Published on April 22nd, 2015 | by Healthy Gay Lifestyles0
I recall a piece I wrote about intolerance, how it wasn’t enough for me to feel that someone simply tolerates my being gay. After all, who wants to be around people who have a sense of superiority around you, yet feel they are doing you a favor by tolerating you? To tolerate someone is to “put up with” a person, and I don’t want someone to just put up with me. Tolerate my occasional flatulence, my penchant for watching incredibly stupid mind-numbing television shows, my dislike of the garbage disposal, but for the rest of me, I want to be accepted, not tolerated.
Most of what I write about shies away from current events because I strive to discuss issues that aren’t bound by specific times. The news story of the day is a forgotten event three months later — I’d like the significance of the content of my postings to have a longer shelf. However, there has been a lot of press lately on two subjects that are of significance to anyone who is gay or a gay ally, and which I personally hold near and dear to my heart. I’m speaking, of course, about pizza and cake.
The issue at hand is whether or not a business can decide that they don’t want to provide their goods or services to a specific segment of the population. After all, we live in the land of equality for all, so no one should be turned away from having a slice of cake or pizza. That’s the constitutional argument anyway. However, some individuals have decided that their religious beliefs make it impossible for them to serve cake or pizza to certain people. No surprise, gay people are the people in question. It’s nothing new. “We don’t serve your kind,” has shown up in lot of ways over the course of American history. You can pretty much fill in just about any segment of our society and point to one time or another when someone didn’t want to serve someone else, just because of who they were. We’ve made some strides in that we aren’t supposed to discriminate — at least in theory — against someone because of their race, religion, creed, nationality, etc. Some places have added protections for sexual orientation or gender identity, but most have not.
So what do you do when you just don’t like “the gays” and aren’t happy with the fact that legal movement towards equality for us has become more prevalent? You don’t want to go along with it and treat them equally, but you also don’t want to be impolite (heaven forbid) and just come out and say that you prefer to discriminate against that segment of society. Happily for them, they latched on to a handy loophole that eliminated the personal responsibility for being a bigot — all one has to do is claim “God made me do it.” Who can argue with that?
And so begins the grand debate — civil rights and individual freedoms. In a land where religion is chosen freely, can people choose to use their religion to deny rights to others?
The pivotal issue is marriage equality. As more and more states now allow same-sex marriage — and hopefully the Supreme Court will see fit to make it available nationwide — people who find the idea of two men marrying to be “icky” want to dodge it. We’ve heard the whole business about how a florist felt it was perfectly fine to provide her services to a gay couple for many occasions, but drew the line when they wanted to legally marry. Ok to make money off them for birthdays, anniversaries and celebrations, but commitment? Nope. And we have heard how flour, sugar, salt, eggs and flavoring can be put together and covered in creamy goodness for anyone who isn’t gay. Note that such bakeries were being asked to provide a cake, not join the happy couple in their post-wedding bed. But the one that got to me is when Memories pizza parlor announced they would not allow gay weddings at their restaurant, and once again, the fault is God’s.
I admit that I have a warped sense of humor and tend to find the funny in many things. This one had me shaking my head. I”m not sure how much of a demand there is for gay couples in Indiana to want to be married in pizza parlors. I’m not sure how often straight couples there do either. Maybe it’s a trend in that part of the country — exchange vows and seal the deal with a double pepperoni with extra cheese. I’m just not thinking there is much of a demand there. It’s like if the Diamond Dolls Fully Nude Girls Gentleman’s Club posted a sign that said “We do not allow two men to marry here.” Would any pair self-respecting gay men ever want to get hitched there in the first place? Note that I’m leaving the option open for two women.
The serious issue is denying someone service simply because of who they are. The debate is whether or not someone can claim their “religious freedom” allows them to do just that — deny you service, because of who you are. Maybe it’s because you are gay. Maybe it’s because their religion says they should not serve anyone they deem to be “inferior” to themselves because the color of your skin doesn’t match that of your child’s. Or maybe, like the lawyer in California who wants to execute gay people, they can take their whole “God made me do it” rhetoric to obscene levels.
I don’t want to be tolerated. I want to be accepted. And I don’t want to waste one minute of my time trying to figure out whether or not I can walk into your store or go to your website and be accepted. I want to know upfront if I should just take my business elsewhere. That’s my take on it — if you want to discriminate, do it with pride. Post a great big sign on your store or on your website that details who it is that you don’t want to be bothered tolerating. But don’t stop with gay people — make that list all inclusive of all the different types of people you would rather not have come across your threshold. Express those freedoms openly so that the rest of us can know for certain what your heart truly says about you. Because then, maybe, we can open up and have a real dialogue about what’s bothering you about me being happily in love with another man.
One final thought. There are people who have been physically threatened, who have had their lives and their livelihoods jeopardized, who have been bullied because of who they are. Some of those people are gay people. And some of those people are the very ones who want to deny us our rights. I understand the anger, believe me. But it chills me when I read stories about people receiving death threats because some people in the gay community believe they “deserve it.” Threats like that don’t open doors, they close minds, and the opportunity for real change and finding common ground gets lost. And in my mind, that is intolerable.
Jim Duke is the Founder and President of “Guide For Gay Men,” a service which provides personal life coaching and consultation primarily to older gay and bisexual men. Navigating the issues involved in coming out, dealing with relationships, love and sex and the transitions of careers, life decisions and aging can be daunting… unless you have someone experienced to help guide you. Contact Jim and read what he has to say on these and other topics at G4GM.com.