While America is rapidly advancing gay rights, France is working hard to disprove the old canard that Europe is more sophisticated and sexually progressive than America.
Over this last weekend, as many as half a million French people rallied in the streets to protest gay rights. Here is an irreverent take on the event at Jezebel.com.
Maybe someday the French can learn to be as sexually permissive and accepting as Utah.
(AP Photo/Thibaut Camus)
I hear friends complain about the world, yet often they are people who perpetuate the very thing they lament.
Sometimes we see what we believe. I am an optimist and a philanthrope. I genuinely like most of the people I meet. Because of that, I live in a breathtakingly benign world. I am treated exceptionally well wherever I go, and the exceptions stand out strongly, as they are so rare and unexpected. (Of course being tall, white, and male is all part of the privilege I live with too. I do hope some of the world I generate around me is because of my heart, as well.)
We often forget our power to shift the world. Part of this is putting on different, rosier, goggles, and part of this is being the change we want to see in the world, as Ghandi put it. Or as the Greek philosopher Plutarch said:
What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.
Most recently, we’ve watched the gay rights movement fight for equality on the national stage. Yet it isn’t only national laws that create change, but also in the smaller increments of our individual lives.
I grew up with Mormons who idolized family values, yet excommunicated their gay children. This form of “morality” is replicated across the Christian world, with communities rejecting the very members who bridge and crossover community divisions, while they lament that things fall apart.
Contrast that with the wisdom of Eleanor Roosevelt, who said:
Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.
We learn so much about the struggle for equal rights from the African American community. In The Black Generation Gap, published in The Root, Ellis Cose identifies three generational shifts: Fighters, Dreamers, and Believers.
The first generation fought against intolerance and bigotry for basic recognition. The next generation lived into the dream the previous generation created. The third generation let go of the old fights, not longer letting them define their lives. That doesn’t mean the struggle is over, racism (and sexism, and homophobia, and…) will always be with us, but at some point the younger generation moves past the old arguments and into their own lives, no longer defined by the battles of previous generations.
The gay community is struggling with a similar dynamic. The first generation fought for basic rights and recognition, and then we began to live the dream, proud of our hard-earned successes. Now comes a generation that doesn’t care about all that. They barely call themselves gay. It is not that their nature is any different than my generation’s, it is just that we succeeded. We created a world were they can be themselves without living in reaction to the old norms.
Finally, young gay people can start moving on without the old burdens and tired rhetoric my generation had to face. Good stuff, that.
San Francisco Gay Pride Parade 2011 (Preston Grant)