The eloquent words Dr Meyer uses to describe the constant, everyday hassles, discrimination, and prejudice encountered by gay and lesbian people and couples, especially when they decide to hide or mask who they are in order to avoid same, really struck me: the ‘private hell’ of an inauthentic life.
He’s talking about the context of actual stress, how people find ways to cope with actual and anticipated prejudice or discrimination. To stay safe or simply to ease social intercourse — what plaintiff Kris Perry talked about Monday when she said sometimes she just wanted to buy the microwave from the guy in the store rather than have to come out all over again, and to a person they’ll never likely see again — gays and lesbians mask who we are, which is a huge cognitive effort over time. We are, whether wholely closeted in the workplace or simply masking our relationship when checking into a hotel, lying. And we are lying about a central aspect of our humanity; we are lying about who we love. Or, in the dry dissecting words of the counsel for defendant-intervenors, “express an active erotic or emotional desire for persons of the same sex.”
Imagine living like that, if you are straight. Imagine not ever using the word ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ to describe the person to whom you’re married and have a family. Imagine not being able to chime in on your military base when all your mates are talking about their girlfriends, or boyfriends if female.
Imagine, as another plaintiff said on Monday, being denied the common language of partnership in America.
And, further, think about being excluded from associations, events, places, and health and social services specifically designed to serve those of you who are attracted to someone of the incorrect gender, because you don’t want to reveal who you are.
Or if you simply can’t be bothered that day to explain who you two men or two women are: you’re not roommates, you’re not sisters, you’re not buddies, you are not business partners. But why do you need to explain this when the food server asks you at the diner why you’re saving the seat next to you at the coffee shop?
Well, then, why not reveal who you are? Ask Mathew Shepard. Ask Lawrence King. Ask Gwen Araujo.
Oh, wait — we can’t ask them. They are all dead, killed for being people who expressed affection to persons of the ‘incorrect’ gender. Sometimes the ‘private hell’ becomes a public hell, when the hellaciousness turns fatal.
The limiting of self-expression that results from either the fear of (or actual) petty insults or simply the desire to avoid these events is a scary and ongoing aspect of the stress gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people live with every single day.
We need to work to make our world safer. We need to be less concerned about who puts what parts of their body where and with whom. And we simply must allow full access to all civil rights under the law to all people if we are to protect our children from the prejudice and hatefulness of older social forms that perpetuate discrimination.