Is it paranoid to wonder?

In December of 2017, a cake baker in Colorado argued before the Supreme Court that being compelled by state law to use his artistic abilities to create a wedding cake for a gay couple violated his Christian beliefs. The ACLU took the couple’s side, arguing that an exception based on religious beliefs opens the door to widespread, sanctioned discrimination against the LGBTQ community. That case is pending; a decision could come at any time, but Court watchers expect it to be among the last opinions handed down in June.

Whatever the outcome, the decision augurs a slippery slope beyond wedding services, one that could see LGBTQ people denied all sorts of public accommodations at the whim of a business owner, a food server or a sales associate. The irony is this: It already happens every single day.

If you’ve read any of the commentary on the Masterpiece Cakeshop case or any of its companion cases (Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Oregon, Tastries Bakery in California), you’ve probably come across the observation that these businesses could easily have avoided running afoul of the law by simply declining their services with a made-up excuse (too busy right now, going out of town). Even worse, they could have accepted the business and deliberately delivered an inferior product. In those cases, the affected customers likely would have searched for another baker, or they’d have grumbled that the cake didn’t live up to their expectations. But these business owners wore their bigotry proudly — now they’re asking the courts to free them from the legal consequences.

Back to the title of this blog: Is it paranoid to wonder? When you and your partner are out together, do you ever feel that people are treating you with disdain or indifference because you’re a same-sex couple? It strikes me as naive to think it never happens. At the same time, I’m not sure there’s anything to gain from dwelling on it. Whatever the consequences, the Closet is always worse.

Assuming these folks aren’t overtly spelling it out, what are the subtle signs of discrimination? How do you respond?

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So why am I writing about this today? I’ve got a story idea rattling around, something set in a rural area where churches flex their power over social norms. I’ve no idea where this idea is going, or if it will ever emerge as an actual book, but it’s been on my mind since a friend sent me this excellent story from the Washington Post. In it, they call rural America “the last frontier for gay rights.” Having spent a lot of my life in a similar community not far from the one featured in the article, I found myself in awe of those who bravely stepped into the spotlight so they could help save young lives.

It’s fun to write about exciting characters whose extraordinary looks and/or superior skills allow them to live without a thought about how bigotry might hurt them. But I hope never to forget that living out & proud isn’t everyone’s reality. Even after all of our strides toward equality, there are still those who turn to books because it’s the only place they can see people like them treated with dignity and respect.

9 Responses to “Is it paranoid to wonder?”

  1. The subtlities Im very aware since the election since almost everyone I know had something negative happen to them for being gay. It drove most of them from the country and empowered the rest. Whenever walking somewhere with my partner, Im always on high alert, until we’re in the gayborhood, where we have lots of lgbtq friendly police to guard us. As soon as people see my equality bracelet, some do shift “politely” away from me. Its just part of being gay for now unfortunately. My concern is when they legally have a license to hate & discriminate that is a very scary world.

    • No question these bigots feel more empowered, now that being Deplorable is politically acceptable. What’s happening with the federal courts (i.e., filling seats with Deplorables) is cause for real alarm.

  2. “Assuming these folks aren’t overtly spelling it out, what are the subtle signs of discrimination? How do you respond?”

    My wife spots it before I do, I am blithely unaware. Like when we took a sunset taxi around Baltimore Harbor during GCLS 2016. She pointed out to me this woman in her 60’s or 50’s had nudged the guy she was with and pointed at us and looked like she was viewing throw-up (I don’t think we were even holding hands) so Lee just stared them down until they stopped glaring at us. I think that is when I went to hold her hand 🙂

    • Courage begets courage, right? We empower ourselves with a show of fearlessness, whether it’s real or not. But it’s still very dangerous in some places.

  3. Clearly, Roz would have baked that cake. end of story….

  4. No I don’t think it’s being paranoid to wonder. I think it’s being aware of the reality of the environment and situation. And I agree these court cases do represent a very slippery slope trying to get around the equality laws.

    As for handling it, I really don’t know. But my long deceased partner had perfected the ‘hairy eyeball’ glare to inflict on anyone who stared, whispered or looked disgusted at us. It didn’t happen often because she was much older than I and we were often assumed to be mother and daughter. Boy did she hate that!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. Sylvie Saint-Laurent Reply May 5, 2018 at 9:33 am

    Thank you. Just thank you.

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