The reality is that despite the very real, the very necessary, and the very life-changing progress we have made in this country in treating people across the sexual orientation spectrum with dignity and respect, America—the world—is not fully represented by Chelsea in New York City. It’s not fully represented by DuPont Circle in Washington, D.C.; the Castro; or West Hollywood. Hell, it’s not even Ft. Lauderdale and its Wilton Manors or Denver’s Capital Hill neighborhood. America is, in large part, small towns like Oxnard, Calif. It’s Sevierville, Tenn. It’s Laramie, Wyo. And it’s Wichita, Kan., where I was eating recently at a local diner and a patron asked me, “Kathy, how do you deal with so many goddamned fags?”
Many of my young gays don’t know about Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” initiative, which was developed with the help of some extremist American evangelicals. Many don’t know about Stonewall or, more recently, the importance of Lawrence v. Texas. They don’t know about Cuba’s jailing of HIV patients or even that Iran has sentenced gay teenagers to death by hanging. They don’t know that in large portions of Baghdad, honest LGBT folks are hunted and summarily executed by roving bands of so-called morality police, who kill with impunity both the “out” and those simply perceived to be gay. What many young people do know is what they read in short bursts on celebrity Twitter posts or on TMZ. And what they read and see is how freeing being honest can be. What they don’t see is that it remains, in many places, very dangerous to do just that. And that dichotomy is deeply troubling to me.