To the extent it matters for the topic, I'm a straight male gender-nonconformist (not to be confused with anti-conformist). On balance, I probably do stereotypically-male things more often than stereotypically-female, but the fact I prefer to wear dresses once or twice a week (with a straight face) is enough to create confusion/tension anywhere I go, even to some extent among "accepting" communities. I don't consider myself "transgender" or a "crossdresser" any more than I would a woman wearing jeans and a button-down shirt. I have been stereotyped as gay (even though the overwhelming majority of men who don "women's clothes" are heterosexual) and misread as intending to pass for a woman. While I often stand out, standing out is not the point -- the male-designated clothing pool doesn't cover my full array of desired aesthetic flavor.
Between "bears," lipstick lesbians, soft butches, Castro clones, Ellen Degeneres, and Rick Welts, I don't see how the "gay lifestyle" is particularly different from the "straight lifestyle" that includes bikers, girly girls, tough girls, "metrosexuals," and straight-laced business executives. This is even more viscerally true for transsexuals, where the whole point is to simply attain their new gender (and be a "man" or a "woman") rather than be a "transman" or a "transwoman." The only things that really separates heterosexuals from BLGs (and cisgender people from transgender people) are a few intrinsic logistical issues (most of which concern reproduction and would also apply to infertile mixed-sex couples) plus however many additional hardships society throws at them -- in that respect, the main reason a "lifestyle" difference exists is because societies have forced one upon them. To the extent my own case relates to this issue, my clothing isn't a "lifestyle" either. Clothing (of which dresses are only a part) is only a small part of my life, and anyone who spends six months with me would probably point to my interest in math and video games as a lifestyle rather than my clothes. The heart of who people are has little to do with and skin/clothing-deep issues.
I believe "gay pride" (which is the reflection of the closest thing to a "gay lifestyle") is a reaction to its opposite: gay shame. When one confronts an institution that has sought to make the person feel inferior/sinful/evil, a very understandable and often necessary reaction is to fight back against the bully/oppressor with proportional force. Out of context, it can reinforce harmful stereotypes, much like rebel groups in Egypt (previously), Lybia (previously), and Syria (currently) would appear to be violent extremists if one did not recognize they were fighting against oppressive dictatorships. Just as armed combat will have lots of unintended consequences, so does adopting a deliberately-extreme appearance, so it's not the sort of tool one wants to wield in the long run. Most GLBs have already sought more diverse, nuanced, and tasteful expressions, but getting to where this contrast no longer exists requires they are fully integrated into the larger society. The "decency" issue with pride parades is definitely a problem, but the charge of indecency is a little overstated given the broader culture (there isn't a significant moral difference between a man only wearing skin-tight shorts and a woman wearing a bikini, to say nothing of the sexually-suggestive content children are going to see on TV and in movies even if parents try to regulate their consumption). Still, there are lots of "gay friendly" events that are also "family-friendly" -- although they tend to be less visible, if for no other reason than their policy won't be their front-and-center reason for existing.
In terms of "hate crime" laws, their purpose is to apply extra penalties when a crime is motivated by the victim being of a certain group. If race/gender/religion/sexual orientation are incidental factors, then the crime should be punished as normal. If one or more of those factors are instead driving elements, then these crimes have a chilling/terrorizing effect, and stiffer penalties are appropriate to serve as a deterrent.
The Chik-fil-a fiasco is a textbook business disaster, because it violates an important rule of customer service: saying yes / being positive. While the restaurant chain takes a loss by being closed on Sunday, it also guarantees employees a day off from work, so there's a positive spin on it. However, taking a stance against the rights of GLBs is predominantly negative: it does not just show an indifference to their rights (which would have been fine, since businesses are in the business of making money), but it actively works against them, and that places them and their allies in a position where their own customer dollars are being spent against them. Granted, "social conservatives" may latch onto the idea that spending money at Starbucks (which supports gay rights) works against themselves, but their "pain" of seeing gay/lesbian uplifted is nothing compared to the pain of gay/lesbians living without full rights (or even for their allies to see their friends denied these rights). Furthermore, the owner didn't do himself any favors by saying protesters think they know better than God, when said protesters (of the ones who believe God exists) simply believe God supports same-sex couples.
Memory of a Nightmare has an excellent point concerning the obsession with difference. While categories can sometimes be useful, they are overused and make frequently matters more complicated than necessary. For all the arguments about sexual orientation, the underlying legal argument for advocates is that they just want to change the forms/laws to be gender-neutral, to use a word like "partner" instead of "husband" and "wife." For those of us in the US, even labels like "African American" get in the way of the fact the person of interest is an American (which is still a label, but it at least it's a simpler one). The word "crossdresser" wouldn't even exist if clothing norms were equal for men and women. It's not as if we can ever get rid of labels entirely, but purging their unnecessary use helps use discuss ideas as generally as possible.
Despite how much parents tend to keep children from learning about human sexuality (leaving said uninformed kids at the mercy of their peers), young people nevertheless have much more access nowadays through the Internet. While the Internet is a deeply-flawed source, it is nevertheless a diversified fairly-accessible database that allows users (particularly older children and young adults) to take more responsibility for gaining understanding on these issues. For all the hostilities the Internet presents, it is generally less controlling (as a person who finds a certain source distasteful can generally leave where they are immediately and go somewhere else), so people are more able to seek out less sensationalist resources and construct a coherent carefully-considered knowledge base and belief system. Indeed, the Internet has gone a long way towards indulging those who desire information to actually find it, and I think people being able to acquire information to their satisfaction has made them less fearful and more accepting. At least on fronts of sexual orientation and gender identity, I am very optimistic for what society will do, even if progress will always be way too slow and has a long way to go.
< Message edited by Kaelin -- 7/31/2012 1:35:52 >