sexual orientation. Our GSA actively supports its passage into law, and members signed letters to our representatives calling for its passage.

In addition to regular meetings, where we discuss news, personal experiences, history and activism, we have held an LGBT Movie Night in the Residence Life Game Room, a welcoming event for a cross-state bike ride ridden by members of Georgia Equality (a civil rights advocacy organization from Atlanta), a trip to the LGBTQ and Allies Conference at Georgia Southern University in November 2012, and a “NOH8” protest against anti-gay bullying during the “Day of Silence” on April 19. In the future, we will hold another Movie Night and more events, and we invite ideas for more LGBT-inclusive events and activities on our campuses. We hope to extend this in the future to Warner Robins, Cochran and other campuses.

4. How would somebody get involved with the GSA at MGSC?

I would suggest coming to one of our meetings, usually on the Macon campus, in order to get a feel for what we discuss. But since the Macon and Warner Robins campuses have a history as commuter-friendly campuses, we also encourage people to get into contact with us on Facebook, Google+, and by email at mscgsa@googlegroups.com. For personal, one-on-one inquiries, I can also be contacted by personal email at harry.underwood1987@gmail, and our advisor Dr. Sheree Keith can be reached at sheree.keith@maconstate.edu. We invite honest, good-mannered questions and messages of support.

Also, could I get your major and age for the article? And just to clarify, what is the title of your position in the GSA? Thanks again for answering these questions!

My name is Harry Underwood, I’m a senior majoring in New Media and Communications (NMAC) and pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Science, and I’m the president of the GSA since Fall 2011. I will be graduating this semester.

Thank you for your questions!

Citations:

http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/government/2012-02-22/ga-house-panel-kills-sexual-preference-jobs-bill