Friday, June 12, 2009

Language, people, language.

Emotional testimony on both sides gay rights amendment - | Alaska's news and information source |

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In Anchorage, hundreds of people are voicing their opinions on a proposed amendment to an ordinance, making it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

I would love to read the transcript of the testimonies, but all I've got to go on are some quotations from KTUU's article, and the video they posted alongside it.

Props to Assembly member Elvi Gray-Jackson who, in the spirit of honest public service, said: "I've had a lot of threatening e-mails saying if I voted yes they wouldn't vote for me," Assembly member Elvi Gray-Jackson said:
"And what I have to say to that is if because I believe in equal rights for everyone in this community -- everyone -- if my voters decide if they don't want to vote for me come April 2011, I'm fine with that."
From an opponent of the ordinance:
"This ordinance crosses the boundaries of any human rights. Please carefully read the small print and realize that this ordinance is just not right."
Never mind her terrible sentence construction, but did she really just invoke human rights in such a way? Does she even know what human rights are? Human rights are interconnected, indivisible, interdependent, and above all--universal. The only boundary that exists (if you can call it a boundary), is that no one human right can violate another.
"No special rights!"
This is what the opposition crowd was chanting outside the chamber. While I won't state the obvious counter-argument, I will move the conversation further and go on to say that I think there needs to be a discussion about the language activists and organizations use. Lately, I've seen more people writing, talking, and chanting about civil rights, more so than gay rights or equal rights. Even though my own personal preference is to use human rights language (as in the human right to marry), I think this is a good step, and it helps the other side to understand what it is we're yelling about.

When I took some Queer Studies courses in college, the overarching discussion was about what it means to be queer, more specifically if we're truly the same as heterosexuals. The answer was always 'no'. We're different, and we should embrace it. We're not normal--there's trouble with being normal. However, what queers and straight people certainly do have in common is their humanity.

Along the same lines of this discussion was whether it was the obligation or duty of a straight person, or any privileged person of a majority group, to "grant" or "give" rights to a minority group. The conclusion was always 'no'. It's the duty of the State to protect the rights of the minority. We shouldn't reduce ourselves to kneeling and begging for our rights, nor are they to be won. These are human rights we're talking about. They aren't special to one group or another. We're born with them, and no one can deny them from us, because they're

Our challenge as activists is to get people on the other side of the debate to realize what their human rights are, and more than that, that they belong to everyone. They'd find that it's about acknowledging each other's dignity--their "human right to be human."

A tiny bit more discourse on "the words you use" over at Queerty:
What if We Asked Voters to 'Not Prohibit' instead of 'Permit' Marriage?

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