QUICK STORY: When I was a kid we used to play a very fun game called “Smear the Queer.” In that game, some unlucky sap, the “queer,” would wind up with a football in her/his hands (my cousin Renee was particularly vicious) and everyone else would, well, try to smear that unfortunate person. The obvious effect was that the person who was labeled the “Queer”—the person with the ball—became a person who we wanted to crush, smear and plant into the ground. Of course we would all be cool afterwards—all the kids took turns being the “queer”; beat up, bruised and bloody. Dust themselves off. Smile. It’s just a game. From what I understand, this was regarded as a fairly universal game for mainly small boys.
Ahhh, the games children play.
It took me many, MANY years to realize that those small and innocent childhood games were not so innocent. I honestly never thought about it until I was much older. Those games of smear the queer played in young boyhood vigor—trying to assert our still-developing masculinity in any way possible—shaped a good portion of young perspectives on homosexuality. “Homosexuals can hang out with us and play with us—they can be a part of the game. But they gotta be cool expecting a bit of extra haranguing, some extra smearing.”
And that’s pretty much the way it was.
And they had to be cool with it. Dust themselves off. Smile.
WHY AM I TELLING YOU THIS? Symbols count. Words count. Telling members of a group of that they should expect to be treated differently simply because they are members of a particular group sucks. “But you have to be cool with it. Dust yourselves off. Smile.”
And that’s been our national policy toward same sex marriage up until this week. Even the politicians that we consider to be “progressive” have been on the wrong side of same sex marriage, like Barack Obama. "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage." Others, like Hillary Clinton, waffle and take antagonistic positions by default. “I support states making the decision…” That non-statement was really simply passing the buck and saying “You have to be cool with whatever the states decide.” To be sure there were many Tribes who were ahead of the game and said, “No, we can’t treat humans like that. We have to treat them all equally.” But the vast majority of states and the feds?? Naw. You have to be cool with getting beat up a little bit.
Dust yourselves off. Smile. Take the extra haranguing. The extra smearing. Be cool with it.
Today, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples can marry nationwide. The Supreme Court was HIGHLY divided on this topic—the majority that said that same-sex couples could marry won 5-4. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority with the four liberal justices and each of the four conservative justices wrote a dissent.
Law schools will be talking about this case for years.
It’s powerful to see love win. It’s powerful to see humanity recognized and evolution happen right before our eyes. It’s powerful for people to say that the LGBQT community no longer has to simply dust themselves off and smile about the extra haranguing and extra smearing.
I didn’t realize that it wasn’t cool when I was a kid playing smear the queer—it’s just not ok to treat people differently because of who they are. Many tribes recognized that. I’m glad we’re not doing that as a nation anymore and we can begin to evolve together.
It’s about time.
Photo credit: The Other 98% Facebook page
Gyasi Ross, Editor at Large
Blackfeet Nation/Suquamish Territories
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