Bigotry is as bigotry does

Minneapolis Gay Pride 2010 shot by puppethead on flickr

Minneapolis boasts the third largest Gay Pride celebration in the United States. The contributions of gay culture here are quantifiable: without the influx of gays in the 80s and 90s (some cast out of their homes, others just seeking their own) a good chunk of the urban renewal that has enlivened Minneapolis would never have happened. When a gay couple moves in next door, my first thought is “Up go the property values!”

The first real friends I made in Minnesota were all in some way part of or allied to the gay community. I was struggling with yet again being an outsider, a status that will never really change for me, and while I didn’t exactly find home, I found acceptance. The kind support of the people I met helped me overcome the homophobia I’d been ingrained with growing up, and opened up paths to freedom within and without that I had never previously imagined.

Now, a decade later, I have friends gay and straight, black and white and occasionally striped, but all mostly liberal. It’s sad, but I don’t particularly enjoy debating – I’d rather just let those around me live with parallel opinions and trade recipes; except in the case of those with really poor character those opinions were come to through life experience as valid as my own.

I am proud of the contributions that the gay community has made to Minneapolis. I am proud to call certain gay individuals my friend, not because they are gay, but because they are people of good character. I uphold their rights to marry, to love and to go about their lives with the same expectation of safety that I have. (Which really should be a lot better than it is for all of us.)

At the same time, I uphold the rights of others to peacefully express their opposing views on this and any other subject.

I have followed the situation with Pastor Brian Johnson with interest. While I completely disagree with his stance on homosexuality, I have to say that the Pride board was dead wrong about this one. It suggests a loss of perspective that is the predecessor to bigotry. The reaction is totally understandable: it’s impossible not to take an anti-gay preacher personally when you are gay. When someone’s politics is directed at your very personal life, your emotional response will fire off first. That’s definitely what happened here, and in the process, the board forgot:
Loring Park is public and belongs to all taxpayers.
First amendment rights belong to the opposition, as well.

As it is, Johnson got some interesting reactions as he passed out Bibles. Many were outright immature, and much of it was about thinking of Loring Park as “pride only” space when it is, in fact, public space – space that conservatives have a right to use, too, and not just those Log Cabin people.

The point of Gay Pride originally was to assert the rights of gays to participate in their whole community. At some point, as happens when subcultures spring up, it became more about the gay community. Johnson and the legal battle he was involved with is a grim marker of this loss of perspective: everyone in the world is in this together, and over-isolating and segregating yourself will lead to the people who set me free becoming the bigots. I hope this does not happen.