good riddance, doma; and, how to have a conversation

My lunch break, thanks to the glorious combination of food and wifi, is my favorite time of day. As self-declared news junkie, I logged onto Twitter yesterday in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s decisions regarding DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act, establishing that the legal benefits of marriage were limited to heterosexual couples) and California’s Proposition 8 fiasco (whether to allow gay marriage to be legal in the Golden State). This was the first tweet that I saw:

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Okay, not so informative. And then I scrolled down to this one.

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I prefer to have my news broken by comedians.

“Wow, crazy news week!” I said to a coworker whom I’ve considered a somewhat-acquaintance for about a month now.

“What? I don’t really follow the news,” responded Somewhat-Acquaintance.

“Oh, you know. On Monday, there was that total non-decision ruling on Affirmative Action, yesterday Wendy Davis filibustered eleven whole hours to stop a bill from effectively shutting down all by five abortion clinics in Texas, and today the Supreme Court overturned DOMA, plus gay marriage is pretty much assured to be legal in California!” I announced, which was promptly followed by an uncomfortable silence on the part of everyone in the room.

Oh, that’s right. Politics is a no-no topic of conversation in the workplace.

Instead, I attempted to share my political thoughts on Twitter, something that I rarely do. A friend once said that the purpose of Twitter is to make fun of Lena Dunham, not to discuss life accomplishments (not that I really have too many) nor serious contentious topics such as religion or politics.

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I do believe that overturning DOMA is incredibly important. It’s ridiculous that we even have disagreements about equal benefits regarding any type of couple. But the fact of the matter is, that DOMA was just a symptom of an invasive and crippling psyche which considers any non-heterosexual behavior to be immoral–and this psyche has very real and very violent consequences. While people are celebrating the institution of marriage in D.C., our nation’s capitol recently cut funding for homeless youth shelters by $700,000 and overall homeless services by $7 million. Why is this important in the LGBT community? Twenty percent of homeless youth are LGBT, 58.7 percent of homeless youth have been sexually victimized, and LGBT homeless youth commit suicide at higher rates (62 percent) than heterosexual homeless youth (29 percent).

Once again, though, homelessness is not the only LGBT issue with which we, as a society, should be concerned. I spent eight years growing up in a small Ozarks town where a quarter of families live below the poverty line. In a poor, Christian town, to be gay was to guarantee a life spent being bullied or kicked out of your home–to be transgender was unheard of. This cultural mindset has a tremendous role in determining elected politicians and, consequently, the political decisions being made. We need to talk about LGBT rights in terms of culture, race, and economics instead of focusing on gay marriage.

Granted, this was all too much to tweet, and most of what I saw on Twitter were jokes by comedians (…and wanna-be-comedians), links to articles, and suburban white teenagers tweeting #equality who still enjoy throwing out the n-word on the Internet every so often for good measure. Twitter has the potential to be used as a forum for discussion, but I wasn’t seeing much rational discussion happen at all.

I couldn’t talk about the Supreme Court decision at work, and my attempt at doing so on Twitter was ignored in favor of retweeting shouts of celebration. Where could I have a critical conversation about these pressing news topics, beyond my friend group who generally agrees on everything political? I missed class discussions at my liberal arts college and during my time at Cambridge, but the thought that these subjects are limited to places of higher education is incredibly disheartening and elitist, as if students and professors want to shield their precious knowledge and critical thought from the plebeians who chose not to pursue a bachelor’s degree. My degree was called “literature and theory,” and I essentially ignored the question asked in my final comprehensive exam and instead argued that theory is useless when suspended in the realm of ideas and prevented from material application.

And then I had a thought.

That’s what the Internet and blogging is for, right? Participate in a forum with the entire world! Cast aside the trolls, and share and debate ideas with everyone!*

The point is this: I wanted to begin this blog as an exercise in storytelling. But I miss college and substantive discussion where people are free to throw out and examine difficult ideas on weighty topics. Well, it’s my blog, and I’ll write whatever I damn well please. Welcome.

*If you can afford access to the Internet, that is. The world isn’t flat.

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