On July 2, outspoken writer Peter Moskovitz published an OpEd on WashingtonPost.com entitled “Why You Should StopWaving the Rainbow Flag on Facebook: Armchair Allies Shouldn’t Co-Opt Gay Pride.” In an acerbic critique of the widespread “co-opting” of the LGBT “victory flag”, he concluded iconically, “Allies are important to the LGBT community. They’re necessary for progress. But holding up a victory flag without acquiring the battle scars is an empty gesture at best.” Moskovitz’s piece seemed the inevitable and most prominent feature of a movement towards exclusivity when it comes to disadvantaged or underrepresented social classes, especially regarding joining their celebrations. I am disgusted and disappointed at this hypocrisy, and if nothing else, this era of change ought to inspire us to greater enlightenment, tolerance and selflessness.
My first critique of Moskovitz’s work was its transparent self-aggrandizement. Hijacking a national celebration for a platform to show off one’s scars is far from the heady work I would have otherwise expected. Moskovitz’s story seemed all too common, in fact, really, just too common. For the precious few who haven’t already heard such a story, this was hardly the medium to insure any real communication – if those folks read at all, they definitely don’t read WashingtonPost.com. And its only rebuttal (save for the ad hominem notes, above) is the real point of the recent celebration – that at some point, it’s become profoundly normal, which makes it ok to for everyone to celebrate the victory over it, because gay rights are now completely mainstream. It doesn’t mean the problem is “solved” but it does mean that we will celebrate this and future victories nationally, like every pet project the media has us take to (i.e. disaster relief, manhunt, recognizing heroic acts and more). Did the folks in Louisiana get upset when we celebrated Katrina relief efforts? What about when we celebrated two prison escapees being shot and captured?
Secondarily, vicarious celebration is as American as the 4th of July. Almost daily, we gather to watch our hometown athletes perform, and speak of their accomplishments with words like “we” and “our.” We have always yearned to include ourselves in greater things – it is, in large part, the American Way. We join, we volunteer and we represent. When we celebrate, we gather – not to exclude, but to include, because the measure of greatest joy ought to be your inability to contain it with only the people directly involved in it, not in the validity of those celebrating. Moskovitz’s summertime “bah humbug” comes off cranky, at best, and resentful, at worst. Seeing heterosexuals and lazy people celebrate somehow diminishes your joy? Get over yourself. We are a team culture, and every LGBT community member I’ve ever known has been one of the most inviting and accepting people I’ve ever known. I used to think it came with the territory – perhaps we can get back there.
My final and most important point is the staggering self-importance of Moskovitz’ “battle scar” recital. He lists the transgressions against him like a citation for a military award, and then determines that these are the only scars worthy of flying under the world’s most tolerant flag. I say everyone with a rainbow profile picture on Facebook has got a better claim to that flag that Peter does. At least we know how to share. The victory of same-sex marriage is not only or even primarily a victory for LGBT rights, it is, much more so, a victory for HUMAN rights. Each group’s success at achieving these rights and recognitions is individually valuable, but culturally essential. It is the resulting social momentum that compels the next distressed population to finally take up proverbial arms against the oppression and let their voices be heard. In short, the real beneficiaries of this victory may not even be known to us, yet - and for that, we should be grateful and excited.
For my part, I carry a separate but equally painful set of scars. I, like many kids of my generation, was bullied mercilessly because I was a small kid through most of my adolescent and teenage years. Worse yet, I hid my faith beliefs from friends and family for over 25 years, because it’s only become acceptable in the last year or less to say that you’re an atheist, and not risk public scorn and ridicule. Because those are my realities, as much as my heterosexuality is, I cheered for the Obergefell decision. I cheered every corporate dedication and hashtag on Twitter and I cheered the 26 MILLION people who demonstrated their support by painting the most important and public face in their lives with a bright rainbow. To be certain, I’m not saying my scars are deeper or more painful than those suffered by the LGBT community, but they certainly aren’t any less.
Instead of heartfelt ownership, this movement feels like hipster victim bragging, and something we should leave behind with the hateful legacy of marriage exclusion. And while I will always believe that no one should hide their true selves, for those LGBT community members, including Mr. Moskovitz, who feel that my own scars, and the equally painful scars of millions of others, don’t warrant our sharing the “rainbowed” joy of the past week, well that’s something you can keep in the closet. #LoveWins #ForEveryone