Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Beyond Fear. (My Perspective)

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Beyond Fear. (My Perspective)

Article excerpt

When I first heard about the death threats against student Edward Drago at the College of New Jersey, my heart went out to him. It reminded me of my 1995 trip to Washington and Lee University in Virginia: A gay student had had an M-80 thrown into his dorm room the week before, and someone had gone around campus carving the eyes out of my photo on each poster announcing my appearance.

Then I was stunned to read, after campuswide rallies of support for Drago had been conducted, that he was the one sending the hate mail to himself. At first it sounded simply twisted, but the more I thought about Drago, the more I realized his behavior, though extreme, reminded me of much of what is now called gay politics: Knowing that enmity and fear unite us, we may tend to paint the world in black-and-white, with clear enemies making us into clear victims--even if we have to bend reality.

This ridiculously rigid gay paradigm about enemies and friends is what got me into gay activism. In the 1990 Massachusetts gubernatorial election, blinded by an overpowering belief that the Republican must be the enemy, most gay leaders in the state wouldn't give pro-gay candidate William Weld a chance over antigay Democrat John Silber. I joined a small group of activists in Boston in breaking with conventional wisdom by reaching out to Weld. We were attacked for that support, but Weld went on to win the election and become one of the most gay-supportive elected officials of either party in the nation.

Gay activists who try new tactics to help change the world, reaching out to conservative Americans, trusting hope rather than fear, routinely get called "enemies" by gays wholly invested in the status quo. You get real hate mail, real threats, real face-to-face scorn and insults. So pervasive is this fear of progress in our community that we don't even know how amazingly far we have come. We are winning the battle for equality and acceptance because the vast middle of America is moving in our direction, and some old enemies are actually becoming friends--if only we reach out to them.

When Republicans took control of the House in 1994, one of the first new members I met with was Rep. …

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