I’ve Been Thinking About Human Rights Lately

Having grown up outside a small town in Idaho, everything that I knew about the Civil Rights Movement and Women’s Rights Movement came from history books, classrooms, and television. Honestly, I grew up thinking that it was all settled, dealt with, that it was history.

Clearly I was wrong.

Being gay, I have known for the past 25 years that I am at best a second class citizen. I believed that there was no real chance for that to change any time soon, but I wanted change and in a small way I worked for it. And I have always been grateful to those outside the gay community who made a point to demonstrate that they were working for me to have equal rights too.

This past year, the gay community has made some clear steps toward equal protection under the law in the United States. However, the fact that these steps have been taken on paper does not mean that we are done working on this.

Here is the reason that I’m writing this: realizing that the work is not done for gay people to have equal rights and protections under the law, I see that the work is not done for anyone really. The battles may appear done on paper, but now we have to acknowledge that the real site of this war is in our minds. As long as we fear that adding people other than ourselves to the family of those fully enfranchised in our culture, we are not done.

So I want to be an ally. Like the allies of the gay community that I admire, I know that I will sometimes make mistakes, that I will sometimes overstep. For several years I have considered myself to be a feminist. To many, that is itself an overstep. But there are enough others who appreciate my willingness to apply that label to myself that I feel it is defensible.

There have been times, recently, when I have wondered what, exactly I can do, to move all of the disenfranchised closer to equality. Today I have realized an answer. I can start by changing my mind. I can seek out and redirect racist, sexist, and bigoted thoughts. I can repudiate my acceptance of these thoughts and deliberately seek to have different ones. By making the inside of my head more equal and free, I will make my instinctive response to normative tyranny an utter rejection.

Is this enough? Probably not. There are, obviously, changes that have to happen in the world outside my mind. But the more clearly I understand how I have upheld the problem in the past, the more easily I will be able to recognize and enact remedy in the future.

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