Bursting our Rainbow Bubbles
June is Pride Month, and in contemplating what this year’s celebration means to us in the current political climate, I’m not at all surprised to discover that I’m experiencing a bit of confusion about the state of the rainbow nation. At the same time, I’m not at all convinced that my confusion is strictly LGBTQ related, and I suspect that it also comes from a more general since of unease about the state of our nation.
I’m tired of being outraged. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
In recent years, the LGBTQ community has celebrated many victories—including marriage equality, which means far more to me than I ever realized it would before Steve and I were married—however, for a great many of us, last year’s election felt like a disappointing setback.
Since the election, I’ve been reminded on many occasions that the LGBTQ community is a widely diverse grouping of very unique individuals. While we do share some common characteristics around our sexuality and gender identification, we simply do not fit as neatly into the easily definable categories implied by our LGBTQ alphabet designation as we—or the world around us—might believe we do. We come from very different backgrounds and cultures, and we have an almost unlimited variety of interests, talents, beliefs, opinions, and yes, politics.
And that is good.
Diversity is vital. Celebrating our diversity as individuals makes us stronger as a community. Without a diversity of ideas and information, we lose the ability to make well-reasoned decisions.
Last year’s election was an eye-opening experience for our nation, not so much because of the outcome but for what it tells us about the state of our own culture—and especially what it tells us about how we are (or are not) learning to live with our own technology.
Social media has made it very easy for us to live in a cocoon of like-minded people. We create our own personalized news stream, we select friends we only agree with, and we listen and watch media that follows a particular political viewpoint. Surrounding ourselves with people and ideas we like and feel comfortable with is not at all limited to social media, of course, and humans have always created areas of safety for ourselves, including friends, families, clans, tribes, clubs, religious institutions, and communities.
For humans, our sense of wellbeing is dependent upon finding our own place of comfort and security. The problems start when we expand our real life comfort zone to include our virtual one, and begin to (consciously or unconsciously), gather our resources and information only from sources that align with our own beliefs and opinions.
Creating the kind of cultural blind spots that we witnessed during the election, didn’t happen overnight. The more polarized we become in our politics and beliefs, the more deeply embedded we become in a web of seemingly harmonious deception—and the more limited our vision tends to become.
In Rehoboth Beach and its surrounding towns, LGBTQ people are an integral part of the fabric of life, and many of us live here for that very reason. Thanks in part to CAMP Rehoboth and others, it is a safe and comfortable place for LGBTQ people to live, and work. In many ways, the attitudes of the people in Rehoboth are more closely connected to those in larger metropolitan areas than to the small rural towns in other parts of the state.
I wouldn’t call Rehoboth a “gay ghetto” because I believe we have worked to be inclusive of everyone, but I do believe that we live in a bubble, of sorts, that shields us from some of the more potent forms of homophobia in the world around us. The danger for us is that the gentle rhythm of our life, lulls us into believing that the rest of world—or even the rest of Sussex County, for that matter—thinks and acts like we do.
A visit to certain sites online would quickly dispel that notion, of course, but none of us want to go there. We like living in our bubble. We’re happy in our bubble—at least until another election season rolls around and we realize once again that we have no idea how or why our opponents think and feel the way they do.
The LGBTQ community is far from being the only people to do this. We all do—conservatives and liberals. The internet has opened a world of ideas to us, but the way we use it can end up only reinforcing our own.
In communities both real and online, where anti-LGBTQ language is spoken, there is a world that exists in exact opposition to our own. What is good for us is evil there; what is right for us is wrong there. Creating meaningful dialog between the two sides is difficult, (just talk to the leaders of religious denominations across the country) but not impossible.
It requires of us a commitment to burst the “rainbow” bubbles we have created for ourselves—both where we live and online.
Two years ago, activists in the LGBTQ community were giddy with success. Now, with an eye on our leaders in Washington we watch to see what will happen—and we prepare to resist injustice and discrimination wherever we find them.
Murray Archibald, CAMP Co-founder and President of the Board of Directors of CAMP Rehoboth, is an artist in Rehoboth Beach. Email Murray.