During the long struggle for LGBT equality, one of the rhetorically most powerful arguments has been the simple assertion, "We are here." We exist, we have names, we have jobs, we love, we grieve, we raise children, we vote, we die. We are here. Refusing us the rights routinely accorded other Americans will disadvantage us, it will inflict injustice upon us, it will deny us the joys of social recognition and the solace of social support at the end of life, but it will not make us cease to exist. One way or another, you must give up the fantasy that if you refuse to recognize same sex love it will evaporate.
We live in an extraordinary period here in the United States. On the one hand, rights long denied are being won, affirmed in the highest courts. On the other hand, rights long thought secure are under attack from a right wing increasingly hysterical in its frenzied effort to reverse the flow of time and take this nation back to a time of back alley abortions, segregated voting, and the imposition of nakedly theological imperatives in the public square.
I believe the revanchistes are losing. The demography of the nation is against them, and cultural tides are dragging them down in the undertow. The contemporary efforts to deny at the state level rights secured at the national level is intensely dangerous and must be fought with all the energy and mobilization we can muster but it will fail eventually, I am convinced.
However, as it fails, as the racists and the homophobes lose ground once again, as their ranks are thinned by the death of their oldest supporters and the failure of the young to take their place, it will nevertheless remain true for as long as we can see into the future that a very sizeable segment of the American people will hold fast to the fears, anxieties, hatreds, and convictions now finding hateful expression in our politics.
We will defeat the racists. We will vote down the homophobes. We will secure for women the reproductive rights that now are under such concerted attack. But our opponents will then be able to say, truthfully: "We are still here. We exist, we have names, we have jobs, we love, we grieve, we raise children, we vote, we die."
Those of us on the left who find that time and demography are our friends in these fights need to ask ourselves how we think this country can acknowledge the existence of, find place for, those whose deepest [and most irrational] convictions we abhor. What do we imagine they can and will do as they suffer defeat after defeat but remain unreconciled to the social and legal changes that, in their eyes, threaten their existence and constitute the victory of evil?
I am certain of two things which together seem to foretell a bleak future: First, these are issues on which no compromise by us is acceptable; and Second, violent confrontation and war over them would be an unmitigated disaster. What then do we imagine the losers in this cultural and demographic struggle will do? We are talking about a very large number of people -- certainly millions, even tens of millions, probably scores of millions or more. How can they be integrated into a society that, in their eyes, is becoming the embodiment of evil?