The way I see it, Kansas owes me several water fountains. In fact, consider this essay a public request for a separate LGBTQ water fountains outside every single government building in Kansas. Are you listening, governor Sam Brownback? You owe me a water fountain, at the very least.
I don’t feel qualified to comment on politics most of the time. I tell stories for a living and I’m mostly ignorant of real-life human events. I traffic in emotions, imagination, and plot twists. Punch lines, tag lines, and silhouettes interest me far more than local, regional or global events. I don’t watch the news, or own a television. I work on my stories. I take walks, cook meals, and try to ignore things that don’t lift me up. In my opinion, with the exception of satirists, artists don’t have the luxury of being political. I mean, if you write for South Park or late night television, sure, but otherwise, no.
I am intentionally uninformed. My mother had to call a few weeks ago, to warn me about a small black bear loose, terrorizing my area of Los Angeles. She knows I’m not paying attention. This is the man I’ve evolved into. I’m not saying it’s good or bad. It’s just what I’ve become.
In the past I have been a human rights activist with organizations such as Amnesty International. I’ve campaigned for candidates I believed in. I’ve protested unjust legislation or organizations. I’ve served as a community leader, sometimes, in different capacities. I believed in equality. I believed in brotherhood. I believed in the idea of a baseline human right to exist, untampered with.
However, the bill introduced this past Wednesday by the Kansas State Senate has me re-thinking some of my core beliefs. Please forgive my rudimentary, layman’s interpretation of this piece of legislation – it’s written in legalese. I don’t have the proper technical qualifications to interpret it the way a judge could, but here’s what I’ve gathered:
Anyone who owns a private business or works for the government can refuse goods and services to same sex couples for religious reasons. Do you own an ice cream store in Kansas? Creeped out by the gay folk who just moved in down the street? Don’t sell them an ice cream cake for their anniversary! You don’t legally have to, and this new law will make you immune to a civil suit for refusing them service. Hotels, gyms, nail salons, restaurants can all ask homosexual couples to leave, and not worry about getting sued.
In fact, they don’t even have to prove you’re homosexual. They can refuse service to people based on suspected homosexual activity. Let’s say your name is Steve, and you’re in a band with your friend Ben. Let’s say your band is 3 years old next Tuesday and your Aunt Ruth wants to print a banner that says “Happy Third Anniversary, Steve and Ben!” The owner of the print shop can deny service to your Aunt Ruth based on a suspicion that he might be aiding and abetting a same-sex couple. What’s more, he’s on the right side of the law, and there’s no legal recourse for your Aunt Ruth.
It’s not just about denying access to main street businesses, however. The law specifically extends its language to include state run services as well. This means any publicly funded service can be denied by the employee in charge, like an ambulance, a state run hospital, or something as fundamental as the postal service.
The governor of Kansas defended this bill, saying “Americans have constitutional rights, among them the right to exercise their religious beliefs and the right for every human life to be treated with respect and dignity.” Thank goodness the state senate had the good sense to strike the bill down.
Here’s what I have to say about it:
At least you’re being honest, Kansas. At least you’re willing to put it down on paper – you think what I am is so revolting, to such an extent that you think your Creator gives you the right to oppress my people. What’s more, the majority of a legislative body agrees with you, is willing to write a piece of legislation which attempts to codify and legalize your xenophobia, your hatred.
I picture myself at 22 reading about this bill, naive and upset. A younger, more politically active version of myself would have tried to use my blog, my Facebook account, my Twitter feed – to mobilize some sort of action. Tweet at the governor, or anyone in the state senate! Write letters! Make a flash mob happen in Kansas to protest the bigotry with some grandiose, large scale demonstration of love! Even now, thinking of those types of things – a smile spreads itself across my face. I love thinking of things in those simple, artistic terms. How cute. We really showed them, didn’t we?
But in reality, we didn’t. We didn’t show them anything. They win. And they win everywhere. They win in Russia, and they win in Asia, or India, where they pressure us to stay in the closet. They win in Wyoming, when they crucify us on fences, and they win in Jamaica and Nigeria where they lynch us, where they kill us with no fear of punitive measures. Even where we huddle, cloistered in our coastal bastions, they win. You don’t have to go to the mid-west, or Nigeria, or Moscow to get spit on, beaten, or denied services because of your sexuality. That happens in NYC and Los Angeles, too, on a regular basis. The discrimination is more subtle in those places, but only in the daytime, and only in the strictest legal sense.
So, Kansas, you win. You have the majority, and that majority hates me for existing, and you win. Make your laws and enforce them. I will, or won’t, go to Kansas – depending on whether or not my business takes me there.
However, do give me my own LGBTQ water fountain? I’m afraid I must insist.
I want my own water fountain, Kansas. Not because I think people should be separated, segregated, devalued, beaten down, or systematically discriminated against. I want my own water fountain for a simple and plain reason:
I’m better than you.
Time will show. I have the moral high ground here, and I’m better than you. If you’re going to institute a Neo-Jim Crow, do it right, and give us separate water fountains. Not because you’re better than us; because we are better than you. We asked for basic human rights, and you rushed to your senate floor to protect your privilege. You had the option of letting society inch forward a tiny amount, and you attempted to block it. We are better than that. I am better than that.
I insist on my own water fountain.
I will not drink from the same spigot that waters your dirty mouths, nor the mouths of your bigoted children. Nor will I listen to the vile, contaminated filth which consistently turns forth, bubbling up from your ilk, belching its way forward – ruddy, unwashed, rude – into the American consciousness. I’m a performer and a writer, and over the years I’ve discovered I don’t have much shame, but my pride will not allow me to share the same water you drink, nor the same bread that you break.
Give me my water fountain, Kansas, and have done with it. I’m certainly done with you.