Dear Republicans, Teabaggers and the Right-wing Religious Conservatives:
This gay man thanks you. Because of you, I am a deeply changed man. Renewed, invigorated, inspired, politically and socially active. I have become more engaged in my community, one from which I often felt disenfranchised in the past. Your acts and actions have done me some serious good.
But before you go get all smug, high-fiving your cronies and raising your hands to heaven in exultation, let me elaborate.
I have often said you learn far more working for a bad boss than for a good one... you learn what does not motivate, how not to lead, what not to do, and how not to do it. And that is exactly how this year's lessons have been learned: by what you did poorly, by what you should be ashamed of, by what fools you made of yourselves, and by the hypocrisy and lack of compassion you've displayed along the way. That is how I have learned, that is how I have grown. But yes, thank you. Because for me, growth and good have come of it.
The Republican Politicians
Thank you for pushing legislation in our schools that turns a blind eye to the struggles of our LGBT youth. With the passage of "Don't Say Gay" and the removal of LGBT language in bullying protection (when it's even passed at all), I have come to discover the Trevor Project, GLSEN, The Ali Forney Center and the Tennessee Equality Project - a few of the many wonderful organizations that work diligently and passionately to ensure protection for our next generation. Because news flash: all youth make up our collective next generation, not just the straight ones.
Thank you for making me smarter about gay history, and our pioneers like Harvey Milk and Frank Kameny. Because of your fights to remove gay history from the civil rights discussions in our nation's classrooms, I've made a commitment to learn about our nation's gay heritage, about those not-too-many generations before who dedicated their lives to a world more equal, pioneers who lived a struggle that you, dear Republiticians, seem hell-bent on recreating.
Through the Republicans who have campaigned so hard against marriage equality on the "sanctity of marriage" platform, yet have proven themselves to be serial adulterers, divorcers, bathroom stall toe-tappers, closet cases and rent-boy buyers, I've learned that the worst sin of a politician is not simple human failing, but hypocrisy in the face of it. Thank you for clarifying that view as I consider candidates in 2012.
These acts of hypocrisy give me more respect for politicians who run openly or openly support restoring or preserving rights for all citizens, regardless of who those citizens call lover, partner, husband or wife.
Thank you for proving your party is also not worth donation or support when, in the wake of the announcement that political pioneer Barney Frank would be stepping down, the pages of public sites were flooded with despicable and ignorant comments about sodomy and AIDS. How does such a reaction warrant my loyalty? It does not. Why would I support this "party," reveling in a leader's departure, amid lies and pure stupidity? I will not.
Thank you for helping me find a better candidate. Because of your fights against marriage equality, I have become a lifelong fan of New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, whose work not only passed the legislation, but whose political know-how helped unify the presence and strength of gay rights groups.
Thank you, Rick Santorum. Because of you, I discovered Dan Savage, who's used social media and Google to take back the power of voice from politicians and Faux newsers. Because of you, Rick Santorum, I spearheaded a video contribution to Savage's life-changing It Gets Better project, adding a chorus of over 5000 views to the millions of voices, clicks and shares of support created by Mr. Savage when our leaders provided none. Or worse.
Thank you for work to ban or punish gay men and women from or for serving in the military. Because of those biased and bigoted views, I have been driven to the work of Jeff Sheng, whose gorgeous documentary photos represent the shame and fear of those already risking their lives for our collective freedom and domestic safety. Sheng's work, without revealing anyone's identity, puts a face on the issue in a way none of your homophobic tirades ever could, and you have crystallized my view that full repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is the only honorable option for those serving in wars you sent them to. This door of respect for our troops and vets, opened wider to me because of DADT, has also led me to wonderful organizations for ALL our Vets - the Wounded Warrior Project, Brides Across America, Decorate a Vet, 100,00 Jobs Mission - all private efforts, all inspiring, none created at the governmental level.
Thank you for being so focused on stripping the reproductive rights from women and battling your boss on what constitutes healthcare that you have let the light waver and the funding dwindle from AIDS, still a battle, and a growing issue in several segments of the population. That ignorance has led me to the lives and writings of AIDS advocates like Mark S. King, the grassroots efforts of Dab Garner, and recommitting my beliefs in, and redirecting my energies and charitable giving to AIDS charities like The Alpha Workshops, Housing Works and DIFFA.
The Religious Right
And it's not only politicians to thank... it's the public faces of conservative religion in our country. So thank you, Tim Tebow, for presenting a religion that so publicly espouses God when the spotlight allows, yet prevents you from lending your voice to the It Gets Better campaign. Thank you, Westboro Baptist Church, for casting your sad web of hate across a wider plain this year, revealing the atrocity you dare call a "church" to Americans outside the gay rights fight.
Thank you, Bradlee Dean, Rock "Minister" of You Can Run But You Can't Hide, and your deep-pocketed political supporters. Your insidious comments on our radio airwaves and in our classrooms about "suitable punishment for homosexuality" introduced me to those working so hard in Minnesota for equality, and nationwide, working to overturn the Citizens United ruling allowing corporations unlimited political donation. It led me to a simple Target boycott, but expanded into broader thinking and a clearer understanding of how our political system works.
It's also introduced me to remarkable "ordinary" people who have become champions of rights... "Boycott Grandma" Randi Reitan and her family top that list, but it has grown into a lively and lovely network of folks I'm proud to call friend, many who've added "Equality" or "Ready to Rumble" "Freedom Fighter" or "Second Class Citizen" to their names on Facebook to demonstrate their personal conviction; I've seen no such conviction from career politicians.
It also introduced me to Mike Thompson, the new head of GLAAD, and reacquainted me with this and other gay organizations that have never been more focused, productive or poised to make change. For the first time in my life, I am making monthly donations to the Human Rights Campaign - flawed or not, the HRC is now receiving money you will not be seeing in your campaign coffers.
Thank you for showing me that lackluster (and slipping) global opinion of the US is very often well-founded, as we remain in the Dark Ages and far behind the world on issues of LGBT equality. As the UN passed global sanctions against gay-based discrimination, we argue on comment threads about whether the premeditated murder of a 15 year old boy is or isn't a hate crime because the shooter was threatened by the victim's sexuality. As Poland elected the first transgender lawmaker this year, trusting her to enact and interpret law, conservatives here in America maliciously tore apart the performance and life of Chaz Bono for participating in a dance entertainment program.
It is because of such "religious" views that made me actively seek out organizations that keep faith in perspective, leading me to the documentary, For the Bible Tells Me So, its director Daniel Karslake, and the work of Faith in America which is working to strip hatred from the teachings of faith. It's all also made me read more about the separation of church and state, a vital distinction you not only seem to forget but apparently want to dissolve as part of your 2012 campaign platform planks.
The national genuflect-jinks of Tebow, and the homophobic slurs tossed about by (among others) sports "heroes" has made me find all the more respect for world sports stars like gay-friendly Ben Cohen and uber-masculine, totally-out Anton Hysén who have had amazing sports careers and work to reverse the stereotypes, danger and discriminations in the world of professional sports. That also led to the discovery of Changing the Game: The GLSEN Sports Project, a remarkable group channeling all that is good about sport to change minds on and off the playing fields, leveling them all in the process.
The Right Wing Media
Thank you, pundits and blowhards, for proving that citizens still maintain the greatest ability to fuel the dialogue and make change, and do it with courage and grace. Amid all the inactivity of the past legislative year, where you worked with more vigor to deny, disband and destroy than craft, shape or change, not one piece of inspiration came from within your ranks. The inspirational moments came from citizens who dared question the status quo, and who did it with quiet conviction humility, candor, and without ever losing their inner calm or making exclusionary statements or accusation.
I think of the words and moments that moved me this year, and they came from Zach Wahls, lauding his two mothers for the fine young man they created from within a same-sex household. They came from Elijah, the little son of a lesbian couple, in a whisper to Michele Bachmann, "My mommies don't need fixing." They came from a gay veteran who confronted the campaigning Mitt Romney on his DADT stance when Romney interrupted the vet's breakfast. And when inspiration did come from a politician, it came from Democratic City Commissioner Joel Burns whose moving contribution to the It Gets Better conversation did more to motivate me in one video clip than your collective majority has done in the past four years.
These moments also proved to me that quiet acts go further than grand standing. While you were throwing tea party rallies, press conferences, and filibusters, the Administration passed legislation allowing hospital visitation rights to unmarried couples of all orientation, giving gay men and women back a bit of the dignity that moments of health crisis so often rob them of. So, thank you for reaffirming my longstanding ideal that those who shout the loudest very often have the least to say.
Your lack of inspiration has also led me to find my own, and I found it in a cadre of bloggers, web writers, columnists and advocates like Joe Jervis of Joe.My.God, Bil Browning of the Bilerico Project, Andy Towle of Towleroad, Mel White, David Mixner, Justin Spring and others. Their words bring deep perspective to issues you regularly reduce to stereotype and lie. But thank you, again! Without the vacuum you have created, I would not have been driven to find such wisdom and wit with which to fill it.
The Gay Republicans & Moderates
And a special thank you to the Log Cabin Republicans' Manhattan chapter. When I sincerely asked for your help in understanding your position - one that has long seemed oxymoronic to me - I was verbally taunted and assaulted on their Facebook page by their members, then blocked and banned from question or comment. Thanks for affirming that you deserve - and will get none - of my support.
I do understand there are Republicans who dare cross party lines; marriage equality in New York state would not have passed without you. I also understand there are many good men and women of Faith among us. I thank all of you for very different reasons. I speak here of the extremes, the damaging, the narrow-minded, that use their party or faith for acts of exclusion and hate (under the guise of political or "moral" conviction).
So, dear Republicans, because you have kept your hearts so tightly shut and cast a blind eye, you have helped open mine. Because you have been so careless with your responsibilities, I have become more aware of my own. Because you have been so irresponsible with the faith we have placed in you, I have met wonderful people who have inspired, enlightened humored and supported me, and worked for my right to an equal life as a gay American. None of them were politicians. Perhaps they should be.
So, a big gay and sincere thank you, to the zealots, bigots, teabaggers and hardcore religious right. You have made me a better man. I'll see you at the polls in 2012, hopefully for the last time.