‘Same Love’Written by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | firstname.lastname@example.org
A reader recently emailed kind words about my Jan. 20 column, “Murder by numbers,” a plaintive commentary on the devaluation of life and decreasing respect for others. The same letter, with striking irony apparently lost on the writer, included the line, “I cannot understand your attitude for LGBT. I’m sure you would not want your son’s [sic] to be raised by 2 mommys [sic].”
It confuses me that someone could appreciate a column about respect for others and at the same time disdain an entire lifestyle. Nor do I understand being asked to defend my support for human rights and equality.
I have long maintained that gay marriage in the United States is as inevitable as interracial marriage and other once-contested civil rights. There is no cogent, empirical argument that allowing gay people to marry has any detrimental effect on heterosexual marriage, that stalwart institution that barely 50 percent of Americans can successfully navigate. You don’t have to like it, but understand that your distaste is irrelevant to the legal and social standards that should guarantee this right for all Americans.
Toledo Free Press has been proud to work with the LGBT community and in doing so I have met some amazing people and made some wonderful friends. In addition to my admiration for LGBT advocate Rick Cornett and his tireless work for the Holiday with Heart Charity Gayla, getting to know Toledo Pride’s Lexi Staples and Emily Hickey has been one of the best rewards of my eight years with Toledo Free Press. Hickey, who is as lovely and loving a person as you are going to meet, and Cornett contribute columns to Toledo Free Press Star.
At the 2012 Holiday with Heart Gayla, Cornett presented Toledo Free Press with the event’s Founder’s Award, which is given annually to a supporter of the LGBT community. A photo of Cornett and me appeared on the front page of the Dec. 14 Gay People’s Chronicle, Ohio’s LGBT newspaper; a framed version hangs in my office.
None of this strikes me as daring, brave or even all that notable in the grand scheme of life. But there are obviously still a lot of people who equate “gay” with “inferior.”
Almost exactly five years ago, I wrote a column, “Gay rights and wrongs,” about inequality in work benefits for gay couples. “The gay rights struggle is something I experience secondhand, like my black friends’ struggles and my wheelchair-bound friend’s struggles,” I wrote. “It’s basic Golden Rule territory: Don’t judge people for the color of their skin or their physical challenges, and don’t judge them for their sexuality. I know that is a simplified and naïve statement, but for me, the issue really is that simple. There are people who are so strongly anti-gay rights, they lust for legislation to limit the gay community’s freedoms. That makes no intellectual or moral sense to me. Some of this prejudice is based in religion. I find it confusing that people who believe in a savior who opens his arms to everyone think he’ll draw those same arms shut to keep gay people away.”
Crystal Dixon, who was then associate vice president for human resources at the University of Toledo and an elder and minister at End Time Christian Fellowship in Toledo, took great umbrage to any comparison between the civil rights struggle of African-Americans and gay people. In a response column to Toledo Free Press, she characterized homosexuality as a “choice.” She was fired by UT for her comments and eventually lost a lawsuit against the university.
I have believed for a while that trying to change the minds of homophobic people is akin to King Canute ordering back the sea. But the discovery of a new song on the subject shames me into realizing how lazy and defeatist my attitude is.
The hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have found huge success with their album “The Heist” and their No. 1 song, “Thrift Shop.” But another track on the album, “Same Love,” represents a dramatic revolution in pop culture. While gay actors have found increasing success in film and television, hip-hop and rap, one of the country’s biggest-selling musical genres, have remained locked and shuttered against gay rights. That follows decades of tradition in black music and rap. Until the advent of gay musician Frank Ocean and now “Same Love,” most mentions of gay people have been hostile and intolerant.
Over a piano couplet that might have come from the Randy Newman hymnal, Macklemore raps:
“When I was in the third grade I thought that I was gay
‘Cause I could draw, my uncle was, and I kept my room straight
I told my mom, tears rushing down my face
She’s like, ‘Ben you’ve loved girls since before pre-K’
Yeah, I guess she had a point, didn’t she?
Bunch of stereotypes all in my head.
I remember doing the math like, ‘Yeah, I’m good at little league’
A preconceived idea of what it all meant
For those that liked the same sex
Had the characteristics
The right-wing conservatives think it’s a decision
And you can be cured with some treatment and religion
Man-made, rewiring of a predisposition
Playing God, aw nah, here we go
America the brave still fears what we don’t know
And God loves all his children, it’s somehow forgotten
But we paraphrase a book written 3,500 years ago
I don’t know”
Then, over a solo, aching trumpet line, openly gay Seattle singer Mary Lambert sings:
“And I can’t change, even if I tried, even if I wanted to
My love, my love, my love, she keeps me warm”
“If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me
Have you read the YouTube comments lately?
‘Man, that’s gay’ gets dropped on the daily
We’ve become so numb to what we’re saying
A culture founded from oppression
Yet we don’t have acceptance for ’em
Call each other faggots behind the keys of a message board
A word rooted in hate, yet our genre still ignores it
Gay is synonymous with the lesser
It’s the same hate that’s caused wars from religion
Gender to skin color, the complexion of your pigment
The same fight that led people to walkouts and sit-ins
It’s human rights for everybody, there is no difference!
Live on and be yourself
When I was at church they taught me something else
If you preach hate at the service those words aren’t anointed
That holy water that you soak in has been poisoned
When everyone else is more comfortable remaining voiceless
Rather than fighting for humans that had their rights stolen
I might not be the same, but that’s not important
No freedom till we’re equal, damn right I support it”
With the addition of pounding percussion Adele would be proud of, Lambert repeats the chorus.
Then, Macklemore continues:
“We press play, don’t press pause
Progress, march on
With the veil over our eyes
We turn our back on the cause
Till the day that my uncles can be united by law
When kids are walking ’round the hallway
plagued by pain in their heart
A world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are
And a certificate on paper isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start
No law is gonna change us
We have to change us
Whatever god you believe in
We come from the same one
Strip away the fear
Underneath it’s all the same love
About time that we raised up”
Lambert sings the chorus again, and as the song fades, she sings lines from First Corinthians:
“Love is patient, love is kind
Love is patient, love is kind”
Then, between those lines, Lambert adds, “I’m not crying on Sundays,” a defiant note to those who embrace Christianity but exclude Christ’s gay followers.
Lambert joined Macklemore and Lewis to perform “Same Love” on the “Ellen DeGeneres Show” and has helped propel the track to nearly 20 million views on YouTube. More impressively, this politically charged track made the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 89. It has reached No. 1 in a number of countries and spurred serious discussion in America. In December, Susan Johnson, a teacher at Centennial Middle School in the Detroit area was suspended for playing the song (which as you have read contains no sexual content just social commentary) to her class.
“This incident is just one of tens of thousands that have happened across the country where schools have exposed a latent homophobia, preventing safe space for all young people to feel confident in being themselves,” Macklemore wrote on his Facebook page. “It’s clear that Ms. Johnson felt bullying and ‘gay bashing’ were issues that needed to be addressed, and by doing so, was punished.”
“Same Love” is eloquent, groundbreaking and, I fervently hope, destined to the scrapheap of history when the death of anti-gay prejudice and ignorant hate render it irrelevant.
So to the letter writer who “cannot understand” my “attitude for LGBT,” I offer the patience and understanding I wish he would employ with others.
I also want to let him know that I am friends and family with a number of “2 mommys” who have done stellar jobs raising children, and to whom I would entrust the raising of my children without hesitation. They would raise more open-minded, loving and spiritual thinkers than his parents apparently did.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Email him at email@example.com.