Why Mehlman Matters, Ctd

by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

Your reader is absolutely incorrect when he or she writes, "Mehlman is in a position to knock some folks back in their chairs and rethink their positions on gay people - and their civil rights." Twenty-five years ago, I would have (barely) agreed with that statement. But not these days. Stonewall was in 1969. The AIDS plague and Silence=Death began in the '80s and '90s. Will and Grace ended ... well, not soon enough, but a few years ago.  We already have SSM in some states and in a large part of the Western World. We are now Post-Visibility.

I no longer believe this canard that a person must personally know someone to believe in his rights or that he is, in fact, a human being. I also believe that I don't need to have a Muslim women in my personal circle to understand that stoning her is wrong. I do not believe in the theory of geography - whether land or personal space - as a way to dismiss bigotry. "He's from a small town so he doesn't know better. He's never met one so he just doesn't know better."  My homestate of North Dakota - where there are about 20 black people - got on board with civil rights a lot quicker than Mississippi. Did Cheney and Rove and Bush and Clinton  - who all know gays and have gay family members - help in any way the cause of gay freedom?

These people whose hearts and minds will supposedly be changed because Mehlman confirmed an open secret already know gays and work with gays. They live in friggin' Washington, DC for God's sake, which is only slightly more gay than Mehlman's new hometown of Chelsea, Manhattan. No - those people are looking at him and thinking, "Well of course he's for gay rights; he's one of them now."

Maybe Mehlman should have remained "straight."  A straight man in a position of power and admired by his straight colleagues who comes out as a believer in gay rights goes a long way towards identifying with others and changing minds.