Queer Today, Gone Tomorrow

Child holding a sign that read “Fags Doom Nations” at a rally by Kansas minister Fred Phelps. Photo by Callen Harty.

Imagine a world in which you are rounded up and taken off to a camp to spend the rest of your life behind an electric wire fence with others who are just like you.  You are separated from your family and friends.  Everything you’ve ever worked for is taken from you because you are a part of a hated group.  Those who put you there have clearly stated their intention is to destroy your kind.

This happened to millions of people during Hitler’s era in Germany.  Twelve million of them died–six million of those were Jews, but there were also six million others, including Gypsies, physically and mentally disabled individuals, Communists, certain religious people, and an estimated half a million gays and lesbians.  In the Holocaust the intent was to exterminate Jews and rid society of other “undesirables”.  When the world fully learned what had happened the refrain became “Never again”.

Recently a minister in North Carolina proposed a camp with electric fencing where gays could go to live out their days.  He suggested a separate camp for lesbians.  He said he wouldn’t have anyone killed, but that this would eliminate homosexuality from our world once all those in the camps eventually died, not understanding that almost all of us are the products of heterosexual relationships.

The suggestion is horrifying.  Also horrifying is that other than in the queer community and a few left-leaning media sources this hateful idea has barely been noticed and barely been condemned.

In the last month I have either read several stories or watched videos that encourage violence against queer members of our society and most of them were from conservative ministers or others preaching to congregations of people whose religion supposedly teaches them to love.  In addition, most of them were a barely noticeable blip in the media, if covered at all.

There was the North Carolina minister above who said to chants of “Amen” on May 13 that he wants to round up gays and lesbians in camps so that we eventually die out.  There was another North Carolina pastor who wants to return to legal prosecution of those involved in “the homosexual lifestyle.”  There was the Kansas minister, Curtis Knapp, who believes the government should kill homosexuals.  He said he wouldn’t do it himself, but the government should, adding that we punish pedophiles, polygamists, and others, so we shouldn’t exclude homosexuals.  There was the minister who said that if his son were effeminate he would punch him and make him “man up.”  And there was the Indiana child who couldn’t have been more than five or six who sang a song that included the line, “ain’t no homo gonna make it to heaven” during a church service and was cheered and encouraged by the pastor and his congregation.

This is the world in which I live as a gay man.

How many of my friends can say they have had men and women yell “faggot” at them, or throw beer bottles at them, because of who they are?  I have, and I’m betting almost every one of my gay friends has endured this at some point.  How many of my friends have had their lives threatened?  I have, and so have many of my queer friends.  How many of my friends can say they know someone who was hospitalized after being beaten for who they are?  I can.  How many of my friends can say that a friend of theirs has died at their own hands at least in part because of their identity?  I can.  How many of my friends can say that they have had a friend murdered because of his sexuality?  I can.

This is the world in which I live as a gay man.

An article on Queerty yesterday reported an 11% increase in hate crimes of murder against LGBT citizens from 2010 to 2011.  87% of those were queer persons of color.  40% of them were transgender.  And that was just the murders.  It didn’t include statistics on beatings, suicides, sexual violence, or emotional trauma.  It’s also widely understood in law enforcement that most hate crimes don’t even get reported, so any numbers released by the government underestimate the violence against queer people in this country.

This is the world in which I live as a gay man.

As we move closer to marriage equality and acceptance in other ways in this society the violence against us grows stronger.  It is the last gasp of the far right, struggling to push us back in the closet.  Before the end of legalized segregation (segregation certainly hasn’t really ended in this country) there were ministers all over the country preaching against it.  Among the worst periods for lynching of African-Americans in this country was prior to and during the period of greatest civil rights victories in the mid-1960’s.  We are seeing a similar backlash against the queer community now.  It will pass, but like blacks in this country, the discrimination and violence against us will not end at any time in the near future.

It is the world in which we live.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on Amazon.com (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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1 Response to Queer Today, Gone Tomorrow

  1. holliswt says:

    This like the many other forms of American discrimination, bigotry and hatred of fellow Americans should be a matter of narltinal shame. Time and again those discrimated against have shown their value and loyalty on the battlefield, in daily life and in every other way imaginable. Still the discrimination, bigotry and hatred live on. It is incomprehensible to me but a fact of American life. I think its end must be a paramount end in every political and social movement. Any movement without that end should be decried as inhuman, inhumane and misanthropic. It’s time to call this thuggery out whenever and wherever it raises its ugly head. It is unpatriotic, un-American and disloyal to all American ideals.

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