Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Human Rights, and Day without a Gay

Next Wednesday, December 10, is international Human Rights Day. It's also Day without a Gay.

What is Day without a Gay? In short, it is a day for LGBTQ people and allies to "call in gay" to work in order to give back to the community. People are justifiably outraged by the passage of California's Proposition 8, as well as the anti-gay ballot measures in Florida, Arizona, and Arkansas, and other violations of the civil rights of LGBTQ Americans. It is important to stand up and fight, but in order to win, we must get beyond our anger. Volunteering for LGBTQ-friendly organizations is an excellent way to do so.

You do not have to be gay to take the day off on the 10th to support our cause. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and asexuals are all invited to do so, as are people who are transgendered, intersexed, genderqueer, or allies of all of the above. The word "Gay" was chosen simply because it rhymes with "Day." This day is about tolerance and inclusiveness. So please don't let the name put you off.

Another concern that some have about Day without a Gay is the impracticality of taking the day off work. Besides the obvious risks of "calling in gay," some people -- many people -- do not have paid vacation time, and some truly cannot afford to take the day off work. Thus, Day without a Gay has been accused of being classist, and I can understand that viewpoint. I do believe that the day is important, but it's probably not worth losing your electricity or missing your rent or mortgage payment.

But you don't have to take the day off to help. You can volunteer whenever you are able -- perhaps before or after work on the 10th, but really, any day of the year -- and if you're not able, you can do other things to support the cause.

If you are interested and able to attend, Show Me No Hate is sponsoring a Community Education Day as the local (St. Louis) event for Day without a Gay. "This will be a day," according to the site, when "we can get educated, energized, mobilized and prepared" to continue the fight for LGBTQ equality. And at the end of the event, we get to watch the new movie Milk. A limited number of free tickets will be available.

December 10, 2008 is the 60th anniversary of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The General Assembly of the UN "adopted and proclaimed" the Declaration in 1948. In 1948 we had this proclamation of human rights and human dignity.

Reading the UDHR today, in 21st Century America, I am amazed by how progressive it sounds, relative to American politics. More important, I am struck by how many human rights violations my country engages in regularly.

Article 16 states that marriage is a human right for "[m]en and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion." Gender variants are not mentioned, and sexuality is not specifically mentioned as an unacceptable limitation to marriage. But Article 2 establishes that all people are "entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status [emphasis mine]."

This country and the world still have a long way to go, and the truth is, there are much more egregious human rights violations than the lack of same-sex marriage being committed in the United States and all over the world. Humans are troubled creatures, prone to hatred, violence and divisiveness. I am a realist. I realize that human nature cannot be forced into submission.

But I'm also an idealist. I know that we've come a long way already. And I still hope for the ultimate triumph of love, peace and unity.

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