For dreams to come: application to the “gay issue”
The individual’s freedom in a democracy is also a duty. It is a duty to recognize when our prejudices become obstacles to the fulfillment of a more perfect State, a more complete democracy and equality. That is why, to understand the role of democracy is the first step towards a more perfect one. The fight for freedom and justice started centuries ago and it is not over. There are some basic and essential similarities between the fight for justice and equality of the colored in the United States in the 60’s and the homosexual community civil rights situation in some countries today, like Puerto Rico.
In the “I have a dream” speech, King expresses that the United Sates belongs to colored too and they belong to it, but they are living as exiles in their own land. How have they come to this conclusion? Because they are not being treated equally by the law that was meant to protect freedom and justice of all the civilians, and that is one of the most important similarities between the black and whites segregation and discrimination and the denial of certain civil rights to homosexual people. The manifestation of the unfairness committed against both groups is: segregation and discrimination. Sometimes publicly accepted and manifested trough public polices, and other times, expressed in unofficial social relations.
Discrimination against the homosexual community is manifested in public policies. Firstly, the Government has not yet recognized that discrimination toward this minority exists. The Government has not yet included discrimination for sexual orientation and gender identity in the Bill of Rights. Both legislative and the Senate braches have not met their duty to act upon facts and not upon personal believes. Most of the Legislators and Senators have failed then to represent the people, because they have been to busy representing their own believes. Even though many evidence has been presented that discrimination towards the LGTB community is real and is affecting the lives of many persons, an Amendment has not been made, yet.
Another way that discrimination is effectively and cruelly affecting the lives a many persons in Puerto Rico is that sexual orientation is not yet considered to be a cause for hate crimes. Even though that in places like United Kingdom the Government, that has a Home Office through the Web, considers that:
“A hate crime is: Any incident, which constitutes a criminal offence, which is perceived by the victim or any other person as being motivated by prejudice or hate.Hate crime is any criminal offence committed against a person or property that is motivated by an offender's hatred of someone because of their: race, colour, ethnic origin, nationality or national origins, religion, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation or disability.
Hate crime can take many forms including:
physical attacks – such as physical assault, damage to property, offensive graffiti, neighbour disputes and arson
threat of attack – including offensive letters, abusive or obscene telephone calls, groups hanging around to intimidate and unfounded, malicious complaints
verbal abuse or insults - offensive leaflets and posters, abusive gestures, dumping of rubbish outside homes or through letterboxes, and bullying at school or in the workplace”
And even tought that Puerto Rico Ángel Colón Maldonado, know in the eighties as the “Singles Angel”, was related to 27 murders and convicted for three, even though he admited six, accepted having commited the crimes because the individuals were homosexuals, homicide because of sex orientation or gender identity is still not considered a hate crime. It is as if the Government of Puerto Rico rather prefers to acts as if there is no discrimination against hmosexual in the country, further more, the Government acts as if homosexual citizens not existed at all.
Something similar happened with the colored at Kings time, when segregation and discriminatory public policies were considered convinient, right and that with and black populations were “separated but equal”, but if we are all equal, why should we be separated?
As it happened with discrimination for race, discrimination for sexual orientation or gender identity is often justified with religious arguments and doctrines. As with colored, gays and transsexuals are considered to be unnatural and not worthy of the treatment that other human beings deserve. Such groups tend to believe that it is their mission to stop civil rights legislation for homosexuals, lesbians, bisexual and transsexual people. But such an argument is obviously unconstitutional. It is unconstitutional because the Constitution of Puerto Rico states that:
Section 1 of the Bill of Rights:
…All men are equal before the law….
…There will be total and complete separation between Church (religion) and State…
This proves that it is unconstitutional to expect for the Government to meet the doctrinal requirements of a religion, while on the other hand, it is so to deny a number of civil rights to a population of citizens.
Others believe that to approve such legislations would be a denial to tradition and Puerto Rican culture. This is an irrational thought because cultural change s known to be a necessary and normal process in society. The educator José Cáceres says that culture is a result of socialization, its function is to satisfy the physical and social needs of society and since needs change, so does culture. He also states that on democratic societies such changes are faster because decisions are to be taken on a rational basis and the Government is expected to meet the people needs because it’s power comes from them.
Other ways of discrimination are not contained on public policies but they are not punished or prohibited by them either. The homosexual community is frequently segregated from the rest of the population, its is accepted to make jokes about them, for comedians to make people laugh about the clichés they create through the media and television, it is accepted that Puerto Rican television is filled with homosexual characters called “locas”, “patos”, which is the Spanish word for duck, “maricas”, words as insulting as fag or queer and to deny them of job opportunities.
Martin Luther King dreamt for the moment to come that people would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. King’s dream is contagious, I also dream, I dream for the day to come when people are not judge by their sexual preference, but by whom they are. I dream for the day to come when, we the people, accept that sexual orientation is a part of a persons personality, not it’s definition. I dream with the day when we get so close to de ideal of democracy that, we the people, consider toleration our most precious value and finally see that history teaches us that the reason of existence of democracy is diversity itself.
To understand the role of democracy is the first step towards a more perfect one. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary a democracy is: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections; the common people especially when constituting the source of political authority; the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges. A simple dictionary definition might not be enough to really understand the historical events an processes that lead to the birth of democracy, but it is our duty as citizens with the freedom of speech to do so. I will give the reader a clue on this search for a better democracy: separation of State and Church proved to be more than convenient, but necessary and indispensable for a democracy to exist.
To fulfill that duty as citizens and to recognize others as human beings, Martin Luther King methods are more than crucial. In his “I have a dream” speech he pointed out some basic statutes. When he said:
“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”
He is telling us that the answer is not gradualism, that this goal of freedom is not to be achieved by gradual steps, but by drastic change. First of all, we must accept that the LGTB community discontent is legitimate, because they all have the same dignity and are made of the same material as any other Puerto Rican. They should not accept to be told to fly somewhere else where they can be ‘accepted’, where their rights for jobs, equality, marriage, and other economical, institutional and civil activities are recognized. They have the exact same right to be recognized as human beings, as citizens of the land that gave birth to all of us, and for which we all are willing to fight for it to become a more democratic nation. Drastic change is the response to the urgency of many Puerto Ricans that live a life filled with a discrimination that attempts to take their dignity away from them and steal their right to pursuit happiness away. It is urgent, indeed, for those who have to live beneath the powerful foot of rejection on their necks, a rejection that sometimes even takes their lives away, we must not tolerate untoleration, we must not allow for our compatriots, brothers and sisters, to live as anything less than what they are: human beings and as citizens as heterosexuals.
In order to promote drastic change, Martin Luther King leaded pacific manifestations and marches. It may not make sense to promote drastic change with such a strategy, but if we are fighting for justice, freedom and equality, there is nothing more efficient than to prove the discriminators wrong about us. Martin Luther King expressed:
… there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force."
Mother Teresa once said that there is no sense in fighting violence wit more violence. And because discrimination is certainly very aggressive and violent we must not join it’s destructive fire. That is why ‘pacific but firm’ is the perfect recipe for freedom soldiers. We shall remember our purpose while fighting for freedom and equality, this will allow us to fight with the dignity of the high value for which we are fighting, and it will also prevent us from segregating ourselves by thinking about the LGTB community as an alienated society, we must at all times remember that precisely because we are part of society, an humans like all others, is that we are fighting and calling for equality. About this, King said:
“The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”
This fragment manifests the essence of the perfection of democracy: we all are “the people”, the recognition of LGTB civil rights is every citizens business, and homosexuals, transsexuals, heterosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals all are part of a whole. In a democracy, if a minority is not treated with equality, then the majorities are guilty of destroying it’s nation democracy.
Martin Luther King also gives us an answer for those who believe that democracy is just fine the way it is, and that enough rights have been guaranteed. He said:
“There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by a sign stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."¹
I ask for those who are satisfied, to take a moment to imagine this nation if women, workers, non-whites and people with disabilities would have satisfied with their life conditions hundreds of years ago. No, we are not to be satisfied, we must glorify our duty as free citizens to assure a better democracy for generations to come. That is why must understand and study the history of democracy and that will enable us to accept that personal prejudices are not to be taken in consideration when creating public policies that will affect a whole nation. Every time we face a new situation of discrimination, and we discover ourselves as the discriminators, we must look back and wonder, where would we be as a nation if we would have satisfied with inequality? What would happen if we destroy democracy by considering personal believes as universal laws? We need to understand that “their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom”. And if we discover ourselves as the oppressed or as citizens responsible enough to fight along with the oppressed for a better democracy, then we must: fight for drastic change, act like brothers and sisters pacifically but firmly for a democracy that exists because of DIVERSITY.