After causing various hurricanes and the fall of the Roman Empire, gay people apparently caused the decline of ancient Greece as well. Didn’t you know? Really? Well, do not despair. I find the courage to publicly announce that I am Greek and I didn’t know that either. In all seriousness though, this is what Serge Dassault, an 87 year old French multimillionaire senator of the right claimed after the French government approved a law that, if passed by the parliament, will legalize gay marriage and adoption in France.
This happened last week, a week which was amazing for LGBT rights. 3 states legalized gay marriage through popular vote (it has failed all previous 33 times), one rejected the definition of marriage between one man and one woman (the first one to ever do so), the first openly gay senator was elected, Spain’s Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is constitutional ending a 7-year old fight over the law, and France presented its gay marriage law. And even though the National Organization for Marriage refuses to yield, even though Defense of Marriage Act is still in place, things are changing for the better. These victories are a product of the ever changing views of the American public on gay rights and ignite hope for the future.
Yet LGBT individuals continue to be stigmatized everywhere. I will not even touch upon what happens outside of the “Western World” because it would take forever. But even here, a deep-rooted and misguided homophobia persists and it seems to come back every time there is a need for a scapegoat. As you probably know, Greece is suffering from a catastrophic economic crisis which has given rise to a neo-Nazi party (they deny that identity but, please). Over the past two months there have been an increasing number of attacks against minorities, including LGBT individuals. In Greece that is not common. Even though people are homophobic and uneducated on the issue, there was hardly any open violence towards LGBT individuals, at least not in the abhorrent way that there is now. People are attacked in broad daylight, in populated areas with bystanders sometimes doing nothing to help.
My point in bringing up Greece is to underline how important acceptance is and not mere tolerance. It is exceptionally easy in times of social and economic crisis for certain minorities to be stigmatized and prosecuted. Usually the individuals who express aversion towards those groups do not limit their hate to one group, which only proves the fallacy of their thinking. Tolerance implies putting up with something, the perverted nature of that something intact within the individual’s consciousness. As soon as things are bad and the luxury of tolerating something is gone, tolerance can very easily turn to hate.
Marriage is an incredibly important goal but it is not all we should be fighting for. Nor should we merely resign in the comfort of our achievements and our safety. Only when we make sure that tolerance has turned into acceptance can we be more secure in these achievements and that takes work. That work does not necessarily mean going out to prides and volunteering in PFLAG or the LGBT center. I believe that acceptance is primarily achieved on a personal level. By speaking out and educating those closer to us we can make a significant impact. I am not saying that that is easy. Believe me I know it’s not. I am Greek. But it is more than important. It is not just about homophobia. It is about fighting hate and oppression in whichever form they are.
But enough with the lecturing. It is indeed a very happy time and we should all just enjoy it. At least I am. And if you are too (and you probably are or else you would have stopped reading the article by now) I suggest tuning in to Rachel Maddow, who is having the time of her life after the elections. Whether you like her or not, it’s worth it just to see what it means to have Santa, New Year’s Eve, the Easter Bunny and summer holidays all rolled into one person.
(Shameless plug-in of a song: Lover of the Light by Mumford and Sons)