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OpEd: Guilty by complacency

by Linda Ketner

Let’s face it, the majority of LGBT folks are “guilty by complacency” (a term coined by comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer for Mary Chaney).

I mean, do the math!

There are conservatively around 250,000 LGBT people in South Carolina — an estimated six percent of the population There are twice that many in North Carolina. If each of us asked for support from three people who love us, legal rights would be ours, slam-dunk-game-over-we-win! And, not only would we defeat things like the amendment we face in South Carolina (N.C., you escaped last year by two measly votes), but also the sexual prejudice that permeates our culture and denigrates us all.

We are responsible for our equality and our inequality. We always have been. It’s ours to win or lose. Period.

And we’re currently losing largely because we have a huge and silent majority of complacent LGBT people who don’t invest their money, their talent, or their passion in this movement. And that’s — lame.

Yes, there are notable exceptions and if you are one, you have my total regard. But what about the masses?

Here’s a little test to see if you’re among the guilty-by-complacency.


• Have you given more money to an organization working for LGBT equality than you spent on your last haircut?

• More than you spent on the outfit you’re wearing (include shoes, jewelry, underwear, the whole ensemble)?

• Given more than you spent on your car?


• Have you spent more time working on behalf of our equality than you spent on your last evening at the bar?

• More time than you spent on your last vacation?

• More time than you spent in your last relationship?


• Have you told fewer straight people than are in your nuclear family that you would like equal rights and specifically asked for their support?

• Told and asked specifically for support from more than the number in your gym during your last workout?

• Told and asked specifically for support from more than a small village?


For each first box checked, score 0.

For each middle box checked, score 1.

For each third box checked, score 2.

Add them up.

If you scored 7-9, not guilty! Bless you, clone you, and kick the crutches off the lame!

If you scored 4-6, stop with the toe-in-the-water and jump into the pool!

If you scored 0-3 … Let’s face it, this article is all about you, boobala. You are the source of our problem; you are the solution to our problem and you are just going to have to get off your smug little gym-built arse and help!

If you’re like most LGBT Americans, you didn’t do well on this test. In a 2004 HRC survey, only 54 percent of us say we’ve talked about gay rights with co-workers, 46 percent with siblings and 32 percent with parents. Although the results weren’t broken out for the south, we can assume our stats are even lower.

In Charleston where I live, the cultural norm is, “Do what you like, but don’t scare the horses.” Translation, “Do what you like here, but keep it secret as it is positively rude to talk about anything challenging or difficult.”

I wish — oh Lord how I wish — we didn’t have to talk about the challenge and difficulty of our inequality; but we do. We simply must have these painfully awkward conversations in an open-hearted and reasonable way with people in our lives who usually haven’t given the issue much thought at all.

If your job or child custody will be in danger, I’m not suggesting you risk it all. But I am saying that whoever you are, you know three people you haven’t talked with yet. We all do.

Good Lord, do something you can be proud of this week! Carry your load. Stop numbing out to the seriousness of the bigotry all around us. There are millions of us counting on you; millions of us waiting for you.

Five simple words that mean everything: Act. Do. Give. Work. Talk.

Linda Ketner is Chair of South Carolina Equality Coalition (scequality.org) whose opinion she does not represent. Linda was born and reared in Salisbury, N.C., and has lived in Charleston for 23 years.

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