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The Fungus Factor: Something Stinks in the State of Oregon

The Fungus Factor goes like this: prejudice is like a fungus. It grows in dark, cold places, which means it is often hidden from view. In air and direct light, it dies. The work that all of us have been engaging in when we are bringing up issues and telling the truth about our lives is that light and air. Prejudice can't survive the blinding light of truth.

But let's not forget that before the fungus dies, it smells really bad. In fact, it stinks. And in Oregon what is happening right now is the smell of something pretty long-festering and disgusting hitting the air.

It’s been a hard week for all of us at BRO staff and supporters alike. It would have been wonderful to have the time to celebrate the leadership that Governor Kulongoski is showing by endorsing Senate Bill 1000, and to thank the bipartisan sponsors of the bill. But that was not to be. Instead, we were faced with a court decision that declared that the marriages of over 3,000 same sex couples were now declared null and void. It was heartbreaking and many people called and emailed us, crushed at the news.

That would have been hard enough, but the decision seems to have encouraged the expression of some of the most vile and nasty feelings about GLBT people. Without shame, people have been unleashing their hate and fear, openly declaring that we are dangerous predators, obsessively promiscuous, and biologically defective. These are not only outrageous lies, but the expression of them is hateful and cruel. As if we weren’t in enough pain, we now have to figure out how to keep going and hold our heads up when we are being attacked, dehumanized, and lied about everywhere we turn.

There seems to be no end to the outright lies and blaming GLBT people for the attack on us from the Defense of Marriage Coalition and Oregon Family Council. Never mind that Measure 36 was filed before the Multnomah County marriagesthe DOMC says they were forced by the county commissioners to introduce a ballot measure. Never mind that SB 1000 has nothing to do with educational curriculumthe Oregon Family Council says we’ll be teaching gay sex in elementary schools. Never mind that all through the campaign, the DOMC said they only cared about marriagenow they have hired a lobbyist to oppose civil unions and any nondiscrimination bill.

Why is this hatred surfacing now? Why, after so many years, does it seem like the nastiness of the 1992 No on 9 campaign is back? Lots of reasons, probably. Measure 36 passed, and that has enabled the DOMC to claim they have a mandate, as though the measure was not about marriage, but about gay people generally. A new group of right wing extremists has emerged, and the power is going to their heads. But there’s another reason, too, which I think of as the Fungus Factor.

The Fungus Factor goes like this: prejudice is like a fungus. It grows in dark, cold places, which means it is often hidden from view. In air and direct light, it dies. The work that all of us have been engaging in is that light and airwe are bringing up issues, we are telling the truth about our lives. Prejudice can’t survive the blinding light of truth.

But let’s not forget that before the fungus dies, it smells really bad. In fact, it stinks. And I think that what is happening right now is the smell of something pretty long-festering and disgusting hitting the air. Many of us probably thought it was not so bad here in Oregon, that time and several ballot measure campaigns had killed it off. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

It would be tempting to shut the door on it and run away fast. But we can’t do that, as painful and unpleasant as this experience is. There are a lot of people who would like to believe, as Tim Nashif of the DOMC keeps saying, that there is no discrimination against GLBT people in Oregon. Others would like to believe that the dehumanization and hatred of people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity is over. Well, you have only to read the letters to the editor in your daily paper to see the terrible truth of how people really feel.

In order to kill off this prejudice, we’re going to have to face it. It’s going to have to smell really bad here in Oregonmaybe even worse than it does right now. Either that or we just go back to where we were 18 months ago: silent, complacent, not wanting to rock the boat, even if it meant that we and our families continued to face discrimination without recourse every single day. At BRO, we’re not going back, and we hope that you don’t want to either. It is really hard right now, and it will continue to be. The good news is that it is getting harder for middle-of-the-road people to deny that prejudice exists when it is being spilled all over the media on a daily basis. Believe me, no one is going to be able to ignore this smell, so let’s just keep on getting out there and shining your light on it wherever it lives.

--Roey Thorpe

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