Damn the Man, Raise Your Voice

                           Joseph Ibrahim on Governor's Island June 2015

                           Joseph Ibrahim on Governor's Island June 2015

 

History was made two weeks ago when the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality. We celebrated a battle for equality won, but the war is far from over.

The fear in this country is palpable.

There is police violence against the black community. There is transphobia. There is discrimination and continued violence against women. And there is continued discrimination for the LGBTQ community in the workplace.

But people are afraid to speak up. Nobody wants to disturb the status quo. Nobody wants to ruffle feathers.

It took me a long time to realize that even though I’m a gay man, there are people who experience more hate and discrimination than I do. My vision was clouded by pain from years of abuse, homophobia and harassment. I couldn’t understand that another person could be going through anything worse.

I’m not trying to minimize what I went through, or what other gay men go through. It was awful, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But we need to realize there is still a long way to go.

It’s time to put an end to this violence. It’s time to put an end to this discrimination. So how do we do this?

Not by doing what we’re told. The most dangerous thing is when we accept everything the government, the media or corporations tell us.

Where is our compassion? People are suffering in this country, while we stand by and do little to change it.

I want to share a couple recent experiences I’ve had regarding lack of empathy and self-awareness.

A straight, white male acquaintance told me he often felt persecuted because he was a straight, white male. He was running sound for a comedy show, and the comic was cracking jokes about straight, white guys. He felt like a victim.

Poor him, right? No dude, you’re still one of the majority power holders. According to WhoLeads.US, “White men in this country hold four times the political power of women & people of color.” Or check out this graphic. 

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/10/10/3578399/survey-finds-white-men-have-eight-times-as-much-political-power-as-women-of-color/

If getting made fun of at a comedy show is the worst you have to deal with, then count your lucky goddamn stars. He is also one of those people who make a point to say “that gay guy” instead of "that guy," or “that lesbian” instead of “that woman.”

The other night I was out having a drink, and two women started talking to me. They were under the impression I was straight and potentially interested, so I casually brought up my husband to avoid future awkwardness. This did not have the intended effect.

They went on to say most of the people they work with are gay. Ok. They rambled on about how one female co-worker was a self-proclaimed “dyke”, and she would frequently announce she was a “dyke.”

“She always goes around saying she’s a dyke,” they explained to me. “You don’t go around telling everyone you’re a fag, do you?”

“No,” I replied, growing annoyed.

They said their co-worker told them not to go to gay bars because straight people shouldn’t. They claimed this was a sad case of “reverse discrimination.” I stopped talking to them after that.

These aren’t extreme examples, but these stories show how far we still have to go. Some people may never understand. Maybe there isn’t a “can’t we all just get along” scenario.

But it’s not about fighting other people; it’s about fighting what has been accepted as the status quo. It’s about deconstructing your level of privilege and acknowledging some people are fighting much tougher battles.

Imagine routinely being stopped by the police simply because of the color of your skin.

Imagine having to explain to every person you meet that you were born a male, but you identify as a female. How is the guy who was flirting with you going to react when you tell him?

Imagine winning the World Cup and then realizing your pay is about 40 times less than your male counterparts.

Imagine walking in to pick up your marriage certificate, only to be denied your legally granted certificate in a room full of people. Denied because a country clerk claims she is too good of a Christian to support “your lifestyle.”

We would all benefit from putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes once in a while. We should all try to acknowledge the privileges we benefit from and then work to level the playing fields.

I am just one voice. But I will use my voice without fear, to try to enact positive change. You can come hear me speak my mind and support change. I am on my tour with my band, The Paisley Fields starting tonight in Becket, MA.