I often overlook or downright ignore any connection of “American” holidays and LGBT Rights. The Conservatives seem to try and own the notion of “America” and I believe I have, along with many others, let them have it when they really don’t deserve it at all. Their notion of “America” is actually one of plundering resources while  allowing the rich to get richer, and claiming to be all about family values et al. In reality, a queer struggle for equality is closer to that struggle for independence that began our country in the first place. This Fourth of July, I choose to own the association between our country’s heritage and today’s struggle for Equality like never before.

The early colonists found themselves in a situation not that different from the one that today’s gay,lesbian,bisexual, and trans folk find themselves. The various earliest colonists, such as those at Plymouth, had a very clear purpose for coming here, but over time, there were many colonists across the 13 colonies, who had come here for a number of reasons. Some were OK with the status quo. Others, had a vision of a different type of governmental structure or religious freedom than what they had experienced in Europe. Others were uncomfortable with the status quo, but at the same time benefitted from it. However, all of these colonists were second class British citizens, and the call for independence started as a call for equality. A call for total independence didn’t evolve until all attempts for full equality failed.

I’m not suggesting that today, we are on a trajectory for independence. Only that then and now, the goal was equality under the law and the government. When England refused, and the colonists had no agency whatsoever, these calls became a cry for independence. Today, we still have many avenues to follow towards full equality, and progress is being made.

For the colonists, the inequity was most prominent in the way the government taxed them, but they had no say in the matter. Taxation without representation. Although, I believe it went further than that. Today, our inequity is most prominent in the ways in which LGBTs are not treated equally under the law. In another way, it s quite similar. Our tax dollars are expected yet, our needs for equality go unanswered. Too often our issues become political bargaining chips, given away by one politician or another in exchange for some other legislation.

One aspect of representation is visibility. How are we and our issues seen and acknowledged? A case can be made that even the most far right conservatives aren’t necessarily opposed to gay people, but their fight is against the visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexuals, trans persons, and the notion that we are a part of the whole. Consider Larry Craig for example. People participating in homosexuality is OK as long as it is unspoken, hidden, and done in secret. For us, we are denied representation if our visibility is repressed, or when our needs and issues go unspoken and acknowledged.

This July 4th is the day to state that our life as second class citizens is not enough. Nothing less than full equality under the law will do. Like the American colonists, we seek to work through the current governmental structures for this change. But also like the colonists, we must be willing t escalate our fight if we can not experience progress.

Often, today’s struggle for full equality is linked to the Black Civil Rights struggle, and I believe rightly so. Post slavery, a system was enshrined to keep American blacks as second class citizens. Freedom alone was not enough. Nothing less than full equality would do, and thus the Civil Rights struggle of the ’60s was born. We share with that movement a desire for full equality. And we share with the British colonists too, the desire to be equal under the law and enjoy full representation and visibility.

We are the Civil rights struggle for today, demanding nothing less that full equality, and our place within the fabric of the American Culture. Ands our struggle will not end under that has been achieved.

The Declaration of Independence

The Dallas Principles

Photo: Some rights reserved by Jason Pier in DC

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