We the People: If Any of Us Are Separate, None of Us Are Equal
By Elinia F. Hart
As a citizen of the United States of America, I have certain rights. As a human, I have certain human rights. As a member of the LGBT community, I am denied those rights. Other community members are likewise denied their rights. We are discriminated against (denied the right to nondiscrimination). We are subject to violence and harassment (denied our right to be free from violence and harassment). We are murdered by our fellow citizens or, in some parts of the world, by our governments (denied our right to life). We are tortured. We are arbitrarily arrested. We are not free to move between states. We are not always given a fair trial. Our privacy is invaded. We are not free to express ourselves and associate with one another and others. We cannot practice religion. We are fired from our jobs if we have managed to be hired in the first place. We cannot access social security, assistance, and benefits. We are denied access to physical and mental health care. We are denied the right to form a family. We cannot marry our partners. Our children and LGBT youth, whether perceived or self-identifying, cannot enjoy their rights to education. We the people stand united and divided from the rest of the people in the eyes of our fellow citizens, our governments, our countries, our neighbors, our religious leaders, our educators, our police officers, our armed forces… We are labeled “them” and are forced to fight against “us”—an “us” that places some people in a privileged position which allows them access to their human and citizen rights.
The LGBT community, among others, is placed separate, “them,” against a certain set of values and norms, “deserving” to have our rights denied. We are told by our parents, teachers, friends, neighbors, loved ones, media, laws, churches… that we are wrong. That we are “morally corrupt,” even “bankrupt.” That we will be “the demise of our countries.” That we are “sinners.” Those who are supposed to love us most, keep us safest, provide us sanctuary, keep us healthy… they turn their backs. These people scoff at us, allowing ignorance to skew their vision, making them see something that isn’t there, something that never was. When strangers turn their backs, our governments, our doctors, our teachers… it hurts. But when our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers… turn away… there are no words. We hold each other up when our loved ones let us fall. Perhaps it strengthens the “us” v. “them” divide to depend on community, but when the world fights so hard against us, at the very least we are entitled to a decent defense against the war. Against the insults and injuries, against the speeches by politicians and preachers alike, spending precious moments of their lives tearing us down to what someone one told them we are.
If the people of this world spent a fraction of the time that they spend hating people on trying to unite people in love upon common ground, we might come closer to attaining those lofty dreams we can only begin to imagine. If we can all let go of what we think we know and learn to ask one another and find the truth, we can make progress. We can begin to remedy the crimes against the LGBT community, among others, by reversing mentalities that are “separate but equal” at their best and genocidal at their worst. Only as citizens and humans do we have rights. As lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transmen, transwomen, travestis, queers, intersex people… we lose those rights. To ask for those rights is perceived as demanding some privilege from our governments that should come only to the luckiest. Our rights are called “gay rights,” among other things, and considered “special,” “modern,” “excessive”… The rights we have as citizens and as humans are denied; we ask only that this is remedied. That we are considered equals. Not as a “them” to each nation’s “us.” That we not be forced to choose between living closeted to receive our rights or living out and denied our rights. We want nothing more than to have what we have as citizens and humans. Anything less is to call us less than human, or less than citizens, in a lower class of our own, less deserving.
We deserve our rights, as does every other citizen and human. Maintaining the precedent that some are less deserving than others makes a hierarchy of us all that endangers the rights of all citizens and all humans for generations to come. We have waited long enough. We have fought. We have suffered. We will continue to wait and fight and suffer until we are treated as equals, not because we want more, but because we want the same. The same rights as any other citizen, as any other human. It is in your hands to make that a reality. As a citizen of your country, as a member of humanity, you can make it happen. Whether you are a politician, a child in school, a worker… change is in your hands. The system that oppresses is maintained by those who let it continue without question, without a moment’s pause, and even by those who contemplate but never act. Inaction is a choice and is has consequences.
Tell your senator, your teacher, your neighbors, your friends… that equality matters to each and every one of us citizens, to each and every one of us humans. If any of us are separate none of us are equal. Equality is not a special right; it is our foundation. “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” ought to repair the cracks before we all come tumbling down.
© Elinia F. Hart — Posted with permission.