When We Speak

By Aaron Williams

I'll admit, I've only been out about a year, and am relatively new to being a "gay rights activist," but speaking out for what I believe to be right, and know to be true, is nothing new to me. I've spoken globally on issues as diverse as AIDS, domestic violence, defamation, etc. I've always tried to look at the big picture. I try not to let personal views cloud my judgement. I've always believed that as an activist, we must fight for the greater good. This is why Tom Beddingfield's profile in the December issue of Oasis bothered me. There were a number of inaccuracies and just plain disturbing statements made by Beddingfield. My original intent was to write this column in such a way that I would refute each argument made by the afore mentioned. I, however, realized that I would be doing a grave injustice to myself and to the faithful readers of Oasis by limiting myself to mere opinions.

Tom made some good points. For example, there are laws to punish those who would murder, regardless of the reason for the act. He stated that he could not support hate crime legislation because it would not do any good and would be morally wrong (?). I'll admit that his inarticulate manner in conveying this point has left me a bit dumbfounded, but I believe I got the general point that he was trying to make. It is, in my opinion, unfortunate that he has such a blinded sense of what this kind of legislation would do for the GLBT community. It's not just about murder. We will let the outcry of millions over the tragic demise of Matthew Shepard attest to that fact. Hate crime legislation is more about the little things. So often, many crimes are overlooked because they are committed against homosexuals. Keep in mind, that discrimination is not even considered a crime, universally speaking, when the act is done against a gay man or lesbian womyn. The bottom line here, is that there are so many laws against homosexuality, that in the broad scope of things, we are not protected. If nothing else, hate crime legislation may detour future murders. One life would be worth it. It is my understanding that Tom is going to be speaking to a number of legislators in D.C. this month. I have one thing to say to that. He is going to speak against hate crime legislation because he believes it is wrong. Laws that protect people are not wrong. Further, he's talking to them about an issue that directly affects my life...I sincerely hope he goes to Washington armed with something better than an uneducated opinion of hatred in America.

You know, there are a number of things that I don't agree with in regards to Mr. Beddingfield. For example, it is true that, marriage is not a constitutional right. My only response to that, is, marriage, is a basic, fundamental human right. There are so many "special" laws against homosexuals, and for the most part, they hold some form of control over our actions (or so we allow the religious right to think), but marriage is a sacred commitment that I make to the man I love in front of my God, my family, and my friends. Keep your laws, I've got love and that is more powerful than any army they can send to uphold their ignorant ideologies.

Enough of all that. I clearly have intended to write this column in a casual tone. This is because I have a hard time taking any opinion of Mr. Beddingfield's seriously. This is simply because he conveyed himself in such an authoritative manner, when in reality he was only hurting those who would embrace him for having the courage to come forward. He has chosen to become his own activist. The problem is that he's attempting to speak for the whole (as witnessed by his D.C. vigil appearance in October and his upcoming meetings in D.C.).

At this time, I shall be so bold as to take on a similar tone. I have received international recognition for speaking out against injustice, hate, and ignorance. I am speaking as a man who knows that when you allow yourself to represent a group or body, you'd better represent them accurately. Tom is certainly allowed to have his opinions, and to voice them. Of course, his opinions mean nothing to me, because there is no evidence, or cold hard facts to support it. My main concern is not that he believes what he does, but that he attempts to speak for others. It bothers me that his message is being sent to legislators, and to gay youth. The issues that Tom confronts are at the very heart and soul of what it is to be gay in America. He's not allowed all of these opportunities to voice himself to such a large audience because he's right or because so many agree with him (indeed, it's my contention that he's just simply wrong), but because he has the financial means to do so. I think that it is important for the readers to know this, because he is being viewed as a representative of the gay community, when in fact, he is speaking against everything that so many have fought hard to achieve and protect.

When we speak, we are placing ourselves in a position to make choices. We influence people and ideas. When what we have to say only hurts and dehumanizes people, would it not just be best to keep our mouths shut?

Feel free to e-mail any and all responses to this column to me at aarwill@juno.com

©1998-1999 Oasis Magazine. All Rights Reserved.