In his own words................
I want to thank David for inviting me to be a part of this wonderful series on people’s personal reflections on gay marriage. I came out in 1989 at 25 years old and I’ve been active in the lgbt community in some capacity ever since. As an artist and illustrator, much of my activism has utilized my art skills to push lgbt visibility. This desire for visibility led me to create my own line of greeting cards made especially for the African-American lgbt community. As a Chicagoan, I heard about Prop 8 in the final month before the vote. Advice columnist Dan Savage invited readers to donate to the cause in exchange for getting a personal reply to an emailed question. As a fan of Savage, I donated and encouraged others to do the same. When Prop 8 passed, it was reported by CNN that 70% of Black voters voted for the measure and therefore helped it to win. Soon after, several bloggers examined the polling done by CNN and turns out the numbers were derived from faulty data that ignored the fact that Black people only make up 6.7% of the California population. The Black vote was not the determining factor in the Prop 8 victory. Further analysis revealed the number was not 70%, but 57%. Although 57% is nothing to celebrate, it is a more accurate reflection of the voting numbers. I was disappointed that bloggers such as Savage and others were quick to point the finger at the Black community. In the subsequent days after the vote, the blogosphere was filled with negative comments about Black people and the level of homophobia in the Black community. It was reported that Black people who attended No On 8 rallies were called names including the ‘n’ word. As a person who is both Black and gay, I often feel like a visitor in both communities. I’m troubled by homophobia in the Black community along with the racial discrimination and lack of people of color visibility in the White lgbt community. A number of recent examinations of Prop 8 revealed that it wasn’t race, but religion and economic status that influenced people to vote in favor of Prop 8. I don’t bring this up to excuse homophobia in the Black community, but it does bother me that members of the gay community were so quick to scapegoat Black people when the majority of money, influence, and votes can be traced to the work of the Mormon Church and their Republican allies.
I come from a pretty traditional southern family that went to church EVERY Sunday. My father was a deacon at his church and my mother played various roles from choir member to Sunday school teacher. When I came out, it would have been easy for them to subscribe to a conservative Christian interpretation of the Bible and condemn me, but they didn’t. My parents believed in a God of love…a God of inclusion not exclusion. I also think because both my parents were educators meant that they have been exposed to a diversity of ideas and people. I won’t say my coming out wasn’t a shock to them, but they both told me they loved me and that their love would not change because of my orientation. As I visit with my mother and siblings in South Carolina for the holidays, I asked my mother if she would attend a gay wedding. She said yes, if a gay or lesbian person she knew invited her to the ceremony, she would go and support them. That’s my mama!
People can debate the pros and cons of fighting for ‘marriage equality’ vs. ‘civil unions’. For me there is no debate in that the excuses anti-gay folks come up with to deny same sex marriage are bull shit! Pastor Rick Warren (don’t get me stared Obama) and his ilk have said that the institution of marriage has not changed for thousands of years and we shouldn’t ‘tamper’ with it now. This is not true. Early marriages were not solely for love, but for the exchange of property. There are cultures that still practice arranged marriages. There are examples in the Bible of men with multiple wives. There was a time Blacks and Whites could not marry. And no, not every man and woman who marry do so to produce children. Marriage licenses are not revoked for straight people who don’t have kids. For those who insist on focusing on marriage as an institution for the raising of children ignore that many lesbians and gay men have children, but I guess they don’t count. If you want to protect traditional marriage then stop fucking the baby sitter (or the intern, prostitute, etc.)! Stop divorce, stop spousal abuse, stop fighting over money or any of the other reasons that are a REAL threat to marriage.
A lot of Christians have this notion that straights operate on love, where as lgbt people only operate on lust. Our expressions of attraction are seen as a ‘chosen behavior’ that can be changed. Others believe that our love and relationships can’t even be compared to those of heterosexuals. I’m not sure what amount of education can correct these myths. What I do know is that Love Is Love. Two consenting adults of any gender who choose to be in a committed relationship should be respected if they choose to make it legally binding.
It was Gandhi who said “Be the change you want to see in the world”. That’s how I plan to live my life. I will love who I was born to love and maybe someday, society will catch up with me.
Beautifully said. Thank you Otis for participating.
Portrait of Otis painted with black and sepia india ink on 9" x 12" hot pressed watercolor paper.
Here's how the series is shaping up so far.....