Bored with the standard bumping and
grinding going on in every house within a three-mile radius of
campus, I and a few other heterosexual friends decided it would be
an eye-opening experience to dress up in drag and go to Necto on
Pride Night. For those who don’t know, Pride Night at Necto
is a weekly dance party and celebration of gay culture that is open
to partygoers from all walks of life. Wearing our finest borrowed
women’s attire, we walked to the club on East Liberty and had
without question our most welcoming clubbing experience. We were
even flattered to find ourselves placed on the guest list for the
following week by the drag queen hosting the event.

Elliott Mallen

Problems arose while walking outside the safety of the club.
Twice, passing cars rolled down their windows and shouted something
along the lines of “damn flamer” at us before speeding
away. A priest told us that it wasn’t too late to save
ourselves from damnation. Sadly, our tight-fitting pants had no
pockets in which to carry his soul-savingly homophobic literature.
While waiting in line for pizza at In and Out on East University
Avenue we were told forcefully by one customer to “get the
fuck out right now, we don’t need any fucking faggots in
here.” After realizing we wanted pizza too much to be swayed,
he mournfully (and loudly) lamented that “your parents
failed, your parents fucking failed.” What struck me most
about the incident was that none of the other dozen or so Ann
Arborites in the party store ever came to our defense. All we
received were dirty looks or, at best, dismissive glances.

Granted, the proportion of homosexuals in Michigan who routinely
traipse about town while decked out in drag is surely
insignificant. However, this was in Ann Arbor, renowned for being
among the most tolerant cities in Michigan. This is a town where
shopkeepers aren’t afraid to display rainbow-colored flags in
their windows, where National Coming Out Week is widely celebrated,
where the openly gay Chris Kolb was elected to the state House of
Representatives. All of this makes me think that if I had tried to
do this anywhere outside of the Ann Arbor bubble I wouldn’t
have made it through the night. What’s more is that as a
heterosexual, I can just put my real clothes back on and go about
my discrimination-free life, whereas homosexuals don’t have
that luxury.

The language of the religious right projects the opposite image.
In their view, they are mercilessly subjected to oppression by gays
and their supporters. They are the chivalric traditionalists on the
defensive against an onslaught of homosexuality, making them appear
inherently more justified in their fight. After all, the Michigan
law prohibiting gay marriage is called the Defense of Marriage Act,
implying that the institution of marriage is under siege. In the
words of Defend Marriage press agent Steve Farrell, the decent folk
of our country are under attack by “secular socialists”
who “want a nation full of moral cowards and liars, a nation
full of people whose values are as empty, as meaningless, as
chickenhearted as their own.” Supporters of gay rights are
seeking to maliciously impose their so-called values on the entire
populace with the sole aim of destroying the heterosexual way of
life.

It all sounds so bold, so brave, so daring to be on the
defensive against such a force. However, it’s important to
remember that claiming to be on the defensive is a common strategy
among those who actually have the upper hand. In reality, the
defense of marriage crowd isn’t defending anything;
it’s ruthlessly attacking the well-being of the gay
community. It’s not enough to pass the Defense of Marriage
Act, preventing the legal recognition of civil unions in the state
of Michigan. They’re giving the gay community another swift
kick while it’s down with the Marriage Protection Amendment.
If Proposal 2 passes, it will seal the Defense of Marriage Act into
the Constitution as a veritable pre-emptive strike against judges
who might notice that it stands in violation of the 14th
Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, which ensures that the
laws of a state must treat an individual in the same manner as
others in similar conditions and circumstances.

While the blatant harassment we faced isn’t expressed by
everyone who opposes gay marriage, they all still hold the ideas
that gays are unwelcome, that their lifestyle is unacceptable, that
they are “the other” that is threatening the livelihood
of the virtuous. While the legislators and religious authorities
pushing for Proposal 2 would never yell “fucking
faggot” at passers-by on the street, they hold the same
attitudes simmering beneath the surface as the man we bumped into
at In and Out. In their crusade to defend their supposed essential
family values, the right is creating an environment of hostility
and paranoia that is far from family-friendly.

Mallen can be reached at
“mailto:emmallen@umich.edu”>emmallen@umich.edu.

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