Today is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, a day when we remind people to be accepting of other’s differences and sexual identity, to be good beings and not commit hate crimes against their fellow humans and to treat others with respect.
It’s 2017. Let that sink in for a bit.
While I agree there is still much work to be done to achieve the kind of equality my fellow members of the LGBTQ community seek, it still baffles me that there is a need for such a day. Shouldn’t everyday be International Day Against Homophobia?
Now, I’m not naive. I know that there are many minds still to be changed, hearts to be overturned, mentalities to education and hateful manners to eradicate. But, nonetheless, it has to be said that many individuals, myself included, imaged a much more progressive stance for not only the LGBTQ community in our nation by now, but for many other demographics targeted with hateful, demeaning and disrespectful idioms including women and immigrants.
That got me thinking.
Like many of you out there-and don’t try to lie-I recently binge watched the second season of “Masters of None,” the Netflix series created by and starring comedian Aziz Ansari. Alan Yang, who also wrote for “Parks and Recreation,” paired up with Ansari to write the comedy series which is loosely based on Ansari’s own life experiences. The series has gone to receive great reviews including from Rotten Tomatoes whose Tomatometer gave a score of 100 percent and has an audience score of 89 percent.
The first season was a comedic approach to everyday life situations faced by minorities and a diverse group of characters. A major focal point of the show was to reiterate Dev’s, Ansari’s character, struggle to find his place in New York City as an Indian 30-something year-old actor. This season, it broadens its coverage of issues faced by minorities by including the struggles of women and the LGBTQ community, just in time for International Day Against Homophobia.
The eight episode titled “Thanksgiving” recounts the story of how Denise, played by Lena Waithe, realizes that she is a lesbian. The episode spans three decades worth of Thanksgiving gatherings at Denise’s house. Since Dev is Indian and his family doesn’t celebrate the American holiday, he joins Denise’s family every single year.
This episode is particular because it highlights three different social perplexities; that people confuse Indians with being black, that black women are destined to struggle more than their white counterparts for a living and, most prevalent in the episode, that being gay is okay as long as it’s not on display.
In the show, Denise finally comes out to her mother while in college, even though she has identified as a homosexual black women for years now. Earlier in the show while her and Dev are in their teenage years, she confesses to him to being “Lebanese,” mentioning that she is uncomfortable with the word lesbian. More importantly, she says “being gay isn’t something black people talk about.”
And it isn’t something Latinos talk about either. Or Middle Eastern families. Or Asians. Or many families across American for that matter.
A few months ago, I was talking to my mom about when I came out to her. We talked about how I was adamant about not being “accepted.” I wanted to be acknowledged. To live my life without hiding from anyone. I didn’t want to repress what I had repressed for years. She told me it was a different experience for her because I wasn’t looking for sympathy or pity, I was simply inviting her to be part of a life I had already embarked on.
And that resonated in my head while I watched “Masters of None.”
In the show, Denise’s mother, who is played by Angela Bassett, advises Denise not to tell her grandmother because “she isn’t going to be able to take it” while crying because she doesn’t want her daughter to make her life harder than it already is by being a black woman.
Denise eventually invites a girlfriend over for her family’s annual Thanksgiving dinner, but it doesn’t go in her favor. The tension is obvious when Denise’s mother doesn’t go in for her girlfriend’s embrace and instead shakes her hand. During dinner, their apparent companionship makes the other family member’s uneasy, looking away and rolling their eyes. When they have a moment to herself, Denise’s mom tells her “you can be lesbian if you want to but when you come up in here, you gonna respect my house.”
For many of us, our homes are our haven. Those of us who can count on support and acknowledgement from our family and friends and concur that we are blessed. There are many members of the LGBTQ community that have been harassed, threatened, beaten and disowned. But how far we do have to go to receive even the smallest of “acceptance?”
Although I was adamant about being recognized for who I was with my family, I never was comfortable with being intimate with the two boyfriends that I have had in front of my own family. A holding of hands and a casual hug was alright, but never a kiss on the lips or a enduring embrace. Why is that? While my heterosexual siblings can be affectionate with their spouses in front of my parents, I prefer to keep my intimacy behind closed doors. How adamant was I then being with being acknowledged?
The answer is simple: our social culture hasn’t “accepted” it as a norm. There’s plenty of banners and slogans, demonstrations of support and allegiance, rallies and marches. Truly though, we haven’t obtained the acknowledgement we deserve. As long some don’t see our homosexuality front and center, then everything is okay. But it really isn’t.
The pioneers of the LGBTQ rights movement, people who had died for its cause and meaning, would not be honored if that is where we let it stop. Are we going to be content with simply being acknowledged? Isn’t what we want is to live our lives as freely as everyone else?
Until we can walk hand-in-hand, can embrace for longer than a minute and can go in for a sweet kiss from out partners wherever we damn feel like, then there is still work to do done.
And so “Masters of None” has hit a bullseye when it comes to LGBTQ issues. And, on International Day Against Homophobia, I hope we all do as well by discussing this and coming to terms that it’s just love.