Okay, so there’s been a pretty hot (and to a great degree oppositional) response to my post from last night about Constance McMillen, the 18 year-old (whom I mischaracterized as a “girl”, not realizing her age, alas) who had been hornswoggled (I’m running out of synonyms) out of her prom. I’m gratified so many people are so animated by this, and also glad to have sparked a debate in which I actually find myself with few defenders. It’s the sort of battle I prefer best!
In retrospect, I think I may have been too snarky in my original post.* I was flush with the glory of having witnessed my beloved Rockies complete their first ever no-hitter, thanks to the great Ubaldo Jimenez, so I was in no mood for sad-sack stories.
Upon further reflection, I think, while I don’t agree I owe her an apology, at least I do owe her a much more measured and reasoned address. At the risk of flattering myself that she cares what I think in the first place, said clarifiaction follows forthwith, below the jump:
Perhaps you have heard of the hubbub surrounding a post I published last night on a blog to which I am a contributor. Okay, likely you haven’t. Ours is a humble, simple blog, not nearly commensorate with the fame you’ve recently garnered. But nevertheless, it’s likely the only place you’d find anything short of the showers of adoration you’ve been receiving for your current situation from the likes of The Advocate, Ellen DeGeneres, the ACLU, NYC’s gay pride parade, and likely many more. And frankly, that’s too bad.
You see, Constance, what you’re experiencing right now is what throngs of gays and lesbians (not to mention the transgendered, transexual, bisexual, questioning, I could go on) have received before you: The exaltation of victimhood.
Let me begin by saying that your school district was wrong to tell you that you couldn’t bring whomever you damned-well pleased to your prom. And although I think your choice of a tuxedo is kind of silly (my commenters have agreed that I’m a fuddy duddy with my old-fashioned ways), it’s not your principal’s nor anybody else’s place to tell you what you choose to wear is unacceptable—naturally within the boundaries of fair taste, that is. That they chose instead to cancel your prom altogether is, unfortunately, a sign of how spiteful adults can sometimes be (which, I believe, in time you’ll find to be true about those who have now embraced you as their latest cause, but more about that in a minute). Similarly, that they also hoodwinked you into a faux-prom is also a pretty crappy move.
All that said, there’s something you should know: You’ve been bamboozled more than you might think. You see, the people who have taken you in as a wounded victim are doing you a much greater disservice than even the hucksters of your school district. You may not necessarily see it right now, but the joke they’re playing on you is one that will leave scars much deeper and more destructive than the hurt you likely felt when you found your classmates had ditched you that night.
There is a segment of society in America in 2010 that would love for young people like you to feel helpless and victimized by anybody who doesn’t “like” you. It’s a movement that values association based on a classification they’d like to impose upon its members rather than the individual greatness of each human being he or she innately possesses simply by being a child of God (or of child of nature, if you’d rather see it that way).
Point is this: People like Ellen DeGeneres (who, by the way, is very funny, and surely I imagine a nice enough lady in her own right) and organizations like those who will be hosting you in New York City as the Grand Marshall for their Pride parade this summer love holding people up like you, who have gotten the shaft. They revel in your loss because it furthers the narrative they like to promote that people in general are awful and biggoted and hateful. The more people they can convince that our nature as human beings is rooted in hate and negativity, the more power they can wield. They make their living by advancing the idea that if we don’t subscribe to their ideas of “fairness” and “equality”, we’re…well, simply, bad people.
These folks are simply using your misfortune to further their own agendas. Your loss is their gain.
Now, I recognize this is never easy to hear. And I imagine you’re probably enjoying the fame and attention this is drawing to you. (I am sure you’re loving the 30 Large Ellen gave you!) But there’s even something more you can gain from this. And it’s what we call self-respect.
As a young person, you may not be thinking much of where this may all lead you. But you’re currently faced with a choice: To be a victim, or to be strong. Those who are so excited about your troubles will be quick to tell you that you’re being “strong” by focusing on the wrong that was done to you. They’ll tell you that it’s “brave” to come out and let everybody know that all your classmates pulled the wool over your eyes and that the grown-ups in your community had so little respect for you that they allowed your entire school to know that there was a prom going on elsewhere while you were locked out. They’ll call that noble. They’ll call you a “champion of gay rights” to make sure everybody knows that you fell for their trick. Clearly you’re already reaping their version of rewards for it. (By the way, I think you should keep those rewards…why let their using you go to waste?)
But look at the source of what makes you “strong” in their eyes: That your peers had mocked and ridiculed your differences. That you had been set apart from them as less valued because of their biases. That somehow being a lesbian means that you were in some way not as good as they are. And in order to be “strong” in the eyes of those who are so glad for you, you had to acknowledge these narrow-minded people who did this to you, and give them power by playing by their rules and to some extent endorse and validate their backward-minded view of the world. You had to exalt their bigotry and their unfairness to garner the greatness of those who are so “proud” of your “bravery” right now. Seems kind of backward, doesn’t it?
Now, what if you had you said this instead?: “Meh, I’m different, I have a girlfriend, we are unique and special (especially in this community down here in Mississippi!), so apparently we’re not going to fit in all that well. So maybe we’ll just do something different—our own thing. Perhaps we’ll just go to a movie or whatnot that evening. Soon we’ll be able to shake off the dust of this place and find somewhere to make our own way where we don’t have to conform to their ways of seeing things. We’ll make our own way. We’ll be our own people, defined by ourselves, not by others. Honestly, [enter your girlfriend’s name here], WE DON’T NEED THESE PEOPLE, and in fact, we don’t need anybody to give us value or worth. We’re in love (and more importantly, we’re each, individually in love with ourselves), so what do we care what others think?”
Take a look at the gay community in America these days. If you look closely, most of the “causes” for which they fight have an awful lot to do with shoehorning being a gay person into the rest of society. It’s about making people “accept” us. It’s about making people “like” us. The thought of not giving a hoot what others think of you is anathema to this way of living and thinking. To be bold enough (to actually be strong enough) to not pay them any heed is seen by them as losing. It’s seen as “selling out”. When in reality, it’s the most bold, most independent, most mature and, seriously STRONG thing you can do. To be defined (in your own eyes first!) by what you DO and what you ACCOMPLISH rather than by what others see when they look at you is much more valuable than any of the prizes they’ll bestow on you in their rush to hold you up as a victim. That’s why they don’t want you to think that way.
Try to think back 10 years ago. You were a little 8 year-old kid on the playground. If somebody pushed you down or pulled your hair, what might you have done? You ran to the teacher perhaps, and “snitched” on him or her. (I’m not trying to give you a hard time, I know I did that once or twice.) But at some point, you matured enough to say to someone, “Hey, don’t pull my hair. Don’t take my things.” You learned to assert yourself. You stopped taking guff from people and took some pride in who you are. You likely stopped long ago allowing people to bully you just because you’re a girl, right? You didn’t allow that part of who you are to determine that you’d succumb to society’s definition of women as being meek and powerless, right? Bollocks to that! Female or male, nobody’s going to push you around, right?
The gay Left hates people who think like that. They survive on the hope that people will love being held up as victims and therefore run to them for protection, just as you may have as a little girl to your teacher at the time. This is what gives them power. Ironically, it’s also what gives the people who treated so you so unfairly at your prom their power as well. It’s a game, and they feed off of each other. It’s a game, and they’re using you as a pawn. It’s a game as old as the ages, and unless you choose to stand up for yourself; unless you choose to be Constance, not Constance the lesbian, not Constance the lesbian who was denied entry to the prom, not Constance the lesbian who was denied entry to the prom while all her classmates partied it up somewhere else, not Constance the victim, you’ll always be that pawn.
You have to be brave enough to tell both sides—those who kept you out as well as those who coddle you as some sort of victim—that you don’t need them. You have to be brave enough to say that you are who you are and you don’t need somebody’s prom to give you value, and you don’t need anybody’s sympathy to give you worth.
To be sure, Constance, there are many injustices worthy of fighting. And there are (and will be) many instances in which you should stand up and push back against unfairness. I’ll not get into these right now, and it’s likely you and I (as you discover your source of indignation in these events) may not necessarily agree about what does and does not constitute a righteous cause. My purpose is not to go into those vagaries today. What I want you to do is look at those who are supporting you and listen to what they’re telling you is the source of the validity of your current struggle: It’s your weakness. As long as you define yourself by it (and allow others, speaking on your behalf to do so), you will always be weak, and you’ll never grow into the strong woman you could otherwise become.
Now, ours is a gay-oriented blog. Most of our readers and commenters are gay (many, also, are not, and we’re proud to attract people regardless of their sexaul orientation) and have been through this themselves. Most of us are old cranks who went through it a million years ago. Some of us come out the better, some of us are scarred and damaged forever. In fact, if you look at the comments section of our blog, you’ll see how the victim sentiment is echoed in the horrible things some people are saying about me for having pointed this out! I don’t let it get to me. I don’t need their agreement with me any more than I lament their opposition. This is my forum, and I enjoy the back-and-forth (with some of them). Sometimes I get folks agreeeing with me, and many times I get dissent to my posts. Oftentimes, somebody sets me straight where I’m wrong, and even more often, I’m criticized for having put things in a harsher way that they’d have preferred. But I don’t revel in their adoration when it comes, and I don’t cower and feel the victim when they criticize me. Being a mature adult means that you have to take a stand, believe in it, articulate it, and defend it. A Nation rallying around you doesn’t mean you’re right or even righteous. And throngs throwing stones doesn’t mean you’re wrong.
The greatness of the strength you have as a human and as a thinking adult comes from the conviction you breed within yourself based on your own self-worthiness. Being the Grand Marshall of a parade or getting a huge check from a comedienne are very cool things indeed. They can even be shrewdly turned into something bigger and greater (here’s hoping you do that!). But I remember something I was told by an old, old, old (he must have been at least 40 at the time) friend when I was about your age:
“It’s better to be wanted than to be had.”
I wish you the best of luck, Constance. God speed, and make sure to use sunscreen at that parade!
*OY! And my apologies for dragging in the “too young to be gay” non-sequitur to the discussion. Much like the nature/nurture argument, passions on all sides, and perhaps I’ll bring it up at another time, but I truly regret it took us off topic. (No, I don’t apologize for nor regret my position on the topic; just that I inadvertantly melded it with this one.)
-Nick (ColoradoPatriot, from TML)