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COMMENTARY: The hyphenated Americans

Do you believe there will ever be a time in these United States of America when we will not be known as gay-Americans and just simply be Americans?

I ask because I feel that we have become a nation of hyphenated Americans. You know what I’m talking about: gay-Americans, African-Americans, Latino-Americans, Irish-Americans, Jewish-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Muslim-Americans, Japanese-Americans, just to name a few.

Do the hyphens keep us separate from one another? And if that is the case, then we will never be equal because separate but equal is never, ever equal.

When did we begin hyphenating whole races and groups of people? I suppose the question should be: Were we ever really a county based on equality?
The founders didn’t include women or blacks in the Bill of Rights, so from the very beginning who we were was based on the laws written by, voted on, and enforced by the white man.

Did we become hyphenated because it was the only way we could prove we belonged here in our own country? That we were indeed Americans?

In 1915, those in power thought the hyphenated Americans weren’t American enough and actually questioned their patriotic loyalty because they insisted on hyphenating who they were. Former President Theodore Roosevelt said: “When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans ... a hyphenated American is not an American at all ... The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else” (“Theodore Roosevelt: Quotes, Sayings, and Aphorisms). Now, how warm and fuzzy was that?

So, was it the politicians who put us into these stereotypical groups in order to get the votes they needed to win the election? It is quite obvious now in the elections of the 21st century that hyphenated groups of people are bought and sold like chattel – to help win or lose elections.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really think of myself as a gay-American –- I simply think of myself as an American who happens to be gay. I’m entitled to every personal bit of freedom and choice as every other American. White, black, woman, man, Christian, Muslim, married, single, etc.

Who I love, where I live, where I work, where I worship, what I wear, what I eat, where I travel – it’s none of the business of my government and certainly should have no bearing on my rights as an American.

Sadly, until we can get the Senate-Americans and the House-Americans to stop trying to divide us as a country and unite us as Americans, we will have to remain the “Hyphenated Americans” so we can be heard and granted our “unalienable rights.”

SDGLN Contributor Barb Hamp Weicksel was born in 1952 in Pennsylvania and moved to California in the early 1980s, where she met her partner Susan. They've been together some 30 years and share the love of Susan's four children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Her blog, Barb's Gift of Gab, can be found HERE.