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Johnathan Wilber Headshot

Dear Gays, It's Time to Shoulder the Blame

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If the passing of Prop 8 taught us any lesson, it was that we gays have been far too generous. We have been bandying about accusations. We have been wagging fingers at the Mormons, at the blacks and Latino evangelicals, at anyone and everyone we can pin blame on.

Consider for a moment -- for sake of argument -- however, that we, the LGBTQ community and our friends and family, are responsible for the discrimination, the intolerance.

I won't begin to break down the demographics of the people who voted in support of Prop 8. Lots of people have lots of things to say about who those people are and why they voted the way they did to protect or defend whatever they felt was worth protecting or defending or sanctifying or whatever, and I'm happy to let them carry on with that important work. Instead, I'd like to hypothesize that, whoever these people are, we've let them take for granted our finest minds.

Supporters of Prop 8 might be able to imagine a world without artists Walt Whitman or Gertrude Stein, without Alice Walker or Lord Byron or Truman Capote, but if we take away Maurice Sendak, illustrator of more than 150 children's books and Where the Wild Things Are -- a book many of us grew up on -- or David Sedaris, or Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club, if we take away Hans Christian Andersen; the world looks not only a bit bleaker, it also looks a great deal poorer -- decidedly something to note when faced with a crippled economy.

Of course the business of books will not begin to compare to the proposed loss in TV and film: Drew Barrymore, James Dean, Marlon Brando, Angelina Jolie, Anderson Cooper, Ellen Degeneres, Will & Grace, Rosie O'Donnell... ad -- almost it seems -- infinitum. Or to the almost wholesale loss of the fashion and modeling industries; the extinction of the lucrative Broadway musical.

And although I'm neither a sociologist nor an economist, a simple Google search corroborates my point:

-- The Williams Institute at UCLA estimates that $63.8 million in government tax and fee revenue could be created over three years by legalizing gay marriage in California.
-- The annual value of the gay and lesbian market is $515 billion.
-- There are some 26 million gays, lesbians, and bisexuals in the United States, and these people are among the wealthiest in the country.
-- The median gay income is between $80,000 and 83,000, which is 80 percent higher than the median for the whole nation.

So what alternative does that leave those of disheartened by California's support of Prop 8? As empowering as it may be to imagine we could somehow "secede," we know we're too disparate, too geographically scattered, and, most important, that we love our heterosexual (and near heterosexual) loved ones and allies too much to pack up and see you later.

Consider then an alternative: Familiarize yourself with the countless achievements of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals, as well as their supporters. Once you have done so -- whether you're a queer person or a straight ally -- claim this as your heritage and celebrate it; it's been usurped for far too long. Perhaps once supporters of Prop 8 really get how much they need us, economically, artistically, scientifically, they will finally fathom that granting us or those we love, or both, the right to legitimize love is a mutually, and wonderfully, beneficial bargain.