Panel Voices: Should LGBT people be patriotic even though we don’t have equal rights?
July 4, 2012 | 1:00 pm
(Updated: February 22, 2013 | 6:24 pm)
OFC panelists Carlos Martinez, Courtney Gray, Jen LaBarbera and Brandé Micheau weigh in on this week’s question:
My childhood experience was that of an immigrant, and patriotism was a hard concept to grasp early on. I experienced discrimination at a young age and racial epithets were used to make me feel un-American. It was later, in college, that I learned to make sense of my American experience: an experience that blended two cultures, two languages, two traditions and two value systems, among many other character building matters. During this time I also dealt with coming out, struggling over how my identity would play out in the different worlds I inhabited.
Over the years, I’ve learned to bring the whole of who I am into every part of my life – home, family, work and community, without any shame, guilt or fear of persecution. The freedom to explore who you are and live authentically is something not afforded to every human being in this world. The pride that I carry in being me is one that has been shaped by how I have allowed politics, policies, societal norms, traditions and cultural experiences to determine my being. I’ve learned that patriotism is shaped by allowing “me” to find my true self, to live authentically and to fight openly against injustices or inequalities brought on by any organized group that denies equality to anyone. For that, I feel patriotic.
Carlos Martinez is the chief executive officer of the GLBT Community Center of Colorado.
“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union …”
These words immediately came to mind. While it is true that we as LGBTQ people do not have equal rights across the board, it’s imperative that we remain patriotic and proud of our great nation.
Is our country or our government perfect? Far from it, but our young nation has continued to grow and improve over the last 236 years. At points throughout our relatively short history as a nation, we have changed our views and policies on slavery, women’s suffrage, interracial marriage and segregation. With that in mind, I can’t help but think with each passing year and with each changed mind, we are forming a more perfect union.
Since this time last year we saw the fall of DADT, our president declared publicly his support for marriage equality and the federal courts have deemed critical portions of DOMA unconstitutional. With each step forward I see that vision that our founding fathers dreamed of and with each step I find myself being more proud of our diverse nation. So should we be patriotic? Well, I am. I have a great many rights that many in our world do not and for that, I am proud to be an American.
Courtney Gray is the Transgender Programs Coordinator at the GLBT Community Center of Colorado, transgender activist, proud lesbian, wife and mom.
Patriotism isn’t about just accepting your country as is or leaving your criticism – or even cynicism – at the door. In fact, I would argue that patriotism is very different from that; patriotism is a belief that the country you call home can be better than it is – can be great – can be all that it promises to be for everyone who calls this country home. As LGBT Americans, and by “Americans,” I mean both documented and undocumented, I believe it is our responsibility and patriotic duty to take that criticism and that recognition of inequality and work towards the change that we want and need to see.
Being patriotic means more than just waving a flag, chanting “USA!” at rallies or sports games or sending soldiers off to war. Being patriotic means having love for and pride in the place you call home, with all its imperfections and shortcomings. Being patriotic means fighting for the equal rights that we don’t yet have, for the justice that we deserve. Being patriotic means believing that it’s our duty to fight that fight, to make this country better for ourselves, for our families, and for the LGBT folks who will come after us.
Jen LaBarbera is a 20-something queer woman in Denver. She is an organizer for reproductive justice and a member of One Colorado’s People of Color Caucus.
LGBT people should be both patriotic and patient. While we don’t have equal rights, our struggle for equality must be looked at with a long-term vision, and within the contexts of recent history and the global struggle for equality. In the United States of America, although we are not given the same rights and opportunities as our heterosexual counterparts, we are certainly given more than some of our brothers and sisters in other countries.
When you look at how far we have come in such a short period of time, you cannot help but feel patriotic at the great strides that we have made in our nation in terms of social justice and equality. We are on the tipping point for equal rights, and to stop our forward momentum because we set the bar low for the very nation that we seek to influence would be both short-sighted and selfish.
I am patriotic because I can live openly and not in fear for my life. I am patriotic because I know that we have a political system that allows average citizens like myself to have a strong voice and representation. I am patriotic because I understand that if we don’t like something about our current situation, then we have the power to be the change that we seek.
Brandé Micheau is a community activist and leader currently working in local politics as a constituent outreach officer.