‘Neutrality’ reinforces bigotry

This column shouldn’t be necessary. A personal attack shouldn’t warrant ink but last week one was allowed. I wrote a letter on the same topic, yet I drew no ire. Perhaps this is a personal vendetta against Ms. Peters. Throughout the (lie-laced) column, the writer laid siege to a woman and a movement, both of which are — at their core — just trying to make our town, county, and state a better place for all.

I am unable to address all of the falsehoods with the limited space given. In the piece, the Fairness group is called “militant and rowdy,” despite the fact these citizens were the exact opposite. Fairness didn’t “[take] over Parkersburg City Council chambers” even though we are given the “right to petition government for redress of grievances” by the First Amendment to the Constitution, which permits citizens to make a complaint to/seek the assistance of one’s government. Being relegated to second class citizenship, with fewer rights, should certainly be seen as worthy of complaint.

We’re taught to “agree to disagree,” which is just fine when discussing which color is the best, (it’s yellow). It works in discussions about sports teams, which president was the best, or which trilogy is the greatest of all time. Basic human rights and dignities do not fall in this category.

It was said Ms. Peters finds fault with Parkersburg and Wood County (as a whole) because it refuses to “[give] the LGBTQ community special privileges.”

The problem here is twofold. One, because of the wide generalization, (Wood County INCLUDES Ms. Peters and the community she represents), and two because members of the LGBTQ community and their allies aren’t seeking “special privileges,” just the same rights enjoyed by their fellow citizens. No more, no less. The rebuttal says Ms. Peters denied any instances of discrimination, a patent lie because she relayed her own personal experience and was covered in this newspaper!

Ms. Peters and groups with which she may align are called “hatemongers/tormentors/aggressors.” This couldn’t be further from the truth, since asking to be treated with basic dignity isn’t hateful. It’s a basic need of humanity.

In the entire rebuttal column, discrimination and bigotry were ignored, despite specifically mentioning Delegate Porterfield, who stated during a planned television interview that if his children admitted they were gay, he’d take them out and “see if they can swim” — a cloaked way of saying he’d let his children drown based on their orientation. What message does this send to LGBTQ folk all across the state, people he has sworn to represent? Since Porterfield was not given the same dressing down as Ms. Peters, one can only surmise that the writer agrees with him. Our local legislators refusal to address it as well speaks volumes.

More lies followed when the writer ignored facts presented by Ms. Peters. Non-discrimination has been voted against by our city council and isn’t being supported by our representatives in Charleston, despite bipartisan sponsorship and support. This refusal to pass an ordinance/law means LGBTQ folks are still in danger of being fired or evicted simply based on their identity.

Ms. Peters was also correct when she stated charter schools could be discriminatory against LGBTQ students, parents, or allies. While religious based schools are protected and permitted these policies, tax dollars should never fund a discriminatory school.

The writer wants to drill down to us versus them, left versus right, when this should never be seen that way. Perhaps Peters did reprimand pastors. If a pastor is teaching you or your children to hate anyone, you should find another church. In the Christian faith, (the most prevalent in the MOV), Jesus teaches us that we are to treat others as we would ourselves. The command to love one another is given eleven times in the Bible! It ignores all divides: race, gender, ethnicity, sexual identity, ideology, and even political party.

Finally, Mr. Mullen took issue with a quote from Elie Wiesel, who survived the Holocaust (when followers of a dictator murdered six million fellow humans). While the vast majority of victims were Jewish, also included were other ethnicities and faiths, Masons, the disabled, and LGBTQ. While I am absolutely not equating our current situation to that horrific time in history, it would behoove us all to listen to and learn from the words of those who managed to survive.

In a statement similar to Wiesel’s, Bishop Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

I say it’s past time that we all tell the elephants to get off the mice.

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Jennifer Bryant is a local woman, wife/mom of two, WV native, WVSU alumn, ally and an advocate for equality and marginalized communities.

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