By ART GREENWALD
While recently at a South Florida gay club, I overheard an exchange that sent shivers up my spine. A six-pack of patrons within earshot were chitchatting, when one of them stated snidely, “This place has gotten really ‘dark’ of late—not that I’m prejudiced or anything.”
“Oh, no, here it comes,” I mumbled under my breath. Another interjected, “Why so many trannys? Don’t they have their own hangout? Shock and disgust filled my face (which turned scarlet), and my first impulse was to pounce all over them faster than a pit bull on a Porterhouse steak. Regretfully, I walked away from the hate-fest, although it got me thinking about a story I wrote in the 90s, the gist of which centered on homophobia within the LGBT community.
It did happen, although it was hardly the norm or seen on a massive scale. Certain ethnic groups and genders were, on occasion, denied access to some of our clubs. Those deemed as “undesirables” were required to produce upwards of two or three picture IDs: No one carried that many forms of ID and anyone so targeted eventually caught on, their protestations against exclusion pooh-poohed.
Not only was it difficult, if not impossible, for some LGBT persons to enter certain nightspots, there also existed an appalling air of “factional” superiority, resulting in put-downs of certain “uncool” types within the LGBT community (most egregiously directed at drag queens, leathermen, butch lesbians, overly-effeminate men, and anyone who didn’t fit the “acceptable” image of what it meant to be gay).
Fortunately, times have changed, and we’ve evolved in our attitudes and treatment of others who may be different, respecting and rejoicing in diversity instead of feeling threatened by it. And yet, in 2012 I still hear cutting comments fired at LGBT individuals by other LGBT persons, and by minorities bashing other minorities, treading on the wrong side of equality for all.
The insensitivities occur far too frequently to dismiss. Recently, Emmet Burns, a Maryland lawmaker with a history of hostility towards the LGBT community, tried to gag an NFL player for publicly supporting gay marriage, hoping to quash equal marriage rights for Marylanders.
Toronto Blue Jay shortstop Yunel Escobar, in a mindless, ill-informed, and hurtful gesture, wore eye-black that displayed a gay slur written in Spanish. Burns is African-American and Escobar is Hispanic, two groups that have historically been marginalized.
It makes zero sense. You’d think that belonging to any disaffected group—those suffering the sting of oppression—would automatically decree sensitivity to such slights and slurs, and mandate defending other minorities that are struggling to gain acceptance. Where’s the empathy?
Or perhaps homophobia—like racism, that dark, strange and inexplicable cancer of the human soul—will never be completely eradicated, despite the best intentions. We must stop the hate and the divisiveness, and celebrate our differences. It starts within the LGBT community. We must do better.
Art Greenwald is a free-lance writer, author
and journalist. He lives in Oakland Park.