Throughout college and most of my adult life, I have found myself on numerous occasions marching for the rights of groups which I do not belong. I cannot enumerate the times I joined the MSA (Muslim Student Association) or the LGBT Student Clubs in their protests against injustice all over the state of California. I reminisce on some of my “activist” days and remember experiencing the pure hatred expressed by others towards these groups, and how much more passionate it made me feel about their cause.
I am asked quite often how I could march with a group of gays if I am not gay, or, why I am so offended by an injustice to a homosexual if I am not one myself. I have even been accused by some of hiding the fact that I myself am gay. I usually would deny the accusation vehemently, as I am, of course, not gay. It was not until I matured in my understanding of their struggle that I realized my responses were, in some cases, aligned with the comments levied by those we were marching against. It took me a while, but I eventually learned to care less about whether somebody thought I was gay or not. I began to believe, as I do now, that a man who is truly comfortable his sexuality, does not feel threatened by other’s perceptions, or misperceptions, for that matter. I have learned to respond to such allegations with “does it matter?,” conceding to the fact that they may actually walk away from this conversation convinced that I am. Learning to accept this possibility took a lot of maturing as a person.
But to answer the original question… Why am I offended by an injustice to gays if I am not one myself, or any other group of people for that matter? I believe very strongly in the following statement by Dr. Martin Luther King,
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
I am actually amazed that more African Americans are not inspired by this quote, noting how many black religious communities still support the oppression of gay rights, for example, but I digress. I feel we cannot expect others to stand up and defend our rights, if we are not willing stand up and defend theirs, even when their rights have no perceived direct impact on us. Would allowing gay marriage benefit me in any way? Probably not. But is it still worth fighting for? Absolutely! I expect my white brothers and sisters to help me fight against any oppression proposed against my race, and I cannot expect this, if I am not willing to provide the same effort to other oppressed groups.
I believe every human has a duty to defend the inalienable rights of every other human, despite our differences. I wish to leave you with the lyrics of the poem “First they came…” by Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.
THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
THEN THEY CAME for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.
THEN THEY CAME for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
Remember these words, next time you tell yourself “It’s not my fight!”