Guest opinion: All people in Billings deserve equal rights, not special rights

2014-06-29T00:00:00Z Guest opinion: All people in Billings deserve equal rights, not special rightsBy SABRINA CURRIE The Billings Gazette
June 29, 2014 12:00 am  • 

There is a part of the nondiscrimination argument that I cannot get behind anymore. And it is coming from supporters of the ordinance.

Do not misunderstand. I am absolutely in support of passing an all-inclusive NDO in Billings. I am a bisexual woman who is fully aware that I can lose a job or be evicted from an apartment because of my sexual orientation and there’s nothing I can do about it.

What I keep hearing is: “What if it were your son, daughter, cousin, mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle or friend who was being discriminated against? What if it was your child who was gay?”

I understand the reasoning behind this viewpoint. Many supporters believe if we can just get opponents to personalize the issue, they will change their minds. The reason discrimination is perpetuated is because we are able to dehumanize others. If we are able to disconnect from seeing the human qualities of the oppressed, it is possible to treat them as less than human. We know this and that’s why the argument keeps being presented. But this argument is weak and does not hold depth and weight. I would urge you to consider that it is not helpful at all.

What we are saying when we use this argument is that people are only valued in relation to how other people love them. We are essentially telling the victims of discrimination that they have to be loved by another person in order to have value.

But what about the bisexual woman who is estranged from her entire family? She hasn’t seen her parents in 17 years. She does not know or interact with any of her extended family. She gave her baby up for adoption. She’s never been married. She is not a daughter. She is not a mother. She is not a wife. What about her?

Or what about the lesbian teenager who has grown up in foster homes? She has been shunned by her church and her “friends” because she came out. She is told by her aunts and uncles that she is an abomination and should be put to death. What about her?

My point is there are people being discriminated against who have no one. There is no one to love them or stand up for them. Yet they still have value as human beings. As people with hair, fingernails, teeth, eyes and blood running through their veins. As humans who have not even begun to tap into their reserves of strength and courage, yet survive deplorable conditions and egregious forms of discrimination. These people are not interested in “special privileges.” The quest is for equal rights. Equal; not special. Equal; not different.

This ordinance must be passed because we value people. All people. Because they are human beings. Not “human doings.” Not “human-if-someone-loves-you.” Rather, we are talking about precious people who need protection. And it is our responsibility to protect them or they may not survive.

Sabrina Currie lives in Billings and works at Tumbleweed runaway program.

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