Monday, October 11, 2010
Stay. And Fight.
Today is National Coming Out Day. While we all have our own morals, and we all have our own opinions, here are mine. I wrote this when we found out that Prop 8 had passed, the same night we were celebrating the election...
Written Friday, Nov 14th, 2008
I’ve been thinking about how to write this since the night it happened. All things considered, Election 2008 should have left me a thoroughly satisfied person. Since the primaries way back last spring I’ve been fully invested in supporting Barack Obama’s campaign. I anxiously followed every news report, agonizing over some, celebrating over others, waiting and hoping and working and praying that in the end, yes, I would wake up on November 5th and see that he was my President Elect. As the days drew nearer, and it became more clear that looking forward to victory was not folly, the numbers, the pundits, the polls, the people- it was all there. Still, election day I was on a razor’s edge, breathless, just wanting it to be over and wanting it to be over the way I so hoped it would be.
There was something else happening Nov 4th- Brian’s birthday. We all agreed to get together at Bri’s house first, working ourselves up in the comfort of his apartment with CNN- and those holograms! They did the trick. We headed out to Gilley’s to meet up with even more people, and as we were walking across the parking lot the air was cold and the sky was clear and people were walking ahead of us and behind us and I was thinking of how I was pretty sure this night would end and everything seemed so perfect. My friends around me, joking and laughing and tussling with each other like puppies, happy in the night air, excited about what was happening, heading to what would end up a huge celebration party. The place was packed with people of every age and color, cowboys and yuppies and babies and grandmas, American flags, blue streaking through everything on hats and shirts and posters and balloons, we had done it. There was a necessary humility, and underneath that a paranoid fear that something could go terribly wrong, but all in all we all knew we had won, and won big. The tug of war arc of blue and red at the bottom left of CNN’s screen told us we were fast building a majority to support the new administration, and we were all talking about how we just couldn’t believe we were so young when the first black president was elected, how far we’d come, how hard we’d worked, but above all how much we believed in this new page in America’s history. We were moving forward. We would have a President who believed in personal sacrifice, in helping one another, in realizing we are only as strong as the weakest among us, that while we should strive individually we still, in the end, succeed or fail together, as a nation, as a people. When CNN put up the countdown for what would put Barack over the votes needed, the entire bar broke into a countdown, and then broke into shouts and tears and hugs, flashbulbs popping, cameras rolling, it was over and it was us and I really thought I couldn’t handle so much happiness. The previous years were a hard 8 to turn, and it had. The sheer numbers across the board were a stunning indictment of the previous administration’s policies and a clear mandate from the people. We were moving forward. I leaned into my friend’s, my family, my heart, these people I have knit to me over the past 7 years, and just breathed it all in. It was perfect.
It was perfect. It was.
And then Arielle leaned into my right side, holding her phone, still lit up from the text she had received. “Prop 8 passed” was all she said. It passed. And see this is why I couldn’t write this blog. Because I am crying so hard right now I can hardly see to type. Prop 8 passed. Prop 8 passed. Prop 8 passed. I don’t know how many times I need to type it to try and force everyone- every single person- who fought for it, who cried yes to it, to understand what they did to my friends, to my family, to my heart. To that night. When we were naïve and overjoyed and looking forward to a new day. That night, when Prop 8 passed, said yes, if you are gay or a lesbian, you don’t count. You don’t get those rights. Your love is wrong. We won’t let you get married. I want you to be in the middle of an ecstatic crowd, next to people crying and clapping and giddy with relief, and then come into my experience, that circle, seeing my friends clapping and cheering, and standing with Arielle knowing they would know soon too. When we told them, it just all stopped. You would have thought that we were somewhere else completely. I will never, ever, forget the look on Katie’s face. There wasn’t even anger. It was just utter grief. Just broken down, nothing left to fight with even if you wanted to sadness. She left and we comforted those around us who stayed and cried into our shoulders, our hugs, our own tears. It was absolutely shocking. It made me sick. I would never, ever have thought that Prop 8 would pass. I was worried about so many other things, but I don’t think any of us really thought that people would step into a poll booth in California and vote to write a constitutional amendment to keep two consenting adults from joining together in marriage. I don’t even know what to write. It’s all been said before, and nothing can change those people’s minds. The blatant lies funded by several million given by churches and their members no doubt helped solidify the fears they already had. And yes, this is a democracy. Majority rules. But if the majority of people in this country still think that marriage between two men, or two women, is the most pressing issue of our day, the most important task to confront, I am beyond disappointed, beyond disgusted. I don’t even know what I am.
There really is nothing left to say. These are people who, when they kiss their husband, or look at their wife, or watch their children sleeping, must not seriously be able to comprehend that every day gay and lesbian couples and parents do the exact same things. They fall in love. Their hearts race and they’re nervous and giddy and excited. They have poems and songs. They dance together in their kitchens. They fight over stupid shit. They don’t like their partner's parents, or they annoy one another with quirky habits. They take off one another’s shoes when they fall asleep, read the paper together over breakfast, text each other sweet messages, they want and raise children, they love and worry about them- I can’t even go on, this is ridiculous, really do I have to spell this out that they are human beings? That they are no different from you? Really? I have to lay it out like that so you can understand that your petty self centeredness is destroying their chance at having a marriage? That for some couples in California, that yes box that you so confidently checked, maybe with righteous pride, may have drawn a big X right down the middle of their marriage license? They went to bed as wives in their house, as husbands in their apartment, maybe with cats tripping down the hall or babies sleeping next to them, and they woke up to find… what? How dare you. You make me sick. I am filled up, eaten up with disgust for you. With frustration that you are unmoved in the face of the grim reality that your choice wrought. That you can walk peacefully through this earth, that you are pleased with the stand you took.
What stand was that? What we fight against the strongest says a lot about us as people. And what were you fighting against? With 25 million dollars. With speeches from the pulpit of your church where you speak of love. With deceptive ads and fear mongering? You tell me. I want to hear you say it. You were fighting against the right for two consenting adults to join their lives together in love under the rights and protections and honor marriage is given. So. In this time of economic crisis, when we are in two wars, when people are losing their homes, their jobs, their life savings, when children in the richest country in the world can’t go to the doctor, when women are still left unequal under the law to men, when we are polluting our earth, when we have so many problems that need our attention and time. This is your fight. In this time, you chose this fight. This was more important than volunteering with children. This was more important than donating your money to feed the poor. This was more important than making care packages for troops. This. You have chosen your fight. And it has defined you. You should be ashamed. I am worn out with it. No logic can sway you. I give you the humanity of those who you cannot fathom are like you, and you sneer at it. You would rather children stay locked in a broken foster system than be given to a loving home with two mommies, or two daddies. Such is the depth of your conviction that being gay or lesbian is some kind of deal breaker in being able to relate to one another as humans. Somehow that love is inherently different. You obsess over the mechanics and it makes you uncomfortable and you just stop right there wrapped up in your intolerance, stubborn, you just can’t make that last step and say that the love they feel for one another is every bit as real, and valid as what you feel.
So. Where do we go from here? I’ll tell you. I’ll go down as someone who saw you for what you were. Who are you? Let’s look to the history books. You are the man beating his wife, because she’s just a woman and no law protects her body. You are the factory owner bending the backs of children over the endless hum of the sewing machines. You are the men throwing women into jail because they dared reach for the ballot. You are the pushers of laws that forbid blacks and whites to marry. You are the cop setting dogs on people marching for their freedom. And no, that’s not too harsh.
You came into that night, into my circle of friends, into our knot of happiness, and you attacked us. You hurt them and that kills me. You denied them their equal rights under the law. You don’t know what you’re doing, and you don’t know who you are. But I do. And someday in the not too distant future, in history books that have yet to be written, everyone will know who you were. You will take your spot in that long line of mistakes, of bigotry, of ignorance fueled by fear and division.
Someday my children will ask me “How could they have ever thought such things?”
Your children will have a very different question. I hope you’re ready for that day.
Some would say the above is very harsh. I think it's very real, and raw, emotion. This was a little over a week after it happened, and I was still this upset. And I'm not even the object of the discrimination! This is empathetic rage. I can't even imagine if I was trying to build a life with another woman, and a family, and I wasn't able to access the rights, protections, and privileges of marriage. I can't imagine being gay and giving my life to my country, serving and sacrificing, knowing all the while that if they knew who I was, if they knew my true self, they would abandon me. That the very offer of my LIFE is not worth it to them, because of who I love.
Come out STRONG. Come out PROUD. And come out ready to FIGHT. We are not there yet, but we are on our way.