I'm wearing purple today.Just following 140-character orders.
"Turn your Twitter avatar purple to support the fight against gay and lesbian bullying!"
"Wear purple on October 20!"
I do as I'm told. Purple's not the worst color on me, after all.
But a lot of people didn't get the memo. Maybe they hadn't heard about it; maybe it's not their fashion statement of choice. I'm lucky to be connected almost constantly with a diverse group of people through Facebook and Twitter, so I take days like this for granted.
October 20, for the uninitiated, has been declared Spirit Day, named for the purple stripe on the LGBTQ flag, which represents spirit. (As for the other stripes, red represents light; orange, healing; yellow, the sun; green, calm; and blue is art.)
This day isn't I can't remember now which came first, Tyler Clementi jumping off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate at Rutgers outed him on the Internet just for fun, or a group of insanely young black men torturing another man, a member of their gang, in the Bronx after finding out he was gay.
I don't handle bad news well. I watched a video a couple of months ago of a girl throwing a bucket full of tiny puppies, one by one, into a river. Laughing. And I was just…cold. For the rest of the afternoon.
A young girl killing helpless dogs that did nothing wrong but being born near where she lived. Ordinary people tormenting fellow human beings who happen to have a different sexual preference. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church picketing a funeral, rubbing salt in the wounds of people who are already mourning. When did we become such monsters? Or has there always been this part of our population that was just evil, and the pace of Internet news has just made it easier for word of them to spread?
It's a bit heartening to hear that the Pentagon has ordered recruiters to start enlisting openly gay men and women into the military. It's a small victory (hooray, now gay people can sign up to die just like straight people!) but one that took centuries to come to: Sodomy was grounds for military discharge as early as the Revolutionary War, and gay servicemen found engaged in sexual acts in the 1940s were given dishonorable discharge. Really. REALLY. Because having sex with men somehow makes you less qualified to kill or otherwise follow orders blindly.
I have never understood this.
I have never understood any of this.
Gays, lesbians, are no different from us. ("If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?" Christians, Jews, gays, straights…we're. all. HUMAN.) Same-sex relationships and sex may not be your choice. Hey! Turns out? It isn't theirs either. It's a biological preference they were born with. And they should be allowed to embrace it. With no fear of repercussions, emotional or physical. Screw the Bible. It was written hundreds and hundreds of years ago. And it’s a work of fiction. Screw your prejudices. They have no basis in reality.
Homosexuality is not a choice. Hate is.
It honestly hurts me sometimes to know I'm part of a group of people — white, American, straight, affluent — responsible for such a huge portion of the oppression in the world. I'm being dramatic, but really. I could have been anyone. It is by sheer happenstance that I was born into the life I have now, and I guess that makes me lucky. I guess.
What I guess also makes me lucky is that I grew up in a home where these things just weren't discussed. I don't remember going to church, and the times I do remember, there was no fire and brimstone. Just shiny offertory platters and the sound of a million-dollar organ filling the sanctuary.
I fell hard for one of my best friends in high school and asked him to be my date to the Sadie Hawkins dance. He turned me down and came out. I was one of the first people he told; it was his senior year of high school. He was surrounded by an accepting group of friends; his mother's support for him never wavered. And 10 years later, he's married. We aren't in touch anymore, but I'm pretty sure he's still the same guy he was, with his flannel-lined jeans; boisterous, nerdy laugh; and obsession with video games.
I was raised with the understanding that humans are humans. People are people.
And I feel sorry for those who weren't.
If all this bullying and cruelty in the world makes me sad, numbs me, I can't…even begin to imagine how isolated and hopeless the kids living it every day must feel.
And that's why I'm wearing purple today.
As meaningless a gesture as it might seem from the outside — one person commented on my Facebook today that purple seemed a bit contrived, and asked why people weren't just wearing rainbows today, because that's "what LGBT people tend to identify with" — it's an opportunity for all people, including those of us who were born without much of a reason to be oppressed at all, to show support for these teens (and anyone, really) living in this world that is far more cruel than it should be in 2010.
It's not going to change the minds and hearts of people who hate gays for no reason. Haters gonna hate.
But if one person sees me today in my purple sweater and ridiculous purple stocking cap, sees me and understands that I'm one spirited grape of a girl, supportive and loving in a sea of blood-red rage — especially if I'm one of five, fifty or a hundred they see in their travels — then I'll consider this day a success.
Even if I never find out who it was I helped.
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