“Sometimes, it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”
— Nelson Mandela
I have a dream. Breakfast with Kim Davis and convincing her to change her opinion on LGBTQI issues.
Yes, I know. For most of you out there this is a really super crappy dream, but please hear me out.
After this G-ddess awful election, it just might be the right time to take a page from retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s playbook and extend an honest invitation to chat to those who fear and oppose us. Archbishop Tutu is rather familiar with our problem and chose to be an openly supportive ally long before his daughter’s marriage publicly brought him into the family.
For those unfamiliar: The Most Reverend Tutu was the first African to be elected as the Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa in 1986. A leading critic of the South African government’s programme of enforced racial segregation called apartheid, he has since become a leader in the fight for LGBTQI rights throughout Africa and the world. On record for openly comparing the prior South African government’s policy of apartheid to Nazism, Desmond Tutu long ago turned his passion for fighting social injustice into open support for our community.
But there is another side to this warrior for justice. Bishop Tutu is also famous for helping wounded people to heal and take steps to forgive. After the repeal of the apartheid laws, he chaired a multi-racial commission of South Africans to look into past human rights abuses and grant amnesties to many who confessed to committing them. Recently, he has partnered with his daughter Mpho to spearhead a worldwide effort to teach the art of forgiveness. His Forgiveness Challenge, utilizing a Southern African philosophy emphasizing the need for all people to support each other called Ubuntu, teaches participants the necessity of learning how to forgive in order to bring about peace.
Forgiveness and a willingness to step forward and talk is a very hard concept for most of us, myself included. The majority of our tribe have been hurt in one way or another because of who we are and what our adversaries have been taught. But we need to try…especially since we are probably going to see a tsunami of hate coming our way soon. Homophobic jingoists such as Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore will most likely use our court victories and the recent election result as a springboard to state and local office. Those who dislike progressive Americans and supported Donald Trump’s candidacy will not go away overnight. They will continue to fight for their version of what American culture should look like and we will continue to be public enemy number one in their eyes…probably for many years to come.
Now this is important: This is an American problem and not just a Southern one. These guys are everywhere and it is very unfair to pick exclusively on the South. Those in our tribe who criticize people with closely held religious or social beliefs should keep in mind the lesson I had to learn back in college. Thick country accents and rural upbringings do not always equal intolerance or the lack of intelligence. I have met more than my fair share of fellow intellectually-minded Yankees whose positions on LGBTQI people would put Mr. Moore’s ramblings to shame. The smartest, kindest and most open-minded people I know of just happen to come from the rural South.
The problem, in my opinion, is that we tend to lump the dangerous right-wing together with mainstream social conservatives of all flavours. I have a tendency to do that too, but is there a way peel some of the these folks off somehow? We're dealing with intense fear here and that often bleeds over to hate. I posit that we can bring more than a few of these people into our camp over time through honest discussion and earning mutual trust.
I always tell my friends, when discussing LGBTQI issues and recent events, that it probably seems to the majority of this crowd that the Martians have taken over. Everything they have been taught in church and school about LGBTQI-ness has been pitched out the window and suddenly, what used to be called the “alternative lifestyle” crowd, is now the entering the mainstream and no longer confining themselves to the West Coast. What was very recently considered shameful, immoral and wrong is now all of a sudden acceptable, legal and courageous.
We need to find a way to talk with this crowd. It takes two to tango, but I'm sure we could find willing participants on the other side who would also respectfully listen and discuss our differences and similarities. We should find impartial moderators who could bring the adults in both camps to the table. We should try to do this before we try anything else. Talking with the opposition may not solve a thing. Then again, they said the same thing in South Africa and Northern Ireland. The resolution in both regions was not perfect, but it did lead to better lives for most.
You may still parley in the long hard slog. African-American civil rights leaders did this all the time. The idea of being civil to folks like Ms. Davis is not my idea of a great morning either, but we can talk to her and attempt to bring like-minded folks over to the light side of the force. People like Kim Davis are misguided and an obstacle to our full freedom, but not evil. Neither are most of her fans.
It is time for the grown-ups in our tribe to come to the table and politely hammer home a simple message. This is about freedom. Period. We will never stop fighting for it, but we are always willing to talk with those who choose to listen.
We will never forget our struggle, but we can learn to forgive and become peaceful warriors. Our kids and grandkids will be proud of our efforts and learn from our example.
Julie Chase is the pen name for a local 40-something trans woman. A graduate of The University of the South at Sewanee, she loves butterflies, strong women and the Austrian School of Economics.