The Billings Gazette had an interesting story this morning about the small-town North Dakota newspaper editor who recently wrote a column letting his readers know that he was gay. It was a pretty courageous act on the part of Bryce Martin, editor of the Bowman County Pioneer, and with his permission, we are reprinting the column here in its entirety:
There’s so much hate in this world and I don’t understand it.
Don’t see it for yourself? Scroll through some national news posts on Facebook and you’re guaranteed to find at least one person who has an opinion that isn’t going to impress you. Most of the time, it’s just scatological ramblings filled with snippets of bigotry aimed at some particular person or group of people, made by people that have nothing better to do. Sometimes, however, a comment will cut you to your core with the insensitivity that certain people have.
None of it makes sense.
The only way I can kind of rationalize it is to attribute it to fear. Fear of something that goes against the cultural norm or is not aligned to what their own ideals or beliefs are. People who hate are afraid.
But to me, ultimately all this hate is irrational no matter how you try to explain it.
Be it race, sexual orientation, status, weight, height, age, disability, IQ, there are going to be people who want to make it their priority to encompass you in their own miserable lives and spew their hate amidst you.
It’s not you that there’s something wrong with, it’s them, the bigots.
I’m gay and married to a man. Living in a small, rural town like Bowman, obviously there are people that hate me based upon those two things. I’ve been lucky enough to avoid said people, but they make their presence visible; it’s not hard to pick them from the crowd. I try to ignore it but there have been times when it’s too much. I want to say something but I don’t. I keep to myself and just try to be a decent human being, unlike them.
Now I’m not the type to impose “who I am” onto someone else, I don’t wear it on my sleeve, but it is who I am. Not all people are going to accept that or respect that, and that’s sad. But it’s the society in which we live. And it’ll probably always be that way, which is also sad. The Pioneer received a letter many months ago that suggested Nate and I pack our things and move back where we came from; that this community doesn’t want or need people like us here. It was of course cowardly left unsigned. I’ll admit that did really hurt but I persevered, I kept doing my job to the best of my ability.
I don’t throw it in people’s faces that I’m gay, I understand I’m in an area that’s not used to seeing two men together, albeit a very religious town as well, and I’m a respectful enough person to appreciate that. Though I am proud of how this community has received Nate and I.
A local politician told me that this area doesn’t want to deal with issues of hate or discrimination, especially when it comes to sexual orientation. Did he mean they’d just turn the other cheek when they witness it happening? I’d very much like to think no, that this community protects its own no matter what. People are definitely entitled to their opinions; that freedom is what, for better or worse, defines this country and sets us apart from others. But when an opinion turns to hate, what then is there to protect us from a society that evolves into putting one group’s freedoms above another?
History doesn’t seem to have taught us much.
I’m a big guy so I can pretty much defend myself, but what about those that are unable to do so, namely children? How do we protect them against bullies and the related ills associated with our unfortunately inept society?
If a young boy approaches his father and tells him he’s gay and that father turns away and says he doesn’t love him anymore, what can we do?
Or, on the contrary, what does it say when a human being idly sits by and watches their own children inherit their bigotry. It’s a vicious cycle. One that’s been repeated throughout history.
People say they don’t hear or read about incidents of discrimination, especially based on sexual orientation, in North Dakota. So that means it doesn’t happen? Really? Be smarter.
Discrimination doesn’t have to be on the front page of your local newspaper, it doesn’t have to take the form of murder or assault, it doesn’t have to be a huge group of protestors marching through town, it doesn’t have to be hurtful terms spray painted on your door. It’s just as soul squashing when it’s a child being denied a spot on the baseball team or not being picked to be partners on a school project because of their sexual orientation, race, weight, etc. That kind of stuff happens every day and for the most part goes unnoticed. But don’t ever say it doesn’t happen here, because it does, whether you can see it or not.
Southwest North Dakota is by no means free of hate. But we could change that if we wanted to.