My adopted state of South Carolina has hit national news twice this week. Both times, at the heart of the discussion we find the same ugly, infuriating issue: blatant, unmitigated homophobia, and the use of that homophobia to make choices that effect everyone in this state.
Really? This is happening here? I thought...well....ugh.
You see, last year I hit a point where I felt like a broken record: I was all "support marriage equality" this and "end discrimination against same sex couples" that. While my views didn't change (and, let's face it...they're CORRECT), I hit a wall. I needed to take a step back. I felt like I was preaching to the choir, and I was tired. No one was listening anyway, right?
Ugh. Bad Leah.
I took a break. I've been writing about less controversial topics, hiding my head in the sand, and hoping things would...just get better.
Guess what. They didn't get better. Silence is no longer an option.
Now it's time to get LOUD.
REALLY FUCKING LOUD.
Because people! I love this state! I love living here! I love the natural beauty that surrounds me. I love the rivers and the beaches and even swamps and alligators.
I love the opportunities this state has provided me. I love that I found my husband, and in turn, his family, after moving here. I love writing for the BEST newspaper in the region. I love the relationships I've forged with friends and colleagues in this city I call home.
I LOVE living here.
But this shit? This holier-than-thou one-way-under-a-judgmental-god I'm-better-than-you-because-I-was-born-straight garbage has got to STOP.
Because in this state we have local politicians firing a hardworking town sherif because (allegedly, though the case seems pretty clear-cut) she's a lesbian.
In this state we have state politicians cutting funding to PUBLIC universities because they assign books with LGBT themes as summer reading for incoming freshman.
In this state, we have local figures who stand in the middle of a country forged on EQUALITY who say: No. You can't have these books. No. You can't have this job. You're different, and therefore, you're wrong.
It makes me want to puke.
So what can we do?
Well, in the first place, there is a silver lining, small though it may be. Most writers I know would actually love to have a book of theirs hit national headlines for being censored. Because do you know what happens when a book gets censored? PEOPLE BUY IT! They buy it to see what's so titillating. They buy it to see what all the fuss is about. But mostly, they buy it because they CAN! Because this is a free country and censorship has no place here!
So help me out, ok?
Buy the books that caused all the ruckus! Buy one! Buy both! Show these authors you care. You SUPPORT.
College of Charleston's issue was with FUN HOME by Alison Bechdel. You can buy FUN HOME from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or at your favorite local bookstore.
The University of South Carolina had a problem with OUT LOUD: THE BEST OF RAINBOW RADIO by Ed Madden and Candace Chellew-Hodge. You can buy OUT LOUD from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or at your favorite local bookstore.
What else can you do? Because this isn't just about the writers and their books. This is also about a sherif who's lost her job, and about a state-run effort to silence those who would speak out against them.
Well, for one, you can stop being silent. That's the hard part. That's where I struggle.
You can call your congressmen and tell them you won't stand for this kind of censorship or harassment. You can call the mayor of the town of Latta, South Carolina, and let him know you won't stand for his homophobic actions.
And you can take a stand against everyday discrimination, too. If you hear someone spouting vitriol, don't do what I've too often done in the past. Don't just hang your head and walk away. SAY SOMETHING. STAND UP FOR WHAT'S RIGHT. MAKE A CHOICE TO HAVE YOUR VOICE HEARD.
It's easy to be quiet. It's easy to walk away. Trust me. I know.
But now it's time to GET LOUD AND FIX THINGS HERE IN SOUTH CAROLINA! Are you with me???