Jesse Helms - Life, Death, and the Inability to Stop Evolution
One of the most anti-gay individuals in the United States, former North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, passed away during the Fourth of July holiday.
Some of us are probably dancing in joy over his passage. The mainstream media is slowly tiptoeing over his controversial history as an anti-gay Senator.
The anti-gay industry is treating his death like the passage of George Washington.
But I want to take another tack.
In the past year and a half, the lgbt community has seen the passing away of three of our most persistent opponents.
There was Jerry Falwell, who will always be defined not by his influence on politics but the bad choices he made.
During the beginning of the AIDS crisis, he could have ministered to the sick. However, he took advantage of the calamity to enhance his own reputation. Through rhetoric and brochures designed to scare and inflame ignorance, he exploited and grew fat off of the suffering of those who stricken with the disease.
Worse than that, his actions served as a blueprint. Like some female monster out of mythology, his efforts sired offspring either equally or more determined to demonize the lgbt community; i.e. Paul Cameron, Peter LaBarbera, the LaHayes, James Dobson, Janet Folger, etc.
Then there was James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries, who wrapped himself up in Biblical doctrine and demanded that others repented while he spun untrue stories of ACLU and homosexual boogeyman and secretly worked to convert America into a theocracy.
Then comes the third party in the triumvirate: Jesse Helms.
Helms was a man who claimed that this country needed a "spiritual revival," while freely and openly feeding on fear.
He was a shining example of not only the underside of this country, but of human nature in general. Hateful, homophobic, and racist, Helms was so stewed in the self-righteous juices of his own rhetoric that he was immune to its bad smell.
He was like that dog in the Aesop fable; the one who was so unruly that he was given a bell as a badge of shame. In his ignorance, the dog mistook the bell as a symbol of pride.
Such was Helms when he heard himself being described as a bigot.
I group those men together to emphasize a point. No matter how many lies they spun, how offensive their words were, or how many people they swayed, in the great scheme of things, Falwell, Kennedy, and Helms are pretty much irrelevant.
Why? Because while they hindered lgbts, they did not stop us. We are still here and we are strong. In fact, we continue to get stronger every day.
Lgbt children are coming out at earlier ages, same-sex families are beginning to be acknowledged as they should be, and slowly but surely, the entire community is evolving past being punchlines, past secret encounters in public places, and into the mainstream.
We are rejecting the lies spun by folks like Falwell, Kennedy, and Helms that our sexual orientation somehow disqualifies us from having substantial lives.
And most of all, we are rejecting the lie that God did not create us to be the proud lgbt people that a vast majority of us are.
In the long run, Falwell, Kennedy, and Helms served their purpose. Every successful hero needs a villain to triumph over. Falwell, Kennedy, and Helms were our villains.
And we defeated them.
Not by voting them out of office or exposing them as liars (although those things would have been nice.) We defeated them by simply enduring.
So while some may think what I am saying is in bad taste, just think of Helms (not to mention Falwell and Kennedy for that matter) as footnotes in our struggle for equality.
Let our successes be their epitaphs.