As I walked up to the podium, I was seething with anger–so much so that I actually shook through most of my speech. It takes a lot for me to get this angry, but I was incensed by Paul Coble’s decision to speak not only for other commissioners who disagree with him–Betty Lou Ward, Ervin Portman, and James West, I commend you–but for all of Raleigh. Of course, Coble is not the only one to espouse such hatred from on high. He is of the same ilk as the Westboro Baptist Church’s hate-mongers, just more fashionably conscious in his choice of sheep’s clothing. With cavalier, grossly overgeneralized statements, he dismissed the issue, demanded a vote, and got his way. And all I could do was think how nice it must be for him to serve in an elected public office and feel as though he can say anything without consequence.
But I am one of the LGBTQs who lives with the consequences of statements such as his. I endure the hate speech, the hate crimes, the perpetuated institutionalized violence. I try to use reason and sound facts to legitimize an aspect of my life to those who have no business being a part of it. I neither embody nor perform the slanderous, outlandish, and problematic stereotypes mapped onto me, because I am no one’s puppet; I control my life’s strings.
Thoughts such as these ran through my mind as I hastily jotted-down my brief speech in a downtown coffee shop an hour before I walked up the courthouse’s steps. And while others took their turns to speak, I could not help but latch onto Coble’s expressionless face and his agitated body language. Each time an ally or member of the LGBTQ community spoke against the resolution he authored, as well as against Amendment One, his demeanor mimicked that of a petulant child. He refused to make eye contact, and did everything he could to convey that each and every one of us was wasting his time. Sadly, I expected nothing less. Maturity is not something with which age endows us; it is something built, something learned through experience. But since he has never had his life forcibly shoved beneath a societal microscope for bigoted voyeurs to poke, prod, and dissect, it is unsurprising that he can wake up every morning, look in the mirror, and be proud of his reflection.
As the worn cliche goes, actions speak louder than words. In authoring such a hateful resolution, and trying to fly it under the proverbial radar, he and his supporters become complicit in every act of violence against LGBTQs in Wake County, the Triangle, and all of North Carolina. He and his supporters are bedfellows with bullies needling vulnerable school children. He and his supporters have blood on their hands for every LGBTQ or LGBTQ-perceived child who feels less than human and finds suicide to be the only answer; for every LGBTQ senior who is left with sores and bruises in their nursing home bed by bigots charged with their care; for every act of “correctional rape” exacted upon a transgendered person; for every abduction and murder of an LGBTQ person or ally. Hate breeds hate; its implications cannot be deflected. Hate is a human invention–a social construction; it is a learned behavior. Being an LGBTQ person is not.
I am not going anywhere. I will continue to stare hatred and bigotry squarely in the eye. I will continue to show others that they are not alone. I will continue on my mission for equal rights and protections under the law until I am satisfied or dead. Power does not come from an elected position; it comes from within–from an ability to empathize, understand, and respect your fellow person.
With younger generations caring more about finding their financial footing in this economically uncertain world, leading sustainable lives, and being a part of a social network and community, Coble and his minions are quickly becoming the minority. We will be victorious. We will be equal.
I already am.