Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Gay Solidarity Throughout the Nation: Will Phillips and the Unfinished Project of American Democracy

Meanwhile, as Catholic parishes in New York City are told not to identify themselves when they march in gay pride parades, in vast areas of the nation outside the elite centers of power and communication, LGBT people like Constance McMillen in Mississippi struggle just to survive.  Here's Ed Kennedy's take on the attitude of some gay citizens living in those elite centers of power and communication, who seem unable to understand or muster solidarity with their brothers and sisters living in the heartland of the nation:

If I read one more article by some exasperated New York City queen talking about how "over" Pride they are when huge swaths of the country don't even have job protections, much less Pride, I'm going to rent a bus and stuff it with armed rednecks from the Bible belt and drop them off in Chelsea. Get over yourselves, and look to young Will Phillips for inspiration.

Kennedy is absolutely correct.   Implicitly, many gays and lesbians who find fulfilling lives in the welcoming spaces provided by our elite cultural centers appear to imagine that the rest of us, who live everywhere else throughout the nation, are somehow responsible for our own oppression, and haven't had the intelligence or imagination to make our way to the big city.  

Though many of us are where we are because we have family ties that count  for us, responsibilities attached to those ties, and roots that bind us to particular places that are our home every bit as much as they're the home of our straight family members and friends . . . . And the struggle for gay rights being lived out in those places around the nation is even more important than the struggle for rights in the big cities that have long since afforded LGBT citizens welcoming spaces.

The link to Kennedy's commentary also contains a link to a clip of young Will Phillips speaking at the Northwest Arkansas Pride parade this past weekend.  Don't miss it.  As Kennedy rightly notes, there's the future of our nation: a mouthy, bright, funny young man from the sticks daring to imagine that his voice counts, and that the project of democracy should involve everyone if it is to be what it claims to be.  

If anyone thinks it doesn't take guts to stand up for what's right, as young Will Phillips has stood up for what's right, in places like Fayetteville, Rogers, or Springdale, Arkansas, I suggest that they book a flight down to that region and spend a few days looking around, listening, and observing what it's like to be gay or lesbian in northwest Arkansas.