By Echo Brooks/ TRT Online Columnist-
I recently watched a video of an elderly straight couple speaking on the topic of marriage equality. It goes without saying that most people are in awe when someone from our senior community takes a stand for gay rights. It is a known fact that the generations before us were raised quite differently than our children are now, and their teachings most likely did not include tolerance for people and situations they were not likely to be exposed to. The proverbial closet kept anyone “different” out of view, ultimately hindering the need to consider them in equality, if at all. For a lot of the elderly, their ignorance is not based on hate; it is based on lack of exposure and understanding. My mother, part of the senior community, once said to me “please don’t hate us for what we were not taught.” She has not quite reached a comfort zone with me, but she has grown to understand and appreciate my relationship and my own need to join in the fight for everyone. She regrets not attending my wedding and has even said under her breath once that she was proud of what I am doing.
My mother, like many older Americans, simply doesn’t know how to act or feel when confronted with the gay rights issue, or gay people for that matter. It is unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable. For most, pretending it doesn’t exist is easier than going out of their way to learn more. So when we see those generations stand up for equal rights it takes us by surprise and gives us a warm feeling. However, almost every time you see it, you also hear their own story of how someone close to them, usually a family member, is gay. They speak about the pain it causes them to see their loved one treated as a second class citizen. It angers them that their family member is denied basic civil rights based solely on who they choose to love. The reason these people speak out is because they have been able to see the injustices firsthand.
While I believe whole heartedly in advocating for ones rights, I also believe taking the time to expose people to who you are is equally important. Standing in front of a house wearing a rainbow flag shouting your protest isn’t going to make someone of that generation want to know who you are. Taking the time to say hello and engage them will.
We have got to find a balance where people with little expose can learn that their handed down preconceived notions are inaccurate; that we are all living very similar lives. We need to show them that we are not just a label; we are also employees, parents, children, and partners. When we become like family, we will get treated like family. The video was a testament to the fact that even the most ignorant people will fight for your rights when they love you.
Echo resides in northern New Jersey with her wife and the two youngest of their five children. You can visit her blog at dysphoricallyspeaking.blogspot.com or send comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org