Today I came home to find a “Yes on Prop 8” sticker slapped onto the Barbara Lee campaign sign in front of my building. Prop 8 is the proposition to ban gay marriage that passed in California last night. The sticker wasn’t there yesterday. Driving around the neighborhood tonight, I didn’t see anymore stickers, just the one in front of our building.
Our building is full of beautiful queer and queer friendly folks, most in happy couples or pairings of some sort. Some are queer like me, having happily dabbled in bisexuality for a long time, feeling that gender wasn’t the determining factor in how I experienced attraction. (Of course, then I fell head over heels in love with a woman, and my life got better).
Others in the building realized at a very young age that they were gay, or gender queer, and have lived their whole lives in that hard and beautiful place.
There has been little in my life so liberating as coming out, and finding a community that has moved beyond the mainstream concept of normal. I realized that there was a whole world out there, an organic world, an evolutionary world. And I saw that anyone can access this world for themselves the minute they stop seeking the acceptance of the “normal”.
I understood a lot of things differently as I came out to myself. I stepped closer to understanding feminism, and black power, and the pride of working class people in unions, stuff I had studied and thought I knew, thought I identified with. I shied away from identity politics, observed but didn’t partake. I love self-analysis, but of ideas, not identity…
This past summer, a loved one processing that I am actually gay, asked me honestly why gay people had to be so “in your face”. In answering, I understood – sometimes the only response to hate is self-realization and celebration. I had to learn that there is a particular unity that comes in declaring yourself as who you are, at a moment when who you are is legally defined as unequal. Especially for something that you realize you can’t choose – you can pass, repress, hide, deny – but you can’t choose.
When I came out to my friends, gay straight and everything in between, I’d been organizing for years, and they all laughingly said, “oh lord, now you gonna be a gay organizer.”
But I haven’t been.
I’ve lived in NY and Oakland. I’ve been in spaces where I could be completely comfortable with my boys and/or my girls, dating who I wanted how I wanted. I’ve been in spaces where I could hold my sweetheart’s hand and not think about it. I’ve dabbled in pride stuff here and there. I’ve had to give up relationships with family members I love to the point of tears.
But I haven’t organized.
I particularly haven’t organized around gay marriage.
I have felt for a long time that marriage is a union of two people who love each other, recognized by their house of faith. I have not believed it is a union that should be recognized by the state or by the nation. The union of two people regarding taxes, finances, property and legal access to each other in sickness and in health – that is the union that should be a matter of state. A civil union. And the decision on who gets to make that legal union in the eyes of the state should not be dictated by the beliefs of any church. That is unconstitutional, that is un-American.
Other countries that do not spell out a separation of church and state in their constitution, let them battle out bans and amendments, and evolve along their own path. But in this country? We have that separation for a reason. We were founded in this way particularly to stop religious persecution, to allow people to practice their beliefs, and be in peace and union with each other on the values that we share – democratic and representative leadership, opportunity, and the like.
So its been difficult for me to throw my whole heart into the demand for gay marriage, because it feels like a fight to integrate, to normalize ourselves into a faulty paradigm. That burning house metaphor.
That said, I try to always strike a balance between my ultimate vision of how things should be, and the right step in the moment. In this moment there are people who are satisfied with domestic partnerships, and then there are people who want what everyone else has, not a second class union.
I love so many gay people who are now married. Some have children of their own, some have children they adopted. Some are happy, some are struggling, like any married couple. But I see the joy they have at being able to live their lives as they have chosen. That is the opportunity that they wanted.
And when I hear those who would deny us the state benefits of marriage, and deny our right to be recognized by our church if we have one and the church is willing to marry us, I hear only hypocrisy and hate.
I hear people who fornicate, divorce, cheat, lie, steal, covet, eat pork, get tattoos, skip church, and all the other fun things in life, measuring homosexuality as an abominable and visible “sin”; making judgments, doling out punishment as bans on commitment. A loved one dissed her date the other night because he said gay sex was not real after asking her about a threesome. I see people of faith who can’t believe in legitimate and comprehensive love between gay people just because they don’t personally experience it.
My kneejerk desired rant: everything about my love is freer, deeper, smarter, more satisfying, more responsible, and the very real sex a gazillion times better than most of these repressed, sad and angry people who want to deny me my right to do whatever I choose with my love, and I’m gonna start a big multiracial gay house of faith where the only acceptable acts of prayer are acts of love and forgiveness, and I don’t want to get in any club that defines itself by who it can lock out and repress anyway.
Breathe in, breathe out.
My compassionate, slightly higher self wishes liberation for those people’s minds and hearts. I can’t imagine living with such hate, or feeling that my purpose in life was to stop love, any kind of love, from existing.
California, Arizona and Florida banned gay marriage yesterday. Arkansas banned gay couples from adopting children. The reason for this is a desire to “protect the sanctity of marriage”, and the “family”. The state of the family, and the staying power of marriage, is at an all-time low. It’s not because of gay people. It’s because we as a nation value everything in the world, especially political and economic power, over love and community.
I am sad, and I feel scared of how this fight is going to go down.
And yet, here I am, in the fight. For the big long-term vision I have of equal commitments and freedom from religious persecution for ALL people. And for the short-term reactive struggle to keep hate off my lawn.
Believe that bigger vision exists though, and believe it is linked to every struggle for justice, for every persecuted people. I heard a quote last night that reminded me of how long it can take for even symbolic responses to tangible demands: deny us “40 acres and a mule and we’ll take 50 states and a white house.”
I can’t fight from a place of fear, or from a negative place. It’s just not in me. So my shield and my sword are the same – I’m fighting for my right to love anyone. In any way I want to. My love is big enough even for those who hate me now. And my grand strategy is to let that love overcome everything else in this world.
Amen. Hallelujah. Axe.