I see good in the bad

Michelle Shocked

Michelle Shocked (Photo: Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

BY CINDY ZELMAN
The Early Draft

As many readers know, singer Michelle Shocked last month unleashed an angry anti-gay rant on-stage in San Francisco. Reports state that Shocked yelled to the crowd, ”You can go on Twitter and say, ‘Michelle Shocked says ‘God hates f*gs.’”

Bad thing, right? Ten years ago, I would have said, yes, absolutely, what a dangerous homophobic jerk. But now I’m not so sure. The rant was bad for her no doubt — no way to make a musical comeback, Michelle. But bad for the LGBTQ community? I don’t think so anymore.

The reaction to her hate speech was amazing to me: people walked out of her concert; venues cancelled on her. I came of age in the 1970s and 1980s surrounded by silence in regard to my sexuality. Sure, gay rights movements were underway, but unless you were an activist fighting in the public trenches, or lived in the city where most “out” gay people seemed to live, I recall you didn’t talk much about your sexuality. I remember working at an office in the 1990s and never talking about my social life as the other women arrived on Monday mornings with stories of their boyfriends and husbands. I didn’t tell them I spent the weekend in a Cambridge feminist bookstore, trying to figure out how to approach a cute woman. And not succeeding, by the way.

The reaction to Michelle Shocked is a gauge of how far attitudes toward the LGBTQ community have come over the decades. What we witnessed in reaction to her rant is as important as the Supreme Court hearing arguments related to same-sex marriage. It was an anti-bigot reaction, not an anti-queer reaction. The reaction was a litmus test of the American people.

Time magazine recently featured two covers — one with two men kissing and one with two women kissing and the headline, “Gay Marriage Already Won.” Regardless of the Supreme Court’s hearings, most Americans now support gay marriage, although there is still a road ahead before we’ve literally “won” all of our rights. Still, it would have been unthinkable back in the day for a mainstream magazine to even mention the queer community in a positive light, nevermind feature them kissing on the cover!

Again, I ask a question: Is the Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps and his progeny, still bad for the LGBTQ community? I used to think he and his were a dangerous little mob; now I think they are bad for themselves but good for the queer community.

Because like Michelle Shocked, in this day and age, The Westboro Baptist Church appears to most American people as a joke at best, or as a sick entity at worst. In addition to blatantly hating “f*gs,” they protest military funerals, believing that God has brought the judgement of death and war on the United States because of its leniency with queers. Additionally, they stated that God sent the shooter to kill all of the children at Sandy Hook and planned to protest at the funerals of those children. Wait, who is going to Hell?

So many groups are fighting back, against bigots like the Westboro Baptist Church, and even your average Joe or Jane is unlikely to side with them nowadays.

I’m not saying The Westboro Baptist Church isn’t a threat as they influence the misguided flock, but they were once a stronger threat. Now, they appear to be in their death throes, neanderthals about to become extinct. “God hates fags.” It’s just sounding so stupid to most everyone lately. And what kind of god would send a maniac to kill beautiful children? Only a group of maniacs could believe such a thing.

As many of you probably know, Aaron Jackson bought and painted a house in the Rainbow Flag colors. The house sits right across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church. This is the changing face of America.

I see Michelle Shocked and the Westboro Baptist Church as good things now, as they inadvertently highlight just how ridiculous it is to hate groups of people because of their sexuality. Or for any other reason.

So, rant away, Michelle Shocked, you make yourself look narrow and pathetic, and you help to solidify support for the LGBTQ community. Thanks for that.

But before I go, I need to mention something that sounds good but is really bad:

I recently read a blog by a woman who sees herself as level-headed, fair, and rational, and who tries to understand “both sides” of the queer versus Christian issue. However, after what seems like a compassionate desire to hear the voice of gays, she concludes that “God never made a homosexual,” and that we, as queers, should not be writing off attempts at reparative therapy. “People can change,” she says rationally.

Now she is dangerous, because if you are one of those Americans unsure of same-sex marriage or whether or not queers are okay, she sounds awfully fair and caring on the surface. She’s not ranting, “God hates fags;” she is quietly pointing out that, “God never created a homosexual.” But she loves her gay friends, she says, and she believes in the Bible, and what conundrum! She’s trying so hard to be fair. Gee, she sounds really nice!

Even this wolf in sheep’s clothing is losing ground. Regardless of the debates and Supreme Court hearings and referendums, looking back at the progress over the last 40 years, I’d have to say the community has made amazing progress in acceptance, in gaining rights and in garnering support. We, the queer community, are here, out, alive, vibrant, and loved. Sorry Michelle. Sorry Fred. Sorry blogger lady. Just mind your own business and civilization will do just fine.

Cindy Zelman is a writer based in Boston, whose blog, “The Early Draft,” explores a variety of topics, including lesbianism, writing, agoraphobia and humor.

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