I lifted the following couple of paragraphs from "The Naughty Bits," an excellent blog and review site overseen by the incomparable TeddyPig. (To visit it, click on the post title.)
When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.
~ Inscription on Leonard Matlovich’s tombstone
TeddyP goes on to explain, "On June 22, 1988, just a month before his 45th birthday, Matlovich died of complications from HIV/AIDS. He was buried in the Washington, D.C. Congressional Cemetery because no military graveyard would [allow his interment]."
That simple, breathtaking inscription summarizes some of the incomprehensibly twisted attitudes that dominate this culture. Killing (the right people) is praiseworthy; loving (the wrong people) is damnable. And there are far too many religious, civic, and governmental groups determining who the "right" and "wrong" people are. Not only are fundamental human rights routinely swept away by these bullydozers, but most individuals either sanction the madness or just don't give a rip.
Persecution doesn't only occur in the broad abstract, in public arenas. If we look hard enough -- or even not so hard (just turn on the damned tv!) -- we can find evidence of it in our personal and professional lives, as well. I've seen that evidence on a former lover-become-friend, Paul, whose wrists bore the scars of a teenaged suicide attempt. I've seen it in a talented transgender silversmith named Fran whose pain was almost palpable because s/he couldn't afford appropriate medical procedures or drugs. Hell, I've seen it in the writing community, where even erotic-romance publishers are loath to stand up and speak out, and professional organizations stink of bias against GLBT fiction.
There's plenty of prejudice to go around, no doubt about it. All kinds of prejudice against all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons. It slithers continuously beneath the skin of our society. But I firmly believe that sexual prejudice is the one remaining form of contempt that's widely and openly tolerated . . . and, often, encouraged. Even the hippest comedians feel comfortable joking about queers.
If more people were aware of Leonard Matlovich's epitaph and took the time to ponder it (fat chance, sayeth the cynic in me), this might change. If more people pulled their heads out of their asses and tried breathing in the mind-clearing air of reason (ditto), this might change. Those are, however, enormous IFs.
I hate feeling like some sour misanthrope hunkered down in a little house in rural Wisconsin . . . but, hell, I just keep seeing more and more reasons to love and admire my dogs.