Queer in review
We’re still here, you still haven’t gotten used to it
2007: The year Jerry Falwell died, and so did Satendar Singh. Of course, one of these was a hate-spewing pseudo-Christian who got to live past the usual retirement age to die of natural causes, and the other was a young man who was killed by angry bigots who thought he was too queer to live in peace.
And some folks think homosexuals aren’t a hated minority.
Here in Sack-a-homos, we started off the year in grand style: The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors honored marriage on Valentine’s Day, while neglecting entirely any mention of the lack of rights that same-sex couples have when it comes to marriage. Fortunately, Yolo County Clerk-Recorder Freddie Oakley, tired of turning away same-sex couples in search of marriage licenses empty-handed, presented the nuptially deprived with lovely “Certificates of Inequality.”
For this gesture of compassion and solidarity, she earned protests outside her church the Sunday before Valentine’s Day, as well as protesters outside her office. Oh, and a Thong Hy Huynh Civil Rights Advocate Award from the Davis Human Relations Commission.
Further keeping with our local tradition of really strange protests (think: crazy truck man), a bunch of San Juan High School students started wearing T-shirts to school that said “Sodomy is sin” and cited a scripture proscribing the death penalty for homosexuality. These nice, Christian kids were all upset because some other kids were spending a day being quiet by participating in the Day of Silence. It’s an annual event in which kids don’t speak in order to demonstrate the way that some of their classmates—including LGBTQI kids—are intimidated into silence.
But being quiet was offensive! So the so-called Christian kids had to protest the silence with name-calling T-shirts. And gosh, did they ever talk. And wave signs. And protest at the school principal’s home and church.
Like years past, the song remained the same in ’07: right-wingers and religious zealots who think freedom of speech only applies to them. They can leave Jack Chick tracts and homo-hating literature at the bus stop, stand around with their religious mags on the K Street Mall, rent the Capitol grounds for their weddings, but let a kid keep quiet for a day to make a point, and by golly, the queers are persecuting normal people. Protests and counter-protests and counter-counter-protests make for lots and lots of press releases, photo ops, and opportunities to act out. 2007 was more of the same in Sacramento.
That is, right up until Satendar Singh died.
Oh, there had been concern expressed that violent speech might lead to violence—it often does—but do we ever really expect it? Singh sure didn’t. He thought he was enjoying the Fourth of July holiday with his friends. But he looked too “gay”; he was dancing with other men; he dared to kiss a guy in a public park.
And some other folks—let’s not be coy: Eastern European immigrants who described themselves as evangelical Christians in press accounts—took offense. Instead of leaving, instead of complaining to park authorities, instead of for-crying-out loud ignoring behavior that bothered them but was perfectly legal like most of us do, these men began making threats and calling names. What started as verbal abuse ended up with a punch that caused Singh to hit his head. He died a few days later. By the time his assailants were identified, the one who allegedly threw the punch had skipped the country. He still hasn’t been tracked down; his sidekick is facing charges.
But oh, the howling! To listen to the alleged assailants’ families and lawyers, you’d almost believe that Singh asked for it and that there’s no connection between the violent language of the protests by some in the Slavic evangelical community and the violence perpetrated against Singh. But for those tempted to think there’s no connection, just check out an investigative report by the Southern Poverty Law Center on the subject.
Then ask yourself why it is that some people think LGBTQI folks don’t deserve inclusion in hate crimes protections. Never mind that in June—in fact, the week before Satendar Singh was killed—UC Davis psychology professor Gregory Herek published a study in which he found that 40 percent of the gay men in the U.S. had been the target of crime because of their sexual orientation. The numbers were almost as bad for bisexuals and lesbians.
But not to worry. We don’t need the protection of the law, do we? For, although we’d hoped the third time was the charm, the Governator vetoed yet another marriage-equality bill. Schwarzenegger claims “the voters” have spoken—but he probably wouldn’t put basic civil rights for any other group to a popular vote.
Instead, during California’s fall political season, not one, two, three, four or even five but an incredible six initiatives entered circulation, all with the intent of overturning domestic-partner protections for same-sex couples and prohibiting those couples from ever attaining full marriage equality.
So much for discrimination being an efficient use of resources.
The worst of these initiatives not only limits marriage to “one man and one woman,” but actually goes so far as to define “man” and “woman” by their chromosomes. No kidding! If passed into law, that one would legally define a man in California as having one inherited Y chromosome, and a woman would be legally defined as having no inherited Y chromosome.
Hey, all you straight people: Ready to get a genetic test before you can get married? Uh, I didn’t think so. And what about people with unusual genetic conditions, like for instance androgen insensitivity syndrome? No marriage for them, by golly. But the funniest thing is that this particular initiative might actually legalize same-gender marriage for some people. That’s right: what are they going to do about a male-to-female transgendered person (inherited Y chromosome on record) getting married to a female who was born with two X chromosomes and no Y? Bingo: Lesbian wedding!