Leonard Pitts Jr.
His alleged killer, 33-year-old
In pondering this tragedy, it is worthwhile to consider a couple things: where it happened, and when.
The "where" is just a few blocks from the
The "when" is now, in the post-
He is, you will recall, the 34-year-old
"Who cares?" wrote conservative blogger
"It means less than nothing to me," said
"I do not care about Mr. Collins' sexuality," wrote columnist Armstrong Williams.
Methinks they doth protest too much.
Why does this matter?
Yours truly attempted to answer that question in this space when Collins came out. Sadly,
Here's the thing: as gay rights have become more approved and inevitable, it becomes less socially acceptable to oppose them as loudly and brazenly as some of us once did. As recently as 2001, for example, Williams was arguing that gay couples were unfit to adopt.
Such arguments largely lost, he and others like him turn now to this new pose of ostentatious indifference that says in effect, "Fine." Be gay if you must, but why do you feel you have to announce your sexuality to the world?
It is an argument with the unfortunate advantage of seeming to make sense, even as it paints gay people as overly provocative and needlessly demonstrative. Don't put your sexual orientation in my face, it says, and I won't put mine in yours. Keep your sex life private. Don't ask, don't tell.
But the flaw in the argument is obvious: straight people announce their sexuality all day every day. It happens when they canoodle in the park, walk hand in hand through the mall, place loved ones' pictures on the desk. These are small joys and we don't think of them as announcements of sexuality, but they are.
If you are gay, you don't do such things. Or, you do them strategically, thoughtfully, picking and choosing where and when it is safe to canoodle, hold hands, set out the pictures ... be. Because you realize the reaction may not just be derision, but violence. Even death.
So the decision to seize these small joys demands courage. This is what is provided when a
Sometimes, when you step out on the ice, it helps to know someone else has already tested it. If you are going to demand the right to be, if you are going to accept the risk that doing so entails, it's good to know that at least you're not alone.
Why does this matter, they ask?
Well, in 2013, in America's biggest city, within steps of a gay rights landmark, it seems you can still be shot in the face for no other reason than that you are gay.
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