Between parties on inauguration day, I stopped by OutWrite Books to write my weekly column to the chorus. I plopped down on the sofa next to a cute lesbian who was reading “The Audacity of Hope” by Barack Obama. I sipped my latte and took off the little black hat that warms my bald pate in this bitter cold. Philip, the owner, had brought in his personal flat-screen TV so all patrons could enjoy the festivities. The energy in Atlanta’s favorite gay bookstore was electric.
The events of that day were amazing, but if you’re like me, you may have found Sunday’s celebration on HBO to be the most thrilling. To see the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C., and to hear President-elect Obama use “gay & straight” in the same sentence as “black & white” was, in a word, amazing. Intended or not, it threw water on some recent quibbling in the LGBT community and gave us hope that he will not forget us.
Don’t get me wrong, while I think we have every right to protest Rick Warren’s politics, I felt protesting our new president before he’d even been sworn in was a bit overstated. If we say that we want equality for all people, then we must really mean all people. Say what we like about Warren’s motives and politics, but the gay community didn’t exactly take the high road on this one, either. Even Bishop Robinson recanted after he realized he’d been on the invite list, apparently longer than Warren had.
This debate, nonetheless, makes our upcoming concert all the more timely. Many gay men have reason to be put-out with organized religion, but experience has shown me that I will not change anything by being critical of it – much less by being it’s victim. In “Shaken, Not Heard,” we do not plan to whine about how we’ve suffered, but to simply express it, to own what has happened to us and to reclaim our rightful place in society as shamans, protectors and keepers of beauty. In so doing, we are able to exemplify the very things that organized religion seems to fall short of.
While the economy casts a bleak financial outlook for organizations like ours, I remain hopeful. As our president says in his book, “Whether we’re from red states or blue states, we feel in our gut the lack of honesty, rigor, and common sense in our policy debates, and dislike what appears to be a continuous menu of false or cramped choices. Religious or secular, black, white, or brown, we sense – correctly – that the nation’s most significant challenges are being ignored, and that if we don’t change course soon, we may be the first generation in a very long time that leaves behind a weaker and more fractured America than the one we inherited. Perhaps more than any other time in our recent history, we need a new kind of politics, one that can excavate and build upon those shared understandings that pull us together as Americans.”
Thank you, Mr. President. Please know that when the LGBT community seems critical of your choices, your policy or your vision, we, too are human. We’ve suffered, just as you have, at the hands of bigotry and oppression; but in the end, like you, we long for a world that is accepting of everyone. Anything less means that those who oppose us will never come to know us for who we truly are. We hope that throughout your time in office, you will accept our passionate, if not gentle, reminders of what you’ve promised to uphold. We are there for you.
P.S. Tell Michelle we’re also offering free advice on decorating your new home.