May 2, 2008

COMMENTARY: Holocaust Remebrence Day

Walking on the Ledge:
Pride and Prejudice

Today is another reminder of why I am proud to be gay.

Holocaust Remembrance Day reinforces why it’s important for me to honor the gay men who died wearing a pink triangles and the lesbians who died wearing black ones. Nazis tagged them with a symbol, tortured them and finally slaughtered them.

When I first moved to Kansas City, I didn’t know much about being gay except that I was. One day in the public library, I found what appeared to be the gay section. One of the first books I picked up was a book about the Nazi persecution of gays.

I sat crying as I read the entire book. Then I picked up another and then another.

As I continued to check out books and videos, these men and women slowly transformed from being cases to being relatives. I was like an orphan discovering his roots.

They taught me that being gay isn’t simply about attraction to another man. It’s a history. It’s a culture. It’s … a gift.

I honor these lost family members by embracing my own pink triangle and the label that comes with it. I embrace their sacrifice. I cry for their suffering and I live to fulfill the dreams they passed down to me.

Sometimes that means when a gay issue arises in class, I have to become an instructor. Sometimes it means I have to write letters, e-mails and make phone calls to elected officials. And a few times, it meant that I had to commit civil disobedience.

What I find most troubling is that as society moves towards accepting -- not just tolerating -- gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, our community is facing a challenge from many who reject those labels. Rejecting those labels means forgetting the men with the pink triangles. It means negating the existence of the women with the black triangles.

It means we’re one step closer to wearing them as symbols of oppression instead of symbols of pride.