We live in a very independent culture. We're big on personal responsibility, and "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps". That rugged individualism often leads to a "somebody else's problem" mentality where we don't want to get involved.
In the fight for gay and lesbian rights, a lot of opposition has come from conservative black churches. Indeed, many black men will not identify as gay or bisexual, although they have sex with other men "on the down-low". So for black men who have sex with men, there is a cultural tearing between fighting for their equal rights as African Americans and fighting for their rights as men who have sex with men (MSM).
And when Human Rights Campaign (HRC) stood up for the black students in Jena, Louisiana, many gay and lesbian people shouted "this is not our fight".
Now, due to the backlash from conservative groups
, Congress is removing protection for transgender people from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act
(ENDA). So do I support this as a Lesbian, knowing that I will be protected from being fired or evicted based only on my sexual orientation? Or do I reject this because it I can still be fired or evicted because of a transition I made two decades ago?
For me, this is not an academic argument. It's a choice between some protection and "all or nothing". When ENDA was first proposed, HRC actively worked to exclude protection for transgender persons, with a promise to revisit the issue later to include us. They have since come to support inclusion.
It's easy to say "at least we'll get some protection" and cut off a segment of our population. After all, it's not really a loss to transgender people: we don't have protection now anyway! Yet the more we divide ourselves up into smaller and smaller groups, the weaker we become. Should there be separate gay employment and lesbian employment? What about bisexuals - when they're in straight relationships, they're already part of the majority! What about the straight-looking straight-acting folks - they can "pass", so why should they support leathermen and bulldykes?
One of the consistent themes of the Bible has to do with how we treat our brothers, sisters, and neighbors. In the Bible, people are constantly looking for a way to lop off a group of people. For example, the priests and scribes wanted to not have to worry about foreigners, tax collectors, prostitutes, and the other unclean. Yet Jesus pointed out that everyone is a neighbor. Paul pointed out that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. We are all of the same flesh - all human, and we cannot have one of us suffer without it affecting the rest of us.
It's not just the body of Christ, it's the family of humanity. There is no reason to leave any of our brothers and sisters behind. There is no reason to draw a line - a division - between us.
And when we do, we weaken the body. We become small and isolated. We become individuals with individual problems, and not a community that works together for justice for everyone.
For me, I will not support this bill that will half-protect me and protect some of my brothers and sisters but not others. And I will not support those legislators who are willing to defer justice for some in the name of expediency.