Friday, October 28, 2005

Is there a pecking order for human rights?

George Takei, who played Sulu in Star Trek has come out in the current issue of Frontiers. He is starring in a new play and told journalists that “The world has changed from when I was a young teen feeling ashamed for being gay. The issue of gay marriage is now a political issue. That would have been unthinkable when I was young.” He has lived with his partner, Brad Altman, for 18 years.

This is another interesting addition to the debate on whether homophobia or heterosexism is a civil rights issue in the same way as race, gender, ageism etc. Takei obviously does see some parallels, likening prejudice against gays to racial segregation. “It’s against basic decency and what American values stand for,” he said.

For another take on this there is a great article in Time magazine picking up civil rights and gay rights following debates in Massachusetts about gay marriage. Jeninne Lee-St. John describes how her mother's father didn't want to attend her wedding. She says "To a Chinese immigrant who came to New York as a boy, who had lived and toiled in the back of a laundromat and worked his way up to become a successful insurance business owner and community leader, the prospect of his oldest child marrying a black American man was not just shameful, it was a step backward."

Jennie acknowledges that the history of race discrimination and heterosexism are different and "in the game of Who's Been More Systematically Oppressed?, black people win hands down." But that doesn't discount the hardships of other groups.

She finishes by noting that, "Black Americans don't need to approve of or understand homosexuality to recognize that. And they owe it to successes of the civil rights movement, to their own triumph over inhumane treatment and accusations of an impure agenda, to try." Read more here