Observing the ballroom packed with the attendees, I noted that racial and ethnic
minorities were in the minority, possibly reflecting the multiple layers of
discrimination in the GLBT ethnic minority population, who are bombarded by so
many possible points of entry into the democratic process in order to improve
the enjoyment of civil rights and basic human rights.
What's this cumbersome sentence from? A 3385-word, 21-paragraph report written by a member of Diversity Dayton (and a faculty member of an institution of higher learning here in Dayton) who participated in Equality Ohio's first LGBTA Lobby Day last Wednesday in Columbus. And it makes me tired, on more than one level.
The superficial level is that this sentence offends the inner English major in me. "Racial and ethnic minorities were in the minority?" That's hardly surprising. Except for women, who though a protected class technically aren't a minority of the population, yes, minority groups do tend to be in the minority (although that is changing). Yes, I get that the author of this sentence meant something like, "Racial and ethnic minorities were underrepresented," but couldn't she have said that? What she meant by the rest of that long sentence, I don't even care to try to figure out.
Another level on which the sentence tires me is that it's yet another indication of how things don't change, also on multiple levels. The "LGBT community," at least in Ohio, is a predominantly white affair. There's lots of talk about why that is and little success in changing that. Certainly it's not something easily changed given the intense homophobia among African Americans (though, to be fair, there have been exceptions) especially in black churches.
Something else that's not changing in Ohio anytime soon is the political outlook for queers. Equality Ohio made a big deal about the introduction of a bill (HB 28/SB 331) that would ban discrimination in Ohio based on sexual orientation and encouraged people, including people at home, to campaign for it on Lobby Day. Well no Republicans (count them, zero) have signed
up to co-sponsor this legislation, and it has a snowball's chance in hell of
passing this session. Californians got their state legislature to pass a law
(later vetoed by the Terminator) giving gay Californians the right to marry.
In Ohio we're struggling to get our legislature to agree that maybe queers in
school do deserve some protections against bullies.
Now I don't want to sound completely like a curmudgeon. It's (usually) better to do something than to do nothing. For a first attempt, Equality Ohio had some measure of success. Over 500 people lobbied their state representatives
and senators for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Ohioans,
and these people were fairly well received. Speaker of the House Jon Husted
(in whose district I currently live and who I had the chance to meet earlier
this year on another lobby day) attended Equality Ohio's reception the evening
before. I heard from a friend about his visit with a Republican who represents
the rural district in which he lives, and apparently he (and two of her aides
who are Miami of Ohio alums) gave her quite an education on the environment gay
students still face in schools. Other friends told me that they feel the
anti-bullying bill (HB 276) stands a better chance of having the list of
often-bullied groups put back into it.
So I guess when it comes to working for gay rights in Ohio, I'm ambivalent. I'm too tired to be an active participant of a group like Diversity Dayton (I've already done my share of sitting through long meetings), but I'm also glad that there's a new set of young, newly-out queers in their 20s excited about making a difference. I'm just not optimistic about what they'll accomplish.