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Kissing Kim Davis, Campaign for Houston, and Caitlyn Jenner goodbye.
By Ryan Leach
Now that the books have officially closed on 2015, most of us are looking forward to the New Year with new resolutions. Looking forward is great, but if we learned anything in grade school it was that remembering our history is important . . . “For those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” (George Santayana, Spanish philosopher)
And girl, there were parts of 2015 that I for sure do not want to repeat!
Let’s take one last look back as we ponder my inaugural list of the Top Ten Things to Leave in 2015:
1. Kim Davis – The colloquialism “Bye, Felicia!” has never been more apropos than with this idiot. We should have known that Kim Davis was down for a hard fight when she walked out in that denim overall dress and declined to issue marriage licenses to gay Kentucky couples after the June marriage-equality ruling. (Anyone brave enough to leave their house in a denim overall dress is not to be messed with.) After her myriad attempts (and failures) to have the courts rule that her religious beliefs should allow her the right to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Kim Davis moved into the Halloween costume hall of fame (and waste bin)—forever, we hope. However, I will miss the parody Twitter handle @NextToKimDavis. Classic Kim.
2. Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore – Before the Supreme Court ruling declaring same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional, several states acquired marriage equality by default. Alabama was one of those states. And in the state of Alabama lives an old bigot named Roy Moore, the Alabama Supreme Court justice who still thinks that his state shouldn’t issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (In some counties, they still don’t.) Roy Moore is a fantastic dinosaur, reminiscent of the villainous old racists of the ’60s—old white guys in power who just weren’t gonna tolerate changing their ways. If these folks didn’t still exist in high volume, Roy Moore would be considered a caricature of the Old South and its infamous past. I hope when Alabamans vote for their next Supreme Court Justice, they vote this Foghorn Leghorn of intolerance back to Dark Ages where he came from.
3. #AllLivesMatter – Let’s file this under the category of “You’re Doing It Wrong.” This misguided hashtag went viral in response to #BlackLivesMatter, a movement created in response to systemic racism in our justice and penal system that has resulted in the murder and disproportionate incarceration of African-Americans. What #AllLivesMatter failed to comprehend when #AllWhitePeopleSaidIt was that the #BlackLivesMatter movement was not asserting that black lives mattered more, but that in America in 2015 black lives appeared to matter less. Democrats and Republicans alike fell into this well-meaning white-privilege quagmire. Our own Harris County Sherriff Ron Hickman shoved one foot in his mouth and the other foot into rough political waters when he invoked this tone-deaf response after the tragic murder of deputy Darren Goforth.
4. Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRA) – Indiana managed to severely harm their brand of “Hoosier hospitality” when their legislature and Governor Mike Pence decided that passing a law that would allow people to discriminate against others, based on “a deeply held religious belief,” was a good idea. It turns out that it wasn’t. The national backlash created by the tidal wave of disapproval of the law so harmed the state that the Indianapolis Star had a front-page image that read simply “Fix This Now.” And fix it they tried, but the damage was done. Governor Pence is in a hard race for re-election. I hope the deeply held religious beliefs of Indianans guide them to vote for anyone other than Mike Pence. My thoughts and prayers are with them.
5. Ignoring the Transgender Experience – It isn’t 2009 anymore. The world and the LGB community can no longer ask the T contingent to wait their turn. (Not that it was ever acceptable in the first place.) While the transgender community waits for their turn, the murder rate for transgender people—specifically women of color—continues to climb along with their rates of poverty, unemployment, homelessness, and discrimination. There is no excuse for us to make compromises that further marginalize members of our community, and we need to start taking action. If only we had a local ordinance in place to help prevent and punish this behavior . . .
6. Caitlyn Jenner – The word I think of, when I think of Caitlyn Jenner, is “polarizing.” If I identified as transgender, I don’t know how I would feel about this lady being my new and unelected spokesperson. On one hand, she is woefully under-educated about the experiences of the transgender community, and she is politically aligned with a party that fights every day to suppress the rights of her community. And yet, on the other hand, she has been able to introduce the whole world to a life experience most people have never attempted to understand. I guess the reason we need to leave Caitlyn in 2015, despite her efforts to do the community some good, is that I’m not sure a rich old white lady living in a Malibu mansion sitting on millions of dollars is a suitable representative for an increasingly marginalized faction of the LGBT community. Especially while she is still voting against them and herself.
7. HERO-ic Mistakes – The failure of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) cast a long shadow over what was a largely positive and historic year for the American LGBT community. Perhaps electing the first openly gay mayor of a major American city made us lazy. But HERO’s loss may be the ass kickin’ we need to make a better Houston. First step: acknowledge that there is a difference between being diverse and segregated versus diverse and integrated—to quote Sylvester Turner. If Houston were a high-school cafeteria, we would all be sitting at our own lunch tables talking about our own problems and not learning anything new. Let’s start by reaching out to those in our community who live at the intersection of being LGBT and a person of color. Then let’s buy the world a Coke.
8. Campaign for Houston – Unfortunately, my Christmas wish that the barrel full of jerks who led the successful campaign to take down HERO would fall over the edge of a waterfall did not come true. But maybe I just need an attitude adjustment. I should pray to their version of Jesus and ask Him to send me some evidence that these folks are actually human beings and not egg-hatched monsters. I mainly hate them for making our city look bad compared to Dallas. DALLAS!
9. Antigay Texas Legislators – There are a lot of them, almost too many to name, and they tried to cause a lot of trouble for the gay community in 2015. Thanks to the hard work of groups like Equality Texas, the HRC, the GLBT Political Caucus, The Victory Fund, etc., it was a little harder than usual for them to succeed. Effectively none of the antigay legislation got to the governor’s desk in the 2015 session. We can thank, in small part, the Indiana backlash and the cool timing of the Supreme Court marriage ruling after the Texas session ended for that. Sometimes timing is everything.
10. Mayoral Candidate Ben Hall – Dear Ben, in 2013 you had a float in the Pride parade and tried to brand yourself as a slightly more conservative and better choice for Houston mayor. You failed in that campaign and wasted millions of your own dollars doing it. Then, like herpes, you came back in 2015 and used your platform as a mayoral candidate to demagogue about bathrooms. You were again unsuccessful at persuading voters your way. Some Houston voters may have been fooled by the bathroom lie, but they weren’t stupid enough to vote for you. Do us all a favor and move back to Piney Point Village—and take Dave Wilson, Steve Hotze, Jared Woodfill, and the rest of the Campaign for Houston with you.
Ryan Leach is a community activist who currently serves on the board of Equality Texas. He is dedicated to the social and political advancement of the LGBT community.