Self-Help Helps Most

Q. Should I go to this upcoming gay March on Washington?

A. It depends. It seems to me that if you think it will help the cause of gay marriage, or whatever else it is to be about, you might want to go. But if not, why bother. These gay marches on Washington have been steadily losing significance; the last one was a financial fiasco. If you know of any other way to promote marriage equality, it might be better to do that instead of taking the time and money to go to Washington. Of course, it is always fun to see many thousands of gays and lesbians gathered in one place. So if you lived in Baltimore or, say, Philadelphia, go ahead and go. But if you live in Chicago or St. Louis....

Q. Do you support this idea of a gay school being proposed in Chicago?

A. First of all, it isn't to be an all gay or even primarily gay school. Fewer than half of the students are projected to be gay. But the point is that it is an explicitly gay-friendly and supportive environment for gay students, many of whom have been harassed or bullied at their own local school. I cannot see any advantage in keeping them in those schools. Let them go to a place where they can do what students are supposed to do in school-learn. The argument that students should learn to cope with harassment and bullying is a nonstarter. Most of the "real world" of adults is not so hostile or threatening. And the argument that rejecting a gay school will somehow magically force schools to improve on their own is sheer fantasy. It will do nothing of the sort. The absence of a gay-supportive school has had no such effect up to now. What the gay-supportive school might do is be a role model for schools that want to do a little better. No gay school, no role models, no incentive to improve.

Q. You keep going on about how we should try to improve our community. OK, how?

A. Maybe I should do a whole column just on this. But here are a few ideas for a start. There are three aspects to this: self-improvement, public participation, and neighborhood/community improvement. In no particular order. Patronize a gay business. Thank them for being there. Remember the gay community center in your will. Plant flowers in your front yard or in a window box. If you are a male over 50, attend the Prime Timers' book discussion group.

Got the idea? Here's more. Join a sports team. Stop littering-and this includes cigarette butts. Attend the opening of an art show or a local theater performance. Limit the amount you drink at bars-no one likes a drunk-even at bars. Even if you are not religious, go to church. Churches are natural communities and a potential source of friends. Smile. Say "hello" or "morning" or even "How ya doin'" to your neighbors whether they respond or not. Get an HIV test. Floss. Prevent crimes: Stay alert when walking alone at night. Join a neighborhood group. No one is expected to do all of these, but everyone can do some of them.

Q. The recent death of "neo-conservative" Irving Kristol brings to mind the question of why so many conservatives and "neo-conservatives" are anti-gay. Got any thoughts?

A. As Samuel Johnson replied when a woman asked him why he incorrectly defined a word in his great "Dictionary," "Ignorance, Madame, sheer ignorance." I suspect that is the case here. Most conservatives, especially older ones, don't know many or any gay people, or don't know they are gay, and are wholly incurious about our lives and our struggles: They know nothing about us and want to know nothing. Perhaps they fear contamination. They may think it is an unaccountable choice, a fact they would unlearn if they asked just a few questions, of course. Some are following religious proscriptions of early biblical writers-who were just as ignorant about homosexuality as some are today. Yet others may see us as a threat to the family and society-as if more men would be gay if homosexuality wasn't suppressed. Maybe they think everyone is potentially homosexual! But mostly it is unreasoning, just an embedded cultural prejudice.

2 Comments for “Self-Help Helps Most”

  1. posted by TS on

    I like the third answer. Who knew conservatives could be such utter hippies? Actually, I did know, but I’m sure others didn’t.

    Just being active, positive and pleasent is really the only way to ward off the decline of civilization. And I don’t think that the decline of civilization would be as much fun as some people seem to think.

  2. posted by Gregory J. King on

    Here’s what Paul Varnell should have said in answer to his first question:

    This is the first time in years that we have a President and Congress that can take real steps on issues like DOMA, DADT, ENDA and immigration. While a march on Washington may not get the changes we want passed, it couldn’t hurt. More importantly, the history of previous marches, even when they were badly organized and financial disasters, tells us that they have always helped reenergize our movement and have reinvigorated the troops for battles that might be going on closer to home. This year’s march has plenty of national organizations planning training sessions, so if you plan to go, make sure you check the schedule and go to one or more of those. Standing in a crowd of tens of thousands of GLBT community members may not change any laws, but based on the evidence of previous marches, it could change your life. If you can get to DC, you should try to go. This may be a small rally at the base of our Capitol, but it will be a memorable one for every member of our community who makes their way to Washington to take part.

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