Follow the yellow brick road

On April 25th, 1993, I was a participant on The March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. I was 27 years old at the time, on active duty in the military, and afraid of living as a gay man in America. But when I saw nearly a million people all around me at the march, things began to sink in that I was never going to be alone again. During the time of the March on Washington, our nation was experiencing a COVID-like condition called AIDS. There wasn’t a vaccine, no cure, and limited treatment options, not to mention stymied with various thoughts or assumptions on how the virus was acquired.

Gay marriage was on the agenda but ignored by many. Discrimination against gays was rampant across the country where gay men were accused and jailed for crimes ranging from public displays of affection, sodomy allegedly seen through bedroom windows, alleged male teen grooming, solicitation in public restrooms, and just about anything that made others feel uncomfortable. The gay community had various “Amy Cooper‘s” all across America that would secretly make calls to police making false claims where gay establishments, gays, lesbians, teachers, or soldiers suspected of being gay were harassed or discharged. Some businesses that catered to gay/lesbian clientele were sometimes raided, often harassed, and on occasion gay people were arrested under any law police could find to let the courts sort out. But the public shaming was already done.

If you still continue to say “all lives matter”, then you clearly do not understand disproportion in America.

If you say “blue lives matter” then perhaps you are the problem with disproportion and racism in America.

But if you just began to recently chant or utter “black lives matter” , then you are the reason America lags in disproportion, racism, equality, and social justice in America.

Dwayne Daughtry

Naturally, some counter-protesters at pride marches hurled a barrage of expletives or proudly held signs displayed with large magic markers reading words such as fag, homo, peter puffers, and other unparliamentary languages all on live television or captured in news print creating a media circus and frenzy of entertainment where gays and lesbians were the targeted entertainment value for predominately “white America”. Pop culture, the music industry, and people did its part to help contribute to gay shaming techniques by using explicative or gesture as free speech so loosely that some in the gay community feel it parallels no different than uttering or whispering the n-word. Former U.S. Senator Jesse Helms threatened to defund art museums for displaying gay art or art by gay artists. Today we see art, movies, and television whitewashed because of past sex offenses or allegations of acts and we wonder where police get its ideas from? Police and city leaders would often not approve parade or demonstration permits because of various made-up reasons citing their gut feelings rather than being leaders and providing an opportunity for bold learning and an open dialog. However, police are never trained to connect with its community but to hold its community in contempt like vultures waiting for the next sex sting or made for television drama. But we kept marching, going to jail, and peacefully resisting.

Today we witness an uprising of having enough of countless lives lost in the name of absolute immunity. When police use tactics of cutting off the air supply to a human being causing death without accountability, naturally, that event triggers an anger-raged emotion that enough is enough. This conversation isn’t about monetary compensation. This is about restoring our ability to live as human beings free from oppression, registries, profiling, prejudice, and a prison state of living. It is absolutely disgusting that a teacher must endure four years of college, pass a teaching certification, only to be paid a wage that barely meets the living standard with an agenda to change the lives of our future. However, a police officer only requires a two-year community college course, less than 15 hours of firearms training annually and paid a salary often twice the amount of a teacher with an agenda that could impact the accused for a lifetime.

While the President of the United States conveniently is escorted in a cowardly path towards a bunker and builds an extended wall around the White House for his personal protection, he alienates and discards the human accountability towards peace and dialog all while collecting a $400,000 a year salary. The late night Twitter tirades of hatred and division behind a keyboard not only shows an unhinged man, but a disturbing band of followers. The irony that Trump can commit various alleged sexual offenses, multiple divorces, infidelities, bare false witness on many occasions, and is quickly forgiven or absolved by his followers. But if a gay person, a person of color or Latino commits similar acts, they are quickly admonished or publically shamed. It is the double standard of American culture and idolization and blasphemy of Christian faiths… and we wonder who is really responsible for bringing the most harm to the church and preserving the sanctity of faith? He contributes microaggression by tossing words as “thugs”, “bad hombres”, “terrorists”, “stupid” is nothing more than a modern-day use of the n-word. Perhaps the president can be a deciphered by his lack of leadership is best summarized by an interpretation of the wizard behind the curtain scene from the movie The Wizard of Oz. The movie/book of Oz presented an important lesson that the wizard was a fraud and never really welding the power we all thought he had. Perhaps we should learn a lesson from that moment.

If churches want to play the game of politics, let them pay admission like everyone else.

George Carlin

The LGBT community has seen all of this before with the death of Matthew Shepard in 1998. A gay man was lynched and tortured in Wyoming that sparked an outcry of injustices in America because his attackers thought “they may turn gay too.” Yet, while the LGBT community rallied for change, many sat silently on the sidelines without comment or demanding change. Despite criminal charges for those responsible for Mr. Shepards’ death, they were freed upon a technicality sparking an outcry of injustice and inequality. I cannot recall the number of times I heard heterosexuals openly say, “he got what he deserved because he was openly gay.” But I wonder how many people are whispering the same thing but changing the word from gay to black about Travon Martin, Rodney King, or George Floyd? I am more than confident that racism spews like water even while others we think we have come a long way in civil rights. The LGBT community has heard all the rhetoric before and could potentially be witnessing once again how a call to action could dissipate into business as usual. There are plenty of Matthew Shepard stories in the LGBT community untold, lost, and swept under landfill styled rug replaced with a marketing version of the American dream and land of opportunity. Some of us have recognized that marketing tactic has outlived its purpose.

Thirty years ago, Rodney King was viciously beaten by police creating rioting our society had not seen in decades. Yet, today we don’t mention the late Rodney King as history has quietly forgotten about him, the police involved with its promise to retrain, the politicians making noises calling protesters thugs, and advocacy groups that used King as a prop – no differently than how President Trump used a bible and church as a backdrop. It is an unfortunate historical lesson of how we quickly forget about historical benchmarks that have a significant opportunity for change, the disenfranchisement of society, and continuing the drumbeat of becoming a better society with a vested interest of becoming change-makers and global leaders in human rights.

However low a man sinks he never reaches the level of the police.

Quentin Crisp

I don’t wish to sound pessimistic, but change won’t come because of the George Floyd demonstrations. We have been down this road before and watched it slowly and calmly hand back the power to the very institution that caused the ruckus in the first place. The change will only happen once we change police, prosecutorial, and judicial absolute immunity laws to protect citizens’ civil rights and restore dialog, humanity, and compassion.

Black Lives Matter do matter! There are many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people of color that endure hatred every day. Society quietly watches from the sidelines, never to get too involved, because it does understand. In fact, I would inject it doesn’t want to know and learn because it fears it may learn the truth about themselves. Despite all the laws to protect LGBT members, police and politicians continue to harass and target LGBT people of color each day. When North Carolina introduced House Bill 2, which prohibited transgender bathroom use, it was the police that specifically targeted black LGBT people with arrest and harassment. Yet, very few spoke publicly until big corporations, big entertainment names, and big money came out in support of LGBT people. However, we quickly forget about House Bill 2, just like we forgot about Rodney King and the Ferguson Missouri riots in 2014. Perhaps our obsession of becoming bought or sell-outs of others is where we often lose focus. A lessons learned moment is to remain grassrooted in advocacy so that you never lose focus of the cause, mission, and historical lessons. Change should never be purchased by a company, but should come from the hard work of the people for whom it’s intended.

Additionally, police know that criminal and civil litigation costs the accused or accusers money they don’t readily have available, especially disproportioned groups. Equal access to justice shouldn’t bankrupt an individual or group at the sufferage of a high priced attorney or the state levying a court-appointed attorney fee to be paid at the end of a trial. We must also address the high cost of legal justice and jail/prison fees in America. Justice shouldn’t be the hopes of having a lottery winnings payout or a Go Fund Me page. But that is where we are now and why police, the courts, prosecutors, probationers, prisons, and sometimes lawyers have the upper advantage. American society has created a business continuity program that created a justice enterprise business model. Perhaps now is the time to start a bankruptcy sale and start all over doing it right this time and for a better bargain.

Today we need people to follow the yellow brick road and find courage, a heart, and the brains to become smarter this time in finding a more permanent solution. The yellow brick road is a journey. Your ruby red shoes are any shoes you chose to walk in proudly and unashamed. The outfit you wear shouldn’t matter. It should reflect you and your personality. However, ‘hate’ is an awful color; but ‘shame’ and ‘vulnerability’ is perhaps a euphemism as an excellent skin toner and moisturizer. We must learn to be proud to accept shame and vulnerability in our lives and the lives of others. That is the only way we will overcome our obstacles to adjoin at the crossroads of redemption and rehabilitation. The feet of our marching of those that choose not to listen footsteps towards a path to polls to make change melting away the wickedness and cowards that stand in our way.

Fashion is what you adopt when you don’t know who you are.

Quentin Crisp

The LGBT community has been down the yellow brick road plenty of times in hopes of finding a Good Witch of the South but enduring munchkins along the way. Maybe we can all try to find our character, our place in society, our voice, and our purpose to restore faith from this bad dream towards a life that it was all just a dream. Let us help many of the George Floyds in our society from future harm by learning lessons and becoming an active part of a vision that change is not temporary but a permanent and active part of our civic duty. Let’s do our part by envisioning Dr. King’s “I have a dream speech.” Let’s turn our energy from the table to building that yellow brick road journey. Black lives do matter. Let’s continue to build on that and make the change and rebuild our lives ending repression once and for all.

As the recent demonstrations and riots occurred all across America in support of change because of the death of George Floyd, I am reminded how a riot and demonstrations similarly happened on a much different scale at Stonewall. We fought police and the gay community made a significant step forward. Let’s hope that same energy has dramatic change for our fellow people of color brothers and sisters.

As long as you march and believe in yourself, you will never be alone…and the fear from within subsides that makes you not only a part of history but a changemaker. I am proud of you. That is what pride is all about. It doesnt just belong to the LGBT community. We want you to have pride too and be free to express yourself without judgement or prejudice!

“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”

Truman Capote

Author: Dwayne Daughtry

“You’re punching, and you’re kicking, ​and you’re shouting at me / I’m relying on your common decency?" I tried to become vegan (it was the worst 6 hours of my life), Executive Director - NCRSOL, State Representative (NC) - NARSOL, Legislative Consultant, Blogging Columnist, Army veteran, Arizona State alum | B.A. Organizational Leadership | M.S. Political Science | Ph.D. student Criminal Justice

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