Did you see this Army vet’s commentary on CBS Sunday Morning? She makes the case that military service should not be limited to straight white men, as it once was. That our military is stronger (and more American) if it can draw on the talents of qualified black, female, and LGBT Americans, too. The Trump Administration disagrees.
Did you know that, a century ago, it was pink for the boys, blue for the girls?
This gender stuff can be confusing — even threatening. It certainly was to me growing up.
Or it can be about self-expression and freedom. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
“Between the Shades” is a documentary fresh from the festival circuit to iTunes this month. Already in hundreds of libraries and colleges (Penn State, Duke, Columbia) and licensed by PFLAG chapters, it shows that, in addition to your basic (wonderful!) heterosexual males and females (I can’t emphasize this too much: I am a huge fan of heterosexuals) . . . there is an almost endless palette of other shades.
Fifty folks are interviewed, ranging from the very square, who could easily pass for straight if they wanted to, to some variations you might not before have encountered.
But whose happiness you might find yourself rooting for.
Imagine if high school kids were forced to watch this film at the end of their sophomore year, just before going off on summer vacation.
“We are forcing you to watch this film,” the principal or guidance counselor might say just before the lights dimmed, “not to make you uncomfortable — though we imagine it will make some of you uncomfortable. And not to confuse you, though we know gender and sexuality can be confusing at any age — and certainly for kids as young as you. No way do you need to label yourselves today. Or try to fit yourself into some category other than ones into which most of you do or will fall: standard straight males and females who for much of history in most societies were the only visible or acceptable categories. (And let us be clear: we at this school love and admire standard straight heterosexuals.)
“Rather, we are forcing you to watch this documentary for three reasons:
“First: In your lives — and perhaps even in this school — you will encounter people whose gender expression doesn’t fit the norm. You may hate them or fear them — or love and embrace them — or pretty much simply ignore them. That will be entirely your choice. But we wanted you to have a chance to meet some of them today so you’d be aware of what’s out there in the world. Our own feeling is: good citizens, and good friends, can come in endless varieties. We’d like you to consider that point of view.
“Second: Many kids your age have an easy time knowing who they are in terms of sexual orientation and gender expression — and that’s great. And many more, given peer pressure, pretend they know. But an awful lot of kids don’t know — indeed, some adults don’t entirely know until they’re much older — and we want those kids to know they are not alone. And that there’s no rush to figure it out. And that happiness is possible for every student in this room even if, as is so natural growing up, you feel unsure or insecure about some of this stuff.
“Finally: We’re forcing you to watch because we know that for most kids this stuff is embarrassing. To have to raise your hand and ask a question about sex is really hard. To stand out from your peers because you chose to attend a film like this could be really hard. We don’t want to put any of you in that position. So look: feel free to say you hate being here. That you hated watching this film. Either because you actually did hate it or because it embarrassed you or because you actually found it very, very interesting and didn’t want anyone to know.
“But consider this: kids kill themselves over fear they won’t fit in . . . that they will be rejected for being different. We at this school want all of you to know that if you’re honest and kind and useful, a wonderful life can lie ahead for you no matter how traditional or untraditional your love life winds up being. Just ask the folks you’re about to meet in this film.”
Something like that?
If I were giving that speech today, I might add, “Hey, the people of Chicago just elected a lesbian mayor. The people of Colorado just elected a gay governor. The CEO of Apple is gay. The CEO of United Therapeutics is trans. A thoroughly credible candidate for President who acquitted himself superbly on Meet The Press this past Sunday was reelected mayor of South Bend as an openly gay man with more than 80% of the vote.”
Love is love. In America, all are welcome to contribute.
Or at least — Trump notwithstanding — we’re getting there.