Pride month has come and gone. Despite the notable silence from the current administration, the degree to which members of the LGBTQ community felt safe to celebrate fills me with immense gratitude. Indeed, it is no small thing to bear witness to this moment in history: to see the tide of progress smash the obstinate hurdles in its path, to watch hardened hearts soften with compassion and perspective.
And yet, it is not enough.
There are still large swaths of the population committed to quelling that powerful tide—people who would rather stop the surge than learn to swim; those for whom either religious conviction or willful ignorance provide a convenient, yet increasingly insufficient, refuge. For such people, the rationale for voting against LGBTQ rights often comes down to one maddeningly flawed quip: “It goes against my values.”
Whether these values are instilled within the walls of one’s childhood home, between the stained-glass windows of a church, along the complex pathways of life, or any combination thereof, they are often sincerely held and difficult to shed. So while it is easy to become frustrated by rigidity and perceived indifference, the reality is that progress is never instantaneous. Core values, however flawed, are foundational. They inform our identities. They color our world-view. They are hard to crack.
They are not, however, an excuse.
Here’s the problem with the values argument in relation to LGBTQ rights: it’s not about you.
It’s not about your belief structure or what your interpretation of any religious text seems to say.
It’s not about unsubstantiated fears of how public restrooms are utilized.
It’s not about maintaining your comfort level at the expense of others.
It’s not about your perception of what love, marriage, and families should look like.
It’s not even about the overwhelming science that demands legitimization of LGBTQ individuals.
It is not about you. Full stop.
What it’s actually about is ensuring that all American citizens are given the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest extent possible. It’s about affording everyone the wealth of governmental protections marriage guarantees, including end-of-life decision making, insurance benefits, visitation rights in medical facilities, parental rights safeguards, and the ability to file joint tax returns. It’s about recognizing that the human condition exists upon a continuum of biological differences and that one’s ability to understand those differences is not required for extending respect and acknowledgement. It’s about granting dignity to those who have been denied it their entire lives. It’s about decency.
LGBTQ individuals are not asking for anything more than the same freedoms heterosexual cis-gendered Americans have always been granted. They have no agenda other than to be recognized as fully human—a remarkably simple request. And while absolute acceptance is the end goal, nobody is seeking to upend your worldview overnight. It’s unnecessary because, frankly, they do not need your approval to exist, to thrive. They do, however, need your vote.
When you refuse to do so, you aren’t simply following your religious conviction or personal belief structure. You are doing more—far more.
The reality is, using your values as an excuse to vote against LGBTQ rights causes genuine harm. And when viewed through the lens of self-righteousness, it becomes all-too-easy to ignore the real-world implications.
Your values insist that good people die without loved ones by their side. They ensure that an overstretched foster system retain children who might otherwise find fulfillment and purpose in loving homes. They cultivate a system of violence and bullying that results in a suicide rate for LGBTQ youths four times higher than that of their peers. Those same youths are often rejected by their own families, forced onto the streets and left to fend for themselves. Your values foster the kind of environment in which 66% of transgender individuals are victimized by physical and sexual assault, despite the factually inaccurate depictions of them as perpetrators of such assaults.
If, indeed, your values compel you to perpetuate so much tragedy, violence, and heartbreak, are they really as admirable as you have been lead to believe? Is the very real suffering of the LGBTQ community worth the satisfaction of having voted your conscience? If so, I see nothing of merit in the so-called values you seek to defend. They ring hollow and disingenuous.
As for my own, they demand I look beyond myself. They insist on being fully, unconditionally supportive of anyone who seeks to find fulfillment and live authentically. Because society can only benefit from a world in which self-acceptance is encouraged and love flourishes. I intend to continue working toward that kind of world.
In the meantime, I will celebrate—and not just in the month of June. Pride, after all, cannot be contained. I will celebrate the progress we have made as a society and, in several weeks, will be honored to celebrate with my dear cousin as she marries her beautiful girlfriend. And on that day, I will ignore all the ways in which your values demand their life together be less protected than your own. Instead, I will bear witness to love in action; a love defiant against judgement; a love comfortable in its existence. Because, after all, it’s not about you—it never has been.
Originally published 7/4/17 at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/595b3239e4b0326c0a8d12ea