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Views & Voices

The Inequality Of Small Things

Friday, September 2, 2011

Today, as happens quite frequently in the South, I was confronted with another stark reality of the inequality that I face as a married gay man. Inequality, in this sense, to how my marriage is treated compared to a married heterosexual couple.

Now, as I live in Tennessee, I am not surprised when gay and lesbian people and their relationships are looked down upon, and even ridiculed.

I am not surprised when transgender people are made fun of, and called deranged and mentally ill (something which actually happened in class yesterday).

Interestingly, these individual expressions of bigotry and hatred I have been able to withstand, mainly because I have a supportive husband, and an inclusive and welcoming group of friends. I also realize that in order to change the minds and hearts of fellow Tennesseans, it is necessary that I conduct myself with dignity when confronted with these attitudes; In essence I must, borrowing from a biblical passage, “heap burning coals upon their head”.

Though I have learned to deal with discrimination by individuals in society, every time I am reminded of the institutional discrimination that LGBT Tennesseans and Americans face, I am discouraged.

Not discouraged in the way of “I want to stop fighting”, but instead discouraged because my neighbors, when passing anti-gay rights laws, have known not what they have done. In their zeal to “protect marriage” (whatever that means) they have restricted and caused untold harm to gay and lesbian couples.

A specific example of this harm occurred today, when I went to the Student Health Center on campus to inquire about health insurance.

As a student at the University of Memphis, I am allowed to participate in a health insurance program through the State University and Community College System of Tennessee . This program allows me to access rates for health insurance that I would normally not be able to access as a non-student.

As a married man, I would also like to add my husband to my health insurance, so that we would both be covered in case of an accident or medical emergency. But am I allowed to do this? Of course not; simply because of Tennessee’s anti-gay constitutional amendment restricting marriage rights to heterosexual couples. Because I am married to a man, I am not allowed to put my husband on my health insurance – because he does not meet Tennessee’s definition of “spouse”.

There are many other examples that we have faced living here in the South, whether it be not being allowed to live in married housing from the University, or being allowed to join the YMCA on a family plan. All of these things are directly the result of constitutional amendments and state policies which attempt to “protect marriage.”

It is easy for those who oppose granting us our rights to say that we can go to a lawyer and ensure that we have hospital visitation rights, wills, etc., but they are not the ones living under a government which won’t even allow me to do the little things; such as put my husband on my health insurance.

Right now, a battle is being waged in North Carolina, to decide whether or not same-sex marriage — or any form of relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples — should be outlawed.

In the debate — which will be, and has been — taking place in that state, it MUST be emphasized that there are grave consequences for gay and lesbian couples if the amendment passes.

Not only do some N.C. cities, such as Chapel Hill, offer domestic partner benefits, but also many universities offer same-sex domestic partners/spouses the ability to be on their partners health insurance. All of these small victories for our community would be lost, as governmental organizations would not be able to support any other “definition” of marriage.

If the amendment passes in North Carolina, expect to see another Tennessee; a state where my family is not a “real family” and where I cannot even get health insurance for my husband.

I pray that the people of North Carolina will look to their western border, and see the inequality that spans from Knoxville to Memphis; an inequality that I hope they will want nothing to do with.

© Kyle Luebke.
For more by Kyle Luebke, click here to visit his blog.
Opinions and advice expressed in our Views & Voices columns represent the author's own views and not necessarily those of LGBTQ Nation. We welcome opposing views and diverse perspectives. To submit a article, column or video, contact us here. Due to the volume of submissions received, we cannot guarantee publication.

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16 more reader comments:

  1. That is why I left TN and went back to CA…nobody wants to stay where they aren’t wanted!

    Posted on Friday, September 2, 2011 at 11:10pm
  2. It’s not ALL of the south, I mean, IIII live in Tennessee and there are some very accepting parents, teachers, and adolescents, here. People are changing, slowly, but surely, people are gaining back some of the brain-cells that have been lost to racism and discrimination. Not ALL Tennesseans are COMPLETE idiots.

    Posted on Friday, September 2, 2011 at 11:11pm
  3. I teared up a little. This needs to be fought. I agree its not all the south, here in okc I have met many openly bisexual ppl and a few that comforted in me alone. I have family in oklahoma that’s more supporting of gay rights than my family in california, the “liberal” state that had marriage and then threw it out.

    Posted on Friday, September 2, 2011 at 11:17pm
  4. In this case stated here in the article, it’s not the community necessarily that the author is talking about, but the government! Tennessee’s disregard of gay marriage.

    Posted on Friday, September 2, 2011 at 11:26pm
  5. Waving from Arkansas

    Posted on Friday, September 2, 2011 at 11:33pm
  6. i love tennesseemy partner n I of 13 yrs lived ther 4 3 yrs..We had no problems being a lesbian cpl,, However u are talkin bout the bible belt n the government will not give us the rights that we so much deserve…BUMMER…

    Posted on Saturday, September 3, 2011 at 1:06am
  7. This year we had good success in Hawaii in passing Civil Unions Law, but now we want full Marriage Equality here !! We hope you’ll help us get our law updated!

    Posted on Saturday, September 3, 2011 at 3:21am
  8. if a man and women from Tennessee get divorced , are they still legally brother and sister????

    Posted on Saturday, September 3, 2011 at 4:02am
  9. I had such mixed emotions reading this article. I’m a Kentucky girl, born and raised. I can totally relate to Kyle’s situation. Really, I just got tired of the slow pace of change. I chose to move to New York City in 1999. This week my partner and I did our bridal registry at a Bed, Bath and Beyond in Queens, and I couldn’t get over how much of a non-issue it was to our salespeople that we were lesbians. Changes in thinking like this are inevitable throughout America. It’s just going to take time, patience, and a willingness to continue to stick our necks out and be honest about who we are without making others wrong that will make the real difference.

    Posted on Saturday, September 3, 2011 at 4:59am
  10. I have yet to see anything positive from the southern states. Maryland is on the Mason-Dixon line, and it is a deadful state. People here are loud, yet slow and not particularly bright (nor educated)….quite reflective of the f*ckwits in DC !!! DO NOT MOVE HERE !!! Cannot wait to move the hell outta here !!! Chicago or Toronto??

    Posted on Saturday, September 3, 2011 at 5:10am
  11. @Bill…good one !!

    Posted on Saturday, September 3, 2011 at 5:11am
  12. Kyle, I am so sad for you and your husband. This treatment by individuals and the government is unacceptable. I have always hated this state, and this only makes me more ashamed to live here.

    I don’t know if you believe in karma, but I believe it will come back tenfold on those who have been oppressing–and continue to oppress–the LGBT community.

    Posted on Saturday, September 3, 2011 at 5:58am
  13. Right on: well said.

    Posted on Saturday, September 3, 2011 at 5:59am
  14. I live in both Texas and Tennessee. Texas was FAR worse on homosexuals. Memphis had some KICK ASS gay bars that I just loved! I never had a problem in Tennessee when it came to being gay. But I can see alot of it would depend upon what part of that state you live in too.

    Posted on Saturday, September 3, 2011 at 7:15am
  15. I loved Nashville, moving there to be in a relationship. While I had accepted the obvious big inequalities, I was eventually overwhelmed by exactly what you describe: the little things. Also, depending on your field, as an out gay man or lesbian I believe that one’s employment options are severely limited in the South, despite talent and experience. As the marriage equality debate evolves at the national level I fear that the vitriol will increase everywhere but become intense in the South. Perhaps DIXIE will evolve into a wonderful place for gays and lesbians to live, work and even raise children in about fifty years. I wasn’t willing to wait. To you and the many brave progressives there fighting the good fight, I salute you. Meanwhile, I LOVE California.

    Posted on Saturday, September 3, 2011 at 9:18am
  16. And it’s Tennesseeans like me, who want rights for all, who take a bad rap simply because of the state we reside in. I have so many people tell me I must me a homophobic redneck racist who wants to keep the LGBT community down because I’m from the South. How about less “Tennessee sucks lol” and more “Get involved, vote,be active in changing minds”

    Posted on Saturday, September 3, 2011 at 9:43am