Thursday, September 2, 2010

“Out in Silence” The LGBT Community in Small Town U.S.A.

Yesterday, I learned that a man that I am barely acquainted with is moving back to Toronto.  This really should have been no big deal, but the reason he is choosing to leave, though not shocking is hurtful.   He has been with his husband for 20 years, yet he cannot walk down the street without fearing getting his head bashed in with a baseball hat.  I have been in a relationship with the unhusband for that long, and though we get looks because we are an inter-racial couple, never have I had to fear that someone’s ignorance or hatred would turn to violence.  I have tried to relate, but truthfully, even though I am stigmatized by race, my heterosexual privilege stand as a gulf between the two of us.

Yesterday, I came across a very timely documentary.  It is called Out in Silence.  Film maker Joe Wilson set off an incredible chain of events when he placed a wedding announcement in his home town newspaper, The Derrick.  Many were enraged to see a simple announcement for a wedding between two men.  Growing up in Oil Town, Wilson was quite aware of exactly how homophobic this small town is, but he decided that it was time for him to live openly.  He expected the hate mail, but what he did not expect was a letter from a woman named Cathy Springer, who desperately needed help dealing with the homophobia her young son, C.J. Bills was experiencing. “Out in Silence” is the story of homophobia in small town U.S.A. and what happens to the brave souls that refuse to hide who they are, because others are wrongly convinced that they have the right to belittle others.

Before I turn you over the the documentary, there was one issue raised in the film that I am more intimately aware of, that I think warrants some discussion.  A hate group entitled, AFA decided to use a divide and conquer strategy in its bid to force the LGBT members of the Oil Town community to lead closeted lives.  Diane Grimely had no problem asserting that the GLBT community was appropriating the African American struggle for civil rights.  According to Grimely, because gay people were not enslaved and were not forced to ride in the back of the bus, the homophobia that they experience does not constitute a real civil rights issue.  This is not the first time that I have encountered this argument and it smacks of ignorance, homophobia and White Supremacy.  What people like Grimely would like us to ignore, is that there were same gender loving African Americans being locked up for marching with Dr. King. They were forced to drink from segregated drinking fountains and their ancestors were enslaved.  The only way that you can make the claim that a gay person has never had to drink from a segregated water fountain, is to ignore that there were and are Black people that are gay. Unfortunately, Grimely is right about the White LGBT community appropriating elements of the African American civil rights movement to further their case.  Using the tagline just like you, is also not helping their struggle. There can be no doubt that gay rights amount to a legitimate civil rights issue however, using the Black civil rights movement allows people like Grimely to make divisive arguments that undermine the struggle for equality. As a Black woman, I can clearly see that a White woman arguing against gay rights by using the appropriation argument, is clearly grasping desperately to maintain privilege.  Small town U.S.A has never been a friend to people of colour.

Out in Silence is a wonderful documentary because it brings forth the struggles of the LGBT community in small town America.  It ends on a triumphant note, which is more than I can say about many movies regarding the TLBG community.  I highly recommend it and look forward to hearing your thoughts.