June is Pride Month, With last weekend’s Pulse massacre in Orlando, we saw why it’s necessary for the LGBT community to demonstrate solidarity.
And we also saw a vivid example of why it is necessary that communities of good faith stand by all citizens, letting go of the false conceptions of the past.
This is necessary to remember, as we look back on the stalled HRO discussion in Jacksonville.
Months back the discussion led to a lot of contentious public comment, showing the very worst of Jacksonville, people who — as must have been the case during the civil rights debates decades back — weren’t afraid to let their antipathy show.
The biggest example of it was Klan flyers and a bomb threat targeted at a community conversation, setting the stage for lurid ephemera like a man confessing to child molestation in front of council chambers, like hateful and hurtful preachers superimposing one of Jacksonville’s elder statesmen’s face over pornographic images.
Kids, whose lives were truly affected by not fitting heteronormative molds, confessing what they went through in those same microphones. The spectacle was surreal in the moment, horrifying in retrospect.
There has to be a better way for Jacksonville to recognize that everyone deserves the same rights than the people who are petitioning for their rights revealing their innermost thoughts and fears to a roomful of strangers.
Educating people on why we need HRO expansion will happen, and it will take how long it takes, and it won’t be done with loud, quasi-populist demonstrations, but with quiet conversations like I heard a group of African-American women have at the Legends Center in NW Jax last month.
It was a We Are Straight Allies gathering hosted by Chevara Orrin, perhaps the best emotional facilitator in Jacksonville.
Orrin is having meetings in Districts 7, 8, 9 and 10 — the largely African-American districts that vote Democrat but run culturally conservative when it comes to heteronormality.
One woman, who passed out flyers, said that she got a lot of resistance. That a man balled one up, threw it down, and used a derogatory term.
The hurt registered in her face, not because she is a lesbian, but because the raw hatred was not a place her soul wanted to go.
The stories were hard for me to take. I sat there, behind my notepad, staring at my phone, because the realities that were described were too much for me.
An intersex baby, born with both sets of genitalia.
The baby was pretty.
The baby was made a girl.
Time proved differently.
The masculine characteristics emerged, and medical treatments — needles and needles and needles — transpired.
Dead at 28.
There was another story that broke my heart.
It was of a mother and a son. The mother knew the boy was “special.”
As mothers who have to be both mama and daddy do, the mother tried to make him “be like the other boys.”
It didn’t take. The boy eventually came out to the mother; the mother pushed him away.
Then a funny thing happened.
The mother volunteered at JASMYN (Jacksonville Area Sexual Minority Youth Network). She dealt with children who shared the same pressures as her own son had felt.
It got her out of her comfort zone. And back into her son’s life.
She built the bridge. She reached out. She accepted him as he is, her beautiful and brilliant and talented son.
And that, he told her, was the turning point of his life.
That’s the real story of the HRO. It’s about accepting and loving people for who they are, without conditions, as long as they don’t adversely affect the physical or property interests of another.
It’s about Freedom. About being a true, shining city on the hill. About honoring Christ’s greatest commandment.
The HRO is an issue of morality on both sides. Opponents believe that sexual morality is not transient, but fixed, the purest expression of society’s values.
Was that ever true? People used to die too young to get sick of each other. Then, the 20th century’s World Wars, followed by 60 years of Divorce American Style.
Traditional morality never was all that traditional. It’s like nostalgia for an oil spill in your childhood driveway.
Proponents of expansion believe it is about human dignity, both for those who fall in love with people of their gender, and those whose gender identity can’t be defined in some Manichean pregnant-or-not-pregnant way.
We are not fixed beings. Nothing in God’s creation is guaranteed or fully understood by humans. Including the mysteries of gender and attraction.
We are dust as we are conceived and as we die. In the interim, we grow and learn that the hierarchies we lionize are meaningless when we gasp for our last breaths.
Our obligation, as a free society, is to ensure everyone’s freedom.
And HRO expansion is a means to that end, a little closer to where we should be.