Why Equality Matters

Why Equality Matters January 17, 2012

If you haven’t seen this video yet, you need to watch it. It’s heartbreaking on its own, but it becomes far more devastating when you know that he killed himself two days after filming this message to tell other young gay people that they can overcome homophobia and hatred and have a happy life.

httpv://youtu.be/InWhEIaCFkg

People ask me regularly why I care so much about gay rights since I’m not gay myself. This is why. Because I’ve known and cared about too many people like Eric, people who were ostracized by their families and mistreated and brutalized by their peers. This is why we cannot just leave the fight for equality to those who need it; those of us who care about the victims of bigotry must stand up and make our voices heard.


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  • When I saw that first the other day, it made me cry. And we are reminded that while the It Gets Better project is a beautiful, wonderful, powerful thing, it’s not enough.

    It can’t be enough, because even those it has reached are still falling victim. The only thing that can be enough is ending homophobia. An unrealistic goal? Probably. But still the one to reach for.

  • Brownian

    People ask me regularly why I care so much about gay rights since I’m not gay myself.

    What kind of idiot asks this? It’s on par with asking how someone can be good without believing in judging gods. If you cannot take one moment to look at your life and realise that, unless you’re a complete sociopath, you do all sorts of things that aren’t in your immediate and direct self-interest, then shut up and let the adults talk.

    Gah.

  • If someone’s abusing you, don’t kill yourself, kill the other guy first!

  • Michael Heath

    Eric Borges was obviously broken by the point where this video was produced, in spite of his mouthing encouraging words and enjoying some positive experiences after coming out. I obviously regret he wasn’t able to suffer through and someday get to a better mental place, but the people around him put him into a really dark place.

    Even though I’m 52 now, I remain haunted by an experience I witnessed as a young teen. Two older teenage boys were bullying a gay boy about their age in the nearly empty hallway of my high school. Not just what they did, but far more importantly the reaction by authority figures I got involved who wanted to use this event as a teaching moment to disparage gay people rather than punish and disparage the bullies. [I’ve repeatedly written about this in Ed’s forum before.]

    That event back then really impressed upon me how all us have an effect on our culture and how conservative Christians are all that’s needed to maintain discrimination and all its ill effects on gays. Not that only Christians persecute gays, many bullies are not religious at all, but that these Christians remain the sole enabler and justifier which allows a culture to abuse gay people and their families.

  • raymoscow

    Why care about gay people? Because they are our family and friends (or someone else’s family and friends), that’s why.

    And gay rights are just the same human rights that we all want. Sticking up for gay rights is sticking up for everyone’s rights. It’s the smart thing to do as well as the right thing.

    This is sad.

  • The Christian Cynic

    As much as I admire the project, I’ve long thought that “It Gets Better” is an entirely inadequate response for two main reasons: 1) it’s not much consolation to someone who is suffering now, as it won’t diminish their current pain, and 2) it only gets better if you survive it. The crux of the matter is as you (Ed) have said it: equality matters, and only when bigotry turns to tolerance will things truly “get better.”

  • dingojack

    CC – So the concept of ‘hope’ is pretty useless in your estimation?

    No wonder you’re cynical about christianity.

    Dingo

  • A. Noyd

    The Christian Cynic (#6)

    it’s not much consolation to someone who is suffering now, as it won’t diminish their current pain

    Unless part of their current pain is the anxiety that their current pain is going to last forever. Even people who can see on a rational level that things will be different in the future have a hard time feeling that when they’re depressed. Having people tell them “I’ve been where you are and things got better” can be a huge consolation. It’s not a solution to the entire situation causing their pain, but it is something that can alleviate the severity of their depression and perhaps give them some help in enduring and finding ways of coping.

  • Though the feeling of a depressed person that things will never get better is pretty near impossible to talk away, an expression of sympathy (less, perhaps, because of its content than because it is sympathy) can nonetheless help. If things become just fractionally more bearable for a person in this predicament, then suicide recedes just that much into the background. So the effort to console is usually worth making.

  • Pinky

    My heart goes out to Eric. It sounds like zie fought to the end and did not compromise.

    What we can do in zir memory is to not allow derogatory jokes or remarks about Gays or others. To let hateful remarks go unchallenged is to quietly condone them.

  • D. C. Sessions

    People ask me regularly why I care so much about ___ rights since I’m not ___ myself.

    No man is an island,

    Entire of itself.

    Each is a piece of the continent,

    A part of the main.

    If a clod be washed away by the sea,

    Europe is the less.

    As well as if a promontory were.

    As well as if a manor of thine own

    Or of thine friend’s were.

    Each man’s death diminishes me,

    For I am involved in mankind.

    Therefore, send not to know

    For whom the bell tolls,

    It tolls for thee.

    Sometimes I recognize when I can’t improve on someone else’s work.

  • The Christian Cynic

    DJ: The concept of hope isn’t much consolation to someone who feels hopeless. Otherwise, nice straw man you got there – need a brain for it? (Speaking of straw men, who said I was cynical specifically about Christianity?)

    A. Noyd:

    Unless part of their current pain is the anxiety that their current pain is going to last forever. Even people who can see on a rational level that things will be different in the future have a hard time feeling that when they’re depressed. Having people tell them “I’ve been where you are and things got better” can be a huge consolation. It’s not a solution to the entire situation causing their pain, but it is something that can alleviate the severity of their depression and perhaps give them some help in enduring and finding ways of coping.

    Let me be clear: I don’t think that this project is a bad thing, just that it’s inadequate (that is, it’s not enough). I’m also not saying that people who have participated in or support the project aren’t doing anything to stop anti-gay bullying or homophobia. I just don’t see how telling someone things will get better is much of a consolation at all. It’s like telling someone who has just gone through a divorce, “Oh, don’t worry, you’ll get over him/her.” That doesn’t mean the person won’t still cry over it.

    And certainly when we’re talking about people who receive such harassment that they are suicidal, telling them that the harassment will end eventually (and let’s face it, not even that is true) isn’t going to make them put down the pills or the razor blade.

    That’s all I’m saying.

  • Michael Heath

    Christian Cynic,

    I agree the It Gets Better video series isn’t enough; but I think, well admittedly more like hope since I’ve change minds. I recall one with a young lady who was a college freshman discussing how happy she was at her university compared to what she faced in her small rural town. That could very well encourage some high school kids that they can gut it out. I had the exact same experience when I arrived at MSU where it was a truly thrilling experience, a complete change of life, and quite frankly – not all that much of a surprise. I note the latter because I think some kids do sense the grass can truly be greener on the other side and have had enough exposure to the world to distinguish how their community differs from other places.

  • garnetstar

    So his good-christian parents shamed him, “exorcized” him, and threw him out.

    Now that he has committed suicide, I suppose they are celebrating. God answered their prayers, they don’t have a gay son anymore. They should be lifting up their voices in thanksgiving.

    Religion spoils everything.

  • A correction – the video was posted on December 10, 2011. EricJames succumbed to suicide on January 11, 2012.

    Memorial services are tomorrow, Wednesday 1/18, and Saturday 1/21, in Visalia, Ca.

    Information on services here:

    http://queervisalia.com/2012/01/16/memorials-for-ericjames/

  • Aquaria

    I think the campaign does some interesting things that maybe aren’t immediately obvious:

    1) It raises awareness for the apathetic, undecideds and fence-sitters about the issue, and where important people stand on it. It also tells them decent people are sick and tired of the complacency about bullying, and they include bullying of homosexuals in that. This tells them that bullying of homosexual kids is no longer something decent people accept or pretend doesn’t exist.

    2) It shows the haters that they don’t have as many supporters as they think they do. Every time someone speaks up to let these kids know that they don’t support bullying, it removes the haters one person further from speaking for all of America.

    I think those things are just as important as what it purportedly does for the kids themselves.

  • exdrone

    I look forward to the day when our grandkids study our current racial discrimination, homophobia and Christian bigotry in history class and ask us, “What the heck was that all about?”

    Shrug. “It was a primitive time.”

  • Michael Heath

    garnetstar:

    Now that he has committed suicide, I suppose they [Eric Borges’ parents] are celebrating. God answered their prayers, they don’t have a gay son anymore. They should be lifting up their voices in thanksgiving. [emphasis mine – MH]

    A perfect example of a cafeteria Christian would have them celebrating the verse I put in bold below while ignoring the italicized verses in spite of them all being in close proximity. From 1 Thessalonians 5, Revised Standard Version:

    15 See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another* and to all. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray constantly, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit, 20 do not despise prophesying, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good, . . .

    and they’ll receive comfort for their evil from this verse in Romans 8:

    28 We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.

    and Ephesians 8:

    . . . 20 always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.

    Every single human has of course miserably failed the “test everything” edict; however conservative Christians are in practice monolithically opposed to such to the point its a defining attribute not to test anything if possible. I think this is one of the phrases they can’t even physically see and consider, let alone actually attempt to do. If Eric Borges’ parents had legitimately “tested everything”, taught themselves about homosexuality, and adapted to the good of what they learned when it came to their son’s situation, this kid would most likely be alive today and nowhere near as miserable as he was when he made this video.

    It would be interesting to understand these parents’ thoughts five years from now. Anyone think they’d develop some wisdom because of this situation? Would they have helped others in order to prevent further similar suffering there son went through because of his parents behavior? Is Michelle Bachman or a similar demagogic bigot so craven she or they will exploit this young’s man death to argue Mr. Borges’ suicide validates how harmful the gay “lifestyle” is? As if they are on the side of life on this topic in spite of being the biggest enabler and inflictor of gays suffering?

    *Paul is writing to the Christians in Thessalonica.

  • Michael Heath

    Aquaria @ 17,

    Excellent post.

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