I’ve been hearing from a lot of people who are really upset and hurt by the American Medical Association’s ill-advised decision to call obesity a disease, I’m definitely upset myself. I think it’s particularly hard because first we found out that the Council on Science and Health that had been charged with studying the question for a year had made their recommendation that obesity should NOT be classified as a disease. It was all over my Facebook, readers sent e-mails to me and there was such a sense of happiness and relief. Then the next day we found that the AMA had over-ridden the recommendation of their Science and Public Health council and it made the situation that much more painful.
Today as I was driving, a song came on the radio – the first lyrics were “When I was in the 3rd grade I thought that I was gay.” I was absolutely riveted – how was this going to go? It quickly became apparent that it was a song in support of queer people and queer rights. I started to tear up – a hip hop song supporting queer people on mainstream radio. Then the lyrics “The same fight that led people to walk-outs and sit ins. Human rights for everybody, there is no difference…I might not be the same, but that’s not important. No freedom ’til we’re equal, damn right I support it.” I just started crying in earnest, I pulled the car over to listen to the rest of the song.
I suddenly had the strongest memory. When I was in college my friend Tom and I had a radio show on KVRX, the University of Texas’s radio station. The show was called Out Loud and the slogan was “Coming in Loud and Queer All Over Austin.” We did interviews and commentary about gay rights. It was 1996 and in Hawaii the case of Baehr v. Miike was playing out – same-sex couples suing for the right to be married.
In December the judge ruled that the state had failed to establish any compelling interest in denying same-sex couples the ability to marry. The next day he stayed his decision to prevent a situation where people would be married only to have his decision overturned. On November 3rd, 1998 voters in Hawaii were deciding on an amendment to their state constitution to “reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples.” They voted yes. It was heartbreaking and that night Evan Wolfson (an attorney who was leading Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund’s Marriage Project) was kind enough to be a guest our little radio show. He sounded tired, he sounded disappointed, but he emphatically told two college activists, and anyone who was listening to our show, that we must not give up. Soon after he formed Freedom to Marry, saying “I’m not in this just to change the law. It’s about changing society. I want gay kids to grow up believing that they can get married, that they can join the Scouts, that they can choose the life they want to live.”
As I sat in my car listening to the song again (having downloaded it immediately onto my iphone) the memory of Evan Wolfson hit me and I started crying anew, knowing that gay kids can join the scouts, and they can get married in 12 states. There’s still lots of work to be done but it’s a lot of progress from the punch in the stomach feeling of November 3, 1998 to today when I heard a hip hop song supporting gay marriage on commercial radio
The thing about civil rights activism is that the minute you realize the need for the activism you step through a door and become ahead of your time – privy to the horrible acts being committed by those who either don’t know, don’t care, or who profit from the status quo. Sometimes it will seem unbelievable that people can’t see what’s going on and aren’t convinced by argument, evidence, or tearful impassioned plea.
When it comes to civil rights activism, history is on our side. But the victories can be a long time in coming and in the meantime civil rights activism can be fun, exciting, and invigorating. It can also be painful, heartbreaking, and make you question your faith in humanity and yourself. But for me, once I walked through the door, there was no other way to go.
Here’s the link to Macklemore’s Same Love
Like the blog? Here’s more of my stuff:
Become a member: Keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details
The Book: Fat: The Owner’s Manual The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details
Dance Classes: Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details