Silence leaves much to interpretation.
The cavern between full-throated support for Michigan’s LGBTQ+ community from a few, mostly queer candidates running for state and national offices, and hostile, angry anti-queer tirades coming out of places like Dearborn is marked by the kind of eerie silence usually reserved for the latest Jordan Peele jump-scare thriller.
In a different election cycle — one not dominated by candidates like Tudor Dixon, who unashamedly links queer parents and the parents of queer kids to “groomers,” pedophiles and perverts — we have to wonder if we might have heard from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has acknowledged many times over the years how valuable support from our community is to her success and our state’s prosperity.
Surely in a 2014 or even a 2019 election, Big Gretch would have had a thing or two to say about hundreds of anti-queer protestors making national headlines for putting their hate on full display in Dearborn last month. Maybe 2019 Whitmer would have reached out to young Sam Smalley, who was shamelessly berated by grown men (many who are community leaders) hurling epitaphs like “faggot” at him, in broad daylight, on camera, in one of our state’s most prominent cities. Surely, she might have remarked on how scenes like this cut deeply into Michigan’s cherished heritage in auto manufacturing and as a beacon of what success looks like when diversity is prioritized.
But in the silence, we’re left wondering. And wanting.
Silence might be the wiser political choice. No doubt some very smart campaign team is hedging the bet — who else will LGBTQ+ people vote for than the Democratic candidate? We’ll thank them in the acceptance speech, but best to steer clear of this whole minefield. It makes sense, on paper, politically.
But over here in the real world, silence can feel ominous.
Without the full-throated support of state leaders, queer people in Michigan are feeling a renewed sense of vulnerability. Whitmer may not be cosigning hate, but social norms thrive in silence. That's one reason we've seen such enthusiastic, vocal leadership on violence impacting trans Michiganders coming out of Detroit at both the Mayor's office and the City of Detroit Police Department under the guidance of Corporal Danielle Woods. The governor's administration as a body with statewide authority and prominence could due well to take a cue from initiatives that focus on trans representation and outreach in Southeast Michigan.
If no one’s really going to say much, maybe it’s just fine for homophobes to start casually calling their LGBTQ+ neighbors slurs or demanding their school boards remove trusted teachers based on who they love. Will it soon become the norm that we just gloss right over Michigan parents being called “groomers” because drag performers read stories in public to their kids? Will the upcoming legislature enact State Sen. Ryan Berman’s hateful bill that seeks to imprison parents if they provide affirming care for their own child?
When will we hear the politicians we’ve so fervently and steadfastly supported for decades come out against the completely unfounded insinuation that queer people are more likely to be pedophiles and desperately want the upcoming generation to become the queerest yet?
If it was really about the kids, surely we’d see politicians proposing plans to rid our institutions of true pedophiles — literally thousands of Michiganders have been assaulted, as children, by clergy members, scout leaders, evangelical leaders and family members, the vast majority of whom were straight. Instead, state leaders seem content to let those insinuations marinate in the silence. And it might work, politically, until someone violent, angry and gullible enough believes the lie that queer people inherently want to hurt children and decides to turn that hate on real people who have real families in the real world. It might work until too many of these assholes are elected into representing us at local, state, and federal levels — reversing years of progress.
It seems so easy to stand up against the circus of insanity in this election cycle that we’re frankly shocked it’s not happening. What we are hearing is a deafening silence that serves no one. Please do better.
Queer kids, queer families and queer Michiganders need you to break the silence because we all deserve to feel safe in the communities where we contribute, collaborate and work together with our neighbors to constantly improve the state we love.
Signed,The Pride Source Editorial Board